Punctuate Life

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The Hollow Truth

After years of trying to put myself together and reach the ideal I set for myself, it finally feels like I have succeeded. I have a home, a job, a family, vacations when I want and even where I want. And yet I feel like I have paid a steep price. When all the hollow material things came together, the things that really mattered started falling apart, pillar after sturdy pillar crumbling to dust before my eyes as I hankered after shallow stuff in an effort to fill the void and the numbness where love once dwelt. Maybe it’s not my destiny to have it all? Or is there even such a thing – not the destiny bit but the have it all bit.

We often get beguiled by the smiling pictures on social media. But maybe just maybe there is a lurking sadness behind those eyes. Some deep dark mystery that keeps those photo-shopped faces awake at night. Then again I look inside and feel like my crumbling pillars were built on foundations of soft sand. Sand that was wont to shift and shake those pillars for good measure. I feel all alone in the world with my checklist of accomplishments which only feel important till you actually check them off. After that they are just items on an impossible list that keep growing. Maybe it stems from my relentless need to prove myself. I’m not sure who I’m trying to prove myself to or what I’m trying to prove anymore. But it looks like I spent the greater part of the last decade doing that. But I’m not puffed up with pride. I just feel hollow, empty, and quite ordinary.

Maybe hollow is a good place to start. Maybe I can fill it with things that bring me joy and love. But first I need to dust off the debris and discard it. I can’t fill my hollow with the rubble I intend to leave behind. I cannot build over the crumbled remains or anywhere near it. I’m going to have to find some sturdy ground to plant my feet and start building anew. I don’t know the where or the how but I do know that I can’t put all the pieces back and keep trying to build stuff after it breaks down time after time. I’m just tired of reinventing myself and trying to make things work when I clearly know they won’t. Trying to hold onto crumbling pillars when I know I could get buried under them. And I did get buried in the past and had to crawl out of it all by myself. One must learn from the past or be prepared to keep repeating it.

It is time. Time to build something worthy of me.


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Goddess

I am a goddess and I know it,

I don’t need external validation

To feel this truth that burns within me

I don’t need to fit into old constructs

Of what that might mean to you

You  or you…

 

It is the feeling of being complete

Within and without

The feeling of being in the flow

The feeling of love flowing from me

To me…

Inundating me with bliss

Filling all those holes left by others.

 

It is that inner knowing that everything

Will be as right as rain

Even amidst the deepest pain

I know I will emerge

Victorious again.

 

I am a goddess and I know it.

Look deep into my eyes and you

Might get a glimpse of it.

The power of love that has no boundaries,

That knows to give as well as receive.

 

That knows when to walk away

And when to engage in a warm embrace

I am a goddess and I am enough,

Enough, enough!


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The Roaring 40s…

The other day I was lamenting to my parents about stubborn belly fat that won’t go away and they told me that happens at “my age”. I felt like it was a little premature for me to be having this conversation but it really got me thinking. I just celebrated a milestone birthday last month and I must say so many things have changed over the past decade. For one, my people pleasing days are over. You like me? Great! You don’t like me? Just get over it because I ain’t gonna bend over backwards to make you my pal. And my body is acting weirdly too. My stomach loudly protests in meetings if it is hungry, while I desperately clear my throat or cough to drown its groans. After a trip to DC where we walked around everywhere because parking is a pain in the city, I was almost immobile for days and had these aches and pains from muscles that are rarely used in my sedentary life. I made a note to myself to start exercising and taking better care of myself. Well, that lasted all of one week. Living with two teenagers drains all the energy out of me. I cannot have a conversation without being interrupted, corrected, or sassed. And chores? Don’t even get me started. As toddlers, they loved cleaning up. They would happily sing Barney’s clean up song and put all their toys away. Now, not only does the clean up song not work but also any amount of screaming and threatening won’t help. Some kid’s mom hides gift cards all over the house for them to find if and when they clean up. Most of her gift cards go undiscovered, so I’m not even going to try that. Sadly, part of you knows they’ll be off to college, leaving behind empty rooms that won’t get messed up till they come visit. That’s when you sigh and clean up the mess yourself.

I’ve connected with so many people over the last decade thanks to social media. So I should be grateful for technology right? No! Technology sucks! Ten years ago people used to call to wish you on your birthday. Now it’s just a bunch of messages on your social media page. 100 plus messages and yet that makes me feel mighty poor. Technology has its place, but condolences sent as text messages? That’s where I draw the line. If you can’t be with the person physically, then at least call. Losing someone close is incredibly painful, don’t make them feel like they don’t have anyone else they can turn to. And no one sends handwritten thank you notes anymore, except people from an older generation, so I’m going to let that slide.

It’s when you are at my age that you find older friends and family leaving for a better place and it makes you wonder about life and your purpose. Are we all here to study, work, marry, birth babies, send them to college, retire and die? Or is there something bigger than that? Today, I’m in a place in my life where I yearned to be in my 20s, but I find that the dream has lost its luster and left me feeling mildly unsatisfied. I don’t mean to sound ungrateful because indeed I’m blessed with all that I need and more. But I don’t feel like that is an accomplishment or something to be smug about.

Words get muddled up in my head sometimes and I end up saying things like “I gave up coffee cold shoulder” instead of “I gave up coffee cold turkey!” I mix up words and their meanings sometimes too and it is not very flattering given that I work as an editor. And I’m thinking I’m just 40, this can’t be happening to me. Maybe I’m doing something wrong here but I don’t know what. The last time I checked, these things happened to retired people! So much for the roaring 40s, I’m too pooped to go out with my friend during the week to network over cocktails. Maybe this is when life gives you a sneak preview of your later years or maybe it’s a wake up call to take better care of yourself so you’ll end up living a full life till the day you are gone. I don’t know. Check back with me in a decade!


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To Blog or Not to Blog?

When my domain expired last month, I called my web hosting provider to renew it and was told that my web hosting service was also going to expire in a month. Of course they tripled the costs now that I was renewing it and wasn’t a ‘new’ customer. I pledged to shop around for a better price, but work and life took over and before I knew it the month was up and my service contract had expired. It is not that I don’t want to renew it but I look at the past year and how infrequently I posted and how difficult it was to find inspiration in the midst of a busy life filled with mundane tasks that pay the bills. It took every little ounce of effort to come up with a post every month and sometimes I couldn’t manage even that. I look back at the 150 plus stories and 6 years worth of thought and effort and most of all heart, and that makes me want to keep it alive.

I thought it would be a great idea to pose this question to you, my readers, who kept me alive during my darkest days, when I poured my heart out to you and my emotions bled through my writing. You lifted me up with your soothing words, rooted for me, laughed with me when good fortune smiled on me and cried with me when life took a wretched turn. Without you I would have never gone this far. Never have ended up writing a book (that’s yet to see the light of day)! You are as much a part of this blog as I am and so I need to know if I need to keep doing this for you, for me, for us. Won’t you share your thoughts with me and help me decide? Stay or close shop and go into oblivion?


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So I’m Bossy Now

The other day my husband remarked, “Of late you’ve become so bossy.” I told him I was tired of being nice because I never got anything I wanted. The kids keep telling me to stop yelling and I’m like if I ask you nicely you just don’t do it,  so I have to yell to get you guys to listen to me. I’m just sick and tired of us women being told to be nice and quiet while every Tom, Dick and Harry steamrolls over us and hands us a cartload of patriarchal nonsense.

I stopped caring about what people thought about me and started thinking about me and what I need to be happy. I think it’s called taking charge, being in control. If you find me loud and obnoxious – I don’t care. Just like you didn’t care about anything I wanted or expected out of you!

When men do it, they are applauded for strength of character and leadership skills and when women so much as raise their voice they are bossy, intimidating and unlikeable. Well sorry! We’re done with the all cute and cuddly purring kitten types that are dripping honey and hanging on your every word. You stepped on our tails more than once and we’re lashing out with our teeth and claws.

You wax eloquent about your stressful day and how much you have accomplished while we straddle corporate careers and motherhood, cooking gourmet meals and coding and so much more that your testosterone-filled veins can handle for a day.  And yet WE are the fairer sex? The weaker ones needing your patronage and protection? Why don’t you hulks try birthing a child or nursing twins or even trying to fend off nausea for a week. Or maybe try, just try to make dinner every night after work.

So if I yell when I come home and the entire kitchen island is filled with everything you ate from breakfast cereal to tortilla chip crumbs and the sink is overflowing with dishes, its because I just finished my day job where I get paid and appreciated and now I’m at my second job that is thankless with no pay.

I don’t like microwave meals myself or I would have abandoned kitchen duties the day I started working full-time. Or stopped packing lunches for the kids and asked them to make do with the gross school cafeteria food. And with cooking comes mountains of dishes. I’m thankful for the dishwasher but unfortunately it doesn’t load itself. I don’t think it will kill anyone if they loaded the dishwasher every night after I was done making dinner.  Again everyone would rather I do it, till I make a scene and ask the kids to do their chores.

Then again why is dinner my responsibility ALWAYS! Why do chores have to be gender based? All of this churns through my psyche and makes me yell every once in a while. You have a choice to not cook or clean and I don’t? That really makes me yell dude! And since it’s my kitchen, it’s MY RULES. Obey or be prepared to be shredded to fine saw dust.

And  you can shove that unsolicited advice you know where! If you aint helping, I don’t need your suggestions for improvement. I’ve been doing this for 15 years and I think I qualify as an expert! So there you go. I’m bossy and unapologetic. They may promote me to a manager at work for my much sought after leadership skills!

 


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Christmas in Florida

I miss Florida. Florida in the winter. Florida’s beaches. A particular friend who lives in Florida. So when P suggested we go to Florida, my joy knew no bounds. We decided to go visit our favorite haunts in Melbourne. The soccer fields where I spent many an evening while my son was at soccer practice. The Avenue at Viera which was right next to our apartment, where we went for morning walks, evening walks, window shopping, or eating out at one of its many restaurants. And finally to the beach – my happy place.

To break up our 9-hour drive, we made a pit stop at Savannah, Georgia. I had read about this place in the book, “Gone with the Wind” but had no idea it would be such a charming little Southern city. Each house is a piece of art with cast-iron fronts, gas-lit lamps on the porch, lush gardens tucked away in the back. Most of the buildings are from the 1800s and early 1900s. Almost every intersection has a park with a fountain in the middle, the most exquisite one was the Forsyth Park with water spouting mermen and  swans. The park also had a dummy fort converted into a visitor center with restrooms, and statues dedicated to confederate soldiers sprinkled all over the place. On River Street you could take a boat ride on the Savannah River, which we passed up for lunch at one of the many river side restaurants. We ordered salmon burgers, fried green tomatoes, shrimp salad on a croissant, and a southern medley platter with macaroni and cheese, orzo pasta, collard greens and mashed sweet potatoes. The last two were a bad choice. The collard greens were soggy and the sweet potatoes were goop. So much for eating my veggies! I asked for a bowl of mashed potatoes instead. Tummies full, we were ready for our 5-hour drive to Florida.

On our first day there, we reached the beach around sunset. I think the last time I went to a beach was 2 years ago in Chennai. I felt like a child seeing the beach for the first time. The sounds of the sea, the cool waves rushing and then slowly licking my feet, the sky painted in hues of orange, purple and grey, felt surreal. My heart exploded with joy and love and I told the ocean I loved her. I know it feels silly in hindsight but the ocean felt alive. I could feel her heartbeat and was held in rapture by her beauty. I turned around to walk along the wet markers made by the waves and I found a piece of coquina (soft limestone made of broken shells) . It was heart shaped and I felt like the ocean was telling me she loved me back. The kids splashed around in the water and I quietly walked along the edge of the waves, an indescribable peace washing over me.  When it got dark, we saw some people start bonfires and light tiki torches.  The smell of hot dogs cooking on a fire wafted towards me and made me hungry. We grabbed some pizza for dinner and headed back to our room for some shut eye.

On Christmas eve, we met our old friends from Florida for a day at Brevard Zoo. The zoo was just 5 minutes from our apartment when we lived in Melbourne and had a zoo membership, so we were there almost every weekend. The kids knew most of the animals, especially the talking hyacinth macaw that kept yelling, “cracker” or “back to work”. There were a few new exhibits and one of them was a kangaroo trail where you could have a close encounter with a kangaroo.  I must say that the board outside explicitly warned us but I chose to ignore it. The most dangerous thing at the zoo as far as I knew was the bird feeding exhibit where noisy lorikeets would land on your shoulders and arms. So I thought these people knew what they were doing when they opened the kangaroo walking trail. When I stepped in, there were a bunch of people being entertained by a small kangaroo with a zoo keeper in close proximity. How dangerous could this be? We joined the raggle taggle crowd and stood with our backs glued to the fence that separated all the other kangaroos from us.  The little marsupial started off by sniffing our feet and then chewing on my son’s shoe laces. Then it moved to my husband’s shoelaces and then it started tugging at his cargo pants. The zoo keeper lady intervened and shooed it away. It then started sniffing my sandals and lifted its head and held onto my thighs at which point I freaked out. I tried to shrug the thing off but it took offence and bit me on my knee and scratched my thigh when I was turning away. Big mistake! It saw my bag with its shiny sequins and grabbed onto it. I was screaming and trying to run away while this creature was pulling my bag and me from behind. It felt like I was running but getting no where. The zoo keeper somehow got it off of me and then we all decided to leave. Our friends had little children under 5 and I felt like it was really dangerous for them to be there.

The young ones were getting hungry so we had some lunch and then headed to the mall. It was a gorgeous 80 degrees and we sat by the fountains and chatted away while the kids rolled on the fake grass and had a ball. Around 4 we headed to the beach. The two toddlers decided to bury themselves in sand and we stopped them right when they were half buried. We then took a long walk along the beach and the kiddos got wet and then proceeded to roll in the sand. It took my friend a while to get them both washed up and out of their sandy clothes. We all stood talking in the parking lot because we didn’t want the day to end. But we knew we had a long trip ahead of us so we reluctantly said our goodbyes and headed back to the hotel.

On our way back we stopped in Savannah again and ended up eating overpriced pizza in a hole-in-the-wall pizza shack (sorry that place cannot be called a restaurant!) We forgot that most places are closed for Christmas. It was too cold to stroll around and I just wanted to go home and eat something that was home cooked. Our short and sweet Florida vacation was over but I will hold onto the memories of the beach and the time we spent  with our friends for a long time to come.  So long Florida and I hope we meet again soon!


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Power Up, Bring it On!

This post is dedicated to all the supermoms out there. Who knew that the tiny bump growing in your belly would one day unleash dormant powers that you never knew you possessed. In the first few days of your baby’s life you realize you can wake up at unearthly hours, sleep-walk to the crib, feed and burp a baby and go back to sleep. You can survive months or years without your daily quota of 8 hours of sleep. You become immune to stale spit-up all over your t-shirt or find yourself ignoring the dirty dishes calling for your attention.

How about the one that allows you to keep a deadpan face while your toddler is howling and screaming in the grocery store. Or the one that allows you to straddle a baby and do chores around the house.

If you have a boy or a girl who is into sports (unlike yourself) you suddenly develop motor skills you never thought you possessed. Shooting hoops or hitting a baseball like a pro becomes second nature to you. This goes for things you never warmed up to as a kid but then find yourself doing and also enjoying as a mom. Like say camping and the outdoors.

And then there are other brave moms who venture back to work while nursing infants. They work, attend meetings, commute, stay up at night feeding their babies, cook dinner and still have enough energy to go around. I call it the energizer bunny superpower. I never tapped into that power since I decided to stay home with the kids.

Now when my kids are in middle school and high school, I’m back at work full-time and have to get back home and take care of dinner and the dishes. Throw in some homework help as well and you can see how busy my day is.

Like that wasn’t crazy enough, I have to wake up at 5.00 a.m. to get my daughter to the bus stop at 6.00. A week into this schedule and I was ready to call it quits. But then my superpowers kicked in and somehow I manage to get through the week. There are moments when I find it hard to string a sentence together because my brain has fallen asleep.

Then throw in after-school activities and your walking-on-a tight-rope superpower gets activated to make sure you don’t end up falling on your face. It takes a while to grow into your superpowers so don’t be disheartened if you feel like you are falling apart.

Any challenge you face as a mom, be sure that there is some secret superpower you wield that can help you ace your game. Two sick kids and an ailing parent? You got it! Crazy commute and a husband who is travelling frequently? Bring it on!  Colicky baby and a brand new puppy? Oh yeah!

Now that I have kids, I have a lot of respect for my mom and the way she managed her time and energy to make sure that we were well-fed and that we had clean clothes to wear, while working full-time as a Hindi teacher. Her day started at 5.00 a.m. and she went to bed after 10.00. Also kudos to my dad for driving me, mom and my brother to and from work, college, school and wherever else we had to go.

Same goes for Ganga, my second grandmother who cooked and packed lunches and got me ready for school, and waited by the gate till I got home. My Dadima used to drop me off in school every single day before she went to work. And it was Sharma aunty who used to pick me up from school every evening. It’s not until I had to do it that I realized it wasn’t so simple to show up every day at the same time especially if you had to work or manage other responsibilities. This I call the time-keeper superpower. It makes sure kids are woken up in time to catch the bus, that lunches are packed and kids get picked up on time.

I may have missed a few. If you supermoms/dads out there have any more to add please comment. Power up! You got this!