Punctuate Life

Pause Breathe Relax


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Imagine

 

Imagine a sea of humans in a vast expanse of darkness,

A lone candle burns in the hands of one,

Observing his neighbors unlit candles,

He proceeds to share the light of his candle with them.

The light grows in intensity and more shadows jump out of the darkness,

Almost threatening to snuff out the candles,

But the bearers of the light know that the shadows are visible because of the light.

Sharing the light becomes an all important task,

As more and more shadows jump out in desperate need of light,

And yet one candle will suffice to rid us of the darkness.

Every face aglow in the warm light,

Laughter and tears mingling with the soft strains of music,

Every heart bursting with love,

A love that is limitless and engulfs the entire cosmos.

Imagine a sea of dancing flames that illuminates the entire earth

Perceived as a luminous globe by creatures from afar

Love pervading every nook and cranny of space

Every black hole turned inside out to reveal brilliant light.

Our heavy bodies burdened with life

Magically turn light and we float blissfully

The very embodiment of the Divine.

 

 

 


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The Rose that Couldn’t Bloom

     rose

  In our small balcony we have several flowering plants. Some have been with us for years and others we have collected during our travels and here in Florida. Amongst them is a rose plant that blooms bountifully, yielding sometimes 15 blossoms. Cold weather in my part of the world has stymied this proliferous plant. It has one lone rose bud and knowing how tender they can be I half expected it to shrivel up and die. Not this bud! It stands there stolidly pointing its head up.

The bud seems to be saying – I’ll be patient for as long as it takes. I will fulfil my purpose as a bud. I will blossom one day to reveal the deepest and most beautiful part of me. So every morning I wake up and look outside to see the bud as it was – big and rosy, waiting to burst into bloom. I don’t want to rush it. I don’t want to push it. I know that could have a disastrous effect. So I wait with it.

I remember going to a temple once and getting a lotus bud. It is a sacred symbol in many religions and spiritual practices. So I hold onto it reverently until I get home. I put it in a tall vase filled with water. I watch it every day, waiting for it to open up. But it simply refuses to bloom. Me in my impatience (so characteristic of youth) tried to pry it open. I pull the petals apart but the result is not pretty. It ended up being neither a bud nor a flower. I discard it with a heavy heart.

When I look at my brave little rose bud outside, I marvel at its quiet strength. I would wish that kind of strength on my former self. The young 20 something, full of potential and raring to go only to be stalled by less than optimum circumstances.  Circumstances over which I had no control whatsoever. But for which I took all the blame. Unlike the rose I felt crushed, defeated and hung my head in shame. I even forgot that inside of me was this radiance that would never dim. Unlike the rose I forgot to put on a brave face, stand tall and wait it out until the heavens smiled down on me.

So valiant bud I bow to thee. Ever so silently you have shown me a lesson worthy of emulation. As things get tough as they are wont to, let me remember you, your graceful beauty and strength to stand up against all odds and triumph. I see today that you have bloomed and fulfilled your destiny as a perfect flower in perfect weather.


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Celebrating You

As January 20th approaches my thoughts are with my grandma (Dadima) and I fondly remember the way she celebrated her birthday every year. She didn’t have it easy. Widowed at the age of 36 and sickly most of her life, she had to fend for herself and reinvent herself several times over. From a village girl to a high flying socialite. From someone who had never worked a single day of her life to the first woman LPG distributor. From someone who never stepped outside of the village of Kollengode to an expat.

She had a million reasons to be unhappy and slouch in a corner depressed and uninterested with life. Believe me if I were in her shoes I would have done just that! But not her. She took life by the horns and joyfully went on the ride even if it meant being thrashed around. But somehow she always found reasons to celebrate. Not just festivals and birthdays but herself. Every year on January 20th she threw a big party and invited her close family and all of her workers. She cut a cake as we all sang happy birthday. Her manager would make a speech praising her while she stood by grinning ear to ear. There was nothing vain about it. She simply loved herself and wasn’t afraid to show it. It is what made her so large hearted. For all love starts with self love.

Are you one of those people who think they are too old or too insignificant to celebrate their own birthday? Forget birthdays, do you fail to acknowledge how wonderful you are? When someone compliments you, do you shrug it off or put down yourself? Think about it. You are pushing away the very things every human being craves for – appreciation, validation and love.

Do you look in the mirror and smile at what you see or do you groan and mentally list everything that is wrong with your face, figure, hair and skin? For years I watched my grandma get dressed for work. After she was done fixing her hair in a bun, she had this look of satisfaction and an inner smile if you will. She clearly loved what she saw in the mirror. She oozed confidence out of every pore of her body and people picked up on that and ended up admiring her. It was no mean task running a business with absolutely no training or experience and she did it with style and panache. I’m not saying she didn’t ever make mistakes. She did. But she somehow didn’t dwell on them and beat herself about it.

I have always been hard on myself and never give myself credit where it is due. People always picked up on that and saw me with all my imperfections. I was afraid of everything. Of driving. Of working. Of getting fired because I’m not good enough. Of being a horrible mother. I was my own worst enemy. Even if other people thought I was capable of stepping up and meeting challenges I didn’t believe I had it in me. So life was one disappointment after another. A tiny door of opportunity would open and I would slam it shut with my self-doubt and lack of faith.

Even when people tell you something about yourself that is a roaring lie, you believe it. I guess at some point I was sick of it all and made a conscious effort to befriend life and make peace with myself. To celebrate myself and life like my grandma did. When I saw the beauty and wonder in me, life opened up and everything I wished for just fell from the heavens into my open arms.

I secretly (not anymore!) try to be like my grandma and although I have a long way to go, I think I’m getting there.  I wish for my grandma’s fiery spirit, her zest and total commitment to life. She did not stand in the sidelines and watch her life slipping by. She took charge, took on challenges and celebrated herself, her family and her work. She kept giving and life gave her back thousand fold. Looking back at all the challenges (mostly self-imposed) that I have overcome, I know she is proud of me and celebrating every victory of mine.  She is and will always be my greatest cheerleader. And I will always celebrate her.

 

 


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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.


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Signs Galore

I wrote a post last year about signs that have appeared in my life. Signs that thunderously declare the presence of a God, Universe, Consciousness or whatever you like to call it. But the signs this time were not speaking to me. Not pointing me in any specific direction and no earth-shaking discoveries or breakthroughs followed. I was praying hard for specific things this year. Things that I had wanted for years but was too scared to admit to myself. Things that I thought I never deserved. Things I was not destined for maybe. But in their very absence my life became unbearable to me. The burning and churning in the pit of my stomach I could ignore no more.

But life unfolded one dull and boring day after another. With mind-boggling signs scattered along the way! It all started with clover leaves and shamrocks appearing all over the place. On bumper stickers. On T-shirts. Leaves mysteriously mingled with the laundry and leaves on the carpet. It didn’t make any sense at all. And then my son’s teacher hands me a paper shamrock and asks me to trace and cut 18 giants ones for the March book report. I quickly looked up the meaning of shamrocks and clover leaves on the internet. Each leaf signified something. The first one for faith, second for hope, third for love and the last for luck. What did it all mean? First I thought it meant we should move back to Boston (the Boston Celtics symbol is a shamrock right?) It didn’t happen. Then I started hallucinating. Thought I’d suddenly become psychic or something and was now able to foretell the future. Not mine but others! I envisioned two of my single friends with their partners. I told one of my friends over IM (one of those safe ways of communicating totally psychotic material!) about my ‘vision’.

Then one fine day I get an e-mail from the other friend saying she has found the ‘one’. Was one of the most exciting days of a mostly uneventful month. I chatted with her later that week and she told me how it all happened over the St.Patricks day weekend and that her beau is Irish. And wait for it…had a tattoo of a shamrock! I know this girl from the cradle and once when she was visiting me after I had read “Eat, Pray, Love” I asked her which was the one place in the world she would love to explore. “Ireland” came the reply. I’ve also seen her poring over books written by Irish authors and set in Ireland. Coincidence? I think not!

She told me how she started picking up pennies that lay in her path after I wrote about it and after a friend told her their significance. I have been finding pennies for years now and I stash them in a little bag that hangs from the floor lamp in my room. The last time I counted there were 25. The last 10 I found over this summer. Anyways earlier this year I was talking to my friend and she told me she was still waiting for the right man to walk into her life but was not sure what to expect. Somehow the conversation drifted to lucky pennies and I told her I was pooling all my luck (in the little drawstring bag) and that I’d send her some! Luck that is!

The Irish know a good thing when they look it in the eye. So he wasted no time and proposed to her on her birthday which happens to be 2 days before mine. So I heard all about it. Then they fixed the wedding date for October and she asked me to be her Maid Of Honor! I see the hand of God all over this and I’m so humbled to be a part of this.

Anyways, the signs kept coming my way. Again I had no clue what to expect. I saw a huge rainbow in May and then butterflies and pennies. One time I found 4 pennies when I was walking with my husband at the mall. Found $2 outside Kohls one day. In July it was all about rainbows. Here in Florida it rains in the afternoons or evenings for maybe a 1/2 hour or more and then the sun comes out. My balcony faces east making it convenient for the western sun to throw rainbows onto the eastern sky. Call me nuts but every time it rains and the sun comes out I go hunting for the rainbow. I’ve seen double rainbows. I’ve seen rainbows when it wasn’t even raining! But the best one by far was the one that appeared on my birthday.

It’s a good thing I record all the signs I receive in my journal because here is one I almost forgot about. Here is what I wrote:

Yesterday as I lay in bed with the window open and the moonlight shining in I could feel my heart expanding. It felt good. The moon looked pretty with four rays beaming outward. On the 21st of June the moon was next to a cloud shaped like a lady with her wavy long hair around her. The cloud slowly moved towards the moon. At one point the moon was the (glowing) heart center of the lady (cloud). It was so beautiful.  

I know I’m such an ingrate. I’ve been inundated with signs all year and yet I’ve been wading through gloom and self-pity. In fact I had the audacity to say to God/ Universe – stop with the signs – I want results! I want to see progress. I want the New Age (Utopia in my mind) to arrive. Now! The universe sent me another sign – a battered penny. Battered because it was lying in the middle of the road and had been run over by several cars before I found it and reluctantly rescued it. The next day I found a teeny-tiny feather stuck to the cover of our car. Still doubted. Thought it was just a coincidence. We drove off to Publix to get some milk. They had a scavenger hunt for kids and we went roaming around the whole store looking for gluten-free Rice Krispies and organic strawberries. Somewhere along the way we ended up on a aisle that had magazines and books. My eye fell on this book which was part of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series titled – Messages from Heaven.

I picked up the book, my whole body tingling with excitement. It opened to the content section and my eyes fell on this – Messengers and Angels. I couldn’t deny it anymore. And that is when I got it. God loved me. And will keep loving me despite my faults (battered penny) because I was his/her child (tiny feather).

The next day as if to re-emphasize that all these were indeed signs from above, my son asked me this question, “Ma, do you really believe in signs?” I smiled and told him about how I had to believe after I saw the writing in the sky, “God Loves You”. It was simple and direct and there was no denying it or pretending it was just a coincidence.

In the past signs were answers to prayers or little messages from the Universe for me to decipher. But this time it was just a sign to hold on, to keep believing, to keep the faith and hope alive. To know that I am loved and cared for now and forever more. And that the luck and the pot of gold will follow!

Have you seen signs like these. Please share below…


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Blogging: My Road to Self Discovery

I still can’t believe I’m a blogger. I knew writing was in my soul but never in my wildest dreams did I imagine owning a blog. It was my cousin who led me down that path and before I knew it I had a website and was doling out my existential angst and advice by the bucketfuls. Here’s what a year of blogging taught me.

The First Step is the Hardest

I know that’s a cliche and has been done to death but anyone who ever had a major breakthrough in life would shout it out from the roof tops. The first blog I ever wrote and published as a note on Facebook was totally on a impulse. I didn’t fret about it and plan for months in advance. I just sat down and typed it all up in less than an hour and then published it. If I hadn’t taken that risk I wouldn’t be a blogger today.

Something Better

You get what you ask for or something better. I didn’t ask to be a blogger. In 2011 I was looking for writing gigs and met with no luck. At one point in my life I even questioned my ability to find a job – any job! I applied for jobs at banks, day care centers and preschools. I finally got a part-time job at a Kumon Center. It wasn’t my dream job but I felt I still had something to offer. Like I wasn’t worthless. A month later I had to quit and stay home because my daughter broke her arm. I was back to square one. I had no time to feel sorry for myself because my daughter needed me 24/7. A few months later I started blogging and a couple of months after that I had my own website! Now if I could only get paid to share my opinions!

Walk your Talk

It’s easy to give advice. Ever tried following your own advice? I couldn’t write about “Living Fearlessly” and be afraid of driving (outside my comfort zone) or salons anymore. I couldn’t preach about the universe and “Signs from Above” while I ignored all the signs that were appearing in my life. I had to align my life to be in sync with everything I believed. I had to live the life I was telling everybody about. Since writing the post on fear I’ve taken the wheel when we went on road trips and made two trips to the salon!

The Bigger Plan

In hindsight, there was nothing accidental about becoming a blogger. The Universe was nudging me all along. When I was foolish enough to question it, alarming and unmistakeable evidence presented itself.  It showed me that I was just an instrument and a higher purpose was being fulfilled through the blog. Case in point – my post “Love Never Dies”. I wrote it and didn’t publish it. The very same night my brother wrote to me saying his friend had lost her father. She used to read my posts and find comfort so he asked if  I could suggest one to help her grieve. I published the post and sent my brother a link. This has happened more than once. What can I say?  I’m blessed beyond my wildest dreams and I’m deeply grateful to be given this opportunity.

Expansion and Connection

The most rewarding thing about blogging is connecting with like-minded people. My experiences are not unique in that atleast a dozen other people have been through the same thing. The more I blog the less lonely I feel. I have kids, a spouse, neighbors and friends. Yet a part of me always felt lonely. The part that stayed under wraps for far too long. It’s this part that finds solace through my blog. The sensitive soul, yo-yo optimist, facebook activist and the many other sides of me that people never get to see. The parts of me that I am no longer ashamed of because through my blog I can reach out to some who can totally relate to my different avatars!

Blogging vs Venting

Blogging got me into the habit of writing every day or writing without the intent of posting. Why is this important? Because I almost ended up using my blog as a place to vent. By journaling regularly I could weed out stuff that wasn’t blog material even though it was cleverly disguised! It also got me into the habit of keeping a prayer/gratitude journal. This one habit has transformed my life.

It’s no surprise to me that my first post was “Experimenting with Miracles”. My blog is a little miracle to me even today!It has sown many seeds near and far. Seeds of magic, hope and possibility. It reminds me that miracles happen every day, we just have to believe!