Wednesday, October 30, 2013

How strong is strong enough?

Monday morning, her husband left for work promptly at nine. The house became deafeningly silent. Almost like time had been crucified over the hands of the clock. The walls bore witness to this and stood still, as if in a spell. The only stirring came from a far corner of the house. There lay ten neatly packed cartons and suitcases. Her belongings…they stood bursting with stories in a corner. Those which had been traveled the long journey over the Atlantic to reach here before she did.

There were treasures so rare inside that she was afraid removing them would damage their significance. She sat staring at them. ….”Where should I begin”, she said helplessly. Overwhelmed, it was as though someone had pulled of the lid to a reservoir of memories.  

She meticulously hung up her clothes. Among them she found a dress she had worn to her farewell party. It still lingered with the scent of close ones who hugged her goodbye. “Get over it… now, please!” She said out aloud. As she rummaged through her handbags she found old receipts and left over change inside pockets from a lunch at her favorite restaurant with her favorite people. In others there were crumpled grocery lists of many weekend get-together’s. There were flip flops inside which still had sand underneath them. As though telling her story of footsteps walked and footprints left behind. Bag after bag, trinkets, artifacts, books, recommendation letters and degrees of achievement, all had their own unique story. Neatly tucked away was a note from a dear friend which read, “A lifetime would not be enough to tell you what you mean to me, all I can say is you take with you all the mad mornings and lazy afternoons, all the chilled out evenings and all the….. She could read no more through the glaze in her eyes. She quickly folded the paper and placed it with her jewels in a carved wooden box.
She let out a deep sigh as she leaned over a cushion. It was as though that was just the shoulder she needed….She surrendered to the wave of emotion within as she wept out loud. Her tears, like a tsunami, destroyed the weave of the fabric. Weighed down, she reached over to her phone. As she dialed in on a friend she just knew that regardless of the odd hour, the call would be answered and she would be heard. As she poured her isolated heart out, the walls of the house shook as though resonating with her spirit.

Eventually having vented, she walked out onto the porch for a breath of fresh air and took a deep breath. It felt good. She sat there a while as she waited for her husband to come home.
There was an intense calm around her as she stepped back in. Peacefully, she brought out her choicest candles and lit several of them all around her. The shadows of their bright yellow flames cast a spell on the walls. Or broke it?! She really couldn’t tell. For in this moment the walls came alive with magical serenity as they took their first breath of redemption!

Notes from my desk: Being strong and brave are important qualities of character. Being strong and brave includes being vulnerable though. Being vulnerable is an integral part of being human. Face it! Embrace it! Bottling emotions is harmful for the mind, body and soul. Allow yourself to feel emotion.  And gather the courage to show it. Allow yourself to occasionally let go and let it out. Cry. Scream into a pillow if you like. Or share with a loved one. Today I chose to do all three.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

It's a small world after all

Relocating to a new country always involves the usual challenges of loneliness and an unnerving disconnect from the known to an overwhelming anxiety of the unknown…and she was no exception.

She often thought of life back home where there was never an empty moment. In comparison, it was far too quiet here. No one was pottering around in the kitchen, no friend was excitedly sharing their day, no one had just dropped in unannounced and nobody was being a couch potato as she barked at their laziness. There was no one arguing over which channel to watch and nobody was blaring the music as she lectured them on respect for the neighbors. For back home two meant company and three (or more) was never a crowd, it was a party. 24/7; conversations never ran out, although occasionally the food and drinks did.

It was with these thoughts that she drifted to sleep that night and as a new dawn pulled up outside her window; she chose not to see it.  She missed family and friends in another country, of lives in another space. Lives that would soon learn to live without her as she would have to learn how to live without them. Life had taught her many lessons and one she had chosen to learn was that long distance relationships never last. Of any kind. They just don’t. They die a natural death with time.

Her first day included a drive through the city, some basic shopping, a fancy lunch, a breathtaking evening drive by the lake under a sky brimming over with stars; truly perfection beyond this had still to be witnessed. “I survived a day and I am happy, she thought. “Thank you so much”, she hugged her husband.

Just before bedtime, almost out of habit, she reached over to her phone and dialed her best friend. The phone was answered even before it rang…. “Where the f#@k are you?! You know we don’t have your number. After all the lectures you gave on courtesy and respect. Why didn’t you call?! It’s been 36 hours. Are you crazy! The weather is so awesome here though, we really miss you! Yesterday for the first time we tried cooking that chicken you used to make, it turned out ok, not as good as yours, I saw that new flick too, it was outstanding, you just have to watch it. I caught the matinee show, my weekends are all screwed up, I’m back on afternoon shifts, I hate it and you know what….  “What?!” she said excitedly, hiding the tears streaming down her cheeks. For all at once, instantaneously it was like the doorbell had rung, pots had pottered in the kitchen and there was music that was blaring from television channels which screamed across several hallways. It was magical as her friend continued to share the past 36 hours with her. In this moment, two worlds became one.

Notes from my desk:  There is no quotient of distance between family and friends. Albeit the clock does tick, as it rightfully should, or we’d all be stuck in a moment. And yet do take the time to connect. Pick up that phone and call that loved one….right now. Write an email; send a postcard, type, Skype, text or chat. FaceTime, anytime, every time. Do whatever it takes to get reconnected. Show you care; share your life, listen to theirs. Thankfully I chose to unlearn a self-believing myth. Long distance relationships do last. Today I chose to have one.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Drop your baggage

It was a cold winter afternoon as the captain landed the aircraft!  Houston was every bit to her as any other United States airport. The last she had been in this country was several years ago and had hated her experience then….she hated it now too. The people, the weather, the smell of the air….everything reminded her of a time gone by!  Years ago, in this same country she had allowed herself to be so emotionally vulnerable that she had returned home with nothing but walls around her, shattered within ….the only memento of time spent. That was fourteen years ago!
As she mechanically smiled and answered the immigration officer’s questions, she couldn’t help notice the excited banter of a large Mexican family close by. God! What was there to be so excited about? Her feet ached, her head pounded, her hand was heavy with the joke of a hand bag she had on her… It was more like a truckload of dead weight! Passport stamped they walked for what seemed like miles to the next gate, they had a connecting flight to their final destination. With every step, her life seemed more like a mirage. Her home, friends, familiarity, they all seemed far behind. “Just a phone call away,” she had consoled her parents at the departure gate in Mumbai. Yet the same words couldn’t force a brave smile on her face right now. Like the one they had on theirs just yesterday, as they frantically waved until their combined eyesight of 141 years could follow her no more. They blinked; she was out of sight.

At the gate her husband asked her to be seated as he rushed off with his phone and charger. As she sat there an elderly gentleman came up to her, smiled and asked animatedly, “That’s interesting what you have on your hands, what is it?! I have never seen it before”. “Henna” she replied. “It’s beautiful, does everyone have their hands like this in your country”, he genuinely asked. “Thanks, no we have it done for festivals and important occasions”, she abruptly replied. “Where are you from?” he queered on. Oh! Leave me alone, she thought. “India”, she replied. Her monosyllable replies ended the conversation quicker than he would have intended; the gentleman politely smiled and went his way. As she sat waiting several people passed her by, as with airports you always get to see a variety of souls drifting by. Many of them smiled as they walked by.
Later, as she walked over to the restroom she looked at her watch. It still showed a different time. A quick calculation led to a perturbed sigh. It had been 30 minutes, wonder where her husband had disappeared to?! Inside a woman smiled and asked, “From India?!” God, not another one! “Yes”, she replied. “I have a friend in India”, she went on to add. “Hmm”, she replied. “All the best,” she waved as she disappeared through the door. She freshened up in cold silence thereafter and stopped to stretch out her arms. “Damn, this bag is heavy”, she whispered under her breath as she stumbled out.

Seated at a distance was her husband, pleased with phone in hand. “Needed to charge it for you, so went over to where the sockets are,” he said. “Here, you wanna call your mother?!”
In that moment, she couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed at his thoughtfulness. Her reservations seemed weak in comparison to his compassion. With tears brimming over she dropped her baggage and eagerly reached out to take the phone. As the phone rang miles across, a different bell went off in her head. The bell of realization. The bell of letting go. The bell of freedom. “Hello ma?!” she excitedly cried into the phone as an equally excited voice greeted her on the other side.

As the airline staff announced the departure of their onward flight, she walked over to the check in agent. The hand bag didn’t seem as heavy any more. She smiled as she handed over her boarding pass, the lady at the gate smiled back!

Notes from my desk: It takes a moment to decide and disconnect from close mindedness, rigidity or thoughts that are not working for you anymore. It takes a moment to get rid of all the pain, anguish, hurt and guilt. Instead you can learn from it and move on. Sometimes it takes just one act of kindness from a loved one or at other times it may take several smaller acts of kindness from strangers. At other times only a moment of introspection is enough. Bottom line being, this world, people in it and you deserve better. Choose to start afresh. Today I chose to drop my baggage!