Circle of life

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I was sick again. Very high fever 101-102 degrees. Had to call the doc for a home visit and though I am all good now, I still haven’t regained my appetite. And I shall repeat, being sick and alone at home sucks big time. Being sick also derailed some of my plans of wrapping things up before moving out and lessened the number of offs I could take while moving. So there’s the rant against it.

But I also realised that when I had just moved into this place, I fell sick too. It felt like a circle of life thing. Back then too I was very sick and my neighbours helped me. It was also at the height of the swine flu scare in my city and I was so scared I was going to contract it.

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Boston

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For a reporter who has never been to the US, but has seen situations like 26/11, the events unfolding at Boston were an eerie reminder of just how fragile life can be. The last two nights, I have been glued to the TV, not just because the events themselves were surreal, but also because as a journalist, I wanted to see how CNN, NBC and other international outlets handle this.

I must say I am thoroughly impressed. I write this as reporters across the spectrum not just heave a sigh of relief but also convey the feeling of we are safe now to their viewers. I am also amazed by how the on field reporters are also very honest and realistic about their expectations of what answers and closure to expect from the agencies. There are no pretenses, no one is saying that everything is great. I get a sense of we suffered, we have tried to make sense of all of it, but more importantly, we are all together in this.

That sense of empathy is so important when a community goes through something like this. I remember 26/11 and just how chaotic everything was. And I remember how in the aftermath, there were no words of reassurance. There was the usual talk of resilience, there was also some talk of finding the culprits, but the political discourse was and still continues to be that of blame games and religious divisions.

Our country has sort of become accustomed now to terror attacks. Every few months, a series of low intensity blasts shake some city or the other and the suspects are never caught. Compared to that, looking at what America managed today, I feel people there should really be grateful that they can at the end of the day, still depend on their security forces.

However, one thing was very similar to our country. The internet witch hunt and disinformation. I hope everyone apologises to the families of the 2 who were wrongly named as suspects.

 

Is this self sabotage?

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So birthday was wonderful and boyfriend did do some nice things, so did other friends of mine. My boss told me an opportunity could come up in a few months in the city that boyfriend lives in. When I told him this, he was very cool headed about it. Said he would leave it up to me. I wasn’t satisfied, I asked him if I moved, would he commit to staying in that very city longer. And I didn’t like his reply of just we’ll see.

I don’t get why men don’t appreciate all that women end up doing to keep the relationship going. I always talk first after a fight. I do know that this recent one was triggered after I felt he was waffling about living in the same city while I was ready to uproot everything and go where he was. Sometimes I feel that I have given way too much in this relationship. Why does he think that being thoughtful is only about the gifts he gets me for special days?

I do know that a lot of times I start the ranting by mentioning my dissatisfaction at him not proposing and never giving me a clear answer about anything. He keeps saying he is working at it. He said yesterday that he is doing everything he is supposed to do. But how come nothing happens then? How come there is no ring on my finger and how come he still freaks out about talking to my parents or me meeting his?

And I am not able to give it a rest. Every 2 months or so I do ask him what is happening. It was more frequent before. I know people will just say why don’t I leave him if I am so unhappy. I don’t have a clear answer to that but I do know that I don’t feel ready to do that. I don’t feel ready to get back in the game again and what’s the guarantee I won’t reach the same stage with another person. Soemtimes I really hate him for making me wait. Today is one of those days. Is it self sabotage that when things are going ok otherwise, I do invariably end up asking about marriage. I mean, I am 30, I want my life to be figured out by now.

I have started comparing him to my work place actually. I have not found total acceptance and recognition at work as such. They show it by giving me one of the highest raise percentage (or so my boss told me this time) but they don’t hand over the important things to me. They don’t really trust I can handle it. Agreed, the high pressure of live breaking news reporting sometimes gets to me, but I have never given out unverified or outright wrong news, which some people have and they still get a lot of acclaim.  6 years and I am treated like a newbie and some newbies are even treated better than me. I sometimes feel my boyfriend is also doing the same. In short, I feel under appreciated and under recognised in life.

There is very little stability in my life. No place or person that is totally mine and can never be taken away from me. The young me might have thought stability equals boredom. But I know better now. I have read and read about trusting in times of uncertainty, but I just have none left. I cry every other day over having no control over my life. I am scared of taking chances now. I feel I am boxing myself in with each passing day. Part of this could also have been brought forth by the whole moving. I had really built a routine at this place but my landlady isn’t keen on renewing the lease this time so I have to go.

I wonder if I’ll always be so bogged down. Who’ll want that kind of  a wife? And I hope if I ever get to be a mother, I am not so down on myself, because I would want the child to be happy. But who knows if any of that is ever going to happen. Tonight I feel, I must just be here, same city that is growing expensive by the day, struggling, taking an over crowded train and moving from place to place every 11 months as I can’t afford a home here.

I digress. Is it self sabotage that I have so much pent up anger and once in a while I let my boyfriend have it, no matter how nice he has been just 2 days before that by getting me awesome gifts? Or is it justified that the only gift I really want from him is a deeper commitment and nothing else really counts?

 

The big day

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So I turned 30 on the 10th and I had fun. Boyfriend had booked a session at a spa and even sent a cake. I went out to dinner with some friends. I also ended up completing my target of visiting 20 different restaurants. So yayee 🙂 Just popped in to post this much from work. Will write more later. 

Capitalism and the self help industry

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As a long time consumer of the self-help industry, I kept on (and still do to some extent) trying to better myself. Sometimes it was to get over a professional set back, sometimes to get over a personal set back. But none of the efforts ever helped me get over the feeling of maybe I wasn’t doing it right enough, because things did not seem to change much. The Secret, the laws of attraction, soups and other confabulations were things I had tried in varying quantities and recipes.

Facebook and other social media made it seem so entirely possible. Everyone seemed to be going on vacations, everyone was changing jobs all the time, everyone had the sweetest boyfriend/child/parents/boss.

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And all self help literature had stories of some magic moment or some cathartic experience that made that particular person successful. It seemed just logical that I wasn’t either trying hard enough or wasn’t good enough somehow or possibly wasn’t able to maintain the train of positivity. After all, didn’t the books say that if only you did such and such and banished all doubt, you would all be the next Bill Gates?

Then one day as I was losing myself in the self help quicksand in yet another book store, I caught sight of Barbara Ehrenreich’s Smile or Die. The book is a well thought out attack against the relentless positive thinking industry. The author begins with a personal account of her struggle against breast cancer and how the entire time, she was told thinking positive was essential to her treatment. She was asked to look at cancer as a ‘gift’ and deny any feelings of anger and disappointment of having contracted the disease. Taking this as a premise, the author attacks the premise of baseless positive thinking.

The author then attacks the basic principle of all New Age books – that you are responsible for your own fate. Most new age books would tell Ehrenreich, that she wished the cancer into her life. Ehrenreich then takes the example of popular self help book on adaptation to change – Who moved my cheese – and talks of how adaptation to things like layoffs is a necessity to hold up the capitalist structure. That made me sit up. Isn’t it true? How do you absolve the past financial malpractices of corporate heads that led to the financial mess of downsizing? By making it the employees’ headache of course. Instead of having to question the absurd practices and building a society where lay offs wouldn’t acquire a legitimacy of their own, tell the employee that they can add some other skills, keep thinking ‘happy’ thoughts, be nice to the employer they leave and just happily find another sunset to walk into. Revise your expectations, change your goals, adapt. Try to explain away the uncertainty in life by concentrating hard on a ceremonial candle, if you will.

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It actually reminds me of a funny Simpsons episode that parodies The Secret. In the episode, Bart places the blame of one of his pranks on his teacher, who then is fired. Seeing her lonely in a care center and overcome with remorse, Bart then shows her the way with the help of the book named ‘The Answer’. Bart’s teacher uses the principles, finds her forgotten passion for baking and opens a successful bakery. But when she finally knows that Bart was behind her suspension, she gets angry and tells him that he made her succeed in something she didn’t really want to do and goes back to her teaching.

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Indeed it seems that capitalism to survive, needs to deflect attention from the greed of corporations and the devastation it causes. It is classic victim blaming, however of a greater level at work. Other than Ehrenreich, Oliver Burkeman, a Guardian columnist who has written on the self help industry extensively also has a book titled Antidote : Happiness for people who can’t stand Positive Thinking. While I am yet to read the book, I read some of his interviews. Burkeman makes a vital point in an interview saying, sometimes the real skill you need is a not-doing skill, sort of resisting the urge to always try to do everything right. Burkeman derives greatly from the ‘Stoic’ and Buddhist schools of thought. Burkeman also encourages thinking about the worst possible outcome to reduce anxiety.

What I have discovered mostly from my reading of positive thinking and self help industry is that it leads people to a newer form of depression. Earlier they were only depressed about not having something, now they are depressed also about not feeling worthy of something, of not having thought the right thoughts to make it happen. It will only lead to a culture filled with regrets and longing, the very thing we are trying to run away from. Burkeman at some point in one of his interviews says that 50% of what people achieve is genetics, 10% is circumstance and 40% is within our control. While he does think we overestimate that 10%, I also believe we should not undermine the fact that 60% is not in our hands.

There will always be uncertainty and some of it may never go away. There are choices to be made and sometimes you will not have the knowledge of all the variables affecting it. It is life and it is going to go off kilter many more times than we like to believe. There will be people richer, luckier, taking more vacations, having better behaved relatives etc. But to believe that it is all because of something you did or didn’t do, is giving your ego power, that it really doesn’t have. To quote M. Scott Peck’s opening line in the Road Less Travelled ‘Life is difficult’. And we may not be always able to change it.

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