Loving differently-Happy Valentine’s

More often than not people around us tell us that we need to find love in people who satisfy certain ‘normal’ conditions of religious upbringing, caste, color, community, social status, gender orientation etc etc.

This post is dedicated to every person who has had the courage to recognize love in themselves and in another beyond the peripheral differences, be it for a day, a month, a year or an entire lifetime. Happy Valentine’s Day!

To some people who ask, how we came to be? I say:

S(he) and I existed in two separate worlds or so it appears to be.

Born in lands rooted in the same Earth but torn apart by dotted lines

Raised in different religions and different cultures

One would think what common could there possibly be?

Life placed us together in a time/space co-ordinate

Strangers we were, united by forces we couldn’t see

We talked about the beauty of our lands & the pain created by wars

We talked about the one God who gave us all different paths

We let love guide us into these uncharted territories.

In a world where fear, greed and lust reign supreme, we challenged each other to face our demons and be the best we could be

To some people who ask, how we came to be? I say:

How could I not be me?

How could you not be you?

In this universe where not much moves without grace, the ‘us’ that we are was not chosen by you and me.

valentines-day-2017

Valentine’s Day 2017

Solitude

It is often when we are alone that our faith gets stronger

It is often when we are alone that our fears crawl out into the open

It is often when we are alone that we are silent

It is often when we are alone that we do take a deep listen.

 

Being by yourself is no easy task and avoid it, we must at all costs

For one who learns to cherish solitude taps into her higher self

Needs no one to tell her who she is

What would then ‘they’ do if she doesn’t need them anymore?

 

Free and wild she soars in the sky

Talks to the winds when she needs advice

Hugs the trees when she needs comfort

She leads the way for another who searches for her highest truth.

After all family is family…

It has taken me quite an experience to understand this fact of life. For years I heard people say this to me and I was also fortunate to see some people act on this belief. Being a person who needs to experience things first hand to understand them ( you can read it stubborn), it was not an auto response for me to nod my head when my father said to me ‘ in trying times, it is only your family that comes to your rescue’. In my share of life experiences I had seen friends and well wishers come to your help when it was needed and when they couldn’t I just did not take it as an opportunity to fall back on my father’s words. I always believed that you meet people in your life as per your needs and friends become your extended family or sometimes even acquaintances reach out to you when you need it the most. It is also important to mention that these experiences I am referring to occurred in my life when I had the luxury of having a permanent roof on my head ( provided by my father) and some money in my bank account (courtesy my employer). What I needed the most then was more of emotional support and I sought it from my friends.
Today, I am a student in a foreign country (US of A) who does not have a permanent income or accommodation. Being a romantic optimist I chose a university where I do not have any family relatives or friends that I knew from before. Somewhere in my heart I used to feel that life was too easy for them who had relatives that they could lean on when they needed. I would see some of my roommates who would go live with their relatives over the weekends and could count on them when they needed some help in this foreign land. When I saw the relatives help my roomies I would think , it need not just be family but anyone (who is your friend) would come to help you when you need it. Fortunately in addition to a couple of Indian friends, I also made some non Indian friends here who helped me go to a grocery store (you had to have a car to move around in the uncivilized neighborhood I lived in), drop me home from school, help me shift apartments and the likes. These experiences affirmed my beliefs that there are good people out there in the world to help you out. I felt that these people who helped me until then were my friends and I thanked the guy above for having met these people. What I am going to share further is completely a personal experience and I don’t intend to generalize it. Two months ago I fell very sick and I had to be hospitalized for a serious respiratory infection. This was sudden and I had not dreamt that I am going to need hospitalization. That day in my head when I was searching for someone to come and get me stuff I needed, I could just think of one name of the many friendships I thought I had developed here. It could be my shortcoming but some of my other experiences had made me aware of some cultural differences between Americans and Indians. A small example would be that I felt the degree of cautiousness surrounding common cold/cough and the likes among the people who were brought up here was very high compared to what I have seen back home. At times it irritated me and at times I was successful in making myself see the benefits of being so cautious. When I fell sick, my head told me that I should not try and call someone who generally is overcautious about avoiding infections. I did debate with myself saying that may be the people I was thinking about may understand the complexity of my present situation however I decided against putting anyone through such a dilemma and called on the one person I had no doubts would understand.

img_4233

Boston

During my stay at the hospital, I recalled the times when one of my family members fell sick and without a second thought we would do what was required. When I was here in a foreign land without anyone whom I could assume would bring me my clothes/ food and other basic stuff I remembered how members of a family perform such duties as an ‘auto’ function. As much as I am thankful for the two friends who helped me the most during this period, I did gain a far better understanding of what it means to be a family. No matter how strained your relationship, when need arises its your family that takes over the situation and understands your needs even before you verbalize them. I have been fortunate to find such support with people who are not ‘related’ to me however there is always a limit to what friends can do. Some willingly cross that limit and go out of their way to be around you when you need it but that limit always stays. Beyond that limit is when you enter the circle of your family and close relatives. Sometimes members of extended family may do it as an obligation but I guess it still counts because at the end of the day they do help. I have not personally experienced the ‘extended family’ reaching out to help part but have seen this happen with people around me when cousins and uncles traveled distances to settle their niece/ nephew in this place they would otherwise be foreigners to. Perhaps, you can say that I have learned to appreciate some relationships when I did not have them around me.

The Stronger I get, Harder it is for me to bend…

The Stronger I get, Harder it is for me to bend…

You must be wondering what’s with the title, guess what this title just slipped off my tongue 2 minutes ago when I was talking to my friend. Serendipity, would you call that? Well, without dragging that much let me tell you what I am referring to. I am referring to the strength of the person that we become with age, experience, insights etc etc. The word bend here is not used with a negative connotation but refers more to adjustments. Some years back when I was pursuing my MBA, I had heard the term agility which meant that you are strong but flexible to adapt to situations. I always kept that in mind as a benchmark of how I wanted to be. The professor who talked about explained the concept with a beautiful analogy of the green grass and tall trees. Tall trees are noticeable and look strong whereas the short green grass often goes unnoticeable and looks meek but when hit by a storm, tall trees fall down to the ground and the green grass survives. This questions our basic understanding of strength which often is phrased as ‘as hard as a rock’. When we consider the above example, we are forced to rethink of strength as the ability to survive which has a prelude in one’s ability to adapt. I have given the example above to contextualize the word bend in my writing ahead.

Some years back, I was going through a phase of asserting my identity to myself. I was searching for my own value system and the way I wanted to live myself which included my work, my idea of a vacation , my ideal life partner and things I would like to engage in etc. With the help of some of my mentors and great friends I became the person I wanted to be. I received positive re-inforcement for the way I was with some minor areas of improvement. It has always been tough for me to receive feedback which involves criticism but I was lucky to find people who made me understand the value of positive criticism and I paved my way through those improvements. I reached a stage where I felt that I was the best person I could be and consolidated my idea of myself through my actions. Having moved from a point where I was not sure of many things in life to a point where I was being just the way I thought was best made me confident in myself. I would easily adapt to different situations and be open to different perspectives in life. I was happy that I was the green grass and not the tall tree.

Little did I know that I was going to be presented with a relationship where I would have to reflect on my self perception of what I am. It requires discernment to be able to decide whether your assertion is proving to be stubbornness in a relationship. It is this reflection that forced me understand that when we are in a relationship, there obviously is an other( read person) whom you ( encompasses your values, habits, behaviors, beliefs etc) are trying to relate to. I was trying hard to be the green grass whereas in reality I was coming across as the tall tree in the relationship. Today while I was talking to a friend, I mentioned to him that there is reason why our parents want us to get married by the age of 23-25 or so. The reason being, at that age we are still in the process of solidifying our identity and not achieved closure on it. As we grow older, we become more of the person we are and hence not ready to modify ourselves easily if so proposed by someone else or by circumstances. This closure provides us with stability in our thoughts and does help us move in positive directions. Right at this moment, I am tempted to offer an example from partnered dances like salsa, jive etc. The feminine aspect of these dances is to be able to follow the lead offered by the masculine. The beauty of these dances is to be able to complement each other’s moves and more so for the female partner who can be the best individual dancer but has to know how to offer herself in the best with the lead. Another aspect in these dances is that, a female is more receptive and not assertive (The male and female used here are not necessarily referring to ideal man/ woman traits).

With all the description above, I am trying to say that sometimes our perception of our strengths becomes our weakness. My idea of asserting myself had reached a point where I did not feel the need to change anything in myself and was not willing to bend for anything. I found that the strength of who I am was coming in my way of nurturing my relationship. It was hard on me to realize that my individuality had become too strong to accept any changes even if they were minor in mature. I felt as if I wanted to stand at a place where I was comfortable and wanted the other person to do all the hard work and reach towards me. As I write this, I would also like to mention that I am not an advocate of sacrificing to an extent where you cease to exist and fight to search who you are all over again. Instead, I would be glad if we could find a midway of doing things which calls for a lot of discernment at our end. In some heavy words, it would be finding your path between individualism and collectivism. It would be a move from being independent to being interdependent, from saying “this is me, take it or leave it” to saying “is that how I come across?, let me think about it”.

img_2574

Togetherness

Well, this is just the beginning of another life lesson for me and from the looks of it, it seems like a tough one indeed. There are times when I felt that I can live my life all by myself and that I don’t need to be married to someone but today I feel that having someone next you all the time, keeps you in check at different points of time and through various life transitions.

The Thread (t) s of Intimacy…

People, People, People…all around us. We want them and run away from them too. Most of our lives are spent or invested in relationships. Right form the time we are born till we claim our coffins, relationships with other human beings always surround us. Love them or hate them, you cannot do without them. There are various reasons why we have relationships with people. The relationships we seek satisfy some of our needs and desires. These needs can be broadly categorized into physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. Physical needs are well known to all. Emotional needs are that of warmth, affection, appreciation, acceptance, security etc. Mental needs could be of intellectual stimulation, discerning rights and wrongs etc. Spiritual needs could be that of seeking harmony with life, a positive outlook, need for oneness etc.

Based out of these needs and may be more, we seek relationships. Subconsciously, each one of us has clearly defined criteria of accepting and rejecting prospective candidates into that mould or framework we are looking for. Just like a kitchen recipe, we all know at the bottom of our hearts that how much of which ingredient we need in our life. As per our conditioning and scripting, we attract the kind of people who will add the required spice to get the perfect flavour in our lives.

I believe that it is from the most intimate relationships that we learn the most. Many of us derive our sense of being from these relationships. In my view, an intimate relationship is one where you are not required to be someone else but your own self. Your Self, is not threatened here. It feels 100%. Unfortunately, there is a lot of homework and investment that goes into the development of this kind of intimacy. In order to feel that sense of security, you will first be challenged whether you need to share your feelings/ emotions/ fears which for many years were covered by a protected shell known as “private self”. It is only when you can learn to open up without fear that you can enjoy the relationship. This definitely works on a tacit assumption that your partner appreciates your opening up. Each one of us decides what we should and shouldn’t share with our partners. The opening up requires courage and a deep sense of security in oneself. It requires courage because you need to move out of your comfort zone and start walking inward with your partner. You take chances of being “misunderstood”. The entire process makes you vulnerable. It is for these reasons that we carefully choose the people to whom we open up with and bare ourselves.

The irony here is that we seek closeness/ intimacy in relationships and escape from them for the same reason. Every person has defined the limit till where he will tolerate another person. The feeling of Oneness which is sought through sex never goes beyond that, for, we cannot shed the clothes of mental make up that we wear. The intimacy we seek is like getting naked each time you open up to somebody. Shedding off these physical garments is much easier than taking off the layers of one’s deep rooted desires, thoughts, insecurities and needs. Taking from the analogy of a recipe, the best cuisines are those in which all the spices lose their individual flavours to make one delicious serving. The paradox in it is that they lose themselves but are always remembered, for, the final outcome wouldn’t be possible if they weren’t there. It is this losing of our self which we fear and never open up even to some beautiful angels who cross our paths. We are more concerned about the momentary vulnerability of unclothing ourselves than the gains that one finds by merging into the parts of the other. We choose to settle for less by taking minimal risks.

To quote an example here: A friend of mine lost his first love in an accident. He married an individual who did not meet him at all planes and he never grew out of his first love. A decade after his successful marriage and being blessed with a child, he felt the gap in him growing and fell for a girl who possibly met those unfulfilled needs. His passions and love which were locked till now started opening with the warmth of this new relationship. Nevertheless, having protected a part of him for so many years, he could not give himself completely to the relationship and named the growing distance as “personal space”. It was the growing intimacy that possibly threatened him and forced him to keep away to safeguard his pride and responsibilities. He knew what he was missing in life and hence was afraid to handle it when he received it.

Being yourself does not mean you never change. The “I” constantly needs to be renewed through a process of learning and unlearning. Quoting from nature, it is the mighty looking trees that are forced to break in a storm and the feeble yet agile grass survives it. The rigors of any intimate relationship provide a good basis for this constant renewal process. Human beings are known to learn more through pain than through pleasure. Intimacy has the capacity to transcend that pain into an enjoyable experience. Unless, we give ourselves completely into any activity or relationship we cannot gain the maximum.

We go on accumulating skills, degrees and qualifications but hardly ever take our learnings from the school of relationships. Not many of us know why we do what we do, likewise, even this aspect of our lives i.e. the ingredients we seek in our recipe of life, remain a victim at the hands of our awareness of ourselves.

Hence, the threads of intimacy become the threats of intimacy.

When You Love Someone…

Love is one of the most universal emotions we experience. Different cultures, ages, periods, geographies but this is one emotion that is like the air that is always there. For the most fundamental reason that human beings are the same essentially but may be just packaged and conditioned a bit differently having born and brought up on a different mud. Even though it is one of the most universal emotions, it is also one of the most diverse in its expression. Or may be interpretation of the same emotion changes by the equation the two people involved in it and experiencing it share. For most or many of us the understanding that is provided to us of Love is most likely equated to the act of possession. For example- When you love someone or someone loves you, he becomes yours and vice versa. There are many interpretations to this expression too. It is exercising a right that you feel on that individual’s life. You want to know all that happens in his life. The purest intention that supports this is the feeling that you want to be a part of everything that happens in his life. You feel like sharing it , for , you are concerned about him and also want to protect him from anything bad that could happen.

As much as these intentions are pure, their manifestations take a toll in our lives if we completely give into them. It gives rise to an expectation that, the person whom you love should always be in touch with you and keep informing you of all happenings. In today’s tech savvy world, may be one is expected to atleast keep messaging if not calling every one hour. As long as the statistics of the calls is maintained, all is fine but when it changes for any genuine reason, one is accused of losing interest in the relationship and we throw up words like-“ You don’t love me as much as you did”, “ the madness has faded away”. The concern assumes lesser importance than the number of calls of messages exchanged. May be somewhere we live with unrealistic notions that the honeymoon period will always stay, the time when you traveled hours just to meet your beloved once or maybe called up 50 times a day. May be we need to understand that as time passes the relationship matures, needs change and what was earlier communicated by 50 calls, just takes the glance of an eye today.

Someone very truly recognized that change is the only constant in life and that we must learn to love like flowing stream of water …adapting itself yet maintaining itself. Whenever you feel that loss of harmony in you , may be it would be a good idea to sit down and take a check, understand what is happening inside you. More often than not, you will realize that sometimes we crib because we do not know another way of responding to a situation and possibly lack the required time to invest in the activity. For example: You had planned a date 15 days in advance but due to some unforeseen circumstances, it cannot happen. What do you do? As humans, our first reaction will be to complain, to crib, to try and pull it on anyways. When this happens, may be we could just silence ourselves for a moment, acknowledge what is happening inside and choose to respond in a more beautiful manner. Tough, it is but once you make up your mind to choose happiness in a relationship then there can be no stopping. It is an addiction and mind you, a good one indeed.

From my brief understanding of this oceanic emotion, I understand that it is meant to give life and not snatch it away from someone. It is meant to give happiness and not take it away. Many a times in the name of love, we give a lot of pain to the person involved because he possibly does not act the way we want him to. Loving someone does not give you an authority to command him to change or mould as per your wishes. At times when we are unhappy with a certain behavior of the person, we need to understand that WE are unhappy with the behavior and the behavior per se may or may not be wrong. For instance, you may expect him to take you for a candle light dinner every week and you feel dejected if he does not. In response, you do not talk to him for days to come but never even let him know what disturbs you , for you want him to guess it from the tone of your voiceJ Come on, just take a break from yourself!

Sometimes it is fun to register the emotions we fall prey to. More often than not, you will laugh at yourself and make things easier for you and the people around you…All the best buddy!

Note: The use of “He/Him” here substitutes for “She/Her” too.

Conflicts of a Wounded Inner Child…

Guess it is in my gene to just move out from any situation….While I was in my mother’s womb, she tried to run away from me by eating up an extra dose of sleeping pills. She was leading an unhappy life with her so called husband of 3 years when their attempts seeking some temporary pleasure, put my seed in to them. When I entered this world through what seemed like the strife from my past seven lives, I landed into a family which was happy to see me. Soon after I was exposed to my surroundings where people knew nothing but hatred towards my mother, all those small things that one’s in-laws are capable of doing to show down a girl who has married their son but does not seem to please them by whatever labour she puts in.

I was growing each day and getting nurtured in an environment which spelt nothing but indifference and neglect towards me, a poor little thing that was craving for his mother’s attention and she was too busy trying to appease the monsters of greed. Instead of love that I deserved, I earned these insecurities. Days went by and time passed adding on to the inches and flesh to my bodily growth. Situations only worsened between the two of my parents who could never reconcile. Having reached adolescence I was expected to sort out the case of two adults who were involved in physical assault. Alone I was with them in the house when they decided to wage a war against each other in that small world of 550 sq ft cemented walls. They were hitting each other when I was left with nowhere to go, I was afraid but I wanted to save them from this insanity. Two adults that they were, succeeded in pushing me away and left me bruised and wounded in my mind. The only thing I could do was to run away from there… The society that cared for us never before suddenly started showing up in an attempt to prove that we needed their help. My friends at school over whom I proved by muscle strength, ridiculed me for not having proved my mettle at home. My maternal uncle( mother’s brother) who was my hero till then for the various weight lifting championships he had won, now questioned me on my not being able to stop these two adults from creating that scene. I had nowhere to go, taking pride in being a Man in the making; I could not cry and confess my inability to deal with the situation. From here on started a journey of my mental inability to be in a situation and face it.

Years passed by, the complexities increased and I would always become that small child who wanted to run away in the event of any problem. I began to isolate myself from people and not let anybody come so close to see my failures. I had a friend circle but I could not befriend anybody. I found that behaving harsh to people was the best way to drive them away and avoid any discussion what so ever. My Being did crave for love but I had no one close to express myself. I fell prey to my own mind’s tactics which asked me to throw tantrums and gain attention from my near ones. I would feel good when I was not myself and lost in the arms of someone who cared for me. This was not possible while being conscious for I knew I was not worthy love. My mind started playing a game of acting harsh when conscious (to avoid intimacy) and giving in to love showing helplessness with the help of my new found support, Alcohol! Alcohol helped me lose myself and thereby giving me time not having to respond to any situation. My inability with words always helped me to remain isolated.

I was making these choices but did not want to know them as a truth lying in front of me. I was and am in denial. Today, the world does not let the bruised child cry and so I have a heavy heart with so much to say and unburden but do not know how? I want to be close to my wife whom I love but cannot help running away for I would get belittled if I were to bare myself in front of her…Alcohol gives me no respite, my career going nowhere, I never built a personal life…Right now I am in the arms of the almighty, trying to pick up a new thread of life but I am scared, will I hold it this time?