The countdown to the New Year began well ahead of time for most of us. We’ve all been planning to make a fresh new start, get into a fitness routine, drop that baggage, lose weight, get rid of old habits and change old ways of doing things. In short, we’ve all been looking at this time to start everything afresh. Begin a new chapter. When the New Year finally arrived, we were happy to bid adieu to the old and promptly, came out our New Year Resolutions. Continue reading
(This was selected as a featured post for #FridayReflections)
Courage comes in many forms. Sometimes, courage can be that quiet unassuming person you meet down the road who surprises everyone by braving all odds, defying the norms and achieving the impossible.
Does the name Arunima Sinha ring a bell for you?
Some of you might remember reading about this gutsy girl when she was awarded the Padma Shri in 2015, for climbing Mount Everest. So, what is it that makes her a true champion?
Climbing Mount Everest is a dream come true even for the most confident adventurer because of the sheer number of odds that pose a challenge to anyone daring to reach the top of the world. How much more challenging would that be if the climber was an amputee with a prosthetic leg?
The year was 2011. Twenty-four-year-old Arunima Sinha, a national level volleyball player, was thrown off a moving train by thugs for refusing to hand over the gold chain she was wearing. The compartment was full of people, but no one came to the rescue of a girl being robbed and attacked. What happened thereafter took a matter of seconds. Her left leg came under the wheels of a train on the opposite track.
As she lay bleeding and calling for help, almost 49 trains passed by her. Sadly, help arrived much later. By then, unable to bear the pain, she had already passed out. Her leg was in such a critical condition that it had to be amputated.
The girl refused to give up. For someone who never thought she’d never survive that night, a new surge of hope came when morning dawned. While dealing with pitying murmurs of, “Who will marry you now,” and the absurd conspiracy theories that followed, she had made a decision. She would climb Mount Everest.
A meeting with the famous Bachendri Pal, the first Indian woman to climb Mount Everest proved to be the much-needed boost for Arunima. Pal’s words propelled her forward – “Know that you have already conquered your inner Everest. Now you need to climb the mountain only to show the world what you are made of.”
In 2013 she did just that, becoming the world’s first female amputee, and the first Indian amputee, to achieve this feat.
That was just the beginning of her achievements. In fact, Arunima stunned everyone by taking on the Mission Seven Summit, which saw her conquer five of the seven peaks of the world, one after another, proving once again, that no challenge was impossible if one was as determined as Arunima was.
I bowed to that courage. I just had to. Arunima’s story of grit and determination came to me at a critical time in my life when I had been fighting a battle on many fronts for months and was nearly giving up. When I read about the way she faced the odds, it made me realise how powerful and indomitable the human spirit could be. Her story and her fight gave me renewed hope and faith in myself in a way that few things did. To be honest, I felt my troubles were absolutely nothing in comparison to what lay before her and I pulled myself up by the bootstraps, so to say, ready to face my fate.
Giving up has never been an option for me. Not for a moment. Not even in my dreams. This time, after the recent setbacks, even more so.
So, what it is that keeps us going and never ever give up? What propels us forward to try just one more time?
Obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around.
To tell the truth, obstacles are the very reason why we end up doing something. If you don’t believe me, ask yourself. Haven’t we all had a time when something insurmountable has come into our lives and we faced the horns of the dilemma for the umpteenth time…to keep trying or quit?
Chances are, most of us have thought about giving up on something. All of us have. When expectations haven’t been met and disappointments add up, that is where something threatens to snap within us, that makes us forget about the beauty of the vision and dream we once saw behind it. It suddenly feels like the goal you were once aiming for is no longer worth the effort. Why fight then? Let’s just give up on it.
Perhaps it seems like it will take a lot out of us and we are afraid of doing so. It is tempting to give up. So, that we can accept it was not meant for us.
But, that is my point.
That is precisely when we must not give up. Because that is when we are already very very close to achieving whatever it was that we had set out to achieve.
A student once asked Thomas Edison how he managed to not give up during his 5,000 failed attempts of inventing a functioning lightbulb. Edison answered something like: “What do you mean? I didn’t fail at all, I discovered 5,000 ways of how not to do it!”
So, what is it that stops us from learning new ways to achieve our goals? If, for instance, the previous plan didn’t work out as we wished, what stops us from trying a new approach? Fear and frustration build their home within our minds first. That is where the battle begins and sadly, often where it ends too.
Life is a struggle. It will through curveballs at you and humble you. And just when you think things are starting to look up, life will smack you back down with ruthless indifference.
That is when people like Arunima come along to prove that nothing is impossible. Arunima’s story has since been published in a book, titled – Born again on the mountain. Her poem beautifully sums up her thoughts in the following lines:
“Rehne de aasma, zameen ki talash kar,
Rehne de aasma, zameen ki talash kar
Sab kuch yahi hai, kahin aur na talash kar
Jeene ke liye, ek kami ki talash kar.”
[Let the sky be and seek the earth,
Let the sky be and seek the earth,
All is here, search not elsewhere,
To live beautifully, seek life in dearth]
Life lessons are learnt from one another. We all become better at things by trying. That is when we must listen to that quiet voice within us, that incorrigible optimist in our hearts to guide us on, to keep trying and never give up. Never ever give up!
My day starts at 5am every weekday morning. Preparing breakfast and lunch for Arjyo, before he leaves for school, occupies me until 7:15, after which I take a ten-minute break for some quick meditation. The ten minutes rejuvenate me as nothing does – an absolute necessity for me to get on with the day. Continue reading
Show me someone who hasn’t been plagued with self-doubt sometime or the other? Many go through a lifetime of struggle in order to find their true worth. Often, ‘enough’ is never enough and they keep chasing the external successes hoping that the internal feelings of self-acceptance will follow. Unfortunately, it doesn’t.
So, why is it that we feel obliged to ourselves for having to earn our self-worth? Some might run after that fat pay cheque or an expensive home; for others, it might be a much-sought-after promotion or losing weight – whatever it is, there is something elusive that lies beyond our present, where we have to reach, before finally knowing that we’re enough!
I don’t know about you, but I have been there before, plagued by self-doubt, worried that I’m not ‘enough’. Not once or twice, but countless times. I’ve had moments when I’ve hated seeing my face in the mirror because I’ve felt inadequate as a person in a given situation. I must admit I have been harsh on myself. Very harsh and unforgiving too. I’ve spent years feeling that I should have been different than I was. I should have been more successful, more talented, more confident, smarter, more disciplined, more organised and so on. Feelings of “not being good enough” created a lot of stress in my everyday life and a feeling of inadequacy that only grew stronger with time.
When we relocated to India almost nine years ago, I was on the brink of collapsing, as I struggled to juggle home, freelance work, and a demanding three-year-old child. Almost overnight, we found ourselves in a totally different environment with a very different way of life. As a mother, more than anything else, I found myself inadequate, having to look after a child who was an extremely fussy eater, prone to falling ill all too often, and who was now beginning to show signs of behavioural issues that were beyond my capacity to handle. I was eager to start full-time work but the situation at home made it impossible to do so. It was one of the most stressful periods of my life and I was constantly doubting my own capabilities as a mother, powerless against problems that were overwhelming, to say the least.
Earlier, I had only had fleeting moments when I doubted my capabilities—but now, I had no doubts that I was in no way ‘enough’!
It was around that time that I came across Winnicott’s picture of the “good enough” mother who was a three-dimensional human being – a mother who was under pressure and strain, full of ambivalence about herself, both selfless and self-interested. One who was capable of great dedication yet was also prone to resentment at times, which was only natural, if you’re overwhelmed with too many issues to handle. She was not boundless. She was real.
It took me some time to digest what was going on around me. But Winnicott was a god-send! What I realized, over time, was that I had been measuring “enough” in all the wrong ways. Enough isn’t about what I do or don’t do, what I say or don’t say, or even who I appear to be; being ‘enough’ is simple –it’s about who we are. This knowledge, in itself, was life-saving and life-affirming for me. It freed me from the bondage of my inner perfectionist and allowed me to make room for my imperfections as a way of coping with the crises in my life. It was easy to accept one is ‘good enough’. It made me realise that support was a key ingredient to shift from not feeling like you are enough, to knowing you are.
Each moment I loved my child, I was enough. Each day that I woke up, went about my daily tasks and took care of my family, I was enough. On the odd days when I didn’t feel up to it, and gave in to feeling inadequate, I had to keep affirming this truth, over and over again.
Notwithstanding occasional screw-ups and misfires – I now found it easy to accept myself more openly with all my flaws and could see how that was going to help my child to develop a sense of self and the ability to understand and forgive himself and others. It is fine to struggle, and this struggle doesn’t take one away from being inherently normal or enough. It’s part of our humanity. Dealing with stress, depression, anxiety, self-esteem problems and relationship issues are normal life issues that we all face as part of the human condition. We are not crazy or bad or inadequate. We are only human.
It helped me realise that even when we are feeling overwhelmed, irrational, confused and emotional, we are still normal and ‘enough’. We are all works in progress and nobody is perfect.
Our problems in feeling inadequate often lie in the fact that we over-identify with the externals in our lives — our looks, our clothes, our homes, our job titles, our education, our relationship status, our bank balance, etc. Focusing on these externals is a recipe for feelings of perpetual inadequacy as perfection is unattainable and sometimes enough is never enough, because of the constant comparisons with another.
I love Eckhart Tolle’s suggestion that we must detach from our ego and focus on our essence —our true self. That’s when we can realise that we are already perfect, lovable and enough just the way we are.
I started by forgiving myself if I made a mistake, and celebrated that I tried. I chose to love myself, even when I handled a situation poorly. When I started to shift my thoughts, I started to see my life transform. I looked inside myself for love, support, and acceptance. When I started to see myself as worthy, I found situations, jobs, and relationships that empowered me.
‘I am enough’ – These three words are simple enough, but the meaning is very often dismissed. If people insist we need to attain that status, ignore them. We are enough just the way we are.
Each one of us is unique and that alone sets us apart from everyone else. We need to accept that and embrace it. Let no one’s opinions or words make us question our self-worth. On certain days, when we tend to question who we are, let us know that we are enough, no matter what!
Trying to be what others want us to be is one of the most tiring experiences. Being ourselves requires far less work. It helps us find our voice. In the end, we do not need to be with anyone to find the other “half” to make us whole. We already are. We are enough!
Are you happy being who you are? When you try something and fail, do you give yourself credit for trying? How do you cope with a bad day?
Last year, it was around this time, that I first came across the #A-Z Challenge. I was busy taking my baby steps as a blogger then, hoping to get a grip on the writing schedule, which was such a herculean task. Obviously, therefore, the last thing on my mind would have been a daily blogging challenge. But, then I read a few posts and I found it rather interesting. As a matter of fact, I got lured by it, to the point that I quietly resolved to take it up, even if only to test the waters…and find out if it was as exciting as everyone made it out to be! I am so glad I did!
Overall, it was an experience that I truly enjoyed, even if it drove me insane at times and utterly breathless, as I juggled, home, work, a 11 year-old on vacation and elderly parents who needed attention and care all at the same time. To add to it, my home help was also away for almost a week leaving me wondering why I was so foolhardy not to have anticipated all this (How could I forget there’s Murphy’s Law always at work, at times like this!!!) But, I had signed up and had committed to the challenge and my resolve was not to be shaken so easily. I persisted. Thankfully, better sense prevailed and I stuck to it.
The month of April went by like a roller-coaster, with my thoughts and emotions taking me for a ride, and me, all the while, waiting for something exciting to show up. Since I had not scheduled many posts in advance, after the smooth sailing ended by the first week, I was only able to take my posts two at a time, occasionally posting a day later. Did I tell you, I absolutely loved my theme – Pins on the Map of my Memory, which was about places with a special connect taking me through my personal journeys. I loved recounting the incidents associated with each of the places, where I had once lived or had the opportunity to travel to. Going down memory lane, more like!
And for being able to do this, a huge credit goes out to my mom to whom I remain eternally grateful. Her unflinching support and help that came in handy throughout the month to ensure that I could tap into my keyboard, undisturbed, at a stretch to get those posts out on time. As always, a zillion things to be thankful for, where mom is concerned! She has always been my anchor and refuge in crises!
When I had initially set off at the beginning of April, I had no clue how I was going to keep up with so much reading and commenting every day for an entire month!!! But, that’s why this challenge was so interesting because it made me push my boundaries and re-prioritise my work schedule to make sure that deadlines were met and eventually, I came out of it alive!
As a final note, I must admit, that I had an amazing journey during this time discovering new blogger friends and their awesome blogs. I enjoyed the great time, followed on adventures, read many exciting and engaging stories, and, most of all, made many new friends. Not bad at all for a first-time experience. My only regret: I wish I had more time to read many more blogs! But, I am now catching up on my reading as I take a month-long break to attend to my offline duties and the growing demands of family.
Blogging is great but life is way bigger than that. This moment will pass by but the memories will egg me on…another year…and another challenge…I am ready for the next one 🙂
(Linking up with my very first post for #Friday Reflections on Write Tribe hosted by Sanch and Corinne. I am writing on the prompt – ‘If you could do something that you have never done before, what would it be? Why do you want to do it?’
This was my first real trek and I think my journey actually answered the question!)
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………-(This was chosen as a featured post for #FridayReflections🙂
That morning as I sat by the window, biting into my sandwich and sipping hot tea, I was suddenly taken back in time to a chilly morning many years ago.
It was October. We were in a remote little village called Rimbik, bordering Darjeeling. Facing the Himalayas, we stood, surrounded by an imposing range of hills full of conifers, in the Singalila National Park in West Bengal. Having started the descent from 12, 700 feet, we were a small group of people, returning from a very picturesque place called Sandakphu. It was nothing short of a dream come true, to have climbed the Sandakphu peak and witnessed the stunning views of the Himalayas, the evening before. The sight of the four of the five highest peaks in the world, Everest, Kangchenjunga, Lhotse and Makalu, seen from its’ summit was thrilling beyond belief and we felt a strange sense of accomplishment.
Our minds, as much as our cameras, had captured some exceptionally beautiful images. The magnolias and the rhododendrons were a treat to behold. The chirping birds, the pine forests, the bamboo forests and the whole picturesque surroundings made it even more memorable. The weather was not constant at all – one minute it was bright and clear, but the very next, it would get super foggy, only to clear up by dusk and lo and behold, right there before us, was the most glorious sunset ever seen. The clouds floated by, with not a care in the world, and so were we, lost in the beauty of the majestic mountains!
Our lives seemed petty, before the awe-inspiring sight in front of us as we headed down, with sore knees, back to the base camp.
My fellow trekkers were all on a mission of sorts. Having quit our respective jobs and with definite ambitions to explore the unknown, all of us seemed to be on a pilgrimage — only that this had nothing to do with religion. It was more of a quest, to know oneself. As Thoreau once said, “Not until we are lost, do we begin to understand ourselves.”
And this is what we must have all been looking for, on that trek — each trying to find the answers to the questions plaguing us. The trek we were on, gave us an unparalleled opportunity to rummage through and then, question, critique and weigh out every idea from the depths of our consciousness, at an unhurried pace and in perfect harmony with nature. (How I wish I could go back in time once again!)
Over the three days of trekking, I remember how often we had moments of absolute quiet, when we sat on the edge of a cliff, gazing into the vast expanse ahead of us and thinking our own thoughts. One was busy scribbling into the log book, the other staring into rapturous admiration at the mighty soaring Kanchenjunga. The other two were busy reading, when not taking photographs and generally looking lost, as if the object he was looking for, lay there, hidden in the midst of the unknown. One thing was certain. For all of us, the trek was deeply metaphorical. The journey was mostly inwards. We all had our own battles to fight. There was no reason to break the perfect silence which surrounded us. And we seemed to be in perfect harmony with nature. The sound of silence surrounded us everywhere.
Perhaps, the reason for suddenly remembering all that, so many years later, sitting in the comfort of my warm sunlit home, was in recalling what might have been going on in our minds that day. I guess it had to do with us being young and full of adventure, of willing to risk it all and take on a gamble. With time, the biggest casualty for all of us has been this sense of adventure, hardened as it were, by living life and seeing the world in a different light.
The memory of that morning in Rimbik, is still fresh today. I can almost see myself seated on a wooden bench, having hot tea and biscuits by a roadside tea stall with my friends. I remember the feeling of being free. It was wonderful traveling alone, with my thoughts unbridled, unhindered, to help me make sense of where I was heading to, in life — and where I wanted to be.
As time passes, of the many things that have come and gone in our lives, travel has been a constant. I have enjoyed every journey taken. And, almost every trip has taught me, in a unique way, how much there is to discover, every time we set foot outside our comfort zone.
That is precisely why we need to push ourselves out into the unknown every now and then.
That’s the only way to grow I think.