Monday, November 21, 2016

How to Live an Independent Life - You can.

I am an East Indian married woman, mother of two grown men. I have flirted with the dream of being independent but did not believe it was possible. My brother moved out of our home when I was about 10. My father passed away when I was 18. I met my now husband when I was 16. I always had male figures in my life that were my anchor.

When my father died I did feel rudderless for some time, but by then I had a steady boyfriend. My father raised me to think that I could do anything and be anyone I wanted to be, but when he left the physical realm of my world I was not ready to believe I could. My husband on the other hand is a cautious man and slowly but surely I began to give in to his fears and his way of thinking. The only time my independent side truly shone through was when I had to guide my boys. I wanted them to be independent thinkers and doers. I encouraged them to make decisions and be willing to face the consequences of their actions. They have made mistakes, they have fumbled and fallen and I have stood by and watched - all the while agonizing for the pain they were going through. I made sure they knew I was there if they needed me - but never inserted myself into their lives uninvited. I gave guidance and I helped them make decisions (except when it came to a University education. That was a non-negotiable.). They chose which University they wanted to attend; what courses they wanted to take; what and when they wanted to eat; when they wanted to sleep, bathe, study, watch TV and who they wanted to befriend. They learned fast what was good for them and what was not. As teenagers when they went out with friends my only advice to them was, "Don't do anything I would not do." It backfired at times because they did some things I would not dream of doing, because they presumed I would. I enjoyed giving my children free reign to be who they are - but it was a vicarious joy. I remained dependent.

Then in my late 50s life threw a curve ball and I was forced to live an independent life. An opportunity to turn dreams into reality. It was not easy, despite it being a freeing and fulfilling experience. I was a pseudo teenager - at 50+ I had the wisdom that life had given me but now I could also explore who I am when no one is watching, no one is depending on me, no one is waiting for me, I am waiting for no one. At first I felt selfish, guilty, unkind to be enjoying my freedom, but soon I recognized that this freedom should have always been mine. My husband had the freedom to move out of the home - and he did - for a job that he chose to take when the children were still depending on us for every need. I was expected to stay home and manage it all. If that was okay then - and it was - then my choice was okay now.

How to embark on an independent life:

1. Prepare your mind for it.

2. Make sure you have the financial means to maintain your needs. This is not meant as an opportunity to splurge, so having just a meager source of money is fine.

3. Make sure that relationships that value you know of your intent to do so. They do not have to agree with you, but an open discussion will give everyone an opportunity to address their concerns. It is a good exercise for you to examine your own resolve.

4. Physically distance yourself from people you depend on or who depend on you. This does not have to be for very long, but anything less than a year will probably not be enough. It takes a few months for the novelty to die and then a few months to appreciate the beauty of unencumbered living. I did it for two and could have continued it - that is how much I enjoyed it.

5. Do the things you have wanted to do but have held yourself back. This is a non-negotiable. No matter how hard it is to step out of your comfort zone - do it.

6. Use wisdom as the guiding light on how to keep yourself safe and alive. Know your surroundings. Be alert.

7. Become an independent thinker and don't depend on advice from loved ones to make decisions. Make mistakes. Fall. Fail. Get up, smile and move on. Life is a very short journey and can end without notice. Don't waste it waiting for an opportune moment.

8. Go back to point 1. Now prepare yourself to remain independent in your mind. Recognize that it is your right to be free from the wishes and desires of others. You have the right to live your life your way even if you are surrounded by others.

9. Walk away from those relationships that do not value your freedom. Get back together with people who value you and respect you for who you truly are. You may find you prefer to be dependent and that is fine too - but it must be your choice. You will see that dependence in a different light now.

10. Make it a habit to live your life your way.

Independence is a state of mind - this I know now. I have learned to say 'No' to things that I could not before - my mind would say, 'No,' but my lips would say, 'Yes.' Now I say what I feel. If you do not like it, I understand. I am not responsible for how you feel. I do not willfully hurt anyone, neither am I willing to hurt myself. I refuse to give my joy away simply because you will not be joyful.

I am a changed person today. I appreciate myself more than I ever have and I no longer need the approval of others. I fulfill my own dreams and desires - just like everyone else around me.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

I Remember



As far as I can tell I had a great childhood. I defined it by the love and care I received from my dad. I lost him when I was just 18 and his memories to this date are of a man I loved dearly and who loved me in return. My very early childhood is a blur. What I remember are stories I have heard as I have grown but have very few memories of my own – except for some involving my father. How I loved watching him tinkering with his Black Morris Minor. He would open the hood, or jack up the car and go underneath it, or he would be polishing it to a flawless sheen. I remember his stature – a big, tall man with a straight back and his head always held high. He was by no means a jolly man but when he smiled his eyes lit up and when he laughed he guffawed with his whole body shaking. He was a disciplinarian and would have been diagnosed as having OCD if he was with us today – everything had to be just so; not a speck of dust was tolerated anywhere around him and he washed his hands upto his elbows before and after anything he touched. He loved to read, enjoyed good music, movies and theater. Oh yes – and he loved to gamble – lottery tickets, a rupee or two on a race horse every now and again. He loved playing contract bridge with friends during weekends too. Scrabble was his game of choice when it came to board games.

My best memories are spending time with him after school work was done. We would sit beside each other and read our own books or read to one another from Reader’s Digest or from one of his Classic collections of Somerset Maugham or Leo Tolstoy. He also had a collection of a magazine called Knowledge and Encyclopedia Brittanica. He loved doing research on different subjects – he loved to learn and was always a diligent student of life, of knowledge, of people.

My father is my role model and my source of strength, of wisdom, of joy and has always been my guiding light. As I approach my 6th decade of life I can clearly see how much he influenced me. It was his presence in my life that kept me positive during his lifetime and that influence has lasted since, throughout my life. I wish he had lived longer for I believe I did not imbibe everything I could have from him. I wish my children had had the opportunity to meet their grandfather for in them I see a reflection of my dad and it would have been great to see them together!

I know my Baba would have been as proud of me today as he was during the first 18 years of my life. He would have loved to have spent time with my family and that of my brother. He would have been an active participant and an ardent admirer of all we have all done and achieved. I know we would have all made him proud and he would be standing up tall with his head held high – giving and receiving our love and admiration always. 

Love you Baba!

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Mother

She personifies pure love, they say.
A mother is a mother at the end of the day.
She loves whole heartedly
Protects unreservedly,
Mother never gives up on your dreams,
Each time you win, her face is in beams.

She personifies wisdom, they tell me.
Mother knows you in and out, you see.
She will practice more than preach
For she knows that is how to teach.
Mother is always by you when you fail,
She will put you right back on the trail.

She personifies friendship, I am told.
A mother knows when to no longer hold.
She is watching you, for sure, from afar,
Her love, her wisdom your guiding star.
Mother - in the background as she applauds,
Your goals, your medals and your awards.

Tell me y'all, is motherhood above humanity?
She must personify strong character and integrity.
She needs to love more than just her blood,
Someone who cares for all beings in this world.
Woman must first be a true human at heart,
Only then can she play a mother’s part.

I know of women who are selfish and unkind.
Having children only to leave them behind.
These women make not good mothers
They must grow up before they raise others.
Women, please love yourself as a whole
Before you mother an untouched soul.

The pain of a neglected child goes deep,
The nightmares overtake adulthood sleep,
Some slip down a slope so steep
They tumble into an untimely junk heap.
Child, raise yourself above the hurt
It can be done, just be ever alert!

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Thank you, child!

Last night I watched a video about a young woman's gratitude towards her mother for all she had done. I see many posts on FB too about how important gratitude is and I understand the concept of it, but it jars me when I see this expectation that we as parents have that our children should be grateful to us for bringing them into the world, for raising them, for being there for them, for taking their tantrums and their rebellion. 

I wanted children for me. When we were planning our family not once did we say "We need to bring a child into this world so he/she can be born." Was I doing it wrong? I remember saying to my husband, "My life is incomplete if I cannot be a mother." I am therefore, grateful that my life was completed by the arrival of my children.

I raised my children for my own pleasure too. Yes, I did want them to be comfortable and I wanted them to feel loved - but that was just a by-product of my need to keep them happy and loved. It was about me! They filled me up. They were born from me and they gave me the opportunity to be a parent and feel accomplished and today I feel if only I had known some of what I know now, I would have done so many things differently. I did them an injustice by not educating myself enough about parenting and simply following instincts. I am fortunate that my children turned out as well as they did despite having me for a mother. They saw through my mistakes and acknowledged my love instead. For that I am grateful.

To teach our children to be grateful we first need to show them the grace of being grateful to them for being amidst us. The gratefulness will come to a child who knows what being graced by gratitude is. We learn so much from our children - as much if not more than what they learn from us. The basics that we claim to teach them would have eventually come to them. How to put food in the mouth, how to walk, how to say Mom, how to bathe, how to clean after a bowel movement, how to dress - these eventually can be learned. We send them to school and educate them because we want to be considered good parents of successful children - wanting them to be successful for themselves comes much later.  

From my children I learned about goodness, about compassion, about love, about joy, about guilt, about those butterflies in the stomach when they got on the bike for the first time or bungee jumped! I learned about weed and about computers and 3D movies and about the soul. I got to read amazing books and watch great TV shows & movies that may never have been part of my horizon if my boys had not been in it. I learned about dorms and about bullying and about watching ones child fail and letting them be. I learned to treat them as babies and as adolescents and as adults by watching how they adjusted to me as they grew older. Most importantly I learned to let go!

I am fortunate to have two amazing sons. Very different from one another and yet perfect the way they are. They truly are my biggest joy. Then I have a beautiful soul as a daughter, thanks to my younger son who brought his wife into our family. I am learning new things from her and am grateful to her for teaching me about following through on ones convictions and doing so with grace towards those who do not have the same belief. For one so young she is wise!

So how about a video on parents showing gratitude towards their children? Anyone?

Sunday, January 3, 2016

A Brand New Year!

Moving into January 1st 2016 was in no way different than say moving into March 21st 2012. Yet there is a lot of pomp and splendour like there is every year on January 1st. This year I decided to let it be. I wanted to figure out why there was the need to stay up to watch balls drop and confetti fill the air and fireworks light up the night sky. I have figured out that January 1st 2016 did arrive and all of the things that happen did happen and my non-participation made no difference. That is how insignificant we as individuals are in the larger scheme of things.

April 19th 2014 had immense significance for me. I let April 19th 2015 come and go without celebrating the 1 year anniversary of my husband's new lease on life. He was significant on that day as was I, the surgeons, nurses and nurse aides. That is the day that deserves the pomp and splendour because it decidedly changed the course of our lives.

We are social beings and follow trends to define the direction of some aspects of life, but with making every social trend so important maybe we are leaving behind our personal victories and celebrations, the ones that are significant only to us as individuals or maybe to a select few.

Both my husband and I have been changed by that one event and it continues to teach us something new about ourselves and each other. The lessons maybe small, almost insignificant, and sometimes we are blown away by them. It has opened our minds and taken us into spaces within that we did not know existed. We are closer today than we have been in a long time and it has nothing to do with physical presence.

As individuals we have both grown and that has taught us how to function as a couple. We have been connected for almost 44 years now and today we take each other less for granted than we did 20 years ago. The companionship that we share is something I was always afraid we would never have because we are so different. That fear came from thinking we needed to be similar to make good companions. Today I am celebrating our differences, I am appreciating his quirkiness, I am enjoying his uniqueness. Most of all I am celebrating me. I am no longer trying to align myself to him or getting him to fall in line with me. As an individual I am enough, I am complete.

I have changed as a person not necessarily because of his cancer but because that diagnosis, treatment and recovery pushed me into a direction that I would not have otherwise taken. The path I took led to major changes within me as a person. I discovered things about myself that were evident to many but I was completely blind to. Fortunately I had the unconditional love of my family - especially my very astute children - who helped me on this journey by being kindly critical and openly embracing. As for my significant other - I am in awe of the depth of this very simple hearted yet immensely complex man.

I wish every one a Happy 2016, but encourage you to also celebrate your special days - the ones that push you to grow, or to simply be.


Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Expanding World

A decision about the rights of a section of society in one country causes a ripple that reaches into far off countries almost instantly. When a decision about the rights of a different section of society in the same country happened 50 years ago, I wonder how long it took that ripple to reach the same countries then. The world has expanded!

I have been watching the different reactions to the decision about the expansion of the scope of marriage and am trying to look 50 years into the future. We have a precedent where marriage between 2 races became legal and am sure there was much ado about that decision too, although living in India then, being less than 10 years old and not having television in the country I was completely unaware of it. I wonder if Akashwani even announced the decision on the radio waves that day so many years ago.

There had to have been proponents and opponents to that decision too and I wonder how they feel about their reactions today. Did it matter what they thought? Did their agreement or disagreement impact the world around them? How did the opposing groups interact? The decision to legitimize marriage between the races 'legitimized' the children who till then had no recognition. It expanded the world to include in its midst some amazing people, one of who is the President of the country that decided to expand the scope of marriage 50 years ago and now.

Many today are talking about what the next generation will be like with the decision that SCOTUS took to legitimize marriage between same sex couples and I am sure they have reasons to wonder and then there are those who look at this decision not in terms of sex, procreation, family, who are completely unaffected by the thought of the future generation. Yet we as a society must consider that children who come into this world do deserve our attention and understanding. We are responsible to ensure that our future generation is not unsafe, is not stigmatized, is not made to feel any less because they have same sex parents or because they may not be raised by biological parents. We need to expand our minds to be inclusive.

That is where love comes into play. It is important to recognize that societally and even biologically it may seem important that there be one male and one female parent for every child, but it is more important that the child be nurtured with love by the adults in their lives. There are many amongst us who have been raised by single parents, by adoptive parents, by extended families, by strangers - who have grown to become balanced adults. Then there are amongst us those who have been raised in a conventional two parent home and are not as balanced. There is a need for us to acknowledge that even though the family unit is vital it is not everything. As a human race we need to value oneness - with each other and with our environment. For something or someone to be right something or someone different does not have to be wrong. When change is forced upon us it is because we resisted change in the first place. Change is an integral part of life and growth. Some changes may require fine tuning and even overhaul, but opening ourselves to the challenges that even a single change could bring and tackling those challenges with the acumen we inherently possess, is what enhances our humanness.

It is maturity that allows us to give ourselves the time and the space to reflect on the perspective of those directly affected by this latest decision. 'Straight people' needs to be left out of our vocabulary because it automatically segregates us! Should it matter that two adults choose to be happy together in a relationship that gives them the same rights that two other adults who make a similar choice have? Let us instead turn inwards and see how to become better as a person, how to make this world a better place by our own thoughts and actions, protect those who are unable to protect themselves, serve those who we know need our attention now. There will always be challenges and these will continually change like everything else changes. Living in this moment in the now and working at being the best we can as a people today is what will make the world a better place tomorrow. The creases and folds in the fabric that is our world will always be there and some will iron them out and others will keep creasing and folding, that is the nature of life itself. Each of us may be a small section of the thread that this fabric has been woven with, but it is the tenacity of each section of thread that ensures the fabric endures. Let us be strong, let us strengthen each other with all that we have to offer. Let us not beat the opponents, let us not beat the proponents, instead let us look at how we can contribute to ironing out the challenges that may arise, let us celebrate our differences, let us hear and let us be heard. Every opinion is important and not necessary we have to be in agreement with them all. Harmony only requires active acceptance not agreement. Music requires different notes to be in harmony. If there is only one note it soon becomes meaningless sound.

The world may appear smaller because of technology but it has expanded because we have grown intellectually into a species that does not stay within boundaries. We are a species that has mastered the art of turning dreams into realities. Growth has an exponential pattern and unless we give ourselves the freedom to embrace it, we will be left behind in lifeless rubble. If we self destruct I would rather do it with an expansive, all embracing bang! :)

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Thank you once again!

Another milestone reached today - 7500 views.

This is a blog I started to share the experience of silence and the wealth it brings. I do not know if this blog means anything to anyone else, but to me it is my place of peace. I enjoy reading what I have written before and to compare it to my experience at the present. Often I am surprised at my own writing - not because it is good or bad, but because I am not sure where it came from. I write not with a pre-plan. I feel the urge to write and I simply let my thoughts express themselves through my fingers rather than with my tongue. :) I am a writer, not a talker.

Silence has brought me joy and an awareness of myself, my environment, other people, different perspectives and a deeper understanding of life in general. In silence I am not running the rat race, rather I am watching it and learning how to be and how not to be. Over time I can see that it is not circumstances that change my viewpoint or decision - it is the awareness of who I am that directs me. I may do or say something that is out of character but if in retrospect I see that, it is not difficult to correct myself and get back on track again. I have learned to value my emotions and feelings and direct them to improving myself as a person. Each day I ensure that I live by the edict of being kind rather than right. I respect myself and others and if push comes to shove I always stand by the underdog. Sometimes life decisions may be good for many but bad for one and such decisions have to be made, but even those can be made with empathy.

I have one hole in my life and it comes from a very personal spot that I am unable to share publicly - simply because it would be hurtful to others. Only my soul mates - and I have a handful of them - are aware of it and help to fill that gap with love and understanding and it is because of silence that I was able to identify and deal with it.

This blog is definitely my place of peace. Thank you for visiting and I would love for you to comment on my writing, share your views, your stories, your thoughts.