Punctuate Life

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My 30 Days of Gratitude

This is something I started two years ago and get excited about doing every year. Some of you have also taken this up and I’m sure you find it as rewarding as I do. This month was wonderful, with a trip to see fall colors and also a trip to the beach. I also took some time to pamper myself. And when I was having a rough week and wasn’t feeling particularly thankful, a friend gave me a wonderful card and bookmark reminding me that, “There is always something to be thankful for!”

Day 1
I am thankful for my job and the financial independence that comes with it.
Day 2
am thankful for my hybrid car and chargers at work.
Day 3
I am thankful for the beautiful fall colors that everyone can enjoy.
Day 4 (Trip to western NC to see fall colors)
I am thankful for vacations and the opportunity to unwind and take a break from  the routine.
Day 5
I am thankful for my good health and energy that helps me accomplish all that I need to do at work and home.
Day 6
I am thankful for a full pantry and the ability to generously donate to those who need help.
Day 7
I am thankful for my beautiful home that keeps me safe and sheltered.
Day 8
I am thankful for the produce from my garden. (Okra, tomato, spinach, mint, oregano, and carrots.)
Day 9
I am thankful for my beautiful children, Anjali and Nitin. They fill my heart with joy and pride.
Day 10
I am thankful for my parents and for their support, love, and faith in me.
Day 11
I am thankful for the infinite and omnipresent source of all love and light. For guidance, grace, and infinite miracles.
Day 12
I am thankful for technology. It helps me keep in touch with friends and family around the world.
Day 13
I am thankful for my brother Dinesh Damodran. He is a bag of surprises. One day he is at a Vipasana meditation retreat and the next day he is cooking zafrani pulao for friends. He is not afraid to try new things and I’m always eager to hear about his latest adventure. Happy birthday Dini. May the next year be filled with new adventures and happy travels.
Day 14
I am thankful for my brother Rohit Singh. For all the laughs and for being so protective of me.  Here’s wishing you happiness and success always.
Day 15
I am thankful for powerful women who are my role models. Dadima you are #1 on the list. Whenever I feel stymied I just ask myself,  what would dadi do? I love you and miss you. Waiting for the day we will meet again.
Day 16
I am thankful for the men in my life who treat women with respect. They set the standards for everyone else. #1 on my list is my dad.
Day 17
I am thankful for friends like Namami Ghosh. Sometimes talking to a friend who will just listen is the best therapy.
Day 18
I am thankful for meditation, reiki, and quiet time to rejuvenate my spirit.
Day 19
I am thankful for a good education and most importantly the discernment that comes with it. And also for the varied life experiences that have shaped me.
Day 20
I am thankful for teachers (Mabel Erevelles and Nirupama Prasad) and gurus, both in this world and beyond for inspiring me, saving me many times over, and for helping me evolve as a person.
Day 21
I am thankful for Karen Warmbein and her friendship. Today, she brightened up my day with this beautiful card.
Day 22
Thankful for a day dedicated to giving thanks, good food, and family. Happy Thanksgiving everyone.
Day 23
I am thankful for warm clothes and heating and for wonderful friends who warm my heart.
Day 24 (Trip to Myrtle Beach, SC)
I am thankful for beaches and oceans, my happy place. I am thankful for myself because today I picked up a lot of trash from the beach.
Day 25
I am thankful for sacred space, to get away from the maddening world and just be with myself.
Day 26
I am thankful for time. Time to volunteer, read, bake, take walks, meditate, and sleep. Thankful for more than enough time to do the things I love.
Day 27
I am thankful for efficient appliances that help me manage my chores without a maid. I am thankful for all the women who did chores for me when I was growing up. Only now do I really appreciate what they did.
Day 28
I am thankful for my aunt Raji S Nair for always being there for me and praying for me. Love you Valliamma.
Day 29
I am thankful for my blog, creativity, and my way with words.
Day 30
I am thankful for all the blessings coming my way – all the joy, abundance, laughter, good times, and love.
What are you thankful for? I’d love to hear from you!

 


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Man Against Man

As I was driving to work one day with my son, I stopped at a signal and saw the road in front of me teeming with police vehicles. One lane on the opposite side of the road was blocked by a police car. Around eight to ten officers were crowding over something. On looking closer, it appeared as though they were desperately trying to hold down something, using their batons to beat down some terrible dangerous beast. All I could see were their bodies pressing down and arresting the motion of whatever was under them. I gasped when I saw a naked foot sticking out from the crowd of black uniforms. My stomach churned as I realized there were ten police officers holding this man down, several of them pummeling him repeatedly with their batons.

I was filled with loathing. Excessive force, police brutality and other words and faces of many people who suffered the same fate flooded my mind. I felt sick and couldn’t breathe. It was like someone weighing 200 pounds was sitting on my chest.

It is one thing watching clips of police using excessive force and violence on citizens in the comfort of your living room. Watching it unfold in broad daylight just does something to you. I realized my son was in the car with me. I had to say something.

“Oh my God! It’s a man. I don’t care what he did but they can’t do this! This is horrible.”

Images from the past came tumbling into my mind. Men beaten to death by cops just because they could. Kids whose lives were snuffed out because an officer felt threatened and fired his gun. The man who got strangled by a cop. A senior citizen pushed around. A woman pulled by her hair at the beach.

What about all the images that never saw the light of day because no one captured them? What about what goes on in jails behind closed doors? I respect law enforcement but there is a fine line between enforcing the law and treating another person as a lesser being who deserves to be silenced, maimed or even killed.

It was a while again before I could breathe again and focus on my work. But what I saw that day definitely changed me. The next time I read something or see something related to police brutality I’m sure I will be consumed by that sickening feeling of an elephant on my chest.

The man I saw on the road ended up being admitted in a hospital. He left the scene in a stretcher and his family was not allowed to visit him in the hospital. I only hope he doesn’t become another statistic.


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When Florence Came…

It was just me and the kids against the fury of Florence – a category 4 hurricane hurtling towards the Carolinas. The models predicted that it was headed straight for us and was going to dump torrential rain and tear down trees with its catastrophic winds. I didn’t know what to do. I had never faced a hurricane before.

The last time we were hit by a natural disaster, I was in Chennai, when the city was hit by the worst flood ever in 100 years. We lost internet and cell phone coverage and didn’t have power for a day but we were never in any real danger. I didn’t have to worry about what to do if the flood waters entered the house because others were on top of it. I simply had to “follow” along.

Way back in 2009, when we were living in Boston, a freak ice storm in October crippled most of the state. It snowed and then the temperature rose above freezing point, at which point the snow thawed. Later that night, the temperature plunged to subzero turning the snow into ice. The naked trees with their brittle branches couldn’t take the weight of the snow and fell on top of the electric lines, leaving millions without power for days.

We woke up freezing, only to find out that the thermostat wasn’t working and there was no power. We had to leave. The house would soon turn into an igloo. We stayed at a hotel and then at a friend’s place (try keeping two toddlers cooped up in a pint-size room without toys) till the power was restored four days later. Again there was no threat to our lives or property. We were just a little inconvenienced.

In the five years we lived in Florida, we never once had to evacuate because of a hurricane or a tornado. Sandy didn’t hit us but went up north to wreak havoc in the Northeast.

Back in North Carolina, at our team meeting, everyone was talking about their hurricane plans. Some were leaving for western NC or Florida and some were staying put.

“I don’t know where to go,” I said, choking back tears. “Maybe I’ll call some cousins in Washington DC and see if I can go stay with them.”  I guess my worst fear was about making a bad decision that ended up hurting all of us.

I ended up calling my friend from college who also lives in Raleigh. She opened her home and hearth to me and the kids. She even offered to pick us up so my car can stay safely parked in the garage. My friend from work sensed the panic in my voice and showed up with a trunk full of hurricane essentials. She even got some cash for me, just in case I couldn’t make it to the bank.

All through the week friends and family called and texted to check on us. So many people prayed for us. It wasn’t just me and my kids against Florence. I wasn’t alone or afraid anymore. I was surrounded by an army of angels that I’m proud to call my friends. Two days before the hurricane hit, I saw a rainbow and knew it was a sign that we would be OK.

By Wednesday, the storm was downgraded to a category 2 and its path had changed drastically. It wasn’t coming straight at us. It was playing touch and go with the Carolina coast and then swerving around South Carolina on its way to western NC. I was relieved and decided to stay home and wait out the storm. The kids had Thursday and Friday off and we prepped for the storm. We bought bread, fruit, and cereal bars, filled containers with filtered water. Filled the bathtubs with water to flush the toilets in case the water was turned off.

Thursday came and went with rain and breezy conditions. On Friday the wind and rain picked up. I was afraid our young maple trees would topple but they survived the storm. On Friday evening we lost power. I cooked dinner (the gas wasn’t turned off, thankfully) while there was still light outside. My son cooked the frozen chicken and salmon burgers so we wouldn’t have to throw it out in case power was gone for more than a couple of hours.

We sat in the dark and listened intently to the radio for tornado alerts in our area. As I paced up and down, the kids reassured me that we would be OK and that we would get through this. I was really thankful for their maturity and level-headedness during the whole ordeal. They insisted that I play “anthakshari” with them to keep my mind off the hurricane. It’s a game played in India where teams sing songs that begin with the last letter of the song sung by their opponents.

My son took out his circuit board set and found a tiny bulb that he hooked up with a battery so we didn’t need to use candles. The power came back in a couple of hours and I was really thankful for that.

In the midst of all this, I had friends and family messaging and checking on me. On Monday, I had felt all alone in the world. But by Friday my heart was full, full of gratitude for the amazing people in my life. Some near, some far, some I hear from every week and some I haven’t heard from in years. But they all thought of me, prayed for me and it was nothing short of a miracle that not one hair on my head was harmed.

As I type these words my eyes are brimming with tears, not because I’m alone and afraid but because God sent so many angels to help me through the storm. Infinite love and gratitude to all of you.

Please remember that not everyone was spared by Florence. So many people have lost their homes, their loved ones, and everything they had. If you feel inspired to help these folks, please consider donating something toward hurricane relief efforts in NC and SC.


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When You Don’t Let Go

Old story. But you need to hear it again so I can set the stage for what I’m about to relate. Three years ago my family decided to move to India after living in the U.S. for nearly 13 years. I was quite optimistic about jumping continents. After all, I had spent all of my childhood and some adult years in India and it wasn’t like we were walking into the unknown. We were pretty sure we’d live happily ever after in India. So we simply sold all of our stuff or gave it away. We didn’t even consider putting it in storage.

Craig’s List was my friend. I spent most of my time posting stuff there, replying to emails from prospective buyers and arranging for them to come by and see/buy our stuff. Most of our furniture got sold pretty quickly. Then there was the sofa and love seat that we had owned for ten years. It was beige but did not have a single tear or stain on it. We had paid over $1000 for both of them. But no matter how much we slashed the prices, they wouldn’t sell. After posting in a Facebook group, the love seat finally got sold. But the sofa did not and it was the only piece of furniture left. We finally had to give it away for free.

When the couple that agreed to haul it away showed up, I was a little distraught. We had spent a lot on it, it was in excellent condition, and here we were simply giving it away for a song. I loved that couch. It was comfy, durable (my kids were babies when I got it) and elegant. My husband comforted me by saying we would get new furniture if we ever came back to the U.S.

And come back we did! One and a half years later with no jobs and no furniture. Recently, we moved to our own place and decided to get living room furniture, something we had put off because we were renting an apartment before and wanted something that would fit in our new space.

I had it all planned out. A blue and silver theme for the living room. A bluish silver sofa or love seat and accent chairs. I didn’t want both the sofa and the love seat and I definitely did not want beige! The boys wanted recliners and I vehemently opposed it. My daughter hated the designs I picked for the accent chairs. And guess what? Bluish silver sofas are extremely hard to find. There was a good deal on a sofa online and it happened to be the exact same sofa I had owned for 10 years! It came in several different colors, all of which I hated. So I refused to purchase it. The boys really wanted it but I refused to budge. Three months after our move, my living room was still bare.

Finally, after getting stiff from sitting on our dining room chairs and watching TV, we came to a consensus. They would get to buy the beige sofa online and I would get to choose the accent chairs. No questions asked and no veto privileges. Everyone liked the idea.

I came back home one day to see a beige sofa AND love seat in my living room, similar to the ones I had given away three years ago. I was upset. I had them for not one, not even five, but ten years. I really wanted something different but I had manifested the same sofa and love seat. What did I do wrong?  And then it hit me. I never really felt good about giving them away. Part of me was attached to them and not letting go completely did not allow me to make room for something new. My attachment to it brought back the exact same pieces to me even though on the surface I was looking for something completely different. Sounds familiar?

How many times do we say we are ready for something new but then end up attracting and settling for the same old thing over and over again. Think about it. The next time you want something new, make sure you have completely let go of whatever it is you didn’t want. No attachment, no regrets, no unhappiness, or you’ll end up with a big beige sofa and love seat that you gave away years ago and no place for accent chairs!


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Enough is Enough

It should have happened right after Sandy Hook. It didn’t! Orlando? Nope! Maybe after Las Vegas. No, it didn’t! And I don’t think it will unless we make a big deal about it and don’t rest till real change happens. If we can bring down a Harvey Weinstein and a Larry Nassar with #MeToo then we can expose all those politicians who are shamelessly carrying on with the NRA. Those elected to serve the people are now serving the twisted agendas of groups that have the power to maintain the status quo by filling up the coffers of these spineless, greedy politicians. Lives don’t matter to them anymore.  The FBI gets a tip about the shooting and fails to investigate it. The government fails us over and over again. By ignoring our pleas for stricter gun laws. By not securing our schools.

These days anyone can walk into a school building. Why not lock the building and only allow access to authorized people, like offices do.  You have strict laws about underage drinking. You need an ID to purchase alcohol, but guns are given out like candy? And mind you not the kind of guns the early settlers carried but assault weapons that can fire 45 rounds per minute.

It took women to bring down vermin like Weinstein and Lassar and it looks like women are the answer to stricter gun laws. We might be docile and quiet, but anger us or threaten our children and you awaken the fierce lioness is us. The lioness who will stop at nothing to save her cubs. And it so happens that lionesses live in a pride and they come together to protect everyone.

All over the country we see moms coming together to condemn the high school shooting. We see high school kids come together to organize anti-gun rallies. Put them both together and what do you get? Walkout day organized by the same people that organized the women’s march. So the kids and the moms come together while the men (most of them) try to decide where their loyalties lie. With the NRA and guns that are a crutch to keep them safe or with families and communities that are their very life?

But one march won’t do. Signing petitions won’t do it. Believe me I signed plenty. A consistent, targeted, and sustained effort is required. We cannot back down or go back to our lives and forget all about it till the next shooting. We just can’t. We have to spread the word, inspire school administrators, parents and kids to take to the roads, call legislators and make them uncomfortable about supporting the NRA and their agenda to put more guns in the hands of Americans. More guns doesn’t mean more safety, it means more violence. Hopefully, more people wake up to this reality. Some people feel that violence will still plague our country, as people will find other ways to kill if guns are taken away. But this kind of large scale man slaughter can only be done with assault weapons. And no civilian needs those kind of weapons for self defense. A pistol or revolver will suffice. In my opinion even that is too much. I don’t think anyone has the right to kill another being.

As I look at the pictures of the victims, my heart bleeds for these lives that have been snuffed out way before their time. May we live in a world where mothers and fathers will never have to bury their young children, all victims of gun violence. May we live in a world where every life is cherished and peace lives in every heart. Where every mother can go about her day knowing her kids are safe.


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Harvesting Bountiful Gifts

The shorter days and longer nights make me thankful for the warmth of the sun and the long lazy days of summer that never ended. Pumpkins, squash and sweet potatoes in abundance remind me that Mother Earth will provide for us even when the cold winter winds blow. A roof over our heads and family and friends that care fills my heart with gratitude.  A job, healthy children, joy and abundant energy add to my already overflowing bucket.

I can’t  say I felt the same last year. We had just moved from India and were finding our bearings in a new place. We were planting seeds in the fall. Seeds of abundance, love and joy that had been missing for a while. But our seeds lay dormant in the winter. It took every ounce of my strength to do the 30 days of gratitude exercise which I shared with you last November.  But I knew from past experience that gratitude was the way to bring more blessings into your life. Not feelings of worthlessness or pity. So I watered my seeds with gratitude over the winter.

Some sprouts tried to push through the frosty earth but quickly died.  But some survived. The strong intentions, the ones I didn’t want to give up on, lived under the frozen ground. I couldn’t see them but a tiny glimmer of hope wedged itself in my heart.  In March the tiny sprouts surfaced and I watered them eagerly.

A year has passed since I planted seeds of abundance, joy and a beautiful space to call our own and now our tree of prosperity is blooming.  One seed that I presumed had died in the winter somehow surfaced a few weeks ago. My longing for a friend in this new place was fulfilled. Thanks to V who moved to Raleigh. We’ve known each other since college and it was refreshing to just be myself in her company (as opposed to making new friends at my age!)

So this year’s harvest has been bountiful and I won’t be surprised if more seeds come back from the dead. Who knows? It doesn’t hurt to keep watering them and maybe next spring is when they want to emerge. Who am I to judge?

I challenge you – yes you – to practice 30 days of gratitude starting from the 1st of November. I will be doing it as well although it is going to be challenging with my busy schedule. I think I’ll keep a journal at my desk to remind me to be thankful. And I don’t do this just in November. Whenever I find joy ebbing and whining taking over my life I stop myself and try to focus on gratitude. It always helps and makes me feel better and less whiny of course!


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The Right Moment Will Never Come

How many times have you put off doing stuff just because the conditions weren’t as perfect as you wanted them to be? For the longest time I wanted to do a yoga teacher training(YTT). I looked up several classes in the area. I looked up schedules and everything but always felt like it was a lot of money to spend. Also the schedules didn’t work for me or rather I thought they didn’t work for me. Getting away for the entire weekend to attend yoga class was unthinkable. It was as though my kids would starve and be neglected if I was not around!

When I started working I swore that I would enroll in the course once I earned that much money. When I had that exact amount in my bank account I moved from Florida to Washington and was out of work for a few months. I again looked for YTT courses in the area. I found one which was cheaper, the schedule worked perfectly (it was just one weekend) and the studio was quite close to where I stayed. But then I had to go and ask for someone else’s opinion and they felt like I should spend money on a course that would help me earn more money. Again I didn’t enroll for the yoga course nor did I join a career-oriented course.

A year later I again wanted to do a YTT certification but ended up doing a course in technical writing because that was more ‘practical’. It has been 7 years and I still haven’t let my yoga seed come to fruition.

The same kind of pattern emerged once again in my life. I finished writing the book “Thank You Dadima” and want to get it published. But we were both out of work and I figured I’d do it once I get a job. Three months into my job nothing has changed. Now some other excuse has come up. I don’t have the time. I don’t know who to use as an editor…so and so forth. If I went with all the excuses my mind keeps conjuring up I guess that book will just be a file on my computer. Which is not what I want. So I’m going to dump my big bag of excuses and get cracking on getting my book published! Off to e-mail a blogger/editor contact now.


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A Chapter from my Book : Thank You Dadima

Weekends at Dadima’s house were a lazy affair, for me that is. I woke up late, wandered around in my PJs, with my hair in a tangled and disheveled mess. Dadi would be up by 7.00 a.m. and would wash her hair, starch her cotton saris and put them on the clothesline for the maids to stretch out and dry. Dressed in freshly ironed white cotton salwar suits, she would then proceed to supervise Smaller (yes that was his name) as he polished all the brassware in the house.

Around 8.00 a.m. she would notice that her bed was not made because I was sleeping in it! She would try to wake me up. I would moan and groan and throw the blanket over my head to muffle the noise. She would then peel the blankets away from me and insist that I wake up that instant. I would join her for breakfast after hastily brushing my teeth. Still clad in my wrinkled nightie, I’d take a look at her freshly scrubbed glowing face, her damp hair loosely held with clips with not a single strand out of place, and sigh. The idlis on my plate looked off-white against the brilliance of her kurta. I knew what was coming next. She would tell me to go have a bath and get dressed before guests started trickling in after ten in the morning. There were the regulars – the family doctor, the nieces, office staff, and then sometimes someone unexpected came along.

After breakfast, I hid in the guest room which doubled as my study room when there were no house guests. She would seek me out and give me another disapproving look before I meekly went to take a shower. If I was too lazy to comb and braid my long hair, I would just put it up in a bun, which would meet with instant criticism. “Buns are for old ladies. It doesn’t suit you!” she would say the moment I walked into her room to watch some TV. Jeans were also not her favorite. Or faded T-shirts for that matter. Both of which happened to be my favorite weekend outfits.

For years I wore a white uniform to school and Dadima wore her white starched cotton saris with matching white sandals. Given the nature of the place she worked in, carrying a white handbag and expecting it to stay white over a week was wishful thinking. Dirt, dust, grime, ink, carbon paper left no mark on her black handbag which she carried to work every day. The white handbags came out for special occasions – parties, weddings and conferences.

White was something widows wore to somehow symbolize the lack of color and joy in their spouse-less worlds. But one look at Dadima was enough to let you know that for her white was a fashion statement. She did not wear make-up, jewelry or a saffron dot on her forehead like married women. Her blouses were always stitched in the latest style, she wore dressy heeled sandals, chic sunglasses and a big-dialed omega watch. White did not make her look colorless and boring, but made her stand out. It was her trademark. Her signature. Her power.

No matter what her health was like on any given day, she would get up, wash up and get dressed. If guests were coming over, she would brush her hair and sit up straight on her bed with the support of pillows. Even at the hospital, she cared about her appearance. She never wanted to look sickly, hapless and pitiful. To portray herself that way meant that she was weak and could be easily tricked. That did not bode well for a business woman who wanted to be taken seriously and respected for who she was.

White demanded respect and helped her get into places others could not. In hospitals, she was mistaken for a physician and could enter restricted spaces and even talk to senior doctors who were not very approachable. The lack of color also concealed her true identity. She could pass off for a Jain, Christian, Muslim or Sikh. And when people cannot pin you down and compartmentalize you based on your appearance you become universal. Now white does not magically confer all these qualities to a person who merely chooses to wear it. I have seen other widows who wear white but don’t yield the kind of power she does. So why did it work for her?

Widows evoked images of heartbroken women, shunned by society and living on the fringe, boding bad luck for those who crossed paths with them. I vividly recall one such widow. The widow next door in her faded orange sari with her prickly hair peeping out of the edge of the sari clumsily draped over her head. Her wrinkly face and arms made me wonder if she ever had oil baths. But what struck me the most were her sad soulless eyes. In fact she had an air of melancholy that somehow seeped under my skin and made me shudder. Every time I saw her I quickly looked away and secretly pledged never to be her.

Dadi had sparkling, lively eyes, sometimes full of mischief. A strong positive vibe emanated from her. Her white clothes almost gave off a glow and it attracted one and all. She took the stigma associated with white and turned it around to her advantage. Probably because she never once looked for pity and knew pretty darn well how to take care of herself. In fact she took excellent care of herself. She never denied herself or neglected herself like widows were wont to. She moisturized her skin, ate vitamins and a lot of healthy foods. Every Sunday the family doctor would come take a look at her and check her pulse and heart.

People notice the way you dress and the way you portray yourself to the outside world. When you neglect this aspect of yourself, people don’t take you seriously. Dress sharp and people know you mean business. A well-dressed person is also confident and competent.

The law of attraction also plays out in this. When you dress like an affluent person, wealth and abundance must naturally come to you. If you dress in tattered, unkempt clothes your financial situation could deteriorate. Dadi dressed well and attracted abundance of all kinds into her life.

I still like to wander around in my PJs till late in the morning but I try to tidy up my act when I go out to work or when I have people coming over. When I wear white I feel a connection to my grandmother and feel powerful and confident. Thank you Dadima for teaching me to dress for success.

 


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Signs I Can’t Ignore Anymore…

As my long-term subbing assignment was nearing its end, I was plagued with questions about what I would do with my time. My future lay ahead of me, glimmering with innumerable possibilities, enough to confuse and confound me.

One day I walked into the classroom and was told that it was author day at the school. A famous children’s author was going to give a talk for most of the morning. I did not think much of it. Even thought that I should have simply taken the day off, for there wasn’t much work to do, except sit in the old gym and listen to a man talk about his books. Anyway, I was already there, so I simply followed the class to the gym and settled down to listen to whatever he had to say.

The author, Paul Owen Lewis lives in Washington and is a very gifted orator. A few minutes into his talk, he had all of us spellbound and hanging on to every word he uttered. He didn’t always know he wanted to be a writer. He practically stumbled upon a writing career when he was a substitute teacher in a local school. They had an author day at that school – you can imagine what was going through my head – this is no coincidence! He thought it was pretty cool to write books. Paul loved to draw and was pretty darned good at it. The author spoke about different ways to write stories. All stories did not have to start with words he said and this struck a chord with Paul. He loved telling stories through his illustrations. The rest is history. He now stood before us as a famous published author of children’s picture books.

He also compared the process of writing to putting the pieces of a puzzle together. You may only have a few pieces to start with but you can always find connections and link the pieces together. The idea appealed to me. Thinking that I needed a logical story line that flowed from one scene to another from beginning to end kept me going around in circles. In the planning stages nobody has the complete story or knows how to put it together. I only had a bunch of disorganized ideas. I had to put them down on paper and try and connect the pieces and add details to my story.

The morning session ended and I saw some teachers and students go up to the author, talk to him and pepper him with questions. Something within me was urging me to go talk to him but I quietly followed the kids back to class. A few minutes later I was back in the teachers lounge taking my lunch break. I was almost done when the author walked in. He smiled and asked if he could sit at my table. I nodded. I told him how much I enjoyed his talk and also added that the kids loved it. I blurted out everything about my dream to be a published author. He listened quietly and good-naturedly answered my questions while trying to chew his meal.

I knew wannabe authors like myself probably run up to him all the time asking for favors, tips and publishers’ contact details. Maybe that was the reason I did not approach him in the old gym. But when he sat by me at the table, I could not hold myself back anymore.

I knew this was a colossal nudge from the Universe. The term ‘in your face’ comes to my mind. I have seen signs before, subtle, faint, quiet whispers or visions that were sometimes hard to decode. But this time around the Universe gave me direct and perfectly clear orders. It didn’t get more direct than this. Or so I thought until later in the week another sign showed up. I was talking to a new friend I had made, who had just started reading my blog. She really liked the way I wrote and just like that out-of-the-blue suggested that I should write a book. She even mentioned an Indian author who grew famous through her blog and then ended up writing so many best-selling novels. I had heard of this author and even read her blog. I had even harbored this silly idea that if she could do it so could I.

Anyways, that’s what it always remains – a silly idea. I might get all fired up to write a scene here or a scene there or research a few publishers. Or follow an author’s blog as he tracks his word count and daily writing process. But soon enough the fire dies out and my enthusiasm flags. I just felt like I did not have the juice to see this thing to the finish.

The very next day, the Universe deciding that it was not done with me, but definitely done with my excuses, set-up this chat session with my cousin S. She is an aspiring writer between jobs, mulling about her future. Coincidence you say? I think not!

She said to me – I spoke to my cousin yesterday and he told me to write a book. I gasped at the impossibility of what I was reading. Those of you who were with me from the beginning know that I wrote my first ever blog entry after talking to my cousin. He asked me to write and some force outside of me took possession of me and before I knew it I had written and published a note on Facebook. In two months I had my own blog and three years later I still have so much to say – something I had never imagined possible!

Three years later the Universe wanted to remind me of that leap of faith, to get out of my own way and just do it. Just write and see where it takes you. Don’t worry about selling the book even before you type it up.

Paul Owen Lewis said to me – if you are looking to make money or become famous, don’t do it! For me it is more than that. It is about reaching out and touching someone else. It is about sharing life’s ups and downs and knowing you are not alone. So I’m going to do it and I know I am not alone because my cousin and every one of you reading this will be cheering me on much like you did ever since I started my blog. And for you – yes you! I am very grateful.

 

 

 


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Coming Full Circle

“Almost all your blogs talk about work,” my daughter declared a few weeks ago. I mildly protested but then it struck me that she was right. The years since I started blogging have been devoted to finding work, finding my passion, quitting jobs, moving and trying to find work again. At times I was under employed, stressed out at work or totally unprepared for the job. I persevered because for me it was work (with all its problems) or no work at all. It wasn’t exactly raining interviews and offer letters.

When we moved, Seattle definitely had more opportunities than Florida but that didn’t equate to a job for me. Frustrated, I applied for a substitute position at the school district. Several months of subbing did not fetch me a regular job. The new year came and went with the promise of regular writing work that pays. It lasted a month and then I heard nothing. The first few weeks of February saw me grappling with issues of self-worth and it all came out in my blog – In the Brink of a Mid-life Crisis.

The very next day after I published my blog, a long term subbing job became available. I decided to take it up. It was a full day assignment and the work was challenging at first, but I fell into a rhythm. The people I interacted with were wonderful. It was perfect. So when the assignment ended, they wanted to extend it and they wanted me back. All the years I struggled with feelings of worthlessness melted away. I did amount to something. Of course I knew that and I had learned that lesson sometime ago. But to finally have the outer world reflect that was like a resounding YES!

When you know your own worth you stop putting yourself last and you stop putting yourself down. You value everything you do even if the rest of the world doesn’t. I stopped being invisible and stopped hiding in the house thinking I had nothing to offer. I started loving myself more and making time for things I loved to do. Instead of always serving everybody else’s needs, I started serving my needs.

In the beginning it all seemed like a farce. It was as if I was putting on a show pretending to know what I was doing. When actually I was scared as hell, just waiting for someone to call out my bluff. I was a nobody strutting around all confident and knowledgeable. But that was just the ego in me that hated being pushed out of its comfort zone. My comfort zone was a bundle of low self-esteem that kept me stuck in a rut without the courage to chase my dreams. So I ignored that little voice and showed up and did the best I could. And it paid off. Time and again people acknowledged my presence or appreciated what I did. The tiny voice stopped trying to discourage me and I got bolder and bolder.

Once you step out of your comfort zone, you create another comfort zone where you can stay stuck unless you push yourself again. For me it was this feeling of discontent that kept pushing me. Some need inside that wanted to be filled. It just wouldn’t go away. No matter what I did. I volunteered – it didn’t go away. I blogged – it didn’t go away. I subbed – it didn’t go away. I wrote every day in January and got paid – and it didn’t go away.

This job I have now somehow filled that empty space inside of me. A space that had been aching from within. A space that marked the years of giving and giving of oneself till one became broke. A space that was open to receiving a kind word, appreciation or gratitude.

It is as if I have come full circle from a bedraggled housewife who spent her days serving her family while ignoring her own needs to a woman who is perfectly balanced and perfectly at ease at her workplace and perfectly at ease doing dishes (who am I kidding!). But jokes apart, I have come a long way. I know when and how much to give of my time and resources and when to receive. I know when to stop giving before I reach rock bottom and burn myself out. I have learned to honor myself as much as I honor others.

It is always tempting to do too much, give too much or take too much. And we are all walking a tightrope, flitting between balancing everything and falling flat on our faces. At some point we get it and our inner compass leads us to balance and happiness.

I would love to tell you that my work saga that started in 2012 has concluded, but such is not the case. Then again that is fodder for another blog.