- Keith Ferrazzi, author of Never Eat Alone
I had plans today.
They got cancelled at the last minute. These things happen, no big deal, right?
Well had this occured six months earlier it was a very big deal.
In fact, I remember one time when my doctors appointment ran late and I had to cancel a lunch date with a friend. I ruined the day for me and my hubby, with my incessant sulking and refusing to snap out of it.
But not today.
Today when my plans got cancelled, I switched from my ballet flats into my sneakers and decided to step out in the glorious Sydney sunshine for a walk. Strolling around the periphery of the local golf course gave me a chance to think.
I thought about how experiences change us.
How sometimes life makes our decisions for us.
How important it is to be a good listener, i.e actually listen when someone is talking to you, rather than letting your mind wander off, or worse – interject and hijack the conversation with your own stories.
How lucky I have been to be able to quickly identify arrogance versus humility. And to have met people who have taught me what it means to be humble, even after countless successful achievements.
I thought about all the wisdom my father continues to impart over the years. “Everything in moderation”, “respect your elders”, to name a few.
How fame and popularity can be more addictive than wealth. But what goes up must come down. I know because I’ve been there.
How it’s not necessary to busy yourself with jam packed schedules just to boast about being “busy”.
How sometimes its more fulfilling to do just one or two activities that you truly enjoy.
How there can be enjoyment in every phase of life, my uncle used to say “beauty in every duty”.
How something as simple as a 30 minute walk can do wonders to clear your head.
Then I realised how content I am to just chill out today, without any need to fill the void in my day with makeshift plans.
In fact, I realised I am truly happy right now to just be a new mum, watching my baby do something new every day. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
And then God threw me a golf ball, soaring through the skies and landing two metres ahead of me, stopping me in my tracks. As if to say: hold onto that thought, take this ball as a reminder. And just be happy to BE.
If you’re anything like me (and a large population of new age women), you prepare yourself for being ‘pregnant’ without realizing that this does not prepare you at all for being a mother. The result is a post-delivery period filled with a mixture of feelings – both emotional and physical – ranging from shock to elation, to just plain frustration.
Sure they tell you about sleepless nights and diaper changing marathons. But here are a few things I wish I had known prior to hurtling into this fragile phase:
- Pregnancy has you at the top of your game when it comes to food habits. You’re eating everything healthy and nutritious, and more than your fair share at that. What they don’t tell you is that once your baby is born, you have to take more care of your health, lest you get sick, because then who will take care of the little one who is entirely dependent on you? So forget about that junk food frenzy you were fantasizing about, and don’t even think about getting soaked in the delightful first rains of the monsoon.
- You should include a weights regime in your fitness plan before pregnancy. Before you know it your baby will be 5kg and carrying that load around on one arm for three hours, when he refuses to sleep any other way, is not easy. So start doing weights now.
- Newborns are such noisy sleepers. Whoever coined the term “sleeping like a baby” probably never watched one sleep. They grunt and squirm and wriggle about, and then fall back asleep again. So if you’re not already up feeding, or rocking him to sleep, you’ll be startled awake wondering if the strange sound he just made is anything to worry about.
- Recovery takes time. Even with a natural birth, don’t expect to be superwoman and just bounce back to your normal energetic self. Your baby was inside 9 months, at least give yourself a couple of months before you start to feel fabulous again.
- Routine is not a word you can claim in your vocabulary anymore. Do you moisturize after every shower? Not anymore. Do you eat something as soon as you wake up? Think again. Get used to eating only after the baby is fed, showering at midnight, and brushing your teeth at four o’clock in the afternoon.
- You can’t have bedtime conversations with your partner until the little one is asleep. Babies can hear and sense everything, especially an argument or stress. Even when they’re 3 weeks old.
- The realization of “parenting” is a daunting one, which doesn’t hit all of us instantly. Bringing up a little person into this world, making him a good human being and citizen of society – well that’s something I doubt anyone can prepare you for.
Post delivery confinement practices in some Asian countries may sound like a bunch of old wives tales, but I have recently discovered the modern day interpretations of these practices. And like everything our generation does – we have the luxury as individuals to decide which rules to accept and which to ignore.
My own personal experience of delivering a baby in India has shown me a whole host of new rules and regulations, some laughable and others worth taking heed:
• Your only job is to feed the baby
• You must not eat anything sour or cold during the first month post delivery
• You must not do any house work which involves water – e.g laundry, dishes etc
• In fact, you must not do any housework whatsoever
• Remember, your only job is to feed the baby
• Baby massage and bathing will be taken care of by the elder (more experienced) women of the house
• Speaking of massage, you must get a daily full body massage for one month after delivery
• With essential oils
• You must sleep when baby sleeps, during the day, all day long
• You must eat fresh foods, no leftovers
• Your food will be prepared for you separately to all other family members
• And handed to you, on a platter, in your room
• You must not eat junk food
• You need not get up to answer the doorbell or the phone
• Your body needs complete rest and recuperation for 3 full months post delivery.
All this was so unexpected to me, as I’ve grown up seeing first time mums managing their new baby as well as their homes, all whilst recuperating from childbirth. As irony tends to slap you in the face, I found myself thanking my stars that I chose to stay in India for my baby’s delivery (whereas all throughout pregnancy I was pining for Sydney). Feels more like royal treatment than old wives tales, this “confinement”, so you won’t find me breaking these rules in a hurry!
You meet the man of your dreams and fall flat on your face in love, you move in and get married all within a matter of months. You take lots of holidays together, engage in all things romantic, cliches and all. You argue and have horrible fights, but always work it out in the end. And after five years together you find that your love has only grown…and you wonder how it’s possible to love someone so much?
Each day you look forward to your quality time together, every morning you smile as you wake up next to the love of your life, and 5 years on you and your guy are still the best of friends.
You think you know love – it’s when all the songs make sense.
Then you get a pet. A puppy who follows you around with such loyalty and adoration in his eyes, completely dependent on you for his every need.
You invest time and effort into training your puppy, and he rewards you by being the most loving and obedient dog you could have wished for. His unconditional love is obvious when he shows his delight in greeting you every single day, even if you step out of the house for just five minutes. You worry about him when he’s home alone, and you’re beside yourself when he gets a deadly virus and spends a fortnight on IV drips. He recovers and your love for him only grows. He still follows you around from room to room, you bring him back to full health, and you just can’t help but love him more each day. When the dogwalker takes him down for his daily 30 minute walk you find yourself anxiously pacing as you wait for his return. And then there’s the look on his face when he comes home and is happy to sleep in his most comfortable spot – by your feet.
Again you think you know love.
And then… you become a mother.
When we don’t have a choice in life we make do with whatever life throws at us, and we just get on with it.
The more choices we have, the more scope for questioning our decisions and wondering what would have happened had we chosen the other path.
Without a choice, we are forced to stay committed to our situation. We are forced to focus and make the best of our circumstances, often getting through difficulties and coming out stronger on the other side.
With too many choices available, we remain in limbo. Never satisfied, always wondering ‘what if’, always looking for the easy way out.
The solution, perhaps, to having too much choice: never regret a decision which was made with your gut instinct. And like Steve Jobs said, it’ll all make sense later when you look back on your life and connect the dots.
Like a bird in a cage
He can see the world outside, but can’t reach it
He barely has enough room to flap his wings
His big, bright, multi-coloured wings
Soon he is joined by another few
Of his kind, but then, so unlike him
The little he can boast of his wings he tries
But it’s not enough
He tries to break free
Pecks and picks at the corners to find a way out
No luck, the doors are solidly shut
He tries some more, every day
Until there’s no point
There’s no way out
He soon stops flapping his glorious wings
Unable to show his true colours to the world
And settles into a mundane existence
Watching the world go by in full fervour
Whilst trapped, in his cage, like a bird
He settles for a few glances as they pass by
Some look with awe at his vibrant colours
Not knowing what he once was, or could be, in his full glory
He forgets himself over time
He blends into the background
And settles for less than what he is.
What makes a house feel like a home? Its taken me almost three years of marriage (and pregnancy) to achieve some sort of peace and understanding as to what a happy home needs. Not several bedrooms or fancy cars or flat screen TV’s, just love and harmony and good vibrations. And how do these come about? Largely by acceptance, I’ve realised. Accepting people for who they are. Accepting that though they may not love you the way you want them to, that doesnt mean they dont love you the best way they know how to.
How we see things around us makes a big impact on how we react, and ultimately sets into our character, and therefore our happiness. Changing our beliefs is the biggest challenge, especially if we are set in our ways and outlooks. But if you try it and succeed – it can work wonders on how content you feel in life.
The most important thing I’ve learnt recently is that being happy is not influenced by what is outside our house (e.g traffic, pollution, climate) but rather what is inside our home (e.g culture, traditions, love, peace, family).
This post is for me to remember these thoughts and keep coming back to this when my own perspective gets a little skewed.
Working from a suburban Mumbai home has a million and one distractions. For starters, the doorbell rings, on average, every 45 minutes. From the milk delivery, to the daily cleaner, to the laundry guy, to the coconut juice delivery, to the courier dropping off another bill. It seems endless. (Yes, I do appreciate all of the above services, but not when I’m trying to focus!).
Then of course there’s having to keep an eye on the daily house maids for fear they will steal or break something.
Did I mention construction noise? Our flat is a high-rise tower in a large complex, where 3 other towers are still being built. Being on the 24th floor still doesn’t allow me to escape the variety of building noises.
Of course there are the usual distractions – such as the kitchen and the constant need for a snack, knowing that it’s just a few feet away and always stocked up with goodies. Same goes for the couch/bed/television…all these factors are more enticing when they are so within your reach.
And having a puppy, now that’s distracting as can be. Now that he’s entered into his adolescent phase, he just cannot be trusted. When he’s awake, he needs constant supervision as he will chew on everything (with the risk of swallowing foreign objects). When he’s asleep, he might still wake up and chew on furniture (or his current favourite – the walls), especially if he thinks nobody is watching. Cannot be trusted, I tell you.
On that note, whilst he’s sound asleep beside me, I’m going to pop my earphones in, ignore the doorbell, and try and get some work done.
I used to be one of these people, always thinking about my next task at hand, even before I’d finished my current one. Whether that was a work related task, a household errand, or even at times on holidays I’d be wandering around a museum and in my mind I’d be planning my next sightseeing stop.
Thank heavens I got out of that phase. And I have only one thing to thank for it – moving to India.
Whilst Mumbai is a buzzing, sleepless city that’s always on the go, the people here are remarkably in tune to their present moment. They are in the here and now, and even when they let their mobile phone interrupt your conversation, they are 100% dedicated to the person on the other line. I’ve seen big shot directors of companies able to juggle numerous projects and queries all at once – they somehow partition their mind whenever an interruption takes place. Focussing on the present is what they do.
Recently I had a bout of visitors from my other home, Sydney, and it gave me a chance to reflect on a number of personal changes I’ve experienced in recent years. This “What’s Next” syndrome is one of them.
I found that people visiting me were constantly on the go, waking up with a to-do list in their head that was continually being updated, ticked off and reshuffled. This was all whilst on a holiday, supposedly. It did occur to me that these people were largely members of my immediate and extended family – that could explain why this syndrome had such a profound impact on my own life for a number of years.
It’s just that I was able to see it from a different perspective this time. It was as if they couldn’t relax until all their tasks were completed. Even shopping would be done with such a dash-in-dash-out gusto that it felt like an arduous activity, rather than leisurely. And then, after a whole day of being out and about, travelling over 60km on the roads of Mumbai (no mean feat, I assure you), they would come home and go directly into the kitchen, without passing go (or visiting the loo, or changing into relaxing home clothes, or even sitting down for a cup of tea!). Instead, they had to get the ‘task’ of preparing dinner done, before they would allow themselves the luxury of sitting down for a moment to just breathe.
It was quite an eye opener. Made me realise that if I hadn’t moved from Sydney I might be exactly like that.