Punctuate Life

Pause Breathe Relax


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The Winds of Change…

 

The winds of change blow hard

Rattling my windows

Shaking every tree in my yard

I shirk under the covers

Frightened and sick.

 

I try to shut out the howling storm

But it will not be ignored

One by one the windows shatter

And my blanket of safety gets whipped up in the breeze

I hug and hold onto it for dear life

But the wind, it takes no prisoners

The blanket is ripped clean out of my trembling hands.

 

I shut my eyes and bury my face in my knees

Afraid of what is to come next

A minute turns into an hour

As I sit there waiting for the worst

My hammering heart shuts out the calm

That has descended all around me.

 

I dare to open my eyes and peek

At the place I once called home

It was all but a mangled heap

Of concrete and stone

And yet there I was amidst the shambles

Alive and well albeit a little shaken.

 

I picked myself up and shed a tear

For the past that was gone

I looked up at the gaping hole where my roof used to sit

And at the clouds that were clearing

Far away in the shadow of the sun a rainbow was forming

Awakening in me hope for the future

A future built from scratch

A future with no glass windows or roofs

Open and free for the winds of change to blow through

Incessantly.


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The Other Side of Shiva…

Blue and pink. Fairies, princesses, ballet and gymnastics. Legos, pirates, superheroes, cars and trains. Even before they are born, our babies have their whole lives planned out – what color their rooms will be, what clothes they will wear, what toys they will play with and preferred activities and games. We put our babies in neat little boxes painted blue or pink and label them boy or girl. When they try to crawl out of the box and get into the other one we push them back into the box we think they should be in. Think about it. Do we truly honor our children and see them as unique marvels of creation? Nope. We thrust our preconceived sexist ideologies on them.

Try dressing your baby in blue even if she is a girl and take her out for a stroll. I did that! Everyone went on about what a beautiful baby boy I had. Keep your girl’s hair short and again she gets mistaken for a boy. Once in school, girls with short hair get bullied for keeping their locks cropped. When boys grow their hair long it is cool – except in India. Schools out there don’t like boys with long hair. I’ve heard that they send some of them with their hair tied up in rubber bands just to make a point.

I recently dug up some old tapes with footage of my kids as toddlers. My son was walking around with a pink baby doll and kept calling it “baby”. As much as I encouraged him to play dolls with his sister, somewhere along the way he got the message that dolls are girly. It makes me sad to see my kids drift apart and do their own thing when at one time they used to play together for hours.

But this kind of bias runs deeper than just the color pink or dolls. It is like a subliminal undercurrent that sometimes catches us by surprise. Like the time when I was talking to my kids about growing up and having families of their own. My daughter who decided pretty early in her life that she wants to be a doctor asked me, ” Ma, who will take care of my kids if I go to work?”. It never occurred to her that her future husband shared the responsibility of raising the kids. I was stumped by her question and instead of telling her that raising kids was not solely a woman’s job, I offered to babysit while she worked!

While women have been excluded from boxes labelled ” A Man’s Job”, even if they were worthy and competent, men seldom crawled into boxes that had roles specifically for women. Remember Ben Stiller who played the male nurse in “Meet the Parents”? He was constantly ridiculed for his career choice. In my own life I theoretically believed that I (being a foodie and all) would love being married to a chef. In real life I turned down an alliance from a chef who worked in a five star rated hotel. So somewhere deep in my psyche I felt women needed to do all the cooking, maybe?

Back in my grandmother’s days women were not allowed in the kitchen because they had male cooks. My great grandmother who shares my name must be tut-tutting – two generations down the line her infamous great granddaughter has surrendered to the patriarchal system.

Born in the 70s I must have imbibed some of the energy from the Women’s movement. I grew up with a brother and we got treated differently, especially in our youth. He got to stay out late, go to clubs and discos and New Year’s eve parties, while I had to stay home. Anytime this happened,  I would raise a red flag and rant and rave (till I was blue) about discrimination of the girl child and women’s rights. My parents married me off young lest I go rogue.

After I got married my husband and I took on traditional roles – he worked and I stayed home and cared for the kids. I didn’t mind it at first but over the years I felt like I was taking on more and more. I was resentful and constantly nagged him about doing more around the house. Fortunately we both realized that our relationship is constantly growing and changing and that to make it successful one needs to adapt. Now I get more help from my husband and sometimes I don’t even have to ask.

Things are far from equal when we compare the two genders but in an ideal world we’d be equally balanced. There is a story in Hindu scriptures of a time when the mother of the universe playfully closed the eyes of Shiva. The entire cosmos was shrouded in darkness and all living beings suffered and perished. When the mother removed her hands, Shiva chided her and pointed out the destruction that she had caused. It broke her heart to see the suffering that she had inadvertently inflicted on her children. She set off to do penance and obtain Shiva’s forgiveness. At the end of her severe penance, Shiva and the mother merged as one so they would never be separate. The story is symbolic of the oneness of the male and the female aspects of the universe but we find it hard to picture that as humans. So the result of the merging of the mother and father of the universe is depicted as below. All we can do is hope for a time when we would honor the male and female aspects of ourselves instead of suppressing one or the other. For one cannot flourish without the other and they are inseparable.


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My Involuntary Retirement Years…

When do normal people retire? Typically after their kids leave the nest and they have hit a certain age. For me retirement came at the ripe old age of 30! Yes 30! After being a full time mom for several years and spending every breathing moment with my toddlers, they suddenly left me for prospective elementary schools. I went from needy toddlers hanging from my arms to totally jobless and unattached (to children). For six hours every day I wandered like a ghost from room to room in my empty house.

I spent the mornings surfing the web or watching talk shows. After lunch which was usually leftovers or something out of the freezer, a great weariness would come over me and I simply had to lay me down for a nap. Once a week I went for gentle yoga classes at the community center. Gentle yoga is a euphemism for I’m-too-old-to-bend-like-that! My instructor and all the other students were silver haired and had grandchildren. They were a jolly bunch and always commended me on being extremely bendy. Once a week I did grocery shopping and found that all other retired people liked to shop early in the morning on a weekday when the crowds were thin. Made perfect sense to me if you wanted to avoid running over toddlers and not have to deal with traffic jams in every aisle.

It really didn’t help that I lived in the retirement state of Florida. My hair which was jet black up until my 30th year slowly started showing signs of graying. It was like my hair decided to catch up with my retired lifestyle. It wasn’t all bad. Being at the other end of the age spectrum prematurely, helped me gain a lot of wisdom and insight. Like the rat race was good for people who wanted to lose weight. If you have seen me you know that weight is not one of my problems! I was forced to slow down while everyone else was scurrying around being really busy. In fact they were all so busy that they had no time to spare. Me? I had all the time in the world. Time to idle. Time to read. Time to chat with friends. Time to play with my kids. Time to cook. Time to write. Time to simply let my mind wander.

When you have a million things to do your mind is on overdrive. Jumping from one task to another. I was standing still while the world around me was in constant motion. Time also stood still and mocked me. But in those still, quiet moments I found myself and healed parts of myself that were broken.

Then my life took a drastic turn and I was pushed out of my involuntary retirement into a life full of busyness. Quite like in the movies where the protagonist is running happily across a corn field (in slow motion) and then suddenly she is scurrying around hurriedly trying to do a million things (in fast forward). Pretty comical!

I’m no longer bored and can’t sit around idling. My mornings I devote to household chores and cooking and then go to work in the afternoon. The thing I miss the most is my afternoon siesta. I also miss staying in my pajamas all day or having inspiration strike when I’m folding laundry or packing lunches.

Now I know why writers shut themselves up in their rooms or run off to some exotic and totally remote location to get away from it all. My mind is always racing these days and my creativity has taken a beating. That Frost guy really knew what he was talking about. I really don’t have the time to stand and stare. On more than one occasion I have begged my family to go on shopping trips without me simply because I yearned for some quiet time with myself. Yes, the ghostly ghoul side of me feels neglected. Haunting rooms is much simpler than trying to juggle everything and trying to be a superwoman. Simple but mildly unsatisfying. Not to mention the dire consequences that your brain has to endure from too much sleep, too little activity and hardly any stimulation.

Anyways in another decade or so the kids will be really gone (not just gone all day). Maybe I’ll have a career. Maybe I’ll be a best selling author with a vacation home in the mountains somewhere. Or maybe I’ll just be retired and living in an empty house full of memories. But I know I’ll be prepared. I know I will enjoy spending time with myself. My involuntary retirement years taught me that there is a time to be busy and a time to slow down. So Life, bring it on!