Punctuate Life

Pause Breathe Relax


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From Zero to Hero in 6

This post is long over due. February was a busy month. I had a couple of interviews and had this feeling that I was really close to snagging a job. But that phone call I was waiting for never came. One day I was wondering if I should do the substitute training course to get a job at the school district, when a recruiter called. She felt I was a good fit for the job (yeah they all do and once they’ve forwarded your resume they forget all about you). So she said I needed to do an editing test. That perked me up as I recalled getting my first job straight out of university after doing an editing test. The last job I landed when I was in India also happened after a series of tests.  I had some good test-taking skills, I figured. Interview skills? Now that was a different ball game all together.

I cleared this editing test and was to do a phone interview and a face-to-face interview. The phone interview got scrapped (whew!) but I still had to do the face to face. The recruiter told me it would be an hour-long interview and that gave me the jitters. I practiced for it as well as I could but I knew from past experience that you can’t always be prepared for every question. You have to be able to think on your feet and come up with something impressive even if you never encountered that particular scenario.

I had three people tossing questions at me randomly. Some were questions I was prepared for and some were not. The interviewers were friendly and did their best to make me feel comfortable. When they were done 40 minutes later (I don’t know if I would have lasted an hour!) I was taken on a tour of the office and met some other editors at the café. The casual and friendly vibe was quite appealing. And then when they showed me the yoga room I was totally floored.

Back home I told everyone that the interview went well. The recruiter told me that they usually decide within a day. Next day came and went, then another, then a whole week. The recruiter reassured me that she was still waiting to hear from them. I honestly did not expect to hear from them after a week. On the last day of February I got a call and finally heard the words I’d been waiting to hear for over 6 months.  “I have some good news for you. The company called and they want to hire you. When would you be able to start?”

I was ready to start the next day! But I pulled myself together and said I would start next week. But  a week wasn’t enough to get my background check and verification done. So then I was slated to start in the middle of March.

Three weeks have passed since I started working as an editor. From having too much time on my hands, I have gone to having every minute filled with activity. My formerly lazy weekends are now spent doing grocery shopping and cooking for the week. It took me over a decade and a half to get back to my career full time. I have to say it wasn’t easy (you know the whole story if you have been around since 2012 when I started this blog) but I persisted and now here I am. Patience, perseverance and prayer got me here and might I add not just my prayers but prayers of some beautiful souls who I am lucky to have in my life (you know who you are!)

My husband also landed a job around the same time and our fortunes changed overnight. I’m glad we held on, kept the faith and kept trying even after facing several disappointments. Now when I tell my kids not to give up when things get tough or they don’t succeed at first, they know that I am walking my talk and not just being preachy. And for the longest time the only reason I wanted to succeed was to teach them that nothing in life is impossible even if you face seemingly insurmountable circumstances.

This I know is true, for anyone who wants something and wants it bad – if you can dream it, work for it even when the results/rewards don’t appear and you have undying faith in yourself or a power larger than yourself, then you shall have it. Sending you all love and light and infinite gratitude for wishing me well, enquiring about me when I was going through a rough patch and praying for me and my family.


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Not Poetry, Not Prose…

 

It’s not about black lives,

It’s not about white lives,

It’s about justice and fairness.

 

It’s not about men,

It’s not about women,

It’s about equality for everyone under the sun.

 

It’s not about Islam,

It’s not about Christianity,

It’s about oneness and tolerance.

 

I don’t care if you are gay, transgender, Hispanic or Arab,

This earth with all its treasures are yours,

And so is peace, love, dignity,

And a safe place to call home,

A right to love and be loved,

To justice, fairness and liberty,

And all good things under the heavens.

 

Ignore the entitled few who love to judge,

And take sides in endless cyber wars,

The heartless ones who quietly fan the embers of dissent,

And watch the dancing flames from afar as they consume countless innocents,

The haters, manipulators, trolls, politicians and their sycophants.

 

Let’s disengage from the drama,

And speak out in one voice – Enough is enough!

Lift the downtrodden from the pits of despair,

And light hope in their hearts.

 

What many before us fought for,

And passed on as a treasured gift,

We will not allow to be shamelessly snatched from our hands.

 

 


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The Rise of the Sensitives

I have known that I’m different for a long time. When the whole world is going east I would be looking west. I gave up meat when I was in 12th grade and also became a Reiki Level II practitioner. I dabbled in yoga and spent Saturday mornings at a home for the mentally challenged. Yes I was different. I felt everything more intensely than everyone else. I just thought I was sensitive and being sensitive of course is considered a bad thing. It is associated with weakness and the inability to cope. Sensitive people would rather be at peace than be right. So often times we keep quiet to keep the peace. It doesn’t mean that we are in agreement with you – it just means that we don’t want to soak up the toxic energy created by an argument. I had to learn to be assertive even though it meant ruffling a few feathers.

Earlier I had to deal with just my emotions but these days I find that I’m picking up on everyone’s vibes and it is very unsettling. For no apparent reason my mood fluctuates. Then I look around me and I see people acting out, depressed, lonely, sad and hopeless. Some who can’t take it any more are ending their lives. There has been a rise in our level of sensitivity as a race. We are no longer living utterly selfish lives filled with apathy. Don’t read the prophecies of doom and gloom that the media is publicizing. Read stories of real people reaching out and helping – fellow humans, animals, trees and other distressed souls. Being tough and street smart aint getting anyone anywhere. Natural disasters, death and disease – humble levelers of us all – have taught us that we need each other and we can’t live in isolation, oblivious to the suffering of others. One day we might be in their shoes and all the money and intellect in the world couldn’t help us. Only another human can. Another sensitive human.

So I wear my sensitivity proudly as if it were a prized possession. Yes it is hard to manage all the emotions swirling around me and sometimes I feel overwhelmed and helplessly at the mercy of my feelings. But over the years I have learned to manage them and divert them for a better cause.

If you are sensitive you understand what another person is going through. You feel their emotions like they are your own. People feel soothed in your presence because you can empathize with them without any exchange of words. You are probably the person who takes all their distress calls.

Being sensitive is a blessing but could be a curse if you don’t know how to manage it. Of course you can manage it! Didn’t you know? You should know when to cut back and retreat so you don’t take on too much of other people’s energies. In Reiki they teach you this. Protect your aura before you start healing another and it applies to all of us even if we are not healers. Certain people can drain you of your energy and you need to identify these energy vampires and stay away from them. Some will be naturally drawn to you but you need to say no because no one benefits when you give at your own expense.

So how do we protect ourselves from being dragged down by the toxic energy around us? One way is obvious – pray and ask for protection. Another way is to stay away from news, media and not so loving people. Spiritual practices like meditation, yoga, tai chi and qi gong help center us and keep our emotions in balance. Lastly, get away, go on a vacation or simply retreat and rest. Affirm to yourself daily that you will at no cost be pulled into the drama because your nature is peace! Even when people spew out their negativity at you, stay centered and mentally negate the energy so it has no power over you. If it happens too often then try and get away from this person.

Being consciously sensitive is empowering and is in no way a sign of weakness. It is in fact the way to lead this world into a day when loving kindness and peace will prevail. Because loving kindness starts with you.


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Unleash the Goddess Within

Whenever I think of Goddesses incarnating on earth I fondly remember my grandma. She was a powerful matriarch with an iron staff (or should I say sword?) She was fearless and stood up to most anyone – die-hard patriarchs included – who saw her as a hapless widow. She owned her power. She was kind, generous, loving and very shrewd. She saw through facades and flagrant unctuousness although she appeared to revel in it. She was like a fierce lioness with a brood of cubs that she guarded vehemently. She was definitely a Durga. There is this picture of her taken on her birthday. She is dressed immaculately in white, brandishing a sword (thanks to her indulgent brother) while sitting on her bed with her dogs languishing in the background. On her nightstand she had a picture of the Goddess Durga slaying Mahishasura with his decapitated buffalo’s head and body lying under the goddess astride a lion. The lion is mauling the remains of the demon while blood drips off her trident.

I was reading the book, “Awakening Shakti” by Sally Kempton and it was all about the different goddesses and their powers. It even had a fun quiz at the end – Which Goddess are You? The author didn’t want the readers to take it too seriously and just wanted everyone to have some fun. I took the quiz in that very same spirit but slowly it took on a serious turn. I related to different Goddesses with very contrasting qualities. Of course everyone is a mix of qualities and it’s not always possible to fit in one particular category. In my case however, I saw how I was dominated by one Goddess during one part of my life and others during other parts of my life.

Every woman goes through a phase in her life when she feels like a goddess, oozes charisma and a dizzying fragrance that others find irresistible. In fact some men fear the power of such a woman and demonize her as the femme fatale. The evil one that seduces one and all. Some patriarchal societies don’t encourage women to flaunt their beauty. They want it kept under wraps and want women to feel ugly about their bodies. In extreme cases they mutilate women as a way of punishing them for embodying the beauty of a Goddess. Look around you and notice how people make you feel ugly or unworthy or encourage you to hide your inner beauty because they are afraid of it. To be a goddess you must see beauty within you and appreciate beauty around you.

At one time widows were expected to shave their heads and wear drab or white robes and no jewelry so they would not tempt other men into entering into a liaison with them. Which brings me back to my grandma. She wore white saris but was the epitome of style. Probably the years she spent in England made her realize that not everywhere are widows treated as outcastes. But she did not discard all of her Indian upbringing. She somehow molded the two and made white her fashion statement. How empowering is that?

Remember Sita? The beautiful goddess who married the handsome Prince Rama. The divine couple were a dazzling sight and people could barely take their eyes off the two of them. But later on in the story the beautiful Sita follows her husband to the forest, suffers untold miseries and then gets abducted by a demon king. She waits for her husband to come rescue her while ugly demons taunt and torture her. Ravana, the demon king waits for her to join his harem. She refuses until one day he can take it no more and attacks her with the intention of molesting her. Only then does the timid Sita take on a fiery persona and forbids Ravana from touching her lest he gets burnt by the intensity of her Shakti or power. Ravana backs off, sensing the intensity of her power and not wanting to risk his life.

To cut a long story short, Rama kills Ravana and rescues Sita but refuses to accept her since she has lived with another man (Sita suffered the changing seasons and was at the mercy of the elements in the Ashoka garden. She never stepped into Ravana’s palace nor did she wear any of the silks and jewels that he offered her.) She had to pass the test of fire to prove that she was chaste. Only then did Rama accept her as his queen.

So many women I know fall into the Sita category. They sacrifice their joys, ambitions and dreams in order to support their spouse and always put themselves last. Why even I am guilty of being a Sita during the early days of my married life. Isn’t that what every mother teaches her daughter consciously or unconsciously? I was reading my journal from many years ago and one of the entries struck me. I was told to “act submissive” during the wedding ceremony. It incensed me now, but my 23 year old self was willing to comply with that absurd request!

We are all taught to be Sitas. To be docile, in the shadows, ever serving our Lord (husband!) Made sense in Sita’s case because Rama was really the Divine incarnate. Now how many husbands treat you the way Rama treated Sita. And even Rama wasn’t perfect!

I was happy to play the domestic goddess. To cook, clean and care for the kids while my husband worked for a pay check. After a few years my domestic goddess felt disempowered. I could no longer play the role of a supportive, self-sacrificing Sita. The Durga in me emerged – fierce and seated on a lion – ready to pounce on anyone who doubted my power. I had to find a balance between nurturing others and myself and that came only from knowing where to draw the line and having the power to defend it.

When I don’t take good care of my needs the Kali comes out in me. Now Kali is the shadow side of the goddess. Dark and menacing with a necklace of skulls and a thirst for blood. Some call it PMS  which to me stands for Protesting Matriarchal Suppression! No one wants to be around Kali. She strikes terror in the hearts of men. And yet she is needed every now and then to restore the balance when it is too far gone to humanly restore.

Is the female of the species deadlier than the male? Occasionally yes, if you push her buttons too hard and too often!  But in a balanced state she nurtures one and all, imparting beauty, knowledge, protection and creativity. So which Goddess are you or which Goddess do you aspire to be?


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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!


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The Work you Do…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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