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Return of the Mojo

Calvin and Hobbes _8

Eleven months have passed since I last roamed these streets. Months that had the quality of gushing streams that will carry you a great distance before you can so much as say ‘hey’. The blame, of being away or little writing that makes the heart sing, lies conveniently with the day job or inconveniently with my inability to get my s*** together.

“How’re you?”

“Struggling to stay afloat.”

Until now.

Nothing has changed in the assault of daily routines and deadlines. But the head feels lighter, even without the wine.

Why?

Because believe it or not, for the thousandth time everything seemed to be alright when I stepped away from the madness to breathe. And the release brought revelations that there will be work and school night bedtimes, what-to-make-for-dinner conundrums and furniture store dramas brought on by flaming red chairs. But there will also be books and hugs and morning rays on your face and the burning desire to pick up where you left off a year ago with that story you’re hoping to tell.

Of course weekends have that sneaky habit of making you feel you can change everything if only you make everyday like today. Finish half a book, watch a masterpiece, take an outdoor run, write into the night. And then the week begins, dragging you out of your regimented practice and taking you to war. There you falter, losing control of time, that most precious treasure and reeling from all the mortar flying around you (blame the war metaphors on Hemingway).

Most part of life is never as bad as that, only the head and heart colluding to make you believe it to be so. And we go on believing until either things fall apart or (hopefully) we wake up. The waking up is best when self-induced because then it is more likely to last. But sometimes you need all the help in the world and may you find it.

As Anne Lamott reminded me recently, “Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a minute, including you.”

Happy unplugging!

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Poo-foria: Life’s secret sauce

poop“When you get to my age you’ll realise that the most important thing in life is not money, fame or power. It is having good bowel movement.”

When a friend’s grandfather made that comment more than a decade ago, I knew I was in the presence of a seer. This man had emerged wiser through life and its struggles, with the ability to understand the root of our miseries (not shit, or the lack thereof). He was speaking not only about what a healthy body can do to our joie de vivre. He was speaking also, if you can see beyond the crap, about perspective.

What his comment really seemed to say was, life is simple girl. It appears deceptively like the toughest episode on Crystal Maze (remember that?). Instead it is as straight laced as Peter Capaldi’s abuse-spewing tongue in Thick of it. The machinations at play are only those we invent, to help make sense of all the mess. Instead, what we should be doing is eating our greens (and whole grains), having protected sex and making enough money to buy a traveling trailer.

Wait, wasn’t that what the hippies said (with some drug cocktails thrown in)?

Well, they were onto something.

An entrepreneur, who set up a successful media company more than a decade ago, mentioned encountering some young working professionals (the millennials if you will) who said a job is what they do to ‘pass time’. For someone who has built a business from scratch that is a dreadful statement to encounter. This passing time is likely to catch the young lot unawares when they turn 30 and have the universal what-am-I-doing-with-my-life crisis. For hamsters so caught up in running the wheel, it is often difficult to recognise that they’re not getting anywhere.

Instead blessed are those that have found their passion when young and understood that life is not the road to anything. It is rather the bittersweet ride where best laid plans can come to naught and victories often fly by quicker than bumps. The laughter is not in some grand culmination of events but in the smiles at silly turns.

This Poo-foria philosophy, as I have deemed fit to term it, is the recognition that beyond all our disparate dreams for love, work, family and the world, true joy lies in the simple life – in a warm embrace, a shared meal, in combining forces for good, in a stranger’s (non-creepy) smile and with regularity, in the unhindered (and mindful) release of bodily waste.

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10 Lessons from 15 Years of Love

Jacqueline Roque by Pablo PicassoLast month, we turned 15. “We” meaning the husband & I before we were the husband and I, including the time we didn’t feel very “we” if you ask me. We’ve known each other too long you’d think, for there to be any surprises. But surprise each other we do, every now and then, with the serenades, the same yet different notes in each other we’ve come to recognise and love and with how colossal fights can be (the frequency is 1 almost-tear-us-apart sort every 5 years).

Like all things in life should do, we’ve accumulated lessons (which I dole out to love newbies every other day) and which hopefully he and I will remember each day, particularly when the next big war is due.

1. You’re a team

As easy as it sounds, this one gets lost in the melewe of the daily grind, resembling You vs Me most often. Life (spent together) will take enough rough shots at us, and our ability to fight them will always be determined by whether we add each other to the enemy line or stand beside each other (with the gloves on) and take ’em down.

2. Simplify Simplify Simplify

For the sake of arguing, there’s a whole lot to pick up on. But very little of that is truly important. So before you start building ammunition to take each other down, stop and think if it’s really that important. Because some arguments are important and deserve to be shared. Do them justice by leaving out the riff raff.

3. When it comes to each other’s families, play a good guide

You know your respective families the best. So guide each other on some basics on what might be within respectful behaviour lines. Each family is different (don’t have the which is better argument EVER) so just follow each other’s lead and you’ll be fine, as long as you respect the guidance and follow through. (Corollary to #3: Never begin a sentence with “Your mother…”)

4. Go for Core Competencies

It’s amazing how we’re so happy to delegate responsibility in accordance with core competencies at work but in personal relationships we’re often hoarders, refusing to budge from ‘our terrain’. The home world is a happier place if you share work. And avoid a postmortem analysis!

5. Don’t Sleep on an Argument

Unlike other problems that seem to improve when you revisit them the next day, it actually helps to sleep on a clean slate when it comes to things bothering you about your relationship. If your concern passes the test in #2 then it’s better to say it now rather than later. Collecting only results in avalanches much later and are certainly more damaging.

6. The Little Things are the Big things

Vacation romances and weekly/fortnightly dates are important, but the morning hug, the random email during the day (because it feels more like a letter than an SMS), the smile at dinner are markers of the “we” you chose to become. It’s the reason you wanted to wake up to and with this person every day of your life.

7. Don’t let the humour die

Jean Luc Goddard said a couple that doesn’t enjoy the same films will eventually divorce. I like to believe a couple that doesn’t laugh at atleast some of the same things will grow apart. A common language of humour is the pillar that holds it all together. Because if you can’t let out guffaws with each other, life will resemble a silent motion picture that isn’t even cool.

8. Introspect

To become better versions of the “we”, you need to make time to look within the “you”. We’re always so busy telling the world what is wrong with it that we hardly have time to know ourselves. Don’t lose out on a wonderful opportunity to understand what you’re all about. Then every relationship will not be reactive, but rather a conscious, living action of who and what you want to be.

9. Don’t Compare

We all know that couple who always posts happy pictures from countless holidays or their always – perfect home. Sometimes we play that couple too. But it helps to remember that everyone is fighting some or the other battle, even if they’re doing a wonderful job cloaking it. Holidays are for leaving the phone behind, life is for the relentless pursuit of your version of happiness. Do it your way, carry along the people that truly matter and focus your energy on the living, not necessarily the way – it – looks – on – Instagram variety.

10. Give Thanks

How often have you said thank you to your partner? Yes there are things you think is their duty but it certainly doesn’t hurt to show love and gratitude, especially when our daily lives resemble a chihuahua on a sugar high & roller skates going downhill. Stop, take notice and let them (your partner, not the imaginary chihuahua) know why they’re extra special & why you feel butterflies-in-your-stomach excited when you spot them in the crowd.

Have any lessons from your (im)perfect love and life to share? I’m all ears!

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In The Now

Don’t you sometimes (well, always) get the feeling that life is running at top speed, right ahead of you and you’re struggling to catch a breath, hold still, make it stop, just a little bit?

So I made a pact, with myself, that I would take a moment to see and enjoy the present, the here and now. Reflecting on the past (for we must allow for that too) I have found that the times I have truly treasured are those spent without the fear of tomorrow or even the next minute.

Then happiness dwells in the littlest things.

It has been catching a glimpse of him behind the crowds leaving the airport gates, and smiling, for that moment, for how much you love him, forgetting the two hours of delayed flights and sweaty waiting.

Or her loud cheers and heavy jumps after a long day, as you shut everything out and just peer inside her twinkling eyes, hoping to capture it in your mind, forever, because time never will.

And happiness is indeed in the littlest things, the effortless, unchained now.

But it is the easiest thing to forget and the hardest to apply.

Unless you endeavor to make a start, to make a promise, to build it for yourself and others, right this minute maybe?

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Trekking Along Them (T)roughs

One day you’re covering a Metallica song in front of 100 people and another you’re dealing with seemingly insurmountable losses. People call it the “troughs and crests” of life. Trouble is laying low in them troughs isn’t the easiest thing. Especially when the crests have kept you very very high.

Tenacity is a wonderful word and a difficult act to perform. And phoenix-analogies don’t help the cause. Perhaps one should be allowed to remain among the ashes at least for a while, not necessarily in a wallowing-in-self-pity kinda way. Of course deciding this being-sad time frame can be tricky.

The best way is to let Scarlet O’Hara take care of that. For whatever today might bring, tomorrow is indeed (well, it better be) another day.

And yes there aren’t better times to let Metallica (also your first public song choice), or Bob Seger if you please, decide the tone for your climb out of the troughs.

Turn the Page.

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The (L)imitless Light of Life

The light shines into the act of life for only the briefest moment-perhaps only a matter of seconds. Once it is gone and one has failed to grasp its offered revelation, there is no second chance. One may have to live the rest of one’s life in hopeless depths of loneliness and remorse. In that twilight world, one can no longer look forward to anything. All that such a person holds in his hands is the withered corpse of what should have been.

– ‘The Wind-up Bird Chronicle’ by Haruki Murakami

As much as I love this book, I can’t help but disagree with this passage, even if it is a poignant reminder of fleeting moments and squandered opportunities.

I think the light that shines into our lives is limited only by our notions of what is possible. Yesterday, a gentleman shared the story of a woman who was diagnosed with a tumor of the spine which was going to render her paralysed from the waist down. What may have left most people shattered made this woman react with enough strength to face her reality head-on. Doctors had informed her of the gradual onset of paralysis and she spent the intervening time preparing for her life ahead in practical terms. After a few years her young daughter was also diagnosed as having the same condition.  And they found a way to lead fulfilled lives on their terms.

There are countless stories of people not being limited by their circumstances. And yet, more often than not happiness is equated with requiring a certain set of attributes that fit into earmarked boxes. These include models of success, physical beauty, mental acumen, all defined by the external world.

If only we could save ourselves a whole lot of heartburn and be reminded each day of one simple fact: Happiness is simply a celebration of the limitless light we hold inside.

Easier said than done, but worth fighting with ourselves for, no?