Friday, June 17, 2016

Vulnerability and Authenticity...

I have a badge on my blog sidebar that proclaims that I choose 'Authenticity'…
Before I carry on, this post has been in the making for quite sometime and may turn into ramblings although I'll try my best to keep it to the point.

Ever since I discovered the work of Brene Brown, I have constantly strived to be authentic in all my interactions, including those with my little kids and my life partner and even at work. And to say that it was a constant struggle to stay vulnerable and honest, is to put it mildly.
But this last year has been the epicenter of it all, and I struggled to stay honest even to myself and I denied myself the compassion that I so badly needed.

I have mentioned in the previous posts about my struggle to find my identity after I took a one year sabbatical from my job as a Bridge Design Engineer and relocated to California for my husbands long term project and became a stay at home mom for the time being… I am 9 months into the process and finally at a point where I can see a tiny light at the end of the tunnel ahead of me and can look back at the courage it took to get here.
I think I can share my story so anyone else who might find themselves in a similar situation know that the journey is worth it even if you see no direct path ahead of you.

The Worst:
The constant looking back and pitying myself for where I landed was the worst behavior. No gratitude or contentment or happiness can arrive for a victim… If you feel like a victim of your circumstances then you give up the power to create happiness, for yourself or for anyone else around you. No matter how much you slog, you'll sacrifice yourself and remain a victim; and you expect someone else to come and rescue you.
Take charge, consciously decide and give up the victim mentality.

Making Progress:
Finding Gratitude… no matter the circumstance you can always find something to be grateful for. Look up and thank heavens for all that that could have happened but didn't. Human brain is good a laying worst case scenarios and so don't shut those bad thoughts but find Gratitude in them…

The first step I took for taking charge of my situation was to pick up a book, 'The Happiness Project' by Gretchen Rubin. Even though it was a step in the right direction, its impossible to find 'happiness' by reading about someone else's project report. You need to take your own actions, make your own plans… The Mantra that worked for me was:  Progress+Growth= happiness

1.  I started by writing journal entries and daily to-do lists on little 3"x3" post it notes, even if it lists boring chores like empty the dishwasher or fold the laundry. When I struck those tasks off of the list, it made me feel like I made progress which was important because cyclic chores make you feel like you make no progress no matter how hard you work, its never done. Another thing that works with daily tasks is Elise's goal tracker, each colored circle meant progress.

2.  Taking action is really the key but at the same time you need to acknowledge that you have had a long struggle, you are exhausted and you're down and you don't feel like getting back into the fight right away. Take the time to pamper yourself; read, listen to music, light a candle… what worked for me was body massages, just rubbing my limbs with coconut oil or olive oil improved blood circulation and my mood. My word of the year 2016 is 'surrender' and it came to me once I acknowledged to myself that its okay to stop fighting the currents and lay low not necessarily give up the fight but flow with it till I re-orient myself.

3.  Long hours of solitude can be depressing and sad but if we are intentional, those moments could be the most enriching journey inwards. Ashthang yoga has eight limbs and two of the most basic ones are 'yam' and 'niyam', 'intention and discipline'. And once you orient your mind right, everything else follows. Yoga practice in a studio or of your own can help you center and balance.

4.  Routine and breaking of routine both can help if you are making that decision consciously. Don't let anybody else choose. When you are depressed, your first duty is towards yourself and then think about accommodating other. Viciously guard your self interest, be adamant, put yourself first. One day, last Fall, I decided that I will walk to the nearby coffee shop for my morning coffee. Someday, I was so down in dumps that I drove that half mile instead of walking and it took sometime but I forgave myself of the indulgence. I didn't succeed all the time but having my morning coffee at coffee shop three days a week was success. It was so worth it when within a couple of days the Barista knew my name and that I'll be ordering a medium latte. She definitely earned a big tip but I couldn't have bought that feeling of belonging and joy with ten times the money, had I not stepped out of my home.
some produce from my winter garden...
5. Sometimes, even when you have all the right thoughts it your mind, a certain part of brain starts counter arguing and bring you into a state of inaction. Please acknowledge it and don't beat yourself over it. Its okay! I watched 7 hours of Friends re-runs with 6 cups of coffee and felt absolutely miserable. Sometimes I would have bloody Mary for lunch just because I could and then by evening I'll turn into a ball of tears… don't be hard on yourself… 'This too shall pass'. Be gentle with yourself like you would be towards a loved one. A few things to note, TV doesn't help but being outdoor in the sun, in fresh air helps. Digging in dirt, planting/replanting pots, pulling weeds, collecting wild flowers, observing clouds, watching sunset/sunrise helps.

5. When you want to run away from problems, don't run in your mind, run physically. I read somewhere, its very hard to feel bad about yourself and be running at the same time. Your pace, distance, shoes, destination… nothing matters but the act of running, blood pumping in your veins, wind in your hair, thoughts rattling in your brain…  
Vine loving the window with all its might: On my walk
6.  I reached out to others and that I think was the bravest thing to do because the fear of rejection, of not being accepted can be daunting. I was surprised that even if people can't help you, they are generally nice. At times I felt rejected, I cried and blamed myself for opening up to others and taking that chance; but during that process I realized that even if I can't find the friend that I am looking for, I can be the person that someone else is looking for. I can provide that listening ear, or pull people out of their shells, invite them for coffee/conversations and importantly, be honest…
Some of the places to look would be volunteer work at school or community center, helping in local library, joining book clubs, online neighborhood groups like nextdoor and social groups like newcomers group.

Final words:
You will never arrive… at every juncture of life and at the end of each battle, a new one will start. Accept it! That's life… you have to keep moving, that's how life keeps itself in balance. Sometimes, you'll fall off balance, be patient with yourself… may be you'll run into someone that you can lend a helping hand, do it. Be ready to take that helping hand when its being offered to you.

Whether you believe in a higher self or not, just know that you have all the answers within you, slow down and listen to yourself, do what makes you happy. Soul may be eternal but it experiences joy through the senses of the mortal body, let it guide you on your path to discovering your calling….


  1. Soo authentically written!! Reading it seemed almost coincidental, you brought up Brene brown and Gretchen, both of them i started following closely last few months via books and talks. I am in the path of finding that balance, happiness and could relate to every word you said.
    I thought i found that balance for few months but as you rightly put, you never arrive. Last few weeks, i am slowly back in the state where i have remind myself to be mindful again. My hope now though is that this time, i think i know how to get back to track. Being Mindful is my word for 2016.

    Thank u for sharing.:)