Punctuate Life

Pause Breathe Relax


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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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When the Omens Spell Doom…

No, I’m not talking about apocalypses. Not even World War III. I’m just exploring a question that came up during a conversation with a friend. She really didn’t believe in signs and was joking around about the ‘Universe’ sending her a really rotten sign. Me in all my self-righteous glory, got all defensive and declared – The Universe only sends positive signs!  After I hung up I wondered – Does it?

Let’s roll back to the year 2009. January 2009 to be precise. We were to travel to India to celebrate my grandmother’s 80th birthday. It is one trip I’ll never forget. It started off with a blizzard as we made our way to Logan International. Our flight to New York was cancelled and subsequently, all flights to New York were cancelled. The JFK airport was shutdown due to heavy snowfall. We couldn’t drive down in such bad weather so we tried to get a flight for the next morning. We were told that the next available flight was for Thursday of the following week. A day after my grandmother’s 80th birthday! I was almost in tears but instead of going back home we pleaded with every airline to put us on the earliest available flight.

Finally, we got a flight for next morning. When we arrived at JFK airport, the flight to India was overbooked. Several passengers from all over the North East had missed their flights due to the snowstorm and now the airlines were scrambling to get them to their destinations. We had to wait until 11.00 p.m. for our flight into Dubai. We wandered aimlessly all over JFK airport and met other aimless world travelers. Soon we had ourselves a group. Something that distracted us from a grueling day, dealing with airlines and spending countless hours at airport terminals. By 11.00 p.m. we couldn’t wait to board our 13-hour flight to Dubai. But the flight was delayed due to technical difficulties. The fact that we would miss our connection flight to Chennai loomed large. But we were powerless and totally at the mercy of the airlines. On the flight my ‘Om’ pendant which I was very attached to, got snagged on my daughter’s sweater. I undid it and then tightened the clasp (or I thought I did). I lost my pendant and my black-bead necklace which my parents got me for my wedding somewhere on the flight or in the airport.

Of course when we got to Dubai we had missed our connection flight. Again we had to run from pillar to post begging the airlines to rebook us. The next available flight was a whole 14 hours later! By this time we were all tired, hungry and slightly smelly from not having showered in a long time. We couldn’t conceive spending another 14 hours holed up in some lounge. Each airline blamed the other and refused to take on our motley group of bedraggled, malodorous and time-warped travelers. After several hours of haggling, a kindred spirit offered us visas to exit the endless loops of airport terminals we were stuck in.

A shuttle took us to a hotel, where we showered and wore the same clothes (I swore to pack an extra set of clothes for all of us in the future!) We ate some food that was not served in aluminum trays. My kids and husband took a nap. I was too scared we’d oversleep so I sat with my legs propped up on a stool. We made it on time for our final flight of the week.

Our parents were happy to see us, four days after our initial departure from Boston. If you think the story ends here you are wrong. I haven’t reached the worst part yet! I called my grandmother from the airport and her nurse picked up the phone. She said – granny is not well. At which point my grandma snatched the phone from her. She didn’t sound very well and was totally incoherent. I asked my mother if I should go see her right away. My mom assured me that she would be all right.

When we got home, we opened up the suitcases one by one. TSA had opened up every one of them. The specially engraved “Grandma” globe was shattered and all its contents spilt all over the suitcase. That’s when I got a really bad feeling. When we visited my grandma the next day she looked frail and sickly. No one except the nurse could understand what she was saying. Everyone said that now with me by her side she would get better and we could celebrate her birthday which was two days away. That was not to be. Her pulse started dropping in the afternoon and her breathing became labored. She stopped eating all together. The end came a day before her 80th birthday. I was shattered. We had planned to attend a celebration and now we had to arrange for a funeral. I wished I had been there earlier. I wished I had never gone away. All those years away from her – I couldn’t ever buy back that time. The tears wouldn’t stop falling and my heart wouldn’t stop hurting.

All those bad things that happened were in a way preparing me for this. I didn’t see the blessing in this situation. But then everyone who came to the funeral uttered these words to me – She was waiting for you. You are lucky you got to be here with her. What if I had simply given up and returned home when our first flight was cancelled? I wouldn’t have ever seen her alive and God knows if I would have made it in time for her funeral. Some mysterious force got me to fight my way through every delay and every obstacle. They say every soul gets to decide when it leaves the body and also who gets to be with them when they transition. That my grandma wanted me (who lived half-way across the globe) to be there with her is such a blessing to me.

So to answer the question – does the Universe send us bad omens or signs? Absolutely! Just to prepare us for what is to come. But not every sign is a sign from the Universe. Some can be simply a figment of our imagination or ego.

 


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Love Never Dies…

Sandy hit last week and took many people with it. The pictures of the damage were heart wrenching. One cold December not too long ago we woke up freezing. A freak ice storm had left our town without power. We had to live in a friend’s place and then a hotel for five days until the power was restored. We did not lose our home or our belongings and none of us were hurt. But just being without a home for a few days is enough to make you feel displaced and uncomfortable. Imagine the plight of millions who not only lost power but also their homes and some even their loved ones. This week an earthquake in Guatemala killed many people and caused severe damage. I couldn’t shake off the sadness and then before I could pick myself up, I was dealt another blow.

My former colleague passed away. He is two years older to me and leaves behind a wife, twin toddler boys and a newborn. I spoke to his wife this week and I could feel her pain. I bit my lip and fought back the tears as I spoke to her. Just a couple of weeks ago I started writing the story of my grandma and this is how I started – right on the day my grandpa died, leaving my 36 year old grandma a widow with no work experience, no college degree and a little money. My Dad had just started college. When I wrote it was from my grandma’s perspective and in her voice. I almost cried when I spoke to my colleague’s wife because the feelings associated with losing one’s spouse were fresh in my psyche.

The feeling of loss is universal. It’s something no mortal can escape. It doesn’t matter if it’s your grandma. grandpa, mother, father, spouse, sibling, friend or child. It just leaves a huge void. One that all the love in the world cannot fill. All the people in the world cannot fill it. You feel orphaned, abandoned and forced to deal with life without your loved one. It’s not fair! How can you go on?

A dark mood swept over me this week and even though I planned to write this post, a part of me was saying – What are words? Just empty symbols. How can I make the pain go away? I can’t. No one will believe me when I say I feel you. I’ve been there. We become one in our experience of pain, grief and loss in very much the same way we become one in love, happiness and prosperity. There is a saying that goes – when you laugh the world laughs with you and when you cry you cry alone. I’m not so sure about that one. Here is my experience taken from an older post Daring and Different…My Dadima…

I was foolish to think she had touched but one life – mine. When people came to me with stories of her kindness and love, I cried copious tears. It felt like their pain was my pain. We had all lost someone special. Someone who thought we were special and treated us like royalty.

The pain you feel is real. No one can replace him/her. But time does heal and love will find a way to make you ache less. The loss of my grandma was not easy to deal with. I grew up in her shadow (or should I say aura?) I was lucky that I got to be with her when she passed away (braving winter storms, cancelled flights and long stop-overs). But still I felt guilty for the time I spent away from her. I could never get that back – it was gone and she was gone. I cried alone when no one was watching. Every birthday and holiday I would miss her terribly and cry. Every February (that is the month she passed away)  I would plunge into depression. It took me two years to make peace with her passing. I cannot give you a timeline for grieving or a date to move on. It will take time, it will take help and it will take a lot of prayer.

I keep going back to my grandma because I think she dealt with death in the right way. She never feared it and was never in awe of it. She just accepted it. She did however lose faith in God and Astrology after her husband was whisked away from her far too soon. Astrologers had predicted that the couple would live a long, happy life. And here she was 36 and widowed and with no clue how to carry on. She did however have a strong will to overcome the odds. She also had this – a strong connection with my grandpa even though he was not physically present. She often talked about dreaming about him and telling him her problems. Looking back at her life I can tell she most certainly got help from the other side. She always had enough money to take care of herself and pay the huge hospital bills. She always had helpful people and synchronistic things kept happening to her.

After her passing I felt her presence. Many things I had wanted in the past, came to me more easily. Like getting  a driver’s license, moving to a warmer place, even making friends. You say it’s a coincidence. I say it’s her putting in a word for me up there. In each case I have received signs that she has intervened on my behalf to bring me things in this mortal plane to make me happy.

Some of you may be reading this and not really understanding the full purport of my words. I’m saying that our souls never die and are not limited by the body. We go on forever. We are infinite beings. You are never alone even if you do not realize it. It’s like having air to breathe – you don’t think about it. There is more to life than death. Death is not the end. It is the beginning of another journey. We get a glimpse of this world when we sleep. In sleep we don’t feel our bodies, don’t remember the past and are blissful. We also travel to other magical places in what we call dreams.  A soul does the same when it leaves its body.  Even though we feel they are gone, they are free than ever before and can be with us if we want them to – in the most gentle and nonthreatening way. Supporting us and loving us even more than they could when they were alive and amongst us.


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A Sign From Above?

The first instance that came into my head when I thought about signs is of the time we were driving to Orlando or Tampa (I’m not sure which one). It’s a long drive, an hour or two depending on where you are headed. Somewhere along the way P and I started arguing and when it was over I was feeling lousy as ever. I wanted to step out of the car and go to a far away place. And then there it was – an airplane doing loop de loops in the sky. I watched, fascinated as the jet fumes turned into the letter G and then an O and then the word GOD. I was barely breathing. I had never seen anything like this before. But the jet kept going and when it was finished the words GOD LOVES YOU were written in the sky. I often say I was blown away but it was probably the only time in my life when I was totally bowled over, blown away and blasted into space, all at the same time!

I read about ‘signs from the universe’ in?…yes you guessed it – “The Secret”. It talks of the universe as a living entity with ‘ears’ to hear your every request and respond to it. I started looking for and asking for signs when I felt stuck or unable to make decisions. Once you start asking and stay open, signs start appearing when you least expect them or even before you ask for them. Let me share what happened a few weeks ago. Remember I wasn’t sure if I should use blogging sites or start my own blog (website)? I even went as far as setting up a poll on facebook asking you to decide. Of course not many of you saw the poll and just two people responded. I really wasn’t sure what to do. That week every time I went up to my car there was this huge web between it and my neighbor’s car in the parking lot. It was on the driver’s side of the vehicle. So I would walk all the way around the car so as not to walk into the web, get into the car and then back out. Of course the web would get destroyed as I backed out of my parking space.

But the next day when I went to the car there was another beautiful web waiting for me. It happened all week – web after web after web, woven perfectly by this incredible spider with a never-say-die attitude. That’s when it dawned on me that I should go for a website! Duh! Thank you universe and thank you spider for being a medium to get the message across.

 

Another way the universe speaks to you (yes it apparently has vocal cords in addition to ears) is through the radio. Do you hear the same song every time you turn on the radio? Then the universe is talking to you – pay attention to the lyrics! Recently I heard what doesn’t break you makes you stronger, we belong to the light we belong to the thunder. Also been hearing it’s gonna be a good life, ever since the beginning of this year and it has been amazing so far!

Also pay attention to your dreams. Some of us are so over stimulated during the day that we miss many signs and the only way the universe can get through is when we are sleeping, in which case we are completely relaxed and open. I had some very powerful dreams right after my daughter broke her arm. It was a very stressful time and we both slept fitfully at night for several weeks. I had to make sure that she didn’t sleep on her cast. I woke up so many times during the night that I was able to vividly recall my dreams. This dream came before I started writing these posts and at that time I was seriously contemplating doing some course to hone my skills and improve my chances of landing a job. I felt rusty and like I didn’t have anything valuable to offer.

In the dream I was getting a ride to Walmart because I urgently needed groceries. Getting a ride from total strangers. Women I had never seen before. It was late at night and when we turned the corner into the Walmart parking lot, I felt something by my feet. I looked down and saw that all the groceries I needed were in a bag on the floor. There are many ways to interpret this dream but the overpowering emotion that permeated the entire dream was a feeling of relief washing over me. I’ve got everything. I don’t need to make this trip to Walmart. The urgency vanished and was replaced by a feeling of strange contentment. I’ve got everything I need right here with me. I am enough. I am good just the way I am. It was a very powerful dream and the feelings associated with it washed every iota of doubt I had about putting myself out there.

You may also see numbers repeatedly like 11.11 or 3.33 or 4.44 on digital clocks. They are also signs from the universe. Finding pennies, feathers. Seeing rainbows, butterflies, dragonflies. Everything is a sign. The universe is alive and speaking to you – you only need to listen to its whispers.

Would love to hear what signs you have seen lately. Do share it below in the comments box.