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Last month, my husband and I completed 7 years of being married. My greatest emotion is that of immense gratitude for all that this relationship has brought in my life – both the joys and the struggles. The beautiful hikes and the not so pleasant arguments. The lovely experience of being a parent and the not so lovely experience of cleaning up our kitchen together in exhaustion on a Wednesday night. The peaceful weekend mornings before we had our two munchkins and the energy filled mornings with the kids where it can feel like forever to get out the house to drive to the beach! The joys of seeing our creative pursuits (my blog, Sumit’s Sahi Nahi) come to life and the support, sacrifice and planning it takes to fit it all together. While there are parts that of my marriage that I wish were different, I know there is deep meaning and purpose behind all the things that don’t always go the way I want them. As my dad reminds me, it’s a package deal, you can’t really pick and choose the parts that you like and those that you don’t. And honestly, when I am with my wise and peaceful self, I don’t know if I’d really want to choose either…

So, what I have learnt and what does this relationship mean to me today? I thought I’d make this an annual ritual like I have been doing on my birthday to pause and reflect on my truth today.

My first truth is that it takes effort, a lot of effort, every single day to make a marriage thrive and not just get by. There can be lots of reasons to not be empathetic or kind, to not speak in a language important to my spouse, to not forgive, to nag, etc, etc. And it all comes down to being truly invested and to make time not just in the sense of “go on a date night” frequently (though that has its own benefits!!) but to pause, reflect and see what the relationship needs at any given point in time and to make space, make room for that change to happen. And it’s effort that on some days comes with great ease and on other days not so much yet it’s always (okay almost) fulfilling and joyful.

My other big truth is the incredible power of “kind communication” and patience. I say this because I see it first hand as these qualities are very innate to my husband yet I struggle with them. I can be a lot more impulsive, quicker to give him unsolicited advice (when there are healthier alternatives) and lose my calm. I have learnt that it’s absolutely important to speak my needs and share what isn’t working but with immense kindness, every time, no matter what. It’s easy to blame him for the parts in me that aren’t feeling fulfilled but when I start with kindness and compassion, the hard times becomes so, so much easier…

I have also learnt the importance of respecting and accepting our differences. This one is again hard for me. My ego and fear can often show up in unhealthy ways. It means accepting that my husband is a person different than me, with his own do(s) and don’t(s), his own moral standards and own ways of resolving his conflicts and managing relationships. When these differences arise (which they always will), I need to focus on speaking with full honesty and kindness in a way that helps our relationship flourish and not just focus on my own needs in the moment. Sigh, a work in progress and mindfulness practices help!!!

I have also learnt that as much as my husband is an absolutely incredible partner, he can’t and shouldn’t fulfil every need in my life. I am going to set my marriage up for failure by having such expectations.

And yes, I have learnt that you can continue to love someone even more over the years, though the manifestation and the expression of that love changes. I don’t think about him ALL the time as I probably did at one point in my life but my respect, appreciation, gratitude and admiration has for sure grown over time. Yes, some days are dark and sometimes there are even weeks and months where marriage feels difficult yet in the end it’s all worth it.

Looking forward to more diaper changes (oh yes!!), camping trips, disagreements (with kindness), the scarce child free conversations, cleaning our ever messy house (that will someday be cleaner!!) and the abundant hugs.

Posted by & filed under Everyday Lessons, Parenting.

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Oh, I wish I had more time.

But, I don’t have enough time.

“I would have done this if there were 28 hours in my day.”

I have both said and heard these words (or a version of them) many times in my life. Most of us would gladly receive more hours in our days. Yet, the reality is that no matter who you are, no matter where you live or what you do, this number is a constant. We all have 24 hours in a day, 168 hours in a week and 8,760 hours in a year.

Given this constraint, the real question is what can we do in these limited number of hours to make the most of our life.

Before I had kids, my life felt pretty full with everything that filled up my day. I often wondered, how will I fit kids in my life without really giving up my life—my time for myself and for others?

Then, when I was pregnant with my second one, I wondered again how will I fit another child into an already full life?

And yet as I look back at the last three years, I feel incredibly grateful to say that yes being a parent and having a rich, soulful life has been absolutely possible for me.

As a mother, I exercise more, eat more home-cooked meals and feel more fulfilled professionally than I have in the past. Yes, this also means I have attended fewer events and yoga classes. I have gotten better at saying no to or leaving early from social engagements. I know a little less about what’s happening in the world and my house is messier than ever.

You get the point. It’s about making intentional choices based on what’s important to me at any given stage of my life.

I think about these issues a lot, as a mom of two young children who works full time and has a multitude of other interests.

Here are some of my guiding principles to make the most of my time in my day—

I clarify my values

This is my core foundation of being very clear on what is important to me. Over time I have learnt that some of my values will always remain the same but there are many that change and that is okay.

I manage my energy

When I think of tasks to be done, I like to think of what truly fuels me, what’s energy neutral and what’s depleting. Then I like to think of the right balance between the three at any given point. Are there activities that really don’t need to happen or perhaps not as frequently? For example, I love to cook but I don’t like doing the dishes so I choose to do more of the former and less of the latter to ensure I am spending my time to optimize my energy.

I prioritize compassion

Once I can do the above two effectively, it’s time for saying yes and saying no with awareness. It means saying yes to reading a book or a writing in a thank you card at the end of the day but saying no to cleaning the counter top or watching TV. It means leaving early (with kindness & gratitude) from a social engagement so I can take an afternoon nap.

I assess in big chunks of time

I also like to look at my life in chunks of weeks or more. The way I spend every hour of my time on a Sunday or Monday may not align fully with my values but when I look at it in large chunks, things seem much, much better.

I find small nuggets of time

And despite the above, the magic often happens in small chunks – 10 mins of exercise or meditation, 5 extra minutes of cuddles before bedtime, blog ideation in the car and writing in three sessions over a week. If I expect to have hours and hours to do what is energizing, I am in bad luck.

I buy time

Yes, there is the obvious one of outsourcing what I don’t like and can afford to pay someone but there are also more creative ways of buying time. Recently, we started a swap with a dear friend where we watch the kids one Sunday morning and they watch the kids another Sunday. It’s a lovely adventure for the kids and we adults get a break to spend time doing non kiddo things.

I avoid overwhelm

There are times when I feel like I am chronically time-starved. To me, that’s a reminder that I either need to lower the quality or the quantity of the tasks that I have signed up for. Maybe we can do a simple meal one night or not make plans for a Sunday afternoon hike. Perhaps I need to take a day off from work. (Yes, please!)

I watch my words

Finally, it’s about how I talk to myself and to others about my life.

If I keep saying oh no, I am so busy, I have no time, this will be my reality of exhaustion and overwhelm. If I tell myself, I am spending my time in ways that matter and my life is full and abundant with beautiful and challenging experiences, I feel better!

I’d love to have an extra hour in my day but until then I am grateful for these rich, luxurious, sometimes crazy, chaotic yet incredibly meaningful 24 hours in my day.

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

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This is a picture of the four of us on our flight back home from Seattle

 

A friend and I were exchanging texts the other day figuring out the logistics to meet up and at the end of our conversation she asked me – So, how is motherhood. I paused and thought hard on what to say over a text. As I have written earlier, to me it’s a beautiful collage of a million different emotions & experiences. However as I pause today, almost 34 months after I became a mom the first time and 2 months after I became a mom the second time, my one word on how is motherhood is that it’s beautiful, period. If I had to write a line, I’d say it’s beautiful, meaningful, rewarding, exhausting and above all a great spiritual journey that has helped me understand life grow and find joys in a myriad number of ways…

As a response to her question, I thought I’d pen down what motherhood feels right now. I feel the fog is lifting slightly as I am able to sleep a few more hours and enjoy motherhood even more than I did the first few weeks.

The hardest part initially was sharing my mommy time with 2 children and often the little munchkin got his needs met way ahead of the older one. If they both started crying at the same time and it was just me around, then the younger one got milk first. This is getting easier as I am learning how to navigate and perhaps even minimize both howling for mom at the same time. Despite the exhaustion and the frustration in those moments, I also recognize what a privilege and honor it is to be loved and needed so deeply by your young children. I know there will be a day when they’d want to spend the whole day(s) without me and all I’d want is a simple hug and will miss these beautiful moments.

Unlike what I would have expected, I don’t mind spending the whole day with a little baby and not have any adult conversations until I go to day care to pick up the older one. I greatly enjoy our quiet time together. I appreciate having so much white space in my life right now.  I have gotten time to think, reflect and spend a lot of time alone. Some days are easier and I get a lot more time to myself and can go for a walk, exercise or write this blog and there are others where lunch doesn’t happen until 2:00 pm!! I also really enjoy not being on the “clock”, having very few deadlines in my life and not thinking much about what I have accomplished in a given day. Some days, I can’t wait for my husband to come home so I can go and shower peacefully or get some fresh air outside or take a 10 minute nap. Then there are other nights when I can and have dinner with a friend. Overall, I have an increased sense of respect for mothers (and fathers) who stay home all day and take care of their kids. I am enjoying doing this for a few months while I am on maternity leave but couldn’t spend 7 days a week being a full-time mom to two little kids…

During these few months off from work, there have been lots of beautiful memories that we have made together as a family. My favorite time is when all four of us are in our bed either at night before the baby goes into his bassinet or in the morning when we are all cuddled up together. We have taken several walks in the double stroller, gone on a plane ride to Seattle, made trips to farms, parks, and museums. Has everything been perfect, no far from it – When we got into the plane, both the kids started crying at the top of their voice and everyone started looking at us. Sumit and I looked at each other took a deep breath and smiled at each other. This is what often helps us get through those tough moments.

One big difference with two kids (over one) is that given their needs are fairly different; an automatic break from parenting is hard. I have to prioritize it and often schedule or plan for it. Yes, there are Sunday afternoons when all four of us have napped together but that doesn’t happen often:-) This means that self-care is an even bigger priority for me. I am willing to let the toys be all over the floor but exercise is more important!!

Most importantly, I have gratitude for all the little and not so little things in my life. And this joy of gratitude also has brought sadness around the injustice in the world in so many ways. I have been asking a lot of “why do some people go through suffering x or y” lately. I still don’t have answers. With this abundance also comes fear of losing what I have and that not every time in my life will be so rich and joyful. I guess I will come back to my breath, to this canvas, to process when life does throw more curveballs…

For now, I am off to calming down a baby who wants to nap.

PS – I wrote this post a few weeks back, but couldn’t get to editing and publishing until today, the little one will be 3 months tomorrow!!!

 

Posted by & filed under Everyday Lessons, Parenting.

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The last few weeks have been everything that makes up life, literally. I have experienced the full gamut of human emotions and experiences…. I was having a fully healthy pregnancy until I was diagnosed with a liver condition that could put the baby’s life at risk requiring an urgent induction and leading to my little pumpkin arriving 3 weeks early.  Both of us are healthy, happy, back home and adjusting to our new worlds.

My first week back home was the most exhausting week I have ever experienced with sleep deprivation at levels I had never experienced in the past, not even with my first born. Even though my labor and delivery was relatively easy, my body was still healing and aches and pains existed in all parts of my body. The next few weeks have been progressively better but I am still exhausted and sleep deprived.  Breastfeeding has been physically painful for me with both my kids. With my first one, I’d often say that breastfeeding is physically harder than labor (who knew!!!) Yes, sometimes tears flow out for no real reason and for a planner like me, having such little control on my schedule (again!!) can definitely be exhausting. I can snap at Sumit and say mean things that truly make me sad, how could I say that (Ughhh again). Perhaps, the hardest part for me is letting baby’s needs always (almost) trump big brother’s needs. It’s not guilt or remorse but sadness that stems out of a mother’s heart, what I call love.

And yet..

With all of these challenges and struggles that are real and all consuming, there have been a million and more joyous moments for which I am so incredibly grateful. Having my mom and Sumit by my side literally attending to every possible need to the best of their ability is one of best gifts I can ask for. An incredibly understanding toddler who has big fat hugs and kisses for his baby brother truly make my heart full. A healthy baby who loves to eat and is growing well is perhaps the best gift of all.  True friends and family members who are there to support me in ways that matter most  whether it’s a phone call, a home cooked meal. My recovery has been smooth and we have been out and about with many adventures to parks, farms, and everything that makes our family smile. I have been able to prioritize self care with lots of simple and indulgent treats that are nurturing both my body and mind – massages, mom’s wellness groups, books, soulful conversations – Am I really a new mom, #supergrateful?

For me, parts of new motherhood is incredibly hard, exhausting, all-consuming, physically painful and emotionally draining. And there are so, so many parts that fill up my heart and soul in no other ways. I am really enjoying my maternity leave and feel incredibly grateful to enjoy my baby, my family and also nurture my own soul, sit at Starbucks and write this  post even though I woke up 4 times last night and don’t think I got more than a few hours of sleep (I have stopped keeping track at this point). Thank God for word and its spell check features else reading this post would have been a fun challenge:-)

And I believe such is my life – this beautiful juxtaposition of opposites. There is almost nothing that I love and enjoy that also tires, exhausts and brings aches and pains, literally or metaphorically. And, the meaning of life is to continue to cherish those joyful moments while still holding space for the dark pieces without losing perspective and empathy for all of those who may not have the luxury and comforts that I do – Mothers for whom motherhood can be exponentially more challenging in a myriad of ways. A part of me wishes that I could sleep through the night soon, maybe tonight and then I have to remind myself what a privilege and honor it is to be able to make food for another human, hold him close to my heart with so much love, and watch his contentment as he feels secure and nourished. This will only last for so long, these unparalleled intimate moments and yes, the sleep deprivation, both.

 

Posted by & filed under Everyday Lessons, Imperfections, Mindfulness, Parenting, Relationships, Writing.

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I turned 33 this past weekend and was blessed to celebrate my day with near and dear ones. I started this birthday blog last year by journaling my life at the moment to pause, reflect & share what is showing up for me. In some ways, this post is easy to write because I find life to be rich & abundant with its highs and lows. Yet, in other ways, its difficult to write about myself, be vulnerable and show up. Yet, that is one of the key reasons why I write and share my work publicly – to be raw, real and authentic and do my part to create a space for others to do the same.

Here’s what my 33 is looking like right now…

I am a mom to two boys – two “souls” as my mom reminds me, two human beings who truly bring me joy, purpose and meaning. They exhaust me, test my patience and my ability to function with minimal sleep. I have nothing but gratitude for this journey and feel incredibly blessed to call myself a mom. Yet, I realize that as much as this is my most meaningful identity, this isn’t enough for me and I need a solid relationship with myself, my spouse, family, work, family, friends & community to feel like my life is whole and complete. I am not guilty of saying so…

I have learnt that rich relationships take effort, sacrifice, patience, communication & surrender. This applies first and foremost to my husband, parents & siblings. Some days are easier and brighter and some are hard and such is life… The relationships that are worth taking to the end will have bumps and hiccups and in hindsight those moments are a true test of the strength in those relationships. I also find strength in accepting that some relationships are hard and take much more work to sustain. Wisdom is in knowing which ones need how much care. This is still a work in progress…

There are so many questions to which I have no answers – how I want to talk about religion to my children, why some people suffer more than others – poverty, rape, cancer bring up big feelings for me. Why does a preschooler see her mom die?  Yet, I want to continue to ask these questions, to sit with the uncertainty, the not knowing…

I am much more aware and accepting of my own introversion, my need for silence, quiet time & self-care. This means being more & more comfortable saying no to social commitments beyond a certain threshold. It means prioritizing time away from the kids to seek the replenishment I need to thrive and be the human being I want to be. I appreciate nature even more and need my spiritual work even more than before whether its meditation, yoga, a retreat, reading, hiking, an hour at a café writing a new blog,  a soulful conversation or some form of service. I feel pretty good about prioritizing these needs of mine…

There is no destination for my purpose on this planet. My path is my purpose. My journey to be more in touch with myself, to grow in a myriad of ways, to connect authentically, to love wholeheartedly, to experience life in its fullness and to give is my purpose. Nothing grandiose, nothing fancy here and this is what purpose means to me.  I am a work in progress and I am moving forward. This is my purpose.

I am learning to be much more comfortable with ambiguity and uncertainty, with making plans and being okay that they will not all work out and trusting that I will draw upon my own resilience and the love and support of others to navigate life. I am learning to dream big and dream small yet also recognize that I do best what I am realistic with my expectations from myself, others and perhaps life in general….

In order to stay true to my values, one of my tools is structure and consistency while still leaving room for spontaneity. One place I struggle on this is my relationships and the people I interact with regularly. I have some incredibly rich friendships but I am noticing a lot of homogeneity in my friends and a lack of diversity in any way I’d define it. Most of my friends are like me and this makes me sad at times. I hope to bring more new perspectives with new people in my life though not at the cost of my existing friendships. Perhaps, I need to connect more with strangers at the park or the train but I find myself wanting quiet time after spending most of my day at work and with my kids. I am still figuring this out.

I also question my knowledge on areas outside my core personal and professional interests. My so called “free time” is so scarce and I often spend it on ways in either nourishing myself or others in my life that it often means I have little knowledge on areas I can’t fully change or influence around current events, politics, technology, etc, etc. I am still processing what this means and what needs to change…

In the last one year, I have definitely grown much more compassionate and forgiving of myself and a lot more accepting of all the parts of me that are not the most beautiful. I have to thank my postpartum anxiety after my first born for really drilling this into my bones, literally.

I honestly, have almost no big goals or aspirations for this coming year. Perhaps being sleep deprived with a 3 week old has something to do with it. Perhaps, I am becoming more content with life. Perhaps I am beginning to see that showing up with integrity every day, living in alignment with my values and choosing love and kindness is what really matters to me and that is a goal worthy in itself…

 

 

 

 

 

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

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I had the luxury & comfort of going on several different camping trips this past summer. I use those two words because I was fortunate to be able to be so close to safe, accessible and beautiful campgrounds, to be able to take time off, to have a husband and toddler who love camping just as much as I do (the toddler perhaps loves it a little more as he has decided that’s what he wants to do for his next birthday). There was so much joy in having full, long days with both my boys, simple food cooked on the fire under the stars. Time seemed to go by slower or perhaps I got to pay attention better which made my days richer and glorious. Being away from my phone and computer for long chunks of time forced me to dream, observe and simply pay attention. I got to read, journal and take pictures. And, a very high financial, emotional and spiritual ROI for the minimal costs of a local camping trip…

And yet, there was the discomfort too – the dirty toilets, the cold water, the ton of planning and packing that goes into a rustic camping trip with a toddler. The sleeping arrangements weren’t very comfortable and I was very sleep deprived as Vivaan woke up every hour during our first night and kept insisting he wanted to go home. Plus, being pregnant means I typically can’t sleep uninterrupted for more than a few hours with the much needed bathroom breaks. And then there is safety – during our trip to Yosemite, the second morning the ranger told us that our site was the bear’s favorite and just a few nights before a bear tore down a tent following the fragrance of a citronella candle. Right then Sumit told me, how he brought in crackers the night before to feed Vivaan and forgot to put them back in the bear box, sigh. We were safe…

And I still will go back to the woods in fact I am gearing up for a camping trip in a few hours even though I am 6 weeks away from my due date….

Why?

I have people tell me why would I put myself through this discomfort when I could afford a luxury vacation. I also have people tell me how awesome it is that we prioritize camping as a family more so when I am pregnant. Perhaps, both perspectives are valid…

Here’s my simple answer – It is this beautiful acceptance of opposites, this juxtaposition of the comfort & its discomfort, the joys and the struggles that make life meaningful – not easier, simple or happier but more meaningful for sure. When I reflect on most aspects of my life – my marriage, parenting, work, community, creative pursuits, relationships and my relationship with myself I always find these seemingly conflicting emotions and experiences. For example, I deeply, deeply value my marriage and my relationship with my husband and fondly wait to hug and kiss him when we meet in the evening and share our days with each other yet there absolutely are moments when I question everything, when the discomfort feels very heavy and painful. Yet, on a moment like today when I create space to hold both these experiences together, my heart feels full and abundant because of the meaning it brings to my life…

Acknowledging that these messy parts exist in my life, accepting them for what they are before I go full steam into changing the dark pieces into bright ones have added a little more ease into my life. It’s really about leaning into the discomfort as much as the leaning into the comfort that makes my life full, rich and deep. I have realized that it’s much easier to talk about the comforting aspects of my life, not just to others but more importantly to myself – to think of the beauty in my life but there really is a much bigger and complete picture that I can often choose to even hide from myself. Yet its these seemingly uncomfortable, difficult and challenging parts is what makes the bright ones come alive to create a joyful mosaic…

I have learnt that my camping trips are my metaphor for my life – my quest for meaning in this magical journey called life along with my fears, confusion, joys that come from fully leaning into life.

 

 

 

Posted by & filed under Everyday Lessons, Happiness, Kindness, Parenting.

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Most of my posts are about myself, my life and its nuances with a sneak peak into my family and friends but it’s really a beautiful army of people that help keep my ship running – people who have inspired me to keep working, writing and staying true to my values. It’s really a long list of people that are my allies, confidantes, my real village that add meaning & joy to my life…

This post is really about deep heartfelt gratitude about all the people in my life that truly make it possible for me to live a life that matters to me.

  1. My husband – For being a true partner in this journey called life. I absolutely couldn’t be the mom, employee, blogger, community member and homemaker that I am without you. I know I can be mean, I can be impatient and sometimes take you for granted but I am trying my best to be nice every single moment:-)
  2. My parents – They are my true rocks. My mom & dad are my most accepting ally. My mom is my best friend & therapist and the person who loves me most unconditionally. Thank you again!! There are times when I feel I lean on them for support way more than I am their rock, I am aware and trying to truly be there when they are struggling in their own ways.
  3. My siblings – For coming and visiting me so, so often, for being an integral part of Vivaan’s life and for listening to all my crazy ideas, fears and always being there to give a big bear hug:_) I don’t think I appreciated the joy of 3 siblings as a child but as an adult I am very grateful to have two sisters and one brother who light up my world.
  4. Friends – I am blessed to have some incredibly thoughtful friends – friends who truly, deeply love and accept me for who I am. Friends I can call in the middle of the work day when I am struggling, friends to bring me food when first trimester nausea kept me away from my kitchen and friends who will graciously watch Vivaan so I can spend some time with Sumit. There are friends I won’t get to talk to or meet for months but at this point in my life the joy of knowing they are there and I am loved is the best gift.
  5. My extended family – I am again very blessed to have a huge family with lots of people who truly love me. People who showed up at my wedding and at the hospital. People whom I can send hand written notes to an bake birthday cakes for. #Gratitude
  6. Teachers at Day Care – Every single day, I remember to tell them thank you because they really are a HUGE part in allowing me to focus at work and not worry about Vivaan. I miss him while at work but I know he is in good hands and I couldn’t be more fortunate to have such a lovely place that is truly his second home.
  7. Mitchelle – We had the privilege of sharing our home for 2 years with Mitchelle and she is a lovely gift in all of our lives. A lovely addition to Vivaan’s life – he could totally spend hours with her without even asking where are mumma and papa. I cherished our walks, hikes, trips to the farmers market and much more – what’s better than having a girlfriend stay right with you in your own house:-)
  8. Ishita – My cousin who has played such an integral role in Vivaan’s life. When she is home, I can breathe and cook in silence while Vivaan gets on the slide or cooks cupcakes with her. It’s a gift to have another adult have a positive influence in your child’s life and be reminded that he is loved and accepted for who he is. I feel happy knowing I get to share a part of my life, my dreams and fears with a sweet, little sister.
  9. My manager – She truly understands what it means to be a working parent who also has pregnancy appointments and daycare shutdowns. She knows where I need to be pushed at work and where I need to be reminded to slow down. She gets a huge thank you for enabling me to integrate my work & life so effectively.
  10. Bon Appetite Team – This is the food team at LinkedIn that provides excellent, healthy, sustainable food choices to all employees. I still recollect how concerned my doctor would worry about my pregnancy weight with Vivaan until I joined Linkedin and started munching down all the delicious food. I couldn’t have breastfed peacefully for as long as I did without this gift and I am incredibly grateful to not have to worry about eating healthy for most of my day.
  11. Yoga Teachers, Massage Therapists, Fitness Instructors – Taking care of my mind and body is a huge part of my life and I am so so grateful to have amazing yoga teachers, barre instructors and massage therapists who can support me when I need them. Deep gratitude.
  12. Bloggers & Authors – I cannot thank this group enough and it’d hard to list all of them. Books & words are indeed my best friends. I typically don’t leave home without a book and there are so many wonderful writers who have supported me in my life and inspired me to write. I truly bow down to this lovely force of nature.
  13. My house-helper – Everytime she is home, I tell her “I don’t know what I’d do without you” and this is absolutely true. She is truly the woman who gives me time to exercise, write, cook for my friends & family, play in the sandbox & make art projects at 7:30 pm and can get a good night’s sleep. She makes sure my laundry is folded, my dishes cleaned and my fruits and vegetables cut down so I can focus on cooking and eating healthy foodJ. She is moving to Sacramento and I am really going to miss her…

Thank you again to this amazing army of wonderful human beings in my life…

 

Posted by & filed under Imperfections, Relationships, Vulnerability.

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I have had a very difficult relationship over the last few years. On the surface, things look great. We are incredibly cordial, warm and we meet and greet with hugs. While I cannot speak for how my friend experiences our relationship, it has been incredibly challenging for my husband and me, but a lot, lot more for me given the sensitive person who I am. My biggest pain is that I don’t feel accepted & respected for who I am and always feel judged, evaluated and somewhere implicitly told that I am less worthy than them due to my choices on every dimension – parenting, work, family, self, world.

I had in many ways tried many ways to take care of myself and yet while I have gotten more skilled over time, the pain, the struggle, my inability to navigate this relationship in a healthy, sustainable way still exists. A few weeks back, I had the luxury of spending many, many hours with my journal and Brene Brown’s latest book Rising Strong which in my opinion is her best book till date and I learnt a few interesting things about myself, this relationship and how I can best navigate this journey forward.

Here is a beautiful framework that Brene suggested to navigate a situation like this –

  • Trust that people do the best they can

Yes, even though I am hurt with my friend’s words, I truly believe that she is doing the best she can and has no intentions of hurting me. I may never fully understand what is driving her behavior but given what she knows about herself, me and life overall, she is truly doing her best. This is the only way I can keep judgment out of my mind, judgment on what she should do, how she should behave and relate to me. This is incredibly hard for me and I haven’t mastered it but I have been getting small glimpses of peace when I start with the positive.

  • Fully process all my emotions

Brene suggests that in order to fully move on with such struggles we need to be brutally honest with what we are experiencing and that often underlying such feelings are our own struggles and our own emotions that need to be processed and dealt with so here’s what I learnt about myself & our relationship through the process of genuine and honest self-exploration.

There was a strong component of people pleasing & trying to prove to my friend that other ways of living life were just as worthy in addition to her choices. Not necessarily that my way is better than hers but there are many other ways of parenting, working, relating to money, etc. When I would share my point of view, there was somewhere some aggression and the desire to prove my point. I had too many moments of my ego & inner critic reminding me that “I am not good enough” and my heart would gently come in and say “ I am enough & worthy of love and belonging.” This conflicting pattern was always there… Brene believes that we don’t compare when we feel good about ourselves; we then look for what’s good in others. When we practice self-compassion, we are compassionate toward others. I need to pay more attention to the feeling of “I’m not good enough” and choose love for myself.

I was too focused on being nice & kind but had gone too far. So many times I said yes because saying no felt scary and that I would be judged for not investing in the friendship and not because her presence filled up my heart. My ego is much more alive in this relationship than I would have liked it to be.

Our conversations have been most peaceful when I haven’t opened up my heart, when I haven’t spoken my truth fully, when I don’t go deep with what’s showing up in my life or my views on the world.  If conversations were kept to the surface, there was less conflict, less hurt feelings for me…

I feel peaceful & content in knowing that I utilized all the tools that I am aware of in keeping this friendship alive and nourishing but I am not getting too far and this is OKAY. I truly wish this friendship could be rich and nourishing as I believe that she isn’t aware how hurt I have been yet I don’t feel safe bringing this up. Somewhere I secretly desire that the air clears up and we have a beautiful relationship. Conflicts make me very sad.

  • Establish boundaries with Integrity & Generosity

Even though I had boundaries, they weren’t enough and I was still getting hurt.  I had read a lot about boundaries and had applied many of them, but again they didn’t work the way I would have liked them to. Brene explicitly mentions that the trick to staying out of resentment is establishing better boundaries and instead of blaming others we need to take more responsibility of our own needs.

Here’s what Brene has to say on this –

“ What boundaries do I need to put in place so I can work from a place of integrity and extend the most generous interpretations , words, and actions of others?”

Living with integrity is saying –  “Yes, I’m going to be generous in my assumptions & intentions while standing solidly in my integrity and being very clear about what’s acceptable and what’s not.”

In this relationship, I learnt that boundaries didn’t just mean staying away or not meeting often, it truly meant that I need to be very, very careful about how much of myself do I let seen. If I am struggling with post partum anxiety and I am asked –  Hey, how are you doing? I will be emotionally healthier not being fully authentic with what’s showing up in my life if I don’t feel psychologically safe. This one is very difficult for me as I then struggle with the real point of a friendship if I can’t speak my heart but Brene is right in that we should only reach out to people we trust – a person who has earned the right to hear our story and who has the capacity to respond with empathy.

What are your thoughts on Brene Brown’s framework? What are some of your other tools on navigating difficult relationships?

P.S. – The link to Brene’s book is an affiliate link meaning I will be getting paid a commission if you purchase via this link and I will be donating that to the Miracle Foundation via the 10K project. This is my first time experimenting with the affiliate link so please send me a note if you purchase so I can make sure it all goes through.

Posted by & filed under Creativity, Everyday Lessons.

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Over the last few months, I have been experiencing a strange curiosity for discomfort…

My life feels more abundant than it ever has in the past. I have more peace even amidst the chaos of working parenthood with a toddler and a pregnancy in the third trimester. I don’t feel burnout and my life feels pretty meaningful in many, many ways. I have never enjoyed my work as much as I do now and the balance of writing and product marketing feels really nourishing…

I recognize that this is a rare and incredible gift and well aware that things change and this will not last forever the way it is right now and yes, that is scary at many levels…

While, in some ways, I absolutely don’t want this comfort to change, I am curious about a different way of life. I don’t feel like running away from anything but somewhere I am drawn to something else and I don’t know what that is.

At so many levels, my life feels incredibly structured and full of homogeneity which has its joys and challenges. Yes, there absolutely are many, many moments of serendipity and creativity but somewhere I feel innately curious to explore more about a different way of life, to meet people who are drastically different than me and have a soulful conversation over the nuts and bolts of their life. I am feeling deeply drawn to traveling to a new place not to spend a week at a resort and click pretty pictures (which absolutely has its own charm) but I am feeling drawn to really immerse myself in a new country where the norms, beliefs and world-views are completely different from mine. Perhaps, spend 3 months in Iceland where parents let their kids go out and play on the streets and not worry about where their children are which is absolutely uncommon in the US and hence in my world.

In some ways, I am seeking discomfort that’s different from not getting a good night’s sleep or navigating a difficult relationship. Discomfort that comes from being more self-aware and more in touch with myself. Discomfort with feeling, seeing and experiencing a world that’s absolutely different from mine and understanding what that means to my long held views. Discomfort that comes from doing something that I haven’t done before, perhaps it means living in a RV or sleeping in a tent for weeks. It means discomfort of not having as much material comfort that I now always have access to. Discomfort of being away from my friends I love so dearly and get to spend time with often.

I am not sure where this curiosity will take me or what doors it will open or close but I feel deeply called to nurture these questions for now…

Today, it means going to a 4 hour meditation workshop and then next month for a day long meditation retreat. I am also dabbling with the idea of going on a group camping trip with my little monkey 6 weeks before my due date (I am not crazy, hospital is 15 mins away!!) And yes, I have a few months of maternity leave to look forward to that I am eagerly awaiting as I have a strong intuition it will be unexpected in ways I don’t know yet…

I’ll definitely need to thank Karan Bajaj and Brandon Pearce for helping inspire me to think this way and connect with this curiosity of mine. Highly recommend both their blogs & podcasts!! I am definitely addicted:-)

 

Posted by & filed under Creativity, Everyday Lessons, Imperfections, Writing.

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A few weeks back, when my blog “I want to ask my child a different question”  reached my husband’s inbox, he really liked it and shared it on Facebook. I am not on Facebook and as far as I know this was perhaps my first post shared on their platform. While the post didn’t go viral by any means, it clearly had more visibility than me sharing my posts to my blog subscribers and sometimes on twitter. That’s the extent of sharing my work that I typically do.

It was humbling to see all the “likes”, “shares”, “comments” and the conversations that followed the post. I also received a few positive messages from people on my phone. There were also some messages of explicit and implicit disagreement or disapproval on the content of what I had written which in many ways was expected as I was questioning the status quo and I should have expected it yet there was some discomfort. The likes pumped up my ego and the criticism instantly took me to a place of self –doubt. Thank fully those emotions didn’t last forever… However,I wish I could say I am completely detached from praise and criticism and I can confidently say that I am still many steps away from that level of enlightenment and it’s a work in progress.

I learnt that I am a lot more comfortable writing very personal stories and putting them on my blog but letting my work be seen is deeply uncomfortable. I struggle with being visible or the center of attention. Promoting and sharing my work is incredibly unnatural for me and something I invest very little time in. As I have had a few weeks to process on the WHY behind this, a few themes have emerged –

There is a lot of fear beneath the surface. Fear of the consequences of breaking norms, questioning the status quo and speaking what’s important to me. I fear being judged, analyzed & misunderstood and not being loved as much. It is much easier to share my work with people who will agree and appreciate than with people who won’t. Somewhere, my ego want my words to be validated and keeps telling me that my self-worth and the worth of my ideas hinges on what other people think about my writing. Yet, my wise self doesn’t like that inner critic who gets so deeply insecure and is kind to remind me that no matter what people think about my work, I need to continue writing, create my art and share it.

Ironically, one of the core guiding principles of my writing is to speak my truth, my heart’s deepest beliefs in the quest that it gives people the permission and space to find their own truth and that means many, many people will and rather SHOULD disagree with what I have to say, question my words and beliefs so they find what’s important to them.  I really believe in what I have to say not in a way to prove that my views are better than others but to add my voice to the conversations in the world and the only way I can do that is to let my work be seen, to be okay with the consequences and to contribute to the world of writing. Yet, it is deeply uncomfortable…

This is perhaps what’s needed for me to grow as a human, as a blogger – put my work out there and let the world see so I can practice being comfortable with my fears, so I can continue to write even when no one is listening or no one cares or everyone likes or everyone disagrees to remind myself that I write because it is important to me. I need to learn to love myself despite my fears and practice not being attached to the outcomes of my work but let my words see the light of day and trust that they will reach and flow where they need to go. Yet, I need to do the work of giving them some direction so they can reach new audiences.

I am not ready to activate my Facebook account yet but feel a lot more comfortable creating an account for this blog. Perhaps, I start there? Perhaps, I add ways (with integrity) for my subscribers to share the blog with their friends and other people who may find the content useful? Perhaps, its creating an account on Medium or adding this part of my identity to my LinkedIn profile. Then, there is also the struggle with time, I dedicate a limited # of hours to this work every week and I enjoy writing much more than sharing and promoting my work yet I know that is part of my work… My struggle continues …

Perhaps, I need to be more open to ways to add my voice in the world…