Finding God

Gate to heaven

The gate to the driveway of my home is designed to slide open on metal channels. For the past many months, however, the ball bearings that support its weight have broken off and fallen away, and to add insult to injury, rain has rusted the metal channels on the floor. And so one has to defy all laws of physics to get it to open—a heavy object being pushed over ungreased, rusted tracks; human might against metallic friction. All pleas to my landlord to have it fixed have gone by in vain.

Now, most of the time, the burden of the onerous duty of opening and shutting the gate falls on the frail shoulders of our slender little guard. He’s devised a way of leaning his body weight on the gate, and pushing forward with a foot strategically placed on the wall behind him (yes, plenty of shoeprints now line the wall to our home). Sometimes he needs help, but mostly, he gives me a brave look and says, “Shall I do it?” and then, when I confirm, he takes a deep breath, leans, pushes, and rolls forward like a man on a sacred mission. I can hear him roar “TARRRRZANNNNN!” in my head.

There are times, however, when I have to open this gate myself, such as when I reach home late from work and he’s already left for the day. I’ve noticed a strange thing about my capacity for shifting this abominable contraption. On days when I’m in a rush (such as to pee) or am simply very pepped up, or am angry about someone having cut me off on the road, I storm out of my car, go up to the gate, wedge myself in the open end and push it open in one huge heave all the way to the end. Aaarghh she goes.

But on many other days, the mind is willing but the flesh is weak. The same gate that I can push open effortlessly becomes an unflinching wall of concrete, and I look about helplessly. The neighbour’s guard sometimes comes to help. But sometimes, there’s no one around.

Yesterday was one of those days when my arms hung by my side like jelly. The gate wouldn’t budge. I thought of calling my daughter down to shove with me. Then I reminded myself of the days I’d managed to get the gate open single-handedly, driven by nothing but high spirits or driving passion, using the very same hands and back muscles. “Strength lies in the mind, not in the body,” I told myself sternly, and heaved. The gate moved an inch. “YOU CAN DO IT!” I screamed at myself in my mind, and with a mighty wave of fresh energy, I pushed and pushed till the gate opened all the way. Satisfied, I got back into my car.

It is an interesting lesson, girl, I told myself as I reversed into the driveway. We are all capable of superhuman strength in both physical and psychic dimensions. Never underestimate your capabilities. Have a mission, have a purpose, follow your calling. The strength will come. You’re stronger than you think you are.

Smiling like a cat that got the cream, I turned off the engine, gathered my handbag and clicked on the door look. Then I turned and saw the gate standing wide open, exposed to passers-by and stray dogs, beckoning me with a sly grin: “Come, close me.”

I turned on my heel and ran up the stairs. Superwoman was off duty.

Finding God

Drive-through motivation

Our challenges, in retrospect—even a day later—turn out to be interesting opportunities, don’t they?

My new job requires me to drive approximately 30 km every day, but I’ve made the most of it by listening to motivational talks on the USB drive on my journeys. Yesterday, the speaker asked us to press ‘pause’ and list down our top five strengths, such as courage or determination, and so on.

I listed a few for myself: (1) Hope and optimism (2) Resilience (3) Kindness and compassion (4) Spirituality… and then I got stuck for a fifth one. I thought about it for a long time and then had the realization that made me heave a huge sigh of release: it’s (5) Motherliness.

It’s odd to think of something like motherliness as a strength. I have, in fact, suppressed my innate maternal instinct only too often in the past two decades of my life because it makes me appear silly and sentimental. But there is a reason for my mutual attraction with babies and dogs—they see through my cool façade and know there’s a coochie coo and a tight hug just dying to burst out of me when I look at them.

I can coochie coo just about any being on earth. Dogs, babies, adults, teens. There is a reservoir of affection right here that I have to share. It’s just that I don’t do it too often. Because it’s silly.

But when I acknowledged it out loud to myself as a strength (not a weakness), it just opened me up and made a huge space in my heart. I could finally exhale after holding this knowledge deep inside all these years. Alright, so I’m motherly. God made me that way. If you have a problem with it, sue me. Coochie coo.

So anyway, the motivational talk was all about using our top five innate strengths every day in a way that would not only enrich our own lives but also add meaning to others’. Are you using yours? How much time do you invest on your strengths every day? How many lives do you touch with them every day? It’s time to do it!

The new job also requires me to work pretty late, pretty often. After working late nights for almost 10 days at a stretch, my back was sore and my mind numbed. Then, heaven sent me a break and we could go home on time. And that one evening proved to me how precious my family was. Coming home to them, buying vegetables for salad, making soup, giving pep talks to the kids, cuddling the dogs, sharing my day with hubby over a late-night walk… this is real life, this my source of strength, this is my battery recharge. As a work-from-home mother for five months, I had probably begun to take it all for granted. I hadn’t realized its value until I was starved of it. And now I shall never underestimate it again.

It takes a challenge to teach us valuable lessons. It takes a bout of darkness to appreciate the light.