Archive | December, 2017

Mealtimes with Family

23 Dec

The square glass table stood light and airy in our dining space. Its teak base with unique markings has been carrying that sparkling glass for the last 25 years.

If wood could talk, it would tell stories of birthday parties, and so many  family celebrations that its been a part of, over the years.

When I look around my home I realize that this humble table has been the one place where we as a family have spent the most time.

Whether the kids had music lessons or tennis practice or homework to complete, dinner time meant rounding up everyone and settling down at the table.

That’s where conversations happened.

During their early years it was all about …. What they did at school, which friend they shared lunch with, the bus rides back home, who they played with and so on. They talked incessantly, the only rules being – not talking with their mouths full and giving everyone a chance to speak.

The teen years weren’t the same. They no longer felt like sharing every bit of their day …. but that was ok; We spoke of the current happenings around the world; Discussed, Debated, Shared Opinions. They learnt to respect and accept different points of view and patiently listen without racing to talk before the others.

Some evenings began with silence and the responsibility of starting a conversation fell upon me …. Didn’t much enjoy this role but managed it, delicately introducing topics of mutual interest……… And gradually the mumbling grew into a little colloquy, and even the reluctant sullen faced kid had an incy wincy smile on his face.

Its all about picking the right subject, infusing it with a little bit of light heartedness and you can initiate a lively discussion.

As parents, we also spoke of our day …Our ‘Roses and Thorns’ aka the best and worst parts of our day. Some days we shared stories of our childhood, the different people in our lives and the impact it had on us.

We spoke of our frustrating moments, our happy times and much more. Children love listening to stories, and many a time we narrated the same story [ by demand ] quite a few times.

Conversations moved swiftly from one topic to another. At one moment we would be talking of a family holiday and not much later we would be having an animated discussion on some new innovation or Tendulkar’s brilliant shot against Shane Warne’s delivery.

The best discussions were always generously sprinkled with a sense of humour.

Sometimes we had friends over for dinner; at other times we were invited out. Its interesting to note the varied range of topics people talk about. I remember at one home the grandfather, a major in the army, kept giving us gory details of the war and the bullets he pumped into the enemy that we all lost our appetite and were silent all the way home. Of course this was just a stray case, for most of the time whenever there was a large group around the table – Everyone got a chance to voice their thoughts and even the quieter ones were gently drawn out of their shell.

The atmosphere around the dinner table is what’s important – Warm, Engaged and Connected is what helps children up their confidence levels and build self esteem.

These exchanges around the dinner table are a safety net for children as they go through the challenges of growing up.

Its here they pick up anecdotes of resilience, strategies to cope with adversity, empathy and other life skills.

One important stance we held, was that meal time meant no technology, no books ; and this was good coz it helped limit distractions

Around the table we found a safe space to share our joys, disappointments; dreams, plan vacations. Something that required very little of us – just half an hour away from our everyday distractions created a tangible sense of connect and belonging and was invariably the part of the day that I most definitely looked forward to.

Even today meal times translates to meaningful time with loved ones. Its therapeutic, a time to reflect, talk of memories and loss interspersed with the challenges in new beginnings

If I were to think of all the things associated with eating together , there would be just one word to describe mealtime with family – Sacred!

Worry – An intrinsically human aspect

19 Dec

All of us tend to worry some time or the other.

Our jobs, our children, our finances all make us feel anxious especially when we perceive a threat to any of them

Then there are some of us who are worry warts …. constantly ruminating on various situations and imagining the worst, fretting about things we have no control on and working ourselves up into such a frenzy that our physical and mental health get affected.

Most of our worry is about our future — the unknown, the uncertain and the unpredictable. We fear loss.

The knowledge that things that are dear to us like health, love, independence and the likes can be taken away from us at any time, either due to fate or, as a result of some decision of ours scares us.

Therefore, some concern about the future is inevitable and rightly so, it helps us think through our decisions.

But there will always remain the unknown, and dwelling on the what- ifs and the things beyond our control will only end up sapping us of our energy, fill our days with countless visits to doctors and increase our dependence on prescription drugs.

Incessant worrying is a habit and getting rid of it requires patience, perseverance and replacing the old habit with a new one.

Given this understanding, strategies for change would include

Live in the present; Accept uncertainty.

Its impossible to get certainty on every aspect of our lives.

Yes, there are many possibilities of things not going the way we expect but how much would be the probability of all those things happening?

Instead of concentrating on the possibilities of things going wrong, try to focus on what’s there right now.

The only time that’s certain is the present coz we can experience it ….so live it …as The Buddha says ‘wisely and earnestly’.

Living in the present will make us happier and appreciative of the things around us, energizes and keeps us in in good spirits.

Besides, uncertainty doesn’t necessarily mean bad outcomes and I’m thinking a world where every thing is absolutely certain would be boring.

So plan well, make well thought of decisions and know that there will always be an element of wonder in the universe.

This is easier said than done; after all we’ve programmed our minds default mode to be one of worry.

Maybe we believe we have to worry so we can come up with answers to every question — But this is just an illusion. Focusing on the worst- case scenarios wont stop unpleasant things from happening. It will only prevent you from enjoying the good things in the present.

Have Faith

Although I am not too religious I believe that not everything is known or can be explained. Consequently, its only helpful to have faith that most things will sort out in its own time and the rest you will find the strength to carry along.

If the choice is between fear and faith which naturally translates to worry and being at ease, I would most definitely choose the latter.

Talk about it

When day to day life is impaired due to our constant worrying, it helps to share our fears with a caring individual. Another perspective to the problem at hand may perhaps help us think in a new dimension.

Winston Churchill once said:

When I look back on all those worries, I remember the story of the old man who said on his deathbed that he had had a lot of trouble in his life, most of which never happened.

I find this quote an eye opener…. it prompts me to regularly make a reality check instead of getting swept away in a whirl wind of worries.

How many worries I had this year actually became a reality? I ask myself.

A few did, and I was able to deal with them but a majority of them were only nightmares in my mind.

Nothing can really stop thoughts from racing through our minds but Pause, take a deep breath and apply a new response ………and that will make all the difference.

Happily Single

5 Dec

lonely-woman‘So you are single’ !/?

A question/remark a single woman hears quite often. The reaction to this differs,- from annoyance to pain to stress to nothing.

‘Singledom’ isn’t a place one would like to be in, especially if you’ve grown up on a steady diet of stories which talks of ‘the happily ever after’ as a validating matrix. Women outside this sphere of ‘coupled existence sometimes get the feeling of being ‘incomplete’

Today the ‘Single woman’ badge is worn not only by unmarried women; Divorcees , Widows, Single moms and women in a loveless marriage all come under this umbrella.

Being Single comes with its own challenges – the smaller ones being, having dinner alone , being an efficient handyman around the house, struggling to zip up your little black dress ….and the bigger ones like tackling loneliness , not having someone to bounce of your decisions with and the innumerable challenges of parenting.

Whatever the challenge ; its up to you to choose to live a life that’s rich, fulfilling and as significant as anybody elses.

A common misperception is that being alone = being lonely.

In fact, the physical state of aloneness [ Solitude] is quite pleasant a feel for those who are comfortable with themselves.

It’s the emotional state of aloneness [Loneliness] that is painful –  a searing kind of pain which come from the inability to relate to another person, the inability to form a connect.

The only panacea to this is investing time to create a network of friends – A safety net . Friends provide the connection and strength that is critical for our wellbeing. Social media does help us keep in touch with friends and strangers alike but its those ‘face to face’ moments that need to be kept alive.

Sometimes we get busy in our own lives and and it seems like we’ve drifted away from friends. Make time and effort to keep your connect with them. Rituals I’ve built to stay in touch, are to have lunch together and spend some time shopping on our respective birthdays [something I thoroughly enjoy] and having standing dates like meeting every second Friday of the month

Even though you find yourself strapped for time, touch base with a weekly call – get to know what’s happening in your friend’s life.

You don’t have to be alone in your struggles…. reach out and ask for advice or a listening ear. Let friends know you rely on them.

Take advantage of your single status – Read, join a class you enjoy, Focus on building a full life , Exercise, Volunteer for a cause you are passionate about.

About being a single parent – yes its challenging, focus on one step at a time, and during times of stress …reach out to friends and family.

Quit spending all your energy wondering if you would have been happier if you had a mate – instead embrace this amazingly wondrous life and know that there will be random moments when you feel down…..and that’s ok. A good film, your favourite comforter and a lil bit of Resilience is all it takes to Bounce back.