Thursday, 22 January 2015

The Nature Of Forgiveness

Last night, I had a shocking glimpse at the nature of forgiveness. The problem with today's world is we have access to all these amazing quotes & books & movies with one-liners & Twitter with its smartypants tweets that blow your mind away in 140 characters. They tell us, in simple, uncomplicated ways, how forgiveness is essential. And how love is the key. And we read it all, nod in agreement, throw it into our everyday conversation to look evolved and mature.

Perhaps in this verbal storm of words, the real meaning of things slips away, unable to penetrate deep into our consciousness. And therefore, unable to become a manifest part of our character.

I have long & hard told my mother the necessity of forgiveness. Of anger that burns you while you hold onto it, causing next to no harm to the person it has been directed at. She has found it endlessly difficult to truly forgive. It has been a raging, tearing, searing battle that has lasted years and may last many more years. It turns out, my words to her are no different from the verbal storm I referred to. It turns out, I am no different. I may not have a load as heavy as hers to bear but it seems I do have my share of trauma.

I have managed to tuck it away deep inside of me, unaddressed, seeking relief every chance I get, in the form of acknowledgement & apology.

I got my apology for some of that hurt last night. And guess what? It made no difference. I now know a very scary fact: apologies do not deliver forgiveness. Forgiveness is not between two people or between groups of people. Forgiveness comes from your love for yourself. If you cherish yourself enough, you won't cherish hurt & trauma. Forgiveness is allowing yourself to be at peace with the imperfection of the past. Mostly because nothing can be changed about it anymore. But more so because hurt & trauma are things we do to ourselves by crudely accepting ideas as valid without ever testing them actively.

Did somebody crush your hopes? Did somebody who you thought loved you not cherish you when you most needed it? Did somebody not come & stand up next to you when you were in danger of tipping over?

It turns out, nobody is obliged to be anything to us. Nobody. Except us. We, alone, are obliged to protect ourselves. People do love you. But people will never love you the way you love yourself. And people will never love you according to your definition of complete, absolute, true love. They will do it their way, while balancing their own life & purpose, flawed & marred by their own concepts & emotions & shortcomings. Just like we all do.

It turns out, forgiveness is accepting that only you can truly love yourself.

Monday, 19 January 2015

Being Afraid

Being afraid is okay.

For somebody who spends life being very brave and taking most things head on, being afraid takes a lot of courage. Being able to tell yourself that you are scared of something is a big deal. And I don't quite mean being scared of insects or falling or an injection.

Being afraid means that you value fear. You therefore value life. And fear is essential to survival.

An author once wrote that vertigo is not the fear of heights. Vertigo is the desire to fall. And therefore, fear of heights is an essential quality to garner.

I am afraid of my upcoming surgery. It's going to make things exponentially easier once I heal but nonetheless, while I do, it will hurt. They will keep my eyes open and I will probably not see but I will know in the rest of my body that my eyes are being operated. And I will take 3-4 days to recover, perhaps a week.

The fear of this happening at a very foreseeable future has made me careful. I am putting my businesses in order before this happens. I am figuring ways out to make sure things are fairly smooth for me and for the man while I undergo surgery and then recover.

And I have friends who have promised to call and come over and read. I am going to try audiobooks because I will not be allowed into sunlight, read, get on the phone, laptop or even see TV.

It will be a real vacation with absolute dependence.

Fear makes you accept your state of choicelessness. Fear can be good. Fear can protect.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Why I Won't Be Having Children

I have been meaning to write this post for a while. I have many reasons why I took so long to jot it down; one of them is definitely the fact that I have been keeping fairly busy and a post of this nature takes sitting down peacefully, sorting through a bagful of thoughts and selecting the ones that convey a simple message with maximum clarity. The other reason, is definitely more crucial. I had to know, deep within, that I was absolutely sure of my reasons.

I do not want to have children. Not my own, glorious and respectful as it may be considered by people who believe that motherhood completes women and is our primary function as women. Not adopted, noble though it may be considered to do so by people who talk about countless children who are abandoned or have lost their parents and need a supportive home and a family.

I do not want to have children of any kind. Oddly enough, over the last six years of being married, I have also realised that this extends to all species - I do not want pets any longer, I do not even want plants. I have two plants that are fairly no-nonsense, don't-mess-with-us-and-we'll-grow-just-fine types. And I still find them mildly burdensome. When I travel or when I have to pluck leaves from them (they are basil and curry leaf), it upsets me. I have to arrange to keep them with a friend while I am gone and by now, I have given up plucking leaves from them.

I can only nurture and care for two people on a long term, bordering on all-my-life basis; myself, and my husband, who has never felt burdensome. That's probably because I chose to be with him with complete awareness and choice. And if you know me, you know that I may take forever to make decisions but I do not backtrack on them once they have been made. This decision to not have children took me a long time to make.

I got married fairly early and a lot of my friends who attended my wedding kept saying how it's almost baal-vivaah. It was not. I was 23. The man was 27. And it felt right because we both knew we'd eventually marry each other , no matter how long we had dated. We had been dating for 10 months when we got married.

We had a tumultuous first year of being married. We lived in a horrible house with water supply and electricity issues in a run down neighbourhood in Hyderabad. I was having some troubles with my new role in Hyderabad with an annoying peer and an unsupportive, overbearing boss. We had a pregnancy scare.

My mom in law was living with us for the first two months and while her intention was to be helpful and get us settled, god bless her soul, it turned out to be stressful and annoying to say the least. I was from a different language group, region & the mmum-in-law & I had entirely different worldviews.

We had no bed, no dining table, no washing machine. I hated the food because my in-laws cook rasam everyday and I cannot stand it, to put it mildly. It's food that I have when I am sick or suffering from a bad cold. The tamarind reacts badly with my skin, but that's all my mom-in-law wanted to cook. So I took on the responsibility of cooking everyday after getting home from work and the gym. I was tired everyday and cooking for three. And I had no training whatsoever in cooking, just a widely exposed palette - this and my sense of symmetry kept the rotis round and my cooking balanced. Recipe books were my refuge and they worked most times.

My own mom adjusted very badly to my going away, officially. We were close and she felt abandoned. Eventually, we moved out and rented us a penthouse that we loved, built a simple home that catered to our simple needs and before we knew it, we had been married for a year. That's when it all started. The calls from in-laws, mostly, hinting at when we'd hand deliver the proverbial good news. I felt young, confused and it suddenly dawned on me that marriage also meant family and that included child-rearing, something I had never seriously considered. Our friends and family were popping babies at an alarming rate and the whole "you are next" sword hung over our heads precariously. We panicked and decided we'd revisit this possibility later. We were, after all, young enough.

But as that year passed, I started feeling deeply anxious about this ticking clock. People will tell you all the time that your biological clock is ticking. Guess what else is ticking? Your life clock. You could die any minute. I have lost friends my age and even younger for the most flippant reasons - poisoning by pest control, asthma attack, electrocution and even getting run over by a bike. That clock keeps ticking too. But I digress. The calls continued, going from teasing and light hearted to urgent and disapproving. Anxiety continued to rise like bile inside me. I started keeping an eye out for couple without children, couples who had been married for a while. I was disappointed. Most couples without children were the ones incapable of conceiving because of a variety of medical reasons.

Meanwhile, over the course of 3-4 years, we had had several chances of visiting multiple relatives and seeing their families in action; children being born, elders dying, nurturing roles and the idea of responsibility and care playing out in a very tangible way. Until a month ago*, I had not met a single family with children that was essentially happy. I do not mean "not having problems and therefore happy". I mean "having problems but essentially happy at the core". I started noticing parents who had had children because it was the essential next step. Parents had children because of accidental pregnancies. Parents had children because they thought it'd save their marriage and relationship. Parents who had children because their in-laws pressurised them to have children.

And I saw the children. They knew they were not wanted. I am sorry to burst your bubble but children are extremely perceptive, pure beings, not yet tampered with the pessimism that marks our lives. They are, I feel, adults in small bodies with an acute sense of intuition, all bundled together with innocence. I saw children who had grown up to inherit their parents faults and flaws, resenting their parents for it yet dependent on them. It is an insidious circle and it reeks of unhappiness.

It was then that I started turning to answers from philosophy. There is enough ancient wisdom on this planet that we can tap into for guidance and clarity if you allow yourself to draw your own conclusions. I turned to books, art, music, the internet and started actively searching on one simple question: Is it okay to not want children? That was when I stumbled upon the #Childfree movement. It's global and I'd like you you to do your own research and draw your own conclusions. I did not want it to become "my thing" the way people adopt labels like "feminism" or "gay pride", inheriting a collective body of pain and hate mongering. In essence, the idea gets lost and you are left with a bunch of very angry people who refuse to move with the flow of life and time. Btw, I am very supportive of gay rights because it is, essentially, human rights. And I am a very real feminist.

Over the next two years, I came to peace with my thought process. I had never wanted or desired children and I was done allowing people to shame me, guilt me and take control over my desires and needs. I decided to tell people, freely, that I did not want children. I often got responses like " Oh, maybe you want to focus on your career, or maybe you should channel your energy into art, music, come for plays." This was, of course, better than hearing "Oh, you will feel like it soon enough, tick tock!"

But here's the thing. I am not a career focused person. I am a life focused person. I love my husband and I want to spend a good amount of time with him. I want to be able to sit back and watch the clouds drift. I like travelling once in a while, I love to cook for the husband and for friends. I love dressing up, eating good food, meeting my friends and living in a city that leaves you alone because it is impossibly crowded and fast. I love reading and occasionally, I paint.

I do not have to overcompensate by forcing myself to express my creativity just because I refuse to procreate. I have a simple project. I want to outgrow my families' deficiencies. If I am able to overcome oversensitivity to loved ones and a short temper, all products of my childhood, which was, by the way, a good one - I just had fiery parents - I will have succeeded. I will have not passed them on to my children because I won't have any. And I will not have unleashed individuals with issues onto this planet. That will be my kind deed, my stamp on this world.

Some of my friends and folks feel I hate children. They could not be more sorely mistaken. I love children. Enough to not want to destroy them. I hate parenting. I am somebody who likes doing a good job at whatever I take up. That includes making myself into the best possible version of myself. It's what my life is all about and will continue to be so. And yes, I am no longer going to lie to my folks about what my intentions are. They can stop waiting for us to announce their version of a good news and continue to get on with their lives.

PS: If you or anybody you know is struggling with the idea of going #Childfree, ask them to connect with me. I am not a counsellor but I can be a friend and a listening ear.

*I met a family a month ago. They may not be perfect but they both deeply want their child. I could sense it, I could taste it in the room. I knew this child was lucky to have come to a family that would nurture her, let her grow, let her fly and would never clip her wings with a limited world view. They would place their trust first in her and then listen to the world. They would treat her like an adult in a small person body, intelligent, beautiful and packed with potential greatness. Most importantly, they would protect her. It's parents like these that deserve to have children. I hope you are reading this, Reena, Melroy and Tara.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

2015 Has Been Nice

Like I won one of those Twitter contests, something that happens so rarely to me. And I bought some very funky earrings, one of them being a structural line design of the Eiffel Tower. I bought yellow and light blue nail colour and surprise, surprise, they agree with me and I don't look like a hillbilly. Maybe if all goes well, I will have my first Mac lip colour in a few weeks.

Gym is still a place I love being in. What's even better? We have a bunch of new trainers and they are all task masters. Beasts! So awesome, this means they are going to poke their nose into my every circuit and correct even the slightest of mistakes and make sure there is next to no injury and I will keep getting better and better and in form. Neat!

I have been baking again. After a long gap, of course. Mostly because winter is a lovely time and the oven does not feel like a furnace as much as a comforting heater in the kitchen and there's so many fruits to experiment with. I am still continuing to meet lots of friends this year, which is always a good thing. I threw out some clothes, which is never an easy thing for me to do - I tend to keep them until they absolutely go to pieces. Bad idea. So now I have a huge sack full of clothes that aren't that old and in fairly decent shape but I am done with them so they are all going to charity. Same for books - I am over some books so it's goodbye to them too. This also means extra space. Yay!

I had conducted a webinar in December which went horribly and resulted in some very upset audience members and an even more upset me. I decided to blame it on the system (which was definitely a major cause for the collapse, useless piece of crap, Windows) and the coordinator and to some extent on myself. I decided it was not worth the effort, trying to teach a subject as technical as SEM to a bunch of total novices on a webinar format where communication is so severely limited. But then, a peer and senior told me to do it just once and do it well. Taming a dragon, he called it. Just so I could look back and have no regrets. He told me to do it once and do it well and then never do it again. If nothing else comes out of it, personal growth shall. I agreed. I am in the middle of this webinar series now and I think I am good! My audience is learning quickly and the teaching is fun, they are interactive and we are clearing questions. Dragons are being tamed!

I also attended a very short session that Ramya was conducting with a bunch of college kids. It helped to see things from their perspective, because personally, I feel that is one of the toughest types of audience one can encounter. They want answers but are easily bored, they know they don't know that much about the real world and yet, here they are, on the brink of adulthood, fresh from the trials of childhood and it's an odd mix of freedom and cluelessness. They want to say they are scared and lost and unsure but they are not going to do it because they just got out of the total parental trap of being told that they are scared and lost and unsure. I should be talking heaps more to that sort of a group. They want to be shown the way without feeling like they are being guided again.

Dear lord, am I glad I am not in that age group anymore!

The man is playing a lot more tennis and keeps asking me if I am unhappy that he keeps going off on weekends and on some days of the week to play. Honestly, I am not. I do miss having him around all day on weekends but I also have tons of my own things to finish and he looks so happy post game. So I think we will manage. At least with this arrangement, he's getting in some much needed physical activity.

Also, I ate an egg today. After what must be...umm...years. I have eaten eggs in desserts, caramel custards and challahs but you know, a standalone egg - like a sunny side up or a boiled egg or an omelette? First time today. I am still not comfortable around a runny yolk (how did I eat it everyday as a kid, still beats me) so I settled for an omelette and it tasted good. Pretty good. Of course, I drowned it in fresh basil and rosemary so maybe there's some merit to all those aromatics but hey, one step closer to quick fix breakfasts. I didn't even feel like straight bleaching my mouth post breakfast. So relieved!

I know some of you are still reading this space :) Smiles and hugs to y'all!