Punctuate Life

Pause Breathe Relax

Leave a comment

Hello From the Other Side and Other Signs of Afterlife

Ganga’s gone. Physically gone. Her obituary appeared in the Manorama newspaper yesterday. So it must be true. I find it hard to believe, because I wasn’t there when it happened. Chennai was in a lock down and Dad and I couldn’t travel to Palakkad for her funeral. How cruel is this life that we couldn’t be with the one person who has been with us through the good and the bad and everything in between. None of her loved ones were with her when she passed away.

As I sat in Chennai praying for her soul, I heard the phone ring. I answered and the person on the ‘other side’ said she was Thankam’s (Ganga’s) granddaughter. I told her that I was also her granddaughter. After talking to her for a few minutes I handed the phone to my mother. Later, I asked my mom who it was, because the lady on the phone had never mentioned her name. My mom told me her name was Indira. Indira also happens to be my grandma’s name.

Later that evening, the Roman clock that was a farewell gift to my grandpa when he left England, chimed once. The clock doesn’t work and hasn’t been wound up in a while. It hasn’t chimed even once since January, which is when I landed in Chennai. Coincidence? I think not!

It was as if both my grandma and grandpa were letting me know that Ganga was not alone and that they were there with her. I also found feathers and saw a lot of butterflies over the past week. An old family friend who also works with energy told me that Ganga’s energy was almost angelic and that she was definitely at peace. I wasn’t surprised because even in life she was a magnanimous soul. The kind that could give endlessly without ever running dry.

A couple of days ago, while sifting through old albums to find a picture of Ganga for the obituary page, I chanced upon a picture of a very close family friend who had passed away several years ago. She also knew Ganga very well. I sent the picture to her daughter and after sending it realized that it was her mom’s birthday. Was she also letting me know that she is with Ganga?

And then someone called me a gem just out of the blue. That’s my nickname that grandma came up with. It was like all the departed souls who knew Ganga were letting me know (in no subtle way) that she was fine. She was not alone. And they were all having a lovely reunion on the other side. Death is not the end. The soul goes on. And love goes on. That love is something I can always connect to. Not through painful memories but through all the love I received from Ganga when she was alive. True, I cannot hug her again or eat out of her hands or smell the scent of sandalwood on her skin. Nor can I hear her laugh till tears came out of her eyes or see her wide smile as she spotted me coming home from school. But I can close my eyes and feel her love well up in my heart and course through my veins. A love so strong that even death cannot dampen it.

I will love you, Ganga, always and forever. Thank you for showing me what unconditional love looks like. May our souls always stay connected through lifetimes to come.

P.S. The title for this blog post was a whisper from the other side. I randomly started singing Adele’s song “Hello” in my head. “Hello from the other side” is the song’s refrain. Also read “Love Never Dies” which is about how I feel my deceased grandma’s presence even today.









A Heart Full of Gratitude

It is with utmost joy that I write (and now type) this post. A long awaited dream of mine has come true. Roll back to the second post I wrote (The Work Saga –http://www.punctuatelife.com/2012/02/13/the-work-saga/) and you’ll know what I’m talking about. I got a job! A real job! One that pays!

It’s been less than a month but I can’t keep it from the world any longer. No it’s not a writing job. It’s not even a full time job. But it’s just what I need. Part of me was always apprehensive about going to work and leaving the kids in daycare. I’m so used to being there for them when they get back from school that it was inconceivable to me to hand that responsibility to someone else.

Yet part of me craved for a job, for independence and even the companionship of colleagues. This I partially fulfilled by doing volunteer work at the school. The volunteer work (200 something hours spent cutting and gluing, helping with centers, buying supplies) finally paid off and landed me this job.

So at this job, I get to keep the kids with me, the hours work for me and my volunteer work helped me snag this job. I’ll keep you guessing while I go over my long list of things I’m immensely grateful for in my life. It goes without saying that I’m infinitely grateful for this job. I’m blessed to have two little angels for kids. They make each waking day a joy for me. From whiny, cranky, needy babies they have grown to be solid, sound and responsible little kids. I’m in awe of these little wonders that I helped bring into the world.

I’m thankful for an awesome husband who has made my life comfortable and easy. I live an almost stress-free lifestyle thanks to him – he bears the burden of providing for the family, paying the bills, planning for the future. I know he will take care of even the tiniest detail and that we are safe and secure under his wing.

I’m thankful for my family – my parents, brother, in-laws and my adopted Grandma (Ganga). We had the good fortune of celebrating my father-in-law’s 80th birthday with him. Thank you for all your prayers, support and good wishes over the years. A special thank you to my awesome brother who keeps giving me feedback about my blog and doing a lot of PR for me.

I’m thankful for my friends who swoop down to my rescue when family cannot. Without you guys I wouldn’t be writing this blog. Your support and encouragement over the years has built my confidence, has reminded me when I have forgotten who I am and what I am capable of. A special thank you to my bosom friend N for always finding time to comfort me, praying incessantly for me and my family (like her own) and above all for believing in me when I did not believe in myself.

My dear friend S tied the knot this year and I’m so happy for her. When you have a friend you have known from the cradle, you can’t help but want her to be happy and settled (not just money-wise or career-wise but also partner-wise). So I’m thankful that she finally found her soul mate and is starting to live her happily ever after.

I’m thankful that we finally got our green card (this summer) after years of waiting. I’m also very thankful that I got to see fall colors this year after a long time. I’m thankful for good weather out here in Florida (snow is really not my thing). Thankful for food on our table. Thankful for good people in my life. Thankful for every reader (secret ones too) and subscribers. Thankful for my blog. Thankful for my pet fish. Thankful for miles and miles of beaches. Thankful for my little garden and the flowers blooming outside. Thankful for electricity and running water. Thankful for a warm and cozy home. Thankful for Mother Earth. Thankful for sunshine and rain. Thankful for laughter, good health and joy and I wish you all the same. Have a happy Thanksgiving y’all.


Driving Miss DC…

How some of us take driving for granted! An article in Reader’s Digest about a Saudi woman who couldn’t drive (like all women in Saudi) got me thinking of the time I couldn’t drive. No, I didn’t ever set foot in Saudi Arabia. I lived most of my life in India, where my grandma’s driver drove me to school and back or I carpooled with my best friend G. When I got older my Dad took over. He used to drop me off at my office and then head to work. In the evening I simply walked, took a bus or an auto ( a 3-wheeled vehicle with a hood and a meter – cheaper option than a taxi). Driving was never a necessity. My mom never learnt to drive and my grandma had a driver. But my grandma wanted me to learn to drive. I scoffed at her saying I didn’t own a car.(Vanity! What else can I say?) She insisted that I should but I never heeded her advice. Oh how I regretted it! Not when I was in India, but when I got married and moved to the U.S. of A.

In the U.S. unless you live in a big city, you can’t really rely on public transportation. One is pretty much homebound without a driver’s license. Add kids and biting cold winters to the equation and the picture gets pretty bleak! Most brides from India get busy getting their licenses or applying for jobs. I couldn’t apply for a license without an SSN and my visa did not permit me to work in the U.S. It was a dependent visa and that pretty much described my situation. Three months after I got to the U.S. I was pregnant with my first child. Severe nausea kept me in bed most of the day. I couldn’t step out of the house. I was afraid to go grocery shopping (what if I threw up all over the meat section?). I was afraid to go to my neighbor’s apartment (what if I threw up all over her carpet?). Driving was the last thing on my mind. My husband did the grocery shopping and took me to my doctor’s appointments.

This continued after my daughter was born. My husband had to take off when our baby girl got sick or had a doctor’s appointment. We shopped for groceries over the weekend. If it was too cold he went alone. I pretty much gave up on the idea that I would ever get a license. The only time I regretted not having a license was when my husband had a kidney stone. He was in excruciating pain and had to drive himself to the emergency room.

After we celebrated my daughter’s first birthday, I found out I was pregnant. The nausea wasn’t as bad as the first time around but I barely had any energy to take care of A and myself. After my son was born we had so much going on with him that another couple of years went by. When I was finally ready to get my permit, the DMV insisted that I didn’t have enough documents to be granted one. A few frustrating years later, which saw my husband skip around his work schedule trying to accommodate doctor’s appointments (times 2!), trips to the preschool and everything else in between, I finally got my employment authorization. Now I had enough documents to get my learner’s permit.

In India depending on age and marital status, either dads or husbands teach their daughters or wives driving. Typically early in the morning when the roads are deserted or in the outskirts of the city where traffic is negligible. My husband’s Dad taught him driving when he was old enough to apply for a license. So my husband took me to a parking lot for my first lesson. By then my kids were older and we had wonderful friends who volunteered to baby sit. After driving around in a few parking lots at 5 m.p.h. I realized this was not a good idea. My husband was afraid I’d dent the car (hence the 5 m.p.h. speed limit). Every lesson saw us getting more and more stressed out. Finally we both agreed that I should just go to a driving school.

In 2009, after my grandma passed away I was determined to get my license. It was my tribute to her. But just after I finished my first lesson we got news from my husband’s company that we had to move to Florida. After a break of several months (as we settled down in Florida) I had to get my license and get it fast. Work pressure was high, my husband’s office was far away from home and working from home was not an option. I signed up for weekend lessons. My instructor (whom I will never forget) was a grandma with a great sense of humor. She teased and poked fun at me to get me relaxed. A few lessons later I was ready to take the test. After two attempts I finally got my license. It sits in my purse along with a picture of my grandma. I’m sure she’s saying – finally that girl got some sense in her and got her license!

I’m not one of those people who enjoy driving. I’d rather be driven around so I can take in all the sights around me. But I realize what a blessing it is to have a license (and a car) as I pass the bus stop on rainy days. It’s a blessing to be able to drive and it’s a blessing to have people to drive you around when you can’t. So thank you Papa, Dadima (and all her drivers) and my husband who still loves to drive me around sometimes!



Love Never Dies…

Sandy hit last week and took many people with it. The pictures of the damage were heart wrenching. One cold December not too long ago we woke up freezing. A freak ice storm had left our town without power. We had to live in a friend’s place and then a hotel for five days until the power was restored. We did not lose our home or our belongings and none of us were hurt. But just being without a home for a few days is enough to make you feel displaced and uncomfortable. Imagine the plight of millions who not only lost power but also their homes and some even their loved ones. This week an earthquake in Guatemala killed many people and caused severe damage. I couldn’t shake off the sadness and then before I could pick myself up, I was dealt another blow.

My former colleague passed away. He is two years older to me and leaves behind a wife, twin toddler boys and a newborn. I spoke to his wife this week and I could feel her pain. I bit my lip and fought back the tears as I spoke to her. Just a couple of weeks ago I started writing the story of my grandma and this is how I started – right on the day my grandpa died, leaving my 36 year old grandma a widow with no work experience, no college degree and a little money. My Dad had just started college. When I wrote it was from my grandma’s perspective and in her voice. I almost cried when I spoke to my colleague’s wife because the feelings associated with losing one’s spouse were fresh in my psyche.

The feeling of loss is universal. It’s something no mortal can escape. It doesn’t matter if it’s your grandma. grandpa, mother, father, spouse, sibling, friend or child. It just leaves a huge void. One that all the love in the world cannot fill. All the people in the world cannot fill it. You feel orphaned, abandoned and forced to deal with life without your loved one. It’s not fair! How can you go on?

A dark mood swept over me this week and even though I planned to write this post, a part of me was saying – What are words? Just empty symbols. How can I make the pain go away? I can’t. No one will believe me when I say I feel you. I’ve been there. We become one in our experience of pain, grief and loss in very much the same way we become one in love, happiness and prosperity. There is a saying that goes – when you laugh the world laughs with you and when you cry you cry alone. I’m not so sure about that one. Here is my experience taken from an older post Daring and Different…My Dadima…

I was foolish to think she had touched but one life – mine. When people came to me with stories of her kindness and love, I cried copious tears. It felt like their pain was my pain. We had all lost someone special. Someone who thought we were special and treated us like royalty.

The pain you feel is real. No one can replace him/her. But time does heal and love will find a way to make you ache less. The loss of my grandma was not easy to deal with. I grew up in her shadow (or should I say aura?) I was lucky that I got to be with her when she passed away (braving winter storms, cancelled flights and long stop-overs). But still I felt guilty for the time I spent away from her. I could never get that back – it was gone and she was gone. I cried alone when no one was watching. Every birthday and holiday I would miss her terribly and cry. Every February (that is the month she passed away)  I would plunge into depression. It took me two years to make peace with her passing. I cannot give you a timeline for grieving or a date to move on. It will take time, it will take help and it will take a lot of prayer.

I keep going back to my grandma because I think she dealt with death in the right way. She never feared it and was never in awe of it. She just accepted it. She did however lose faith in God and Astrology after her husband was whisked away from her far too soon. Astrologers had predicted that the couple would live a long, happy life. And here she was 36 and widowed and with no clue how to carry on. She did however have a strong will to overcome the odds. She also had this – a strong connection with my grandpa even though he was not physically present. She often talked about dreaming about him and telling him her problems. Looking back at her life I can tell she most certainly got help from the other side. She always had enough money to take care of herself and pay the huge hospital bills. She always had helpful people and synchronistic things kept happening to her.

After her passing I felt her presence. Many things I had wanted in the past, came to me more easily. Like getting  a driver’s license, moving to a warmer place, even making friends. You say it’s a coincidence. I say it’s her putting in a word for me up there. In each case I have received signs that she has intervened on my behalf to bring me things in this mortal plane to make me happy.

Some of you may be reading this and not really understanding the full purport of my words. I’m saying that our souls never die and are not limited by the body. We go on forever. We are infinite beings. You are never alone even if you do not realize it. It’s like having air to breathe – you don’t think about it. There is more to life than death. Death is not the end. It is the beginning of another journey. We get a glimpse of this world when we sleep. In sleep we don’t feel our bodies, don’t remember the past and are blissful. We also travel to other magical places in what we call dreams.  A soul does the same when it leaves its body.  Even though we feel they are gone, they are free than ever before and can be with us if we want them to – in the most gentle and nonthreatening way. Supporting us and loving us even more than they could when they were alive and amongst us.

Leave a comment

The United Nations of the World

This post was meant to be on segregation and casteism and all the ugly covers we use to judge and divide us. But my wonderful husband told me this – your blog is about the positive, not about the negative. So I did not publish that post. Instead I have taken just the good points from it with the intention of sharing them with you.

Growing up, we were never really pukka Malayalees because we lived in Chennai and spoke mostly English at home. Part of it had to do with the fact that my parents never grew up in Kerala either. My mom had attended Benares Hindu University and was very fluent in Hindi. In fact she went on to be a very good Hindi teacher. My Dad grew up in Bombay and went to a school in Yercaud. I was born Hindu, went to a Christian school and said the Lord’s prayer everyday and lived in a neighborhood where everyone was Muslim.

Our Muslim neighbors burst crackers during Diwali and we shared sweets with them. During Ramzan they would send plates full of biriyani for us to enjoy. I don’t recall having any Malayalee friends in school. Lots of cousins, yes, but no friends. My best friends were Punjabi, Tamil, Telegu, Kannadiga and Bengali. It didn’t matter. No one made me feel like I was different. We all wore the same uniform, had the same rules to follow in school and our parents were friends. Some of the wonderful friends I made in college are Malayalees but that was not the reason I was friends with them!

I never really understood the impact of this kind of environment and upbringing until much later. Somewhere deep inside I knew that religion was just the way and that God was one indivisible being. I didn’t understand it even when 9/11 happened. Some of the best girls I know are Muslim and they are so gentle, loving and accepting. It didn’t hit me when I moved to the U.S. and the friends I made hailed from all over India.

But then slowly the hatred and bias that had been building up over the years started to spill over and I started hearing and seeing things that shocked me.

What really spurred me to write this article is something that came up in the news this week. It was about a boy who was one of the first responders when the 9/11 attacks happened. He lost his life trying to save the people trapped in the tower. His name was not mentioned along with the first responders. Why? Because he was a Pakistani Muslim. My good Indian friend L who lives in the Middle East told me that her best friend is Pakistani and I remember Benazir Bhutto’s last interview before she was assassinated. She talked of a deep love for her country and its beautiful people painted black by the media. She said that is why I fight for my country. That one sentence changed the way I as an Indian saw Pakistan. It is a country full of people like you and me, with families, with hopes and dreams. The real enemies are the politicians with their murky agendas, not the people of Pakistan.

I was also saddened by the news about the people from the North Eastern states having to flee Bangalore in the wake of threats of violence against them. What have we come to? Maybe the states should not have been divided based on language. But why should that divide us. What is wrong with speaking Hindi in Tamilnadu and why should every South Indian be called a Madrasi? I never grew up with those biases and so they seem really pointless and petty to me. I urge all of you to do the same. Get out of the narrow space that you have carved out for yourself. Explore the possibility of befriending someone outside of your limited religious or linguistic circle. My life is richer because of that. I learn so much about food and culture from my friends. And I almost always find so much similarity disguised as differences.

My kids now grow up in America and most of their friends are not Indians. I had to drop my bias against Westerners as well. I should have dropped it when I saw my friend S’s  husband who was German eat rice and curry with his hands. Or when G’s European fiance travelled all the way to India to meet her family and ask for her hand.  You see bias is a dangerous thing. Once you let it in, it colors your vision of the world and your life will never be the same again.

Don’t believe all that you see on television. The divide and rule policy is alive and well in every country’s government! Use your own experience to guide you.

I urge you to drop your veils and see the oneness that is us. It is what you have been seeking all your life…


The Help (Part 2)

I had to write this because I did not mention one stellar person in my last post (Let’s Help “The Help”). Probably because I never did consider her the help. She has been around for such a long time that she is part of our family. When my friends came home I always introduced her as my ‘other’ grandma. Her name is Vijayalakshmi. My grandma called her Thankam. I call her Ganga. All the kids who came after me adopted the same name – Ganga – and so it stuck.

When I said she was around for a long time, I mean a really long time. Like right from the time she was a kid of say 9 or 10. She came from a well-to-do family. But tragedy struck, taking her father away and leaving her mother with a house full of kids to fend for. Ganga was pulled out of school even though her teacher thought it was unwise to deny such a bright child an education. Her mom simply couldn’t afford it and sent her off to work in my great grandmother’s house. My grandma was just a girl then and a couple of years older to Ganga. Ganga almost instantly took a liking for her and wanted in her heart of hearts to follow my grandma wherever life took her. Her wish was granted and she became my Dad’s nanny. My Dad is the son she never had. In the queer way that I was raised by two grannies, my Dad was raised by two mommies. One doting and fussing over him, while the other was disciplining and demanding.

By the time I arrived my grandma was widowed. She had moved from Bombay to Guwahati and then to Barauni and finally to Madras (after grandpa died). With Ganga always in tow. She shared my grandma’s love for me, dogs and entertaining. She is an excellent cook and could dish up a feast in a trice that would put the chef at Taj to shame. She loved gardening and single handedly managed my grandma’s garden. All grandma had to do was make regular visits to the nursery. Grandma went to work and dropped me off at school. Ganga packed lunch and took care of me when I got back from school. You get the picture right? They were a team.

Every night my grandma would talk to Ganga about her day and she would add her two cents’ worth to it. Such was their relationship. They had been through thick and thin, untimely deaths to joyous birthdays and celebrations. From the village of Kollengode to the plush bungalow in Barauni and then to her cozy two-bedroom home in Madras. I’m sure if she had to, Ganga would have laid down her life for my grandma. One time she almost did.

After a long day working at the gas agency, my grandma would come home with a bag full of cash earned from the sale of gas cylinders. Ganga usually opened the gate and stood there waiting for her. Or she would sit on the porch telling me stories. One night when my grandma got off the car, a man came charging and grabbed the bag of cash from her. Ganga quickly grabbed the bag from the man and held onto it tightly under her arm. The man proceeded to beat her with an iron rod he had. But she did not let go of the bag. By then, the driver got out of the car and charged at the man. The robber gave him the slip and disappeared into the dark. Ganga had a few bruises but was  otherwise unharmed.

Things have changed since I left Chennai. Ganga retired and left for Kerala. She would come running to Chennai everytime I visited. Her sisters children are in Kerala but she hardly bonds with them. Her heart aches to be with my Dad, with me, with her true family. My heart yearns to be near her and take care of her, the way she took care of me as a child and as a mother (after I gave birth to Anjali). Maybe God will grant me my wish, maybe he won’t. But I will always be grateful for my ‘other’ grandma – my Ganga.




Marriage 101

What with it being our 10th anniversary this week, I simply had to write this. For all you people out there who think marriage is something straight out of the pages of a Mills and Boons novel – think again! Sure you’ll have several steamy scenes playing in your wedded life but to imagine that your whole marriage could exist between the covers (no pun intended!) of a Mills and Boons novel is plain foolishness. And I was that foolish when I got married.

My expectations were way too high.  So were his! End result – huge clashes, waterworks, calls to India. Interference from India. To put it mildly our marriage was almost falling apart. I threatened to walk away convinced that we were incompatible. And this was the man who had me on my hands and knees, eating out of his hands and hanging onto his every word. What ever happened to all that spark, attraction, head over heels in love dizziness? It was just gone and I didn’t know where to go looking for it. The funny thing is I have never read a single Mills and Boons and so I never understood where I got my warped ideas about relationships.

So what saved my marriage you ask? Hate to admit it but it was P (initially and later on the new and improved me had to step in!) . He simply didn’t believe in divorce. Divorce is not an option and will never be an option. He said when something bad happens in a relationship you should stop and think about all the good times. When you are hopping mad at your partner remember the good things they did for you. No one’s perfect. People say and do crazy stuff but it doesn’t mean they don’t love you. They are just having a bad day and taking it out on you. Took many years for me to see the truth in what he said. This is not to say you have to stay with an abusive, co-dependant, alcoholic, philanderer! But in all other cases you can apply the P rule.

My refuge during the what I call the ‘adjustment years’ was prayer. Everytime we fought I prayed. I was certain that God had sent this man into my life because I saw signs before my wedding day right when I was having pre-wedding jitters. It just didn’t make sense. So I had angry conversations with God – why did you send me this man who doesn’t understand me and treats me so-so? I am special. I need to be treated special! The answer to this I got several years later. I was immature when I got married. A 23 year old who had lived all her life in Chennai and didn’t know anything about anything. It so happened that God intended marriage to be my platform for personal transformation. It’s true marriages are made in heaven but you have to do the work to keep it there. So I stuck it out, didn’t quit, stayed long enough to learn the lesson and grow out of it. It’s not so much about Kama Sutra as it is about Karma Sutra. What you put into a marriage you will get out of it.

Another mistake I made – I was trying to be the person P wanted me to be even though that wasn’t what I wanted. I lost myself in the first few years of marriage. And that was a source of great unhappiness for me. Took me a long time to love myself and BE myself before playing all the roles I had to play in life. The moment I did that I met with a lot of resistance. Why? Because people don’t like change. Even the people around you. But if they love you enough and see how passionate you are about the NEW and IMPROVED you, they will come around and be supportive.

You have to be patient and be in a place of love and compassion. What if the tables were turned? What if P quit his job and wanted to be a rockstar? I would be totally paranoid right? Even though he thinks that’s his ‘calling’. So that’s how he reacted to my new fangled blogging idea. Well, there was little or no paranoia involved but a lot of – are you sure? and I don’t know if this is a good idea! But I knew from the nucleus of every cell in my body to the recesses of my soul that this is what I was meant to do. This is my calling. So does this mean I have to choose between him and my purpose? Do I have to end this relationship? The very thought brought me to my knees. Because P is a great guy, a great Dad, a great provider, always there for me and my kids and such a committed person. He goes to all of the kids’ doctor’s appointments, music recitals, soccer games ( he does it all and still keeps his job!). So I did what I always do. I prayed and prayed and also strongly conveyed my enthusiasm for this new idea and my vision to make it a reality. I knew in my heart that this man loved me and although he may not go to the moon for me, he would do other meaningful things.

Again, I was tested and I remained patient. I waited and kept the faith. Two days ago, on our 10th anniversary we registered my new domain and got web hosting for my new blog! Yes I know what you are thinking…Why couldn’t you do it yourself? Why did you need him? For all your feminist values D!!! But that’s what marriage is about. Togetherness, love, growth and compassion. The fibers of his life and mine are enmeshed in an inseparable fashion, so much so that you cannot tell them apart. Now, finishing eachother’s sentences, we haven’t gotten there yet! Maybe in another 20 years.

To summarize…

If marriage were a door to a strange and exciting land, a sign above the door would say these words – Enter at the risk of losing yourself, enter only if you are willing to do the work, enter if you want your life to be changed forever and enter if you wish to be held in the tender embrace of love for this lifetime and many lifetimes to come. DO NOT ENTER if you wish to reside in the pages of one hot and steamy Mills and Boons novel!

All my friends who are happily married please share your insights below. My single friends are also encouraged to comment and to my friends who are struggling with their marriage  – there is hope. Hang in there.

1 Comment

For All My Single Friends

Funny that this note started out as Love 101 – everything you need to find and keep the love of your life! But then fate intervened and I read this book called “Empowering Women” by Louise Hay. Changed my life (just yesterday by the way!)  So let me start by apologizing to all my single friends. I’ve been a blundering fool. I’ve judged, I’ve compared, I’ve used outdated standards to measure the worth of women such as yourself. Beautiful, talented, self-sufficient women who can very well do without men. The notion that you are incomplete without a man has to be thrown out the window. I’m sorry but I held onto to that belief too – unconsciously. It’s a lie that we have accepted as the gospel truth.  We are not here to marry or procreate. That is not the ‘sole’ purpose of our lives! At least not everyone’s life.

If that were the case I would have been blissfully happy and continued to be a stay-at-home mom, cared for my husband when he retired, stayed a dutiful wife till my dying day and then shed my mortal shell and lined up at heaven’s gate. Puh-leez! Mind you for centuries women did just that. It was not ‘genteel’ for women to work or sweat! Women had to stay home and knit, cook, sew and take care of kids and support their ‘man’. But the good news is you don’t have to do that. However, if you search your psyche you will find remnants of these outdated ideas. Media plays a big role to propagate these ideas.

Take a moment to reflect on the last 5 chick flicks (FYI I hate that phrase!) you watched.  What was the storyline? How to find a man? How to please a man? How to fix your flaws so you can find a man? The taming of the ‘supposed’ shrew? Isn’t there something wrong with the picture? No wonder women feel the pressure to marry and have babies. They think that it is the only happily ever after scenario! They feel the stigma attached to being single. The clock is ticking they say. I have to settle down. Something is wrong with me (this is the most horrible conclusion you can come to). I’m too social. I’m too smart. I’m too sensitive. I should stop being me, then I can have a good man in my life. Infinite excuses. I’m sure you can come up with some unique ones yourself.

Stop! Don’t start whipping yourself with insults. It’s time to love yourself just the way you are and enjoy the life you have created sans men. I implore you not to look to a man to ‘complete’ you. You were born whole and complete. I’m not asking you to take a vow of celibacy but please don’t beat yourself up and think you aint worth nothing if you aint got a man. Love yourself and all that you have accomplished. Having a man in your life could have slowed you down, could have changed your course, he could have imposed his grandoise plans on you. He could have tried to ‘fix’ you to fit his needs!

If there is a man who complements you he will come along soon enough. If not, be happy anyways. This is what God intended for you. Stop fighting it and stop hating yourself for being single. Surround yourself with people who love you and honor you, not well-meaning friends who want to fix you up with some guy they know.

I see I’ve ruffled a few feathers. You are thinking what do you know about being single, you got married at 23! Well the grass is always greener on the other side girlfriend. Marriage aint a piece of cake (but I’ll save that for another post!)

Don’t let anyone make you feel like a lesser mortal. I’ve known that feeling. People thought I was wasting my time staying at home and taking care of my kids. I didn’t have a job so it meant I wasn’t smart enough. I couldn’t drive so something was wrong with me. You see if you let the world decide what you are worth, it is going to find ways to diminish you. And I am here to say you are perfect just the way you are and that you are right where you are meant to be. To conclude love comes in many forms. Bliss can be found at many levels. A ring aint what your heart is aching for sister!

Leave a comment

Forgiveness 101

Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. That is a line from the Lord’s prayer or “Our Father” as we dubbed it as school girls studying in Good Shepherd Convent. I must have said that prayer a thousand times or more in the 14 years I spent in a school that is very close to my heart, with a bunch of girls and teachers who are still to this day closer than family. But the full purport of those words didn’t sink in then. It sunk in years later when I was trying very hard to get unstuck. Yes I was stuck. While I thought I was stuck in the present, I was actually stuck in the past. Holding on to some grudges that I didn’t even know I was holding on to. Being unforgiving without even knowing it. All the while being or thinking I was being this wonderful, spiritual human being.

Rude awakening! You can’t be spiritual and unforgiving. People hold grudges in different ways. Some just cut of  emotionally and physically from a person. They don’t talk to them, visit them etc. And in this case it is easy to figure out who you need to forgive.

Others like me don’t really cut off from people, at least not forever. I might not call someone who hurt me for maybe a few weeks or months. But if they initiate the call, I will answer and I will talk amiably. So it was hard for me to distinguish between people I needed to forgive and people I didn’t need to forgive. I acted normal around these so called hurtful people and did everything they expected of me. Talk about being a pushover!

But in my defense, I felt like life was short and forgiving and moving on seemed and felt better than the constant tension and pressure that goes into trying to hate someone and trying to avoid someone. When I was a child the adults around me held onto a lot of grudges and I always felt the tension and stress in that environment. So much so that in my adult life I chose to do the opposite. Only problem was I really wasn’t doing that.

So then we come to the question, how do you know you have not forgiven someone? Especially if you belong to category 2 like me. If you remember something the person has done in the past and it still has the power to upset you, or if you are constantly in the midst of unfolding drama in the presence of this person then you need to forgive. Forgiving doesn’t mean you condone the action and think that you deserved it. Of course you didn’t! It is simply the act of letting go of that experience and all the emotional memory attached to it – hurt, guilt, anger and shame. You really don’t need to walk around carrying it on your shoulders, all the way to your grave. Move on and stop punishing the person over and over again for what happened 17 years ago! That’s what happens by the way. Every time you interact with the person you are interacting through the filter of that awful thing they did to you.

There is another aspect to forgiveness and that is forgiving yourself. Most of us have such harsh standards for ourselves. Some of our expectations are unrealistic and when we don’t meet them we get frustrated and berate ourselves for not being perfect. We are constantly at war with ourselves and very very unforgiving of ourselves. This can really keep you stuck. It’s like having iron manacles binding both your feet. You feel chained to your emotions.

The first step in forgiveness is to accept that you and everyone around you are imperfect. Accept is the key word. The way God accepts you with all of your faults. It’s ok to be imperfect. Never have high expectations of others. You will be disappointed and you will launch yourself into a downward spiral of unforgiveness and resentment. You can train yourself to achieve and you can try to perfect yourself. But remember to do it in a loving, supportive way. Remember others have their own drives and own reasons for being here.

Unforgiveness and grudges have a kind of energy that creates the same pattern over and over. It’s as if the person is trying to hurt you over and over when you have done nothing. But you are actually triggering it by holding onto and fanning the flames of that age old awful incident.

If you are not talking to the person who needs to be forgiven, do this! Light a candle, visualize the person, write what you want to say to that person and speak it out. It helps to write how the person hurt you if you never really told the person to their face. End by saying this. _________(person’s name) I forgive you and I set you free. Also ask that the emotional cords connecting you to this person be cut forever. Repeat this exercise for as many days as you need to until you feel no emotional distress when you remember the incident and you have not one iota of resentment toward the person.

Sometimes even if you are talking to the person you may find it hard to bring up something that happened decades ago. You can use the above method and you will know you have forgiven that person when you feel a certain lightness around your relationship. You can joke with the person and feel like things are back to what they were before the unforgiving incident.

Forgiving frees you, lifts the weight off your shoulders and helps you quickly progress towards your goals. Expect miracles around your act of forgiveness. I know I have!

Leave a comment

Finding a Long Lost Love…

I met my soul sister when I was living the best years of my life. I had just graduated, landed a job without even trying, and engaged to be married to the most charming man who is the love of my life. We worked for the same company and she lived just yards away from my grandmother’s house. We used to walk or take a bus back home. I have fond memories of those days and the way she was always so tuned to my energy and emotions. But I knew those carefree days spent sharing chocolates and life would soon come to an end. I knew I had to move halfway across the globe after I got married.

Thank God for e-mail and chat and VOIP phones! We would be in touch, I thought. I was wrong! I met her one last time on my wedding day and then I flew to the U.S. I didn’t realize that would be the last time I saw her or heard from her in a long long time. She quit her job, moved and stopped using her e-mail account. The e-mails I sent her bounced back. Former colleagues had no clue as to where she might be. I was crushed. Although I had known her only for a few months we had connected at a very deep level. Like a soul connection. So I never gave up looking for her.

When Orkut came along I spent an insane number of days and hours searching for her. Peering at countless tiny pictures and profiles hoping to see her face. But I got nothing. Years went by but I still knew in my heart that I’d find her. So when Facebook was born the search began all over again. The search for a friend like no other. Again no trace of her.

Then one day after I had moved to Florida and got my license and started believing in miracles I searched for her. And there she was photo and all. I was thrilled to bits! I found her! I found her! I finally found her! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!  I messaged her, quite unsure if she would remember me. But she did. I guess having a rare name helps! And this is the part I never expected. She was equally thrilled to get back in touch. After all these years! Imagine if after years of searching and finding someone, you got a lukewarm reaction. Oh Hi…Nice to see you too. Thank God that didn’t happen to me.

And then it got me wondering why did I find her when I found her. Why not before? Why not later? Why ever? I couldn’t answer that for a long time. But one day I stumbled upon it. I wasn’t the person she knew years ago. Marriage, kids. life itself had made me weary, unhappy. She never would have connected with me in those years when I was still finding myself. She knew the bubbly, giggly girl who was on cloud nine, with the whole world at her feet and her whole life ahead of her. She never would have recognized the dull, dreary, sleep deprived, stay-at-home mom I had been for many years.

But the moment I shifted into a state of contentment, fully aware of my power, taking my life by the reins instead of being a piece of driftwood, I was able to find her. And I found her at the right time. They say a friend is someone who knows the melody of your heart and sings it to you when you have forgotten it. I had forgotten. Forgotten my own strength, the beauty of my being, how much I mattered. She gently, yet firmly reminded me. She tore down my wall of excuses and exposed me to the reality of who I am. I owe my writing to her. The joy and gratitude I feel overwhelms me. The creative block I had for years melted with her encouragement and her undying faith in me pulled out the stopper and now I’m free and my creativity flows and flows and flows. Thank you N.G. Thank you for everything!