Sunday, December 11, 2016

The cost of 'me to we'

            We throw around concepts like ‘me to we’ and it’s this global movement and the idea behind it is quite interesting, noble even.  But when you take those three words and actually parse it out, the result of ‘we’ come at a cost to ‘me’. You have to give something to get something.
            This is where I think most of us break.
In the past 30-40 years, in privileged society, from the time a baby is born, society is always telling her how special ‘she’ is. She is Daddy’s little girl, the apple of Mom’s eyes, the best daughter in the world, the fastest runner, the smartest kid, the greatest gymnast.
            Then as she hits puberty, those around her continue with these measures of positive reinforcement, because as we know, puberty is not an easy time for anybody, boys or girls. Then, when she comes into her own and goes out into the world, she is reminded that she is strong, and smart and bold and unstoppable. She is worthy of everything and if she puts her mind to it, anything is achievable. Words of wisdom!
            Then she meets a guy. He too was raised similarly and has been told all these wonderful things growing up, albeit with a slightly different flavor. Different adjectives were used and delivery methods were altered, but ultimately, the same message was drilled into his mind, body and soul. He’s great. He’s the best. He’s unstoppable.
            Herein lies the tricky part. The couple get-together and decide on starting their lives together, and part and parcel of that may be to have kids. So let’s say they do. They get married, have a great honeymoon and have children. Now they start espousing the same wonderful, positive reinforcing messages to their children. But in this evolution, the dynamic of the couple has changed, or at least the undercurrents of the relationship have shifted.
            She got a great job opportunity she might’ve said no to for him and the kids. He met a co-worker who is his carbon copy and she doesn’t talk about diapers and babies and throw-up. She talks about sports and travel and photography. She’s also a cross-fit instructor on the weekends. But he is loyal and comes home to his wife and his family.
So they both come to some sort of compromise in order to make this work.  This ‘me to we’ evolution then, comes at a hefty cost. Every time we give up a part of ourselves for the better ‘we’ we are losing ‘me’. And man have we been told to never lose ‘me’! Treasure it. Be proud of it. And now we have to shed it in order for ‘we’?!
And what if she continues to give in and give in and lose herself and he doesn’t? How long does she go making these sacrifices and compromises before she expects him to do the same? Should she even expect him to do the same? And if he doesn’t, does she call him out on it? Should she even remind him that he has to do it? And then when she does talk to him, he’s shocked! He’s been doing the same too, only she hasn’t noticed it as being very material. So both are giving up parts of themselves, parts that they may really love about themselves, and neither can believe the other hasn’t noticed.
And there are some things that he just can’t give up, just like there are some things she can’t give up.  And in fact, if she asks him to change some of whom he is for ‘we’, then she’s effectively changing him, isn’t she? Which may in turn make him resent her sometime in the future or vice-versa? Does either one want to be responsible for that? Should these changes be this difficult? Is that fair? Does the end justify the means?
The older I get the more questions I have and fewer answers. Axioms slide from black and white to grey and then to different shades of grey.
I think we each have to come up with our own coping mechanism for this. It is more an art than a science. The one thing I am sure of in all of this is that the answer is constantly changing as we try our best to grow together instead of growing apart. It’s this delicate dance that we have to perform and we have to risk our hearts every step of the way. It’s scarier than anything else I can think of, and yet when done right, it is nothing short of magic.
I’m not saying I’ve figured it out by any means. Far from it. It is a constant work in progress. A roller-coaster journey that we’ve chosen to take together through the ups and downs. And we now have to hold each other accountable.

Fingers crossed, we got this right!

Monday, August 22, 2016

An Ode to Rakhi: For brothers and sisters everywhere.

Every summer, sometime in August we meet
To tie a rakhi around my two brothers’ wrists

A symbol of love; a bond of protection
A sister’s prayer, a brother’s affection

The sacred thread is tied, a promise is made
The two are connected, a link none can break

The summer day is followed with food and with glee
And as we grow older, with beer, wine and cheese!

The ceremony is simple, it’s short and it’s sweet
The message however, diffuses in deep

No one is an island, our lives intertwine
We grow up together, we live our own lives

But as we all journey, turning dreams to memoirs
We marvel at our feats; look up to the stars

For me know deep inside, no matter how hard we fall
My brother will lift me up.  We’ve been through it all

His promise is eternal.  I’m reassured every summer,
He won’t let me down. I’m his sister forever.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

The city that never sleeps – a journey inside my mind and NYC

This past week I took my mother and daughter to New York City for a short girls’ holiday. We did the typical touristy stuff. Ate too much food, walked a lot and even saw the city via a hop-on and hop-off ferry. And I somehow managed to get a sunburn on the tip of my nose which is red, hot and super-sensitive right now!

New York City is like Toronto on crack. Take everything my wonderful city has and amp it up to the nth degree. Then add 2.5 times the current population density and another 2.5 times the construction and you start to get a feel of what I felt those few days. It was electric and intense. A fantastic mess. Kind of like…my mind.

I was in fact, walking the terrain of my brain.

A thousand different priorities going 100 miles a minute in completely different directions. All good intended priorities, some meandering, some with conviction, getting held up in massive gridlock. Is it sheer volume that is the hold-up or some other bigger obstacle that is the cause? Or perhaps it’s both. 

Sometimes there is a massive back-log somewhere deep inside, like a corrugated pipe underground that has burst, spewing all sorts of water and garbage onto the road. Other times it’s the re-surfacing of the other buildings and ideas that are juxtaposed to the traffic. A collision of what is important versus what is urgent. You need to man the traffic flow and let everyone and everything take its course, which slows everything down.  But, there is no other alternative, is there?

It’s important and fascinating to be able to step out of your head and watch your mind work. Because the mind unleashed and unsupervised can become its own machine; its own loud, crowded, metropolis that may or may not have any meaning.

The detachment from your thoughts, as temporary as it may be, is critical to not burning out or breaking down. This I know. I know this because I lived it and have been witness to it over the past week (thanks in part to a mindfulness/meditation class I attended this week).

I love New York City, as I love my mind. But you have to step outside of it all in order to breathe, forgive, gauge, direct and figure out the journey you want to take. I’m trying. It’s all any of us can do right?  

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

How Feminism helps men, women and children

There is a movement. 

It is the metamorphosis of Family. This quiet revolution is becoming less quiet and more pronounced and men and women in my generation are waking up to the fact that we want different things than the generation before and it isn’t as easy as realising as we believe it should be.

Take this word; Feminism. This isn’t just a word for females. This isn’t just something women are trying to build inertia on. This is a real-life urgent and important concept in order to move the frozen needle on equal rights for women, men and children. For families.

This past week I have had 2 separate conversations with professional men who have been marginally and not so marginally ostracized for prioritizing their families ahead of their careers. For one it was a temporary thing where his child was sick and he elected to stay home instead of his wife, which is usually what happens. And the second is of a man who chose to share parental leave with this wife; a move that was deemed ‘career limiting’ by one of his direct managers. I find these stories are getting more and more common.

For every woman who has chosen to take the charge in the professional  arena, there is a man who if given the opportunity would choose to be the primary caregiver or even take a step back from their careers and focus on family. Sometimes, we don’t have extended family members we can count on to back us up when the children are too small to take care of themselves, so juggling between work and family becomes a game of ping-pong and the family has to figure it out themselves without being bullied into certain stereotypes.

It is a fundamental right to be able to choose. And when an institution, laws or a person, limits that choice, it makes us feel stuck, unappreciated and looking for alternatives. 

It’s a shame. Countries, companies and bosses have so much more to gain in the form of higher productivity, loyalty and increase in profits, if they weren't so short-sighted.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

March Madness: A Rant more than anything…

 For some, March Madness is about indulging your love for basketball. For me, it has been a string of head-turning health issues and shocking and surprising unraveling of events. It’s too much to mention in a short blog, and nothing that is detrimental in any way (so you can sigh now! Whew!), but suffice it to say that March isn’t quite over yet, so I still have time to see how the rest of the next 11 days unfold.

I was planning to do a piece on International Women’s Day and what it means and how I was thinking to move forward, but all that seems like something I will eventually get to, once all the pressing things NOW are calling for my attention. This is ultimately the thing isn’t it? The perpetual fight over what is urgent vs. what is important. It’s very easy to sit back and philosophize over what intellectually would be the right course of action (importance over urgent, no doubt!) but in reality, the urgent stuff sneaks up on you in a way that only mould knows how. And before you know it, you have all these things to tend to.

Or, it isn’t always easy to decipher if this urgent thing is also important or not? Perhaps it is and if you ignore it, are you ignoring some other bigger message? So do you do it, to be safe? But if you keep doing these urgent things and are constantly just reacting, there is a huge opportunity cost associated with that as well, no?

Now enter Emotion and Politics.  Ugh and bleh!

I am a lifetime member of the sandwich generation. Are you? Sandwiched between caregiving for parents and children. Sandwiched between the lifestyle and world I was born into (India) and the life I am creating since having come to Canada (25+ years now…) and sandwiched between the feminine balance of modesty and confidence/aggressiveness. 

In order to succeed, I have to be deliberate, conscious, positive and thoughtful.

And to help me do and be all these things, I have 2 things going for me. One, there’s an Oprah and Deepak’s meditation journey that starts tomorrow for free and runs for 21 days (yay! Perfect timing) and two, I won’t give up.

Other than that, I’ll write back with a post-op recovery in April. Wish me luck!