1 Feb 2010
Out of the blue, the old Shaker song Chula and Mieja sing in the school during circle time comes in to my head.
‘Tis the gift to be simple,
’tis the gift to be free,
’tis the gift to come down to
where we ought to be,
and when we find ourselves in the place just right,
’twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gained
to bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed,
to turn, turn, will be our delight
till by turning, turning we come round right.
It IS a gift to be simple huh?! So coming down to where we are meant to be is a gift too? How absolutely right that it has to happen at the right time!?! Otherwise we wouldn’t have the capacity to recognize this gift. But how do we differentiate between coming down to a simpler level and lowering our aspirations and generally aiming for much lower than our capacity? In terms of life style, I understand the simpler we get, the harder it is at first. In today’s world simple is complicated. But in terms of aspirations, can doing our best and living a simple life co-exist? Are they mutually exclusive? At times is ‘simple’ an euphemism for ‘lazy’? By asking for both am I asking for too much? Or, just like lifestyle choices, simple aspirations are the most complicated? Are opposites the same?
In Eat, Pray, Love Elizabeth Gilbert talks about this balance. Wait a minute, I have read about something along these lines in the Swami Nithyananda newsletter. I have to put these down some where, but I realize that I am in the shower. So I quickly jot down hurried notes in the glass shower door that is misted with the vapor. Now the challenge is to get out and record the thought in something more definitive like a paper/voice memo in my phone or even better on the computer. The vapor notes are already beginning to streak with water.
But even before I open the bathroom door, Chula and Mieja come rolling in to the bathroom. Yes, they are rolling, fighting about something. Everything in my mind goes blank, there is a shift of priorities, I disentangle the children, help them resolve the conflict, realize that I have ten more minutes to get ready and leave home for work. Then it is run, run, run all day long and by 2.00PM there is some down time and I realize that the idea on the shower door has long vaporized.
It is not just one instance. For the past six years, everything, I realize, is a series of broken thoughts, interrupted processes. I have been on my feet constantly, improvising, abandoning one thing to pick up something that escalates, compromising, and postponing.
I am a visual person. The one thing that helps me is to see or to visualize with elaborate mental images. To remember numbers, I used to close my eyes and visualize myself writing the number on a paper and in the process come up with a code or a clue that will etch the number in my memory for E.V.E.R. Now I hear things and even before it reaches the brain I turn to catch the next thing and it is gone. My brain is like a sieve. I have become absolutely incapable of holding numbers.
When the uplink is happening, when the connection between the synapses is in process, to be jerked away from it and to be posed with something absolutely new that has to be dealt with….. Sometimes I can almost feel the pain from the synaptic connection that is ripped.
I badly needed time for myself and hence came up with the whole 4.00AM getting up thingy. For a while it was peaceful. At times, I would have nothing to do. I would sit with my steaming cup of ginger chai, with my devotional songs mp3 in the background and stare out through the dark window. There is nothing like hearing MS’s voice at 4.00AM. There is something deeply spiritual at that time of the day and in that voice. It was absolutely refreshing. Then one kid realized that I get up early and if they get up at more or less the same time, they can get my attention. So one started getting up to cuddle with me. Then slowly both started getting up at 4.00AM. I realize that they grow up and pretty soon they may not need me on this level. But, come on kids, be reasonable.
I truly believe that every object has a place. Even in the house, everything has a place. I wouldn’t say that everything is 100% organized, but for example, washed clothes go on in to the guest bedroom and wait to be folded. Even if it takes a while to be folded, even if it is in a pile for a week, that pile has to stay in a certain place. There is a place for newspaper. There is a place for mail. The mail mixes with the newspaper or if it is lying in the middle of the house, I just cannot think. I cannot take misplaced clutter. Oxymoronic huh? But, hey, that is me. Now, I have clutter in my brain and I don’t have time to organize the clutter. I can almost feel the corrosive clutter sitting in my head ever so slowly eroding my brain.
So with this in mind, I am trying to do some changes at home.
When kid 1 or kid 2 comes to me with another end of the world problem, I ask them if it is something they can solve by themselves. And the answer I get is always NO, no exceptions So, unless there is physical pain, I give them a choice, ‘You can either think and try solving it or wait till I am done with whatever I am doing.’ Works sometimes.
I also ask them, considering that it is going to take me a while to get to them, if they can think of another adult who can help them. I have stopped the blunt, ‘Go ask appa’ kind of blunt redirection. Because the kid1/kid2 when she approaches me, has already made a visual image of me helping her. (Apple does not fall far from the tree. Arrrrh.) So if I abruptly rewrite it, it leads to more drama. So I have to let her think and let her rewrite her own visual.
If I am starting something that needs to be done in one shot, no matter how trivial it is like transferring idli batter from grinder to vessel (The husband begs to differ. Under no circumstances he refuses to think of idli batter as trivial), I give them advance warning. I tell the kids that I am doing something and that I do not want to be pulled away from it till I am done. So they better behave themselves and not kill each other in that five minutes I am occupied.
Blackmail works wonders. I tell them, if there is a problem/conflict, then it means that they need to think about ways to solve/resolve it. Then I look straight at them and say, “This is what your teachers tell you in the peace lessons right? Can I call R/J and ask her how she feels about it?” They just scram when I mention teachers.
Thanks to a friend, I tried some empathy lessons last weekend. It was hilarious and I enjoyed doing it. Chula was sitting and watching her usual weekend end quota of TV. I sat next to her and pestered her to cuddle with me, get me some water from the kitchen, asked her if she can play with me, fell on her and in the process hiding the TV from the line of sight, every three seconds I whined ‘Are you done?’, when she will be done watching ‘her TV ‘ and if it is time for ‘my TV’ and demanded attention. She was just about to throw up her hands up in the air in frustration and I told her this is E.X.A.C.T.L.Y how I feel. Will work with Chula, but Mieja would probably think that this is how things are done, so I can’t do this with her.
Last but not the least, sharing. I am sick of being passed half eaten fruit, children usurping interesting food from my plate, once tasted and rejected cookies, cold soggy dosas, lukewarm idlis, left over cake with cream licked off, deflated pooris and the likes of it. Last Sun we were eating in a restaurant and I swatted hands away from the appalam that came with my thali lunch. I AM NOT SHARING MY APPALAM ANY MORE. So, deal with it kids.