“Look upon the world with loving eyes and the reflection everyone sees will contain love.”
― Bryant McGill
A: Yes, I went to their house to meet her.
B: Did you see her children?
A: It was late by the time I got to their house. So only the oldest one was awake. The youngest is just 3 months old.
B: Now that she has three children, is she fat?
I interrupted in an exasperated tone, ‘How does that even matter? She’s just had a child!’
Later that evening, as I kept playing that conversation in my head, it hit me: it’s things like these that make even a five-year-old child have body image issues.
Because when we define a woman by the way she looks, when we use words like “fat”, “too thin”, “sexy eyes”, “big nose”, “chunky thighs”, “ugly”, “big boobs”, “pretty”, we are reducing her entire existence to be the sum total of her body parts, labelling each, as if she’s a specimen to be dissected. We are telling her that it doesn’t matter if she’s brilliant, smart and intelligent, it doesn’t matter if she’s talented, if she has a successful career she loves, if she’s kind and generous, it doesn’t even matter if she’s a good human being, because her one sole purpose in life is to fall within the purview of what others consider to be “beautiful”. And let’s be clear here, it’s physical beauty we are after. Whoever cares about what’s on the inside? The heart and the mind are just organs to keep us alive, right?
“The world was full of dangers now that she was pregnant: mercury in tuna, hot tubs, beer, secondhand smoke, over-the-counter medicine. Not to mention crazy baby-abducting fairy kings.”
– Jennifer McMahon
Thirteen has always been a lucky number for me. It feels strange to say that because I don’t believe in lucky things or numbers. On 13th December 2014, I was far away from Oslo at my parents’ house. That morning, I decided to pee on a stick. It came out positive. I peed on one more stick, you know, just to be sure. That turned positive as well. I calmly walked up to my mum in the kitchen and told her I might be pregnant and I need to do a blood test to be sure. My mum told my dad who wanted to call the whole world that very moment. Fortunately, she talked him out of it.
I had travelled thousands of miles to my parents’ house so I could see my one-year old niece for the first time since she came into this world. My brother asked what was going on. I told him that the sticks I peed on say that I’m pregnant. He told my sister-in-law. We had a hug fest.
The person I wanted to tell first, the person I wanted to share the joyous news with the most, was the one person who wasn’t around. My husband. K was traveling that very day from Oslo to join me. Now you don’t tell a man over the phone that he’s about to become a father, do you? No, seriously, I asked that question. I wasn’t sure what the protocol was. Do I call him? Do I wait till I see him? It seems wrong to tell him over the phone doesn’t it? But how can he be the person who doesn’t know? After a lot of back and forth, and with a little encouragement from my sister-in-law, I called him. He was just about to board the plane from Oslo airport. He sounded excited to hear it. He said he was happy about it. I asked him later what he thought about during the almost 12-hour journey. Did he ponder over impending fatherhood? He is yet to give me a proper answer!
“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.”
― Maya Angelou
When I was in my early 20s, I made a list of things I wanted to do in life, sort of a bucket list. Right at the top of that list were two things I wanted to try at least once in my life – bungee jumping and sky diving. I wrote the list, put it away and didn’t really think too much about it, until recently.
This summer, my cousins visited me in Oslo. One of things we thought might be fun to try was the Oslo Summer Park. It’s a climbing park where you walk on ropes between tree tops at varying heights, following set routes. Some of the routes also include zip wires. You get some basic training before you get to try out the actual courses in the Park. So at the training level, I climbed up a short rope ladder to a wooden platform. I had a harness that secured me to the safety line above. I was a little over five feet above the ground. I stepped onto the rope. The rope shook violently and I froze. I couldn’t take one more step.
“The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say.”
– Anaïs Nin
Four weeks back, I realised something bothered me about my blog. I didn’t quite know what it was. So when I came across Jeff Goins’ free Intentional Blogging Challenge for 21 days on Facebook, I jumped at it. Each day he posted a blogging exercise that I needed to do. I’ll admit it was a struggle. It made me re-think my blog and I had to stop blogging to figure things out. During this Challenge, I learned about many things I hadn’t even considered before I started blogging. It helped me be more honest with myself. I’ll also admit that there are a few things I still need to work on. But I’m back and so are my posts.
The challenge started with rewriting my About page. So do have a look and feel free to leave your comments.
One of the challenges was to post a blog that shares the story behind my blog, why I started writing, why I feel I have to write and what I hope to achieve through it. That’s what this post is about.
How it started
It all started with a story. I make my own animations, but I was too impatient to get the story out of my head and writing seemed like the shortest way to get it out. Just goes to prove how little I knew back then. Now, if that was the only reason why I started writing, I would have written the story and moved on, and never thought about writing again. However, once I opened the flood gates, it was too late to stop the flow. Thank God, because I’m rather sure if not for that, if I didn’t write, two things would have happened: 1) I would have gone mental with the thoughts swirling in my head, 2) I would have never found my true calling in life.
It feels strange to write those words. No, not the going crazy part, I always had an inkling that I was wee bit crazy, which I think adds to the charm :). I’m referring to the finding-my-true-calling part. Those are not words I would usually use. For a long time, I was the kind of person who knew exactly how my life was supposed to turn out, who had to stay in control of things – life, career, emotions, people. Somehow I had concluded that being in control would remove all uncertainties from my life. After years of struggle and some hard lessons learnt, I can tell you that there’s one thing I’m certain of: Uncertainty, though scary, is a good thing. Taking a leap of faith in life teaches you things that’s both exhilarating and enlightening. It not only opens your mind, but also your heart.
“Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add colour to my sunset sky.”
― Rabindranath Tagore
Ever felt like your day was beginning to look like an overcast autumn day? You know, the kind of day that makes you remember the time someone told you that humans eat eight spiders on an average every year and you wonder if you have had your year’s share that morning because your head is so full of cobwebs that every time you move your head it feels as if your brain is bouncing off stringy webs like an excited kid on a trampoline? Well, yesterday turned out to be one of those days. I was beginning to imagine the taste of that last spider in my mouth and trust me, you don’t want to try it.
I sat down to write and I could feel my brain struggling against the cobwebs. I wrote a few lines. I stopped. I read what I wrote and stopped. So essentially, I was stuck in a write-stop-read-stop-repeat cycle. Why is my tone all whiny? Well, the number of hours spent writing a few lines is inversely proportional to the irritating pitch that can only come from griping. As the day went by, I realised I had to find a cure. And I’m happy to report that I did.
So if you are in a similar rut, here’s what I did. Mind you, if this doesn’t work for you, you should probably never come to Oslo. It wouldn’t do you any good, really.
I picked up my camera, a Nikon D3000, and walked through the streets of Oslo to capture the autumn colours. The chilly air nipped at my fingers. I walked along the coast, the water a murky grey with the wind sending ripples through it. I had no set route to follow, my head was too cloudy to undertake such planning. I just started taking pictures.
I could recite all the shades of green, yellow, red, and brown, but I’m not sure that would cover the colour riot I witnessed. Dry leaves littered every surface. The golden yellows, ochres, maroons, fading greens, they danced on the remaining rich green grass and the concrete pavements with equal joy, unfettered by where they were, untouched by the bleakness in the sky. A distant hill covered with trees, stood in stoic silence amid the grey water. It threw every shade of colour it could at me. As the slope rose towards the sky, its expanse seemed to heave with the vibrancy that only an autumn day can produce. That distant hill seemed keen to cheer-up the sky, as if goading the sun to steer clear of the clouds and show its bright face. Another hill, much closer, loomed behind the white Opera House. The brilliance of the orange, yellow and apple green rendered even the the old houses with red roofs dull in comparison.
I caught the last of the summer colours in scarlet flowers drooping from green leaves, purple flowers sticking out of nondescript flower pots, baby pink flowers blooming from dark vases high up on building walls, proof of summer’s defiance of making way for autumn. I looked up, and under the canopy of bright greens and yellows, I could barely see the grey sky beyond. Streets with mundane traffic looked as if someone had scrubbed it clean because all my eyes could see were the trees, sticking out their radiant branches as if they want to give everyone on the road a big, warm hug.
As I walked, I ended up in the grounds around Akershus Fortress. The last time I visited it, not too long ago, it was the poster child for summer. But now, it had switched its allegiance. Rows of towering trees rolled on as I walked through the grounds. One of the high walls in the Fortress was covered with crimson leaves. Between the lush grass peaking out of dry brown and yellow leaves, and the ancient grey stone walls behind, the wall of red seemed like autumn was flaunting.
As I headed back home, I came across these berry plants tucked away from the road.
I have no idea what they are, or if they are edible. But their medley of purple, white and green made me smile. And I realised, with each photo, a string of that maze of cobwebs in my head had come undone. The webs became wisps and melted away among the colours around me.
So the next time you have a cloudy day, take a walk among nature and irrespective of how the weather is outside, you will find the sun shining within you. It is that little ball of fire within each of us that makes us feel like a glowing star and that’s the sun that really matters. Because that sun can keep us going even in the harshest of winters. And everyone I meet these days keeps telling me “Winter’s coming”. So go out and stock up on your inner sun and kick those cloudy days goodbye.
What’s your cure for a cloudy day? Share in the comments.
“I write to give myself strength. I write to be the characters that I am not. I write to explore all the things I’m afraid of. ”
― Joss Whedon
The past couple of weeks, I haven’t been regular with my blog posts. This got me thinking. Because I’ve done this before – started writing a blog with enthusiasm, slowed down as days went by, and eventually I gave up on it. So perhaps I’m heading the same way again? That thought had me concerned.
The truth is I’ve been working on a story, a book that’s leading me into fascinating and unexplored territories, in my writing and in my life. And it’s taking up a lot of my time. This is probably the first time that I’ve ever mentioned writing a book in public. Except for a few people, no one knew about it. No, it’s not some secret mission. I’m taking it seriously now and it makes sense to tell people about it. As I’m juggling my time between a number of writing projects, I wanted to tackle the slack in my blogging by reminding myself why I began writing in the first place. And it turns out, it all began with worrying … a lot.
I used to worry about my career, about my life, about where I’m going in life. I love jigsaw puzzles. It’s thrilling to figure out how the pieces fit together. But in my life, when I couldn’t find a piece or I didn’t know how the pieces fit together, I would worry. My eyebrows would furrow and I would squint at the pieces with everything I had to find some connection, and I would worry. My imagination, though extremely helpful while writing, would take flight unbound, and I would worry. The result: a muddled mind filled with uncertainty. And I waited almost in a limbo to be sure, for things to be clear. When that didn’t happen, what did I do? I worried.
That’s when I started writing. I don’t know why, but that just seemed like what I needed to do. I wrote and pages filled up. Perhaps my imagination was preoccupied with writing, but clarity that I sought found its way into my life. So I wrote more. My writing improved. Strangely enough, I stopped worrying. I was happiest when I wrote. The words that appeared on the screen were like the magic wand that cleared the clutter in my head – I could finally label things. From a sense of feeling emotionally retarded, I could express what I felt with my writing. I had to write, for my own sanity. Writing became my catharsis and I know it’s going to remain so for the rest of my life.
Writing has brought me so much joy, I wanted to share it by blogging. The more I read why people write, I realised, I was not alone in using writing to face my fears and doubts. That’s how I found the courage to share my writing with the world. I didn’t know if anyone would want to read it. But once you have taken the leap of faith with writing, you want to jump as high and as far as possible.
I read this brilliant article on the benefits of keeping a journal, where writer Susan Sontag says, “Superficial to understand the journal as just a receptacle for one’s private, secret thoughts—like a confidante who is deaf, dumb, and illiterate. In the journal I do not just express myself more openly than I could do to any person; I create myself. The journal is a vehicle for my sense of selfhood. It represents me as emotionally and spiritually independent. Therefore (alas) it does not simply record my actual, daily life but rather — in many cases — offers an alternative to it.”
So here’s what I’ve learnt – don’t worry, just write. You don’t have to necessarily open your heart to the world. You can share as much as you are comfortable sharing. If you don’t want to share, that’s fine as well. It doesn’t have to be a blog or a book or even a story. It can be a journal, your observations or thoughts, or just a series of events that happened to you. But trust me on this, you want to write. You may or may not find that book in you, but I promise you, you will find yourself. You will be surprised, you might be puzzled. But if you keep at it, you will be amazed by the insights you gain, about your life and the world we live in.
In a world addicted to instant gratification, writing gives you a few precious moments to pause and think, to figure things out for yourself, so you are not blindly swept away by the ever changing trends and what’s “in”.
The beauty of writing is that it forces you to stay in the present, to live in the moment. Try as you might to dwell in the past or project into the future, you have to be here, in this moment, to write your thoughts down. In that moment of solitude, you are free, to see what’s important, to feel what you want to rather than what you think you should. You are free to be who you are, instead of all that you thought you should be. You find connections that you didn’t know existed, the common threads that bind our universe together. When you connect the dots, make sense of things in life that seemed meaningless, that appeared to serve no purpose, it’s a rush you are better off experiencing yourself. A word of advice, that leap of faith I mentioned earlier, you have to want to take it. You must be willing to launch yourself from solid ground into the unknown. When I started writing, I had to let go of many preconceived ideas I had about myself and my life. It was not easy. But it was necessary and it took me a while to see that. So take the leap, open your mind and jump into the unknown. Just … write.
How has writing helped you? Why do you write? Do you want to write but don’t know where to begin? Share your thoughts in the Comments.