Posts tagged meaningful life

Celebrating 3 Thriving Years of On My Canvas – And Future Plans

And just like that, On My Canvas completed three thriving years on the internet.

Congratulations to us all who have been part of this budding platform through which I want to spread love, life, and hope. I cannot thank my readers enough for sticking with me all the while, for sending me immensely inspirational messages day and night, and for asking me to write more and more. On some hard days, I could not have done it without your endless emails and witty comments.

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21 Books That Will Change Your Life – They Changed Mine.

Did anyone ever tell you that you should read books to change your life?

I started reading non-fiction and fiction books sincerely only for the last four-five years. But in this duration, I read some books that shifted the course of my life. They exposed me to unbelievable facts. They laid open the science that I didn’t know exist. They told me stories I could never imagine. They made me cry like I hadn’t before. They made me laugh as if I had nothing to worry about. They accompanied me when I was lonely. They unfurled the greatest lives. They told me life can be lived in many ways. They reassured me that it was okay to be who I was. But also that I could grow.

You don’t know what is out there until you read. And then the ghosts don’t leave you alone, ever.

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Life Lessons to Excel in Your 30s

Rules to Live Your Thirties By.

On my 30th birthday three years ago, I had written 30 life lessons my twenties had taught me. From exercising regularly to fixing a hung laptop before anything else to not running after money but finding my calling and chasing experiences were the core learnings of my 20s.

As I’m about to turn 33 in less than two weeks, I found myself riding the life lesson wave again. “How am I managing life in the 30s” question stared at me.

Contrary to how it might look like, I always say that age is just a number(as many of my friends told me when I asked them to contribute to this article). Ignoring my steeping age that rushed towards my 30th birthday like a break-less ambassador car and blocking my parents who looked at me as if the time for me to do anything good had gone by, I shifted my life gears in my late 20s — changed my career, left my apartment to travel long-term, found the love of my life, took physical health sincerely, and finally chose life skills over money and ignored short-term gratification.

Though my late 20s lifestyle has poured over into my 30s, life feels different now.

I don’t go out on dates with random guys or wait till Friday to meet my partner but I stop myself from pulling my hair when my husband says he doesn’t remember if he had to remember anything. I don’t wonder if I should become a chef or open a WordPress or Tumblr blog but I soak in the cold graveyard silence of editors. I ain’t figuring out which backpack to purchase but I keep a check on what I buy so I can pack and leave at a day’s notice. I don’t think about joining a gym but I do take my morning routine as seriously as a guy considers cologne on his first date and a girl her facial.

As the battles I fight and the weapons of war have changed, the life lessons from my 20s aren’t enough to ride this new decade with peace and grace.

Here I am noting down my most profound learnings and ideas I have stuck to since the turning of the decades from the twenties to the thirties. I also asked my friends — who have seen enough 30s— to comment on what has kept them going(and some in their early 30s). Let’s read.

What should the thirties lifeboat carry to sail through the storm?

1. Protect yourself from unwarranted negativity — draw boundaries.

While in the 20s you still mull over what others say or think about you, in your 30s, you can be more confident about yourself. You know yourself better.

After a conversation, you might wonder, Why was he so rude? Or she didn’t have the right to tell me that I don’t invest enough in my relationships or my decisions would make my father’s blood pressure rise.

You realize that the other person berated you or was disrespectful for no reason. Their behavior was uncalled for.

Trust that instinct. Even if you doubt you were at fault, you cannot let yourself be insulted or harmed emotionally —personal differences can only be solved by criticizing positively and not by soaking the other person in guilt and hatred.

Remember — “If someone’s ungrateful and you tell him he’s ungrateful, okay, you’ve called him a name. You haven’t solved anything.” — Robert M. Pirsig

And my experiences say close people damage more.

Be careful. I’m not suggesting you break up with these people(some strongly recommend the bye-bye route though). But you need to draw boundaries — the sooner the better. Else you would end up with so much leftover negativity that you would viciously circle in a toxic pool.

Create distance. Confront negativity. Embrace healthy conversations. Talk less. Meet less. See less. If the berating continues, you may have to cut off completely.

Listen to this song: I’m only human after all. Don’t put your blame on me.

2. You can finally stop putting yourself at the bottom of the ladder 

I value myself the least sometimes just to be nice to others.

You don’t come last and now would be a good time to respect yourself.

3. Trust your instincts.

Experience turns into instincts. Intuition is that voice in the back of your head telling you to walk out now. Trust this new depth every now and then. You won’t regret it.

4. A lot of people will be jealous of you. Don’t mind.

Don’t let them hurt you. Walk as if you own the room even if everyone else hates your guts.

5. You will be influenced by the people around you. 

The people you surround yourself with have a lot to do with who you can become. Treat people like treasure.

6. If you feel out of place, you probably are. But don’t leave, yet.

If you can learn or meet good people, stay. Complacency is a hurdle in growth.

7. Stop comparing yourself to others. 

Friends’ priorities would have evolved by now. Someone is getting married. Your college friend shifts cities. A friend is struggling with her father’s sickness. Your best friend becomes a chef.

By 30’s we start realizing what we have and what we would probably never have. There might be other 30-year-olds sitting on cash pyramids or playing with 30 kittens or posting a daily video of their Antarctica cruise having lunch with humpback whales.

Their choices led them to where they are and your choices led you to where you are. Be happy for yourself.

As a 32-year-old IIT Delhi graduate and friend Shweta told me about her 30s wisdom, “You cannot have everything. Time is limited and you need to figure out the one or two most important things in life and go for them. The most difficult part of this idea is that you are not going to be great at the aspects you de-prioritize, and you need to accept that.”

Have faith and do what feels right rather than looking around and thinking, but he sold his startup to grow broccoli?

8. Believe in the choices you made. Focus. — The first thing on what to do in your 30s list.

The 20s were all about trying everything and finding those one or two things. I settled on writing and traveling. Now things to do in your 30s are: accepting the choices, sticking to the process, and focusing.

You can’t do it all. Stop evaluating. Do the deed. Breathe.

My 40-year-old friend Victor told me that one of the things that have helped him to manage his life is, “Setting objectives and goals for my life. When I achieve one goal, I have to set a new one or I start to live like a car without direction.”

9. When the going gets hard, believe in the process blindly. 

Anything good takes time.

Remember driving down a hill with hairpin bends after sunset? While driving carefully, you trust the other drivers, right? You need a similar kind of unwavering trust while doing your best.

10. Your life is significant. 

Even something as tiny as an electron has value or a purpose, actually the tiniest of the things might have just have created the universe. One electron attachment or detachment and you would find sodium turning into salt and iron turning into rust.

Question the purpose but never refute it.

11. Stop saying I will take the risk later.

When? 30s is still the best time to jump.

Find a career you love. Or start working towards one that you might end up loving. Learn swimming. Drive a helicopter. Take those risks.

I wouldn’t say it is now or never for everything is possible. But it is now or much harder later.

12. Opinions aren’t facts. Stop treating them that way.

An acquaintance once gasped when I told her I don’t believe in god. And I was shocked by her open mouth and wide eyes.

Never say how could someone say that. People, including you, say what they have to say.

Watching others passively will keep you calm and help you co-exist.

13. Suggesting something ludicrous? The other person might not be outraged by the idea. Try before getting intimidated.

What if the unknown young boy from Wasseypur, Zeishan Quadri, hadn’t approached the successful director Anurag Kashyap with the story of the Gangs of Wasseypur(those who haven’t, need to see this movie)? Or what if Bradley Cooper didn’t approach Lady Gaga for the actress role in A Star is Born assuming she was just a singer? There is a Tamil Nadu farmer who grows half an acre of millets just for hungry birds.

Outrageous is the new normal.

While marrying a 6-year younger guy and contacting clients way out of my reach and hearing them request me to work for them, I realized anything is possible.

You cannot afford to think what if all the time. Try.

14. Anticipation is like constipation, only worse. 

Anticipating future conversations and events is a favorite pastime of us all.

What if he doesn’t call or what if my boss doesn’t like my dinosaur figurine or what if the attendant doesn’t return my money? — We are living an imaginary future while ignoring the present.

When we anticipate, we think we are protecting ourselves. But the more we anticipate, the more we get sucked into the vicious circle of going over the same thing again and again, giving the topic much more time than it deserves and worrying endlessly. And our worse worries mostly never come true, and even if they do, we find a way to get out.

Have a rough plan for a rough day, then stop thinking. Deal with things when they happen. Otherwise, you will feel forever constipated.

15. Even if you are bursting with anger and can’t stop yourself from replying right now— don’t press reply.

We feel differently later.

This one habit can stabilize your relationships in your 30s.

16. Stop expecting others to understand your journey.

Most probably you don’t understand their problems and joys either. Quit feeling like a victim and walk on.

We must take responsibility for ourselves, and not expect the rest of the world to understand what it takes to become the best that we can become — Josh Waitzkin.

17. If a friend call after ten years and you are up to your neck in meetings — pick up the call. Leave grudges for elephants.

Or call back later. Screw that. Pick up the call.

Good buddies and rich biryanis should always be welcomed with open arms.

18. Don’t get guilt-tripped by parents

Many of my 30-year-old friends told me horrible guilt-inducing parental stories. Just one missed phone call or a life lived differently or a divorce or a work failure made some of them the most horrible son or daughter. I receive tonnes of comments on my Indian marriage conundrum article from many 30-year-olds who are depressed because their parents don’t appreciate their achievements as they haven’t married yet.

You aren’t a bad son or an irresponsible daughter unless you have tried to harm your parents intentionally. You aren’t a bad sheep for avoiding your parents. Well, who would want to call when a promotion or foreign trip would call for tears and blame gaming?

Do what you have to do to stay happy and worry-free. You live your life and they live theirs. Simple physics.

19. If you have a positive family, get closer.

Let go of old knots. Tie new threads. Be there.

20. Just because you live life on your terms doesn’t make you guilty undercharge.

In your 20s, you were still trying to explain. You can now stop justifying yourself and live.

If you don’t follow the ubiquitous customs or don’t do a conventional job or want to marry on your terms, or all of it together, you don’t have to feel at fault. You aren’t wrong or any lesser than conventional people some of whom at times won’t leave a chance to prove that you are an outlier and they are better. Remember — a lot of people don’t even know what they are doing.

You are a little ball of mischief. You are a little slice of hope. Treat yourself such. Accept you are different. And don’t give a damn if others don’t understand.

21. Working out is harder than before. But remember that the word exercise is Googled 1.2 million times every month for a reason. 

In your twenties, a one-month gym membership could bring down your weight by five kilos and reduce your width by 1.9 inches. But our thirties body is more rigid. Even a 3-mile run cannot make up for a half-kilo prawn curry that we gulped down at dinner.

Exercising regularly and rigorously is the only way to stay fit, eat what you like, look good, feel better, and have energetic days and peaceful nights. There are innumerable benefits of working out but by now you have heard them all.

As a 33-year-old friend and senior from college Amit told me about his 30’s, “When we are younger, we don’t pay enough attention to our bodies and its well being. 30s makes us realize that our body needs attention. And when you start putting time exercising, eating healthy, and sleeping properly, you feel a different kind of energy. I feel more healthy in my 30s, and I wish I would have done it sooner.”

Don’t delay any further.

22. Nothing has to be wrong with you for you to meditate. 

My lovely 32-year-old friend Shweta (whom I mentioned above) told me that when she talks to her other friends about meditating, they joke that she doesn’t need to meditate for there is nothing wrong with her.

Most of us think all the time. Meditation is an ancient Indian technique — approximately dating back to 5,000 to 3,500 BCE — and to meditate means to stop thoughts momentarily and be in the present. Nothing has to be wrong with anyone for them to meditate.

I overthink. First I thought that as a writer my job is to think. But when I took a ten-day Vipassana meditation course, I realized how much calmer and cleaner a mindful life is. Now I practice mediation frequently(still not regularly though).

I wouldn’t be exaggerating when I say I have found a weapon to deal with hard days and a reliable routine that helps me perform 197 percent on regular days. After meditation, I feel like my mind filter has been cleaned, and I become joyous — despite all my problems.

The Thirties is a good time to start meditating for our life starts stretching in multiple directions of marriage, startups, caring for old parents, et cetera. We don’t even realize how taut we feel sometimes. Meditation helps rebound back.

If there is one thing you want to take from this list, let it be that you will give meditation a chance.

23. Working on your personal development rather than grumbling about others will take you a long way.

How we spend our days is of course how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour and that one is what we are doing — Annie Dillard.

We gossip or we look inwards and grow. Now whenever I have to understand why my friend can’t stop smoking I don’t say how irresponsible he is but I look into books to figure out how can I help him (The Power of Habits — A life savior book).

This is the time to build a habit to read personal growth books/blogs a few hours every week. Reflect on your behavior. Make your life easy by understanding people (and yourself) rather than trying to change others or blame them all the while.

Start here with my personal development articles.

24. How you do one thing is how you do everything. Do one thing right.

Shortcuts leave us further from the destination.

25. Trying to find a real connection with everyone is an overkill.

Gone are those days when I wouldn’t talk to people I disliked and tried finding the best buddy in every walking human.

Get along peacefully for a tiny bit and then run for your life.

26. Not everything can be solved by talking.

Life is easier without explaining or talking sometimes.

27. Before worrying about anything, remember — everything is temporary.

Worries of today become memory vacuums of tomorrow.

I observed how frantic I was about who said what or losing some friends and egotistical boyfriends. But these things become past before we know. So now I try to give everything its due furrows.

How many things from your twenties do you care about now? You would feel much differently two years down the line so don’t fret much.

28. Rather than shouting at someone or getting angry, leave an honest business review. Or tweet.

I have, finally, learned from my bank and telephone network experiences that there is mostly no point in screaming your lungs out loud.

Stay calm but tweet that you are enraged.

29. Impatience cannot be dealt with impatience. 

Block the hustle without losing calm. Else what is the point?

30. Don’t let external pressure filter through into your cozy inner self. 

Mental protection is as important as physical.

A 33-year-old artist friend Mrinalini told me, “While working on a project, I dug up some ancient masks. And these old masks reminded me of all these crazy emotions we feel when we are in our 30’s. Sometimes we are angry, sometimes nonchalant, unperturbed, sad, and confused. The moods are always going to be up and down. But at the center of it all lies a calm monk. The idea is to balance yourself through these varying emotions and get to a state of neutrality. Don’t negate the states and never suppress emotions. Let them flow. But don’t get affected beyond a point.”

I see that state of neutrality as that cozy inner self. The external need to be processed before it could reach our interior where it can cause damage.

Like if I have a tough freelance client or a piece of news bothering me, I do feel all the above emotions but I resolve them before they could make me stay awake at night.

ancient masks.jpeg
Ancient masks Mrinalini studied.

masks she drew showing all 30s emotions.jpeg
Masks she drew.

 

31. Tell all unimportant people that you are busy. And for all the important people, you are busy in the morning.

The above two make morning personal health routine and work set smooth sail every day. Do try.

32. A schedule gives a feeling of control. Invest in creating and following one. 

A schedule might just change your 30s that seem to be going crazy with all the added responsibilities.

As a 36-year-old friend, Nimish said, “What has changed everything in the 30s is the habit of going to bed and waking up at the same time. My sleep cycle and sleep quality have improved. I am less tired and more energetic. I am also able to work in a much better schedule.”

33. Breaking the routine is important to get connected with our surroundings.

We lose touch with our surroundings when we run on habits. Breaking to reconnect is as crucial as automating.

34. Fighting with your partner about who they are is like crying over a salty ocean. 

I have finally started letting go of my husband’s microsecond memory and his attention to salient only.

We all come in unique flavors, and even though we can change our irritating outwardly habits, we cannot change who we are. How can my partner remember things he doesn’t even care about?

If you need a whole wheat loaf, first you replace only 30 percent of all-purpose flour with wheat flour. Replacing the entire all-purpose for whole wheat would change the loaf and it might not even rise well. You might have to recreate the entire recipe.

The person you wish she could turn into is not the person you fell in love with. And your partner’s entire circuit would go haywire if you meddle too much with the wiring.

So quit fighting about basics and optimize what you can.

35. Appreciate even the tiniest of your achievements 

That we aren’t on Page 1 of Hindustan times or can’t fly like Batman are stupid things to think and even stupider to say. Our achievements stand no less than anyone else’s. The trick is to try our best.

And even if we won’t pat our back on getting the project shortlisted or finally getting that lettuce thread out of our wisdom tooth, then what is the point?

These tiny pats and celebrations make us jump for the higher grape. So stock some wine and go out often.

36. A better tomorrow is today — The best mantra of all.

Whenever I worried about getting a job or publishing a blog post or my blog crashing down, I realized how the journey was the key. For when I arrived at the destination, I was already looking at the next stop. A job meant a good performance, a published blog post meant marketing, and an up-and-running blog meant going back to work.

Appreciate what you have so far. And don’t make it all about the things of consequence else you would be like a train that only departs and never arrives.

37. Blaming others never makes life easier, it makes everything harder.

With age, the emotional baggage seems to add up. But it is up to you to poke the blame bubble now and then.

38. Not everyone is against you 

Every time a handyman shows up at my place, buried but disappointing plumber and internet service experiences wake up to life. But now I am learning that having some faith doesn’t hurt.

People might be scared or moody or querulous but they might not be against us or aren’t taking advantage all the time. So let go of that protective shield once in a while. Relax.

Don’t be scared to wipe your experience slate clean and start anew.

39. Say no often.

40. Empathy isn’t always good.

Stepping every time in someone else’s shoes might scare you of their reaction.

Step out. Wear your own shoes. It is their turn now.

41. Dance.

When was the last time you danced?

When I dance I become jello. Dancing can reconnect you to your body and is known to make us happier. Put on some music and go crazy often.

42. Expecting reciprocation of a gesture done with love is as ridiculous as a mango tree demanding lychees.

In our twenties, we expect our friend to gift us a notebook for we sent her Shantaram.

But the other person didn’t ask for anything. You did something nice for them because you felt like it. Don’t make your gesture anyone’s responsibility when finally now you can afford it all (I’m talking beyond materialistic gifts).

43. Let us accept that we mostly don’t know what is happening.

I’ve seen some 30-year-olds swaying in a swag of their new mansion or a bright BMW. And soon I see them crashing and taking a head fall.

Staying modest helps for we never know it all.

44. Investing in a good coffee machine is as important as getting a good house.

 Well, for some of us at least.

45. A long warm shower or a cold ice pack on our face can fix more than we believe.

46. If a long warm shower, a good massage, a nature walk, and meditation haven’t fixed you, reach out to a mental health professional.

47. Love is not overrated. 

If you give love a chance(or many chances), it will prove you wrong. Now is the time to hold onto it. Haven’t got it? It is never too late to find love. [Tips on approaching men and asking out women.]

48. But love can’t guarantee a peaceful life. That is up to you.

Giving adequate space to your partner is as important as filling the cake mold only up to its half capacity. Else the cake will rise and spill over, like your relationship would when things get heated.

49. Let go of small things. 

I’m still learning how to do this one but seems like it is the secret to all peace. Damn it.

50. Save. Save. Save. 

My savings save me on days when I can’t get enough freelance work or don’t have the energy to work after publishing heavily on my blog that is taking baby steps to earn.

Saving for the future is like jumping into the ocean with a lifejacket. Now you try to swim or float or stay, you won’t drown.

51. Want to alter your life in 30s? Read good books. 


52. To run your life, keep the system running

Oranges won’t walk into your home. The bathroom won’t vacuum on its own. Families, offices, a nomadic couple — all manage their daily life because they do a set of things every day that keep the system running.

Don’t count the daily chores time as wastage. Instead, learn to find joy in these simple activities for at the end of the day sometimes those moments spent together are all we have. [Read what actually matters in this Le Petite Prince inspired piece.]

53. Be Kind to yourself.

The world won’t go upside down if you make one mistake. Don’t get stuck in the loop of what you could have done differently.

Remember — Every failure is one step closer to success.

54. Build habits. One word solution for it all.

The hardest of things becomes easy when turned into habits. If you haven’t tried, start with this piece on importance of habits and then go onto these tiny and healthy habits you can adopt in your 30s.

55. Sleep when nothing works.

56. Going into nature often can keep you hydrated.

57. The world doesn’t halt when we feel sad. But we can pause.

First, you will sulk, but when you take some time off and breathe, you will see your life in a new light.  Follow that light. (Travelling in your 30s? No? You should. Read how travel can transform life.)

58. Be thankful when you can’t be anything else.

Say thank you. Soon, you will ask yourself, “what am I saying thanks for?”  And you will realize how much you have to thank the universe for.

A friend Veronica — in her late 30s — said: “Focus more on the positive of life and learn to be happy with simple things. And the motto should be don’t worry, be happy. The most important is to accept each stage of life, live it, and, most of all, enjoy it. Every day, every year is a gift, and we should not focus on getting old.”(translated from Spanish)

ना हार में ना जीत में, किंचित नहीं भयभीत मैं — Neither am I scared of losing nor of winning

— is the best message for this decade. Courtesy a 32-year-old friend Himanshu.

Starting over in your 30s? Read my narrative on finding my passion and changing careers from engineering to writing.

tulips showing the journey ahead for life in your 30s.jpg

Thanks to all my friends who contributed to this article.

How is life in your 30s? Let me know in the comments.

Why You Should Break The Routine, Sometimes

To break the routine or not to break the routine?

I woke up feeling low-spirited today morning.

As my 7:10 am alarm rang, I extended my arm and fumbled for my phone on the floor, where it lays at night. I switched off the alarm. Then I pulled my arm inside my white duvet again and closed my eyes. My partner shut off his 7:20 am alarm, too.

While he pushed his phone under his crumbly pillow, we took a peek at each other, and then our eyes closed.

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47 Tiny Ways to Make Someone Happy (or Smile)

Though we all want to make someone happy or smile, we get so caught up in our work and lives and travel that we don’t bother to be any nicer or do beyond what is expected of us. 

I am no different and I openly talk about how my husband and I loosened up on being sweet to each other during the beginning of the lockdown to vent out a bit of pressure. But then we realized, hey, now we only got each other. There is no traffic, we can work together from home, and food is still abundant. We should sing don’t worry, be happy all day long. 

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The Pandemic Chronicles  – The Acceptance

On one April morning. The lockdown continues. Bengaluru, India.

 

Hello Friends,

How have you been?

I have been juggling with writing, admin work, personal stuff, cleaning, laundry, cooking, and staying updated with the news.

Different news clips catch my husband’s and my attention even though we both scroll Google News. We share and collate our information at the end of the day during dinner unless he decides to escape to the bathroom. (For context you would need to read the first part of these pandemic chronicles. I can only hint that he avoids a dinner of raw eggplants and bottle gourd still in one piece.) 

Only one morning did we see a video on COVID statistics else we prefer to not distract ourselves at the beginning of the day.

When I shut out the global crisis, I feel peaceful. The atmosphere seems perfect to work and just be. There is no traffic. Most factories have closed down. Office buildings, malls, and stores are closed. Flights are halted. People are at home. Of course, I feel horrible for appreciating the world peace as all these business shutdowns mean lost jobs, unemployment, lack of food, and irreversible life-long changes. 

Irrespective of how bad I feel I can’t help but notice that the skies, the oceans, and the land have been reset by a continuous world quarantine.

Within a month of the lockdown, ecosystems are returning to their old states. After years, Punjab saw the Himalayan skyline from its homes and mustard fields. The birds are louder. Civets and nilgais roam on Delhi roads. In Japan, deers have come out of the park and are now on roads. Someone posted a picture of peacocks in Mumbai streets. Olive Ridley turtles are laying eggs on the beaches of Odisha. Dolphins frolic on Mumbai beaches. There was an elephant in Dehradun. Someone saw wild boars in cities. Then there was sheep somewhere. No, it was not New Zealand.

Would anacondas, tigers, elephants, and sloths come out in another two-three months of lockdown?

Not only environments but people, too, are restoring to their adolescent versions when living freely and taking over the world was a higher priority than being puppeteered by the fear of missing out. We work, read, cook, eat homemade food, meditate, do yoga, paint, clean our kitchens, do gardening, and are taking control of our lives like never before. 

When I go out in the balcony, I see a foreign woman making milkshakes in her kitchen throughout the day. Or maybe she is making lassi to cool down in this Bangalore heat. From the same building, the confident voice of a guy on his team meetings races towards me.

But here I am pacing up and down trying to call my banks’ customer care. I understand that we are in a tough situation but I feel that my bank relationship managers have got more reason to not do their work now. 

If I could be any further frustrated by the dirty tricks that my bank plays, I would surprise myself. I have an account in another bank, too, but they are even more pathetic, if that is even possible. This is the nth time they’ve canceled my debit card (in the pretext to send me a new one) without even asking me. One day I swipe the card at the grocery store, and the machine says invalid card. Once I was traveling in Malaysia, I swiped my card at a store, and the store attendant said something I couldn’t understand. Google Assistant translated the message to say the card was invalid. I have many more stories. If you work at a bank and promise me that you won’t charge me interest on my savings, yes that has happened too, please reach out. (Do message me if you want to know the name of these banks and want to stay away from them. Hint: one of them is synonymous with town. Or should I just write the names here?)

If only systems worked. A car mechanic charged 400 rupees to visit apart from the usual service charges as he claimed that the police are beating the service guys even if they show the identification card especially granted for the pandemic times. I believe him in a blink and pay.

The service industry is suffering. Daily laborers are stuck in big cities, unable to go home. Artists have lost livelihood. The health care industry is overworked. I have still not been able to push away the Italian nurses’ faces deeply lined by wearing masks for a long time out of my mind.

Weirdly, some people are working incessantly while others are losing jobs, businesses, and even future opportunities for at least a few months. Nearly 200 million people are predicted to end up out of work.

Delivery guys must be in high demand right now though.

Amazon, Flipkart, Swiggy— the companies that never sell groceries — are now selling essential items, too. After a few weeks of shut down, the portals opened with limited deliveries due to a shortage of staff and other constraints. My husband and I compete amongst ourselves to see who can book an order for milk and bread first, and we are not the only ones racing for an online delivery slot.

When the daily laborers got a chance to go home, they fled. That there was no commute and they had to walk hundreds of kilometers, all the way home, in the rain and the sun, mostly without any medical help and food or a roof at night, didn’t deter them. Some walked for days on highways and railway tracks with their infants, with their newly married partners, with their hungry dogs, with their clothes in a bundle, with their stoves on their backs, stopping by the railway tracks to cook pulses and rice, or waiting in long lines to get some curry and chapati, so that they could continue walking. 

Those daily wagers moved despite their fear. We are all living on despite our fears. The fear of losing jobs, of losing incomes, of losing loved ones, of losing a complete year is slowly creeping up. We clutch onto whatever we have.

The human lot is a restless one though.

A friend said that now when she can’t travel, she wants to travel. 

I prefer not to think about visiting any place right now. More than hiking and breathing in the fresh air and stretching my limbs I would be worried about sanitizing and washing everything from the binoculars to the akki rotis. (More on traveling in the pandemic here.)

But how can we complain about not being able to travel when even funerals are banned. The one who had to leave is gone. Left behind are the friends and the relatives, masked and restricted, even from mourning together. They can’t even complain as the restrictions are for their good. Maybe the events should be strictly monitored to make sure people maintain distance and follow the best practices but does the government has that many resources to spare?

I didn’t know while writing this diary in April but soon I would also attend the prayer services of a friend gone too soon. In the hospital, instead of hugging her mother, I would caress aunty’s arm and then would soon soak my hands in sanitizer. Instead of wiping another acquaintance’s tears, I would imagine how bad it would be if I had to get admitted to the hospital due to COVID. The thoughts of getting sick, without anyone close to help, with my partner on my side, who might be restrained from coming close to me, the imminent danger I could put him in, the thought of all the days I would lose, the breath I would lose, and wondering if my body couldn’t fight the disease and how much my family would worry would keep me on my toes. I would keep distance and wouldn’t complain about not being able to hold a proper funeral. 

The death rate of Italy, the US, Brazil, and the UK has worried us all. 

I wonder how many old people who passed away were prepared to die. How many children and grandchildren were planning their elder’s 50th wedding anniversary or a hundredth birthday or waiting to show them their first published book or excited to have them at their wedding? Those plans must have been buried with the dead ones. 

Old people, pregnant women, children, and people with chronic illnesses — people who have weaker or a developing immunity are advised to stay home.

My parents don’t leave the house, they tell me. They have found solace in their garden, which is fragrant with the Queen of the Night year-round. Their madhumalti vine is pinker than usual, bowed under the weight of the flowers. The tailor bird’s chicks growing up in a money plant leaf nest keep my father and his phone busy.

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This is how I think of trees. Blobs of color and life.

 

While the elders have to be cautious, the young ones are bored at home. 

My friend’s son just received two lessons at home, and his teachers are wondering if they could continue the video lessons. Homeschooling might finally catch up, as work from home is lastly appreciated.

Hilarious work-from-home videos are doing rounds on the internet. Somewhere two furry cats are punching each other in the background while their journalist mother reads live news on the television. Pantless journalists have gotten some limelight, too. Some people didn’t notice their laptops had hung right when they were logging out of a Zoom meeting and undressed in front of their entire team on camera.

Life-long memories are being created.

But not everyone is sympathetic even now. Some Chinese pet parents have been throwing their dogs and cats from their balconies as “cats and dogs can spread coronavirus” news went viral on their social media. 

Stray animals seem better but they must be so clueless right now. What about the street dogs who used to eat out of the restaurants’ trash? Wait. What about homeless people? I am not sure about the homeless but on my rare evening walk, I see bamboo plates, some heaped with rice and some half-empty, on the streets. The dogs are being fed.

There are the homeless, and then there are people with homes. Some of them were moving jobs and homes and cities. Friends were to go to college this year. Parents were returning to India after visiting their children. Someone was selling a house. Someone was buying one. 

Nothing matters anymore. Life is on hold. 

Even crime rates have reduced. But what about those victims who were waiting for their case hearings or whose lawyers were in the middle of collecting proofs? What about the men and women stuck with abusive partners? What about the children who were being molested at homes?

This is an article in which, unlike my usual irritating disposition of wanting to consider every possibility, I don’t want to peek inside the nooks and corners of each and every situation. It is better to be ignorant sometimes. 

To keep my sanity, I avoid most news except facts and statistics that come from high-authority websites. But I read on Facebook that people are drowning in the pools of bad news. Please don’t believe everything you see. Also, we can’t control most of the things that happen.

 

 

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Pizza helps, believe me.

 

People are worried about getting jobs at this time. The US and the UK might establish universal basic pay and pay their citizens 1200$ a month, but would India ever be able to implement a country-wide support system? Let us ignore for the time being that in the US a forgivable debt of about half a trillion-dollar was distributed to big businesses and public companies and hitherto no one knows the real distribution. (Later both the US and Spain would roll out Universal Basic Pays.)

Beaurecracy, corruption, and religion have made the situation worse.

South Korea, Iran, and India — these are countries where religious congregations turned into coronaviruses’ incubation centers. You must have heard about Patient 21 from South Korea. What a shame and what a name!

But strange things are happening all around. Suddenly the movie Contagion is being viewed all around the world. Even though Netizens warned me not to see the movie in these panic times, I watched it and wasn’t gripped by fear, contrary to the popular opinion. Until we face something bad ourselves, we keep believing that nothing would happen to us. My deceased friend’s brother also said that mental health was never a thing for him much less imagining that depression would kill his sister one day. 

So much we don’t know. So much we ignore. As if life would be eternal. As if we are all immortals. 

Before this pandemic, I didn’t even know what pandemic is. I never searched. It was never a thing. But now when it is here, knocking on our doors, waiting to barge in, I wonder what we could have done differently. If you had a chance to go back, what would you change? 

But rather than focusing on the bygones, let us see what we can do now. 

I know that we will find balance out of this chaos. We will move towards equilibrium. We are moving towards equilibrium. But we can’t see it just yet. 

Until then, we need to take day by day. We have to hold hands. We have to let go.

 

Stay safe, stay engaged, and have a nice laugh.

Priyanka

 

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How’s your journey been in the pandemic? How are you coping? Would love to hear from you 🙂

 

The Pandemic Chronicles – The Beginning

Hello Friends,

How have you been?

Dictionary.com tells me that a virus means an infective agent that typically consists of a nucleic acid molecule in a protein coat, is too small to be seen by light microscopy, and is able to multiply only within the living cells of a host.

A small molecule that cannot be even seen by the naked eye, that needs us, humans, to live and multiply, has pushed us inside our homes and have locked us from the outside. 

Here are some of my observations from the months spent locked inside the house during the pandemic. I wrote these updates as a personal diary for me to look back into the events later. But then I decided to publish the journal entries for everyone. Of course, not before sprinkling a little bit of humor to the otherwise serious matter. I hope you laugh a bit. And if I upset you unintentionally, please forgive me for I am just a die-hard comic. 

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Don’t Feel Like Working? Read This.

What to Do When You Don’t Want to Work?

I have put my computer aside more than once to cry over an unjust email or to get my fair share in a fight with my partner or another close friend. 

I have had bad days. I have sometimes taken off on those hard days. Instead of writing, I went out on a drive and bought tiger prawns or cried and slept or read Charles Darwin while drowning myself in chamomile tea.

These bouts of sulking in my misery or fighting followed by pampering and sometimes spending time with the other fighter of the duel leading to exhilaration and then to that moment of clarity where I justified the time spent crying as just another day lived and felt that life was as clear as a night sky have sometimes lasted for an hour and up to a day or even more.

One young summer of my life, I was living in Himachal, the home of the Himalayas. While learning the flute, practicing yoga, working on my blog, and trying to stick to Vipassana meditation techniques, I didn’t realize that I had buried myself under a lot of pressure to be the perfect Bohemian. Ironically, I was on a laid-back mountain staycation.

One Friday, my abuse of self-expectations pushed me to the abysmal depths of moroseness. I didn’t even want to lift my feet to walk to the bathroom. I spent two to three days lying in bed and weeping and sleeping and avoiding everyone and then hiking to a mountain alone.

 In the two days of nothingness, I ignored all work, didn’t practice the flute, and put the yoga and meditation aside for wiser people. And on the third day of the rendezvous, I hung out with my travel friends and chatted away in the sun while eating palak paneer with garlic naan.

I needed that break because I had tired myself while learning new skills and working continuously in a new environment for almost a month. I needed to relax. I needed to just be. 

The break from the routine did me good.

But when I am neither overworked nor under any kind of pressure and still spend hours or days brooding about how I don’t want to work today or do anything else, I try to correct myself. 

I say, hey, this time will never come back. You should use it well. Don’t be sad. Smile and chirp.

To manifest my ideas about how to get motivated to work and laugh, I have even written an article on how to make the most of the bad days. In the piece, I emphasize why we should get out of bed even when we don’t want to — we should acknowledge our feelings first, and meditate or read or do something else we enjoy and then slowly get back to work if we can.

I may sound like someone who expects life to be as perfect as an abstract Turing Machine. 

Or to some of you, I will appear like a mature person trying to channel her emotions and downfalls so that she can pick up herself faster than before. 

Well, I don’t want to stay fallen on the floor. Do you?

Also Read: Why we should keep climbing even if our hands bleed

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I love the idea of working even when we don’t feel like working to get our energy back. Working towards our goals irrespective of how we feel doesn’t signify that we are insensitive but shows that we are professionals who deliver what the world is waiting upon us for.

If you don’t go to work, maybe your presentation would get delayed and no one else would be able to step in your shoes. Or you might lose the opportunity of getting the project lead position because you didn’t take leadership initiatives. That conversation thread with a potential client might die for you didn’t follow up with your portfolio. If I don’t do anything for a few days at a stretch, not only would I feel a void, but my blog readers and clients wouldn’t be happy either.

We don’t always have to perform, but a continuous slack in our work attitude will show.

Or, instead of either moping or working, I would rather enjoy my time. Won’t we all? I would go out and buy more tiger prawns and cook them with bottle gourd. Or I will go cycling with a friend and revel in the fresh air.

Roaming around free on one or more bad days sounds better than working, especially when we don’t have the motivation to go to work.

But truth be told, our mind doesn’t let us tame it that easily.

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Work Usually Disengages Us from Bad Thoughts And Helps Us Look at Our Problem in a New Light

If I don’t engage in an activity that grips my attention, I keep revisiting the micro-nuisances of my otherwise beautiful life. 

I would be putting the scrabble alphabets together but crying intermittently about how the real estate agent was an incorrigible male-chauvinist unable to move on. But when I write, I am able to layout my emotions through my words (or any other work) in a wholesome way rather than mulling over them in my mind. 

Though the healing process could be different for everyone, most of us need something more capturing than entertainment to direct our thoughts. 

Mark McGuinness, a coach for creative professionals, said in the book Manage Your Day to Day“Treat your work as a refuge — an oasis of control and creative satisfaction in the midst of the bad stuff. Don’t beat yourself up if you are not on fire creatively every day — give yourself credit if you show up for work and make even a small amount of progress. When you put down your tools for the day you may even see your personal situation with a fresh eye.”

The above lines are true not only for creative people but for most of us. When we divert our attention from personal issues to our profession, we would not only progress on the work front but we may end up understanding our issues better.

How many times has it happened with you that while going through incessant meetings you forgot about that morning quarrel with your partner or an investment gone wrong? And when you do shake up work and drive back home, you realize how stupid the fight was or that one investment is bound to go bad in ten years of financial planning.

By dumping our energy into work we put ourselves into the driver’s seat of our life. We feel in control, at least professionally. Though our day might have started with an unexpected emotional speed breaker, we drive through the valley of work almost smoothly. Even if the drive isn’t that easy, the motion sets us for progress.

We should keep walking to become who we can in spite of the suffering, Nietzsche said. Or in other words, pain doesn’t mean that we should stop.

If you hate going to work or just do it for the money, you might find it harder to use task lists as a distraction. In such cases, I suggest you read these three pieces in which I talk about changing careers, finding passion, and how to build a career we love when we can’t find passion. 

But if you enjoy even some aspects of your work, chances are that you will be happier doing it and moving on rather than just sulking. Your service would be your anchor to positivity and growth.

When I immerse myself in editing a piece or scheduling Pinterest, I stay on the top of my work deliverables. Personal thoughts still come and go but rather than becoming the main thread of my brain they spawn on the side randomly. My work doesn’t let these unwanted notions take the full processing power of my brain, the unsettling threads die hungry, and I continue writing and researching about ancient caves and Marketing Analytics methods for dependent clients. 

I have also often seen that while I work the things that have been bothering me keep untangling themselves in the background. And I feel a growth, both, personally and professionally. 

“Depth of style can only spring from a deepening of our emotional life.” The greatest artist N. C. Wyeth once wrote in a letter to his youngest son Andrew Wyeth (Courtesy the book Posterity).

But if I was playing scrabble, the troublemakers would have overpowered the less-demanding gaming brain threads, and instead of winning with words such as conscientious and concomitant, I would be loosing with lost and found. I would be playing to beat my partner but my chain of thoughts would be, in turn, defeating me.

Work helps us channelize our thoughts, gives us control, and allows us to look at our problem in a new light, all three contributions are helpful when our emotions might otherwise drown us. 

 

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An Alchemist at Work, a painting by N. C. Wyeth / Public domain

 

Our focus on work shouldn’t be deterred by our mood for another big reason. 

Emotions Are Fleeting

How we feel change more often than we think — our emotions are not created just by our inner bodily reactions but also by our surroundings — an idea extensively discussed in the book How Emotions Are Made, by the famous psychology professor Lisa Feldman Barrett. A sunny morning invokes a gush of positivity but a dark evening brings along the clouds of doubt.

We never feel the same all the days of the week. We don’t even feel the same throughout a twenty-four-hour day. 

As we are constantly faced with volatile emotions, we cannot depend on them to guide our mood, our professions, and thus our lives. 

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Our emotions can show us thousands of faces every day. And they come and go.

Working Hard Implies More Skills = More Fun at Work And Less Hesitation

We can neither resolve our doubts nor our problems by sitting on our hands. But by working even during hard times, we would not only direct our energy but also get better at our job, while feeling more in control. And when we are more skilled we enjoy our work more and are less hesitant to do what we do even when we are not motivated to work. 

As Cal Newport writes in his book So Good They Can’t Ignore You, forcing the skills to come is the hardest phase. And then he shares the story of a bluegrass musician who plays 3-4 hours straight for a month to master a new fast tune.

A study conducted at Yale University proved that the more time we spend at work, the better we get, and the more we enjoy it. (I have written more about what makes for a good career in this article about following our curiosity rather than chasing the passion.)

Self-Determination Theory (SDT) also tells us that we need competence, the feeling that we are good at what we do, and autonomy, control over our day, to feel intrinsically motivated for our work.

To digest the idea of working to feel better, think of the difference between learning to swim and then swimming to relax. While we learn, we almost want to skip the lesson every day. But once you know the strokes, swimming is fun and helps us feel better.

“Life is or should be full of doing things you would prefer not to do,” John O’Hara wrote in a letter to his daughter, Wylie O’Hara. O’Hara was a popular and successful writer and his commitment to writing was at the peak even at the peak of his career. (Courtesy Posterity)

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I often wonder how patient a fisherman has to be. He has to work hard, even when the sea is rough.

How to Motivate Yourself to Work When You Don’t Feel Like Working?

As I said in a piece on creative rituals, I let my mood expire.

Instead of deciding whether we should go to work or not, we should just work. We can take the day slow, do some self-care, and then head out to work irrespective of our mood. It is like any other day but we would be easier on ourselves. Rather than criticizing ourselves about our emotional turmoil, we should pat ourselves on the back for going through the tough times like a warrior.  

The trick is to not think of work as an enemy but to perceive work as a savior. Something that anchors us. That holds our hand when we are falling. When we feel bad about everything or our heart is broken or we are facing a financial problem, we can still pick up that pencil or pen or get on a project that can add value to not only ours but others’ lives too.

Steven Pressfield, the author of The War of Art and Turning Pro, said in the parting away notes of the book Manage Your Day to Day about which I have talked above and which has inspired me to write this article,

“What is a professional, anyway? A professional is someone who can keep working at a high level of effort and ethics, no matter what is going on — for good or ill — around him or inside him. A professional shows up every day. A professional plays hurt. A professional takes neither success nor failure personally.”

He adds, “In the end, for me, it comes down to the work itself. A pro gets younger and more innocent as he or she ascends through the levels. It’s a paradox. We get salty and cynical, but we creep closer, too, to the wonder. You have to or you can’t keep going. Any other motivation will burn you out. You develop a practice, and the practice gets simpler and less self-oriented over time. We rise through the levels of professionalism by a process of surrender. We surrender to our gift, whatever that may be. We give ourselves up to the goddess and to the process.”

And then he ends his thought with a rhetorical question, “Is this a path you want to travel? Did someone say it was easy? Do you have a choice?”

But it is easier said than done.

When I am sad or feeling low, I still spend a couple of hours agonizing here and there but then I also look forward to opening an empty document and writing. Or I do some other admin work. Or something else. Or something else. 

Slowly I forget about the problem and the dark clouds and the inconvenient conversations for I have submerged myself in the fictional world of words. 

No matter what profession we are in, we all have our fictional worlds. We just have to get inside them.

When you get into the habit of embracing work rather than pushing it away in hard times, you will be able to surrender to it when you need the distraction the most. And if you practice enough, the distraction would have taken its own independent form. It would have become something larger than life. It would become your gift. 

Try working when you don’t feel like it. It isn’t as bad as it seems.

Or to say,

“When the fields get sodden, let’s not retreat to our homes. Let us put ourselves in the yoke. Let us pull harder. Let us sow. Come rain or thunder, we tend. Finally, we reap. And we see that the rain doesn’t make us sickly cold and the process doesn’t hurt us. But these are the things that keep us sane.”

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When we work hard, we receive the fruits. Our toil turns into flowers.

 

If you want to know what really matters, read this: 30 Life Lessons I Grasped From My Twenties

 

How often do you say I don’t want to go to work today? What are your thoughts on how to be motivated to work? Let me know in the comments.

Creative Routine and Rituals – How to Dream and Create Consistently

A creative routine is a topic that could expand to be as large and to shrink to be as small as you like, a bit like being able to sleep. While some people can’t focus until they have meandered around for hours and finally give in to guilt, others sit and get amazing work done by just holding the pen right: having a daily creative schedule could be complicated or could be simple and natural. 

What does a creative schedule even mean? A schedule that inspires creativity and helps the creators (writers, painters, entrepreneurs, designers, artists, and other creative professionals) forge their imaginations most desirably.

Also, creativity is subjective. A coder is creative when she can write a 100 line code in 10. A marketeer is creative when he can sell a toothpaste such as Pepsodent to the entire human race. 

Anyone with original ideas (in or out of their work sphere) is creative. 

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77 Deep Questions About Life – And Their Answers

Important Life Questions to Ask Yourself

 

I remember a quote that once said, ask the right questions. Over the years I have realized that questions are much more important than answers as without asking the right queries we can never hope for the right knowledge.

But it took me a while to even understand what questions I should ask of myself. Some of those doubts were always there in the background, hovering, emphasizing that I didn’t understand life. I had a vague feeling that I was dismaying over things that didn’t matter while ignoring the universal realities that would pull me out of my little problem bubbles. But I wasn’t sure. And I never took out time to pin those deep questions about life, and, hence, could never answer them.

The process of questioning deepened when I started writing and reading full-time. As I had redesigned my life from a corporate cycle of drudgery, I was too eager to question everything and to be better at the things I had failed at before. It was like I had found vigor again. The more I read, the more I understood, the more life questions I had, and the more incomprehensible it seems now.

As Franz Kafka once said, “Anyone who cannot come to terms with his life while he is alive needs one hand to ward off a little his despair over his fate… but with his other hand he can note down what he sees among the ruins.”

The effort continues.

I am putting down some thought-provoking questions that have hitherto found me here. I have followed a natural course and have clubbed thematic questions together.

I have answered all the questions to keep an account of my thoughts on the matter. As you will see, I have some answers, but some of the questions to life still dodge me. You can completely ignore my responses and find your own.

Along with the important questions about life and their answers, I am also putting down the books that have helped me understand the matter.

I plan to update these self reflection questions and answers year-on-year or whenever my understanding changes.

Till then, I present to you the questionnaire of life from my lens.

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Travel Inspires Change and One Small Change Can Transform Our Life.

Everything begins with a story.

Let me recite a story from Charles Duhigg’s book The Power of Habits. This is a true story of a woman named Lisa(as per the records) who was the subject of a scientific study for understanding behavioral change and habits.

Please note: Though the story is the key to appreciate this article, I am summarizing the story for those readers who don’t want to read it. If you want to read the story, go to it here. Else continue reading the summary. 

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