Nothing absolute about us

This Women’s day I did not feel like writing about the obvious and have instead gone the route of reflecting upon how we define and experience ourselves/others over the course of a lifetime. Our definition of ourselves is limiting not only for us but also extends to those around us.

In my humble opinion, everyone exists on a spectrum or a continuum. With us human beings there are no absolutes . Absolutes in human beings would perhaps make us boring and too predictable.  We wish with all our might to see things in black/white but if everyone’s black/white is different then there is no one right or wrong barring acts of intentional harm caused to another. The absolutist tendencies also tie you up to be a certain way forever whereas the spectrum/continuum way of thinking leaves room for exploration and growth.

Pause - where am I heading -reflect

Auckland, New Zealand

What led me to write this? Two things come to mind- one is a documentary titled Gender Revolution which I watched on Netflix and an article I was reading this morning about someone being an Introvert vs Extrovert. Psychologist Carl Jung’s work was one of my first introductions almost a decade ago to this line of thinking. He developed a theory of Type Indicators where people could score on a continuum of Introversion/Extraversion, Judging/Perceiving, Intuition/Sensing, Thinking/Feeling. This MBTI type also allows room for change/growth by saying that people can have different tendencies at different points in time while having one base tendency which may be predominant but not definitive. As much as I liked this idea I found that in real life if I said to someone that I tend towards talking when I am with lesser number of people and am quieter when am in a group, I was called indecisive or unsure of myself. Of course, there were also those who were familiar with this thought and matured to understand that no one really fits into a box at all times and that the boxes we fall into are rather superfluous.

In the documentary on Gender Identity there were some interviewees who mentioned that their experience of their gender isn’t simply either male or female. I find this thought very freeing and one which would develop a lot of tolerance in our society. If you think about it, every person is a mix of masculine and feminine tendencies. Depending on our upbringing and current circumstances we exhibit more of masculine or feminine tendencies. Teenagers are perfect examples of this exploration when the hormones are surging and there’s a creative confusion happening within. The genitalia aren’t the prime indicator of our behaviors and expressions at all times. There could be a pre-dominance but that’s just that- a pre-dominance. It’s mostly the social expectations of a certain ‘normal’ which when challenged lead to extreme measures of ostracism or other such isolating punishments.

If human beings are the only evolved species who are capable of complex thoughts and feelings then why shun someone who is born with male genitalia and expresses mostly feminine tendencies. Why box yourself up by calling yourself a shy/quiet person or someone who is always detail oriented versus a big picture person? I used to think that I wasn’t oriented toward details but the fact is that I didn’t want to accept that part of me because I liked the idea of being a ‘big picture’ person. Today I know that I am both and I love recognizing this in me. I no longer say that I always think/behave a certain way and I must say that some people have trouble with it:) but what matters is that I no longer am troubled with this so-called acceptance of duality that’s present within me. If only we could accept that we all cannot always be the light and that we all have darkness within to deal with, we would judge someone else a little lesser.

The more I think about this, the more I feel like the ‘I AMs’ are nothing but ideas at a certain point in time that we are happy to live by. If we recognize those as ideas of ourselves or about ourselves at a given point in time we would struggle a little less when that idea changes to something else later in life either by internal desire or by external situational factors. Say for example if you are born into a Hindu family but over a course of time you no longer believe in pantheism, this shouldn’t be for someone else to tell you that what you are experiencing is wrong. If we allowed a healthy level of exploration and questioning, perhaps the crimes performed in the name of an overarching right/wrong would also be reduced.

These are just examples to provoke a certain line of thinking. Which ‘I am..’ of yours are you wondering about? I would say, the more I AMs you destroy within you, the more accepting you are of not only yourself but also of others around you.

I shall close with one of Osho’s thoughts here- In order to truly live, we need to keep dying within.

P.S.: The image is courtesy my brother’s travels to New Zealand in 2017.

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The Changing room-II

It is scary..to not know. To not know where you are headed when you have always felt like you did. You took pride in your clarity of purpose and alignment of every thought, action and word. It makes you question the very foundation that you once stood on and built yourself. Fears and insecurities begin to surface and your sense of certainty in who you are isn’t certain anymore. It is a place where you feel that you are simply ‘in between’. Every aspect of your life is being gently ripped apart. Tears flow through the eyes unexplained as if the soul needs to be cleansed. Almost as if the well inside is full and needs to pour outside. You feel slightly embarrassed sharing this with friends who have known you to be their anchor in trying times. Friends who have seen you as somebody who is sure of her dreams. It is that ‘sure’ which I am no longer sure about. There seems to be a state of confusion or transformation to be more precise. It is something like you are standing in the center and everything else around you is moving and you are a mere spectator, clueless and yet in it.

As often cited in textbooks, these moments catch you and begin to surface more when you are alone. You can ignore it once, twice perhaps thrice but the fourth time you simply cannot. I have postponed the welling up of these thoughts several times until now and somehow today I could no longer do it. I knew that I had to write it down. A lot of my dreams in the past few months had signaled me towards change and transformation. However I did not exactly know what that ‘feels’ like. It feels like something is being pulled out of you..a sense of death and dying in a way. Sometimes you feel lost and begin wondering ‘how did I get here’ and ‘Do I need to be some place else’. It is soul wrenching and a quiet pain. It is subdued for the most part but it for sure is there. Any traces of ‘ I know who I am’ and thereby the swollen ego syndrome is all washed away. Perhaps this is what the tears are for..to wash away, to cleanse, to make you humble and more human in your imperfections.

There are moments where I want to hide my face into someone’s chest, someone who can assure me that ‘this too shall pass’ and that I am with you no matter what. The anxiety of being human and the need to be rescued. Feeling as I do, I also have no choice but to be with myself right now ( I laughed as I wrote this). Is it the dark night of the soul? May be. All the times when I would wonder ‘how can someone be afraid of change’ and one just needs to have faith are all being offered to me as personal experiences. Don’t know if anyone likes being in this phase but as always I am hoping that I can shine through this and emerge a clear diamond. I often say that strong headed or stubborn people need harder lessons to get through their tough heads and guess what..I am in one right now! Taking my bow to life and spirit!

Seems like I need to simply surrender and then my ego comes right back at me telling me to ‘do’ something. It says, you cannot simply sit back and let this happen, you need to take charge. These are perhaps my mind’s attempts to hold on to whatever I know, that is if I know anythingJ

The Changing room

Past few weeks things have been changing around me. It is probably more appropriate to say  that these changes are big enough for me to notice them. I feel like I am inside a changing room trying on new clothes and find out what I like:)

Old is making way for the new. I think about the process a snake goes through when shedding the old skin and coming into its new skin. I have heard that it is painful for the snake but it happens anyways. It is natural and there is no way around it. The snake endures this process for days and then shines in it’s new avatar. The purpose of the ‘old’ is fulfilled and it has lived its course. Imagine how would it be if our skin did not expand in response to the growth occurring inside the body. When we grow physically, for the most part we are excited and even there we do experience growing pains.

Change by itself is a natural and neutral occurrence. We inflict the pain/pleasure upon us by choosing to do so. We can resist change as much as we want and it will still happen.

We can exert some influence by utilizing our free will and wait for what turns up. Most likely whatever is in your best interest will come to you even if it is an outcome different than one you had visualized. At the beginning of this year I had created a vision board mentioning a specific amount of income for myself through a certain profession. The ‘what’ of my intentionality is being fulfilled and I had to adjust my sails for a totally different ‘how’. This is what was needed for me to upgrade and fortunately I was able to welcome it with open arms. I needed new hardware:) This is what I mean by using free will to affect change. And there is always an element of our higher good which is not visible to us immediately but is more of a feeling. Go with it when your heart tells you ‘it is going to be ok’.

Change is good:) This is how I choose to see it!

 

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The Bean-Chicago

 

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”.

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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.