Seeking God

Lessons in domesticity 2

Continued from the previous post… Here’s more of what I’ve learnt in the past few months.

4. Your circumstances reflect your thoughts.

My fears, which as mentioned earlier revolve around domestic drudgery, manifested in my environment. So the more I worried, the more acute crises I had to face. My dream help, who lived with us 24/7, went on holiday and never came back, so I got my mother’s help to work half-a-day while I did the rest. My mother’s help left too once my parents got back from the US, so I got the dog-walker to come in and do the dishes and cleaning, while I did even more of the rest. And now, he’s leaving too for a holiday! So not only will the sky pour housework down on me just when I’m stepping into a new work life, but there’s going to be no support all day for the kids and dogs, a thought that leaves me with panic attacks. To top it, we have some kind of water shortage so housework has to be coordinated around the time the water comes in. It would all be very comic if it weren’t so devastating for me.

Yesterday morning, though, I was hanging the clothes out to dry (yes my laundry area seems like a great place for epiphanies, maybe the east-facing direction has something to do with it), watching a new building being constructed behind our house, and it struck me: The universe is only reflecting my own fears. If I don’t want any more domestic issues, I’ve got to stop obsessing about them. “Whatever you fight, you strengthen, and what you resist, persists,” says Eckhart Tolle. If I want a stress-free home environment, I’ve got to be stress-free first. I’ve got to learn to chill.

I may think I’m indispensable around here but no one is, really. If I don’t do the dishes, or cook, or put away the clothes, or feed the dogs, someone else will… eventually. They’re all grown up and it’s alright. I’ve just been holding on to what I assume is my sense of value in this house. But I am valued and valuable even beyond my domestic abilities (or lack thereof). I’m allowed to let go.

5. Tears are treasures.

One of my aunts passed away a couple of weeks ago, someone I cherished greatly and wrote about, even on this blog. Around the time of her death, I was embroiled deeply in my home saga and work commitments, and though I was there in the night for my bereaved cousin and in the day for the funeral, a part of me was distracted, elsewhere. I was not in the moment.

Two days later, my cousin called me and ordered me to deliver my aunt’s eulogy at the prayer meeting the same afternoon. I flipped out. How would I manage to write and learn all that, while also struggling to cook lunch and send my magazine to press… And one of the kids missed her bus back from school and said she’d come in an auto… She didn’t have the key so I’d have to stay till she got home… I’d be late for the prayer meeting…

But I gritted my teeth and sat down to write the eulogy anyway. And before I knew it, the tears began to flow; the grief that I’d bottled up for two days unleashed itself and I was overwhelmed with sobs and sighs. I cried all through the writing of the piece, and later, through several parts of delivering it to hundreds of people too. But at the end, I felt released; I felt like I had paid my final respect to a beloved aunt with complete sincerity and attention. I had grieved myself out.

When I was younger (and even now), my family teased me for being too ‘sentimental’; I cry at the slightest thing. I even cry just seeing other people cry, or while reading a sad story, or watching a sad movie scene. They called me ‘weak’, and told me to ‘toughen up’. But if anything, I’ve learnt that tears are our strengths. They cleanse us, connect us to others and to God, and make us truly human. I would be only half the person I am if I didn’t have this God-given gift – to be able to cry in sorrow and cry in joy, to be able to cry at a niece’s wedding or at an aunt’s death. My soft sentimental heart is Krishna’s presence in me. I am whole because of it.

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Some may call the recent events of my life ‘negative’ or ‘bad luck’. But I’ve also learnt that in every sadness lies the seed of joy and in every challenge lies the seed of a new opportunity. We cannot enjoy Delhi’s sunny cool winter if we haven’t lived through Delhi’s sweltering summer heat. If things were hunky-dory all the time, we’d just take them for granted and cook up new issues to worry about.

Tough patches are just that — patches in the rich tapestry of life, which also has great swathes of beauty, colour and magnificence. Let me cherish the grandeur of the big picture instead of cribbing about the little things. They’re just details.

And, ah, God lies right there in them.

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Seeking God

Decisions, decisions

Some decisions suck the blood sugar out of you (this is research by the way) and some come so easily that you suspect something’s wrong.

I’ve mostly always taken emotion-based decisions, which isn’t really a good idea, I know. I often regret it later, I often cry, I often go through difficult moments of doubt and self-blame — mostly because all the big decisions of my life have affected everyone around me as much as me.

But the decision I took three days ago — to choose between a full-time job in the same industry I was coming from, or a work-from-home position with lesser pay but greater flexibility to try out new things in my life — has been both crystal-clear and difficult. I’ve been vacillating between “It was the right decision” and “Was it?” for the past 72 hours.

I chose to stay home. I chose to spend time on my kids and my dashing new husband and our lovely new home and my own spiritual growth. I chose to take a risk with my life, knowing full well that my income will go down but my happiness quotient will go up. I chose freedom over security, God over people.

It sounds like an obvious choice for someone like me, but it’s been hard too. Hard not because of my own thoughts but because I had moments of worry about what others would think of me. Hard because I haven’t sat at home for years, there’s always been an agenda even on holidays. Hard because I am not yet the superwoman like all those work-from-home moms who juggle housework, kids’ work and office work efficiently, day after day. I’m still learning how to draw my boundaries at home.

I tend to drift. I tend to get involved in chats with the neighbours, buying vegetables from the roadside vendors, doing the laundry, fixing the cupboards. Then I remind myself of my dear friend R’s advice (she was one of my most efficient freelancers): “Housework will in itself not give you any lasting value; your work will. So be disciplined.” And I get back to my computer.

The past few days have shown me strange new sides of myself. I saw myself being crabby at the end of the day when the husband came home. I saw myself hesitating to leave the house at all, it was too much of an effort. I saw myself compulsively reading blogs and watching videos online. I saw myself struggle with writing a new story. In short, I saw in myself remnants of a younger me. The fearful, insecure being I used to be. When, after 11 years of working, I found myself a homemaker again, the old psychological habits popped back up too.

Luckily, though, this time I’m different. I can sense God in all that I am going through; it is as if Life is testing me: Have those lessons been learnt? I can see myself from the outside, and check my behaviour before it leads me to trouble. I can reverse my self-conversations, and choose positive over negative self-speak. I can apologise to my loved ones, and request their patience while I go through all this re-adaptation of identity.

It was yet another big decision that I took with a bit of an emotional quotient, but I am able to control the damage this time around. And every day, as I get better and better at managing this, I am more and more excited about the possibilities. I can’t wait to see what I am going to do next.