Running Toward What ?

Growing up, I was the girl who wanted to achieve. That meant several things. In high school, for instance, I wanted to learn French, but I decided to take Latin. Why? Because Latin would help me excel at the Sat’s. I remember the end of my freshman year of high school, a friend of mine, told me to  “find out my rank.” Without hesitation, I marched into the library and asked the woman with the computer printouts, where I ranked in my class after one year of high school. I had gotten good grades but was a little surprised to hear that I ranked high in my class.

I believe that single incident is when the word achievement really took shape for me.

That moment in the library in the summer of 1987 provided me with the feeling of performing on Broadway.   I really envisioned lights around my name. In my tiny world, achievement was most clearly defined by a number, a rank, a grade point average, a SAT score, and so on. And I lived true to that world I created. I graduated at the top of my class with honors in high school.  For the next ten years after high school, I spent it educating myself and running toward what I thought was achievement. I obtained three degrees, a political science degree, a master’s degree, and a law degree all in the name of success.

I sacrified so much of my self during those ten years. Any deviation from a stellar grade point average, I would cry and deem myself failure. It was the number that motivated me, the  success seemed  so real when I got the good grade. Anything less, well, that wasn’t achievement. There were voices that whispered along the way that tempted me to try something different, something less “achievement” oriented like, a stint in the Peace Corps or a summer abroad or a class in musical theory. But I ignored those voices, because I was building a resume.

During much of those ten years, I never took a break. I never reflected. I remember my now husband telling me, after I graduated with my undergraduate degree, to take a year off to really decide how I wanted shape the rest of my life. I didn’t listen. I told him that it was a waste of time to take a year off and that I was on track to graduate from law school and become a lawyer by a certain time frame. All in the name of running toward achievement.

It’s been almost four years since I’ve actively practiced law, the remnants of that life seem like a skeleton of my previous self. All those years of running and I am not even practicing in the career that I deemed an achievement.

I spent more time running, rather than listening.

Now I look back at those times and I ponder, what was I running toward ?

I’m not completely certain. But what I do know is that I have the tools to teach my daughter that she can run, but she needs to listen to her own internal whispers, the ones that may tell her to deviate or explore.

That’s the definition of true achievement.

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How do you define achievement? Do you agree that society pressures us to think of achievement in one particular way? 

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Cherish The Mundane

The last two days the mundane seemed quite illusive. I didn’t go for my morning run, didn’t drive my daughter to school, and did very little writing. The routine was completely interrupted by colds. My daughter laid on the couch, with a high fever, headache, and sniffles. The usual conversation, running around, were brought to a abrupt stop. While she laid down, I did too. I was overcome by congestion, cough and a fever too. We both slept most of the day Monday, only taking breaks to eat some soup, go to the restroom, and take some medicine. There was an exhaustion that I couldn’t seem to shake and it made me sad that my daughter felt the same way.

Just twelve hours ago, we were both engaged in our normal day to day activties. Activities that, at least, I take for granted. Without thinking about it, I brushed my teeth, went on my morning run and chaperoned my daughter to a community Easter Egg hunt. Everything was so easy. I also recall vacuuming our living room, making my daughter’s lunch for school the next day, and writing out my to-do list for the week. It was all done without effort, and without much thinking. I remember my daughter asking me a million questions, humming around the room. The idea of sitting down and being quiet is something that is too troubling for her. She always moves, with an energy and a sense of vibrancy. I don’t always understand it, but admire this part of her personality because it is so raw and genuine.

I looked over at her on Monday afternoon. We were both running fevers and she whispered to me, “I feel sick Momma.” The only thing I could repeat back was, “I know. I feel the same way.” I wasn’t in any capacity to try and comfort her, except for patting her on her legs and making certain she drank fluids every few hours. I wished that she wasn’t laying on the couch, spiritless, without any color to her face. I wished we were both engaging in our normal activities, eating breakfast, driving to school, just walking around immersing ourselves in and around the mundane.

As a society, we place to much emphasis on escpaping the boredom of everyday life. After these last few days, the boredom seems so attractive to me. Waiting in the car pool lane at my daughter’s school, going grocery shopping, and washing dishes interests me in a way I can’t explain. It’s here, I believe, that beauty lives, the ability to participate in life, despite how pedantic the task may appear. Because cherishing the mundane is certainly a privilege. But we miss the beauty of the everyday, unless involuntarily, we are reminded again.

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Do you cherish the mundane? How so? Is there extra emphasis on the word excitement in your household? Do you take the mundane for granted? 

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Do You Live Without Regrets?

“The saddest summary of life contains three descriptions: could have, might have, and should have.” ~ Unknown

My first meeting with “Carpe Diem” was when I was a sophmore in English class. It was a novel phrase when I was introduced to it,  almost twenty years ago, the idea that we should all live our life by “seizing the day.”  The popular aphorism, at least for me, gained momentum  when I watched  Robert William’s’ character in Dead Poet’s Society and remember the speech where he says “Carpe Diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary.”

What does seizing the day exactly mean?  And how do you build the everyday into a lifetime of having no regrets? Is it even possible to live a life without no regrets? I am not really certain I have an exact answer to this question. In writing this post, I decided to list out my regrets. Although the list wasn’t acres long, it wasn’t short either. The regrets moved from the general to the specific to the microscopic. But they were there, staring, making eyes at me.

I think we’ve all had moments of words we want to take back or pathways we wished we had taken or not taken or advocated for different actions in our personal or professional relationships. These “regrets” are what shape us and in a larger sense are a part of how we progress as individuals. Implicit in having no regrets is the idea that every word, every action, every step you took was perfect. And I think that is an idealistic and unrealistic viewpoint.

I’ve been struggling with this notion that the present is where existence lives, chanting to myself, now, not the past, but now. Part of me is mad at myself for not really adopting this philosophy to the fullest, because it is the one that would allow me to at least have a shot at living a life without no regrets. But I’ve realized, by looking at my list, that I’ve come to terms with some of those regrets. I’m not someone who can casually utter the phrase, “No regrets.” To be frank, I’m not quite sure what people mean when they say it. I’ve concluded their definition of regrets and mine might differ.

The regrets I can live with. You know why? For me, it means examining my life, my choices, and my relationships. It’s more important to me to have examined life, than the life without no regrets.

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What do you think of the phrase “No regrets”? Do you think it is possible to live a regret free life? Do you seize the day? What does that mean to you? 

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Waiting

           “Waiting for the fish to bite or waiting for wind to fly a kite.  Or waiting around for Friday night or waiting perhaps for their Uncle Jake or a pot to boil or a better break or a string of pearls or a pair of pants or a wig with curls or another chance.  Everyone is just waiting. ” —- Dr. Seuss


I know I’ve spent most of my life waiting for something. As a teenager, in May, I spent most of the day waiting for my report card to come in the mail. My fingers would separate the blinds and peek out to see if I could see the mailman down the street.

Waiting took other forms when I got older.

When I applied for law school, I remember asking my mom, “Has it come yet? Have you checked the mail?”  Her response determined if I needed to wait longer. I was waiting for the acceptance or rejection letter from the school of my choice. That time was built in and around anxiety, stress and lots of nervous energy. It’s almost been 11 years since that day, but I remember my sweaty palms, the fidgeting of my fingers and my constant need to make the phone my companion. This type of “waiting” continued for at least three months until I finally received that minted acceptance letter.

I reflect on that experience now and realize I’ve engaged in this type of waiting all of my life. Waiting to get into college, waiting to get into law school, waiting to graduate, waiting to take the bar exam, waiting to get that first job out of law school. Waiting to get engaged, waiting to get married, waiting to get my first house, and waiting to have a baby.  What I’ve realized now is that my life is probably a string of consistent series of waiting for something to happened. And what I’ve learned is that the waiting is what steals the breath out of the present. The whole purpose is to embrace what isn’t waiting. It’s in the now, the non-waiting that you derive the most joy.

In the past, I’ve never been fully immersed in the experience. The waiting is what sat on my shoulder convincing me to anticipate what’s next. It’s not the greatest way to live is what I’ve learned. You’re constantly anticipating what may come, instead of what is. For the first time in my life, I am deciding how to wait. It scares me, but my appreciation of what is happening, the experience of living in the now, pushes waiting out of my shadow.

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Do you feel like you are constantly waiting for something? Does the waiting perpetuate anxiety? How do you control your emotions while waiting? 

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These Are The Days I Will Miss

My daughter turned five in January. I think I have to say it again. My daughter turned five in January.

The tick-tock of the clock appear in her face, in her eyes and in her smile. I look at this particular picture again and again, and I am having trouble keeping my composure. There is a genuine quality to this happiness, the particular sparkle that radiates from her eyes. Until I met her, I never knew this kind of happiness. When I am around her, I feel it.  She doesn’t do in-between. She really feels. She laughs with such deep conviction, it sometimes, if I think about it for even a second, moves me to tears. It happens when I say funny things to her, like de-da-do-da and she collapses onto a heap on the floor, the laughter cushions her fall on the carpet. Sometimes we lay together and she asks me to cuddle with her and I tickle her in the middle of her belly and there it is again. Her infectious, joyous laughter. It’s unmistakable. And she always wants me to witness it.

I don’t know when this will pass. But I know it will. These days her comfort is and in her mother. When I am in the house and she can’t see me, I hear her loud voice echo through the house, with one word,  “Momma.” I answer back, saying, “Yes.” And then with a deep breath, she says, “I was just checking on you.” You heard it right, she checks on me.

She loves being in my company and just a few seconds of separation causes her unbelievable angst. When I leave for a meeting or an outing, she rushes to the door, gives me a kiss on the cheek, and says these words, “I love you and I will miss you so much Momma.” I always tell her I will be back soon. Her eyes brew tears even before my car has pulled out of the garage. When she comes home from school, one of the first questions she asks, is “Are you going to a meeting today Momma?” When I say no, the laughter spills out of her body that I can’t help but laugh too.

Some days her attachment is confining because I don’t always understand it. Her angst over me not being there with her all of the time can be irritating, but it is part of her. There is a rawness, both in her laughter and her tears.

I know these are the days I will miss. When I will wish that she was just checking on me.

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Are there moments that you witness that you know you will miss? Does the rawness of your children’s emotions surprise you?

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Redefining Home Again

Two years ago, I stood in our Houston apartment, wondering how I would be able to sense home again. I occupied the space of uncertainty, not knowing, how to take a step forward into our move to Arizona. I’d never moved outside of Texas and the thought of starting over in my mid-thirties seemed so unreachable, the swirl of anxiety and expectation gnawed at me.

I am notorious for asking my husband these six words, “How is this going to work?” He’s always embraced change, not anticipating it with angst, but welcoming it with ease, almost like changing channels on the television set. The possibilities of the unknown simmer in my mind. I want a guaranteed outcome before I make a decision. There is an obvious flaw in that statement, but the knowledge of this doesn’t alter my pedantic thinking.

Through the course of the last two years, I’ve considered the complicated relationship between home and self. It’s a multi-layered approach for me and one that is in flux. Home for most of my life lingered on Bosque Street where I grew up with my parents. Home was walks down our street, ice cream runs at Braums, and eating veggie whoppers (yes, there is such a thing) at Burger King.  During my summer vacations to India, I felt a sense of home, eating kulfis (Indian ice cream), walking to the street market with my aunt, and drawing mendhi designs with my with my cousin. When I married, home was the connection I felt with my husband. It was saying “his wife” when we were newly married, lunch at Tia’s (our favorite Mexican place), and walking through bookstores after dinner.

And now, home is Arizona. And I am so surprised that I am saying it out loud.

I love the smell of the desert, especially after the rain. I like how the cactus’s bloom pink flowers in the spring. The run through the neighborhood is comforting, especially because I share it with someone who inspires me to act with grace, my friend K. I like waving to my neighbors as we cross paths and our evening impromptu chats. My daughter loves her school and we’ve both formed relationships with the moms and children. She’s acclimated well to the change, almost like she’s lived in Arizona her whole life.

Sometimes I think it is because she is a child, she doesn’t know the anxiety of change, but I’m breathing that same air too. Perhaps it is because I’ve found a home in my writing. Although I’ve written on and off most of my life, I’ve committed to it here, more than any other place. My writing groups are a place where I feel most at home, exchanging ideas and learning about the craft. I’ve made so many connections in this place that I believe will continue for a lifetime.

And the surprising part of it is?  Change was such a curse word in my purview. It’s a word I’ve been scared of for a long time.  But I’ve realized that home can be in change too.

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Has your sense of home changed? Does it surprise you? Do you relish change or curse it?

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Do You Care What People Think?

Don’t let what other people think decide who you are. — Dennis Rodman

At parties, when meeting people for the first time, like most, I’m often asked, “What do you do?” It is an interesting exercise to observe people’s reaction to this question, the sense of how they feel about your answer registers immediately on their face. In my experience, I’ve received three different reactions depending on how I choose to introduce myself, whether it is mother, writer, or lawyer.

This conversation played itself out two weeks ago, when I attended a pool party with several people I didn’t know. When it came time for that popular question, I chose to introduce myself as a writer. The mutual friend that hosted the party interjected and said, “No, no. Don’t listen to her. She is a lawyer.” I was a little surprised that she would, one, speak for me, and two, felt that it was important that her friends knew that I was a lawyer. Did the label of lawyer make me a more legitimate person than a writer? I corrected her and said, “No, I am a writer. I haven’t practiced law for a number of years.”  This conversation lingered in my mind for a few days. What if I didn’t write? What if my occupation was mom? Would that make me less of a person in her eyes or in their eyes? And do I care? And should I care?

The obvious answer is, no, I shouldn’t care. But it isn’t always that easy. Right or wrong, most people base their perception of people on what they do. Here’s the truth. Although I am working on my writing, I may never publish. Does that make me a failure in people’s eyes? I don’t know.

What do I do? Do I return to law because I generate outcomes and revenue? So that I can say, yes, I practice law and win or lose cases. It’s the answer people can wrap their ego around. It’s a tangible response and something that people can understand. And because it generates revenue, it seems more valid, than something that doesn’t.  I am writing, but I’m not generating revenue. I don’t have a series of books lining the shelves of the local bookstore.

For a moment I thought about what others may think and I’ve come to the conclusion, that on a very superficial level I might for a mere second worry some about what people think. But then that thought leaves me. Because ultimately, you can’t let what others think decide the life you want to lead. It’s futile because you won’t achieve happiness by fulfilling someone elses expectations of who you want to be. The people I really care about, my husband,mom,sister and daughter are my personal cheerleaders in my career change. My mom, every few days will read a post and comment that she really loved a line or sentence. My sister will text me about post that really touched her. My daughter, these days, tells my husband that she is going to be a writer when she grows up. I smile every time I hear her as I’m working on my memoir.

The people that I care about the most value my decision, revenue or not. And I think that is the important lesson. You can live your life for yourself and the people that care about you. Or you can live it for the masses. And really, ultimately, does it truly matter what they think? I think Dennis Rodman says it best and it is worth repeating, “Don’t let what other people think decide who you are.”

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Do you care what others think? Why or why not? Have you made an important decision based on what other people think?

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