Tag Archives: self-help

Uncertainty and Surrender

For a couple of years now we have been grappling with uncertainty. That strange feeling of not being in control and not knowing where you are headed. It started the year we left Florida. We were supposed to come back to India but somehow ended up in Washington. There again I knew we wouldn’t be staying for long. Every decision and interaction was colored by that knowledge. We all pulled on with bated breaths not knowing what to expect.

That was nothing compared to the state of flux we find ourselves in now. Everything seems to be up in the air, in space, nebulous as I stand gaping open mouthed for it to fall into my outstretched arms. Every day I wait and I return empty handed. The shapes dance and swim out of my vision – mocking me and enticing me with promising futures.

I lie in bed thinking of the world I left behind and the irony of it all is that I had wanted to leave – not when I had but many moons ago. I wanted to come back to something familiar, something certain. Something solid to build our lives on. Not a shifting and shaking earth. I have finally come back but that old familiar feeling has long gone. Gone are my cousins, brother, grandma, friends and so many places and people that made Chennai special. Made Chennai home. Home is a stable and secure place where we can be our best possible selves. But here I find myself flailing in my new surroundings trying to find my sea legs in this tremulous place. I’m not on solid ground. No terra firma here. Just undulating waves of uncertainty that wash you to uninhabited shores. So what does one do?

Uncertainty is part of life you say and I agree. Life wouldn’t be interesting if there weren’t some twists and turns every  now and then. But when uncertainty decides to make your life its primary dwelling place then things can get really sticky. After a point every waking moment is tinged in uncertainty that you simply cannot push it to some corner of your brain. It becomes every breath, every thought. Every instant you struggle with that hollow feeling deep inside and very soon the uncertainty turns into fear. Fear of the future and fear of failure.

Finally when my over wrought nerves could take it no more I sought refuge in God. I pleaded, I begged, I prayed but the uncertainty lingered on. It became bigger and bigger and harder to ignore. At long last when none of the old tricks worked I decided to stop fighting life and to simply surrender. There was no use straining, the shackles only became painfully tighter. No use swimming against the current to attain the unattainable. Let the waves lash, let the emotions smother you and let every damn security you invested in come crashing down. When you lie there stripped of everything, cold and trembling with your head held low in an act of complete and utter surrender, an outstretched hand appears to lift you up and out of the raging waters and soothes your troubled soul. To wipe the tears of frustration and show you hope. Hold on to that hand and never let go for it will take you to where you belong – home.

I Thought I was Alone…

You can be surrounded by a room full of people and still feel alone…alone in your frustrating circumstances, grappling with seemingly inconsequential problems that no one really sees as problems. How you wish you had someone who would understand! How you wish you could draw strength from your loved ones and fall back on their support! And sometimes the very people who have supported you, fall on hard times. How can you turn to them when they can barely keep afloat? How can they save you from your pain? Ultimately no one can save you and you need to find your strength and pull yourself together. But as humans we also need to connect with others and seek solace in their company.

I was in a limbo, a week ago. Kids had finished a year of school. My contract with the company I was working for was ending. There was a lot of uncertainty in the air and I was feeling the weight of the long year full of challenges and not really looking forward to more of the same. I hadn’t blogged in a while and just couldn’t find any motivation. As I kept sinking into oblivion and praying for redemption at the same time, something magical happened. R sent me an inspiring video that nudged me out of my stupor. I wrote and published a post on my blog, the very same day.

The next day my friend S sent me a message asking how I was doing and sent me prayers and good vibes. Another friend from Florida called me and spoke to me for hours, praising me for sticking it out for a year and not giving up (I know how many times I did and then had to push myself to keep going!) Then several other friends sent me encouraging messages after reading my blog. All of them lifted me up and out of my pity party and I felt reassured in the midst of all their comforting support.

Yesterday I went to see my friend’s grandma who was also my pediatrician for years. Frail of frame at the age of 94 and pushing herself with a walker, her eyes lit up when she saw me. I sat beside her, basking in her comforting presence. She held my hand the whole time squeezing it ever so gently every now and then and told me she would pray for me. Her prayers brought me back from the dead, so many years ago when I was born breached and wasn’t breathing. And as I sat there I realized that the same force that had brought her to my rescue had given me this chance to be in her healing presence. I looked up and on the wall in front of me was a picture of Jesus.

My friend’s Dad reminded me of what my friend had been through and how everything turned out ok in the end even though he had given up all hope. Good things happen when you least expect it, he said. We just need to keep going on and then suddenly the thing you were chasing will fall into your lap. I left their home which is named “Serene” by the way, feeling so at peace, like giant loving arms were embracing me tightly.

Maybe I am trying too hard to make things work when I have absolutely no control over any of this. None of us do and so many of us are hurting because we feel helpless. Personal challenges and the horrors of the world are being unleashed on us. We look around for the ones who always saved us and see them stumbling and falling. Fear can only live when we isolate ourselves and cut ourselves off from all the support available. And sometimes it is not easily available and we think our numerous pleadings have fallen on divine deaf ears. Help may come from the most unexpected of places but it does come if we are open and it nudges us towards greater happiness if we allow it.

Another magical meeting arranged by the universe also happened yesterday and I met an old friend from my days at the Women’s Christian College and Madras University. She too moved to Boston after she got married and we used to meet quite often. I hadn’t met her since 2007 when she left Boston for Chennai. As a writer, she keeps checking on my progress and she came just when I needed to brush off that dusty memoir and get cracking on the next chapter. A writers group that she is a part of is also something I need to get into to inject some discipline into my otherwise erratic writing habits.

When it rains it pours! And the floodgates are open so to speak. As I receive support, more seems to be coming in and I am thankful that I don’t have to go through this all alone. I am opening up to more magic, revelations and miracles in my life.

Hang in there if you feel like you are on a roller coaster and you are all alone. You are not! And help is just an arm’s stretch away…may you find the support, healing, peace, joy and abundance you are looking for. God Bless You!

Step by Step Approach to Incorporate Gratitude in Your Life Every Day

You all know what I have been through for the past several months and I will spare you a retelling of the dismal details. In the midst of the dark days of my soul, a dear friend L called me. She was doing this exercise in gratitude every day where she would write and give thanks for something that she wanted but was yet to manifest in her life. It was something she had picked up from the book, “The Secret” by Rhonda Byrne. And most importantly something that I had told her to do a long time ago.

I laughed at the irony of it all. When the time came for me to use gratitude, I had forgotten and had to be reminded. So much for practicing what you preach. Anyways, I was very thankful for that conversation with L and I rang off after promising to write in my gratitude journal. I religiously wrote – I am thankful for a new and wonderful job, for over a month. The universe responded and I landed a job. You probably think it’s too simple or too random. But that is not the case.

My friend L told me that two of her friends who were struggling with some issues had them resolved after practicing gratitude. Gratitude multiplies the gifts of life. Never underestimate the power of gratitude. It is a high vibrational energy that evokes many blessings. So here are some steps to get you started:

Start Small

No matter how bad things are start being grateful for the smallest things. For just being alive or having food on your table, or having a family or a job. If someone does something kind for you say thank you and mean it. If something good happens, however small, say a big thank you to the universe. Stuck in traffic? Be thankful you have a car.

2. Gratitude for Blessings Yet to Come

Sometimes you badly want something but for some reason it doesn’t happen or it seems like you are pushing it away subconsciously. This is when giving thanks for the very thing you want as if it has already arrived, helps. Do it for a month without fail and notice opportunities that show up.

3. Be Clear and Make a List

Writing things down brings it from the subconscious to the conscious and from the unmanifest to the manifest. I know people who have written love lists and manifested partners of their choice. I had written exactly what kind of job I wanted and I even spoke to some people about it. Many believed it was impossible, given the economic downturn, recession, crazy work hours and what not. But I didn’t buy into it. I kept believing that the perfect job would show up and it did. It is all I asked for and more. Little miracles start happening when you fill your heart with gratitude. You have more to be grateful for because the universe does love a grateful heart.

4. Think Big and Impossible Dreams

What you have read in my blog is just a glimpse of what I have been through. Some of it I don’t wish to share. But all you need to know is that it has been no joy ride. And after that if I can tell you that you too can achieve your wildest and IMPOSSIBLE dream, then believe me. Because I’ve been there and I’ve done that and I know for a fact that nothing is impossible for the universe. Don’t put a limit on something with unlimited potential. Now for that beach house with a Zen room decorated in white and purple with windows opening to the ocean – aah!

5. Be Patient

It is all about timing. Divine timing to be precise. Don’t be discouraged and don’t quit. Sometimes the blessing comes in the 11th hour, when you are hanging on to your dear life. For me the last 7 months have been a lesson in patience. Keep the faith and keep that gratitude journal going and I promise you the heavens will open up and shower you with blessings.

Revisiting a Scary Place

Can’t drive, don’t have a job and hanging on to the last shred of sanity. That pretty much describes my situation today. And I’ve been there before – in some other place, at some other time in my life. And it is a scary place to be. What’s even scarier is the belief that you are helpless and cannot get out of it. The last time I was there I truly believed – this was it! This is how my life would be till my dying day. Which is stupid in retrospect.

This time around I know I can get out of this temporary rut but just don’t know the rules. New place, new rules. Till I master the rules I can’t win in the game of life.

Opportunity knocks, I answer and then the door is slammed in my face. Sometimes no one is at the door and it opens to a blank wall. I just don’t get it sometimes. If you put in the right effort shouldn’t the right results show up eventually? Seems like things have an uncanny way of working in this part of the world or the rules have changed since the last time I was here.

So I slowly drift day in and day out, my energy ebbing, my soul aching for something I cannot articulate and prayer remains my only reprieve. Some days even prayer cannot save me from succumbing to what I call my ‘dark moods’.

Self-esteem issues are intricately wrapped around the work you do and the remuneration you get for it. The last time I was in that scary place it took me nearly a decade to pick myself up and go after my dreams. A lurking fear that I haven’t yet given voice to is, what if it again takes me that long to get out of this situation. I shudder to even think of that possibility. It reminds me of the frog in the well that climbs two feet only to slip back one foot. Only an act of divine grace can send a rope down for the frog to hold on to and be pulled up to safety. For the frog has tried so hard and yet finds itself at the bottom of that impossible well.

My patience has all but worn out in two months, when before an entire decade passed without so much as a whimper. In times like these I wish I had the faith of a mustard seed or a drumstick tree. Drumstick tree you ask? Let me elucidate.

As I washed and prepared a dish of fresh drumstick leaves from our garden, I marveled at the drumstick tree. When we got here three months back, the tree had grown beyond the terrace, with its branches lazily hanging over it. A ladder was all we needed to pick fresh drumstick leaves and tender, sweet drumsticks for sambar.

One rainy night, strong winds lashed outside, making the drumstick tree sway precariously. A strong gust was enough to break it in half. The next morning the entire tree with its drumsticks and leaves lay on the ground. Only a small part of the trunk and the roots withstood the storm. We consoled ourselves saying that its roots were strong and it soon grow back to its original glory. Its roots were indeed strong and in a couple of days we saw sprouts emerging from the knobby trunk. Fresh, bright green, tender sprouts growing with a vengeance. In a matter of weeks we had enough leaves for our weekly meal of drumstick leaves dal. I drew strength from the tree which had lost everything it had worked for. Every single leaf was gone, every single fruit had fallen to the ground. And yet the tree did not whine, complain or get depressed. It didn’t give up and die. It jumped back to life with a renewed vigor. I may be imagining this but it seems to be growing faster than ever before.

After making the dish I went into the garden and stood in front of the tree as if to soak up some of its courage, grit and determination. My burdens felt lighter and I walked back to the house with a smile playing on my lips.

Slow Down, Chennai!

Almost a month has passed since I moved back to Chennai. It hardly feels like the city I grew up in. Madras as I knew it was a laid back metro, unimpressed by the hustle and bustle and night life of Mumbai and other cities. The city went to sleep at 10.00 p.m. like all its residents. No one stressed about traffic and commute and people were quite happy with their filter coffee and idli-sambar.

Over the past decade, fast food and instant coffee has replaced so many iconic landmarks. I remember eating crispy dosa and vanilla ice cream at Dasaprakash and going to Woodlands Drive-in Restaurant. Or browsing at Landmark bookstore, my favorite haunt. All gone without a trace.

The whole city has a different pulse. A hurried pulse if you will. Everybody is in a hurry. On the road, everyone wants to push past you and get to God knows where. They are going to show up late, anyways. So why bother! Three times this week my kids reported that their bus was hit by another vehicle. Every other day we see an accident on the road and know that it could have been prevented. Moms pick up their kids from school, grab a snack from a convenience store and rush them off to tuition classes. Nobody has time for anyone else.

Everyday is a battle to get to work, clock in nine or more hours, rush home, cook, eat, sleep and repeat. Ladies who opt to stay home have their hands full with temperamental maids (who are also in a big rush!), then tackling kids and their mountains of homework and incessant tests. Kids don’t have time to go outside and play.

Recently, while speaking to a recruiter, we complained about the long commute. The recruiter brushed it off saying that it is normal! A study conducted on commuting stress in Quebec says that a commute lasting more than 20 minutes can lead to burnout. Working 14 plus hours is also deemed normal here. Everyone does it, right? The number of youngsters suffering from blood pressure, heart attacks and diabetes is alarming. And yet life goes on. People pop pills and continue abusing their minds and bodies.

If you think I’ve gone soft after staying away from the motherland, think again. I spent 23 years of my life here in Chennai and things were way different then. Some say we don’t have a choice and have to conform to “the way things are”. I want to challenge the status quo and refuse to conform.

So how do we slow down and change the frenetic pace of things? On the road, remember you are not a bull dozer. Slow down, allow people to cross and don’t be in a mad rush to overtake every other vehicle on the road. Don’t cut in front of people waiting in line (if there is no line – form one). Smile and say thank you to people who serve you or hold the door open for you. Work smart so you have time for your family and for relaxation and exercise. Find time to cook simple meals at home. You health and savings account will flourish. Get enough sleep and set aside some time to be by yourself in a quiet space. The noises of the city can drown out that quiet voice of wisdom within you.

When you feel stressed, even if you are at work, go outside for a walk if possible or go to a clean restroom and take deep calming breaths. Stress is something that creeps up on you and builds up till you’re bursting at the seams. It happened to me last week and I found myself yelling at the kids. I had to consciously make a choice to calm down, close my eyes and breathe. This week I’m not waiting for the stress to build up. I am taking time to relax, breathe and center myself. Seems to be working so far. A few days ago the school bus was late but I did not have a panic attack. Life happens and sometimes a good dose of humor helps. Laugh away your cares and move on.

If you want Chennai to slow down, you need to slow down first. Don’t rush through your day. Find time for people and things that matter. You have more than enough time to accomplish everything. So take your time and do the best job you possibly can.