On Running

No, I didn’t mean the physical act of running. I am not qualified to comment about that. Kumar is the family expert to comment about running, “runner’s high”, marathoning etc. The only thing I have done is watch running from the sidelines ( Chasing Marathoner Kumar – 3M Half Marathon in Austin, Chasing Marathoner Kumar – Primos Run in San Ramon).

This post is about my thoughts on emotional running.

If I ran away, I’d never have the strength
To go very far
How would they hear the beating of my heart
Will it grow cold
The secret that I hide, will I grow old
How will they hear
When will they learn
How will they know
– Madonna’s Live to Tell Ballad

We all come into this world alone. And, we all will leave, one by one, alone.

I know. This post is not one of my usual light-hearted witty posts. It is dark, deep and intense. So, brace yourself.

When I was a little girl, I read a book (I forget the title) that spoke about how each of our life path is a lonely path. The book led me to several questions. Why would our life path be a lonely one? Are we not surrounded by friends and family? Don’t they cheer us on during the bright days and pick us up and carry us through on the dark days? I wondered about these things. But, let the questions pass. Because, I knew that the answers would eventually come to me.

One of my friends tells me that as we grow up, we put up shields around us. She describes it so aptly with such great examples. Remember your kindergarten friends? When you had to part from them in the summer after kindergarten ended, your heart might have ached as you said goodbye. You might have even wailed as you parents picked you up and took you home. The same might have happened when you had to say goodbye to high school friends. You might have cried and hugged. Now, fast forward to the days of saying good bye to your undergraduate buddies. How did that feel? By then, was your heart a bit stronger? Did you believe that you’ll meet your friends again….sooner or later.

As we progress through life, my friend says, we quit making “deep” friendships…because, our brain is trained to learn that eventually, we’ll have to say goodbye. So, in order to protect ourselves from pain we build walls. We shield ourselves. We become broken souls. Deep within the recess of our heart, we  tactfully mask all our painful experiences, both the big and small ones. Yet, haven’t we done the “Phoenix Rising” act over and over again?

Now, let us take a step back. None of the “What will I do with this friendship?” decision happens consciously. Like most things in life, we are in auto-pilot and our decision making in these situations are driven by our subconscious.

As much as I adore my buddy, I don’t quite agree with her. In fact, given my competitive nature, to prove her wrong, I have been doing exactly the opposite of what she said every life plays out like. I have tried to make a conscious effort to make “deep” friendships.

But, eventually, I realize my friend might be right. We all have to say goodbye. Sooner or later.

That brings me to the subject of this post – emotional running.

We all run. Subconciously. We run from things that we fear. We run from experiences. We run from people.

More often than not, life might throw a curve ball at you when you least expect it. You might encounter an experience that is so ethereal and so visceral that you feel the urge to put the damn shoes on and run for your life.

That is what I am doing this month. Taking a break. Running. Running away. Because, I need to get a hang of myself.

Whether you are running towards something or running away from something…it is alright. Do what you have to. It will all work out eventually.

And, as always, tell yourself “this too shall pass.”

Parenting Wreaks Havoc on One’s Belief System

Parenting wreaks havoc on one’s belief system.
You go from an “individual” to “us”.
Nothing…not friendship…not family…not marriage…nothing alters one’s belief system than when one holds one’s own.

Caring, feeding, hoarding, protecting…all these gerunds take on new meaning.
Suddenly, Maslow’s hierarchy need pyramid is doubled….one for you and one for your child.

There is several ways to raise a child.
For me, it is the  “it takes a village to raise a child” approach.
I believe I need everybody around me to help my child.
To raise, to nurture, to feed, to laugh, to cry, to hold, to motivate, to heal, to everything….it is not just me. There is a village. It is a powerful village.

I also believe raising my child is not a zero-sum game.
Somebody doesn’t have to lose for my child to win.

I believe life is bountiful and I lead my child to believe the same.
I don’t have to hoard resources for my child.

I don’t inculcate the scarcity mentality.
I lead him to believe the world is his…..and his is the world.
He has to go forth and conquer it with love and passion.

I am open minded. I try my best not to judge anybody or their choices. Because, everybody has their own story.
Over the years, I have had numerous “interesting” encounters with those who raise the next generation.
The kind ones.
The generous ones.
The open minded ones.
The ones that urge me to be a better parent.
The ones that teach me resources are endless.
Then, there are the ones that want to hoard.
The ones that believe in the zero-sum game.
The ones who hold on so tightly to the scarcity mentality.

It is everybody’s karma. What is right for them might not be right for me. And, my outlook to life might not be right for them.

Our children are going to do what they see us do.
If we believe in the zero-sum game….they will too.
If we hold on tightly to the scarcity mentality…they will too.

If we believe the world is bountiful…they will too.
If we teach them to go forth and conquer the world with love and passion…they will too.

Which side are you on? What is your belief system? What do you teach? Whatever the case might be….I urge you to think about this topic. Because, this parenting stuff  is some serious business.

I am forever grateful to those of you who are in my life and influence and inspire me with the great style of your own parenting. You might have shared with me just one insight long ago over coffee…or you might chat with me every day, every week, every month and ask how the heck I am doing. You check in on me, help me see the light and urge me to do the right thing. For that and more, I am grateful.

Our parenting story has to be one of that special bond with the spouse, the family, the community…because we realize we are all in this together. It is the story of us feeling vulnerable and strong…all at once. It is the story of humanity’s struggle to protect its off-spring and send them forth to a brighter and happier world. It is the story of nature manifesting intelligence and kindness. We are the generation that is holding the baton to raise the “next” generation. I wish all of you good luck with your parenting. Stay Strong.

Lunch Box Jokes and Notes

Since school started in August, Ari has been asking me to drop him a note in the lunch box every day.

As much as I love him, I am no Martha Stewart-y mom when it comes to packing lunch or putting notes in there every day.

As if that wasn’t a big enough issue, I am also not a morning person. Thank God for earlier riser Kumar.

(Hey School and College Buddies, I know you are snickering and saying “I know. You haven’t changed much. I didn’t expect you to.”)

Anyways, if I were to write a spontaneous note, I would do that.

Case-in-point: Handwritten Note with Warm Socks

However, writing and putting a note in there ever day was driving me crazy.

So, I did something our brain is trained to do in this day and age.

You are right. I Googled it.

Hot Damn! I found tons of lunch box notes, jokes etc.
I sent the links to Kumar and requested him to print it out. I cajoled Adi to cut it out neatly. Trust me, there were tons of printouts. I wouldn’t have had the patience to cut it all out.

Now we have the lunch box notes and jokes ready. Right?
Found on google – check mark.
Printed out – check mark.
Neatly cut and stacked – check mark.

You would think the easy part is to put the damn notes in the lunch box.
Easy enough? Doable? Is it not?

Well, in the morning rush I forget to put the notes in. Geez.

My hot, fiery, little Leo is not ready to take any BS from his mom. When he sees me during pick up, the first thing he says – “Amma, you forgot to put a note in my lunch box today.”

I smile sheepishly. I say “Sorry…Sorry…Sorry…” a 100 times in 100 different funny voices and make him laugh. Then, I shower him with the biggest and longest hug that was ever given on this planet.

Anyways, by now, he has figured out that I am going to forgot it in the morning rush.

So, he reminds me every night.

“Amma, have you taken the old notes out and put in the used dabba (Tamil word for box)? Have you put the new notes in? Not one. I want more than one. AMMAAAA. STOP. Don’t hold the note in a way that I can see it. Other side…alright…hold it the other side. I want it to be a surprise for tomorrow. Good job Amma. You did it. Hi-fi!”

End of story.

Now, I know you are going “Cluck…..Cluck” and wondering “What the heck does she do around the house anyways? Kumar rises early. Drops the boys. He even prints out sheets for her. Adi does the cutting…as if she couldn’t do even that on her own. Poor Ari….has to remind and nag her to put the lunch notes in. What the heck?”

So, if you wondered that, I wouldn’t hold it against you at all. Because, your doubts are well placed. Do me a favor.

When you meet any of the 3 boys next time, just tell them “Hang in there buddy.” It will mean a lot to them.

P.S. I love, adore and respect Martha Stewart-y moms and dads. You’ll inspire me. You’ll make the world go around. For that and more, the rest of us slackers are eternally grateful to you’ll.

What can you learn from some of the best writers in history?

Brian Clark discusses how business people faced with the task of writing for marketing purposes can learn from Ernest Hemingway in his blog post Ernest Hemingway’s Top 5 Tips for Writing Well.

Ernest Hemingway was an American Author who had a strong influence on 20th Century fiction. He published seven novels, six short story collections, and two non-fiction works, his books are considered classics in American literature.

Henrik Edberg gives advice on how to write better from one the most popular fiction writers of the last few decades: Stephen King. Henrik’s blog post is Stephen King’s Top 7 Tips for Becoming a Better Writer.

Stephen Edwin King is an American author of contemporary horror, supernatural fiction, suspense, science fiction, and fantasy. His books have sold more than 350 million copies, many of which have been adapted into feature films, miniseries, television shows, and comic books. King has published 54 novels, including seven under the pen name Richard Bachman, and six non-fiction books. He has written nearly 200 short stories, most of which have been collected in book collections.

Image source: http://izquotes.com/quotes-pictures/quote-writing-at-its-best-is-a-lonely-life-organizations-for-writers-palliate-the-writer-s-loneliness-ernest-hemingway-344093.jpg

Why do you Write? Part 2 – Finding Meaning

“Ambal, why do you write?”

That is a very tough question to answer. It is sort of like asking me “Why do you climb mountains?” The answers are so multi-dimensional. It is hard to capture them all.

But, since you asked, here is my attempt to answer the “Why do you write?” question.

2. Finding Meaning

“Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather must recognize that it is he who is asked. In a word, each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible. It did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life—daily and hourly. Our answer must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual.”
― Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

Do you remember the opening and ending scenes in the Forrest Gump movie? Do you remember that floating feather? Each one of us on this planet is like that floating feather.

We came. We are here. We will be gone. In between that time that we came and we leave, we live, we thrive and we try to find meaning.

When we are little we want to grow up. When we grow up, we look back on life with nostalgia.  And just when it feels like we have gotten the hang out of this wild ride, it is time to leave the party. Funny, is it not?

We chase everything possible that could be chased. We chase goals – work goals, personal goals, fitness goals, health goals, relationship goals and more. In between all this mad rush and chasing, we try to find ourselves. We try to find meaning in this chaos called life.

Since childhood, I have been chasing many dreams too. I have also been chasing many questions. Who am I? Why I am here? What am I doing? What is my purpose?

And I have done many things to find answers to these questions – I have read voraciously on life and the meaning of life. I have practiced meditation. I have tried to live life to the fullest. I have tried to give my 100% to every moment as it passes. I have done all this and more.

One of my favorite books on this topic of finding purpose and meaning is Viktor E. Frankl’s, Man’s Search for Meaning. In this book, psychologist Viktor Frankl describes his life as a prisoner in two different concentration camps during the Holocaust.

Viktor Frankl is the founder of logo therapy – from the Greek work logos, or meaning.

The following list of tenets represents basic principles of logo therapy:

  • Life has meaning under all circumstances, even the most miserable ones.
  • Our main motivation for living is our will to find meaning in life.
  • We have freedom to find meaning in what we do, and what we experience, or at least in the stand we take when faced with a situation of unchangeable suffering.

I am old enough now to trust my gut and perception on what is helping me find meaning.

Here is the one thing that has helped me find meaning  – Writing. Because, writing makes me slow down from the mad rush of life. Writing makes me reflect on life and life experiences. Writing helps me document both momentous and meaningless moments. Writing makes me cognizant of myself and the world around me. Writing makes me kind to myself and to others. Writing makes me positive. Writing makes me find meaning.

Most of us grow up and become lost. Writing has been my savior. Writing has saved me from getting lost. Writing has helped me pick up the pieces of my past. Writing has helped me connect the dots backwards (as Steve Jobs would say it).

Despite my persistent and passionate search for meaning, I am very guilty of leading a fast paced life. I need to constantly tell myself to live every moment, and to give my all to that moment. To be in the NOW.

If there is one lost soul on this planet that I can urge to find meaning, one fast paced person (like me) that I can urge to stop and smell the roses, one person on this planet to live through every moment completely….just ONE…then all my effort in trying to find meaning and writing would have been worth it.

Hence, I write.

To find meaning.

By the time I am done, every one of those people who have urged me to be brave and to keep seeking and every one of those people who ever told me a story about their quest to find meaning is going to be so proud of what you (the reader) and I have accomplished together.

Are you ready for the ride?

To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
– Ulysses, by Alfred, Lord Tennyson