Tag Archives: Writing

To Know What We Want

On a Friday evening, I met up with an ex-colleague. And we talked about the usual things. And among the things we spoke about, I realised one thing.

Knowing what you want to do with your life is a great privilege.

It’s so easy to assume that everyone knows what they’d want to do with their life. Who wouldn’t know what they want?

But the truth is that it’s much easier to know what we want at the material level than at a deeper level. It’s easier to decide what kind of movies we want to watch, which brands of clothing and bags we like, than to know what moves you, motivates you, and inspires you. And to have the circumstances to realise our aspirations are even more rare.

So today, I am thankful for the simple fact that I know what I want to do with my life (for now), and that I am equipped to live closely aligned enough to those aspirations.

Perfection will never be permanent, and maybe all we will ever have are glimpses of it. But knowing where we are in proximity makes all the difference.

What’s Your Grief?

It was a staff training workshop. The social worker conducting introduced the topic as “Relating to parents of children with special needs”. She spoke about the grief process, and correlated that to the grief which parents of special needs children experience too, as they deal with the loss of the “ideal”, “normal” child, and have to cope with a special child instead.

One of the activities we were asked to participate in is to come to terms with an aspect of the grief or loss in our lives, to use that as a stepping stone to which we can empathise and relate with the parents. We were each given a small piece of clay to work with.

“What does your grief look like?” We were asked, after the lights were dimmed and we were asked to close our eyes to sink into a reflective mood.

I spent the first few minutes of this trying to think of a time of grief and loss in my life. Yes, we lost my grandfather a few years back, but that was not grief. Maybe… the lost of a friendship? But… I think I had gotten over that pretty concretely too.

And then it came to me: What about the loss of Self?

That thought immediately opened the floodgates of memory, to all the times I had to purposely lose my authentic self because I felt she was not good enough, all the times I felt that the self within had to be pushed into a closet and not shown to the world. All the times I had reprimanded that self and asked why can’t you be better, why can’t you be more “normal”?

And while some losses are experienced once, there are also losses that fall into the recurring category. And I think the loss of self is one of them. Recurring on a daily basis, sometimes several times a day.

Every morning, especially on work days, I intentionally lose a part of Self. The part that I might not be too confident about. The part that I feel the world might not accept. The part that is deemed “not as useful” in the “real world”. For practical purposes, I lose my Self.

And I don’t think I’ve ever grieved over it, though from the thought processes then I think I would really like to and it also felt like I needed to.

By this time, the clay in my hands had become a little box.

Probably the box I put my self in whenever I feel that she’s not needed in the world. When she needs to make way for the masks, the little wayangs, the occasional show of extroversion.

And somehow, holding that box in my hand, giving a form and structure to my loss, did help. At the very least, it got the thoughts going.

“Now, mould your clay to represent how you might cope, or have coped, with your loss or grief.”

It didn’t take me too long to follow that one.

The box emerged with wings at its sides.

For her to take flight. Maybe she hasn’t really dared to come out yet. But when she does, hopefully she’ll see the wings there, ready and waiting for her to take and use them, and she’ll soar high above, unafraid of the world seeing her for who she really is.

Maybe. One day.

Protect Your Grass

So, apart from not being tempted by the grass on other sides, and spending effort to cultivate our own grass, we must also remember to protect our grass once we have managed to cultivate a semblance of our own grass.

And that could sometimes mean:
1. Taking time out from social obligations to spend time watering our grass.
2. Trimming our grass when they get too big to be well-maintained (grass can grow really quickly) – quantity over quality.
3. Exchanging grass maintenance tips with others who have succeeded in grooming their own grass.
4. Being sensitive enough to know what our grass needs at different seasons and time periods
5. Realising that every grass responds differently to the environment, and every grass owner’s style of different. Learn from others (point3), but don’t compare.
6. Trusting that our grass actually already knows what they want, and sometimes all is needed is for us to listen to them (go back to point 4)

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What Lies Within

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This is something I’ve been reflecting on recently, as I find myself, yet again, being easily affected by the external, by what I cannot control.

Looking at what lies within is a reminder that there are more productive and useful ways to channel all that energy fretting, worrying and ruminating.

Build those inner resources, and develop strength in equanimity.

That Fine Line

One of the “fine lines” I thought about the other day was the line between knowing when to protect and when to push the self.

When is it ok to say “I’ve had enough of this environment, I can leave now”, and when I should say “I’m starting to feel overstimulated, but I can stay a while longer”?

When is it ok to use my personality traits as a justifiable reason for why I won’t allow myself to do certain things, like attend a dinner gathering with ex-colleagues on a weekday night, or spend 4 hours helping out at a kids’ sports camp on a Saturday… And when am I being too soft with myself, overprotecting myself, using my personality as an excuse just because I don’t want to risk the side effects of being socially tired and stretched?

The comrade offered a sensible approach: Examine what are the factors that trigger each episode of overstimulation, reflect on it and think about what could have been done differently if the situation comes up again. And most importantly: DON’T FEEL GUILTY LISTENING TO YOURSELF. You owe it to yourself.

A few Sundays ago it was simply an overdose of social interaction (8am to 1pm!), and guilt about leaving the social setting when the volunteer meeting wasn’t over.

Faced with the same situation again, I’d probably tell whoever’s chairing the meeting that I have a commitment at a certain time, and I’d have to leave BY X:XXPM (Key word being “by”, so I can leave earlier if I have to).

Time and time again I am reminded that we can’t be of much help to others if we don’t take care of our state of being first, and one of the first steps in doing that is to listen to our body. When frazzled, on edge, and just feeling bombarded by everything (not forgetting PMS), how much use can we be? Take a step back, let the body get what it needs, and reenter the world, gently, one step at a time.

It will be ok.

 

 

 

The FB Tradeoff

One of the more life-defining choices I’ve made this year, is the decision to go off Facebook. It started from December last year, after India, when I realised that I didn’t need FB to have a good quality of life, and was in fact better off without it. So 2017 started without FB. Jan, Feb, and now, March. This post is in celebration of my 3 months without Facebook 🙂

The pros:

  1. No more aimless browsing. How often have I sat in the train, and, without even thinking, reach for my phone and tap on the FB app. And started scrolling. Down, down, down. How much of what I saw and did on FB contributed to my peace of mind and quality of life? Hardly. I still do that on Instagram now, sometimes, but I’m much more mindful of it, and make effort to occupy my time in other ways instead. Even just mindful breathing is more beneficial than mindless scrolling…
  2. Less struggle with comparison. I don’t like to admit this, but I guess it’s true. Even though it’s easy to say that we shouldn’t compare with others, FB provides us with the perfect platform to do just that. To see what others are up to, and then (consciously or unconsciously) see how we measure up. Especially since I’m starting on a new job, I thought it’d be wise to protect myself from this for the time being. Life is hard enough without having to struggle with more inner demons.
  3. Less emotional roller coasters. I know FB is a source of news for happenings around the world. I know I’d be no different from a mountain tortoise if I did not make effort to find out what’s happening in the world. But I always get so affected by news. The videos, the flashing images, the negativity, the judging, the tragedies… Not being bombarded by depressing images the minute I open an app, needless to say, has had strong impact on my peace of mind too. And I’m sure that would be a greater contribution to world peace than being updated with every single bombing that goes on.
  4. Safe. I didn’t like how FB was showing me ads and sponsors for things and items that I’d be likely to buy/patronise from. I’d like to decide for myself as much as possible thank you very much.

 

The cons:

Facebook allowed me to live with the illusion that my social life was wider than it really was.

By consistently liking posts of an ex-colleague, I could send the message that I still cared about what was going on in their lives. By tagging friends and responding to tagged posts of articles and links, we could still ensure that we were still on the same wavelengths and worldviews, even if we didn’t meet up. A simple thing such as responding to each others’ posts gave us the warrant to tell mutual friends: “Yeah, I still keep in touch with so-and-so… she’s doing…” And the list goes on.

Now I’m realising that I have a group of friends that I had only “kept in touch” with through FB, and without FB, there is a possibility that the “friendship” could be lost forever. I feel like I have to make a decision between letting them become close friends, with whom I would make the effort to meet up with every once in a while, and the “lost into oblivion” category. FB provided the comfortable middle ground of virtual socialisation, which I would not have access to now by virtue of this decision. So I realise that a lot of people are being sucked out of my world.

Not that I’m complaining. I’m happy with my circle of friends and support – thankful for them everyday. It has always been quality over quantity, and I don’t think it’s something that will change soon. I’ll just eventually come to terms with losing this virtual middle ground, and accept that people come and go. That’s life. As long as I don’t forget the ones that truly matter.

 

Conclusion:

I’m so much happier without FB, and it has brought much more pros than cons – at least that’s how I feel for now. No urge to get back into it anytime soon – or ever.

Let’s see how things go. In the meantime – instagram ;p