BALANCE SELFISHNESS AND SELFLESSNESS

My friends used to make fun of me because for me, mantra for a good life is “Balance”. They used to call me a true Libran – yeah, because I like to hold a scale in my hand and balance stuff all the time. That doesn’t necessarily mean that I am an expert in attaining Balance. It just means that I believe with the right balance between black and white, we can find the right shade of Grey that works perfectly well for us. Every person has his/her own shade of grey and “one grey fits all” is never true.

Joy – What really is Joy? For me it is a state of being content with life. A state where I believe that every aspect of my life is going perfectly well. My relationships, my health, my finances and my work – all aspects of my life are adequately moving on as per my expectations. It doesn’t mean that all aspects of my life are easy and without any problems. It means that there are problems enough to keep me challenged and motivated, however the amount of problems have not exceeded my resources to solve them and hence my cortisol levels stay in control.

How do I intend to achieve Joy in life? I am far from being joyous in life currently. Of course, I have had moments where I felt extremely joyful but those were temporary moments. But I do strive to achieve Joy in my life at all times. This means that I am always trying to sort of juggle between different aspects of my life to ensure that no one area is making me too stressed. I believe all of us have our own ways of doing this.

One of the important ways for me to achieve this is to ensure that I am not sacrificing my own needs in order to achieve something else. Every time I have made myself a lesser priority than others, I have suffered. I don’t want be a typical protagonist of a typical Indian Soap wherein the lady of the house is always giving up so that her family can have the best. Neither do I want to be a typical vamp of a typical Indian Soap who is ready to kill anybody anytime in order to achieve her selfish goals. I want to somewhere in between of these extremes. I could sometimes oscillate between these two extremes too if the need comes. But overall, I need to find that balance (that perfect shade of grey that works for me). This is my only mantra to ensure a Joyous life!!

TINY JOYS OF LIFE

We often forget the little things of our early life because our brain only has limited conscious memory and it continues to make choices at every moment of life. It constantly deletes the old memories that have never been used to make way for the new memories that are more important for the current situation. 

For example – I was one of the toppers in my board exams but today I will probably faint if I am handed over a Physics examination paper of Class X which used to be my favourite subject then. I might still vaguely remember some concepts that are probably used in day to day lives but I sure don’t remember the formulas and solutions to those complicated questions. 

However when I was given this topic to write on “Joyous moments” – one particular memory stood out that still hasn’t faded even after years. 

When I was in Class VI, I and one of my friends was very fond of cycling (as most kids of that age are). We used to cycle a few kilometres daily, even used to try a few stunts on the cycle. We were living in the IIP colony in Dehradun which is a place of uneven terrain. This made cycling even quite a challenge and we loved it. The distance between the colony where we lived to the IIP Guesthouse was close to 1.5 km and we used to do multiple rounds between these two points. 

One day while we were busy cycling, we saw an old Uncle (must be in mid ’50s) and his daughter (might be early twenties) walking from the IIP colony towards the guest house. They had some luggage with them and had no clue as to how far the guest house was. They asked us for the directions and the distance, we happily told them and moved on with our cycling. After a few mins, we realized that it was really a long walk for them in this terrain, carrying all the luggage. So, we decided to offer them help. We had been strictly instructed by our parents to not mingle with strangers and hence there was some hesitation on our side. 

Finally, we made up our minds and we offered to carry their luggage on our cycles till the Guest House. Uncle also hesitated a bit but looking at the distance and their luggage – they agreed. We had to do a couple of rounds on the cycle to be able to transfer all the luggage. And when we bid them goodbye in the Guesthouse, Uncle and his daughter filled us with gratitude. Uncle even gave us a packet of some small eatables like chips and chocolates which we happily took and went on our cycles again. 

This particular incident is so important to me because for the first time in my life I experienced the JOY of GIVING. Yes getting chips and chocolates without asking was a big deal at that age but we did not offer help out of greed of receiving something from them. We just did so because it felt right. In spite of all the warnings given to us by our parents, we went ahead and helped a couple of strangers and in return, we received so much gratitude. 

This incident had such an impact on me. It made me aware of the infinite joy the Universe offers to us when we selflessly help the ones in need. It was a tiny incident of my life but had a lifelong impact on 10-year-old me.

DIFFERENT STAGES OF GRIEF

Blog - The Death Of The Headphone Jack: Seven Stages Of Grief

It’s been one full year since Reena lost her younger brother in a bike accident. And today as she sits down with her cup of coffee, she is bombarded with the memories of that unfortunate day. The crying, the grief, the stress, the blood, the dead body, the frantic calls, the guilt, the police case, the hospital, the crematorium and so much more that she wishes nobody had to ever experience. 

Nothing has been more painful for her than to see his brother’s body lay their lifeless. The moment she heard the news from a stranger calling from her brother’s phone – she was devastated. She wished and prayed that this was some sort of a misunderstanding or horrible prank but when she reached the accident spot – she immediately identified the bike and then the helmet, it was indeed her brother’s. Then she saw the clothes smothered in blood, she identified the Levis Jeans and the UCB tee that was supposed to be blue but now was entirely red. And she screamed her most painful scream when her eyes met the face. 

Her eyes welled up and she shut them close as she remembered the moment. She shut her eyes so tight in an attempt to shut the pain but that never happens. Even after a year, the pain seems to be so deep – it is like being killed a million times. She kept her cup down and moved towards the bookshelf. Picked up the book called “Stages of grief”. She had read it so many times in the last one year. She opened the first page and it said “May this give you the strength. Love Sujata”. This book made her aware of 7 different stages of grief which she now knew by heart. But she had no clue which stages she was in now. It sounded quite easy to understand these stages in the context of somebody else. But when the grief is your own, it is almost impossible to know if you are in the Depression stage or Pain and Guilt stage. 

Reena was slowly getting aware that she was past the stage of “Shock and Denial”. She had spent weeks after the funeral believing that all this was just a bad dream and that if she just calls him, he will be right there. She sent countless messages to him on WhatsApp, it always had just one black tick. She left many messages on his Facebook profile (which was now declared as a Memorialized account) and those were only responded to by others who shared her grief. She would keep calling his number over and over again even though she had witnessed his lifeless body being burnt. 

Reena had also very clearly experienced the stage of “Anger and Bargaining”. Her brother was going to meet his girlfriend Kritika when he was hit by a truck. Reena blamed Kritika for months and wondered if there was some way to stop him from being on road at that time. Multiple “what if” and “if only” statements kept crossing her mind. She completely stopped communicating with Kritika even though they had been good friends earlier only because she held her responsible for what happened.

“What if I had called him that day?” 

“This wouldn’t have happened, if I would have agreed to go out with him and Kritika for the movie” 

“What if he would have taken that job in Kolkata, maybe he would still be alive.”

These hypothetical scenarios kept doing the rounds in her head. 

There were days when Reena felt really at peace. She would just close her eyes and accept that her brother was gone and even though this is one of the worst things that have happened to her – it has indeed happened. And she needs to live with this forever. She would remember all the good times that she had with her brother and believe that he is always around no matter what. This was the stage of “Acceptance and Hope”.

Then some days the stage of “Depression” would come lashing back at her. She would stay silent mostly, not thinking anything. Just sitting at one place for hours together. After multiple rounds of this stage, she now knew that she needed help to get out of depression. Sujata was the only person she would call who always succeeded to bring her out of this abyss. “Look at your bright life. You are just 27, you have a promising career and an amazing set of parents. Your brother would have always wanted to see you happy and successful, don’t make him unhappy.”

Today Reena saw a new hope when she read an email from Sujata that made a lot of sense. The email said –

“Dear Reena,

I have new understanding of what death is and I would like to share it with you. Maybe it will help you. Imagine that a bunch of kids are playing with bubbles and they are competing with each other to make the largest bubble that can stay for the longest time. The moment they blow the bubbles, they all start screaming – see my bubble is going so up and so fast. Each bubble is holding some amount of air in it and once the bubble breaks there is no boundary around the air. Now no kid can identify his/her bubble. 

Our body on this planet is just like a bubble. Once this bubble breaks, we get mixed into The Creator and cannot identify with our worldly identity anymore. However, the human body is much more complex than a soap bubble. It has layers of existence. The physical body (blood and flesh) is the outermost layer of this bubble and this is what we identify with the most. Once this physical body is gone, there are other layers that are perceived in many different ways in different cultures. These layers continue to exist for as long as they are not ready to break. Once these layers break, the soul dissolves into The Creator. 

In case of sudden deaths, these inner layers might be strong and the essence of that person might still be lingering around for quite a few days. For people who died peacefully at an old age, the inner layers also break along with the physical body. Their souls can dissolve into The Creator within a couple of hours of death. 

Maybe your brother is still around you and taking care of you and maybe he is gone into The Creator only to be reborn into a fresh body from a womb. Either way, you must seek closure to what you feel for your brother. Do some meditation tonight. Try to feel his presence and if you don’t feel anything then just let him go because he needs to be liberated even from your thoughts. 

Love,

Sujata”

Reena cried hysterically when she read this. She wasn’t clear what she felt but it felt like somebody had lifted a huge weight from her shoulders. She meditated not just that night and every single night. It gave her peace and warmth and gradually she believed that she was ready to let go of him. This most probably is an “Upward turn” and she wouldn’t fall back into the “Depression” stage again.

AM I AGEING?

This is often a question almost every middle-aged man or woman asks. Am I ageing? Is my skin getting dull? Am I losing hair? Am I gaining (or losing) weight? Are my energy levels the same? Yes, it is obvious. I ask those questions too but very careful not to fall into the abyss of anti-ageing scam. 

I could never understand somebody would want to reverse the process of ageing or would want to look like a young adult all of their lives. Of course, it makes sense to ensure that one is living a healthy life but it is definitely not recommended to use all sort of chemicals and surgeries in order to look younger. 

Recently, I read a random article about the clothes that a woman should not wear after she turns 40. I am not sure why somebody would write an article of that kind. Why is it awkward for a 45-year-old woman to wear ripped jeans (for example) or polka dots maxi dress (maybe)? Probably because they are considered age inappropriate. But again the problem is that our Media is very youth-oriented. The models that dress up (in any media) for any kind of fashion are often young 20’s something girls with size zero Barbie doll figures. None of the media really shows up models of different ages that are dressed up in “age appropriate” dresses. How would a 40-year-old woman who is of a certain structure decide what suits her body? How would she find out if her experiments with a different kind of fashion are working or not? 

Ageing is a biological process that needs to be respected. Fighting ageing is like fighting time – it will always be a lost battle. If you only wear confidence, your wisdom and your experience on your face – you will look graceful. 

Don’t be scared of ageing, instead embrace ageing. Take up your hobbies and passions that you never had time for in your younger years. There are something’s that you can never find time for till you are 40. One of my dear friends took up learning Bharatnatyam at 44 along with a 10-year-old daughter and now is performing across multiple forums in South India. My Mother in law who is nearing 60 beat me and came first in a 5k marathon. My dad bought a geared cycle at his 70th birthday and starting cycling a few kilometres every morning. 

Such people embrace their age and make sure that they make most of the time that they have. They don’t try to anti-age, they only embrace their age and indeed they age gracefully. 

PARENTING A PUP

I still remember the first time I looked at those innocent and scared eyes. She was just so tiny wrapped up in a blanket. Her eyes had opened only a few days. She is a combination of black, brown and white. Long hanging ears on her side, she entered my life like the most amazing blessing. I was still mad when my brother in law carried her inside. As soon as she stepped on the floor, she peed because she was so scared. And to my surprise, I forgot that I was supposed to be angry at this. I just looked at her in a complete awe. She was trying to bark but it sounded like a tiny little scream. I took her in my lap right then and fell in love with her forever. There was no way I could even think of driving this little baby out of my home. She was here to stay, no matter what. 

This was the first time ever that my emotions took a 180 degree turn in such a short span to time. I still knew that house is always going to be a mess now, I had no idea how to take care of a baby dog. I was as scared as that little baby was. But I knew that she and I have created a bond in just a few seconds that could never be broken now. 

What followed was no less than a wreck. My favorite sandals, all the cables, old newspapers, a few pair of earphones, my specs, corners of our furniture and so many countless items in the house were no broken as our little darling who was teething had to chew on almost everything. Carpet, sofa, bed now always had a layer of dog hair – no matter how many times I cleaned it. Training her to pee and poop outside made me so frustrated a few times, house almost always was stinking. We had slowly got used to it but any guest in our home simply asked – “Why do you guys live like this?” 

I had no clue what was it that we were doing wrong. The problem was that we simply could not train her. Beagles are difficult to train – this was something I read in google. We tried so many different ways to train her and she slowly got the hang of it. The only problem now was that she is a big time foodie. She is such a foodie that she would get sick of eating but wouldn’t stop eating if she was given unlimited supply of food. This also made her a food thief in house. We couldn’t keep any food item on the dining table because she would such flick it so cleverly that we would all be surprised. Later on we were told by the vet that beagle is one of those breeds of dog that cannot identify with full stomach. They didn’t have the natural instinct to realize that her stomach was full. 

She is almost 10 years old now and have multiple old age issues. She isn’t half as playful as she was back in 2011. I still remember the way she would just come and curl in my lap anytime of the day or night. For a long time, she didn’t use her own bed but slept on mine (I know, not very hygienic but I loved sleeping with her). She has been my powerful source of love during the most difficult times of my life. She has awakened a million desires in me to be the best person. She has instilled hope in me because taking care of her was one of my strongest missions few years back. 

Taking care of her made me a responsible and disciplined human being. Of course, it was not as cumbersome as having your own child but it was indeed a different challenge altogether. She slept on my bed, went out on trips with us, cried with us, made merry with us, loved all of us, played with us and most importantly have been a part of us. 

She is my first child and she made me a parent for the very first time!

BALANCE YOUR CIRCLE OF INFLUENCE

For all the kids who are soon going to be entering adulthood, I just have this one advice. If you learn the art of balancing your circle of influence, you will grow up to be a really strong and mature adult.

This is something I learnt over the years of entering and maintaining adulthood. The range of emotions and experiences that an individual goes through while growing up is quite complex and the art of deriving learnings out of those experiences is not an easy task.

What is a circle of influence?

A circle of influence is a circle that constitutes all the things that can be controlled by an individual. When a baby is born, the circle of influence of that baby is really small – it constitutes crying for every survival need. That is all a baby can do. As the baby grows to be a child, the circle of influence grows. Now a child can control when he wants to walk or run or crawl or play. As the child grows up and starts going to school – he can further control his schedule, his habits, his relationships and many more things. The same child later has the freedom to choose his career and later his profession and his life partner. Life goes on and on increasing the circle of influence. 

The bigger the circle of influence, the higher are the stakes. Your circle of influence also depends on the kind of work you do. Shri Narendra Modi definitely has a much larger circle of influence than me because he can control the nation to a large extent. A number of social activists, politicians, industrialists have a big circle of influence. One must strive to increase his/her circle of influence to an extent that he/she can handle it peacefully. 

A mature human being knows two things 

  1. He has a defined circle of influence. He knows exactly what is within the circle and what is outside of it. He plans for the stuff that is inside and doesn’t stress over what is outside. This distinction is the key to happy and mature life. One who has the wisdom to understand the boundary of his circle of influence lives through every situation blissfully. When I was growing up, I was a much-stressed child. Everything used to make me nervous. The exams, my result, my image in front of people, my looks, my confidence and everything else. This is very obvious for a young adult. But over the period of time, I realized that I can only control what I can control. I cannot control people’s opinion about me. I can change myself in any direction but I need to decide the direction myself. Only this attitude turned me from a people pleaser to the person that I am today. 
  1. He knows how to grow his circle of influence at a slow and steady pace. He doesn’t want to grow his circle just in a day, if he does that – he knows that he won’t have the resources to control all that is inside the circle. He plans for it and slowly steadily expands his circle. While I was growing up, I was always in a hurry for making my circle of Influence larger. I was not aware of this concept but unconsciously I was trying to do the same. Many times I even made mistakes because I was in a hurry to influence the world. I lost friends and damaged relationships because I was in such a hurry to be a responsible person who is looked up to. These things take time. If we take our learnings and failures in stride, what we want will eventually happen.

People who fail in balancing their circle of influence usually make following mistakes:

  1. They don’t know how to control their circle. I have seen grown-ups who cannot handle their professions or their studies or their relationships. They get just too overwhelmed by things that they are expected to control. This is generally a disaster and leads an individual to all sorts of frustrations in life. These are typically the people who are depressed or have suicidal thoughts because escaping is eventually the only route they are left with if they don’t learn to control their circle. 
  2. They want a huge circle in a very short period of time. Have you heard of celebrities who grew up too fast and got too much media attention too quickly? Eventually they land up in some or other controversy just because they grew their circle too quickly and never learnt the art of controlling their circle.
  3. They cannot distinguish what is inside and outside of the circle. This is a very common problem that most of us suffer with. I know of few of a people who stress over every negative news that is sold to them on the News Channels. They get sleepless nights if our Indian Army men are getting killed at the border. They worry when they hear of robberies happening in broad daylight. They love the “crime patrol” kind of shows. I don’t want to say that you should not be aware of what is happening around the world or not have compassion towards people. But if you have over-compassion, it doesn’t help. It is something that is outside of your circle and it is best to let go off that feeling.
  4. They believe the emotions that they feel are outside of their circle. This is one of the key problem, many of us believe that a negative emotion that is stirred inside of us are caused due to something outside. “He made me angry or mad” or “She makes me feel really happy” – when we say such things, we give the responsibility of our emotions to others. We allow them to control something that should be inside our circle. The emotions that arise inside my head are supposed to be controlled by me. If I hand over my emotions in somebody else’s circle of influence – then I am practically like the baby with almost negligible circle of influence. 

Balance your circle and if you can do that well enough – people are going to appreciate your maturity wholeheartedly. 

SELF-LOVE IS NOT SELFISH

Self-love is a constant choice. It’s not a magical feeling that appears on one day. It’s a commitment to have your boundaries, your well-being, your mental and emotional health, and your body.

Let us first establish that self-love is very different from being selfish. I have struggled with this concept for ages. The way I grew up, I believed that I will be the nicest and most loved person on the universe if I put my own needs at the very end. The result was that at one of point of time in my life I felt like I was being used as a doormat by every other person in my life. I would hear my near and dear ones tell me – “Why are you doing it to yourself?” And I would just put up a smile and say that – “This is how I am”. 

Even though I believed that I was being the nicest person by putting my needs at the end of my priorities, it is not humanly possible to ignore your needs. My needs and desires manifested in other ways and I ended up committing some of the huge blunders which caused further complications in my life. I learnt it the hard way that if I would have taken care of myself in a healthy way at the first place, maybe everything would have fallen in place. 

Being selfish means being nice to only yourself at the cost of other’s wellbeing. Self-love means loving yourself and others keeping in mind your own and other’s wellbeing. A selfish person says – “I am the most important person and nobody else matters”. A person with self-love says – “I am as important as everybody else. My needs are as important as everybody else’s. I need to ensure that I am healthy so that I can take care of others.” 

There was a time when I would feel immensely guilty for spending money on myself. Any additional shopping or spending few extra thousand bucks in beauty parlor and I would end up feeling guilty overnights together. However, I would feel happy if that money is spent on my family members’ needs. 

It took me years to realize that I was indeed in a very unhealthy situation. It further took years of constant monitoring of my thoughts and actions to get myself on the right path. I had to come to a position where I could demand what I thought was right for me. I had to change my mindset to believe that my needs are as important as everybody else’s. 

3 years back when I started going to gym for the first time after my son’s birth – I realized how much I had ignored my body since last few years. 

Now, let me tell you a few things that I do for myself and myself alone:

  1. I take time out to meditate and do affirmations every day. It helps me reset my brain.
  2. I take time to work out every day.
  3. I ensure to budget some money for spending on myself every month.
  4. I keep a packet of dark chocolate that nobody else (even my son) supposed to eat. ☺
  5. I define boundaries in every relationship. I observe and monitor my decisions to ensure that I didn’t step on any of the boundaries. 
  6. I invest in my hobbies regularly now. 

This is just the beginning of the list, with everyday this list keeps growing.

My journey of self-love started a little late after I had already made a lot of mistakes over and over again. I was so busy blaming everybody in my life for not taking care of me and I didn’t even realize that I myself wasn’t giving any importance to my own needs. Once this realization came, a lot of things fell in place.

Love yourself instead of loving the idea of other’s loving you