It was close to midnight on December 31st, and my kids, partner, dogs and I were watching two movies simultaneously on TV (switching during commercials, you get the drift) with the lights dimmed (to set the party mood apparently). Suddenly, I noticed it was about to strike 12 on the living room clock. I stood up and hollered out a funny countdown, “10, 9, 8…” My family all got up too and my younger one turned on a news channel to get hold of the exact time. According to her, there was still a minute to go, so she shouted at me to hold on, “Stop mom, hold on, hold on, start from 60…” But I was on a roll, and when I reached zero, I began clapping and cheering and hugging everyone. In the midst of all this chaos, laughing, shouting and cross-countdowns, the dogs were suddenly pulverized into unimaginable excitement. From sleeping by our feet in silence, they began jumping up and down with us, wagging their tails furiously, their whole bodies contorted with joy! It was hilarious! We laughed till our sides ached, only adding further to all the noise and bonhomie.
I recalled this moment while reading this New Year post on Tiny Buddha, where the author asks questions that provoke you to seek mental and emotional clarity. One of the questions was, “At what time in your recent past have you felt most passionate and alive?” and I could not help but recall the happiness of that moment with my family at the dawn of 2013.
Another question that provoked deep thought in me was, “What is the one job/cause/activity that could get you out of bed happily for the rest of your life? Are you doing it now?” For all my life, I have been pushed out of bed every morning for reasons other than personal choice — either school or college, or family responsibilities once I was married, or kids’ school timings, or now the dogs’ pee schedule. So ensnared am I in the duties of a householder that it has never struck me what on earth would get me out of bed if I didn’t have them. This question forced me to think about it, and I realised that I am not at all inclined to get out of bed otherwise! Whether this is inbuilt personality coding or social conditioning or simply habit, I don’t know, but the fact is, there is no job/cause/activity that can drag me out of bed besides doing something for someone else, someone I care for — the kids, mostly, and now the man and the dogs. There’s nothing else I would bother to leave my warm bed for. (My friend P had asked me several years ago what I’d be doing if I was not a single working mother. I had said impulsively, ‘I’d be living in the Brahma Kumaris ashram in Mount Abu, doing seva (service to humanity).’ I don’t know why I said this. I am not a member devotee.)
And then the next half of the question arose: Am I doing it now? Of course I am. Of course I have been doing it for years… ever since my firstborn set foot in the world 16 years ago when I was 22. Together, my kids have ensured I have had something to get up for all these years, and now that they are grown up and don’t need me, the man and dogs have taken that space. (In the distant future, it may just well be seva in an ashram.)
You could say, oh this is terrible, this is such an “Indian woman syndrome”, where is my personal goal-fulfilment in this, what is my personal passion, what about life outside family, ambition? But in response to yet another question in the post, “What are the top five things you cherish in your life?”, my answer was “My kids, partner and parents.” That’s it. I couldn’t come up with even one more thing (well, maybe now the dogs clubbed together as one) no matter how hard I tried. Home? Wealth? Job? Financial assets? Looks? Health? Blog? God? I grilled myself but the answer was the same: Without those five top things, all others are pheeka (tasteless). Yes, I even taste God only through them.
If that’s the case, if my family is what I most cherish, then getting out of bed for them every morning is not a chore; it’s a gift and a privilege. How many people can say that they are already doing what is most important to them every day of their lives? How blessed am I? How complete is this life? Ya Khuda, you spoil me with the width of your benevolence. I light up in gratitude to think of it.
And then to read such a post, and look within and see the treasures of the heart (this phrase was used by Nichiren Daishonin to mean something greater, but I love it and am using it here in a more emotional sense) that lie in abundance within me, within all of us… what better way to start a new year? Thank you, Universe, my Sensei, Tiny Buddha, Blake Alexander Hammerton, my family, my dogs, my people, my planet. This has been the greatest New Year’s gift ever.