When the darkness has no end…

I stopped writing. Actually I stopped posting my writing. I’ve always felt like writing was my way of exploring and understanding my experiences through each period of my life and finding the commonalities that weaved through seemingly disconnected issues. The India years, the Cary days, the DC period, the New York City phase, the depressed days, the abusive period, the insecure era, the destructive period…but I hadn’t really had the happy and grateful portion of my life yet.

When that finally came, I found myself with less I wanted to actually post from my writings. Would I jinx it? Would my friends or family judge it or worse roll their eyes and simply not even bother to read it? Can you be content and grateful while still wanting more out of life?? How is that fair? Was I being greedy? Should I share this joy with others who are genuinely trying to carve their own unpleasant truth into this world?

This week has been hard. The foundations of my reality have been shaken and I was lost in my own mind with no way out. L and I came to Italy to attend his brother’s wedding and begin planning our own. It should have been some of the happiest days, but there is a cloud of sadness and deep rooted emotional pain that follows me. The stories of countless women and their lifetime of allowing fear and trauma to control or limit their decisions haunts me each time I open my phone. As each woman I have ever known in every friend group began to share a story or incident I felt sick knowing its likely not an isolated instance and if it was it has impacted her in a way that the wound still remains fresh today.

I look for those women who have a different experience. I need to know it’s not like this for everyone. Having traveled the world I reached out to friends in other countries, but sadly the experiences and stories are eerily the same. The fear is the same in Australia as it is in India. The precautions taken are the same in Italy as they are in Indonesia. The stigma and shame is the same in the US as it is in the isolated islands of the Maldives. How can that be?

I started going down this path, and I quickly found myself in a familiar dark place. I felt sad. I felt lost. I felt hopeless. I saw the fighting on social media between loved ones. I felt betrayed by people I loved who failed to say anything at all. I felt enraged by those who said too much…on both sides! Private matters aired as public spectacle for strangers to ridicule and console seems to be a sick new perversion debilitating our society as a whole. The darkness was taking control. I’ve been here before. It wasn’t pretty. I can’t allow myself to go back, but I feel paralyzed to stop it. It’s growing legs. I wake up to check Facebook. Why did I care to follow this dialogue when it’s clearly affecting my happiness? My fiancé is bored of the topic; he has his dad to worry about. His mom to spend time with. He needs to recharge for the months spent away from Italy and his loved ones here and to soak up all that family goodness and love that lives only here with just a week to do it. What can I grasp on to in order to pull myself out of this spiral??

GRATITUDE!!!

It is all that will save any of us. So here are a few things I’m grateful for today:

1. For all the women who have experienced fear in their day to day existence but still we persist! I’m glad you’re here. Even if you don’t share your story, I am grateful for the presence of your female energy in our world. You matter. We matter. It matters!

2. My family. We are not perfect. We have our demons. We fail each other daily, but God knew what he was doing putting us together. You make me better and we push the right buttons needed for self-discovery.

3. Men! Those of you unable to see why we should simply believe victims without question, I thank you for inspiring a generation of men who see how ridiculous that is. Men who otherwise wouldn’t have heard the absurdity of this line of questioning now are experiencing it and questioning their own believes. I see men asking the question “would it be so bad for men to be guided by knowing there is a zero tolerance policy for sexual assault towards women?” And THAT makes me breath a sigh of relief in an otherwise suffocating time.

4. Men! To the thousands and millions of men who hear us, stand with us, and support us…thank you. You play a vital role in this process. I have always had more male friends than female friends. In my life the most pain has always been incurred by the woman I surrounded myself with. I have been drunker than I should ever have been, acted foolish more times than I can count, taken unnecessary risks in new places more times than I’d like to admit. (Sorry, Mom!!) But I’ve never been betrayed by or felt threatened by a familiar man or someone I considered a friend and for THAT I thank each of my males friends, colleagues and acquaintances for letting me know that good guys do exist and I know a hell of a lot of them!!

Lastly, for this post at least, I am grateful for finding a partner who is part of the “good-guy gang!” He allows me to vent (sometimes nonstop), he questions my thinking and expects me to question his. He listens. Like really listens to my truth and while he doesn’t always agree or understand it he always validates it as mine and gives it a place in our shared life together. He respects the women in his life and truly believes in raising our family with values of equality, respect, love and kindness.

As I sit here looking at the mountains of Sora, writing this with limited internet and an amazing espresso in hand…the darkness lessens. There’s a chill in the air and it’s Monday morning here. The streets are alive, kids in their uniforms heading to school and adults rushing to work and I am reminded once again that all I can do is live in gratitude for as long as I am allowed to be on this earth.

Have an amazing week!! Your pain does not define you…you were born through the greatness of our creator (whom ever you want that to be is irrelevant), out of the awesomeness of Mother Nature and the beautiful expression of love! We are all here because we are meant to be here…there are no mistakes walking amongst us just truths waiting to be understood! 💞

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But you’re not supposed to actually change…

Image result for change is not allowedThese days everything seems so final.  You have to choose, at every turn, what you believe, what your stand for, and define it to the world in some way.  What’s more crazy is the you cannot change your mind.  We somehow have to decide who we are and no matter what facts emerge or events occur we must stick to what we once said or believed, period.

According to a recent book I finished called The Principles of Psychology by William James publishing in 1890, “In most of us, by the age of thirty, the character has set like plaster, and will never soften again,” and it seems that we as a society stand by this sentiment today.  When I see cases of racism or intolerance, my first thought is how were they raised?  By that I mean, in what climate was the government in at that time, what social constructs existed then, who were the leaders people looked up to, what were young people fighting for during these days? I ask this because our upbringing plays a big part in defining who we are, and while change is possible it comes only when one can realize the limitations of our upbringing and choose to change our beliefs accordingly.

Almost all research, not to mention common sense, suggests that though we change and grow a lot in adolescence and our early twenties, these changes slow down once we enter adulthood. Image result for 30'sI guess in this case I am calling my 30’s adulthood, but I also think we can also choose to act against our natures. Our basic personality traits don’t really change, but that doesn’t mean we can’t change and behave in ways that are opposite to our true selves, when the situation calls for it.

When psychologists talk about personality, they are usually referring to what are called the Big Five traits: openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. These are our core characteristics, which generally don’t fluctuate depending on the particular mood we’re in.

We act as if it were a bad thing to have moved on, to have changed opinion, evolved a new mindset and become interested in the fruits of other trees. When someone close changes direction, it can feel as if we are losing a part of them that defines a part of us, but what if that someone is actually you?  Here are three big things I have shifted my thinking around that when I run into anyone who knew me at some other phase of my life, almost always remark something to the effect of  “wow, you’ve certainly changed!”

  1. Religion is unnecessary in our daily lives.  While I have always had a constant dialogue with God, I have never understood why people organize and choose to pray together.  Why is it necessary to gather and share a common faith in something bigger than yourself?  I still don’t like the rigid parameters of organized religion and any belief that suggests God is anything but kind and loving is simply ludicrous to me.  Image result for unity of faithBut, the days of avoiding a temple, a puja or a church are definitely behind me.  Today I find myself actually interested in learning more about all the religions that exist. I find myself seriously asking why not?  Why not attend bhajan on Thursdays at the Sai Baba temple? I’ve always really enjoyed the process of singing bhajans in that format and its truly such a calming experience.  What about having weekly Shabbat dinner?  My understanding is that Shabbat is a dedicated time each week to stop working and focus more on the pleasures of life. Um, sign me up, I see nothing wrong with this!!  Why not also attend mass on Sundays? My boyfriend is Catholic and grew up in a very traditional Italian-Catholic household, so why not try and understand some of what that life was like?  This isn’t all too far from how my parents raised us, they always exposed us to all religions with the firm understanding that we were ultimately Hindu, and as I get older I find myself less resistant and more accepting of any environment that helps me to find my inner voice and a sense of peace through positive activities like prayer, worship, song or discussion.
  2. Image result for written in stonePolitical opinions and beliefs are not set in stone. There’s a reason the constitution wasn’t originally etched in stone…same goes for any political doctrine around the world! Shivi 5 years ago was staunch republican who believed very vocally in small government and social programs.  I did not vote for Obama either term; a fact that haunts me today actually. I believed in the dangers “out there” and that we had little responsibility to those who were “too lazy” to strive for their best lives.  The events of my mom’s accident, but more importantly the outpouring of support, both financially and emotionally, by a global community of people who felt compelled to lift us up during this dark time made me realize the importance of supporting each other.  Today, I feel strongly that cosset has a responsibility to ensure inclusion, acceptance and cultivate a safe environment in which our weakest are valued and lifted up to achieve their potential. I believe that the purpose of government is to be as big as needed to support its citizens every need.  I believe that those of us who today can say we are successful have a duty to give back to others.  Call it socialism, call it communism, or whatever new -ism is out there now, but what really is so wrong with holding each others hand through this journey and making sure that everyone else can also go just as far as we are able to go?
  3. Forgiveness is secret to happiness.  I don’t believe in unconditional love, but I do know that there can be conditioned love and forgiveness. As I look back at the last 34 years and as 35 creeps up sooner than I’d like; I see faces of friends I miss desperately; boys I could do without remembering, as well as, those few who will always cause me to smirk to myself silently.  Mentors who believed in me fiercely and bosses who stressed me the F out. Image result for just let it goEach of these people have a beginning and an end to their frame of reference in the story of my life, but there are also 6 people who are in every chapter, not saying they are always in the best light but they are always there in the background. As time goes on, I realize life is not about love alone, but about more often than not it is about forgiveness.  Forgiving those you love gives you the capacity to start to forgive yourself too. Ultimately, nobody is perfect.  It’s not what Disney wants us to think, but real relationships and happiness that is built to last involves a constant element of forgiveness. When you can see the people in your life as humans who will make mistakes and who will let you down at some point, you can stop expecting perfection and start enjoying the chaos. Closure is unnecessary.  When someone wrongs you, just forgive them…this shift in my thinking has given me back so many hours in the day.  Don’t expect the apology, for what? You’ve already forgiven them, so it shouldn’t matter.  I realize now the value of being less rigid in whats right and wrong and leading more with “why not?”  Why not just let all that little shit go…

I find it so strange when I hear people proudly say something like “she’s always been that way, for as long as I can remember!” it’s like we would rathe sacrifice self-evolvement in order to remain the person we think they want us to be, the person they recognize with such fond memories. Well, who are “they?”  Who cares…

Image result for is it kind is it necessaryLike it or not we do change. That’s life. It’s inevitable and healthy to embrace. As time passes we see the world differently, we outgrow those teenage ignorances, we discover new pastures, we nurture hidden talents, we expand our horizons. Were all have our own unique mission in life that only we are capable of accomplishing. Can we allow each other to grow and change without the guilt, judgment or criticism.

Feminism is not enough…

Last night I went to a really inspiring and well organized event in celebration of women and our worth.  I am a strong proponent of girl power. I mental high-five women I see who look like they are living life on their terms often.  I compliment strangers openly when I like something they are wearing, how they look or act.  I love when women lift each other up, cheer each other on and help each other fight back against the insidious and sometimes not-so-insidious forces of sexism, racism, and all the other isms that impact our lives without our consent.  I understand that behooves current societal structures to keep women competing with each other.  Even in my own family, we have the beauty queen, the artist and myself…oftentimes called on when action is needed or tasks need to be completed.   Does it mean I’m not also beautiful?  Or that my sisters can’t get things accomplished smoothly?  Or that we are not ALL artists and creators? No, not at all…but in our family (and it’s not intentional) we’re not all attributed all the positive qualities and more often than not we are limited by the feeling of inadequacy and self-imposed criticism, if that makes sense?

It is truly incredible that in this day and age of progressive human beings, we still cannot fathom women being equal to men.  The definition of feminism is to have equality between the two sexes, not a constant battle over who is better.  Image result for inequality vs injusticeAnd, while I am happy to participate in the #metoo, #timesup and #enoughisenough movements because the conversation needs to be started and encouraged, I do not anticipate much changing for the fight towards equality if the conversations is still limited to only women vs men. To me the real fight is against inequality at large, and this conversation should ultimately extend out to the LGBTQ community’s struggles, race struggles, handicap rights and mental health issues, pay inequality and any other forms of blatant inequality that we turn our eye to because it simply doesn’t directly affect our day to day struggles.

At the event last night, I was even more convinced change was not right around the corner as women are eager to believe.  Why you ask?  The room was filled without 100 women, some wearing empowering T-shirts with phrases like “The future is female” or “Power in Kindness” or “I’m here to stay”, and one really cute pale pink sweater that simply read “LOVE” paired with the cutest cropped wide legged dress pants with a waist belt I’ve seen in a long time!  (I should have asked that chick where she bought those pants…they were so chic!!!) I digress!

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While I saw an army of women supporting each other, networking and sharing experiences openly, plenty of strangers with smiles and warmth that felt genuine and sincere, looking around the room I couldn’t help but notice that there were maybe 6 men scattered around the large packed room, my amazing boyfriend being one of them!  I was immediately taken back to January 21st, 2017…some people may call it inauguration day, but to me it was the day I naively believed, for the last time, that women would be heard finally if we simply banded together.

They estimated that at least 470,000 people were at the women’s march in Washington in the areas on and near the mall at about 2 p.m. on that Saturday.  Women wearing provocative shirts and pink pussy hats, carrying inspiring signs, and nobody can deny that there was a feeling positivity, empowerment and optimism that day for sure.Image result for women's march I googled and read through multiple reports, but sadly I was unable to find any report identifying the gender demographics of those who marched that day, but I will tell you the videos I saw were mostly of women, fed up women who finally came together in large groups to remind everyone that not only do we have a voice and we are ready to use it. How many men attended that march?  Did you? Was it even a priority for you to be in attendance? Did the issue of gender inequality matter to you?  Does it now?

Sadly, to me “feminism” in 2018 is more concerned with promoting superficial trappings of genuine equality than with doing the tough work required to address the hard, cold facts of gender, sexual, physical and racial inequality.  The women of the past also marched…so I am not saying that this isn’t a valid starting point, but after that they took action. Suffragettes continued their fight by actions, influencing the men in their lives and looking to the men who were allies for the cause to forge forward.  The truth is women could not and would not have gotten the right to vote without the support of the men who believed this was not only right but also worth risking everything for! Long before gender equality initiatives like HeForShe and the White Ribbon Campaign, there were male allies at the front line of militant operations and in the corridors of power fighting for change. Back in 1866, it was liberal philosopher John Stuart Mills and Henry Fawcett – the husband of the future leader of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS) Milicent Fawcett – who first presented the Women’s Suffrage Petition to Parliament. Frederick Peckwith-Lawrence is, to me, one of the most interesting characters and is so very important to the women’s movement because he decided upon himself to finance the movement with his own personal wealth and, together with wife Emmeline, became instrumental in getting their newspapers up and running, so that it could be utilized for the sole purpose of their publicity and their propaganda. He played an integral role too in the legal representation of suffragettes. He was an attorney himself, and so when members of the WSPU start to be arrested he coached them on how to act, what to say to give themselves the best representation in court and the best insight on what they were to do.  Think about this…this was at a time when for a man supporting these beliefs and policies could result in personal, financial, political and societal ruin, yet many men stood with women openly.  These are only a few examples…we women should educate ourselves on the importance of partnering with the men in our lives because that is where change will begin, not with policy.

In order to succeed, feminism needs to work within the very systems women want to change, but women have to also work to identify the men who also want to see feminism succeed. And this means that women must reconsider their relation to power and power structures.  Image result for men supporting feminismThe narrative that feminism is “anti-male” is a deliberate misinterpretation intended to slander the movement. And, I am certain beyond a doubt that it wasn’t created by feminists! A movement for equality cannot have at it’s root the intention to belittle or disenfranchise another subset of our population. In philosophy, freedom of thought is the ultimate form of liberation.  As a force, power is not inherently sexist, but we are taught that is is. If we understand and begin to teach our children that power knows no gender, and that women can be powerful while at the same time men can also be nurturing, then we can possibly begin the process finally to transform the traditional narratives that have fixed feminism in the proverbial cat chasing its own tail scenario.  The missing link between hope and change is…power.

This leads me to my initial point…feminism alone is not enough! A successful women’s movement in America (anywhere really) must ally the 99% and the 1%, black women and white women, straight women and lesbians, able bodied and handicap persons, etc.  In our homes, with our social groups, in our daily activities, equality and fair treatment must be the guiding factor.  That ultimately brings me to the event last night once again.  One brave man stood up and asked the question, “how can men support women in this movement?  What should we be doing?  What is our part in making sure these movements are successful?”

Image result for how can men help feminismWhile the members of the panel tried to say the usual “asking this questions is a step in the right direction” type answers; one person, I thought, hit it right on the nail.  Dr. Margaret A. Brunson, from Illumined Leadership and The Love Life, (you need to know this lady…she was awesome!) explained that the premise of this question is already wrong.  We tell men that they need to step in, help us to fix the problem, and facilitate the conversation.  All of these are action words…implying that the role of men in this fight is external and tactical.  That is simply not that case, we women can speak for ourselves, we can fix our problems and more often than not, we are already facilitating these discussions in our work, home and personal lives.   What we need from men is accountability!!  Hold yourselves accountable, speak up when your friends are talking about women in a disrespectful or objectifying manner.  Fix all the elements of masculinity that force you to play the role of oppressor in this conversation.  Resolve today to not simply stand for equality in principle, but that you will physically stand for it in your daily lives and with the men you encounter.  Women can direct the conversation on what we need, but we need men to direct the conversation on what equality really means for other men.  As long as our fight for equality continues to make men feel emasculated and inferior, feminism is doomed to fail, ladies!

For any social justice movement to take flight, it must be fueled by ideas and by a vision. When every woman has their own interpretation of what feminism means to them or what the final phase looks like for them, we have a problem!  The politics must be accompanied and preceded by an ethical awakening within individuals, and I feel we as a society we are here now finally. Image result for how can men help feminism Instead of taking the definition of feminism as an infallible truth with no room for redefinition, we need to question what it is and what feminism means today to us as a society where, more often than not,  men are also willing to be a participant in the fight.  We should question the meaning of empowerment to ensure that empowering women does not inadvertently take power away from any other group, especially men. We need to question equality, and ask ourselves why this is desired ideal for the movement?  In my opinion, the focus should be on freedom…freedom to live as we are regardless of our gender, sexuality, or physical abilities.

Unfortunately, in our fight to have a seat at the table we have pushed our male counterparts too far away in some cases.  The men feminism left behind pose the main threat to the movement as a whole. Image result for equalityThey are armed with their own facts and heaps of resentment, and for this movement to succeed we need to change the approach at its premise. We don’t often talk about how men are also being imprisoned by gender stereotypes; the provider, the protector, the solver, the fighter, the defender, the stricter parent…all of these at its core tend to have an element of aggression and oppression attached to them, so how then can we fault men for that which we’ve taught them is the expectation? If men don’t have to be aggressive in order to be accepted, women won’t feel compelled to be submissive to be deserving of love/acceptance. I suspect for a lot of men, a more equal society— one with fewer cultural rules about how a man should be, what he has to provide, his ability to constantly keep doing and giving and more avenues to establish identity and respect on the basis of who HE wants to be— would be a pretty great place to live in too!!!

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Gee…I had no idea!

ringAs a woman, you’re never too far from society reminding you that somehow you are never really complete.  Six months ago, I turned 34 and at my birthday dinner I remember feeling really at peace for the first time in a very long time.  I had a handful of friends present, my parents, my siblings and I genuinely felt I was exactly where I wanted to be.  That is until the dinner ended and I walked my parents to their car and my dad leaned in and gave me one of his best hugs and whispered, “now it’s time to focus on finding a husband and settling down!” In that moment, I could feel all that self acceptance I had mustered together escaping through every pore in my body.  Couldn’t he see that after years of chasing the wrong dreams and being drained by unhealthy relationships in a city that both gave me wings while secretly clipping my spirit, I was finally genuinely content with my life? I smiled, and said what I always say “I love you, dad…See you guys later!”

dateA few months later, after countless bad first dates and forced set-ups from co-workers, family members and friends alike I finally decided enough was enough.  I remember sitting on my parent’s couch listening to one of their famous ‘what is your plan for your life’ discussions and feeling happy and content enough to actually say to them “I am really okay on my own.  I like my life and if I never meet anyone I genuinely don’t think I will be any less fulfilled.”  Their face!!!! Initially confusion mixed with sadness…and then my dad had this light bulb moment.  You could see he had come up with the solution and one he was damn proud of.  Without skipping a beat, he said emphatically “fine, I understand you don’t want a husband and I am okay with that, but I want you to have a baby!  I want to know that when I am gone you will have someone that will love you.” Say WHAAAAAT?!?!?  Once again, I felt the sense of empowerment and strength I found within myself to admit openly that I am content with where I am in life run screaming out of my pores.

This is NOT a reprimand on my family…quite the opposite.  I know without a doubt that my parent’s comments come from a combination of what they know from their own lives and genuine love for my well being, but it still makes me feel somehow incomplete.  No matter what I do in my life, without a family of my own, in their minds I will always be somewhat incomplete.  While I spent a lot of my 20’s in bad relationships at least I had men who were willing to love me, right? Woman Holding Onto Man's Leg I remember when each of these relationships ended having this feeling that people were disappointed in me somehow.  I remember a boss once asking me about my boyfriend literally a week after we broke up.  I said something to the effect of “we broke up and this time for good and I couldn’t be happier” She looked at me straight in the eye, put her hand on my shoulder and with that “sad eyes” look strangers give you when they don’t need to say anything at all but are going to anyway

said “oh, I am sorry. He seemed like such a catch…don’t worry, it will happen for you!” uhh…excuse me, bitch? Do you know my life?  Did you NOT just hear me say I was glad that mess was over finally? He wasn’t a catch, he was a narcissistic ass-clown who took me for granted and mind-fucked the hell out of me for years.  But I said what most women who find themselves in this situation say “Thanks, Deb…I hope so too!”

Traditionally, a woman’s entire livelihood was dependent on the man she married. This The-Ultimate-Pillow-For-Single-Ladies-Funny-Cute-Picturewas true whether she was in a higher class and not allowed to work or in a lower class and could not make enough to support herself in the few low-paying jobs available to her. In such a system, a woman is entirely financially dependent upon a man, her husband, father or sons. Unequal marriages, and simply pairing off at a certain stage in life to a member of the opposite sex who was willing to have you is almost required to maintain the patriarchal order and ensure society thrives as is.

Single women have no place in this order. In fact, a fulfilled, successful, happy single woman is a downright threat to it, isn’t she?  So, for thousands of years, we have believed and even accepted these ideas about single women being lost, alone, unhappy, sad, and even dumb and ugly. Society looks at single 30 something year old women as a lost cause.  And if you have the audacity to actually travel alone, experience life on your own terms or God forbid are happy with the idea of solitude, well we just can’t have that! I have consciously been single the last 3 years and I thought these feelings of judgement and incompleteness were solely directed at single women, but I am realizing that it doesn’t stop at only single women…this need for society to challenge women who are simply content with themselves and their lives extends to ALL of us in every phase of life.

Crazy_Cat_Lady_Starter_KitFor three months now I have been building a relationship with the most intriguing and wonderful man I’ve met in a while.  You’d think the parents, co-workers, friends and strangers who for so long gave me the looks of concern and pity at my sad single status would finally just be happy.  But, no…now begins the next level of judgment! With the onset of meeting someone new comes the immediate shift in everyone’s expectations for you.  Everyone else seems to have a sense of urgency for MY life that I don’t seem to be understanding.  You see, NOW I’m once again part of the land of desired women…a man wants me, guys!  Let that sink in….YAWN.

Now every dinner discussion somehow finds its way into the topic of marriage, kids, timelines, plans and my head is spinning! Why can’t we just enjoy where we are in this very moment and be happy with that?  The same people who six months ago were praying that I just find someone to share my life with won’t just sit back and let me do that now.  Why?  The people who gave me countless examples of how beautiful it is to build a life together with someone who loves you, want me to build that life overnight.   It’s all a bait and switch!!!!  And I am so not here for it…

two-people-arguing1We’re taught subconsciously to seek people out with the specific agenda of getting into a relationship, rather than just enjoying the opportunity to get to know someone over time. Very early on, you are asked to define what this new thing is.  How are you supposed to know? And in doing so, we inadvertently put a lot of pressure on the relationship for things to work out in just the right way — and then we get hurt and frustrated when that doesn’t happen.  Once again, society tells women to always be looking for the missing puzzle piece to our incomplete lives…you’re incomplete single but also in a relationship, apparently. Because now you are reminded constantly that you don’t have a husband, kids, a mortgage and carpool lines to waste your life in.

Whether I go on five dates with a guy or date someone for a few years, my family and married friends…even strangers, always ask me almost immediately if he’s the one. Huh?  I don’t know…I just met the guy.  But, the seed is planted. And instead of enjoying this new fun relationship, we start looking deeper to figure out if he IS or COULD be the one right away. As a woman, you’re never too far from realizing and being reminded, WITHOUT your permission, that your parts, allure, attractiveness and ability to “catch” yourself a man has an apparent expiration date!  People never or rarely ask me what kind of fun dates we’ve been on or what I like most about him or how great his sense of humor his or how I feel about the fact he HATES country music.  The focus is almost always only on the future, but what if we asked our girlfriends, sisters, and daughters about the past?  Think about it…if you asked me what our first date was like, our first vacation, our first fight… you could actually be a valuable resource for me to turn to for advice because you would know details relevant to the relationship!!17d4sc  I had dinner with an old teacher, who is in her seventies, and she kept using the word fiance, and when I asked her why she said” well, at your age, dear, what else is left?” Well, hot damn Mrs. P…tell me how you really feel, jeezzzz!!!

I know every piece of advise or concern is rooted in love.  But please know, there is no amount of pressure anyone else can put on me that exceeds what I feel internally all on my own.  While most days I feel 19 in my head, the woman staring back at me in the mirror is definitely older.  I was recently rudely reminded of my physical shape and age when my boyfriend insisted we climb 450 stairs to the top of a cupola in Berlin 2 weeks ago. Thanks, Babe! I am surrounded by friends, siblings, cousins and 30 something strangers parading around with husbands and babies strategically shoved in my face so I can’t forget that I missed that boat when they decided to get on it. I see the jarring difference between my somewhat slower/calmer life now in NC and my girlfriends who are still living that New York City hustle; knowing everyday I am most certainly losing my edge, guys!

It’s a new year so maybe we can all try to do somethings a bit better and just love each other and be there for one another for who we are today…not who we could be tomorrow.  Here’s something I read recently that sums up where I am in my life at this very moment:

“And now, now, at this moment in my life, I don’t really want anything. Just the tenderness of my love and the glorious company of my friends. Some fits of laughter and caring words before I go to bed. The sweet memories of the ones who’ve passed away. A few trees outside the windows, and a section of sky that shows the light and the night. The best verse in the world and the most beautiful music. Otherwise, I can eat cooked potatoes and sleep on the floor while my conscience is calm.”
-Ángeles Caso-

I’ve been faking it for years…

thescientificreasonwhyfakingthankfulnessactuallymakesyouthankful_0“Your family is so blessed.” they all say.  “You always seem to land on your feet, Shiv.”  “Your mom is such a fighter, I bet you have so much to be thankful for.”  With the passage of yet another Thanksgiving holiday, I once again find myself wondering what is this obsession we humans have with constantly declaring our gratefulness to the world? This idea that we can only embrace and openly express conveniently happy emotions. It’s not that I don’t value the positive energy of gratitude; I wholeheartedly believe in and have been lucky enough in my own life to personally feel its profound effects. I do not, however, feel that it’s beneficial to mask anger or sadness or confusion or any other not-so-peaceful emotions with this forced “thankful for everything” attitude.

mountain-298999_1280-crop-fear-quote.jpgI took an anthropology class where my professor vehemently asserted that we human beings are hardwired only for survival.  Everything else is futile and shouldn’t warrant our active pursuits.  My professor went on to say, that we humans, because our instinct to survive is so strong are primarily lead by only one emotion: fear. Psychologists call this “loss aversion”: the natural human tendency to avoid loss rather than acquire gain. In other words, we’re constantly on the lookout for what’s wrong.  Once fear has allowed us to identify that which is wrong, can go wrong, or feels wrong, gratitude steps in to allow us to paint that wrong feeling, experience or fact into more manageable and pleasant reality.

Gratitude is supposed to wipe away our sorrows, misfortunes and fears and gloriously lift us high up to a place of abundance in spite of the odds that are not always in our favor. That is its magic. The power of simply feeling grateful daily is transformative, right? 3f3ecb338a9f0a30547f46662c025803--journal-prompts-gratitude-journal.jpg If we’re grateful enough, all the bad stuff will go away and all the good stuff will flood our once empty lives, and et voila!—gratitude has done its job.  Have you ever had the feeling or been told to feel “this is bad but be grateful for it anyway.” We’re often merely encouraged to be complacent and mask what could otherwise prompt us to make important and life-altering changes.  Don’t dwell in the negative.  Fear is just you pushing yourself out of your comfort zone.  There are those much less fortunate than you in this world.  I can go on with the cliche’s, but I’ll spare you!

There’s a dark side to this gratitude movement though and one that few people seem willing or able to recognize.  And, what I’ve realized is that when practiced too much, gratitude can often give rise to feelings of guilt and self recrimination.

All of a sudden people are fearful of admitting they aren’t satisfied with what they have. What if this job isn’t enough?  This success is just the beginning.  This lover, as wonderful as he is, is not giving me everything I deserve? Is there something wrong with me if I can’t or, worse even yet, don’t want to look on the bright side, put a smile on my face and pretend everything is awesome when life isn’t anything like I want it to be.  The immediate response, and I understand why, from everyone is that I somehow am a glutton for punishment.

indexI have a career that constantly challenges me and gives me opportunities that sometimes I even I don’t feel I have earned or deserve fully.  While everyone around me seems to be fighting cancer, death, loss and suffering I see my mom daily fight to become more and more independent.  I am filled with awe and amazement at how masterfully my family comes together through crisis to not only stand together but, my God, we actually and rather disturbingly thrive in situations that may otherwise break most human beings I know.  Through the difficult lessons learned from my moms accident and its changes on my personal life…I have been able to weed out the bad people in my life who truly didn’t help me grown in any way and have the most wonderfully loving and authentic friendships today.  But, there are days I don’t feel I am satisfied still.  This isn’t all, can’t there also be something more…and grateful is not what I feel at all.

I understand that trying to be grateful in the face of life sucking can exacerbate the situation because it actually creates cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance is that awkward feeling you get when trying to hold two contrary beliefs at once. Your brain wants binary information because it’s easier to deal with. It likes black or white, true or false, big or small, right or wrong, fake or real. So when you try and tell it you’re grateful for something you really aren’t it knows and resists fiercely.

But, what of the opposite?

3043e6ca6d2c176b58d424da640180cf--memories-photography-tire-swingsWhen your brain is saying we can be happy now, Shiv.  When everyone and everything seems to be screaming at you that you’re here now or just simply to enjoy this phase/moment!!!! This is the job you always wanted; this is the man you’ve been dreaming of; these are the friendships you’ve worked so hard to develop; these are the adventures you’ve always wanted to take and so on.  But, somehow you know it’s not possible to have it all…all at the same time anyway.  That’s where I am today and as I often do I picked up a random book of poems and opened to a random page for answers.  And this poem reads differently today than it has for me in the past…

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You see, until now I thought the traveler was happy in choosing to take the road less traveled. But today and in this moment: with the decisions I am facing, the conversations I am having, the opportunities I am presented with and the incredible feelings of excitement, possibility and opportunity that are somehow all in direct contradiction/conflict with each other; I now see that the “sigh” the traveler lets out in telling us his decision to take the “road less traveled by” is not necessarily an indication that he/she is grateful for having done so.

And the difference it has made in said traveler’s life isn’t necessarily for the bettemany-pathsr. What if forging uncharted woods and doing things the harder and more uncertain way is no longer what excites me, today?  But, will that always be the case…

Also, where did this traveler end up and what was so different about his/her journey than those who took the other road? How does he/she even know…

Most importantly, can I know now if there will be more roads to choose from later on in our journeys too?

Stay tuned…

Let go, don’t just move on…

nycI finally got myself back to New York this weekend. I haven’t been back to NYC since my birthday last year and that was a draining weekend to say the least.  Well, maybe all my NYC weekends tend to be a bit draining because that’s just what the city does to people.  You go there ready, prepared and excited and without fail leave feeling exhausted, somber and somewhat (at least for me) defeated.

I was talking with the guy next to me on my flight home. It was his first time in NYC.  I am always shocked to hear this from anyone over the age of 25.  Like, what?  You went for the first time to the most magical city in your 40’s??  Man, you’ve been missing out!! He told me the restaurants he and his friends went to, and just overall was excited but also sad that the weekend was over.  He asked me how my weekend went and without thinking twice I said, “I am happy it’s over…I just want to get back home!” Guys, NYC is no longer home!!  I never thought this day would come, but the city that I couldn’t live without for so many years is suddenly no longer my addiction anymore.

And, that got mLETTING-GO.jpge thinking about all the other things that we let go of throughout life.  People say, letting go is that hardest thing to master in life, but is that really true? From the time we are born, we are all constantly letting go of things, people, experiences that no longer serve us. Most of the time without our own knowledge or consent. Life becomes the space between one chapter ending and the next one beginning and we just go along with the change because ultimately, that’s all we can do.

We go from being an infant who needs our mother for everything to a teenager who can’t stand to be in the same room as her.  Boyfriends, pets, jobs, places, people… the only consistency in my life has been that nothing remains the same and the notion that everything will change is the only thing I can actually count on.  But, a lot of us confuse moving on with letting go.  I have moved on from ex boyfriends without actually letting go of them.

Let me explain, you move on not because you want to, but because you have to. You can’t live every single day being miserable, dwelling on what ifs and reliving the blame and guilt of it all onto yourself. Pain is always the first hurdle because it is the easiest to diagnose.  You hurt, you cry, you process and finally, you move on. You deal with the pain first because you can identify its source easiest. Your chest feels like it’s on fire– ragged and burning around the edges; after which, an emptiness that finds its way even into the smallest and darkest corners of yourself.  Ok, that might be a bit dramatic, but with pain the only solution is moving on…you can’t live in that state for too long.   Did you know the “pain” you feel, like that actual pain that feels so real and tangible, is actually receptors in your brain that are rewiring themselves to adapt to your new reality?

Lheart-let-go-etting go, on the other hand, is much more complicated and intentional. Can you truly wish that boyfriend well?  Can you see him with the next girl without feeling like someone ripped your insides out? Can you go to that restaurant again without feeling sad? Inevitably, being in New York always somehow exposes my tumultuous relationship with my ex in new and disturbing lights. Without fail, I will hear from him or something will trigger a series of emotions that ultimately leads to reopening the dungeon where I thought that dragon was laid to rest.  Most of the time, it is a lesson for me in remembering just how bad that relationship was for me as a person and while my friends and family all are beyond done with him…in some ways I wasn’t still.

Hear me out, I hate using relationships to express deeper concepts because when my family or friends read it they automatically assume its coming from a place of me still being damaged or hurt by this man. It’s not that! Heartbreak and heartache are universally understood emotions and so sometimes it is easier to express.  Moving on means accepting what happened, but still wishing that you could change it. You’re trying to remember all the bad in the relationship but for some reason the good overclouds it. That’s where I have been for a very long time in my life. Wishing I had done things differently, remembering the vacations without remembering the abuse, hoping for second chances to fix the wrong choices while somehow conveniently forgetting all the crap he put me through and feeling like happiness just was not intended for me. Letting go means finally living without regret. Fully recognizing and accepting what was wrong with your relationship at its core without blaming or finding fault with yourself or anyone else.  Moving on means you return his stuff and throw out your personal reminders because you don’t want to remember him everywhere you look. It’s just too painful. Letting go means that every now and then, something triggers a memory, but you don’t feel pain anymore. It’s just something that once was; now it isn’t, and that’s OK.  And that is a great place to arrive at…believe me!

meThis transcends romantic relationships though.  I recently have had some transitions with my dogs.  All of a sudden I find myself with a life that doesn’t feel truly like its mine.  I am happy.  I am dating a guy who I genuinely respect and like being around.  I am motivated and balanced at work and at home. All of these things are experiences I haven’t been lucky enough to have in some years all at once.  And through it all, the one constant in my life during all those years of doubt, healing and self-discovery was always coming home to Coco and Louis.  I don’t think I want to get into the “why’s”, “how’s” and the “huh-what’s” just yet, but with my current work schedule and life in general I am going to try to transition to a “dog-less” life for a little while.  Before anyone comes at me with the “dogs are a lifetime commitment” rhetoric…I would never harm an animal nor would I not ensure that no matter what, their needs are not only met but fully cared for financially, emotionally and otherwise. So, let’s stick to the point of letting go vs moving on, shall we?

the-future-next-right.jpgI am moving on or at least trying to move on.  I am moving on to focus on this next phase of my growth as 34 year old Shivi.  To see what possibilities this chapter holds for myself and while I am stricken with guilt and thoughts of “am I being selfish or am I doing the wrong thing here?” I am also willing and able to trust myself in this process.  If you know me, you know that I don’t generally end things on my own terms. The end is usually forced on me through some crazy unnecessary series of avoidable incidents. This is maybe also way for me to start learning how to initiate endings in a healthy way.  Normally, I feel guilty about putting my needs first and being honest about what I can and cannot tolerate or deal with in the present. People often say, you should “live with purpose.”  But what if I am choosing to “live ON purpose?”

Instead of just spending any more time stumbling through life, I kind of want to use the time I have to live life ON purpose. Go on the adventure, make time for another person, explore hobbies and passions I haven’t before and be comfortable with being a little selfish right now with my time. By taking time to identify purpose and strive to let purpose express itself each day through my work, life, play, and relationships, I am able to be more honest about what is no longer in alignment for me.  I am not saying my dogs are a burden, but I am neglecting them.  I am away a lot.  They are alone most days/nights and when I am home my thoughts, needs, interests were not benefitting us collectively. The best thing I can do for myself and the creatures (people and animals alike) is to commit to constantly reevaluate the status quo.  Is this what is best for my individual growth, and if not be confident enough to let go of anything that blocks my path towards being the version of myself I know I am supposed to be.

youareyou.jpgAnd that gets me back to my original point.  In letting go of my dogs, I have gained clarity in some aspects of my life I wasn’t able to resolve before because they always served as my anchor.  My anchor to a past life, to past failures and successes and kept me tethered to this notion of surviving but not living. Most people are so busy reacting to the needs of daily life that they’re happy just to be getting through the day. It’s hard to live ON purpose when life revolves around daily crises and you’re always feeling overwhelmed.  I guess for now, I am deciding that no matter what may happen, I will commit to really figuring out what the next phase of life is for me.  Is it a guy?  Is it children? Is it a move? I don’t really know…but I do know that I need space and freedom to explore these questions right now and I do not feel guilty about it.

Maybe the last 2 months of 2017 is the plot twist in “the story of Shiv” that I’ve been waiting for all this time?  Let’s see…

 

plot

 

I can’t breathe…

buttercupThe last few weeks I have literally woken up at least once with this feeling of  “I can’t breathe…”  It’s the strangest sensation, nothing is wrong…I just sort of jerk out of bed, I am wide awake and just have this feeling like something is off.  I have been travelling a lot for work right now.  Raleigh to Detroit to Chicago to Raleigh to Boston to…you get the picture!

I hate hotels to begin with, so at first I thought it was just a manifestation of my stress and anxiety about these trade shows I am overseeing for the first time and the crazy travel schedule, but I’ve been home in my own bed the last 2 nights and it is still happening.  It’s not anything to worry about, so mom don’t text me right now in a panic!! 🙂  Along with that, I have been having the strangest dreams.  Generally, I remember my dreams very clearly, but lately it’s like I am dreaming in flashes.  Like just random moments, but not any actual full story or event.  I’ll see kids at the park, I’ll be on a plane, then I’m in a grocery store…just really weird but not really super out there scenes!  It’s just basically an odd sensation like something is wrong, or you know that feeling when you’re going away on a long trip and you just feel like you forgot something?  It’s like that, except my life couldn’t be more stable and in-harmony right now if I tried!

If you’ve been reading my posts, you know by now that I’m not the type to just let these sort of things slide and NOT over-analyze it! jung-carl-memories-dreams-reflections-1-638.jpgSo, off I went…I picked up Memories, Dreams, Reflections by Carl Jung, one of my all time favorite Analytical Psychologists.  I’ve read the book many times, so I wasn’t reading to read but more for understanding on what could be triggering these weird dreams and for lack of a better phrase: panic attacks!  (I will say that these are definitely NOT panic attacks, as I have witnessed people who suffer from them and they are truly debilitating; whereas mine are more just annoying because I like my sleep!) There wasn’t anything wrong, and I guess THAT is what is causing my bouts of anxiety and distorted dreaming patterns?!!  Hear me out…

For the last 3 years it’s been one thing or the other. A truly crazy/draining relationship that just never would actually end.  The ex who just never would go away fully and kept dragging be back into his messy world.  The city that just beat me down with no exit plan in sight, which secretly I enjoyed too. My mom’s accident.  Moving to Raleigh without a real plan or timeline.  Adjusting to life here and feeling like I had stepped back into my life as it was in 2005.  I have just gotten accustomed to life in the stress lane!  Survival trumped harmony and for years treading water, escaping to Italy and getting through the year was my success story.  But, in the last few months, I’d say since my birthday actually, there has been a definitive shift.  I am actually enjoying life in Raleigh.  I seem to have found a job that not only do I love, but man I don’t know shit about this stuff, so I am constantly challenged in ways I haven’t been in my career in years! I have even managed to balance how much of my time is family time vs personal time and figured out a way to have a life!!  Go figure, I think…wait for it…I am happy!

There’s actually a term for it: Happychondria!! Happiness is supposed to feel so natural and normal to us, yet we often relate to happiness as something special, odd, lucky, a bonus, or a win against all odds. Instead of greeting happiness with open arms, our thoughts are full of suspicion, doubt, cynicism, and fear—why are we always sort of “waiting for the fall?”

happyWe all know we want to be happy!  I mean, that’s a given.  But, we’re all told things that contradict this notion that happiness is a good thing.  The greatest irony is that we’re actually afraid of everything we like. Too much of a good thing is actually bad, who’s mom has ever said that to you? For instance, according to what we’re taught, success will corrupt you, money is the root of all evil, fame will ruin you, love makes you blind, happiness is selfish, and retirement will be the death of you. Strangely, that which we most desire frightens us the most. We will allow ourselves trickles of delight every now and then, but when the experience of happiness is more vivid, real, and long term, we’re often burdened with feelings of self-doubt and thrown into a whirlwind of emotions and primarily led by our fears, but why?  Why, when things are going well do we become our own saboteurs??

Happiness is so natural to our unconditioned Self, yet our conditioning has somehow taught us to cloud our experience of happiness with endless misperceptions, fearful beliefs, false prerequisites, and unnecessary bullshit. How many of us have met a really great guy and immediately start finding all the reasons why it won’t or can’t work, or immediately start critiquing all of your own faults and finding yourself inadequate for a good relationship or a good man?  I know I am guilty of this many times over.

When happiness occurs, we experience a mix of great gratitude and this nagging self-doubt.

Fear creeps into your subconscious and screams: When happy, either just deny it or hide it. We’re afraid to show our happiness for fear of being thought of as conceited, selfish, juvenile, or boastful even. We are somehow obron.pngkay with the notion of too much sadness but cannot wrap our brain around the idea that we deserve too much happiness!  But, I think we all do!  So, how can we condition ourselves to receive happiness and not feel guilty for having beautiful moments, experiences and people flood into our lives? And, for those of us who believe in a higher power it’s actually even that much harder to embrace happiness. We only turn to God in times of misery or doubt.  God saves us, right…which in itself implies that struggles are necessary for us to be truly be deserving of being saved! We’ve also been taught to believe that while the Gods will tolerate occasional happiness, anything that’s too long lasting or seems too good to be true will result in high payment for the person experiencing it and even warrant terrible wrath ultimately! I know my mom would always tell me, “you’re laughing too much today, you’re going to cry before bedtime!”  How crappy is that??  Sorry, mom…but it is!!  Fate is also a real killjoy, isn’t it? When good things happen it’s generally outside of your control or due to luck and sometimes preparation, but bad things…well, that’s fate or my other favorite words destiny, karma or whatever justification word/phrase we conjure up so we can get through the bad times without too much damage. Hence, when happy, we keep our fingers crossed, hold our breath, avoid walking under ladders, and look out for black cats.

happy.gifWell, I am happy! I guess that’s not fully allowed, huh!??  Or at least you can’t say it out loud…to others!! Even this post, as I write it I hear my mother’s voice in my head saying “why are you openly putting this out there, you’re inviting the evil eye!!” And, maybe I am…time will tell!  But, for the first time in what feels like a lifetime, I am excited about the possibilities the future holds and even more than that I truly believe I DESERVE to find happiness and good things should manifest in my path and I will not feel guilty about it. But, it’s clear that my mind and possibly my subconscious feels differently.  But, here’s the thing…I run this show!  Once you start to understand how your thoughts and what emotions you allow yourself to indulge your time in can ultimately impact the actual events that manifest in your life, you become more careful about what you will allow to enter your mind.

I don’t know if this is the right approach, but I literally say out loud the things I want to happen and only the good things…not the things I am fearful of.  For example, and DONT laugh! I have really gotten into the notion of affirmations…nothing major or hoakey but stuff that we should all believe.  “The universe wants happiness for me.” “The things and people that come into my life are meant to help me grow.”  “That which I seek is also seeking me, so I am going to prepare my life to be ready to receive!”  I say things like this to my self while I am blow-drying my hair, putting on my makeup or even when I’m just bumming around my apartment.  now.jpgLike out loud to myself and to the universe too.  It’s something I started doing after reading Louise Hay’s book Experience your good, Now! My close friends who have heard me do this make fun of me all the time, but I am telling you, something is working. What do you actually have to lose?? So, if you’re reading this, and there are some little things you’ve started adding into your life to just try to be more positive and kind to yourself please share them with me!

My point isn’t to rub it into anyone’s face that I am happy.  I don’t even expect that it will last forever…but, hell why not?!  It’s just to say that we share our sadness and all the things in life that have made us feel like victims or failures.  We wear our hurt and scars as badges of honor and walk around shamelessly warning others of the dangers of love, life and success.  So, why can’t we also do the same with our joys, pleasures and good fortunes?? We are so scared of the ‘jinx,” well, un-jinx yourself today, honey!!!  I think if we truly understood the power of our thoughts and its impact on our lives, we’d never think a degrading, self-deprecating, demeaning thought about ourselves or others….At least that is my hope!!

dont-worry.jpg

How about we just stop this now…

giphyWe women may be advancing in the workplace, schools, society in general, but we are never one comment away from being made to feel that we are after all just a girl in a man’s world. Which means men somehow can say ANYTHING to us without giving it a second thought.  I was at a conference last week, one filled with extremely smart, successful, accomplished people…mostly men! And it is my job to represent my company, so clearly I have to do a lot of socializing and the general schmoozing that goes along with my role as head of marketing.  I actually genuinely enjoy meeting new people and working a room full of strangers is by far my favorite aspect of my job.  It’s sick how much I love going up to a group of strangers and interjecting myself into their conversation and walk away knowing everyone is interested in having further conversations with me.  Maybe I was left to play alone too much as a child, so now I seek out group dynamics…who knows?  But, I am always very quickly reminded that no matter how good I am at my job, how much I’ve worked to get here in my career to some, if not all men, I am still ‘marketing Barbie” and well isn’t it just so darn cute that I’m out here playing with the big boys?!!  Here are a few things I heard last week at my conference that left me baffled:

  1. “You grew up in North Carolina? Well, what happened to your sweet southern drawl then, honey?” You would never hear someone say that to a man. Let’s skip over the “honey” part altogether for right now, okay? (unless you’re regularly taking me out and we’re dong that “to relationship or not to relationship” dance, don’t call me honey!) My boss is from Germany, and has a thick German accent and NEVER once have I ever heard anyone point out his accent, however harsh or endearing it can be. Frankly, I don’t think I have once heard someone even comment on it in any way. I must have had 20-25 old dudes mention how it’d be so cute to hear an Indian girl like me talk with a slow southern accent. giphy.gifOne man, who had a VERY thick accent of his own went so far as to say, and I quote, “I’d buy anything you were selling if you had that accent!” EWWW…do you talk to you mother with that dirty mouth, sir? I mean, at what point does etiquette and decorum just go flying out the window when you see a decent looking female? Does that fact that I have a different private parts than you mean all social norms and decency are suddenly optional? The answer is NO…if you wouldn’t say it to someone with a penis, don’t say it to me! Can we all agree that this can be the gold standard moving forward?
  2. “How did a good looking girl like you get into motors and pumps? It’s a bit too technical and boring, isn’t it?” Where should I start?? First of all, I work in marketing…gears, motors, water pumps, and oil pumps are not my idea of a good time. Being challenged, taking my company’s brand to the next level, engaging prospects and potential clients through well thought out campaigns and outreach is however what I LOVE doing! I can sell ice to an Eskimo, son. I have never once heard a man comment on the attractiveness of another man to his face. I worked in sales in NYC…the land of beautiful humans and never once was I in a meeting or networking event where two men acknowledged their handsomeness. It just doesn’t happen. giphyBy the way, I had nothing to do with how I look. These two people had sex, I was born and boom as I grew I began to look like some weird permutation of their combined genetic makeup that people seem to find appealing, so saying I am pretty is nice to hear but you really should consider sending my parents a cookie bouquet or something instead because they’re the ones who actually made it happen! 🙂 The second part of the statement is perhaps more insulting to me. It’s a bit too technical and boring? I am not one of these “I am feminist watch me eat men alive” types. I love being a woman, I love doors being opened for me, flowers being sent to me, and all the other little perks we women enjoy from our men. But the notion that I couldn’t understand the technical nature of my company’s portfolio (yes it’s hard but I can put in the effort just like anyone else would) or that because it’s boring my little pink brain would just lose interest and want to frolic onto fluffy clouds with unicorns while eating cotton candy is simply ridiculous! Bro, this is my job. I put in the time to understand what I don’t know. I read and ask questions to my counterparts and colleagues so that when assholes like you ask me a question I am sure to have the answer. You would never think to question a man’s commitment to his job or his ability to grasp difficult concepts at the very first meeting, would you? Men, if I am wrong, please let me know!!!
  3. “SMILE.” Can we all just agree to NOT say this to anyone who isn’t already smiling, please? untitled.pngYou know the first thought that comes into my head when a man or a woman, for that matter, TELLS me to smile???? I literally want to look you dead in the eye and say “why don’t you cross a busy street with a blindfold on?” I’m not even getting into the whys and why nots…just stop saying it, please!!
  4. The word “girl.” I know now this seems like I’m being picky, but hear me out! “Oh, you’re the marketing girl…I heard they hired someone new.” Worse yet, when your own colleague says “Gosh, the old marketing girl was really hard to work with, hopefully all marketing chicks aren’t the same!” NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! In all my roles it has been either “sales girl” “PR girl/chick” “marketing girl”….do you ever hear “sales boy?” or “operations dude” or “surgeon guy” NO…it’s sales guy sometimes but never do we refer to men as boys once they enter the workforce. Referring to adult women as “girls” isn’t a conscious decision to be infantilizing or even patronizing but words have power! Girl infers inferiority…would you take a girl seriously? Do you think girls can run entire departments and execute the conpkex marketing initiatives for a multi-million dollar multi-national company that’s been in existence since 1852? Well, this woman does! Sexism doesn’t have to be overt bigotry to have an impact, most of the times it’s very subtle. It’s that underbelly of every interaction, it’s the way someone shakes your hand without looking at you at all, it’s how someone mispronounces your name and doesn’t feel the need to apologize or correct it. This one may not seem so big, but it sets the tone for the entire interaction going forward. I am not the little girl looking for ways to impress you and gain your approval. I am a 34 year old woman who has dedicated a large portion of my adult life to be not only good at my job but continue to grown and develop the skills required to be excellent at it and maybe I deserve to be acknowledged as such. Think about it!!!
  5. “She’s a tough cookie and definitely cracks the whip, you don’t want to see her other side!” Often followed by a weird, idiotic, hope she’s not the sensitive type–chuckle!  Would you EVER say to your male boss when he has clearly defined expectations, and holds you accountable that he’s a hard ass…to HIS face!?!!?!?! Let’s start at the beginning…”tough cookie?”tumblr_inline_n7cb9dUW2y1s4ixhg.gif Aww… lollipop, how sad for you that you need to refer to your boss as a dessert item to feel masculine! Listen here, sugarplum…I’m your boss. If I tell you to do something just do it, okay, beef cake? If you truly have an issue or feel my methods are harsh ask to have a 1:1 with me. Let’s sit down and discuss the issue, your feelings and convince me with facts and examples of how and when I’ve been unfair or too harsh. What you shouldn’t do…I mean like EVER…is passive aggressively take a shot at me in mixed company. Now, you will definitely see that other side to me! Research shows that women are told at an exponentially higher and more consistent rate than their male counterparts that they’re being abrasive, aggressive or rude when the SAME behaviors in men would be and often are perceived as assertiveness and/or strong leadership skills. Again, all of these can be avoided if you just assume I’m going through life dressed in drag…I actually have a penis and this whole pretty girl thing is just really good makeup and wardrobe!

I am really not trying to say all men are bad. Some of my mentors to this day are men who believed in me and saw potential that even I couldn’t see. I think of my dad as the greatest champion of women and have been lucky to always have strong men in my life who weren’t threatened by an equally strong woman! “Be a queen, find your King…build an Empire” is one of my favorite quotes! Nobody’s perfect and honestly more often than not when I actually get into a conversation and have the time to show someone (man or woman) what I know and why I am in the position I am in, I have never once had anyone revert back to thinking I’m just the pretty face with nothing more to offer. I do not in my core believe that men, for the most part, intentionally say these things to put women in an inferior mindset. BUT, that almost makes it worse because it is such a subtle and ingrained part of our collective thinking.  You guys have to agree that for whatever reasons, you do say things to us that you would NEVER say to another man…or tolerate someone saying to your mother or sister. WHY?? Does something happen when you see a woman you’re not directly related to that makes you instantly feel superior and/or comfortable to dismiss common human decencies and courtesy? tenor

In an increasingly aware world filled with Bill Cosbys and Harvey Weinsteins can the more conscious and enlightened man just try to do a little better, please?  If I have the same job as you, assume I worked just as hard as you did to get here.  If I am your boss, rest assured I worked twice as hard to get here. Can we collectively just stop saying these things?? Like seriously, if you don’t know what to say or how to act…ask yourself if she had a penis would I still say this?  That’s all for today…you’re welcome!

It’s natural…

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It’s natural, they say
It’s all for the best
Why do we feel the need to always make
The pain go away like it was all fake

Those days were real
Just like today turns into tomorrow
It’s so natural, so why can’t you just deal?
When is it time to stop searching for meaning in sorrow?

This is natural, they say
I decided I was going to lose you
The most difficult emotion is owning your own mistakes
There was nothing I could do, or maybe too much for me to do

I am afforded no explanation, only a loneliness he is lucky not to know
This is natural, they say
Were you pink or were you blue
Nonetheless my complexion and heart continue to feel grey

Try to move on, they say, but move on from what?
A forward step every day, try and forget you, they say
The life only I was chosen to know, they say I should forget
This is natural, they say, well who asked them anyway

Choices create circumstances
Circumstances create your life
The decisions we make decide the directions we take
Today is a new day, so why does yesterday dictate the future I create?

Its natural…I suppose

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And so we begin to harmonize…

areFor as long as I can remember I have been chasing something.  Never actually knowing what that something was, but always having this feeling like I wasn’t where I was supposed to be.  I moved here from India around 6. I remembered wanting to be back there for the entire first summer I live in the US.  I guess I was somewhat bright and my birthday was early enough in the year that I got bumped into the next grade.  I was 7 in 4th grade when everyone else was 8 or 9.  I remember genuinely wishing I was older from the start of 4th grade through the end of 12th grade.  I was the only 16 year old walking to get my diploma who was hoping I’d get my Driver’s License soon while everyone else was 18 had been driving for 2 years and registering to vote!

In high school I got into the wrong crowd early on.  I wanted to be accepted…to be cool.  To get invited to the parties and be at the right lunch tables.  I didn’t know why? I just knew I was chasing popularity when I should have been chasing down Calculus.  College was no different, I wanted to get out and work before I could learn the skills required to do the job.  I loved kids, I knew I wanted to work with them. meangirls1.gif I knew I enjoyed the children with Autism I was working with, I was good at working with them and BAM that’s what I will do for the rest of my life. I didn’t try anything else, I didn’t want to learn about anything else…I had my ideal that I would chase for the next 6 years.

Then all of a sudden, I had started 3 programs, overseen 2 group homes and was now second in command for one of the largest assisted living programs in the DC metro area and well, I hated my job.  I was no longer working with the kids, but rather I was pushing paper, writing grants, asking for funding, hiring staff, training staff, firing staff, basically everything BUT working with children with Autism and I was done! By the way, rest assured that through all these chases I was always constantly and vehemently chasing boys along the way too, but I feel like I talk about my boy woes a lot and so this post wont be about that!

I’ll rush through the next decade of my life in an effort to get to my point; I chased the idea of being a girlfriend, then maybe a wife, ooh what about mom.  I tortured the idea of being  in a committed relationship until it was clear that wasn’t for me.  I decided sales/marketing would be my thing, so that was my focus.sales.jpg  I was going to be the best damn “sales-Barbie” you ever did meet in New York City and that I was.  Then it was travel.  Man, I was convinced if I went and saw beautiful places and met beautiful people I would somehow be happy then.  Through it all I was convinced one of these things I was chasing would bring me balance and happiness.

And then my life stopped. My mom was in a burn. We all had to just STOP. Life forced me to evaluate my priorities and make changes.  I moved back to NC, a place I never thought I’d live in again only to find it is finally where I am supposed to be. I had to leave, I had to chase but now I can truly say NC is home for the Shivi I have grown into not the one my parents moved here from India.  I used to think life was about balance.  We have to balance our commitments, right?  We have to balance our desires.  We have to balance our obligations. And of course we have to balance our priorities too, right?  And in the process of all this balancing most of us are left feeling as far away from balanced as one can ever be!

What if the key all along is harmony not balance?  I had this light bulb of a thought on my recent trip to Italy. Those who talk about work-life balance stress the need to integrate more of your personal life (aka, your actual life) into a busy work life. But why are we treating life like a competition between the awful work stuff that we have to do and all the other parts of our fun life that we actually enjoy? Work-Life balance implies that you have to weigh the different parts of your life on a scale of some sort. Consider the definition of harmony – “a consistent, orderly, or pleasing arrangement of parts; congruity.”  I was in Germany for work, and then a weekend in Italy for a wedding.  I had a packed week in my office and when I was leaving for my flight to Rome, my boss said make sure you put on your out-of-office and enjoy that wedding!  What a concept!! I would have never done that.  I would have gone to the wedding, had my work phone with me and would have been responding to emails while at a café in Campo de Fiori. But this time I didn’t! I was present at work and then I was present during my holiday.

I recently started a new job and my boss has clearly told me that my job would consist of very specific tasks.  These tasks are triggered by a series of scheduled events, these events are planned well in advance annually and will require attention to detail in order execute properly. life Until he is satisfied with my ability to do these things, the other stuff I wanted to add onto my plate to “wow” them would have to wait.  Hmm…what?!?! You DONT yet want me to do more than what’s expected? You have clearly laid out how I can be successful and that is all I should be doing at the moment?  This was new for me!  But I had been consciously asking for balance…but see what the universe gave me was harmony!

The key difference is that achieving harmony means you can focus more on work sometimes and more on your family, yourself, your desires and your needs other times. You don’t always have to try to force everything to work at once.

personalThis is my time to focus on myself.  My personal life…or lack thereof. What is it that I actually want? While balance asks you to juggle everything at the same time and stay afloat, harmony allows you to decide what you will focus the majority of your attention on at any given moment.  It affords you the ability to be present.  While at work, I am 100% focused on supporting my team both here and overseas.  Completing the tasks for the day and when I leave I do not check my work phone!  Guys, read that! I do NOT check my work phone at all!  I know that whatever it is, it can wait until I am back there tomorrow. That gives me the full focus to then spend my evenings figuring out what will make my life fulfilling now that NC is home!

We are good at lying to ourselves and saying “we can have it all.”  The truth is, we can’t…not all at once! We have to prioritize and realize sometimes our career takes the forefront while other times it’s our personal life. For me, the chase is finally slowed down.  I don’t know that I can say I’m done chasing things, but I do know that now it is time for me to stay here and do the work!  The work required to achieve the harmony in my life that I want means actually having a personal life and not just nights out with friends here and there. It means, it’s time to start making time to go on dates, to take that cooking class, to sign up for that woodworking workshop, to really go and join that gym and figure out what I like doing when I stay in one place with the goal of building a fulfilling life here.  They say, when you are clear on your life’s purpose, core values, and beliefs, you are able to make wise decisions about the use of your time and talent.  I don’t know who “they” are, but I certainly hope they are right!

Stay tuned for the adventures in harmonizing! 🙂

 

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