Don’t Wait

People often say that no news is good news. I disagree. No news means you don’t know. No news means it could be terrible. Yes, it could be good, but that is not how I am bent. So it could be terrible, and you’re going on with life not knowing that an axe could fall. How is that good news? No news is exactly what it is – it is nothingness. One may argue (the ones who are bent unlike me in particular) that no news brims with promise. I don’t think that is true. Anything that is situated in the future brims with promise. Even if you are not waiting for any kind of news. The future is hope; hope that everything will be alright; hope that everything will make sense someday; hope that we will pull through fine. No news on the other hand is the present. When in the present you don’t know, you have no idea, it could very easily be terrifying.

I used to believe that I knew, or at least that I knew enough, and that we will reach a stage in life where we will figure life out. We will then have more certainties. We will not be waiting for any kind of news from life. We will just know, or know enough not to wait anymore.

I was wrong. You never know. All of life, in a way, is waiting. Waiting for the right life partner, waiting for the right job, waiting for the right time to have a family, waiting for the right time to make a career transition, waiting for the next big move, waiting for the right time to call, waiting for the right time say goodbye, waiting… and waiting.

Sometimes I wonder, amidst all that waiting, when is it that we find the time to just be? To live in the present moments? The only moment that we are certain of in life?

It is terrifying to wait like that, so then why do it?

I think that the problem is not the waiting, it is the feeling of terror and an inability to accept that life is just one massive unknown unknown. There is nothing that will prepare you for what life will throw at you. Even when you think you are prepared or believe in a higher power that cares about you enough to not give you more than you can handle in life, the truth is that news flashes from life throw you off all the same. You need a moment to digest, to understand, to bargain, to be mad, to be sad, to be happy… and finally, to accept your new reality.

I think life’s aim sometimes is to get you to experience enough rude awakenings so that you may find the grace to accept the great unknown unknowns of life. You will no longer feel terror at waiting, because all of life is waiting. You can delude yourself into thinking that it is not, that what you have is for all your life, or that you know where your life is taking you, but you’d just be living a lie. Nothing you have is yours to keep in life. It is there for a time, for you to enjoy, to love, and to learn from. You then move on. Holding on to pasts is comforting you may think, but that is not true though. Holding on to pasts is basically swimming against the current. You make it harder for yourself to accept the inevitability of life’s transient nature. You fool yourself into thinking that life’s experiences are there for your taking. You fool yourself into thinking that life waits.

Life does not wait. It goes on. Swiftly. You are the one who waits. So don’t. Don’t wait. Don’t wait for more or for better. Live in the moment. Take the plunge. Do that thing you always wanted to do. Waiting means you are living in the future. The future is not real. It is a mere illusion in your mind. Live in the present. Don’t wait. Know that you cannot control what life will bring to you, but you can control how you react to it, how you handle it, how you choose to live – not wait to live, but live right now.

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Grief Diaries: Living Messily

2.52 am, 7/11/2017, Hyderabad

It just hits you hard and you fall. Crippled.

No one I know has ever been able to prepare for the death of a loved one. Prolonged terminal illnesses and old age may appear to prepare those around one for one’s imminent exit from this world, but when one makes that exit, people fall just the same. They may perhaps pick themselves up and find the feeble strength to move on in a little less worse shape, but they fall just the same.

Death is no stranger to anyone living in this world. If you think about it, it is the only true companion in life. From the minute you are born into this world, Death faithfully shadows your every move until you walk into its cold embrace. This thought should be terrifying. It was terrifying, when I lost my father at 19. Since the death of my father, I have endured the deaths of many more loved ones. Three days ago, we lost my husband’s father, and are now trying to endure yet another great going. With every passing death of a loved one, I ask myself, ‘why should we suffer this way, what is the point of it all?’. 

They say the obvious is that which is right in front of you but you can’t see. I think the same is with death. The first time it really affects you, the first time it tears right through you and you feel a searing pain ripping through all sides of you is when you lose someone you didn’t think you could live without. This for me was when my father died. We were an extremely close knit family and with the passing of my dad, our family shattered and we could not find our way back to each other for the pain was too tremendous a barrier to cross and it was wedged right in the middle of my mother, my brother and I. We then went on to make irreversible mistakes, at times we hurt each other to the point of destruction and at others we held on to each other tightly for our sanity. We grieved noisily, catastrophically and messily. The only way you can grieve.

Now that I am here behind my loved ones who are standing on the other side of death’s door, knocking on it for answers for so cruelly taking away a beloved father and husband, I am beginning to think that it is also the only way we can live. I couldn’t see it when I was the one knocking on death’s door, with my mother and brother on either side of me, when my dad died. Standing a step back now, ready to catch any of the people most affected by the death of my father-in-law when they fall, close enough to feel the heat but not burn, I think I am getting little glimpses of why we should suffer this way and what the point of it all is.

Buddhists believe that we cannot understand life until we understand death. Death is not to be shunned. Death is a reminder of how to live life right. Death informs us as to what decisions to take in life. When the thought of death is constantly in your mind, you will care more about how to make someone else feel better and less about how to make yourself look good. When you allow Death to be your friend and not just lurk around in your shadows, you will make mistakes and hurt others and yourself in the process, but quickly realise the follies of your ways and move to make amends and keep trying until you are satisfied that you have attempted enough to mend what you broke. More importantly, you don’t do this for yourself. You don’t do it because you want to chase away the guilt and feel better about what you did. You do it because you genuinely want the people you hurt, that you care about and love, to hopefully not be hurt anymore. You do it because it hurts you that they are hurt. Death reminds us to be better people because at the end, if we allow Death to do its duties right by us, it enables us to live in a way that our existences matter in some significant way, small though it may be, to others around us. For when we finally go with Death, we can take nothing with us and leave behind only a memory of how we lived. Death is a reminder to make that memory count. To live passionately. To live fully. To live messily.

In the words of James Shirley, “The glories of our blood and state are shadows, not substantial things; there is no armor against fate; death lays his icy hand on kings. Scepter and crown must tumble down and in the dust be equal made, with the poor crooked scythe and spade.

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In loving memory of a man who touched the lives of so many around him and who showed us that life is to be lived passionately, fully and messily.

 

It’s Supposed To Suck Right Now. Pick Up A Book!

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Escape.

Lately I have been feeling abject frustration. As of about a month ago I got back into the grind that is job hunting. This is not a happy place. The search, the uncertainty, the rejections, the unresponsiveness and the general apathy of employers and recruiters – these are enough to threaten to drive away all the joy I had worked really hard to accumulate for the better part of this year.

The thing is, this is a first for me. Before this, I have either always had a job lined up before quitting or had not been fussy about taking up positions that came my way upon quitting. This time it is different. This time I left a place that was not right for me anymore, not because I had somewhere else to go or something else to do, but because it just was not right for me anymore and attempting to persevere in it was making me miserable. So I did myself and everyone around me a favour (I had turned into a veritable grouch) and quit. This was end of last year. So, what am I learning from this unanticipated turn of events?

(1) It is ok to quit without a plan if you have faith in yourself and believe that somehow you are going to figure it out along the way. 

It is terrifying to carve a way out for yourself away from the norm. I read so many articles fresh after quitting that advocated against doing exactly that, i.e. quit without lining up another job. As you can imagine, those articles did nothing for my morale which had already rock-bottomed. It is downright nerve-wrecking to do something that you know does not fetch the popular vote. In all fairness, those articles were not inaccurately premised. Quitting without a plan is not for the faint-hearted. So I gave myself about a month to mope around and then decided to seriously pursue the New York Bar exams. There were 3 exams to get through, the major one was in February 2017 and the two other minor ones were in June and August 2017. It became very apparent to me soon after getting neck-deep into the preparation for the New York Bar exams that it was one of the bigger challenges I had undertaken in my life, especially since I was also raising my one-year old son whilst pursuing it. At this point, I need to make a special mention: I could not have done any of this without my wonderful and extremely supportive best friend, who also happens to be my husband. Thanks to his support and that of a few others who are very dear to me, I passed all the exams and right now I am getting all the paperwork in order to make my application to be admitted to the New York State Bar. It was during this time that I decided that instead of job hunting whilst undertaking the New York Bar, I will actually just take the year out to pursue the qualification, to spend some quality time with my family and close friends, to travel widely, to nurture a new hobby (lifestyle photography), to read voraciously, to write more and to heal from the mental and emotional burnout of the previous year (mostly stemming from the delivery of my baby).

So I learnt that it is okay to quit without a plan if you have faith in yourself and believe that somehow you are going to figure it out along the way. I want to emphasise here that this is not the same as having faith that everything is going to work out the way you want it to or in a manner you feel you can get on board with. It is having faith in your ability to handle whatever life may throw at you and accepting that you may not always know what is best for you, thereby always keeping an open mind.

(2) There are corporate angels around us.

In between jobs is a lonely and scary place to be. I am terrible at networking, and I think the best of us know that the only real way of getting a job that is meaningful to you would be through the network of supportive, inspiring and/or like-minded people that you build for yourself. Whilst I am a pro at doing this when it comes to my personal life, I didn’t quite know how or where to begin doing the same in my professional life. For those of you who feel the same way, here are some things I have learnt whilst endeavouring to build a professional network for myself:

(i) Put yourself out there. It could be through meeting people for coffee or drinks or a meal or even just engaging someone in a conversation when riding the elevator or dropping your child off at nursery. If you are an introvert like me or an INTP scorer in the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, you would understand my resistance when I realised that I needed to put myself through corporate blind dating to build a professional network. My ex-boss recently advised me at the end of one of my frustrated rants that it might serve me well to develop tricks to deal with things I do not want to deal with. He shared an amusing example of how he devised a scheme to handle the frustration that came with the defeats his favourite football team faced: “I came up with the idea of betting against them, so that at the end of the game I was either happy that they had won, or that I had won money!” In my case, it was rather simple. Every time I had to go on a corporate blind date, I would make a plan to have a fun night out with an adult friend of mine soon after (for those of you who have young children at home you will understand how rare it is to see or hear the words ‘fun’, ‘night’ and ‘adult’ in the same sentence). The thing is, whilst professional networking for me started out feeling like a monumental task, it has now fast become enjoyable as I am learning tremendously from these chats and meetings with people who are kind enough to take time out of their very busy schedules to provide me with professional guidance and moral support. I recently met someone who looked me in the eye and explained in no uncertain terms that I should not at all worry about the time I have taken out of the workplace to spend with my baby and how I am better off not being employed by an employer who feels differently. I needed to hear that.

(ii) Speak your mind. Take the time and effort to achieve clarity in thinking as best as you can. For me that usually involves reading widely around a topic or an event in my life that I can’t quite wrap my head around and canvassing for opinions from those whose intellectual prowesses I have come to admire and trust. Achieving clarity in thinking involves a lot of soul searching and the courage to put your thoughts out there, even if they are not quite fully formed, inviting constructive criticism and well-deserved encouragement. Cultivate a deep sense of curiousity for the truth. It is so easy today with the ‘going viral’ phenomena, especially if you are still in your greener years, to be swayed by popular opinions and so-called accepted wisdom. Remember and believe that nothing ever is quite as it seems. Listen to alternative media and read obscure books. Practise keeping an open mind so that the truth knows that your mind is a safe place to enter. Be a truthist.

(iii) Make peace with rejections. When you are seeking to do any of the above, be it invite someone out for a chat or share your thoughts (in my case, mostly though my writing), you are bound to come across rejections or unresponsiveness. Do not be put off by these. People who reject you or choose not to respond to you are not doing it to hurt you. They may have a multitude of reasons for it or no reason at all and going into any of that is not a productive use of your time. It may sting, and if it does, let it, and then move on swiftly. Stay focused on your journey.

I recently had a surprising and inspiring experience. Soon after receiving a rejection on one of my job applications, I decided to invite the hiring manager to provide me with an explanation for the rejection via email. Frankly, I did not expect a response. I am not new to the widespread apathy that pervades the vicious recruitment market. In this case though, not only did the hiring manager respond, but he took the time out to explain to me that the rejection was due to the fact that he feels the position will not be one that I would find challenging from the impression that he had from reviewing my CV. This was a rather surreal experience for me as I think somewhere along the way I lost faith in humanity and genuine kindness when it comes to corporate dealings. I somehow forgot that the person on the other end is also human, doing the best he or she can despite all odds, trying to make a difference in the world, not unlike any one of us. The unexpectedly warm and encouraging phone conversation I had with a hiring manager I had never before met in my life but who made it clear that he wants me to find a position that is worthy of my experiences and qualifications, which will also make me happy, made my spirits soar and placed me in the fortuitous position to hope enough to fight another day. As oxymoronic as it may sound, there are corporate angels around us.

(3) Embrace the pain.

One of my favourite thought leaders, Brené Brown (author of ‘Daring Greatly’ and ‘Rising Strong’, among others), published a helpful article in Huffpost on ‘How To Live With Uncertainty’, which is the order of the day when you are job hunting. She writes that “[u]ncertainty makes us feel vulnerable, so we try to escape it any way we can” and “[s]ometimes we even settle for misinformation or bad news over not knowing.” In her books and in her talks she consistently champions the concept of embracing vulnerability. It is okay not to know. It is okay not to have all the answers or any answer at all. Being a control freak I admit that I do not do this gracefully at all. I am learning through this process to embrace my frustration. It is not a pretty sight sometimes, but if there is one thing I am sure of in life, it is that life does not care about my well-made plans. So I just need to learn to embrace the pain and tell myself, ‘it is supposed to suck right now Rani, pick up a book!’.

(4) Do the work and let it go.

Someone asked Oprah on SuperSoul Sunday about how we can find the balance between making things happen and letting things happen. In other words, how do we achieve the balance preached in the Serenity Prayer? I don’t know about you, but I have always grappled unsuccessfully with the concept embodied in the Serenity Prayer. It sounds really wise and all but it does not quite explain how one can go about knowing the difference between the things one can change and those that one cannot change. If you believe in the saying too liberally, then you risk not giving your best effort to a task, and if you believe in it too restrictively, then you risk burning out from constantly feeling defeated. I suppose Reinhold Neibuhr (the guy who came up with the Serenity Prayer) was lucky because he had utmost faith that a higher power would show him the way. This however is not very comforting if you, like me, are still figuring out your faith and have just begun dabbling in spirituality. Being a result-oriented person, I need a plan. Fortunately for the likes of me, there is Oprah:

You do all that you can do. You do the work, you prepare, you get ready for the opportunity, to step in. Because that’s what luck really is, preparation meeting the moment of opportunity. And then you let go. You do the work. You do whatever is necessary to be prepared for whatever it is that you are trying to acquire, or attain or accomplish. And then, you let it go. You release it. You release all attachments to the outcome. Because you know that you have done everything that you possibly can do, and when you have done everything that you can do, that is the moment of surrender release. And then if it is supposed to be yours, it will come to you.

So, do the work, and then let it go.

 

 

 

Figuring Life Out, Being A Miracle And All…

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32 and loving it!

What does your life mean to you?

I think we have all been there, asking ourselves that. In my experience, that question has always come with a burst of impatient energy, swiftly leading to frustration. It is funny how we are evolutionarily and socially engineered to think about all that we are not, before we even give a chance to all that we are.

I turned 32 two days ago. In general, I like quiet birthdays, celebrated only with people who are closest to my heart. I usually get my way and that is how I celebrated turning 32 too. I think I want quiet time on my birthdays because it is during this time of the year that I go into the height of introspection every year. I think each one of us is a miracle, which makes all of us unique. As oxymoronic as that sounds, it is the truth. Being born into this world is a miracle. I watched in a TEDx talk (by Mel Robbins, if you want to check it out for yourself) that the chances of being born are about one in 400 trillion. I don’t think anything else is qualified to be more of a miracle than that. Well except maybe the Milky Way and all things related thereto… which includes us, so I guess we are back to how we are awesome!

That is why I think it is apt to go into the deepest form of reflection about what my life means to me on and around the time of my birthday every year. What did I learn this year?

  1. That life has only come to mean anything at all to me because of the struggles it poses. We can’t escape strife in life. What we can do though is develop the kind of grit that will take us through adversities with grace. You also need to find out what spirituality means to you. For me, it is finding answers in my reading materials, switching off by disappearing behind my 50mm lens frequently, picking up my colours to paint and writing out my thought processes. Speaking of searching for truths in my reading materials, I hold on to this Nietzsche-ian philosophy very close to my heart, especially during those long weeks when doubts and frustrations come uninvited to pay me visits: “To those human beings who are of any concern to me I wish suffering, desolation, sickness, ill-treatment, indignities — I wish that they should not remain unfamiliar with profound self-contempt, the torture of self-mistrust, the wretchedness of the vanquished: I have no pity for them, because I wish them the only thing that can prove today whether one is worth anything or not — that one endures.
  2. Expect anything worthwhile to take a very long time. Also, things take the time they take and there is nothing we can do about it. Someone wise that I know once told me that life is not about the milestones, but the way we journey between the milestones. I think he is right. It is so easy to feel disappointed and helpless when we are not doing anything that is popularly deemed to constitute an achievement. We often forget though that achievements, in whatever form they mean to you, are just temporary culminations of our everyday actions. So, life’s meaning really can only be found in the everyday journey between our achievements. Achievements are really just life’s way of telling us to take a day off, give ourselves a break, before we journey again. To then put off our happiness until we reach milestones that we have set for ourselves would mean we will never ever be happy, not really, and never for long enough. Happiness is not the destination, happiness is the way. Find joy in the things that you do everyday. Find people who spread love and warmth within you and keep them close. Leave situations that do not make you happy. Love anything and anyone that means something to you deeply. We do not get to collect on the outstanding love at the end of life, and love is limitless.
  3. Know your worth, and never compromise. I know they say life is all about compromises, but what they don’t tell you is that whilst you may have to adapt to what life offers you instead of what you have wanted for yourself (you can either call this fate or compromise), you never should be less than what you can be, and you should try everyday to be a better version of you than you were yesterday. Also, do this at your pace, don’t slow it down for anyone else. Insist on the highest standards and set an example of what that means to you. I have come to realise that when you know your worth, and you are unwilling to compromise your standards, the universe bends to your will and finds a way to deliver the highest standards you dare imagine to you. You just need to believe in yourself and persist. You owe it to yourself to be every bit as awesome as you are born to be, and do not ever compromise on that.

So, whatever it is that you may have decided your life means to you, don’t ever forget that in the very least it means that you are a miracle. Spread joy, love and warmth and make your life count.

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Put on a brave face and let life happen to you in all of its wondrous glory and intensity.

 

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Don’t ever give up, even when life gets you down and you feel defeated. Also, I don’t know what I would do without you two! *big hugs and love*

Alistair & Grandparents: Play time!

Alistair is blessed with not just a wonderful set of parents, but also an amazing set of grandparents.

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Whenever his grandparents visit him from Singapore, Alistair and his grandparents never fail to have loads of fun!

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Amidst all that fun though are the beautiful little things that bring me so much joy to capture… the passing glances of unbridled love…

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the hands that are seasoned with the knowledge of loving and protecting…

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and quite simply the blanket of warmth and affection the grandparents effortlessly envelope the little one with.

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Suffice it is to say that I truly enjoyed photographing this wonderful trio.

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Special mention of course goes to the duo who slog day and night, ensuring Alistair has the brightest possible future. You guys rock!

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Mirna & Family: Joy is Contagious

Mirna is without a doubt one of the most vibrant mothers I have come across. She has an amazing reservoir of energy. When she is with her daughters it is truly a sight to behold. I imagine one would find it very difficult to avert their eyes from all the fun and joy that naturally unfold in their presence.

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I think one of the hardest traits to acquire is a sense of complete comfort in one’s own skin. Once acquired though it is by far the most captivating trait one can hope to possess.

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When one looks at this family, love simply shines through. In the way they blend beautifully together…

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in the father’s adoration for his little girls…

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and in all the little things that are naturally too wonderful to miss.

DSC_0214One realises that joy is contagious when one is in their presence.

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