Monday morning. Tough workout to infuse energy into the week. Driving back juggling three phone calls. At home, there is suspense about whether the house help will turn up. Meetings requests are pinging up on my calendar. I nearly forget about breakfast.Thankfully, the kids went to school without event.
This is normal. My normal. And it’s going to be like this for the rest of my life. Deal with it, you moron!
How many of us, me included, go about our lives complaining about things that are perfectly normal? I wonder sometimes whether food toxins have been tampering with our levels of stress tolerance? Or is it just that the illusion of progress is also about expecting everything to me efficient, predictable and planned?
Maybe we need an intervention, something that helps us enhance our ability to be flexible. Something that trains our minds to think of constant fire fighting as the new normal. Unpredictability as the new schedule. It’s possible, I suppose. I’m working on it!
Is it real? This pursuit of success, this definition of the success of your day by how much you ‘achieved’?
Is it possible? This idea that a productive worker can be, well, productive for five continuous days and then collapse into rest and recuperation for two days, only to emerge doubly productive on Monday morning?
Is it twisted? When I set out to check off a long to-do list and end up working on something that just crept into my horizon mid-day?
Is it sad? When you have so many things on your mind that you no longer know who you are and how you should prioritize your life?
I have no answers and there are days that I could kill myself with my sense of inadequacy and bemoan my lack of drive till the cows come home. But then, I know we live in a world where standards are created for the ideal and humans are expected to be machines. I should be happy to be inadequate, for am I not more human that way? I should celebrate my lack of drive, for that is the day when the best ideas often take seed in my brain.
There’s so much more to life than failure and success. Let me not waste precious energy and undergo unnecessary heartache trying to define my life using the lens that was built for someone who is… not me!
I have not blogged as often as I would like to lately and it certainly is not for lack of things I want to express! The truth is that I have been feeling overwhelmed lately. It’s that point that I reach every now and then, when I have been piling stuff onto my plate…all good stuff that I really want to do and really enjoy and some not-so-good routine stuff that I need to do…but when I reach the point when the plate is overflowing and the panic attack begins, that is not a nice place to be.
At time like this, when the panic attack is at its vicious worst and I still have to maintain an exterior of normalcy as well as keep up the tempo in all the good stuff I have taken up, there are two options.
1- Strike! Withdraw, take a forced break, breathe deep and come back with renewed vigour.
2- Attack! Renew social connections. Call on the connections of the heart, all my friends who really know me. Talk to them, interact, laugh, cry and let the stress seep out of me.
This second option, strangely, works for me much better that taking a break while trying hard not to hyperventilate! All this interaction stuff can be done in this age of technology without taking even a moment’s break from the list of tasks. Getting positive reinforcement from people raises my motivation levels higher and the energy needed to push myself more is then easier to generate.
In the same spirit, I attack my blog with renewed passion. I cannot let go this…which has become so much a part of me. Which helps me connect to people I don’t yet know, that larger energy circle that I shall reach out to in the future.
Of course, there are some things that I end up compromising on. The gym, for instance has taken the back seat these past few days. I’m working on setting that back on track as well….
The results of the Fortis Healthcare Survey on teens have been making news since they came out. Adolescence, as all of us who have passed through it, is a phase of extreme highs and lows. For parents, happy teens are a source of not just joy, but profound relief. If you’re lucky, they might even have some focus in their lives!
Hold on, though, all you adults and think, are we really out of the teens yet? I strongly suspect many of us hold on tenaciously to patterns of thought and behavior that we acquired in our teens. Reflect on the phrases that the survey dwells on- low self-esteem, poor social problem solving, perfection and hopelessness were ones that struck me particularly. Many others, like a tendency for depression or other psychological conditions or external circumstances like parents being separated or death in the family or even low socio-economic status would need to be addressed on a case by case basis.
But these four issues seem like they should be tackled through education and the home environment in the formative pre-teen years. They are also issues that we must continue to work on as adults throughout our lives. As such, each of needs to develop a unique strategy to tackle these ugly demons, that tend to rear their heads occasionally, even though we might be happy and balanced individuals most of the time. When they do appear, these demons can seriously derail our lives, affecting work (low self-esteem takes a severe toll on everything, but especially at work) and relationships (inability to solve social problems). A pursuit of perfection (which means unrealistic expectations from ourselves) and a sense of hopelessness (usually a lack of faith in something that will pull us through the current low period) together puts us under extreme pressure. I am experiencing all of these four conditions at this time. It’s not like life is coming to an end, but yes I am grappling with conflicting career and personal commitments, forging a new identity at a mid-career sort of stage, resolving multiple images that I have of myself and managing expectations.
I am working at that strategy to understand myself better and believe in my own ability to pull through. I think if I have something in place, I might be able to do the ‘growing up’ that has been a long time coming!
The brain is an amazing piece of equipment, isn’t it? I have a particularly overactive one and I am always being told that I think too much. Well, I do. And most times I am perfectly fine with that. So do most of us, whether it is about work or about what to cook for dinner is immaterial. We use our brains constantly and very few of us know how to give this particular organ some rest. Nor do we use it to its full potential.
This was brought home to me recently by someone I met, who described in an incredibly funny way his complete failure to meditate, despite several attempts. I could so relate to that. The first time ever I tried to meditate was when I visited my to-be in-laws in Macau on my way to start grad school in Texas A&M University. My to-be mother-in-law used to teach yoga and I attended her class. At the precise moment that she urged us to blank our mind and focus on our breath, I recall by brain taking off into the wildest journeys, crowding up with visual images and reminders for tasks undone (she is my mother-in-law now and still urges me to meditate). Over several feeble attempts over several years, I reached some sort of understanding of what I was aiming for, but never really got there.
Last year sometime though, when I was learning yoga from a really patient teacher, I discovered a fresh way to blank my brain. Perhaps I was at that stage in life when I recognized the value of destressing, but I really wanted to overcome this meditation challenge. I felt it was getting in the way of learning yoga better. So I used the power of visualization to create abstract forms that I could focus on. So I would start like that and in some time, initially thirty second and then sooner, the forms would give way to a sort of colored blankness before my shut eyes and I could stay like that for a few minutes. Did it really calm me down, make me a more focused person? I don’t know. Perhaps.
For various reasons, I fell out of that yoga routine this summer. Last week, I attended my first class of Pilates, which I have been wanting to try for a very long time. I discovered that Pilates uses the power of visualization too, to very good effect. Terms like ‘tuck your ribs into your back pocket’ and ‘tuck your tailbone into your nose’ help you achieve the right posture that is necessary for your body to benefit from the exercises and strengthen your core.
Essentially, all of this is about the mind-body connection and visualization can be a great tool to get your mind to push your body to do new things. For me, exploring this connection has become a very interesting project. In dance, in music, in whatever I do, I am experimenting with using the power of visualization to achieve my goals. When I cannot get a particular note during my riyaaz, I visualize it in as a point in space (in relation to other notes that I have been able to get right) that I have to travel to directly, speedily and with precision, and I find it is easier to get it right. In kathak, which is a far more directly visual form, I have the mirrors as an aid and a guru whose demonstrations are so good that it is much easier to reach for perfection. It’s an exciting experiment and will really be successful when I learn to understand what sort of visualization can turn a negative thought to a positive one, or chase away a bad feeling.
We all have to work this stuff out for ourselves, I know. Would be great to get some feedback on how all of you have overcome physical and mental challenges! I am sure if we can share these tips, it would make it easier to deal with the increasingly stressful and crowded lives we lead (and even crave for).
Our lives have become so hectic, so structured and planned that weekends end up being more hectic than weekdays. The feeling of being deprived of pleasures through the week means we over-commit to social obligations on the weekends. Plus, there are the mandatory chores to do. If the Monday blues hit you on Sunday night, it’s not only in anticipation of the stresses ahead but probably because you’ve weekended too hard!
That’s why it makes sense to schedule nothing for weekends. This weekend is turning out to be one of those chilled leisurely breaks. It started with an impromptu Friday night dinner our with family. It’s raining, let’s not cook, let’s eat out tonight! Amamma (my grandma), mom, Amma, Rahul, the kids and me enjoyed pan Asian fare at The Palms Club.
Today was even better. I spent over an hour in the pool with both the kids and a smattering of Udai’s friends. A part sunny part overcast sky lent the perfect holiday atmosphere, the water neither warm nor cold and refreshingly inviting. Saturday morning meant not too many people in the pool, only some of us ‘early’ risers. Splash wars, some serious laps and frolicking with Aadyaa, including trying to swim with her piggyback riding on me- a sure stress buster.
An unplanned mid afternoon outing to grab some yummy desserts at Sakley’s in Galleria Market accompanied with a chat session with Rahul and Nupur was icing on the cake. More unplanned stuff happened. A relaxing head massage in the salon across the road and a super family evening drinking, eating and laughing with the cousin gang- 3 generations laughing together. Could a Saturday be better?
For the past few days, I seem to have completely lost the momentum in my life. It doesn’t seem like that to most people around me, since I’m pretty good at keeping up appearances and looking like I’m terribly busy! I’m probably passing through what they call an anticlimax after the travel to Istanbul. The kids are on holiday and the general mood at home is relaxed. But the stress of getting the interiors in my mother’s home completed is also overwhelming as the project nears completion. Work deadlines loom, but there is no motivation to make work happen in the home environment.
It’s one of those phases when you simply want to switch off from life, yet you know you have to get your act together. Strangely, there is no unhappiness involved. Funny moments, happy experiences, wonderful meetings with long-lost friends and the usual motions of a bustling household keep me engaged. But I feel detached from this all and worry about disconnected things when I should be living the moment.
I stress out too much, my loved ones tell me. Yes, I do.
And to write this blog in this state of mind is a real challenge. For the first time since I began writing every day (Jan 1, 2012 almost 6 months ago), I feel unmotivated to write! And that’s worrying me too! Sigh! It would be funny if I weren’t so wound up….
Hoping to be more positive tomorrow.
Ever since I stopped working full time and slowly adjusted myself to serious mommy hood, one of my most enjoyable experiences has been to watch children at play. Aadyaa has a veritable girl gang and watching them, even while continuing to work, read or cook offers the most entertaining moments of the day.
This morning, the kids and me were visiting friends. There were other kids over and it became a gang of six. For a while, the division was the five girls against the lone boy, Udai. That involved the gals ignoring him for a bit, then immensely enjoying pommeling him in a pillow fight! He had strict instructions not to use anything but pillows. Outnumbered and restricted he had to submit to the girl attack and he did so sportingly.
Briefly all six came together as they looked for the missing rabbit. Fudge, the rabbit, was found under the bed but the process of looking was immensely enjoyed!
Finally, the group split into the three older kids and the three younger ones playing separately and there was peace for a bit.
Another great memory from this week is all of Aadyaa’s park girl gang going round full speed on the merry go round screaming their lungs out! Sheer joy of abandon and the carefree spirit of childhood. We adults have to spend oodles of money or bungee jump to get a high somewhere close to this!
Today’s blog is following up on yesterday’s post about salons and looking good and after reading Nupur’s comment about how salons are about making us feel good, much beyond the looks……I would go as far as saying that the popularity of parlors, gadgets, retail therapy and a zillion other status-related things we crave for in modern, especially urban (but not strictly so) societies have a lot to do with our shrinking confidence in ourselves as people.
Looking around, I suspect we all seek confirmation in our success from external sources and hence the dramatic increase in material consumption, but also consumption of another kind–the spiritual. Whether stress therapy, spirituality, religion or a pursuit of mentors and gurus, more of us are attracted to the idea of being guided by forces we perceive as beyond us and more powerful than us.
Is it because we don’t want to ask ourselves the tough questions and worse, not take decisions for ourselves?
Do we really need to be in the rat race, or do we need the rat race so we have parameters by which we can compare ourselves with others? Isn’t it comparison that offers us a basis for considering ourselves better, improved, more successful? And if so, what when we find ourselves lacking? We perceive that as failure and go into a cycle of guilt and low-esteem. Which brings us back to the point of seeking easy solutions to break out of that cycle all over again!
I’m as much a victim of this repetitive cycle as anyone else. And I must confess that as long as life is good and the status quo acceptable, I do not feel a particular desire to break this cycle. When the chips are down though, the doubts return…..and I do know the tough questions need to be asked!