Monday, 14 November 2016

In communion with my Mother

A journey of four years since penning the Ode
How did it pass, I know not now
Seemed difficult and tears gushed at first
A yawning chasm, seemed full of dust.

As dust to dust, yet at times you felt
Like moonbeams that flit with reality
A word, a thought, a tinkling laugh
All enough to trigger a memory.

Time stands not still, the humdrum life goes on
Taking in its flow, your memories
Till points were reached, where I took a pause
And wondered what your advice to me would be.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, so they say
In hindsight, I now delight in the wisdom you shared
I know you listen, as I speak in my heart
Things that I still share with you on many a day.

No words needed – a thought, a delight, a question answered
All done - deep within the recesses of my heart
Through cakes that bake, and cleanliness drives
I know your spirit lives on in me.

Times stands not still, with the unseen hand
I’m glad I went through the angst of grief
‘Tis moulded me as nothing else would
Tears cloud my eyes – now in love, not grief.

As I see Dad, living the best he can
Half of a whole, yet whole within.
Your passion & strength, his compassion & love
Ideals to live up to, in this life I live.    

The grief is done, I knew not when
Peace within, I know not how.
'Tis now I feel the meaning of what I wrote then
‘She lives in my life; I’ll hear her in my heart’.

              -Ann Joseph

Sunday, 30 October 2016

At Times...

At times…all I want is to let go
Let go of concerns and troubles that afflict
Let go of relationships and ties that bind
Let go…to the beyond, where the mind is free.

Free…of thoughts and desires and the reasoning to be
Free…of pressures and the desire to be loved
Free…of being free and to do nothing at will
At times…all I want is to soar as a bird.

The bird soars up and perchance swoops down
Perchance? Nay, tis perforce that swoops
A morsel, a drop and a perch to settle on
Birds eye view, pupillary skylight – can the two be twined?

A twining…two souls, light and darkness to be
Across cosmic distance of years, quagmires maybe
A fear of letting go, or is it of holding on too tight?
Unravelling the twines, lest one becomes weak, the other strong.

An unravelled twine, a life to be lived
Separate, together…whatever is willed
Free to let go, and yet hold on to the essence
Embracing changing patterns, the sky and the perch.

At times…all I want is to hold on
Hold on to feelings, patterns of relationships
Little knowing that in the letting go, I also hold on
Evolving, loving, watching the great master at work.

-          Ann Joseph

Thursday, 19 May 2016

From Child to Parent – A challenging transition

At the start of writing this blog, I did a google search on this topic. And all Google came up with were search results on parenting guidelines. Did you think so too? Sigh… I happen to think that the transformation which happens as one becomes a parent is one among the easiest. Know why? You are sort of thrown into the arena of parenthood. Despite all your preparations. One minute you are an adult, the next minute you are a parent with this squirming bundle of humankind thrust into your arms. You learn to swim with this child who is suddenly dependent on you. 

Still wondering what this blog is about? Like maybe some of you reading this, I’ve transitioned from being a child to an adult, to being a parent of a young child, to being the parent of a ‘soon-to-be adult’ (aren’t they steps ahead of you from the word go??) quite smoothly, with life’s many odd hiccups along the way (what would life be without them, I know now in hindsight…). However, what hit me on the raw quite recently was the transition of another relationship. I found myself quite unprepared for it. Churn, churn….still evolving…

I’ve always prided myself on having the perfect father-daughter relationship. Perfect???? Maybe not always, but loving nonetheless, incomparable - for me at least. Well, to be frank, I’ve always thought it perfect.  I’ve loved the hugs, the reprimands, the understanding, the support…and it continues. In simple words, I adored being a child to my Dad. Of course, this relationship also meandered along with life, widening at places, narrowing at others, flowing past obstacles. However, one aspect remained unchanged. I was the child, my Dad the parent.

In my naivety, I thought it would remain unchanged. After all, it did remain unchanged with my Mom till she died. So what happened now? Age happened. Time waits for no one. And I was caught unprepared. Unprepared for a required shift in mind set. Mine, not my Dad’s. From being a ‘child to my Parent’ to being a ‘Parent to a Parent’ at times.

Convoluted? I think so too. Just imagine what these convolutions did to my mind. Angst, frustration – all because I wanted to be a child with the only person I could still be a child with, even at my age (Hmm…well, age I think is immaterial here). Did I want my parent to depend on me for decisions, minor though they may be? (And mind you, he is quiet independent still).  No, I expected him to make decisions, be independent, like he always has been. In short, I expected him to remain unchanged. To be a parent for the rest of his life. What I got instead – a person slowing down and subtly desiring me to hand-hold him in certain decisions and at others standing firm on his.
Remember how wonderful it felt as a child to stomp a foot in frustration? There have been times of late when I wanted to do just that. Frustration…because I suddenly found that I needed to change and I, quite simply, did not want to. Remember a two-year-old child’s favourite word - No? Don’t I just love it. And like a child, I turned that angst (in my mind of course, as grown-ups would) towards the one person who was, is and always will be a child’s punching bag – my parent.

Till I introspected and realised (fortunately for us, in a very short while), that I was the one to still ‘grow up’ and evolve. I wanted my parent never to change and he didn’t. He still is my Dad and forever will be. The relationship never changes. However, what needed to change was my expectations from the relationship, which I’d expected to remain the same.
I am the one with the repertoire of internal resources and capacity to change behaviour. Can I change him? Never. Can I change myself?  Certainly, my response patterns. And it finally seeped in me that change starts with me, flexibility lies with me. It was ok to be a parent to his inner child at times, and yet retain the magic of the child within. A balance of the polarities - child and parent. Inter-related, entwined, co-existing - either just waiting to be tapped. Its all in the mind. My perception. My mind. What a peaceful realisation.  What say you? Ever felt similar?        

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Dealing with pain & grief

Over the past few days, some conversations with friends and also personal experiences have centered on the evolving experience of pain and grief. In fact, one of my earliest and most widely read blogs has been on 'Dealing with grief’. Grief in a way is an extension and expression of pain?

This is an attempt therefore, to delve a little deeper into the ‘perceptions’ of pain and grief. I say ‘perceptions’ as each of our experiences of pain and grief are relative reactions to our individual perceptions of the sense of loss, hurt, anger, injustice we are faced with.  It arises out of our ‘perceived’ helplessness, a quagmire of swirling emotions at worst. 

I’ve been fascinated the past few days on the evolution of ‘pain & grief’ into ‘peace & stillness’. How is it that for some events, deeply scarring though they may have been at the time, we find it easier to grieve and let go and find peace,  while for others…we think we’ve gone past the worst of it with time… only to have a thought, a person, a song, a word, a smell, a touch trigger the tsunami feeling of rawness, hitched breath, a choked throat, a fist around the heart, heightened heartbeat, tremors in the hands…all over again. Maybe in a different manner and with different intensity, but present nevertheless.

What stops us from letting go of pain ‘painlessly’ at times?
I revisited a TED talk I’ve been greatly influenced by, and here’s what I learnt this time.  Our reactions to perceptions of hurt, loss, anger, injustice are dependent on our perceptions of self. “A feeling of self-worthiness stems from (a) Having the Courage to be imperfect, (b) having Compassion - first to myself and then to others and (c) having Connections as a result of authenticity. In order for connections to happen, we have to allow ourselves to be seen…really seen…and be vulnerable" - Brene Brown.

A few questions to ponder:
  1. Do I allow myself to be seen to as imperfect even as I pass through the ravine of hurt and loss? Or do I gloss over and cover the cracks caused by hurt/ loss so that I project a fa├žade of coping well?
  2. Am I compassionate enough to myself first and give myself leeway to feel the intensity of pain even if others don’t? Or do I ignore myself while extending myself to others in their pain? How can I be compassionate to others if I’m not compassionate to myself?  
  3. Am I content to open up only my shallow self, the surface of me…to others? Or am I willing to be vulnerable enough to expose the depths of my emotions, my insecurities & my pain in a frank manner, while being compassionate to myself and others?
  4. Am I content with making connections with people based on what I wish to project/what is expected of me and therefore say or do things accordingly? Or am I willing to experience the risk of uncertainty in establishing connections by allowing my deeper self, ‘the real me’, to emerge – finding expression for my deeper fears & cares - uncertain though they may be?

This journey is very person dependent and no two experiences are the same. Immersing ourselves in genuine feelings, expressions and connections and also knowing when to let go enables us in our journey forward through and past our pain & grief. There is a saying that it takes a devastation to experience and know love. So also it takes the immersive experience of pain and grief to become compassionate and stronger for it. What emerges is love. 

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!