Posted by & filed under Uncategorized.

— at least for now

 

For a long, long time, I believed that if I wasn’t making a career of teaching yoga, leading workshops & writing that I was somehow not doing justice to my art & my callings. I used to believe that I wasn’t being true to my heart’s deepest desires, that I was too scared to quit my job or had some weird insecurity about money… I tried and tried to talk myself out of those thoughts. I read, I researched. I reflected and went down some rabbit holes too. There were tears and hours of despair, lots of them to be honest.

And yes, even though in the moment it was hard, I am glad I am not a full-time writer or yoga teacher or coach. At least for now though I do hope that at some point I am. I am also confident that I am not a fraud or disloyal to my dreams because I don’t do that work full time. Yes, I have my fair share of fears and insecurities that I am exploring and processing but that means little about my relationship with my callings.

Here’s why I don’t want to monetize my art at this point in my life.

  • Creative freedom – I can write what I want. I show up with more courage and more authenticity as I am not constantly thinking about writing “what people will pay for”. I write what I care about and how can I create value for others and I feel pretty good about this balance.
  • Honing my craft – It takes practice, a lot of it to get good at what you do. There are no shortcuts to this whether it was teaching yoga, workshops or now my writing. As I wasn’t charging much for my yoga workshops, I could experiment and try out different styles, discover my own voice and figure out how to best create value for my clients while still speaking from my heart and not worry about pricing and all that my marketing textbook had to teach. With my writing and blog, I have invested very little time and energy into marketing and that is intentional. I know if I would have moved my hours, my work could have reached a wider audience, but I want to invest on honing my craft, on developing my voice and I appreciate that I don’t have to constantly be thinking of growing my subscriber list.
  • Flexibility at this stage – As a mom with two little kids, my life is fairly chaotic and unpredictable and I want some sense of stability and some sense of creativity. For me, my callings help me manifest my sense of creativity and my day job keeps my life somewhat predictable. I appreciate this balance to not have to expect my writing to provide for this feeling of stability at this point in my life.
  • Focus on the people – When I taught yoga a few years back, I earned very little sometimes even $5 for a 90-minute class, add some buffer and the commute time and the money was almost insignificant. However, it also came with a lot of joy of truly focusing on the people I was serving. If I would have looked at each person who entered my class and hoped for more to show up, so I could contribute to my mortgage, I know I wouldn’t have done justice to the people who were trusting me with their practice.

 

 

My calling truly has the power to nourish and nurture my soul and hopefully contribute positively to other people’s lives even if I don’t invest 50 hours a week to it. I don’t want this young inexperienced part of my life to bear the burden of paying my cell phone bills. Not to say I’d never want to monetize, I DO want to monetize and create a small business but at this stage in my life, this model works best. I want to amplify my message, reach a wider audience and find a way to partner with a non-profit to divert the funds for use in a developing country in education or domestic abuse. I hope at some point in my life I can find a way to divert some of the hours as a tech marketer into my work as a creative but so far this somewhat crazy but wholesome balance of my myriad identities is nourishing all parts of me.

Thank you for riding along with me on this journey!

 

P.S. – So much of this thinking is influenced by the wonderful work of Liz Gilbert and her book Big Magic, a book I’d highly recommend!

 

Posted by & filed under Parenting, Relationships.

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Vivaan turned 4 last month. I have experienced the deluge of all emotions I could ever imagine over these last 4 years. The all-consuming nature of parenthood combined with the absolute power of loving and being loved by another human. These beautiful paradoxes juxtaposed right next to one another still fascinate me and make me smile (and cry!), though my pendulum often swings to joy way more than I would have ever imagined. Yet, things haven’t gotten old or boring after 4 years though I will not lie, the sheer volume of thoughts in my head and the tasks on my list can overwhelm at times.  But, for the most part, I also feel good about this so-called elusive thing called work-life balance, but oh I digress.

Back to Vivaan…

Here is a letter that Lindsey Mead has inspired me to write. She is an incredible writer and pens down these beautiful letters to her kids on their birthdays and it is my (belated) turn now. You are a gift in my life in so many ways, thank you, Lindsey

Dear Vivaan,

Thank you for yet another incredible year to be your mom. A year that was challenging with 2 of you, a million moments where you both needed me at the same time. It was a year that reminded me I could wholeheartedly love you both at the same time even though yes, taking you to the bathroom and nursing Saveer at the same time was a fun project! I am grateful you can now go to the bathroom on your own.

You have struggled with school – a lot to be honest. You have told us it is boring, and you often cry on Sunday evenings and Monday mornings. It is one of the hardest parts of watching you grow is seeing you in pain and I must remind myself that this is a part of your life at this point. We spent many months finding another school and we have finally found one and hopefully you’ll enjoy this one. You have wanted a forest school and even convinced me – “Mama, can you find a school where I can do my art projects and tracing outside and not in a loud class. My ears hurt in so much noise.” You like quiet spaces over noisy ones and you even asked grandma – “All of you are staying over in our house (for my sister’s wedding)? That’s too many people and it will get noisy!”

On that same note, you didn’t want a big birthday party and asked for a camping trip instead. I tried to convince you to get your friends in the park and we could do outdoor activities, but you insisted to have it your way. I learnt to accept you and your choices and remember that it’s “your birthday” and it should be celebrated the way you want it. We booked a campsite, months in advance only to have to welcome rain that day and chose to go to the museum instead. You were happy.

You have been asking for a big sister. I haven’t cracked the mystery on why, but it melts my heart. You have said – “No way” to a baby sister, only big sister is what you want. I don’t know how to do this.

You love to hike and joined me on most of my 52 hikes this past year. My favorite was a 3-mile hike in Marin and I hope to do it again with you this year. We love reading the Athleta & REI brochure that arrives in the mail and we talk about eating broccoli and protein so we both can hike big hills together when you are big, “hmmm maybe when I am 10 years old, mama” is what you say.

 

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Your relationship with Saveer both inspires and frustrates me at the same time. I am learning to remind myself this is how siblings are. You both fight like you are enemies. Though if I am honest, I have to say he clearly knows how to instigate you and push down the tall tower that you spent 10 minutes building and it takes you 2 seconds to punch him in his tummy, ouch. And yet, the way you both hug, kiss and look out for each other is one of the most joyful moments of my day. You even told Santa that “I don’t need anything, but Saveer doesn’t have a train conductor costume so can you please bring one for him?”

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I typically don’t go grocery shopping with the two of you after school/work but one day I braved this adventure. I was a little irritable and unknowingly repeated some version of “Get out soon, we are getting late” and you very assertively spoke up – “Mama, don’t say the same thing more than once. It only makes it worse.” I just looked at you in awe, smiled and said, “I am sorry Vivaan, you are right.”

I have also been told – “If you will not be nice to me, I won’t either. This is how it is mommy.”

One day Sumit and I were arguing for long in the morning and at bedtime, you told me – “Mama you were not kind to papa.” Thank you, Vivaan for calling me out because I truly wasn’t kind. I was hurt but harsh words are never the right answer in a marriage.

You love the arts; all kinds of pretend & imaginative play and I hope we can keep this love of yours alive. You love to ask questions and get your hands dirty, literally. We cook and bake a lot. You love being in the kitchen. Lately, you have been enjoying doing dishes. The other night you washed the Vitamix on your own.

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We try and meditate before bed. Okay, I try and meditate, and you enjoy your opportunity to turn on headspace on my phone. I trust that you are vicariously getting some of the benefits though I have been told – “meditation is boring, mama.” But then the other day when I was having big tears, you came up to me and said – “Mama, take a few deep breaths, you will calm down and feel better.”

We have been working on helping you stay focused and complete a task at hand. You can sometimes get frustrated and want to give up. I have also noticed that you have a strong desire to please and not disappoint us. I hope you know that you are always loved no matter what even though there are moments you may not feel that way. I am learning to practice unconditional love while still holding high standards for you. I hope you develop a strong moral compass of doing the right thing for your own conscience and not to make us proud.

Your friendships are powerful, and I love how much you care for your friends. Yet, I have also noticed that things can be binary. X can either be good or bad, but we are trying to teach you that sometimes, good people make bad choices and X can hit you if you are upset and you can speak up for yourself and tell him not to hit you. Your teacher told us that you can get possessive of your best friend playing with others.

Finally, I have experienced the vulnerability of loving your child so closely and the fear that comes up with such love. There absolutely are moments when I wish time would stand still and I’d just spend hours playing with you, talking to you and listening to your stories. I recognize this is a very short window where I have such a close view of your world and what a blessing it is to be trusted and loved so much. Yes, there absolutely are moments when I hope you fall asleep, so I can have 5 minutes of quiet before I sleep myself. However, there are very few things as joyful as our bedtime giggles giving way to cozy snuggles, you tightly holding my arms and your deep breaths putting me to sleep.

I am blessed and honored to be your mom. Happy birthday, Vivaan!

Posted by & filed under Creativity, Imperfections.

P.S. – I wrote this post in March 2017 when Vivaan was 3 and Saveer was 6 months old and published it about a year later. 

Life feels pretty full right now with a preschooler and an infant, a full-time tech job and my last class in grad school. In many ways, it is very easy to let my own health become a low priority. However, I have realized that it’s not really that simple about saying no to myself because every time I do that, it’s much harder to say yes to everything else. Over the years, I have learned (the hard way) that my own health – physical & emotional are deserving of my own love and care in a very special way just as much as breastfeeding my baby is.

I do well when I exercise and yet the million dollar question pops up – “ How do you get time to exercise?” I don’t really “get” time but I have to “find” time to exercise. It often means letting the laundry stay unfolded but getting in a 15-minute walk after dinner. Lately, it’s in bits and chunks,  5 minutes here and 15 minutes there. There are very few intense cardio bursts or an hour-long uninterrupted class but it sure is better than me not doing anything. Best thing of all, these little chunks add up over the week and it’s a gift to myself and everyone else I am trying to care for.

Here is how exercise gets some love on my schedule

  • Use a tracker – I am absolutely addicted to my Fitbit. I am typically not very competitive but when it comes to my steps I sure am. This ensures I take the stairs instead of the elevators at work. This means I will no longer complain to make multiple trips from the car when bringing back grocery. When I need to take a break at work, I (try) to walk instead of simply surfing the net.
  • Outdoor kids activities – I recognize I am very fortunate to live in a part of the world with excellent weather which means I am typically outside with the kids as much as I can. We spend hours at the park, zoos & outdoor museums which means the steps add up more easily and getting a few push-ups while the toddler is making pizza in the sand is not that impossible.
  • Barre3 Online – I am a huge fan of the Barre3 workout but getting to a studio is a luxury both in terms of time and money but their online app is fantastic. They have workouts of different lengths targeting different parts of the body which means I don’t really have an excuse. Yes, there absolutely are days when giving myself even 10 minutes is hard and I am by no means perfect. Can I humble brag about a 30-minute solo barre3 workout at the airport when both kids (strangely) napped at the same time? Last night, I got 10 minutes of barre3 in the bathroom while the infant slept and dad read books for the older one.
  • Dance – This one is a lot of fun. Often time, I’ll turn on some music and we will all dance (for 5 mins!) or sometimes the rest of the crew has some fun at my expense. Regardless, I feel good, my tracker gets some more love and the kiddo enjoys a dance party on a weeknight.
  • Family hikes – This one if perhaps my favorite because its more than just exercise but also a way to connect with nature, myself and people who matter. I am fortunate that both the kiddos and the husband like this too. This year, I committed to 52 hikes and 10 weeks into the year I am at 10 hikes. Investing in a good hiking stroller was one of the best purchases we made after the kids.
  • Walking meetings – I try to do a few walking meetings at work each week when I don’t need to be in front of my computer. Having a park next to the office surely helps!
  • Races – I signed up for a 10K and a half marathon this year. Running isn’t quite my thing but I do like long walks. Both of these don’t allow strollers but there are others that do allow for strollers too.

In the end, I need to embrace imperfection. Some days the steps don’t add up or my body doesn’t like the idea of another push-up. It means I try again the next morning and make as much progress as I can without judgment but more love and more compassion for myself.

 

Posted by & filed under Everyday Lessons, Vulnerability.

I have a lot of lists lately – both in my head and typed up on my computer. Lists of things I want to accomplish and the habits I want to develop and change. I am refining, prioritizing and checking in with myself (and my husband as appropriate) on what’s important, why it’s important and how could I create space in my life to make things happen.

Yes, I am being very intentional about my lists…

In many ways, it feels brave to dream big,  dream about what matters most to me and I feel grateful to have the privilege of being able to do so. Yet, in some ways, I am scared to even say these out loud and finalize on my piece of paper (or word doc!), let alone share them with all of you. I thought it would be interesting to see what’s under the hood of these fears.

First, there is a fear of failure. Writing down a big goal doesn’t mean its accomplished😊 There is a strong chance it doesn’t get done due to a myriad of reasons and there are moments when that evokes fear. Then, there is a fear of judgment. I wish I could say I didn’t care what people think about me, but I am not there yet. The judgment of my priorities, my values and the way I am living my life. And then there is the attachment. Would I be less worthy of my own love if I didn’t get much done on my list? Will I label myself in unhealthy ways of not being good enough, not trying enough and all that good stuff? And finally, am I selfish? Am I not a good parent because a lot of things on my lists don’t involve my children. Carving out time and energy for my own needs can sometimes (not always) come at the expense of not giving to my children and sometimes that feels a little uneasy.

Yes, as you can see, the inner critic doesn’t go away and has no qualms about showing up uninvited to the party. Over the years, I have learned, she shows up and will continue to do so.

Thankfully, I recognize her when she arrives. I have learned to see if she has anything useful to teach me and very rarely she does and at those times, I thank her graciously.

On other occasions, I tell her – “I know you are here uninvited and feel free to entertain yourself. I am not interested in listening to what you have to offer.” I then invite my wise self into my circle and hold her even tighter as I feel scared, unsure, uncomfortable and unclear. She always has the right answers. And here’s what she had to tell me about my lists.

Dear friend –

Please make your lists, dream big, work hard with intention and awareness but know that you are enough and beautiful even if you don’t accomplish half of what you have on your list. Know that there will be failures – projects won’t have outcomes you have desired and habits may not develop as quickly as you’d like. You learn from them and start again with what’s needed in your life at that point. You can change what’s on your list mid-cycle. That doesn’t mean you are not committed or unfaithful to your dreams. Trust that you have the skills and wisdom that if your children (or husband, parents or close friends and loved one) need you more than usual at a given point, you will drop that event you were trying to host and that’s okay. It doesn’t mean you can’t do it, it means you are aware of the fluidity of your life and can prioritize appropriately. To the world, it may seem you are doing too much – exercising too much, reading too much or writing too much but you will know what’s enough for you. Make sure you ask yourself why you are doing something and focus on that brings you joy and not that which feeds the ego.

I love you!

Posted by & filed under Everyday Lessons, Happiness.

I have never been big into new years resolutions. I had someone once tell me that if something is important to do, why to wait until the new year to make it happen and I naturally fell into that camp. Yet, I love new beginnings especially when it comes to new habits, goals, and intentions. Monday mornings are special to kick things off and the first day of the month always makes me happy! I am still finalizing my 2018 plan (yes, I am creating one and still figuring out what that means in this season of my life) so I’ll be sharing that soon but in the meantime, here is another practice that I am starting this year.

It’s the word of the year and mine is – ACCEPTANCE

I can’t point my fingers as to why this word came to me. Lately, I have been doing a lot of “acceptance” meditations on Headspace. (An app I highly recommend to anyone wanting to develop a meditation practice or deepen their practice). Brene Brown’s latest book, Braving the Wilderness also had an influence on forcing me to observe how I’d sometimes hold on to old patterns about people negatively and where I was falling short of accepting realities about the difficult parts of my relationships.

Acceptance to me most importantly means accepting all parts of myself. Acceptance doesn’t mean lack of accountability or permissiveness of bad behavior, but it means love and kindness and starting over again. It means accepting all my professional choices and decisions that I can really beat myself over. It means accepting myself when I can be impulsive with my husband. It means accepting that I made a mistake BUT working hard on preventing impatience in myself.

It means accepting my husband with an even bigger heart. It means truly understanding where he is unable to meet my needs because changing his habits is hard. It means accepting him for truly trying to be a better partner. It means accepting our differences with more gratitude and love.

It means accepting some difficult relationships for the parts I can’t change. It means more freedom and headspace for me.

It means accepting the hard and sometimes mundane and exhausting parts of parenting. Accepting that there will be evenings where I will not have the energy to feed them and their accompanying tantrums, but I do it with an awareness that it’s a difficult evening. It means accepting that it can be frustrating to take the little one to the bathroom right when I have started eating, smile, take a deep breath and do it.

And finally, it means acceptance of the harsh realities of life – death and disease. And then, when I push further, the crime, suffering and economic equality in the world can really affect me. It means accepting how I feel about these challenges and channeling that pain into action where I can and accepting the things that I can’t change.

Do you have a word of the year? Is there something in your life that is inviting you right now?

Posted by & filed under Everyday Lessons.

And just like that, another beautiful year comes to an end. In some ways, time flew by. In other ways, it didn’t just fly by. I felt it in big waves, small joys and things in between. I have hundreds of memories, some in my head that I fear I will lose and others documented on the blog, on my iPhone and other places in the cloud! I am still undecided whether it’s a good thing when time just flies by or if it feels like it moved slowly. I have been spending a lot of time over these past few months reflecting on the year and thinking about this new year. It is an activity that gives me tremendous meaning and joy and reminds me of being more intentional with how I spend my time and energy.

Here’s what this past year felt like:

• Parenting – It was an absolute full year; full of lots of joy and lots of struggles. I feel nostalgic about how much both the kids have grown and that I no longer get to hold an infant in my hands, yet I am also grateful that my most sleep-deprived nights are hopefully behind me. Overall, I felt good about most of the parenting choices I made and my identity as a mother.

• Family – Continuing bullet # 1 above, I felt good about our family of four. We had lots of simple joyful moments with snuggles and cuddles and big events such as camping trips, road trips and plane rides! There were trips to the museums and zoo and many hours on trails collecting sticks and playing in muddy puddles. I had a lot of FUN with the kids and my husband. Not being in school in the second half of the year meant that I had a lot more headspace to make every weekend a mini vacation and that was awesome. Where I fell a little short was in my relationship with my parents and siblings. I would have liked to spend more time and energy with them. On the brighter side, the quality of my relationships felt good. At points of contention, I could sit down (or walk the stroller with the phone in my hand) and talk through what needed to be changed (and often it was my own mind!) and make repairs. I miss my parents, miss them a lot and I often wished, we didn’t live so many thousands of miles away. In the meantime, thank you WhatsApp for allowing papa to let us know what he ate for dinner last night. #simplejoys.

• Health – This was a year where I exercised the most, ever (even before I had kids). No big marathons or boot camps but simple consistent movement that really was a big source of joy and energy with everything on my plate. I had a good relationship with food though I know I can do better here. There were moments when my plate had more white rice than needed in response to stress or simple indulgence that often resulted in me feeling guilty later. I need to work on both – mindful eating + less guilt after a high carb diet. I’d like to meditate more and hopefully this will be on my 2018 list. Overall, mind and body felt nourished and I hope to continue the streak here.

• Service – This is one place where I feel really empty. I didn’t give much. My life was a little too focused on myself. I am a big believer that I can only give what I have so in some ways, it made sense to fill up my own bucket first but still, I am way too fortunate to have not given enough, not even a big meaningful check this year… I did fine on everyday kindness but hope to make this more of a priority for the new year. Again, it sometimes takes 5 minutes to bring a smile to someone.

• Work – It was a good, solid year. There were some tough moments: we had a lot of organizational changes, disappointment for not getting promoted when I was expecting it and some difficult relationships, but I experienced joy almost every Monday morning and that’s a good sign. I learnt, grew, contributed and enjoyed my day to day and the comfort of knowing how work supports many of my other goals and values.
• Marriage – There were lots and lots of bumpy moments on this journey. I had tears, a lot of them and a lot of joyful moments too. There were some beautiful kid-free hikes, dinners and evenings at the concert. We have grown and understood each other better and the dust seems to have settled and I feel a lot more hopeful and excited going into the new year.
• Relationships – I feel truly blessed to have incredibly rich friends with whom I got to spend some good quality time celebrating milestones and supporting each other through tough times.

• Personal Projects – Even though life was so full, I was able to carve out some time to create a few paintings for the house, take an art class with friends, complete my 52 hikes project and read several books (or listen to them on audible that I highly recommend). I didn’t write as much as I’d like to but was able to write a little more outside my own blog and even get paid for it. As a relatively novice writer, its always an encouragement to know that professional editors with a huge audience appreciate your work. And even though I want to write when no is reading, this sure helps.

This was my year. I wanted to be real and honest but as I am reading this post again, things sound overly positive. Not sure, if this is a function of the increased wisdom that grey hair brings (I have visibly more grey hair now) or the fact that I wrote this on vacation, sitting in a hotel room by the beach while the kids were sleeping, and the husband was packing the suitcases. In any case, I’ll take it as a sign that it was a good year with lots to be grateful for. However, as it’s been a few weeks since I wrote this, I also have a profound realization that not every year will be this calm, peaceful and uneventful. There will be deaths, disasters, and more losses because such is life. But for now, I am soaking in the goodness, praying for more resilience and joy in the world and ready to take on 2018.
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Posted by & filed under Everyday Lessons.

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I turned 34 last month and for the last couple of years, I have written an annual post reflecting on my life at that point. This year I was torn between writing and not writing my birthday post. I didn’t think much had changed and didn’t think this post would be different than previous years. And of course, I had the good old excuse of not having time to write. I am glad I left the kids with dad this morning to spend some time at a coffee shop with my hot chocolate in hand to write. As I thought about what I wanted to write on my walk here, it was this post that wanted to be written. I had a kind voice in my head that reminded me that even if the post sounded similar, it was beautiful to pause and capture what this year meant to me.  Thank you, kind and wise inner voice! Here I am with what this moment in life looks like.

  • Gratitude – This is my first & biggest emotion. I feel so much joy, love, and gratitude for everything I have in my life. Every time I pause and think about the millions of people who don’t have food on the table, women who work as sex workers, children without parents and the dozens of other situations that makes life so much harder I feel nothing but gratitude for how abundant, beautiful and purposeful my life is. This has been the most valuable life lesson I have learned from my dad, thank you, papa!
  • Blur & Magic – And yet, this year is what I call a time of blur and magic, of fog and fun, of chaos and beauty, you get the picture. Life with two little kids is so all-consuming and I can be so exhausted that I can fall asleep anywhere, yesterday I fell asleep on a beach!!! And yet, I so enjoy the simplicity of children, the challenges of parenting, the fulfillment of experiencing a family of four, way more than I could have ever imagined. It truly is magical.
  • Alignment – For the most part, my life feels in alignment with my values and that feels good. Yes, there are parts I want to change and cards that I wish were dealt differently but for the most part, things feel in balance. It has meant constantly questioning how much is enough and being okay with the fluidity of priorities.
  • More than mom – Now, especially that I have two kids, I feel an even greater need to nurture other parts of myself. There often are times on a Sunday afternoon, where I secretly hope my mom would appear and take my kids for an hour, so I could do something to nourish myself. I also find myself missing a lot of things about my pre-kiddo life. Perhaps it’s a function of the enormity of the work with two kids or it’s that I have been a parent for almost 4 years and the accumulated exhaustion wears in. I think it’s a little bit of both😊
  • Parents & siblings – I didn’t get to spend as much time or invest in my relationship with my own family as much as I’d like to, given how much I love and get along with them. I can attribute it to the fullness of my own life, but I want to change that.
  • Cancer – One of my close friends was diagnosed with cancer and it was very hard in so many ways to watch her fight cancer (which she did incredibly well). I feared for her life, for my own and my loved ones but then would struggle even more as I questioned why such diseases and suffering exists in the world and the millions of lives that are disrupted with this disease (and others). Still, no answers and my quest continues. I also often felt guilty of not being there enough for her, for not spending as much time as I’d like to.
  • Podcasts – I recently discovered the joy of subscribing to podcasts and it’s been a beautiful addition to my life. I have learned so much from them and realized the power of a few minutes here and a few minutes there to nourish myself. And yes, same goes for audio books!
  • Grad School – I completed grad school this year! So happy and excited to be done.
  • Marriage – This was the hardest year of my marriage in many ways. The details deserve a separate post. It was the small stuff, but I saw first-hand how the small stuff can become the big stuff and how and why people can fall out of love or get divorced after decades of being married. I also feel incredibly beautiful that we caught some of our red flags and are tenderly attending to the broken parts and working on ourselves and in our marriage. Grateful again.
  • 52 Hikes – I committed to 52 hikes this year and completed my 50th hike yesterday and it feels wonderful. This experience deserves its own detailed post too but overall it was great to hike with the family and friends, expose the kids to the outdoors and experience the joy of completing a project. I exercised the most I ever have, even before I had my kids and that feels like a big accomplishment.
  • Mortality – I have also been thinking a little more about my own mortality and accept that as much as I may want to I will not be living forever and my time on this planet is finite. Sometimes it makes me sad, both as I think of my children but also as I think of what I can do in this world and how self-centered my life is. I am trying to channelize this more constructively and it’s a work in progress.
  • Injustice – This year was so difficult with so much injustice and pain in the world – natural disasters, crime, violence and more. Every time, I am exposed to this I shut down in some ways. I feel incredibly guilty for not doing enough. This is one place where guilt is very prominent, and my way of coping is acting to help. I am working on a campaign for next year to do more. Hopefully, the fog with little ones will settle and I will see more clear skies and have more headspace for this or as I often say, I will make more headspace for this.
  • Blog Love – And finally, I have learned that this blog, my writing and my community of readers is a very integral part of my life. I haven’t written as much this year, but I hope I change that in the months to come and write more, create more and give more through this medium.


Deep gratitude to Lindsey Mead for her post This is 38 and Dina Relles for her post This is 35 for inspiring me to write this. You can read my posts, this is 32 here and this is 33 here.

Posted by & filed under Everyday Lessons, Parenting.

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Almost a year back, I got a phone call from one of my closest friends announcing her pregnancy. A friend I have known for over a decade. A friendship that has seen a lot of ups and a few downs but has thrived through it all. And I experienced joy in two ways – joy for my friend who was pregnant after a miscarriage, after a period of uncertainty around having kids. I  was also joyful (selfishly) for being able to experience this beautiful journey alongside a loved one.
A few minutes into our conversation, I was asked the unexpected – “So, do you have any advice for me?” Unexpected because I have often gone to my friend for advice and call her the wiser one. This time I had a lot to say and yet in many ways parenting is so personal, so intimate and so complex that I didn’t know what to say.

Advice didn’t seem like the right thing to offer.

Yet, I have experience – not that of a perfect mother or a flawless parenting journey but one that is rich and precious so I thought I’d document what I have learnt. Hopefully, it can be of some value to my friend and perhaps to others who are new parents or are thinking about becoming one.

And yes, hopefully on days, when I need my own sane voice to guide me, I will come and read this😊

1. Invest in your partnership (if you have one) – The internet is full of advice on going for a date night or with reminders that children will eventually leave the house but your partner stays longer. While I don’t disagree with this point of view I believe each partnership is different and what one relationship and family needs is different at various stages. At some point, you may need to spend more time alone without the kid(s) but maybe you need to express your love by giving each other more space. At this point in our lives not having a lot of time with each other feels right knowing that it’s a very small window when our kids want to spend so much time with us while still feeling connected to each other as spouses. I know my emotions and needs as a wife have changed over time. Know that your relationship is important but nurture it in ways that matter to you.

2. You are enough – There will be many, many times that you will doubt yourself. You will make mistakes and will often want to course correct. You will read, discuss, reflect and make changes. Remember to do that all from a place of abundance and respect for yourself.

3. No wrong emotion – I am a big believer in this. Yes, there is bad behavior and bad actions but our feelings are our feelings. Honor your needs through all of this. There may be a time when you want more time with your child and there may be a time when you want less. Sometimes, Monday mornings may feel like a blessing and some Mondays may bring tears. All of this is a part of the journey.

4. Continue your adventures – Yes, their manifestation will change. An adventure may mean a mile-long walk on a paved trail around the block. It may mean a painting that you will take months to complete but keep your own soul alive. You are a parent for life but you also have other identities.

5. Outsource – As much as your budget permits, outsource things that don’t add value or joy. Be intentional about the trade-offs and constantly reflect on your values. Maybe you want someone else to do your grocery or maybe that’s a precious activity that you enjoy. I have found that being able to get help for a few hours of household work while cutting down on other expenses has been a well-worth adjustment. (I do recognize that I am incredibly privileged to be saying this and am very grateful)

6. Manage overwhelm – Yes, there will be moments, sometimes days & weeks that feel overwhelming. Know that most things in life are not permanent and your overwhelm will ease. Yet, there may be some minor changes you may be able to make to simplify your life a tiny bit. Keep at it as it is often worth it.

7. Find parent mentors & friends – This one has been huge for me. Finding other mothers, I can learn from, look upon to and most importantly have honest conversations with has been one of my most precious gifts as a mother. Some are close friends, some are co-workers, others are bloggers who have inspired me. They each have a unique role to play.

8. Filter advice – There is a lot of advice out there (and I am not helping by adding to it😊) but it helps to remind yourself, not everything needs to be taken in. Put your filters to work here…

9. Keep guilt out of your dictionary – This one can be tough for so many of us. Yet, I have learned that chronic guilt benefits no one. When guilt knocks at your door, pause, reflect and see if you need to make any changes. If the status quo is joyful and aligned with your values, waive a kind goodbye to guilt.

10. Be your own kind of parent – Ultimately, be your own kind of parent. Learn from others and their experiences but ultimately trust your own instincts, make your own rules and lead from a place of authenticity. (Yes, I used that word intentionally as I strongly believe parenting is one beautiful leadership experience.)

Welcome to the club. It is indeed an incredible one that we are very privileged to be a part of.

 

P.S – I have been writing and reflecting about side projects and I found this very interesting interview with the former head of marketing at Nike who has had a few different side projects. Yes, she isn’t a parent so some dynamics are different but I really enjoyed this conversation and thought you’d like it too!

Posted by & filed under Uncategorized.

I have a confession to make. I have had a very difficult relationship with my writing over the last one month. On one hand, I absolutely miss it and can’t wait to write down my thoughts and share my words and my voice. My journal has a lot of entries and there are sticky notes everywhere – at my desk, my wallet, my purse with ideas and thoughts

and YET

I haven’t been able to carve out the time or energy to write as much as I want to and I am still figuring out why…

Perhaps, it’s the sleep deprivation as my baby still wakes up multiple times a night to nurse so while I am still functioning well, my creative energy is at a minimum. My writing typically happens on a weekend morning when I wake up super early and head to a coffee shop but these days, I often sleep as I am in such a big deficit (I am yawning and rubbing my eyes as I type this too😊). And then, I also really have been wanting to spend more time with the kids. We have been going on fun family adventures that were much more challenging with school and I am absolutely loving that connection with the kids and my husband. I am already fearing that this window where we spend so much time with each other, where I am loved so dearly by my kids is such a small window that I truly want to soak it in as well as I can.

And yet, I am missing my writing and am struggling to do more of it.

It’s also a momentum & habit thing. When I don’t do something for a while, the habit starts dwindling and then I lose steam. I have also been exercising a lot more than what I have in the past and again that’s competing for my time as well but it sure has been a huge help in functioning with less sleep. Perhaps, it’s because my blog and identity as a blogger

is in flux – both emotionally as I am developing my new voice but also more tactically as my new website is still in the works.  Perhaps, it’s the enormity of work that comes with two children and I am still transitioning to being a mom of two and not one. Earlier, I could optimize and write around naps, etc. but with two, I haven’t still figured out how to get their schedules to perfectly line up. The blessing often is that I then get some good soulful time with the other kid…

But again, I miss my blogging

The other unexpected (well, perhaps not that unexpected) part is the inner critic that shows up at these times and here’s how she can sound

  • Wait, you were trying to build a community of parents with side projects and look at you, haven’t written a blog in about a month?
  • You are thinking of stopping to write? What about all your big and grandiose dreams?
  • You have the energy to go exercise and hike and organize a volunteering project and invest in a mutual fund but not to write?
  • Have you seen your writing lately, it’s not edited well and it doesn’t have that richness as it once did?

I need to start with love and compassion for myself and gently saying – “no thank you” to my inner critic. Over the years, I have gotten better at not listening to her. She shows up, I notice and have learned to not value her as much as I once did. It is a tough (although rich and meaningful) phase in my life and I need to accept that my blogging pace will be slow. I need to feel grateful that I am spending my time in ways that align with my values and that my creative energy will come back. I can make some minor changes in my schedule and carve out more time but sleep deprivation will compete with creative headspace.

I also need to remind myself that this is also a part of having a creative project, especially as a working parent that there will be periods of lulls and energy dips where ideas will not flow through. Making time for what matters is often complicated and exhausting and that is the reality behind a lot of the work that looks well-polished on the outside. And going slow doesn’t mean I don’t care but that it’s a lower priority at this point even though I am still in love with my calling. It also means that “maybe” my calling will change and that is beautiful in its own ways too and I need to love myself “for” and “through” that.

And perhaps most importantly, I need to continue to write even when it’s not perfect – both the writing and my life and talk about the messy and complicated parts of pursuing my callings at this stage of my life.

And here is a sneak peak into a few images on my new blog homepage! Feeback and changes are welcome…

neha_website_3 neha_website_2 neha_website_1-2

Posted by & filed under Creativity, Work, Writing.

Ever since I was a child, I had this strong desire of opening up an orphanage in India – a place where children were educated and loved for who they were. For many years, well into my twenties, I thought the “only” way of realizing any part of that dream was to work really hard, make a lot of money and then find a way to open an orphanage.

However, when I started working, I was miserable at my first job. It wasn’t that the company wasn’t good but there was a strong misalignment between my personal values and what I experienced at work. And I realized very early that my model of working hard to climb up to the top wasn’t quite going to be the way I experience joy and purpose and more importantly how I defined success. And while it may have helped to open that orphanage, the journey wasn’t worth it.

So, then began my quest to find a job to fuel all parts of me. Over the next 8 years or so I switched multiples jobs, companies and industries. I worked in HR and I wrote code. I did ethnographic research and I managed incentive plans. I got my yoga certification, volunteered, led workshops and retreats. And oh yes, I even went to business school to learn more about the intersection of sustainability and business.

All in the hopes of finding that one perfect thing that would fuel all parts of me: nourish me emotionally and intellectually, allow me to express myself, contribute positively in the world and of course pay me a decent wage.

Once I was pregnant and had my first child, I realized my equation was even more complex. Commute time ranked higher on my priority list. My expenses were higher and when life at home was a little more chaotic, I valued stability and security more than I had in the previous years.

And my quest continued – with lots of self-doubt, frustration, a loud inner critic and yes, a lot of tears.

And then about 2 years earlier, something shifted. I got a job that fueled many parts of me in a very beautiful way(not all) and I  worked on this blog consistently. This is the best I have felt when it comes to thinking about a life of meaning and purpose.

This integration of multiple bodies of work, projects & hobbies has collectively fueled all parts of me.

And interestingly, living in this mindset has made me less emotionally dependent on my regular job but I feel more invested in and committed to my career as a product marketer. And yet, I have also been able to make time and space to pursue other projects like the 10K project, 52 hikes project (on instagram) and create some small pieces of art for my home.

While I do know people who have one job or business that can fuel them completely, I know that’s not my path at least for the short term and here’s why.

  • I have multiple interests and sometimes competing values (creativity & stability) and it is realistically hard for me to find that one thing. It’s not just about finding that one thing but then convincing someone that you are the right person to do that job:)
  • I am relatively new to writing. As I am honing my skills and developing my voice, I really appreciate that I can write that I believe in and what I want to say. I don’t have to focus on aligning to what an organization or manager wants me to say or do. If this was my full-time job, I’d be a lot more nervous and anxious and that would take away from the joy of the creative process (at least as a beginner though at some point I hope to do more of writing)
  • I have a myriad range of skills and relationships that add to the richness of my life in a way that one thing independently could not.
  • Most importantly, having multiple identities has made me less attached to any one of them but more committed to the effort, process and journey.

 

If you are curious about the whole concept of side projects, here are my favorite resources!

 

  • Side Hustle School – This is a great resource for people looking to start side projects that can generate an income. Great podcast, inspiring stories with a strong bias for action.
  • How to be everything – I recently read this book and wish I had found this earlier in my life when I felt my day job had to fuel all parts of me. I was wrong and this book shows you the many, many ways to feed all parts of you with side projects being only ONE of them!!
  • One person, many careers – Another interesting book and as the name suggests a guide to have more than one career in your lifetime
  • Plan C: Full-time employee and part time entrepreneur – I had read this book a few years back and was a great way of thinking of how to combine a small business and a full-time career

 

And as I had shared in my previous post, I am working on pivoting my blog for parents who want to pursue or are currently pursuing side projects. To help me realize this vision, I am looking for what my target audience currently values and would love to learn from you. I’d greatly appreciate your participation in this quick survey  or feel free to drop me a note with your ideas and feedback at Mandhani dot neha at gmail dot com