LET THE LID OFF

 

Long back the Welsh post W.H. Davies opened his famous poem ‘Leisure’ with the lines –

What is this life if, full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare.

These lines stand true even today, in fact, in a more profound way. Technological advancements, considered to be a mark of development were meant to make life easier, simpler and less hectic. But, a peek into our own lives and into the lives of those around us would surely give us a different picture.

Before workplaces were digitized, manual paperwork mounted pressure on both employees and employers, and of course resulted in systemic delays. Today with digitization, we still have overworked employees with employers desperate to continue their visibility in a market of steep competition.

Without home appliances, household work seemed so cumbersome. Now with tools and appliances of all possible types, the pressure still remains.

Pressure is not merely the presence or absence of certain elements (people, situations, conditions) in our lives, but also the perception of it all. Take a school/college examination for example. One student feels pressurized to perform well, whereas another is too cool about it (keeping all other conditions constant). Both write the exam and score approximately the same. What’s the difference? One was too anxious. The other was not.

While many of us are made to feel the pressure and acknowledge the same, some are more prone to picking up the stress from the air just by the sniff of some probable occurrence. While there are no cut-out solutions for all types of pressures, some coping mechanisms that work well in most pressurized circumstances are worth enumerating.

  1. Avoid gossip, suspicion, scandals and rumours of all types in all circumstances. Of the major sources of unwanted tension/ stress/ pressure are these listed above. Do not let these dwell in your heart and mind. Somebody has written the following lines very aptly –

If some bit of gossip come,

File the thing away;

If a scandalous, spicy crumb,

File the thing away;

If suspicion comes to you

That your neighbour is not true,

Let me tell you what to do –

File the thing away.

 

Do this for a little while,

Then go out and burn the file.

                                                                                         – Anonymous

  1. Delegate responsibilities and tasks. You may be the best planner in your house or the most meticulous performer in your team. Still, do not shoulder the tasks of everyone upon yourself. One clever way of people shifting their share of responsibilities on to you is by a word of appreciation. Don’t be deceived. Stick to your work. Of course, you can lend a helping hand to others. But, do not be too naive to fall prey into such tactics.
  2. Do not procrastinate your to-do tasks. Prioritize instead. When there are too many assignments for a given day, we tend to put off certain tasks for another more convenient day. At times when the time constraint is real, such a step is needed. But frequent procrastination when chores can be well done the same day, leads to piling up of tasks and hence, an increase in situation.
  3. Open the lid when required. Imagine a pressure cooker that doesn’t let out the accumulated steam. Such a pressure cooker is a faulty appliance and is a potential threat to one’s safety. In the very same way if you allow too much pressure to pile up within you, you put yourself at risk. So, let the steam out.
  4. Take time off. Take time off from work to be with family. Take time off from family responsibilities once in a while to rejuvenate yourself. Work these out and you’ll be amazed as to how your productivity and efficiency be it at home or work, improves.
  5. Do not keep abuse to yourself. If you are a victim of any form of abuse be at home or work, do not keep the saga to yourself. Don’t endure the pressure by building tall walls around yourself. Share with trusted people and seek help.
  6. Alternate caregiving. If you are taking care of an ailing family member, keep alternate caregivers handy. They may be relatives or friends or hired helps. You need to avoid the burn-out so that you are available during the most crucial times.
  7. Seek suggestions. When in dilemma, especially during phases of decision-making, seek suggestions from experienced people. Don’t lead yourself to splitting headaches thinking about the pros and cons of things you don’t know much about.
  8. Find ways to give vent. Hit the gym. Cry. Sing. Spend time in the lap of nature. Talk with friends. Eat your favourite delicacy. Visit the shopping mall of your choice. 
  9. Share it with God. No matter what be the pressure situation in your life, you can share it with God. Pour out your heart before Him. He may seem to be a silent listener. But, He is a compassionate worker behind the scenes as well.

Apart from these general tips of handling various pressures, situation-specific ways of coping with pressure will be discussed in different articles this week.

Remain stress-free and release the pressure.

 

 

 

THE LACK – LUSTRE BAY LEAVES

The flora and fauna around us, stand as the tallest witnesses of the Creator God.

“Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made.”

A few weeks before as I was enjoying a bowlful of delicious kheer (porridge) prepared by my mother, I took a spoonful into my mouth with half a bay leaf (commonly known as tej patta in India) hidden within. As I removed it from my mouth hoping to enjoy the delicacy without any hindrance, I began thinking of the lack-lustre aromatic bay leaf.

And these are some of the things I learnt from nature, without any technology being involved in the process –

  1. STIFF, YET FRAGRANT

The bay leaves – natural or processed, are stiff. No doubt about it. You can break them only with a crack sound. However, the aroma they impart to the delicacies they are added to, is indisputable.

How many times have we written ourselves or someone else off as being stiff-necked or as hard as a nutshell? The lesson bay leaves teach us is that no matter how stiff you may be, you are capable of imparting fragrance to those around you. Discover your hidden fragrance and help others discover theirs.

  1. BEHIND THE SCENES, YET MAKING A DIFFERENCE

After a dish is cooked, the bay leaves added to it are generally removed. The leaves being coarse in texture cannot be eaten. They can neither be chewed, nor swallowed. Hence, they are best removed. Yet the difference that the bay leaves cause to the dish they are added to, is remarkable.

Are you worried that you are often relegated to the background, despite the efforts you put in? Do you feel that it’s not worth being there in the first place and that it wouldn’t matter much after all? Sorry, you are mistaken. You are capable of making a difference by your presence. Bay leaves don’t show any signs of prominence. They just make a difference and step out. And that leaves an impact for the dish!

  1. NOT AFFECTED BY CIRCUMSTANCES

Bay leaves being hard and stiff, are not affected by the extreme heat and cold temperatures they are exposed to in the process of cooking. In the course of adding their aroma to the dish, at times they turn blackish. But, their properties remain intact.

When faced with extreme circumstances, most of us feel as if we are almost near the edge. As humans blessed with a plethora of feelings and emotions, it is impossible to remain unfazed by our situations. We laugh, weep, rage, plead, become frustrated and rightly so, else we would become robots. However the lesson here is not, to harden oneself in the face of delirious circumstances, rather to strive to keep our basic nature unaltered.

  1. ADDED TO A VARIETY OF DISHES

What amazes me is the variety of dishes that these leaves can be added to. They can be added to sweet dishes, to savouries and to spicy dishes as well. And in all these cases, they impart their aroma with equal finesse. Be it briyani, kheer, halwa or some types of soups and stews, their presence is very much needed. Moreover, bay leaves are used in cuisines in many parts of the world – Asian, Mediterranean, Italian, Brazilian, Indonesian and many other cuisines of the world.


Thinking of our multiple roles in this world, a woman maybe a daughter, a sister, a wife, a co-sister, a mother, a sister-in-law, a friend, a job-holder with a particular position. Similarly, a man maybe a son, a brother, a husband, a father, a co-brother, a brother-in-law, a friend, a job-holder with a particular position. Apart from these basic roles, there are times when one has to switch roles. For instance, a single parent has to fulfill the roles of the absent-parent as well, to the best of his/her ability. Parents have to take on the mantle of teachers, nurses, counsellors to their children. In fulfilling all these responsibilities and roles are we able to do justice, just as bay leaves impart their aroma to all types of dishes with equal finesse?

  1. REMOVES ANY UNWANTED ODOUR

Those of us who prepare and have non-vegetarian dishes, know the importance of bay leaves in those dishes for sure. In order to make the dish palatable and remove any unwanted odour, bay leaves along with certain other condiments are a must. Along with imparting their aroma, bay leaves absorb the repulsive odour that at times accompanies non-vegetarian preparations.

How adept are we to remove negative forces from around us? In the social world that we live in, we are exposed to gossips, back-biting, depressive statements, angry and frustrating words, malicious discussions, and such other things. Are we party to them all or do our aroma, positive words and righteous behaviour absorb these unwanted foul-smells, thus leaving the family or group a better place to be in?

  1. MEDICINAL PROPERTIES

Bay leaves have multiple medicinal properties. One handy tip – Boil a few bay leaves, a few pods of cloves, a few black cardamoms, a few basil leaves in melted rock sugar (commonly known as mishri in India). Strain the solids and have a cup of the concoction once a day, when having a stubborn cold with accumulated phlegm. It works really well. As it warms up the body from within, be sure to keep your stomach cool by having plenty of water and other fluids at room temperature at other times. Bay leaves are also good at detoxifying the body, optimizing digestion, reducing bacterial infections and the many more.

Like the bay leaves, let us strive to be the balms for others during their times of inconvenience. Just being there for a person is the best medicine for his /her difficult time.

  1. PUNGENT, YET AROMATIC

Bay leaves cannot be chewed. They are very pungent. Any attempt to eat them would result in immediately spitting them out of our mouths. Yet, they impart a welcome aroma to the dishes they are added.

Life isn’t always fair. At times, events in our life weigh us down. I met a lady some time back, whose company no one wanted. When I got to speak to her, she confided how life situations and difficult people in her life had made her that way. She sighed very sadly, “I used to be a chirpy, happy-go-lucky person, full of positivity – but, I have lost all those traits now. I have become hard to myself and to others.” It is never easy to be sweet to others and self, when the heart is breaking within. Yet, it’s not impossible. Bay leaves teach us that.

How do the bay leaves teach us so many things?

Had God not blessed the bay leaves with such extravagant qualities, it wouldn’t have been possible for them to impart those. I marvelled at God’s creation! These leaves that are found in almost every house, possessing such culinary and medicinal properties have so much to teach us. Praise be to the Creator who has designed these leaves this way.

God has endowed each of us with multifarious potentials of the head and the heart – definitely much more than the bay leaves. Let us not keep our aroma hidden. Let’s add flavour to the world around us.

PRESERVE YOUR NECTAR

Horatio G. Spafford was a successful lawyer and businessman in Chicago. Blessed with a lovely family consisting of his wife and five children (four daughters and a son), Spafford had all that one would desire. It was then that tragedy struck. His two-year old son died of pnemonia. As he was grieving over this loss, the same year (1871), the great Chicago fire swallowed up much of his business. Gathering much courage, Spafford started rebuilding his business. But the economic downturn of 1873 further hit his business. He changed his plans to travel to Europe with his family – sending them first, promising to join them soon. As the ship carrying his wife and children was crossing the Atlantic, it collided with another sea vessel. All four of his daughters died in the mishap. Only his wife was rescued and she sent Spafford the telegram – “Saved alone.” Spafford hurried to meet his grieving wife saying, “The Lord gave and he has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” As his ship came to the place where his daughters had died, he penned a wonderful hymn which has been a source of encouragement for many, over the years. The first few lines read as follows –

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to know
It is well, it is well, with my soul.


It is well, (it is well),
With my soul, (with my soul)
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

(The hymn can be heard in the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nKPvBV4xqVw )

Joseph Scriven was a man born in Ireland in an affluent family and received good education. In course of time, he fell in love with a lady. However, the day before their wedding she fell from her horse, while crossing a bridge in the River Bann and was drowned in the water below. All this, as Scriven stood watching from the other side of the river! In an effort to overcome his deep sorrow, Joseph left Ireland and shifted to Canada as a 25-year old, where he was much loved by the people for his helpful ways. In course of time, he again fell in love. However, tragedy struck again and his lady-love died of pneumonia shortly before they could wed. Scriven devoted the rest of his life to helping the poor and the needy. In order to comfort his ailing mother who lived in Ireland and was broken at her son’s ordeals, he wrote a poem which was later converted into a hymn and has been a source of comfort and strength to many. A few lines of the hymn read thus –

Are we weak and heavy-laden,
Cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Saviour, still our refuge—
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?
Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In His arms He’ll take and shield thee,
Thou wilt find a solace there.

(The hymn can be heard in the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8SCorW9r_Is )

Friends, may be you have been where Spafford and Scriven have been and that has made you bitter – at yourself, at family, friends, society. Maybe your life events have not been of this type – but harsh, nevertheless. How has your response been?

It is easy to be bitter and remain bitter. If we turn around and observe people around us, we will notice that each one has a heavy burden to make him/her bitter – only the nature may be different (some born without fully grown limbs, some widowed within a day of marriage, some stricken with terminal illness, some battling marital separation, failures, poverty, etc.)

Let’s remember –

  • Each of us has ample scope to be bitter.
  • To remain bitter or overcome is a choice that has to be made.
  • A bitter spirit depletes the body and numbs the soul.
  • Forgiveness is a powerful weapon that defeats bitterness.
  • Accepting the Sovereignty of God plays a crucial role in coming to terms with bitterness.
  • Counting the numerous other blessings enables to shift focus from the bitterness-causing losses.

If you have been struck with life events that threaten to make you bitter, don’t allow these events/circumstances to suck the nectar out of you. Look unto God – the radiant source of Strength, Grace, Mercy, Love, Peace and Joy and with His power be an overcomer!

 

 

 

 

 

HERE’S ANOTHER WAY TO LOOK AT FAILURE

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Earlier I had spoken about ceasing to live in failure and moving forward. But to most of us this would seem as a Herculean task as our mind replays the mishaps occurred to us again and again. However, we should make an attempt to believe that there is always a way out. No situation especially bad ones is constant. We have heard that time is the best healer but some questions pop in my mind. Do we really come out of our failed situations completely? Do we have the strength to visit those places in our minds years later without getting hurt?

When I questioned myself, I probably could answer and it was a yes. I viewed my bad times as a time of assessment. I was able to do a reality check on myself. It was an opportunity for me to look for good in the situation so that things can be better. There has to be some good in the failure that will inspire.

It was during this time that I had an urge to learn new things and make myself updated about the world around me. An android language learning application helped me to learn a foreign language along with which I concentrated on my passion as a dancer. We all have hobbies, interests and hidden talents. This is the time to discover and nurture them.

I found my way out of the failure when I chose to view it differently. I thought about what good it did to me and soon I encountered the strong and confident person who was hidden within me. My failure seemed to be a tiny error in front of the new achievements that I made.

Let us believe we are worthy of rewards even though at times we are at fault ’cause it would help us spring up to a height whenever we hit the bottom. It would be a wonderful gift from you to yourself.

Ruth Samarpita Sarkar