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

Why do you Write? Part 1 – Paying it Forward

“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.

  1. Paying it Forward

I have one life and one chance to make it count for something. My faith demands that I do whatever I can, wherever I am, whenever I can, for as long as I can with whatever I have to try to make a difference. – Jimmy Carter

My parents didn’t have a camera when I was growing up. If they had had a camera, most of the photos would look like this.

Little-Girl-Reading-Ambal-Balakrishnan

I think my brain was hardwired to read and love storytelling due to several factors. My mom was an avid reader herself. She has probably read every Tamil classic possible. Also, I was surrounded by a family (grandpa, grandma, aunts, uncles) that told stories to me and sung lullabies long after I had crossed my childhood days. My family had a lot of differences (like any other family) and a lot of differing viewpoints on life. All of those differences and different views enriched my childhood experience.

My family and childhood teachers encouraged and fostered my love of reading. Even during the financially tough days, my dad always managed to buy me copies of Reader’s Digest from a used book store. My friends loaned me books. My teachers taught me the love for both poetry and prose. For all of that, I am eternally grateful.

I have read all my life. I have read almost every day. My life has been shaped by how much I have read. I have read multiple genres and subjects – history, psychology, philosophy, science, classics, biographies, poetry, religion, spirituality, mythology, thrillers, business, and more.

If I counted all the years of experience that I have “lived” by immersing myself with characters and authors in books, then I am a zillion years old. No wonder my friends sometimes call me a very old soul. That is because I have lived through the experiences of all the books that I have read.

Books have made me who I am today. I started life as the eldest daughter in a middle class family in South India. I have come so far from where I started. I have travelled the world, lived on two continents, gotten a top class education, worked at Fortune 100 tech companies, climbed mountains and done much more.

Books have shaped my life and life choices. Books have led me to seek education and adventure. Books have taken me to places that I have never been.  Books have taken me back in time and taken me to the future. Books have taught me every idea to know, every mistake not to make, every value to uphold. Everything that is to be learnt is already in books.

Books have made me a life-long learner with a growth mindset. I feel thankful for all the authors who put their pen to paper or fingers to the keyboard and helped me grow.

I used to love fiction. But, as I start growing up, I have come to realize that no fiction can match the drama of real life.

When I was much younger, I thought I had nothing to add. Everything that was to be said had already been said in a book. But, now I know otherwise.

My life and life experience is unique…just like each of the authors had a unique life experience. That is what shaped their writing. Whatever genre they wrote in, they brought all of their life experience and unique perspective. That perspective is what made each book special.

So, I am at that point in life where I feel the strong need to pay it forward.

To pay it forward one story at a time.

To pay it forward to one person at a time.

I am not in a rush.

I have my entire lifetime to tell stories that matter.

I have my entire lifetime to tell stories that are going to alter the trajectory of a reader’s mood, a reader’s day, a reader’s choices. If I dare to write the right stories with all my might …and if a reader dares to observe what I am saying closely enough, we might, together, even alter the trajectory of our lives.

Now, I don’t want you to get all worked up. I am not going to be telling any BIG stories. In most cases, what I am going to write about is going to sound like an every day frivolous occurrence. It is up to you to interpret that story….with your own unique perspective.

One starfish at a time.

If there is one weary person on this planet that I can move to action, one sad person on this planet that I can make laugh, one tired parent on this planet that I can energize, one young child’s life course that I can change, one dormant soul on this planet that I can urge to go seek adventure….just ONE…then all the effort that I put into reading and writing would have been worth it.

Hence, I write.

To pay it forward.

By the time I am done, every one of the authors who made me who I am today and every one of those people who ever told me a story or sang me a lullaby are going to be so proud of what you (the reader) and I have accomplished together.

Are you ready for the ride?

“In a world like this, you pay it forward, ’cause more than likely you didn’t deserve it when you got it the first time.”
― Mindy McGinnis, In a Handful of Dust