Punctuate Life

Pause Breathe Relax


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Haven’t I Been ‘Here’ Before?

My emotions surrounding our move to the Pacific North West were not entirely pleasant. It seemed like I had just about perfected my rhythm in life when this blaring move came along and threw me out of my poise. My blog was running along successfully. I had a part-time job that allowed me to balance work, home and the kids activities in a way that everyone flourished. And then this blasted move . It uprooted me from everything familiar and plunked me in a distant and seemingly unknown place.

My mental check list goes like this – friends- zilch, job – not a clue, number of hours spent job hunting – two to four, number of hours spent staring into space – infinite, self esteem – dangerously low and continuously plummeting. Being in an unfamiliar place, I hardly venture out afraid that I’d get lost. In an eerie way it reminded me of Boston and the early days of my married life. Thrown from a working independent woman to a full time housewife almost overnight. No drivers license, no work permit and debilitating morning sickness added to the miserable mix.

The circumstances are way different now but it was tempting to go down that spiral of self-pity and utter despair. In fact for a few weeks I wallowed in it. But luckily some higher wisdom kicked in and I remembered how I had moved from Boston to Florida. Again I didn’t have a job or a license. Within a year I got my license, then my blog came into being in 2 years and by the end of the 4th year I even had a job. The circumstances were the same and yet I had flourished.

I clearly saw two paths ahead of me at this crucial juncture in my life. One where my ego led me down the familiar road of depression, hopelessness and defeat and the other where the Universe led me through joyful experiences, love, passion, abundance and fulfillment. Is it any wonder I chose the latter?

On some days it feels like I’m going around in circles, following the beaten path over and over and going no where. I have to consciously lift myself out and hover above it to see it for what it is. I may be on the same path but unlike in the past, I now have an arsenal of tools to assist me. Light if you will, is a big part of this. I’m not stumbling and falling over every rock.  I step over them with ease. There is joy in my heart and hope even though my outside reality hasn’t changed yet. And faith so strong and unshakeable that even a storm will not throw me off my feet. I may be walking the same path but I sure am leaving a fresh set of footprints.

Sometimes I feel we are put into these kind of situations to show us how much we have grown spiritually and emotionally. Old emotions no longer have a hold over me. I believe that a higher power will slowly but surely show us a way out of these unpleasant situations.

As my inner reality shifts I see many things on the outside that are gifts. For instance our trip to Seattle reminded me so much of Boston. Both cities have a lot in common. Both are a melting pot of cultures, full of museums and places of historic interest. Pike Place Market in Seattle is akin to the Quincy Market. Ferries to Bainbridge and Bremerton reminded me of our trip to the Boston Islands. Whale watching is a favorite tourist attraction in both cities. Both cities are close to the Canadian border and buzzing with activities in the summer.

So in a way the part of me that ached for Boston is in ecstasy ( if I can quieten the part of me that screams Florida!)

If you want everything to be perfect before you can be happy you will never know happiness. Be happy and all else will follow. Pharrell Williams’s song  keeps playing in my head. Cos happiness is the truth!

 

P.S. The Universe agreed with a resounding yes! The song ‘Happy’ was playing on the radio right after I finished writing this post.


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The Sparkling City of Seattle

On Friday the 4th of July we packed a picnic lunch and headed to the nearest park and ride. The Sound Transit Express bus took us to Downtown Seattle in 30 minutes. From there we headed to the famous Pike Place Market to see fish being tossed across the P P Fish Market. We wandered through shops filled with fragrant fresh flowers, local berries (including Boysenberries) and fresh produce for a while before we realized that the fish market was closed for the holiday. I had to stop and take pictures of some exotic mushrooms that are hard to find in regular supermarkets or grocery stores. We also stopped by the first Starbucks that opened its doors in 1971. Today the state of Washington alone has 559 stores.

We then boarded a bus to the Seattle Center to see the Space Needle. All that walking made us so hungry that we sat down on some concrete steps in front of the EMP museum and ate vegetable masala burgers and cherries (both from Trader Joes). The monorail zoomed over our heads every few minutes. After lunch we took a bus to the waterfront and a short 3o minute ferry ride to Bainbridge island. The sea breeze was chilly and I abandoned the deck and my search for otters and sea lions, for the heated lounge. When we got to the island we heard drum beats in the distance. As we turned a corner we discovered an entire collection of drums arranged in a clearing. Children and adults alike were playing bongos and other kinds of drums (please excuse my limited ‘drum’ vocabulary). Tambourines and other jingly instruments (apologies again) lay in a basket on the floor. My kids and I went for it. We drummed to our hearts content for a long time. It was fun and exhilarating. Others joined us and then left. This was community drumming at its best and left everyone smiling in the end. We thanked the man who had so generously offered us this fun opportunity and left.

We then headed to the art museum with paper sculptures, old coins, antique dolls and playing cards. All that walking and drumming made us ravenous. We headed to the nearby café for hot chocolate, cinnamon buns and coffee. It was getting late so we headed back to the mainland. P wanted to eat fish and chips (something he fancied after a short stay in England). So we got off our boat and headed to Ivar’s fish and chips. It was the kids first time eating fish and chips (or French Fries as they call it in the U.S.). The pacific cod that they use must be really good and really fresh because the sea gulls were surrounding the modest shop that sits right on the pier. The kids and husband loved it and had it been warmer we might have eaten at the waterfront and fed some sea gulls Ivar style. There is a statue of Ivar feeding gulls in front of the fish shop. He also came up with the motto “Keep Clam”. We’ll be sure to order some of that Clam Chowder on our next visit.

We took the bus back home and ate a quick dinner so we could watch the fireworks in Bellevue, supposedly the best show in the area. We had seen the 4th of July fireworks at the Boston Esplanade and at the Cocoa Beach pier in Florida. Now we were seeing it for the first time in the Pacific North West. My daughter remembers the one in Boston because that year they had a firecracker that made a smiley face. Guess who all went to sleep with smiley faces that night? All of us! A fun day trip with the family in a sparkling city doesn’t get better than this!

How did you celebrate this 4th of July? I’d love to hear it all…

The Great American Road Trip

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From Atlanta we headed North West through the hills of Tennessee. I was ecstatic. Remember our trip to Gatlinburg to see the fall colors? I wrote about this wondrous place so I won’t dwell on it now. We reached St. Louis, Missouri very late at night after a whole day of driving. All the exhaustion of packing, moving and driving across states caught up with us and we decided to spend another day in Missouri.

The next day we went on a riverboat ride near the Gateway Arch. The Mississippi river is anything but pretty. The water is brown and murky. The buildings on the banks are old and dilapidated. We could barely hear our tour guide’s voice over the speakers – given that we were with an unruly and loud bunch of school kids. After the boat ride we walked past the towering Arch to a verdant stretch of trees lining either side of a walkway, generously sprinkled with benches. We sat down and enjoyed the twittering of birds and watched the squirrels scurrying by.

Earlier that day I had called J to let her know I was in Missouri and asked if we could meet. I had very slim hopes of meeting her given that it was a week day and she worked and had two young children to take care of. But she swung by later and I got to see my school friend after like 20 years. Back then we both wore pigtails and canvas shoes and the most stressful thing in our lives was Calculus! Now we were both moms – managing jobs, kids and a home. Her kids are adorable and played happily with mine. We chatted happily for an hour or so before we had to call it a day and hit the sack (or in our case the plush hotel beds).

We drove out of St. Louis and across the state of Missouri just as the sun’s first rays lit up the ‘amber waves of grain’. The rest of Missouri was not quite like St. Louis. It had barns, vast open spaces and endless fields. We drove through Iowa and a bit of Nebraska before we passed the South Dakota border. The landscape changed. We were no longer in the plains. Hills and valleys appeared in the horizon. The road itself went up and down meandering around the hilly terrain. Very soon the black hills of South Dakota were visible. We drove across the state of SD to get to Hill city. Our hotel was nestled in the Black Hills State Forest area in an idyllic little town with quaint shops and restaurants. We ate a hearty meal of pasta with marinara, fettuccini alfredo, grilled cheese sandwiches, French fries and chicken burger. After eating at fast food joints and pizzerias along the route this was food paradise. The dessert menu was on display at the front of the restaurant. It would have been sinful to leave without sampling their cheesecake. So after tucking into a generous slice we headed to the Black Hills Forest proper to see the Mount Rushmore lighting ceremony. The faces of four great Presidents were carved on granite rocks by 400 workmen over a period of 14 years. The planning and execution of such a grandiose project had to be the work of a genius – Gutzon Borglum. Even today so much work goes into preserving this monument. Sensors and monitors catch changes in the rock faces. Cracks due to weathering have to be painstakingly repaired.

We stood in front of the dark giant rock face and watched a documentary about George Washington, Lincoln, Roosevelt and Jefferson. Far away bolts of lightning split the sky and a cold drizzle made us huddle under our jackets. As they played the star spangled banner, the faces on the rocks lit up and a sense of patriotism rose from every soul present there. The ceremony ended with honoring veterans and U.S. military service men and women that were present.

The next morning we headed back to see the monument in daylight. I could see Roosevelt’s glasses as we walked down a trail to vantage points that offered a closer view of each of the faces. After that we headed to Custer State Park to view wildlife. One didn’t really have to go to  a forest to see wildlife in this part of the world! Just driving down the road we saw white tail deer, bob cats and mule deer. We drove for what seemed like hours without spotting a single animal in the State Park. And then it started raining down on us. Our hopes of seeing any wildlife were gone. I almost cried. We didn’t come so far to go back without seeing even a single bison.

The rain finally relented and we drove a few feet to see a line of motorists parked on the road and on the grassy plains were bison! Plenty of them, munching on the wet grass with little calves in tow that were romping around gleefully. It was such a wondrous sight. We parked and stared and took pictures of these hairy natives of the land. Up ahead we saw pronghorn antelope and some burros walking on the side of the road. After lunch we started towards the neighboring state. This part of the country is so beautiful that one day did not suffice to see everything it had to offer. SD deserved a whole week of exploration. The Black Hills, the Native American Culture, wildlife and so much more to see. But we had miles to go and a schedule to stick to.

The air got cooler as we reached Wyoming. The Great Plains of South Dakota with its ‘spacious skies’, hills and valleys and crosswinds were behind us. Wyoming’s ‘purple mountain majesties’ rose up in the twilight. We drove by acres and acres of land with cattle ranches and barns. We wondered how anyone could live here without cellphone coverage, neighbors that were so far away that they were invisible and a neighboring town that had a population of maybe 80 residents. As we drove past the local pub everyone stopped talking and watched our ‘strange’ car pass by.

We saw patches of snow and ice along the way and snow-capped mountains in the distance. My snow-starved Floridian children were super excited. We reached our little inn in Cody and crashed for the night. Next day we saw a deer on our way to breakfast. We had cereal, toast and coffee in a tiny room with very few chairs. The walls were full of pictures of the owner with various species of wildlife that he had shot during his hunting expeditions. Was enough to make me run as far as my legs could carry me! We then drove to the Yellow Stone National Park. There was snow all along the park roads. We had to stop and let the kids jump in the snow and touch it. Which they did with big fat grins on their faces. We drove around the park, stopping at geysers and snatching glimpses of wildlife. We had seen so many bison that we started groaning when we saw an animal and it turned out to be just another bison!

We stopped at Old Faithful, a geyser that erupts every 45 minutes to an hour spurting steam and water up to 105 feet high. Yellow Stone is another place that needs a week of exploring with its snow-capped mountains, frozen lakes, boiling rivers, geysers and of course wildlife.

Our last stop was Missoula, Montana, not originally part of the plan but we decided against another 14-our trip and split it into two trips. The hotel we stayed at had a water park and the kids jumped into the water at 9.00 p.m. for an hour of splash and slide fun. We didn’t really explore Missoula which was very close to the Glacier National Park ( it is now on my road trip list). Hope to go there sometime soon after I recover from road trip fatigue.

Next morning we headed to our new home, past the states of Montana and Idaho and into Washington- the evergreen state. It was Sunday. A week since we started from Florida. I couldn’t believe that we had driven some 3000 miles across the country, seen sights we never imagined in our wildest dreams. Now it all seems so surreal and it all went by so fast. But something tells me it is a trip we will all remember for a long time to come. It was the trip of a lifetime. A trip from one shining sea to the other.

I’ll leave you with the words of this beautiful song written by Katherine Bates. I suspect she drew inspiration for this song from her road trip across the States.

Oh beautiful for spacious skies
For amber waves of grain
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain

America, America
God shed His grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea

 


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Dancing Between Two Worlds

Has it ever happened to you that you are having a conversation with someone and even though both of you were speaking the same language you couldn’t really understand a word of what they were saying? Walls of cultural references, upbringing, experiences and age separate you. You could tell them what it was like to leave everything you have ever known to come to this strange land. How you have come to love it in all its strangeness. Drinking in everything all at once. Observing, learning, accepting and rejecting one strange thing after another with hopes of belonging. And yet never really being one of them. For to them you are the strange one with your black hair and brown skin that tans the moment it hits the sun. Your strange accent that many find hard to understand. Your even stranger name that gets ridiculed. Even your strangely spicy food that mingles with your sweat.

In so many ways you try to not stand out. To be obscure. A wallflower. You try to talk like them, dress like them. You watch the movies they watch so you can talk about it later. Yet you struggle and fall, clumsy as a child learning to walk. You seek out others like yourself who are trying very hard to find their sea legs, lost as you are in an ocean of strangeness. But they no longer share anything with you except the food, the clothes and maybe a language or two. They have moved beyond the strangeness. They have a common purpose – to pursue excellence, success and whatever else they grew up thinking were worthy pursuits. They either completely accept the strangeness and become one with it or totally reject it and go the other way. But you can do neither.

The strangeness is beautiful and has gotten under your skin in a distantly familiar way. It wishes to mingle with all that you were and create a sweet emulsion. But you struggle to reconcile both sides – the before and after. You constantly dance between the two limbos. Never fully happy here and knowing deep within that you will never be happy there. If somehow the two worlds could be merged, a peaceful and happy ending might have been in the offing. But that would be like asking the sky to fall down and merge with the ocean bed.

So here I stand, my roots dislodged once again. My spirit yearning for a place to call home. Always so close to finding it and then realizing that something is missing. Maybe I’m too idealistic. Maybe such a place doesn’t exist. Or maybe I need to change and be more open to life and its gifts, even though it brings me something other than what I had in mind. I know every place I went to offered me a missing piece of the puzzle. I never knew how strong I was until I had my kids and raised them. I was so far away from my family and had little or no help and yet I managed. Florida shifted my focus to me and empowering myself so I could be independent. I learned to drive and also started volunteering. I even managed to get a job which has done wonders for my confidence and self esteem.

Now as we are poised to leave Florida, a mixture of dread and anticipation wash over me. I know I will discover and embrace another part of me as I grow roots in this new place. I know it will offer me gifts that the other places couldn’t. If I could just embrace the discomfort and go with the flow it would be so much easier. And that is just what I intend to do!


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The Great Disconnect

We are fragmented beings at many levels, living in a fragmented world, trying so hard to patch together our fragmented lives. The chinks, the cracks, the scars and the wounds leave us feeling incomplete. This hole we try to fill with things we seek on the outside, failing to realize that they can never make us whole.

Take our bodies for instance. When we fall sick we look for external causes. We perceive our bodies as separate entities over which we have little or no control. We keep treating symptoms by popping pills or by getting someone else to figure out what is wrong with us. And we keep trying to fix things on the outside instead of looking inside for our own natural wisdom. Our bodies are not a mass of unintelligible cells. Each cell has its own innate intelligence and not the kind that humans acquire by poring over books or earning degrees. I’m talking about an intelligence so advanced that it is beyond the comprehension of us mere mortals with our limited thinking and limited vocabulary (confined solely to our experiences as humans). Animals are in touch with and connected to this intelligence. If you have pets you might have seen your dog eat some grass and then throw up when they have tummy troubles. They take charge and know exactly what to do to feel better.

Treating your body as an entity separate from you and separate from the supreme intelligence is the big physical disconnect. Ancient cultures that lived close to the earth possessed this intelligence. They had a vast knowledge of herbs that could heal. Modernization has caused us to disconnect.

Modernization also imposed proper manners and etiquette. Some of these things are good, like expressing gratitude and waiting to take turns. But most of it is pretentious and asks you to deny your true feelings to avoid hurting someone else. All this has led us to stuff down our feelings and force ourselves to act like everything is ok. Think about it. Some of our interactions with people are so fake and superficial. Like robots we have structured responses to every situation. We disconnect from our heart and our own emotions. We let our heads do all the talking, making most of our relationships flimsy and obsequious at its worst. We also refuse to acknowledge our true feelings and are quite content with the charade we call life.

Lastly we disconnect from Spirit /God/ Almighty and this causes the most suffering. It is like a hole you can never fill. Like everything else we project to the outside world, we continue to seek God on the outside as something separate from us. We view ourselves as different from this being. Nothing can be further than the truth. We seek love on the outside from people as fragmented as us. That kind of love just keeps us hostage and wanting more but never really fulfills us. It is like uprooting a plant from the earth and then trying very hard to keep it alive by pouring water on it, keeping it in sunlight and spraying plant food on it. The plant needs the earth to complete its life cycle. We need to connect to our source of life to become whole. Connecting with the divine spark within us will heal us of emotional and physical issues. This is when miracles become every day occurrences. So we can walk tall with our mind, body and spirit in perfect unison all working for our highest good.

Once we make this connection we become aware of another disconnect. The nature disconnect. God is not only within us but also within every blade of grass, every drop of the ocean and every animal. When we disconnect from nature we pollute, destroy and deplete resources and drive animals to extinction.

Disconnecting is like making  Horcruxes (please excuse the Harry Potter analogy) and we walk around with our souls in several pieces totally and utterly unaware of the horrific consequences. While Horcruxes cannot be undone, we can piece back our souls by simply looking within and acknowledging our own divinity and the divinity of others.

I turned to God (up in heaven kind of God) to help me heal emotionally. Again as a healer I relied on healing from a Divine source (outside of me). They say God is omnipotent and omnipresent. As a kid I imagined several images of God all over the room, all over the world and all over the Universe (invisible of course!) Now I understand those words quite differently. God is within each one of us, has been and always will be. No matter where we are, we are with God at any given moment. Also every person we meet is divine. Yes, that includes you as well!

It is not easy to accept this idea of being one with others, nature and God all at once. So start slowly by looking for answers within. By connecting with that deep wisdom, healing, love and oneness every day. Slowly the connection will become stronger until you no longer need to consciously seek it. It will always be on!

So let me conclude by saying Namaste – the light within me bows down and honors the light within you. For we all have inbuilt flood lights we just need to remember to turn them on!


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The Winds of Change…

 

The winds of change blow hard

Rattling my windows

Shaking every tree in my yard

I shirk under the covers

Frightened and sick.

 

I try to shut out the howling storm

But it will not be ignored

One by one the windows shatter

And my blanket of safety gets whipped up in the breeze

I hug and hold onto it for dear life

But the wind, it takes no prisoners

The blanket is ripped clean out of my trembling hands.

 

I shut my eyes and bury my face in my knees

Afraid of what is to come next

A minute turns into an hour

As I sit there waiting for the worst

My hammering heart shuts out the calm

That has descended all around me.

 

I dare to open my eyes and peek

At the place I once called home

It was all but a mangled heap

Of concrete and stone

And yet there I was amidst the shambles

Alive and well albeit a little shaken.

 

I picked myself up and shed a tear

For the past that was gone

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

And at the clouds that were clearing

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

Awakening in me hope for the future

A future built from scratch

A future with no glass windows or roofs

Open and free for the winds of change to blow through

Incessantly.


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The Other Side of Shiva…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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The Work you Do…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


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Make Room for Others

I read this book years ago and wanted to share this with you because it really jolted me out of my apathy and excessive narcissism . I hope it will inspire you to care about the less fortunate and do something for them this year. The title of the book -Leaving Microsoft to Change the World- was what got me to grab it off the shelf and start leafing through it feverishly. Who in their right mind would give up a lucrative career in Microsoft? And by lucrative I mean the kind of person who gets to talk to Bill Gates and other top people in the company on a weekly basis. Someone who gets to travel the world promoting Microsoft products. Someone who can vacation in Nepal. Someone named John Woods.

Little did he know that the trip to Nepal would change his life. He stopped by one of the local schools for an impromptu tour. The kids did not have desks and sat huddled together on benches with their books on their laps. Woods asked to see the library and was shown a cupboard half filled with tour guides cast off by tourists and other assorted novels which were not age-appropriate. As a child, Woods used to bike to the library every week and he couldn’t stomach the idea of kids growing up without access to books. He promised the headmaster that he would return with books. The headmaster didn’t think he was serious because none of these tourists ever came back!

Back home Woods wrote to all his friends and asked them to collect children’s books and ship them to his Dad’s address. Before long his Dad called him and told him that the garage was full of books and that he needed to make a trip to Nepal to deliver them. The front cover of his book is a picture of a smiling John Woods right next to a yak piled high with books. So he did go back and was greeted by a very excited bunch of kids. They were so happy to get books and the whole experience moved Woods so much that he decided he would continue collecting books for other schools in Nepal.

What started as a project ended up as a charity – Room to Read – and spread to other poor nations of the world. John Woods quit Microsoft to grow his charity and reach more children. About 7 million children have benefitted from this program. Room to Read does more than donating books. They help built libraries and new classrooms for schools, publish books in local languages and provide scholarships for girls.

Well, he was rich and can afford to quit his job and help others you say? What about Derreck Kayongo who fled Uganda with his parents and ended up starting the Global Soap Project? His charity collects soap from hotels (which would otherwise end up in land fills) recycles it into new soap and ships it to Africa where people can’t afford soap. Imagine not having access to basic sanitation. People get sick and die because they can’t wash their hands. Kayongo says that he feels blessed to be living in the United States but at the same time he cannot forget what it was like to live in Uganda. He knows the right thing to do is to lend a helping hand.

When I was studying in Women’s Christian College I remember hearing the story of two girls who had just graduated from the very same college. They founded the Banyan- a home for mentally ill women who end up on the streets. After trying to help one such woman they found that there was no place for them to go. These girls had their whole lives ahead of them but they chose dedicate it to service. They were just regular people like you and me but with bigger hearts maybe.

All of us cannot start NGOs or give up our jobs to help the less fortunate but we can in our own small way contribute. Not caring is not an option. Turning a deaf ear to pleas for help is not cool. Look how far we have come. We earn more than we ever earned before. We live in the lap of luxury, spend and waste with gay abandon. We can throw food and let it rot in our garbage cans but we can’t feed a beggar! Forget feeding them, we hurl insults at them and chase them away. A few hundred years ago it was a person’s responsibility to give food and water to anyone who came knocking at their door. Whatever happened to that? We don’t even want to feed our maids these days.

Can you maybe find it in you to be more sensitive to the suffering of others? Maybe care a little more this year. Give a little more and take a little less. Waste less and save more. The new earth is being birthed but it needs your help, your care and your love. We are in this together no matter how separate and disconnected our lives feel. We cannot rise without helping others onto their feet. We cannot shine while others live shrouded in darkness. So make room in your heart for the others.


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All I Wanted for Christmas…

My list was long and I was just waiting for the winter break to get started on it. Some things were material and some were more abstract. I wanted to cut and color my hair, get myself a sweater, go on vacation with my family, write a novel, meet up with old friends and relatives we haven’t met in a while. On my last working day before the break, I took off early from work. I didn’t feel good. Sure enough by the time I got home I was coughing and sneezing and totally miserable. The next day I felt worse but by then I had started a course of antibiotics. By Sunday I was a complete and total mess. My tummy hurt, I was coughing and bringing up mucus and I had absolutely no energy to do anything.

The first thing to be crossed off my list was meeting with an old school friend. She and her family were visiting Orlando and we had agreed to meet up on Sunday for dinner. I wasn’t up to it at all and I didn’t want to make her baby and little girl sick and ruin their trip. I crossed off going to the salon as well, when I got back after grocery shopping (we had no food in the refrigerator!) and collapsed on the bed. I didn’t care about the grey’s showing or if I had a matching sweater to wear to work. All I wanted was to be well. All I wanted was some energy to get through the day.

The weekend was gone and I was done with my course of antibiotics. The cough had subsided but the fatigue clung to my body. It took every ounce of strength to get up and fix a meal and after eating I’d go collapse on the bed leaving my husband and kids to clean the dishes and clear the table. On Monday I wanted to blog. I sat on the couch, paper and pen in front of me. I had a couple of topics that had come to me earlier but my brain was in a fog. The virus or whatever it was had sapped every cell in my body of all its strength. Every day I got up praying that I would be better. And I would be. Thinking I was back to normal I’d go about my chores only to find myself totally drained out. Write a novel? Forget about it! I couldn’t come up with a measly sentence for crying out loud!

By Wednesday I was not only physically down but also my upbeat attitude had taken a terrible beating. It hit me finally that without a sound body, everything I did in life would be impossible to do. Every thing that I had taken for granted – healthy vigor, energy, creativity, fun, laughter, work – all of it simply vanished when my health was compromised. It made me realize that good health is the greatest gift without which the rest of life’s blessings cannot be enjoyed. I also came to the humble realization that even though I believed that I was living a healthy life, taking good care of myself and not indulging in risky behavior, I had no power over disease. It could strike any time, out of no where and ravage your body, mind and spirit.

The next day I was almost back to normal. My energy levels were up. But my spirit was shaken. I felt small, mortal and completely vulnerable. I felt sorry for myself. All my plans for the winter break were now just plans that would never take shape. Since we waited for the last minute to plan our trip there were no rental cars available. So we had to be content staying home. My distress levels hit the roof until I realized there were folks out there without power. Folks who had to leave home and spend Christmas in a hotel or a friend’s home. Folks who had to spend Christmas alone because they had no family. Folks who were sick on Christmas day.

I was thankful that I was better on Christmas day and got to meet relatives from New Jersey for a fun-filled dinner. A dear friend called me late in the night, quite unexpectedly, just to lift my spirits.

I am thankful I have power and can stay home, even though a vacation is out of question. I am thankful for my beautiful family, for taking care of me and nursing me back to health. Thankful for friends who called to check on me. So in the end I didn’t get most of the stuff on my list but I did find out that I’m one lucky lady. I already had everything that really mattered. Everything that made the holidays special – family, a warm home and wonderful friends. Without that and my health (which is back to normal) none of the gifts on my list would have given me any joy at all.

I am thankful for the disease that came right around the holidays threatening to ruin it but turned out to be a beautiful lesson and a gift that I now share with you. The most important gifts in life are those that money can’t buy. They don’t come gift wrapped with a big bow on the side. They most certainly cannot be returned, exchanged or regifted. But be sure to cling on to these all year long and especially during the holidays for they make life complete and are a joy to receive. Wishing you good health, a warm home, your beautiful family & friends and lots of joy this holiday season.