Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Hush...It's almost taboo

I recently underwent a 'hysterectomy' and the reactions I have received from people have been wide and varied. Some hilarious, yet thought provoking. Thought of sharing some.

Reaction type 1: Some ‘male’ acquaintances & friends who had no idea of my surgery, catch up with me on the ubiquitious messenger apps. Here’s how it goes:

Friends: Hi, How are you?
Me: Could be better. Recovering from a surgery.
Friends: Really? What happened?
Me: Hysterectomy
Friends:  ……. Silence……golden silence…..blissful silence
Me: (thinking to myself) Wow, a way to shut men up !?!?! J

To be fair, even some women, young and old, have preferred the golden silence and kept mum. Had it been any other illness, they would have been first on the phone to enquire about my health.
Reaction type 2: Now I come to the even more interesting reactions from some women, young and old. During a ‘face to face’ conversation:

Friend (young lady, mother of two toddlers): Hi, how are you?
Me: Just recovering from a surgery
Friend: What surgery?
Me: Hysterectomy
Friend’s MIL: What’s that?
Me: Removal of the uterus
Friend’s MIL: Oh! I had mine removed five years ago.
Me: (thinking…) Wow…really…and you never heard this term before…benefit of doubt given… 60+ year old lady after all…J
Friend’s FIL (in an aside to my husband) : Oh, my wife went through something like this some years ago. I don’t know the details.
Friend (in soft undertone): Btw, Will you still get your monthly cycles now?
Me: (Aghast at question & thinking...) ?!?*** What were you doing in Bio class in the X standard??!! How can you be so ignorant as to even ask this question? You are a mother of two, don’t you even know how the female body works??!! Did you have an immaculate conception and childbirth??

To some who may think that this ‘happens only in India’, imagine my shock when a 60+ lady residing in a ‘developed’ nation and a former teacher of zoology, asked me the precise same question. Beats me as to how some women can get to be mothers, grandmothers and be as clueless about something as basic as this.

Reaction type 3: Conversations with ‘know-all’ non medico women who may have had the basic experience of a C- section childbirth/ know others who have had such surgeries.

Friend: Hi, what happened? (On seeing me do my daily exercise comprising of a  ‘s...l….o….w’ walk around the block, or on getting to know through some other means)
Me: Just had a hysterectomy
Friend: You should be flat on your back for 3 months. No lifting, no walking, no climbing ……..the list is endless.
Me: (thinking…) here come the instructions again. What makes women such experts on another’s surgery?   
Friend: My mother had this surgery…
Me: (thinking).. So did mine…4 decades ago….I should hope that technology in medicine did advance at least a teeny weeny bit the last decade or so, so as to enable women get back to normal activities faster. Some doctors do implement newer techniques which enable faster recovery.
Friend: Your decision if you walk about, you’ll face the consequences many years down the line  
Me: Sure I will J

Reaction type 4:  Hats off to all those men and women who redefine my faith in humanity. Who meet the answer head-on, do not shrink at asking how I am, ask about the procedure, listening to the details and wish me a speedy recovery.

My reflections: Are young men, middle aged men, old men so tongue tied when faced with such ‘female oriented’ information that they sweep it under the carpet? Hey, I do not expect a detailed discussion on the intricacies of the surgical procedure. I leave that to the doctors. A simple empathetic “Get well soon” would have sufficed. Are we women partly to blame, for hushing up such information, almost as if they are taboo?? How may we enable the next generation of young men to not freak out when confronted with such information?

What can I say about women. I feel ashamed at the lack of knowledge we seem to have in matters relating to our own bodies. Blissful ignorance! Get out, talk. Get information, Get empowered. 

Does our society consider such a surgery to be the loss of a woman’s ‘identity’? I’d heard a similar view being expressed by a gentleman on mastectomy necessitated by cancer. Hence maybe, the hesitation to even acknowledge or discuss such surgeries.  Hey, a woman’s identity is determined by who she is, the person she is, not by what reproductive organs she has or hasn’t. Till this basic perception of the ‘self’ identity is addressed, we will continue to blunder our way through such situations. What say you?

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

At Times...

Sometimes, it takes a so called ‘setback’ to experience divine mercies
Sometimes, it’s scary to let go, to lie back and just trust
Sometimes, the gremlins of the unknown played havoc with my mind
Sometimes, it takes a frailty, to experience a greater strength within me.

At times, in the dark of the night, when I woke up in sweat & pain
At times unable to sleep, I kept watch on the dawning morn
At times, the temptation to give in to pain and rant was strong
At times such as these, it was Grace which upheld & soothed my mane.

Sometimes it’s in the knowing, that the only way ‘out’ is ‘through’
Sometimes all it takes is to close my eyes and ride the waves
Sometimes it takes concerted effort to not to panic in the caves
Sometimes, it’s in the act of surrender that faith & hope shine through.

It’s at times such as these, when I know I’m not alone
It’s at times when I’m rudderless that I feel the unseen oar
It’s at times when in pain, I sense beyond the pain
It’s at times such as these, that love holds me tight within.

It’s through times as these, that I reflect on the dawning light
It’s through times as these, that deep abiding trust holds me up
It’s a time to rejoice in mercies, big and small
It’s a time to experience that the burden is light.

A time… a moment…a concept of pain
All imaginations of the mind, brought to rein
In the act of letting go, finding flight
Going beyond the boundaries of what the mind defines.  

-         -   Ann Joseph

Friday, 19 December 2014

The spectrum of our relationships

Thought provoking question: Do we limit our capacity to love?

If yes, lets ask ourselves how we do so. Someone recently told me this: "Ann, have you ever considered how you can love people of who are of diametrically opposite personalities? These individuals are at the ends of a spectrum. And in between lie all the other people that you touch with your life - different people at different times in different ways, . You give of yourself to so many people - in umpteen ways, in as many times. You have so much love in you to give." This observation astounded and humbled me. I had never thought of love as a continuum.

Are we guilty of neatly labeling relationships and slotting them into appropriate boxes? To be opened and closed as and when required? What does a relationship mean to us?
Look at the babies. Relationships are quite simple really for them. They freely give unconditional love. When does this metamorphose into a learned behaviour of giving when something is given in return? Giving and always expecting something in return.

We love, and expect to be loved in return. And if we don't receive what we expect, we neatly label the box and file it away for posterity. Little realising that in doing so, we are also slotting a part of ourselves away. That we become less 'whole' in the process. In the process, relationships become a barter of sorts. Where is the giving of self in such a case?

Dr Richard McHugh once said that love is decision to give all of oneself, willingly, no expectations. Its a choice one makes.  When we enter into relationships with people, be they parents, friends, children, spouses, lovers, colleagues & others - with expectations of what we will receive, where is the giving? Aren't we then guilty of choosing how much of ourselves we share?

The metaphor that comes to mind is the notes of music. The music is our life. The notes the relationships we have in this life. Each note is distinct, no two are alike. Each has a different life span. Some are played gently, some strongly; some long, others short. Some notes are played over and over again. There are pauses between these relationship notes. Every one note is whole in itself, but limited. When played individually, they stand apart with no connection. Play it in continuum, and the beautiful song of love emerges. A place for every note, in the song of our lives.  Let's walk this beautiful journey of life, learning to touch lives by giving of ourselves in relationships with love....

Seasons greetings to all!    

Thursday, 4 December 2014

What is love?

It brings a smile to my lips, a lift to my heart.
A flutter to the insides, joy to my soul. 
A feeling of connect that goes deep within,
Deeper than the oceans can hold within.

Tenderness galore, sweet as the spring
Freshness in outlook, seeing new things
A spring in my step, walking on air
Feelings galore, laying me bare.

A feeling, a desire, a craving to be?
A sense of completeness that lets me be?
A desire to take and give of its own
Complacent and secure, nothing torn?

A cry in the desert, ravaged by pain
Barrenness surrounding the heart therein
Forlorn, forsaken, pierced to the heart
Bleeding, an orphan that longs for the hearth.

Plummeting to the depths, the ravine deep
Yet cushioned by air, buoyant in sleep
Waking to experience the lightness within
The pain and the paradise, contained within.

Music I now hear, the pause before the note
The silence that tells a story of its own
Words left unsaid, gentle like a feather
The whisper of breath, heard by the other.

A feeling, a desire? More a decision to be
Giving to the other, whatever may be
In loving myself, finding meaning within
Compassion to be, to give and receive.

Quietly, serenely, nothing to prove
Yet feeling love in its myriad hues
A child, a parent, a lover, a friend
Love in every action, with no end.

A feeling…of rightness, a decision to be
Bottomless, fathomless, wide as the sea
An atom, a ripple, a wave that crests
If this is not love, what is love at best?

-       Ann Joseph

Thursday, 27 November 2014

The dance of truth

As butterflies we go from flower to flower
Searching for nectar, from sunlight to bower
A searing presence, few moments at a time
Fleeting in intensity, reflective of its time.

What do I do? Asks the deep from within
What do I say? Ask the words therein
Do I allow the words to fly free
Forming sentences that would surely be me?

Do I instead rein them in?
Holding the patterns of thoughts within?
What would happen if the rails were set free?
Would it let loose a different me?   

What is it that sets the barrier line
From expressing who I really am?
A fear of loss, maybe perceived slight
A fear of rejection, all located in the mind.  

Vulnerability, that’s what I aim to hide
Covered in words & actions aimed right.
Little realizing that in doing so
I bury myself in images that mow.

Till I wake up & fling the covering layers
Taking courage in my hands, a self that dares
To be who I am, to say what I feel
Being truthful within, compassionately healed.

The dance of truth, flitting from bower to bow
Let loose on its flight & homing in low
Finding its restful place, completeness within
A kindred soul, met on the journey therein.

-              Ann Joseph

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Memories may fade…yet love lives on

Words dance on my lips, and flit away
As I seek to catch them, wondering if I may
Be allowed to express them, seeking to understand
Words that hover on the fringes, like footprints in the sand.

As I remember the years gone by, just about two
I wonder what had happened, my apparent waterloo
A watershed, a marking, an etching in stone
A burden too heavy for a time to bemoan.

Now I turn back and look…nothing in sight
A mirage, a feeling, an experience, like a soaring kite
Searching for images, few come to mind
Fewer than before, and of a different kind.

Memories? I can scarce bring to mind
Vividness of colour and clarity rescind   
I struggle to hear the haunting melody of voice
Lost in the cacophony of daily noise.

Fading memories, yet sustaining love
A never ending well, a strong hull
Mellower and deeper, a feeling that’s within
A soulful communion with my mother within.

-          -  Ann Joseph  
      (written in loving memory of my mother, this second year of remembrance)

Monday, 17 November 2014


Moments expand into a lifetime, 
A lifetime compresses into a moment;
A moment to come, a moment to go
The story of our lives…from first breath to last.

Moment by moment…a year passes by;
Quickly, yet slowly…just as is needed within
Bringing healing in pain, joy in sorrow
Knowing that in the twain, lie growth in the morrow.

A moment to remember, another to forget
Tears in one moment, laughter the next
Moments of anxiety, not knowing what’s next
Forgotten in moments of surety, knowing what’s best.
Moments of divine love, bringing solace unshakable
Confined to the need, yet vast and unmeasurable.
Moment by moment, we each learn to live
Pressed down, yet soaring…fleeting, yet eternal.

-       Ann Joseph
Written in November 2013, in memory of my Mum’s 1st death anniverasry