Posted by & filed under Everyday Lessons, Imperfections, Mindfulness, Uncategorized, Vulnerability.

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“I was at whole foods and thought I’d pick up your favorite chocolate and a journal as I know you like to reflect and write”

A dear friend stopped by last weekend and these were her words. We hugged tight and my heart was overflowing with love and more importantly gratitude and appreciation of how much I was loved and how blessed I was to have this beautiful relationship in my life. In a season of life where the enormity and intensity of work, kids and everything else in between can be so all consuming, there is something incredibly magical about creating intentional moments of giving and receiving love and experiencing the ripple effects that come with it.
And in many ways, it is hard…

It’s much easier for me to give than to receive or rather ask for when I need love – It takes courage, it feels vulnerable, I never know if I will receive love in the way I want it, there is always a risk of rejection and judgment and in many ways, it’s much easier and safer to not lean in that far in any relationship. I have had multiple moments (including one last night) where tears trickled down my cheeks as I reflected on the pain of rejection, of not being understood or appreciated or valued for how much I am leaning in and how important certain relationships and commitments are.

And yet, when I do with the right people in the right ways, life feels richer. I live in a world and at a time where I am encouraged to be more independent and self-sufficient and while it absolutely has its merits, there is also something deeply meaningful that comes with asking for help not because I can’t do it on my own but because there is more love, more connection and in many ways so much more joy knowing that I am a part of a community of love, a part of something that is larger than myself.

I always find so much meaning leaving my kids with a neighbor even though we are all defaulting to sitters watching kids these days and I do struggle and get anxious if I am being a burden on them but I once had a friend remind me – “Neha, if it’s at a mutually convenient time, know that you are giving me an opportunity to love your kids and for them to know that they are loved by other adults beyond their parents” – a hugely powerful statement

And, it is still hard to ask a friend to make time for dinner when it is hugely important to me to spend time together when I have heard no 3 times or ask a loved one to watch the kids when they have not followed through on a past commitment. And it is a fine balance – sometimes wisdom is in taking a step back and sometimes it is about leaning in stronger and in being even more vulnerable and letting that love be known and seen even with its risks. Sometimes, I know what to do but sometimes I must simply be with the difficulty and the pain and the uncertainty.

Managing my own expectations in this cycle of love is something I need to continue to work on. I must constantly remind myself that love comes in different shapes and forms and that everyone’s desire, need and ability for connection is different in the seasons of life and to recognize that a rejection to my ask may not (always) mean the lack of commitment into the relationship. And there is also a tinge of judgment that can show up. I have learnt that some people can use my story of vulnerability and needing love to boost their own ego and build a story of how their life is better than mine. I must constantly be reminding myself of who needs to know my truth and what relationships simply need to be pruned away from my life.

Most importantly, is the savoring of all this love, this sheer abundance of love in my life. Writing is one incredible way for me to do that. On other days, it means closing my eyes for a minute and literally soaking in the good. Pictures do that for me too and I am finally finding my way back to Instagram to capture the moments and memories that matter and contribute to the stories and messages I want to add into the world – those of love, connection, gratitude and vulnerability. And finally, the most important part is to truly pay love forward, to the people I receive it from but also to the rest of the world even if it’s in small ways. It’s about saying thank you graciously and finding meaningful and purposeful ways to show up, to express love, to celebrate the joys and provide support during tough times. It’s about pausing even when there doesn’t feel like there is any time to pause and about re-calibrating my priorities to make sure I can really pause for what truly matters – love for humanity at large…

Posted by & filed under Everyday Lessons, Mindfulness, Work.

A couple weeks ago,  I was diagnosed with Shingles that literally left me bedridden for days. I wasn’t joking when I was telling people that this felt worse than labor and that I haven’t rested so much in my life, ever! My rashes were on my eyes and head which meant screen time or reading was excruciatingly painful and so I spent a lot of time meditating, sleeping, some audio books and podcasts, quality time with my own mind and lots of important lessons learnt. It was a very minor illness in the grand scheme of things but I am truly grateful because it really forced me to look at my life more closely and identify things that needed to change. It was a humbling reminder that my body truly needed a break. Even though I felt incredibly happy and grateful about my life at large, I was exhausted and depleted with all the million balls I was juggling and my body needed to hit pause…

Here are some of my reflections on this season of my life –

  • Mental Chatter – I had been working a lot more than before over the last year or so but more importantly had got into this (unhealthy) habit of thinking about work (and everything else) all the time, literally my mind would be racing at 100 mph for a good chunk of the day, including weekends. I wouldn’t say anxiety or stress as the dominant emotion but really just my mind constantly working and this meant if I’d wake up middle of the night the same pattern would emerge and there were at least 1-2 nights a week when I couldn’t fall back asleep and no surprise that there clearly was a (negative) ripple effect on the other parts of my life.
  • Values & Actions – What I have most appreciated about my life is that my actions (largely) felt in alignment with my values. I have generally spent my time and energy in ways that felt consistent with my plans and aspirations for my life. In this last season I found a few conflicting values and I’d get lost more often than I’d want to. I knew I was giving work a lot of energy and time which in some ways meant less time for other things (this blog being the project I missed the most) but I also felt I was growing as a person tremendously (not just my resume) and was building really beautiful relationships and creating a space for others to grow as well which was hugely meaningful so I found myself torn a million times and struggled on what to do.
  • Mindfulness – As I mentioned earlier, I had never had so much “free time” in a very long time and I spent a lot of time meditating and simply re-training my brain to simply come back to my breath. Even though I have been practicing for years, this was the first time I saw the peace and strength that I could access in my own heart and a few weeks in, I am already seeing a big difference in better managing my emotions and the constant mental chatter that led to so much exhaustion and fatigue.
  • Self-Compassion – Once I saw this, it was a beautiful opportunity to practice self-compassion for my confusions, struggles and going somewhat off track and reminding myself that I could come back to what was important going forward. There were enough moments when it would be easy to beat myself up but I had to ask my inner critic to sit in the trunk of the car and invite my wise self to gently hold my hand and serve as my GPS moving forward.
  • Growth Mindset – Similarly, it was also a beautiful time to remind myself that yes, managing and prioritizing everything effectively is a skill that I could get even better at with practice and awareness.
  • Replenishment – I read an article (can’t find it now!) that emphasized that when we are giving so much in the world whether through work (while also raising 2 kids and the other roles I play in my life) we need to invest more in replenishing ourselves which was relevant. While, I was reasonably good about taking care of myself over the last few months but falling sick was a reminder that I needed to do even more to nourish myself. Getting a massage or a restorative yoga class when I was fully empty wasn’t enough and that I needed to more periodically rest and recharge vs. when I was really depleted.
  • Identity – I really missed the part of my identity that was more than a tech employee, a mom and a wife. I find tremendous meaning in all these roles but as I have often written here that this isn’t enough for me. I missed writing, teaching yoga and working on my creative projects where I was helping others in their journey.
  • Success – Working on a high stakes & intense project with a lot of unknowns and uncertainty meant that I was often indexing on working and thinking more for everything to be successful. While a part of me knew that wasn’t effective or sustainable, I couldn’t convince myself of another way out especially when my entire team was working so incredibly hard. I felt I had to be there for all of them at all times, but I took it a little too far😊
  • Power of Love – Most importantly, I realized I had never felt more loved in my life. Friends and family were such a gift and the beautiful manifestation of their love in their own ways still tears me up. My fridge was constantly stocked up with healthy homemade food which was the best gift possible especially as Sumit was single handedly running the house with two little kids while also taking care of me. My team at work took incredible care of me with the most thoughtful messages and gestures but more importantly by truly creating a safe space were I could really rest and recover guilt free. Love truly heals…

 

There is another post in the works on what I will be doing differently from these insights

Posted by & filed under Everyday Lessons, Happiness.

And just like that another incredible year is a wrap. It was a beautiful, memorable year with lots of highs and some lows but so, so much to be grateful for…

Firstly, grateful for all the big rocks in my life to have been well in place. All four of us and are loved ones were in good health which can be so easy to take for granted when things are indeed going well. Marriage and family felt solid. Kids struggled with school in the beginning of the year, but we switched schools and that made a huge difference in their happiness, learning and the overall energy in the family. Both of our work schedules were very intense and demanding but we are growing, learning and overall happy with our careers which is a lot to be grateful for.

I started the year waking up what felt like a million times every night nursing Saveer to then weaning him off the night and slowly weaning him off completely which was a huge milestone. I am grateful that I was able to nurse him for close to 2 years but also happy that this phase is now behind me and I can now snuggle with two little people and put them to bed and no one needs to eat in the middle of the night😊

Nandi, my little sister finally got married which was a huge blessing that we had all been waiting for and still in awe that she has finally moved an hour from me which means we get to see each other much more often. There were 3 more weddings in the family and they were beautiful. It was a gift to get together with my parents, siblings and extended family several times a year, dress up, dance and find joy. Yet, if I am honest, it was also intense planning, traveling and settling back to our lives as a sensitive introvert. It was absolutely worth it though.

I had completed 52 hikes in 2017 which got me excited to set some more “52 goals” in 2018 and while I didn’t get to 52, I made significant progress which I am very happy about. The best was 44 dates with Sumit! I didn’t count our (almost) weekly walks to Castro street which were also semi dates with moments of connection. I met 37 new people or reconnected with those I hadn’t connected in the last year. I read 25 books, the most I have read in a single year, completed 85 exercise classes and 35 hikes.

We traveled to Portland & India for weddings and did a few local trips. There was a camping trip in Washington with my mom and siblings, a Sonoma coast camping trip on the beach and a hostel trip with friends and we celebrated Saveer’s birthday with a camping trip with my grandfather which was incredibly beautiful.

There were emotionally hard moments at work this year. I heard a no for my promotion twice and the second time was incredibly hard, but I was very proud of myself for bouncing back and experiencing tremendous growth through my struggles. I am incredibly grateful to all the people who were a part of helping me rebound and move forward. I feel much more competent and confident entering the new year. (I need to write a separate post with more details on this!). I also spoke at a Product Marketing conference in Austin that went really well and I was glad I raised my hand and worked hard to do this.

I had a powerful experience with vulnerability. I have had a friendship that I have struggled with for many years and I took the courage to be more real including sharing both my love and my challenges and my own truths along my path and realized with a lot of pain that this wasn’t a safe space for me to be myself and I had to draw some firm boundaries. And then, I opened up with another colleague unexpectedly and found our relationship grow and thrive in abundant, meaningful ways. I guess the lesson is to be really discerning in who needs to be a part of my story and my truths and sometimes the answers aren’t very clear.

All in all, a beautiful, abundant and purposeful year and I am ready to take on 2019!

Posted by & filed under Relationships.

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I complete 9 years of being married this week. If I had one word to describe these last 9 years, I’d say – beautiful and if I had more I’d add purposeful, joyful, challenging. There is something incredibly powerful, (much more than I would have ever realized when I was tying the knot) about spending your life so intimately with another human being with whom you share a lot in common but yet you are two different individuals. The ability to be so vulnerable about the tiny details of your life and mind and be loved back unconditionally is a gift that I am always grateful for (okay, maybe not when I am mad for him going off schedule!!). And then add the magic (and chaos) of raising kids together and I find both the love and the struggles of marriage both go to a different level than when we were just the two of us.

So, I haven’t figured out all the secrets to a perfect marriage (if that term is even true) but I have had my fair share of lessons for sure that I am taking into our 10th year as I wrap up a year where we both learnt and grew significantly as individuals and as a unit.

 

  • My Oxygen Mask – This one has been showing up in almost all my blog posts lately and couldn’t be more relevant in my marriage. When I am nourished and full, I have more to give, more to express, more empathy, more forgiveness. You get the point. Sometimes, a 90 min yoga class can benefit the marriage more than a glass of wine on the couch.
  • Growth Mindset vs. Acceptance – It’s an incredibly fine balance in knowing when to accept your partner’s habits and values vs. when to push towards a growth mindset to learn something new that can benefit the marriage and family at large. No magic bullet here but the key is to speak with kindness and respect in those hard moments and to have brutally honest conversations on the cost of one person’s behavior on the system. It’s equally important to respect and understand that something that comes naturally to me (or Sumit) may be very hard for the other person and to celebrate the action being taken and the small wins we are having. I am still learning to stay calm and be less impulsive and this is clearly an area I need to grow…
  • My Spouse Can’t Be Everything – While it is incredibly beautiful to experience a lot of your life with your spouse, I also believe that there are other relationships that are important and that there will be interests, hobbies and people that we will not share. Not only is that beautiful, it’s also incredibly healthy to step away and come back with more empathy, respect and appreciation for the experiences we do share together.
  • Make Time – Nothing can beat the simple act of prioritizing and making time especially in a season of life when there are so many competing demands. Making time to experience the good and bad of life together is incredibly important in any relationship but perhaps the most in close relationships where its easy to take things for granted or over index on work or kids and doing that for too long creates wounds that then take more time to repair…
  • Do the hard work – It is so easy to say no to the hard conversations – to raise your hand and ask for what you need, to be vulnerable and share what’s making me insecure but, in the end, the hard conversations are worth it. Yes, sometimes a comedy movie is what the relationship needs but if I am doing that to escape the real stuff, the payoff isn’t huge. On a similar note, learning to be a better communicator is also a big one.
  • Rituals – There is something grounding about rituals, doing things with intention and integrity repeatedly. This year our most beautiful ritual was a weekly date night and a weekly walk to our local mountain view downtown. Some weeks we could do both other weeks it was just one, but we were on track most weeks for at least one reflecting on our week, appreciating what we loved about each other, addressing issues that needed to be fixed and planning for the week ahead. In this season of our life, a few hours a week focused on each other was a beautiful time that we could count on every week and made a huge difference.
  • Gratitude & Kindness – This one is my most powerful lesson, and nothing beats words of appreciation for one another and truly communicating and acting with kindness especially on days and moments when its hard. Almost all our hurt feelings and arguments can both be prevented and healed with loving words.

 

  • Double Dates – There is something beautiful about connecting with another couple and listening to and sharing our own stories in a real, authentic way. Hoping to invest more into this in the new year.

 

  • Start Again – Finally, its the simple mindset of starting afresh, again the next morning. Choosing love, when love is hard, choosing forgiveness when anger feels easier, a hug over an unkind word. For the relationships that matter, sometimes you have to hit the gas pedal after hitting the break, over and over again.

 

Happy anniversary my love, grateful for these 9 incredible years and excited to experience the next 9 (and more) together.

 

Posted by & filed under Everyday Lessons, Happiness.

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I have been writing a birthday post for the last 4 years and got a little delayed this year but figured I’d rather write it late than never so here it is. As a tradition, I reflect and document on what life feels like in this season of life. You can read my birthday posts for prior years here, here and here.

  • A few weeks back, I was at a workshop for work and the ice-breaker question was – If you had unlimited quantity of one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be and the first word out of my mouth was Love. The more I have grown the more I realize how important love is to me both in giving and receiving in the many different and beautiful ways love shows up in our lives.
  • Sumit and the kids are my oxygen masks like no other. Our unit of 4 gives me joy and a sense of purpose that I most appreciate when I am not with them and I truly feel like something is missing. Yes, our lives can often feel crazy and there is a lot of chaos in our home but the love I receive and get to share is something I could have never imagined before I became a parent.
  • As I reflect on the last year, I realize how important and also how hard it is to put on my own oxygen mask first, whether that means eating dinner before the rest of the family some nights to be fueled up for the second innings of my day or to say no to a kid’s birthday party because I need to put my energy elsewhere. I am realizing more and more that I’d rather be away for an hour or two replenishing myself vs. physically present for the family but not really there and ultimately feeling resentful for the intensity of my life.
  • This is also a season in my life when I feel happiest and most comfortable in my skin and for who I am and what I have accomplished. Life isn’t perfect neither am I but I am able to love myself for how things are.
  • No surprise but work and my experiences and relationships significantly influence the quality of my life and I need to very keenly aware of this dynamic to ensure I make choices such that work is an overall positive experience in my life.
  • I have learnt that there is a very beautiful but a very fine line between contentment and ambition and knowing where to turn up the dial on one and the other is complicated but very critical for my overall joy!
  • As a highly sensitive person, the people in my life and the strength of my relationships has a huge bearing on the quality of my life. As I grow older, this becomes even more evident. Sometimes this means truly focusing on strengthening the relationships I have, sometimes it means stepping away and saying no to certain people that are causing more hurt than joy. I finally did this with a relationship that was very difficult, and I am finding myself much happier.
  • Courageous self – love and self-compassion is having the ability to love myself when loving myself feels hard and I don’t feel worthy of my own love. The only secret is to start somewhere, take baby steps, and keep moving up from there. It works! I struggled a lot with this at multiple times but happy report that I am ending the year strong.
  • I am grateful for the choices I have made this year and the prioritization felt right yet given the myriad of passions and callings I have, there is always a little sadness around the things I didn’t get to do or experience. Oh well, need to focus on the done list😊
  • I didn’t write as much or engage in as much creative work as I would have liked to. I am really itching to write a book or start a podcast someday or get my coaching certification done. Hopefully I’ll find a way to feed these desires though no concrete plans for this year.
  • I had either been pregnant or breastfeeding for the last 5 years and this is the first year when I am not. I have tremendous satisfaction and joy in a job well done and immense gratitude for what the human body is capable of. And I also feel very grateful to have my body back and a tiny sliver of freedom to escape for a night without a pump or a kid who will cry profusely that mom is away for the night.
  •  And as with many previous years, I still struggle with how self centered my life can often feel and how little I do to give back in the world. This is one thing on my list where I want to keep the curiosity and discontentment top of mind to ensure I channelize it into more action.

 

Huge than you to Dina Relles and Lindsey Mead who are the inspiration behind these birthday posts.

 

Posted by & filed under Everyday Lessons.

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For the last couple of years, I have almost always started the new year with a list of goals and resolutions. This year as I gear up for what I believe will be yet another beautiful and purposeful year, my canvas is rather empty. The next six months are likely going to be one of the most intense yet purposeful periods of my life as a working parent and my canvas is intentionally less full as I am choosing simplicity for myself and the family this year. It’s rather plain because the life I built toward the latter half of this year will continue in its form and not much needs to be disrupted. I am craving more unstructured white space in my life that I naturally will have very little of given a very intense 6 months at work and my commitment as leadership coach for Braven, my two little monkeys who are the love of my life and Sumit who is my rock. Sumit’s focusing on some changes with his career that need both physical time and my support that I absolutely want to prioritize as well.

 

In many ways, I am reminding myself of how freeing it is to not have to plan too much. I am anticipating working a few hours most weekends which automatically takes away a lot of free space. Sumit and I both decided that we will not be planning any major trips in our quest to keep life simple and focus on the everyday abundance vs. spending 4 hours planning for a 36-hour weekend trip. We are looking at a camping trip in April and a weeklong trip to Europe and I want to do one hiking weekend with a couple of close friends and a leadership retreat that is still tentative but nothing beyond that which is much less than what I typically like to do through a 6-month period. We love to travel, go on more camping trips, big hikes and generally explore and live life more fully even with two chipmunks in tow and I know I need to slow down on that front which does make me a little sad but incredibly grateful of the fact that this is a choice we are both making for reasons that matter to us.

 

I know when I am in such intense periods, the days and weeks when I nourish myself, I am thriving and grateful yet when I go for too long on empty, I get resentful and am low on energy. I am aware of this but leaving the kids for a yoga class on a Sunday evening can be emotionally hard when I have already spent 6 hours at a coffee shop and yet I know I must nourish myself to ensure the system stays in balance.

 

Life feels particularly rich and abundant in many, many ways. I am thriving at work, have beautiful relationships in my life and my work as a mother and wife is incredibly gratifying. Yes, If I am honest, I would have ideally not liked to work on weekends and given my energy elsewhere, but I recognize that I am timeboxing this for 6 months and will evaluate my life again and decide if a full-time career in tech is the right choice for my life. I have moments when I wonder if life were to end at 36 would I regret how I chose to spend the last 12 months of my life. Hopefully not! I think given the constraints, my personal values and ambitions, I am choosing this life and want to thrive with the challenges along my path.

 

So, I took an inventory of my life and created two lists – A list of things that will nourish me over these 6 months and things I am choosing to say no to.

 

Yes List

  • Exercise
  • Meditation
  • Intentional time with people who matter
  • Date nights & double dates
  • Outdoor time & hiking
  • Spending money on conveniences including household work I don’t want to prioritize
  • Quiet time
  • Writing especially my savoring posts so I can continue to find joy
  • Empty space on my work calendar
  • Simple, healthy home cooked meals
  • Not depleting myself by Friday night and ideally filling up my bucket every single day

 

No List

  • Neutral & negative relationships – I have a few negative ones and I must be ruthless about saying no. It’s a work in progress but I am getting better.
  • Weekend trips – I love these with friends and family but we need to prioritize and beyond what’s already planned not putting additional headspace on this.
  • Hosting at home – I love to cook for people I love but I need to remember my kids are small and its often tough for me to juggle all that it takes and not get empty at 8 pm unless Sumit will also be available fully or have household help.
  • Conferences/Events – I love attending events and conferences, but I need to not add this to my plate in this season. There will be a time and place for this soon😊
  • Building new relationships – I also love meeting new people but again that takes energy so I want to focus on the rich and beautiful relationships I already have in this season of my life.

 

What’s on your yes and no list for the upcoming season of your life?

Posted by & filed under Uncategorized.

My work has been intense over the last few months. I have been working longer hours and my responsibilities have grown. The emotional work of thinking, planning, connecting and working even when I am not on my computer is expanding. Overall, it feels aligned with my values and in many ways, this is what I asked for, so I really can’t complain. I find tremendous meaning and joy from my work at this point in my life and while I wish I could gain the mastery and impact I’d like without the intensity and pressure, the reality is that’s not often not likely and I am reasonably content with how things are panning out.

However, I noticed there were many times I’d tell myself (or others) a version of my life that sounded like this – “All I do these days is work”.

And one evening after repeating these words, I paused myself and realized that yes, I have been working hard but that’s not the only thing I am doing. As I reflected on my days and weeks there were many, many hours of non-work activities that nourished my soul and filled up my heart, yet it was so easy for me to get caught in this somewhat limiting story of life that I was telling myself.

So, I started a new experiment, inspired by Laura Vanderkam’s latest book, Off the clock (that I absolutely loved). I built a list called “Savoring September” and documented the many ways in which my days didn’t involve work and was full of joy and richness. And there were two interesting learnings here –

  • I savored and enjoyed my work even more and was not feeling resentful of all the extra hours I was putting in because my log assured me that my life was indeed very balanced and beautiful. Work wasn’t a blocker in any way to living my life, if anything it was enabling many of the joys and was well integrated with all the different parts of myself. Yes, it took planning and effort and trade offs but overall my life was more balanced that I imagined it to be.
  • It made me enjoy these beautiful moments more as I’d remind myself these were my savoring September moments and were going on the list. I’d look at this list almost every day and my heart would instantly fill up with joy.

Curious what my September list looked like? Here’s a quick peak into my savoring September list –

There were several nights of biking/walking after dinner with the kids, walks to our downtown once a dinner date with Sumit on a Wednesday night, few hikes on weekends, and one on a Friday morning with a friend and still made it to my desk by 8 am. There were a few barre classes too😊

There were several nights of delicious healthy home cooked meals and a few new recipes too. There were a few trips to the farmer’s market and over 25 pounds of fresh tomatoes bought this month. I had a bonus dinner with a new friend at the farmer market one Thursday evening. We had friends over both on weeknights and weekends. We spent a few evenings when friends and family cooked for us. We had a few trips to the food truck as well. We had a sitter come one evening and we got to enjoy a lovely relaxing meal.

I was off the clock most evenings not worrying about logging back in to work. There were evenings with headspace before bed, with lots of snuggles and warm cuddly little people in bed next to me. There were lots of nights with good sleep and my body waking up well rested the next morning.

We celebrated Saveer’s birthday camping with my grandfather and made a whole wheat pistachio saffron cake with Vivaan for the birthday boy.

I spent an evening at a spa with a friend and had a nice kid free dinner in San Francisco to celebrate birthdays. I spent a day exploring a new park in SF with the kids and a friend and topped it off with a lovely indulgence with Sumit and Vivaan at one of our favorite restaurants while Saveer slept peacefully in the stroller. There were 2 simple kid birthday parties that we greatly enjoyed too.

We went apple picking (for the first time) and made 2 trips to Gilroy Gardens that the kids (and me!) absolutely loved. We even squeezed in a burger date night after they were exhausted from all the rides.

And finally, there were many joyful conversations with friends and family over the phone! And one bonus live conversation with Sumit where we explored our bucket list item of living in another country with absolutely no plans on the execution, but hey we enjoyed sharing our dreams!

Wow, that was a lot of good stuff in a month. Yes, I have been working most weekends and there are enough days when my alarm goes off at 4:30 am and I am at my desk at 6 am but that’s not the only version of the story. I can work well, master the skills needed to have a purposeful career and still have time and energy for the things that matter.

One small catch – Writing needs to fit into my savoring lists. I am starting again with this post. I am hopeful there will be more writing next year if not sooner😊

 

 

Posted by & filed under Imperfections, Vulnerability.

I always thought I don’t really judge people or at least not a lot. And then I read an article (that I can’t find now☹) on a woman’s experience trying not to judge for a whole month and it really got me thinking about my behavior. I’d like to think I have an inclusive heart and, in many ways, I am fairly accepting of how different people live their lives and the choices they make especially when it doesn’t impact mine but as I sat with that emotion, I realized I judge and I judge more than I’d ideally like to.

And over the days, as I started paying attention, I noticed a lot of voices that sounded like this –

  • Why was he walking around in those clothes?
  • But seriously, why doesn’t she take a break and leave the kids with dad for just one night?
  • I really can’t image he said that, I would never do that

Yikes

No matter, what my intention, it’s not my place to judge. I never know what’s happening in someone’s life and what their situation is. I realized I judged for a myriad of reasons. Often, it is simply a habit solidified over time. Sometimes, other people’s choices trigger my insecurities and fears. Sometimes, it makes my ego happy and she likes to believe there is some moral superiority going on. Sometimes it is exhaustion and fatigue that causes my mind to resort to unhealthy thoughts and behaviors

But clearly, I wanted to change —

So, I too committed to not judge for a month and if I am honest, it is really hard, and I sure have broken this commitment many a times…

The most effective practice is to develop awareness in noticing my thoughts and choosing compassion for myself when I do go astray and start again the next moment. It is believing that I have the power to choose my words but even more importantly to slowly and patiently even choose my thoughts. It is also an exercise in noticing my strong judgment toward myself at moments and choosing to love even for the imperfect and icky parts of myself and let me be real here because there are many parts that are broken and difficult but learning to love myself through them is an incredible exercise in choosing love for the world. I can give what I have and to choose love for the outside I must start on the inside.

After my sister’s wedding last month, my mom, sister and I stayed up one night, and I was so tempted at many times to share an opinion on someone and I realized, nope that’s a judgment and it’s not productive. Over the last few weeks, there are numerous times when I do notice my thoughts, ask myself if I really need to say something and stop myself. But again, there are numerous times when I have failed and said words that didn’t add any value in any way and if anything reinforced my habit I am trying to break. Such situations are often hard when people discussions happen, it can be an addictive cycle and I am trying to really be more aware and choose wisely.

And sometimes, it is hard to not get upset, not have an opinion when I am triggered as I see things going against my moral compass and my values and I am learning to remind myself that again it is not my place to judge. It is one thing if I am standing up for something and advocating for a change on social media. I don’t need to conflate that behavior with judgment.  But often, I am not an activist or intending to make a change but simply giving in to the habits of my mind.

Sometimes, I would justify my behavior in the name of “venting.” Lately, I am “trying” that every time I get emotional or upset and feel like venting, I pause and ask if venting will truly help my wounds heal or I should first calm myself down and then decide if I need to vent or there is another healthy alternative. I am a big advocate of speaking through my hurt with intention and purpose to heal but it’s the casual commenting that is often not productive. And even when I am hurt by someone’s behavior, can I still try to choose compassion and kindness and trust that the intentions were productive.

Simply setting an intention, noticing, reflecting and starting again is helping. I am not perfect nor am I trying but slowly, surely change is happening, and I am grateful for that😊

 

Posted by & filed under Everyday Lessons, Happiness, Mindfulness.

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I met my mom after almost a year during my sister’s wedding last month. If you read my blog regularly, you know I am very grateful to share a beautiful relationship with my mom so no surprise I was very, very excited. Yet, the first day she arrived we had an argument, a misunderstanding, hurt feelings and if I am truly brave – there were lots of tears, both in my eyes and my mom’s eyes. We separated for a few hours, she took a “long” nap (I wasn’t sure if it was because of me or the jetlag, I think it was both). All this happened in the first 24 hours of our meeting. I felt incredibly guilty and upset with myself, but I was hurt, and my emotional needs were not being fully met even though I knew how dearly loved I am by my mom. It’s funny as I type this blog I don’t even fully remember all the details of our argument, but it was something around our different points of views on grocery, shopping, and food for our family arriving for my sister’s wedding. Yet, even as I recollect this incident my heart warms up with love and I am reminded of how incredibly loved, heard and seen I am…

Here’s what happened once she woke up. We still didn’t talk much. I was sad – both upset at her but also guilty, but I had softened a bit by then. By the end of the day, my love and perhaps more so “her” love took over, forgiveness and compassion entered the scene and we sat at the dinner table and talked. We spoke our hearts on how we both felt, where we were coming from and what we needed from each other at that vulnerable moment. We tried to choose love, listening, and empathy over our own strong points of view. It wasn’t perfect, but it was beautiful.

This is what I most love about my relationship with my mom. It’s not that there is no conflict, no disagreement, no misunderstanding. I personally haven’t found a rich relationship devoid of difficult experiences and emotions and this one is no different. Yet, it’s her ability to hold space and skillfully navigate the terrain of emotions, to be vulnerable about her mistakes as a parent, to accept me for my mistakes, to never expect me to be a miniature version of her and to still call me out for my blind spots with kindness. As the years have gone by, I respect her even more for having the courage and curiosity to invest in herself, to continually seek to understand and meet her children where they are and not where she wants them to be and recognizing that parenting doesn’t stop when children leave home. I am 34 and I still need my mom in so, so many ways and I only appreciate that she is always there.

I miss her on a Sunday afternoon, so she could ask me to sit on the couch with a cup of green tea after I am exhausted taking care of the kids. I miss her when I go to my Friday morning yoga class and secretly hope I can do that together soon. I miss her as I am reading Kelly Corrigan’s Glitter and Glue (highly her book’s) where she shares beautiful details about her relationship with her mom and I wish she lived next door and we could listen to the book together. I miss her when I go eat Burmese food and I miss her every time I try to make alu tikki and can never make it as well as she does. I miss her when I am rude to Sumit because she always reminds me to speak my heart and my needs but with kindness and every time I don’t, I secretly hear her voice in my head. Every time Vivaan tells me – Mumma I need your arm, I miss my days when I’d fall asleep rubbing her soft yet strong arms. And as I sit, and type and tears trickle down my cheeks, I miss her being next to me, rubbing my head and my back.

I cry every time I sit down to write a Mother’s Day post. I have tears of joy and gratitude but also tears of the fears that always live with me when I think of the big loves in my life. And sometimes, its fear of losing my mom and sometimes the fear of losing her huge, abundant love. It’s tears of guilt for all the times when I am impulsive and inconsiderate with my words and her huge hear that forgives me.

 

And yet again, I remind myself, it is beautiful to cry in love. It is a sign of beauty, richness, and abundance. Thank you, mamma, for being my rock and truly being my world.

Happy Mother’s day.

PS – I too am looking forward to a mommy-daughter vacation while papa and Sumit watch the kids, hopefully, next year as we celebrate your 60th!!!

And here are two beautiful Mother’s Day posts that I found online:

Do I deserve to be celebrated this mother’s day

This mother’s day, something else to celebrate (loved the video too!)

Posted by & filed under Uncategorized.

I read a lot of books this past quarter (completed 7, 4 in progress, discarded a few after 50-100 pages) so close to less than 1 a week. This is the most I have ever read in my life and it absolutely felt great. I picked up on my love for reading much later in life though books have always been a big influence and source of joy in my life. Over the years as I have much less unstructured downtime, I find myself reading even more. Perhaps, there is something about being more intentional about the limited work and child-free time I have in my life that forces me to truly prioritize my real sources of joy over folding laundry (though sometimes reading and laundry can happen simultaneously!!).

I am often asked – “How do you get time to read?” so here is the inside scoop. As you will discover, it isn’t perfect, and I don’t think I read for more than 30 mins at a stretch. Often it is short spurts of a few minutes before I switch gears into my other roles. But still, it has been amazing to read or rather listen to books. Audiobooks have been a life changer when it comes to reading at this stage in my life.

  • Driving – No surprise, I did a lot of my reading on audible or audio books on a CD. Fortunately, my commute is short but 10 sessions of 10 mins each add up to 100 minutes a week that can sometimes mean 20% of a book done in a week. I also drive to exercise classes and some errands, though I often have my kids with me on the latter so its often listening to Daniel Tiger or Old Macdonald at those times😊
  • Cooking – I love to cook and when the kids are not around me in the kitchen, audible is running in the background. On most weekdays, I wake up before the kids and spend about 30 minutes packing their lunches and snacks and that’s a bonus reading time. It’s a time I greatly cherish where I get to make something with love and care for my kids and nourish my own soul in the background. Again, I can often get ~ 2 hours of reading time a week this way.
  • times at work – I have a fairly intense tech job but sometimes I can strategically batch up some administrative tasks – scheduling meetings, expense reports, formatting slides, etc. and get a bonus 15-30 mins of reading time every couple of weeks.
  • Random errands at home – I typically don’t do a lot of housekeeping without the kids but if there are random serendipitous quiet moments when the kids are with dad and I am folding laundry, audible is invited to the party again😊
  • Car rides – I am blessed to not have motion sickness and unfortunately, I can’t drive on the freeway (that story will be in another blog post) but we do go on a lot of road trips with my husband on the drivers seat and the kids buckled up in their car seats at the back. Lately, Sumit and I call that our connection time where we often listen and discuss to a podcast or plan our weeks or resolve the usual marital conflicts as the kids can often engage themselves with books, colors or just each other. However, I sometimes do try and take 10-15 mins on my own to hold a paper book or read on the kindle.
  • A few minutes before bed – This is honestly my favorite way of reading but given that Vivaan stays up till almost 10 most days and I try to sleep early to exercise before work a few times a week, this didn’t happen as much but there were a few minutes a few nights this past quarter.

Here’s another peek behind the scenes…

First and foremost, it’s the intention and desire. I was greatly inspired by Laura Vanderkam and Leanne Sowul who made me realize that I do have more time to read than I think. I had a list on Wunderlist on “Books to read” that I’d keep populating every time I came across something interesting, whether it was the Bill Gates list, Modern Mrs. Darcy, random bookstore recommendations, etc. This meant I never had an excuse that “I don’t know what to read.” I also always had a book with me – a paper book, my kindle, audible and the car CD player always had a book.  I was also tracking the list of books I was reading in an Excel doc and seeing little progress was motivating. Also, on days and moments when the crazy voice in my head would say I am too overwhelmed or my life is too busy, looking at that list made me say – “Hey, I am not that busy to make time for the things that matter. Look at how much I have been reading lately.” I also have no trouble putting down a book if it’s not interesting. Sara of the SHUBOX.com uses a 50-page rule and I kind of follow that as well and will give a book an hour or so of my time before I decide its not for me.

 

And then, of course, there are tradeoffs, reading (rather listening) so much meant I didn’t spend time on podcasts, news, KQED forum (one of my favorite radio shows) as much as I typically did in the past. It also meant I had less time to wander and dream especially in the car though I have been trying to sometimes not turn on my book and “do nothing.” It also meant fewer phone calls but that was a choice that still felt fine as I was sufficiently connected with most of the important people in my life or calling someone in a different part of the world at 5 pm wasn’t going to be logistically convenient either. Listening to books while also packing kids’ lunches didn’t allow me to focus as much as holding a book in my hand in my bed but again 90% quality reading is better than no reading.

 

For those of you who like to read, do you have more tips on making time, finding books and keeping this love of reading going especially in a phase of life with a lot going on? And yes, I’d love book recommendations. I typically read non – fiction and memoirs but I am trying to read more fiction too😊