Possessions

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Lined up
crisp, at attention
row upon row
stack upon stack
eager to be perused.

boxes of minutiae
neatly arranged
organized
records of a life
a story asking to be told.

displayed on the mantle-
glimpses of the yesteryears
and yet the today
being lived
attempting to be encapsulated.

a shrine
a symbol
a lamp lit each day
a brief glimmer
of belief.

a whimsical chair
fashioned out of
cushions
a desk
a reading light.

what of it all?

work
create
be the medium.


*Image courtesy of  342/365:Books  by  Magic Madzik  ( CC BY 2.0 )

What is it like to be you?

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Mom, sometimes I wonder about what it is like to be you.”

A little more prodding from my side and this comes up – “I often think about what it would be like to be other people but I don’t know because I have never been a grown-up……I wonder about what you think and feel…about me…..Do you ever wonder about what it is being me?”

Taken aback and caught off guard, I end up telling him – “I feel a sense of wonder that I am a parent and that you are my kid. I feel responsible towards you and your well-being, but most of all I just feel happy that we have each other. It is a great quality to be willing and able to consider how other people think and feel. I feel happy that you are thinking this way and hope that you would continue to do so.”

We reach the school, he gets out of the car and that is the end of the conversation.

But the thought dwells in my mind all day, it ruminates and that last line -“Do you ever wonder about what it is being me? ” really floors me and I think to myself, “I DO know what it is to be a kid. I have been one, and I have lived through a lot of the experiences that my kids are going through. Yet, how often do I put myself in their place and think about their perspective?”

Granted, the world has changed drastically since the time we were out and about riding our bikes, just being kids. However, the angst of that age is still the same. The journey of discovering multiple realities that spread outward from our family is still relatable.

If we make the effort, the world seems magical when looked at anew through our children’s eyes. Also, we somehow seem to see ourselves in a clearer light when examined through these different lenses.

As parents we have a ready frame of reference to fall back upon, and our task is somewhat easier than that of our kids who are still learning to navigate their way around the world.
In spite of this difference, we inexplicably expect our kids to know how to behave according to our expectations of them, assuming that they should be able to figure out what it is that we need from them, when they have no idea about our thought process, our current experiences.
They cannot metaphorically or realistically fill our shoes.
Simply because they have not lived that life yet.

So maybe it is time to let go of our egos and our self-consciousness about our roles as parents and simply remember what it is to be a kid.

To look at our kids and wonder —What is it like to be you?


*Image courtesy of Childhood by Rantes . Some rights reserved ( CC-BY-NC-SA-2.0 )

Claim it!

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Have you ever felt as if, in spite of loving something dearly you find yourself unable to admit to doing so?

For a long time, music has been the embodiment of that forbidden desire for me.

I have always cherished the presence of music in my life, be it memories of gleefully stumbling upon certain pieces of music, genres and artists; or moments of tinkering with a musical instrument, finding myself beholden to its dulcet tones.

However much music captivated me, I invariably relegated myself to enjoying it as an appreciative listener. I felt self-conscious about not being able to sing in tune and my proclivity to over think only added to the rationale that if I cannot replicate what I hear, I must not be capable of understanding it. Whilst feeling this disconnect with music on a cerebral level, I continued to be moved by it on a basic emotional level. My attempts to learn the harmonium and the guitar in childhood were not terribly successful either. A couple of heartless remarks from teachers further internalized my belief that I could not be musical and sure enough, I eventually abandoned all efforts to pursue music.

So the years rolled along for me in the musical twilight zone until much later in life when my kids started taking piano lessons; and I found myself sitting in on their classes, hearing the lilt beckoning me once more, feeling the desire rekindle inside of me. These furtive trysts with the piano continued until the day that I finally worked up the nerve to scour for teachers who would be willing to teach a beginner adult like me. Luckily, I found a good match and proceeded to show up nervously for my first lesson.

4173281555_d97dcc86d1_qTwo years have passed since, and looking back now, I do not regret having taken that plunge. The delight of learning a new language of musical notation, practicing scales on the piano, reading up on music theory and history and playing classical and folk music pieces is quietly fulfilling for me. I love the time spent on the instrument and find that it has enriched my enjoyment of music as a listener as well. I like being able to relate to my kids through this musical education.
I admit that I am not always diligent about practicing and those weeks that I slip up, I feel like a truant kid in class. However, the encouraging irreverence of my teacher and his constant reminders of how ‘this is a hobby for you,do not subject it to perfectionism’ provide the impetus to plow ahead.

This journey of coming back to music has been strangely liberating for me –

  • It has helped me get over the fixed mindset that our ‘talents’ are set in stone. Boxing and labeling ourselves into categories of haves and have-nots thwarts any possibility of real growth.
  • I realized that sometimes the very things that unnerve us are what we need to pursue the most. Also, it may take a few false starts before the engine gets going!
  • It brought me back to a beginner’s frame of mind- focussing on the learning process and not so much on my self-image or the social persona that I inhabit. It has grounded me to the moment- the present.
  • It has reinforced the lesson that what matters crucially is showing up at the instrument every single time- the joy and the craft will follow accordingly.
  • I am thankful for the exciting yet nerve-racking experiences of playing for an audience of co-students, most of whom are much further along in their musical journey than I am. I found that the kinship of pursuing similar interests is much more powerful than the fears of being judged are.
  • It has made me deeply appreciative of teachers who encourage the pursuit of the arts for its own sake and not necessarily as a competitive skills game.

I am happy that I was able to break free from the shackles of preconceived notions about myself and could reach out to this abundant treasure that had been mine for the taking all this while. I had just needed to step up and claim it.

So here I am now, in my late thirties, finally admitting to how much I love music and love learning to play it. I still cannot sing in tune but am learning to not care so much about that.
Yes, I am a beginner- almost intermediate- piano player.
There, I have laid my claim to that.


*Image 1 courtesy of Mechanism of melody by art_you , CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
*Image 2 courtesy of Musical Notes by Epic Fireworks , CC BY 2.0

A fair barter

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This post evolved in part from the sad news of Robin Williams’s passing and the tremendous outpouring on social media, of grief and admiration for the man.

His life ended – apparently of his own choosing and now that he is gone, the world mourns the loss of his talent. We, the audience, grieve because we realize that someone who embodied great value and quality is around no more. We lament for those gifts of the future that would have come our way, unasked for, had he lived on. And we weep in acknowledgment of that unknown angst that might have led him to choose not to stay. Some of us might even identify with the darkness that surrounds suicide, having experienced that deep, dark hollow ourselves or with loved ones.

Who really knows for sure what the private struggles were, that Mr Williams faced and how he grappled with them? There is some mention in the press regarding depression and addiction, amidst other issues, and how dealing with this had been a long winded battle for him.

Something that has been weighing on my mind ever since I learned of this tragedy is the realization that in addition to our physiological and psychological wellbeing, it is our social fabric that helps keep us functioning optimally as human beings. Maybe it is to some extent the fine balance between social and emotional give -and- take that helps maintain a sense of harmony in life.
In view of Mr Williams’s battles with depression and other issues , aside from medical help, what could have been that bridge that might have brought him back from the edge of the suffering that enveloped him? What kind of support and in which sphere of his life-personal, social, professional or as a public figure – would have provided some hope, some reason for enduring? What was it that he, who seemed to give so freely, needed most to keep his will and spirit buoyant? It is unfortunately too late now to know the definitive answer to that.

Whilst this actor’s life and work played out on a very public stage, there are so many such ‘givers’ in our everyday lives that do their work and live their lives with meaning , dignity and compassion in a way that touches something inside of us.
We may admire and appreciate the wonders that they put forth, but more often than not we are really only celebrating how OUR lives are enriched by these gems – the love from a parent, child or significant other ; the unflinching support and understanding from a friend; the time, effort and commitment from those that we employ; the wonderful services and products we purchase – that we forget what we TAKE from those that give.
Are we paying back in kind? Not just in monetary terms or tokenism but are we acknowledging and commiserating with the spirit in them that celebrates and honors life, life’s work and probably, the best in us?
How are we offering our kinship and humanity?
What are we giving back?
Is it commensurate with what we have received?
Is it timely?
Is it a fair barter?

That is a question that we as audience, lovers, friends, family, co- workers and consumers need to ask of ourselves.


*Image courtesy of Thomas Hawk  CC BY-NC-2.0

Lost and Found

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Have you ever felt lost,
well and truly lost…………from yourself?
Lost in a way that
the sudden reappearance of a buried memory jolts you awake
from the stupor of ‘busy living’ that you have been in for a long time.
Lost in a way that
you have let ‘dealing with life’s challenges’ chip away incessantly at your being.
Lost in a way that
you can no longer identify with all that held so much value for you before.
Lost in a way that
you feel an impostor in your own skin.

What happened next?
Did you strive tirelessly to find your lost self –
as if it were your life’s mission to do so?
Did you visit and revisit
the things, people and places you once loved?
Did you call upon nostalgia –
every lodestar, every lighthouse that has ever been a part of your life?
Did you search haplessly for that
which seems lost, yet you cannot quite pinpoint what it is?
Did it seem endless until it finally dawned upon you
that all you really needed to do was
tap into and trust that internal compass within you –
the one that knows who you are, what you want and where you are headed?
Did the struggle ease when you accepted
that life around you has answers, if you know to ask and are willing to listen?
Were you at peace when you ceded that
meaning and joy exist right here in this moment – the present?

What did you lose and what did you find?
What’s your story?


*Image courtesy of Brent Danley  CC BY-NC-SA-2.0