Punctuate Life

Pause Breathe Relax


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Her Five Year Old Self

Once there was a little girl who was perfect in every way. Beautiful, smart, loving and kind. Her parents loved her until their next child arrived and then the next and the next. Before she knew it she had to grow up and take care of herself all at the age of five. And when it got a little crowded at home guess who got shipped off to boarding school?

She tried so hard to please them. Got straight As and excelled at everything she did. But it was never enough. Rejection was just around the corner. Emotional abandonment was an eerie shadow that she couldn’t shake off. When she wanted to follow her dreams and go to college, there was no money. The perfect academic record and everything she worked for so far was simply thrown to the dust. Did she have to pay her way through college? Wasn’t that something parents ought to do?

She watched her dreams get shattered while her siblings were doted on. Even little K who dropped out of school and sabotaged every job they tried to wheedle him into. She was nothing but a financial burden, dispensable as the maid who asks for too much. An expenditure and never an asset. All the nice things they said about her was just lip service. Deep down they just loathed her and were jealous that she made it against all odds unlike the rest of them who never could rise above their pettiness and super inflated egos.

She was the sickly one who almost died several times. Gangly, shy and introverted, she had few friends. Yet one man peered into her eyes and saw the beauty of her soul. He married her and they left the town she grew up in to begin their new life together, away from the daily drama (or so she thought). Her parents found a way to stir up fights between the newly weds. But she vowed never to be like them – a loveless, bickering couple only kept together because of their devious minds. She swore to rise above it and win the love of her husband.

They faked concern to gain her confidence. She dreaded their every visit. Old hurts would surface, age old dramas would be played out endlessly. They somehow knew how to play the victims or the underdogs. Several times she rushed in to save them from their own spiraling plots. But she failed. They were in too deep. She finally retreated to her corner of the world and tried to shut them out. But that proved futile. Their life was part of the tapestry of her life. Pulling those threads out would leave a gaping hole in her life. Leaving those ugly designs ruined the rest of the beautifully crafted tapestry. Guilt consumed her – How could she even contemplate cutting them off?

And yet they yielded such control over her. In front of them she was a little five year old – shipped off to boarding school while everyone else got to stay. Who sobbed herself to sleep every night. Who never felt she was good enough and was often ashamed of her existence. She finally stumbled on the solution. She didn’t have to cut out the designs. She just had to stitch another design over it. If her parents couldn’t nurture her inner 5 year old, she would!

I love you, you are perfect and I am so proud of you. I will never leave you. abandon you or reject you and it’s not your fault. You are free to pursue your hearts desires without fear. You are free to be yourself, instead of what others think you ought to be. She said these words over and over until she felt like a huge burden was lifted off her chest. She sighed long and hard in relief. Something changed and she couldn’t put her finger on it. It escaped her time and again. But slowly the drama surrounding their visits ended. She saw it for what it was and refused to get sucked into it. She realized that maybe her parents never got the nurturing they deserved. So she stepped up and started being the elder instead of the five year old. Instead of constantly seeking their approval and attention (unconsciously) she offered her sage advice and help whenever she could. But the poor fools were beyond redemption. They found new ways to exclude her and punish her. She hugged her inner child tightly every time it happened and whispered – “I love you” softly to her.

Slowly she saw the ugly designs fade and when she was ready she stitched the words – Honor Thy Parents on it. If ever she sprouted wings and could fly heavenward she would lift them off the ground and take them with her. In her heart she said – Forgive them for they know not what they are doing.


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The Work you Do…

This one is for all you unemployed and underemployed people out there. Even all the homemakers and stay-at-home moms. I was there and I know what it feels like. Sending out countless applications that get sucked into the cyber space blackhole. Shamelessly asking friends to find work for you. Begging your spouse to forward your resume to his or her boss. Feeling helpless and totally worthless. Yes, I’ve been there.

On the flip side I’ve also been vain enough to gloss over plenty of jobs because I thought they were beneath me! Luckily, I had a choice. Working was an option. My husband put food on the table and paid the bills. So I could afford to be picky and choosy. Unlike the CEO who got laid off and had to work as a pizza delivery guy to feed his family. One day he was a millionaire and the next day he was bankrupt. Or the Iraqi doctors who had high flying careers and ended up as refugees in the United States. They couldn’t practice medicine and did odd jobs just to survive.

When no one would hire me for jobs that fit my profile because I didn’t have enough experience or had taken a long break to raise my kids, I got frustrated. I started applying for jobs that only needed a high school diploma and not a Masters degree. Guess what? I still didn’t get hired because people thought I was over qualified! The frustration mounted and when I couldn’t even get an hourly or part time job I started believing that I was beneath it all. Something was wrong with me.

It dawned on me that I did not have an impressive resume or the experience required. People mistook my resume to be me. I could have cooked up a very eloquent resume but it just wasn’t my style. I realized you needed to know someone in the company you wanted to work for just to get your foot in the door. So finally I got to a place in my life where I knew someone and I approached them with my resume. I wasn’t sure what to expect. But I’m glad I did it because it paid off. I got the job. Now its not the kind of job that one would be jumping in joy for but I’m jumping in joy all the same. I’m back on the workforce after a long hiatus. I wasn’t hungry, in debt, homeless or desperate. I was well cared for and I could have continued being a stay-at-home mom that volunteered like crazy! But I had to prove to myself that I wasn’t broken. That I could find employment. That I wasn’t what I had become. I have potential. I can add value to any place that I work for. I have something to offer.

It’s funny but this I-am-not-good-enough lie continued to shadow my life. Especially at work where I kept thinking I’m not good enough and that I’m doing something wrong. The fear of getting fired overwhelmed me. It isn’t just me, every woman or man who goes back to work after a really long time has these baseless fears. But with time and a lot of overworking and trying to impress (God knows who!) we get over it. The question we need to ask is – Is it worth it? Most of our assumptions are not true any way. It’s just a bunch of lies that we keep feeding ourselves. Or something we start believing after we have been told the same lie over and over. We believe it to be true and let our towering selves be diminished. Finding a job, finding a spouse, getting whatever you want on your wish list aint going to heal that wound. Chances are it will still nag you and in extreme cases will make you lose all that you worked so hard to achieve.

When I realized I was going to sabotage my own happiness I quit worrying. I replaced my worry with a sense of pride in the work I did. Wish I had figured that out years ago when I was home doing the most important job I ever did – raising my kids. No one ever patted my back. No holidays or bonuses. No remuneration. Sometimes lots of criticism. But nevertheless it was/is a labor of love. One with high dividends. It’s not easy and many women wallow in self-pity (like I did) thinking the work they do doesn’t count. It does count. Fixing meals for your kids, patting them down for a nap, bathing them, feeding them, caring for their boo boos – yes someone else can get paid to do it while you chase your dream career but no one – NO ONE can do it as well as you or with as much love.

Again I’ll be the first to say I don’t want to victimize women for making the choices they make (knowing firsthand how horrible it is to be judged for being a stay-at-home mom). No two families are the same nor are their circumstances the same. So how about we change how we look at work. All work is sacred. Paid/unpaid. Gets you laurels/goes unnoticed. A job well done is a reward in itself. So don’t look outside of yourself for job satisfaction. You won’t find it. Take pride in all you do and respect the work that others do for you as well. You never know when the tables will be turned and then the prince will become a pauper.

 


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Imagine

 

Imagine a sea of humans in a vast expanse of darkness,

A lone candle burns in the hands of one,

Observing his neighbors unlit candles,

He proceeds to share the light of his candle with them.

The light grows in intensity and more shadows jump out of the darkness,

Almost threatening to snuff out the candles,

But the bearers of the light know that the shadows are visible because of the light.

Sharing the light becomes an all important task,

As more and more shadows jump out in desperate need of light,

And yet one candle will suffice to rid us of the darkness.

Every face aglow in the warm light,

Laughter and tears mingling with the soft strains of music,

Every heart bursting with love,

A love that is limitless and engulfs the entire cosmos.

Imagine a sea of dancing flames that illuminates the entire earth

Perceived as a luminous globe by creatures from afar

Love pervading every nook and cranny of space

Every black hole turned inside out to reveal brilliant light.

Our heavy bodies burdened with life

Magically turn light and we float blissfully

The very embodiment of the Divine.

 

 

 


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Tried and Tested Steps to Change

So the new year is here and you’ve written your resolutions and sworn to stick by them only to find yourself stuck. Stuck with the same old, same old. Many of you started making changes and then found that your enthusiasm fizzled out and some of you haven’t found enough strength to take that first step. Whatever your predicament, the following steps will ease you through the process of change. They have been tried and tested by yours truly.

Taking that first step

So now you have made up your mind to change but you have a big problem. Every cell in your body has turned to lead and it seems impossible to overcome the heaviness. It’s hard to take that first step. You want to just give in to the heaviness and slump down in a heap on the floor. It’s too hard or too scary to change. Fight it! Muster all your strength and make that all important first step.

Do it as long as it takes to form a habit

You took charge and started making changes but somewhere along the way life and its complexities got the better of you and slowly but surely you went back to the old ways. It takes time to form a good habit or make a positive change in your life. If you do it every single day for a month you end up making it a habit. Consistency is the key to success. Make time for what is important to you every single day and victory will be yours. Now you own the new behavior and you can work it like a pro.

Make a small change

Don’t try to change everything at once. It took years to get into the mess you are in so it will take time and a lot of WORK to get out of it. Don’t be discouraged. Take that first step and make a small change – no matter how small or insignificant it may seem. It will have a ripple effect and before you know it you are in a completely different place in your life.

Don’t listen to that negative little voice in your head

Your worst enemy is your mind especially if it is constantly playing negative events and saying negative things about you. You say you want to change and it says you can’t. Shut the voice out for long enough and it won’t have any power over you.

Be your own cheerleader

If you can get that little voice to cheer you on, you will be unstoppable. Replace all the negative mind chatter with positive stuff. Keep repeating it like a mantra and soon your mind will catch on. Fake it till you make it baby!

Be strong in the face of opposition

Not only do you have to deal with that inner voice in your head (like that isn’t enough!) but you also have to deal with the voices of your loved ones. They are guaranteed to react adversely every time you try to change something in your life. It’s just a test. They (or their ego) wants to figure out if you really want to do this because it means they cannot continue behaving the same way. They feel threatened. Ultimately your change will transform those around you. So they better co-operate or bail out.

Remember your victories

This is important when you are afraid to take the next step. Remember how far you have come and step boldly to face the next challenge you have decided to take on. Usually what is most scary to change is the one thing you will really benefit from. It is your most important lesson. Once you cross that hurdle, all else will be easy.

Persistence

If something doesn’t work or doesn’t give you the desired result try something different. But don’t give up. Persistence has its rewards.

The buddy system

This works if you find it hard to motivate yourself or are not clear on what steps to take to reach your goals. Friends help you work through your fears and insecurities and also help put things in perspective. It goes without saying that it is fun to have someone share your journey with you. When you are slacking they will give you the much needed push to get up and get going.

A word of caution before you embark on this glorious and extremely fulfilling quest. Don’t try to fix your spouse, your boss, your mother or your kids. I guarantee you that you will fail and end up right where you started. Your job is you and that in itself is a daunting task. Be clear about your motives for change. Do it for yourself and know what you want and why you want it. Doing it for others only gets you so far, doing it for yourself is what keeps you flying high.