Two years back, in the last week of 2019, the news of a new contagious, dangerous, life threatening virus that was rearing it’s head in China started doing the rounds. Some were in denial, others bemused, most indifferent. The clairvoyant in me said it in a text on a whatsapp group that I have saved till date – “I have a nasty feeling, this will turn into a pandemic.” And so it did. Took away so many golden days of our limited lives and also swept away loved ones from everyone’s lives around the world.
This one is not going to be a particularly long post. My point is very simple. If this pandemic hasnt been able to teach humans the very basic life lesson that we are more similar than different, then there is no hope for us. In 2019 the world was as polarised as it could have been. We all know how the assertion of patriotism, faith, culture and other such boundaries is creating more factions than bringing humanity closer as one would have expected. And in such a time the pandemic hit. It was named the “china virus’ to begin with. I am not going to talk about my point of view on China’s active or passive role in bestowing this virus upon the world. The reality is here we are after two full years with all the consequences and the umpteenth wave and new set of restrictions. Globally.
How did this virus treat us differently based on our definitions of superiority in terms of race, belief or location? In India, where I live, people were quite sure that with a supposedly “strong immune system” Indians will not get affected. In cold countries, people thought cold will kill the virus. In hot countries, they thought the heat will. When the pandemic hit, did it matter what country one is in? Or what race are they from? Or their gender or faith mattered? Lives were lost everywhere. There were rows of unattended corposes, put to rest without the dignity they would have received if the situation at hand wasnt there.
Turns out through this dark misery, we around the world in our self created differences are not all that different in the way illness, viruses and death treats us! Our bodies respond similary in fighting, winning and losing. Our hearts cry the same when we lose someone. Our helplessness is the same when we can’t get oxygen or hospital beds or basic amenities.
Is there a point then in drawing these boundaries of race and nations and faiths? Another common factor is how daft humanity is to obvious answers that a tragedy couldnt teach it. What could be a bigger tragedy than this. We still want our wars, our supposed superiority, our sense of competition in a world where we all could co exist better with collaboration.
For those who have chosen to learn through the pandemic that we are not all that different. You and the person next to you. Or the one on the other side of the world. Please chose love, acceptance and tolerance as we move into another year.
Chances are there will be wars. There will be hate. And the crimes. All the millions of lives lost for nothing while the pandemic stll looms large on our heads along with the daftness of hostility that becomes more intense with each passing year and the media propaganda that intensifies it as our necks are bowed down to keep our eyes glued in our mobile phones for longer. In 2120, hundred years from now, if the earth exists by then, there will be another pandemic, going by the pattern of the past. Would humanity have evolved enough by then to learn the lesson that this global tragedy couldnt teach us at large this time around? The one of chosing love over hate? The one of “oneness”?
It’s Saturday night, half past eleven. I am wrapping up the day finally in some moments of solitude as I shut the locks, lights, fill up water, clean the pantry et al. My mind and I are in a subconscious performance discussion. As I scan and clean my son’s room I am thinking of how we haven’t spent quality time whole week, what with long workdays, and even on Saturday I was out completing chores. He deserves more of my time and attention with studies and play than what I have given him this week. Specially, since he is been doing online school for 15 months now.. I shut his room, make a mental note for next week in the parent’s tab of my brain, I reach my office to scan some weekend emails and shut the laptop. I am now thinking about how I said no to a couple of meeting requests from colleagues in UK/US who wanted to speak at 7/9 PM my time during a couple of weekdays as I was in the kitchen and how I could have done more work, paid more attention, finished two more meetings this week. I could have been a more productive employee if I gave more time to work. I listen to my own chastising and slightly irritated now, shut the office and see my husband repairing something in one room and my mom watching her favorite TV show in another. I am filled with guilt thinking I need to do more to help my husband around the house and spent more time with ma – she is lonely away from her town, almost homebound at my house for covid safety reasons. She is getting older and she needs my company to counter loneliness. I also think by the way of two relatives, five friends and few acquaintances who I have been wanting to call for days now but haven’t been able to. The kitchen looks like it needs additional attention, it makes me feel like a lousy woman. Overwhelmed now by my own bashing, anxious and troubled, I rush up to sleep, remove my fitness tracker to put it on charge and chide myself with another glare about the walk and exercise I have missed for three days this week because of how hot it has been and also how my grey hair need a recolour that’s been overdue.
Suddenly an epiphany (sort of) strikes, my mind is numb and I sit down on my bed a little shocked. For the past 30 minutes after a long day of chores, I have given a mental assessment to myself about how I have not done enough as a mom, daughter, wife, employee, homemaker and a person. This is my self talk. Am I telling myself I didn’t do enough because I secretly feel I am not enough? And this is when I have a partner, who never stops gushing about how much I try to do in my life, appreciates me, and encourages me constantly. I have cheerleaders in my life and yet in a vulnerable moment my first instinct is to shoot myself for all that I have not picked up. Suddenly all the women’s magazine articles talking about perfect women, Instagram and Pinterest pages, TV shows all come together and I realise the subconscious utopian standards to be perfect at everything I have built for myself, that I am bashing myself for. Do stakeholders in each of these areas also find me as imperfect or sucky as I am telling myself to be? And even if they do, does it matter at the cost of happiness, health and peace?
Working mothers in a culture like ours are not celebrated enough for the multitasking they need to do. The moment we start talking about it, it needs to be appropriated and balanced with talks about contribution of fathers and grandmothers and homemaker parents for political correctness. But if we just pick up the topic of working mothers at once, as someone has famously said, they are expected to be mothers like they have no job, they are expected to work for office like they haven’t got children. In lockdown, my son’s school has made no mention challenges of working mothers, neither have attempted to shape the curriculum in a way that helps mums who can’t sit with their children while office goes on during school time. And this is an international school. This is a school that assessed whether I am an educated and employed mother while interviewing for admission. By default they do address any communication to mothers because for 100% of my son’s class it is the mothers who are primarily responsible for children’s studies – working at office or home. Despite knowing that children’s education is primarily a mother’s job by default generally, most schools haven’t considered the flexibility or breathing space working mothers need with children’s education during the pandemic.
There are expectations from everywhere and defined standards of perfection. The bar keeps going higher and higher every time. And we don’t make this constant hustling any easier on ourselves. Rewards make us feel guilty, neither do we coach our minds to first pat ourselves on the back for how much we have achieved. Healthy and happy kids at home, safe family, being a friend to our partner, happy team at work – all were achieved this week but all that my mind once let loose, focused on was the have nots. What we women do to ourselves is self criticise, not self forgive. There is a manager and an employee in my head and this self assessment and criticism for not doing enough is a constant battle. There is an immense amount of effort needed to become self forgiving. To become accepting of not being perfect in each area is an art I do believe. As a coach, I am quite sure that some coach somewhere has figured out a mantra to do that and it just needs to be found out.
For now what I am going to do is balance out wanting to make everything perfect and being grateful with also being self loving and appreciating. Every time, I bash myself for what isn’t done, I will consciously thank myself for what IS done. I will thank the woman, mother, wife, daughter, leader, employee, sister, friend et al for remembering to be who they are and putting in all the effort that they could. I will forgive myself for my shortcomings of the week and clink glasses with the mirror for a little TLC. Yes there are people in my life who love and value my contribution, but firstly, I need to do that myself. In thirty years from now, if I am alive, it wouldn’t matter what I did on day to day and what I couldn’t – I need to keep that in mind.
We need to normalise life in all its reality as being what it is. Move away from the Instagram version of reality and aims of perfection and embrace today, warts and all. This perennial guilt that comes as an occupational hazard of the roles multitasking women play, we need to keep it in check and balance it with self appreciation and self acceptance.
I hope when I am repeating this process next weekend, I’ll be kind to myself. And remember that I do enough. I am enough. I cannot control everything because I am not God, but I can fill the spaces left incomplete at home and at work with love, compassion and kindness. Every time I find myself beat down by anyone for not doing enough, I hope to find my cape of achievements lying around the house – my happy and healthy child and partner, my safe and warm home, my mom and rest of family, my work achievements and happy team, my friends, my pet projects, books, music, dreams of travel and fly high to tune out the noise of negativity. Because I am enough and this imperfect world of mine is perfect for me right now and will do just fine. 🙂
India has witnessed deaths of two much loved and eminent celebrities in the last two days – Irrfan Khan, on April 29th, 2020 and Rishi Kapoor on April 30th. And it is affecting people emotionally – normal, celebrities, influencers all alike.
In these days of Covid19, when all are locked down with nowhere to go, nothing to do, no one to meet – screens take precedence – work laptops, mobile, tablets, TVs et al. Even minor news items are hard to ignore and become hot topics for discussion to fulfil our innate need to socialise, express ourselves and converse with other human beings. Our screens are filled with news items as well as personal sentiments about current situations – such shocking deaths are all, one talks about, reads and hears about. So there is no escaping getting affected by these deaths.
There was a very interesting HBR article that I read on anticipated grief recently – you can read it here (https://hbr.org/2020/03/that-discomfort-youre-feeling-is-grief). The storm of emotions inside us all these days, combined with focused news about death and permanent loss of larger than life figures brings about a heightened sense of grief. Simply put, we see the news of them dying, we go to social media to express that sadness or shock on our FB,twitter,insta which is already filled with our people expressing their distress. So there is no escape or outlet in real from the starkness of the reality of these deaths and what it does to our already subconsciously fearful minds. It reminds us of our own impermanence, our own imminent ends and those of our loved ones. 🙂
The biggest mystery, that what happens to us after death, keeps us uncomfortable about facing news and trivia of death all our lives. Death is equal parts mysterious, scary and fascinating. The fear of letting go of all that we have collected, earned, loved all our lives with that one moment taking it all away, keeps us scared. The fear of death and afterlife is what world’s religions and principles of morality are based on. What our belief systems are based on. Our whole life is a series of pre arranged activities meant to survive and avoid death -in humans, these activities have become such refined rituals, that we don’t see their morbidity unabashed on a day to day basis. Death and dying in our carefully constructed society have rituals build around them in a way, that it helps us forget and move on quickly and look forward to next day – get absorbed in the daily. This is done so we remain sane and emotionally healthy – but with that our priorities get diluted as well and we become absorbed in non important things of life.
Now, none of us reading this will escape death. Death is the biggest truth of all our lives- the only one certainly that we were born with – that WE. WILL. DIE. someday..
With this perspective in mind, either we can learn or continue letting ourselves feel unsettled. Keep feeling shocked over why did they both die, die so young – without facing the truth that we will die too and so will those around us – no one knows when, but we all will. So knowing this – what would you do next – grieve, avoid or learn? Here are few questions to you in light of these recent deaths, that I suggest you ask yourselves and literally write the answers somewhere:
Knowing that death is imminent and literally any moment away, how will you prioritise your life in large and small moments, thus?
Will you still want to keep blaming others for your unhappiness, or take the mantle of creating happiness on your own?
What regrets do you not want to die with? What unsaid words do you want to say – apologies, confessions, rants, complaints and get over with them?
Who do you want to forgive, ask forgiveness from, tell them you love them and that they are important to you?
Are you wishing your life away everyday by dragging yourself through work, life and responsibilities – living from weekend to weekend, wasting a huge chunk of your life in weekdays or choosing and accepting what you do and embracing it?
Are you living by others’ rulebook for their validation or approval or making courageous decisions and standing by them?
How would you like to remembered? Are you working towards it?
Are you prioritising a bully boss, a fake friend, a criticising relative, a narcissistic partner or anyone who generally doesnt care whether you live or die so much that you’ve forgotten that it doesnt matter to them if you die tomorrow? That you are the easiest replacement in their life?
Are you working on what you truly want, your bucket list?
Does everyone that you love, know enough that you love them?
Are you being a good person, a kind soul and leaving the world a better place than you found it? Or are you behaving in a way that people will be relived to see you dead?
Are you enjoying each moment, being grateful for all that you’ve been blessed with and cutting your losses every day?
In summary, are you living life in a way that truly matters to you, or living by someone else’s standards?
Life is too short for regrets. There is a lot to enjoy and be grateful for. There is a lot to endure too. If today you feel a little uncomfortable and freaked out and morbid about these deaths, don’t let that feeling overpower you. But also don’t let that feeling die. Or try to bury it at the back of your head. A constant realisation of our mortality, of the non-permanence of it all keeps priorities in check. Keeps us honest about what is truly important and motivates us to stay authentic.
Life is going to end one day. For you. And for me. And maybe it is a good thing. Because it is only when we step into the unknown, that new beginnings take shape…
It’s a given that these are times like no other that we have seen in our lives. Who would have thought when this year began, that this is how life will be globally. I wonder how many people had new year resolutions that can still be pursued as life went tipsy turvy. I read somewhere recently that this is not ‘work from home’ – it rather is us ‘attempting to work’ as we try to survive. And as we move further in these uncertain times, I have a question for you
Are you being Kind?
To your family, to your coworkers, neighbours, friends, your surroundings?
More importantly, are you being kind to yourself?
Whether you are 5 or 85, not many rules of the normal life apply these days. Most of the free world has not seen a government imposed lack of freedom in their lives – I am not saying that is not for the right case right now. But in these unusual times of mental, emotional and perhaps physical stress and fear – are you still measuring yourself and others by the same standards of last year and thus burning out? If yes, perhaps, this is the time to understand what leadership is – and forego the inner need to be a ‘manager’ and ‘administrator’ – you see, before you try to control or even judge others and yourself on what is being achieved or not currently, it is important to understand the changed rules of the game in the current times. Leadership precedes Management in uncertain times. And thus the courage to accept that we are still trying to figure out this ‘new normal’ means you are being honest, being authentic.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself
Are you giving yourself breaks, sleep or any other kindness that your body and mind asks for? Are you listening to yourself? Are you forgiving yourself often?
Are you reaching out to people important to you, one to one? Listening to them? Sharing how you feel?
Are you letting kids and younger ones know that its ok to be scared or grumpy in the current situation? Are you letting them express their emotions?
Are you managing your colleagues by objectives and impact? OR wrongly so,policing and monitoring them for hours they spend in front of the laptop replicating their office life at home?
Make no mistake, if you are not kind to yourself, accepting that these are unprecedented circumstances, conscious that many around us will go through the harrowing experience of contracting this disease, children will lose months of education, there will be loss of life – you will keep being cruel to others around you too.
Everyday, try to write down what you are thankful for. Gratitude is powerful and that is a topic for another day, But in simple words – remembering what you have that is important to you will give you motivation to face these unusual days head on. Try to nurture life around you if possible, even if it means you plant a little something at home. Try to do breathing exercises even if for a minute at a time. Do what makes you happy. And some days when the clouds are darker, take a break from all of this. Sleep, allow yourself to feel bad, let your mind tell you its grumpy and then gently decide to come back. If it gets difficult to tackle, seek help. Talk to someone. If you have no one to talk to, drop me a mail. I am here to offer support , help, coaching, dialogue and help you see more clearly.
This too shall pass.. But how you treated yourself, and thus, how you treated others will define who you are – your true character and mettle. What you will remember for the rest of your life is whether you grumpily waited for the ‘Storm to Pass’ or did you ‘Dance in the Rain’?
I haven’t had a work from home this long in my life, neither have most of us. Even those who do work from home for a living may not have witnessed the other factors attached to it that are there these days – complete lack of social life, no place to go out to after work, homeschooling children and lack of many services available on normal days.
It’s been more than four weeks that I have stepped out of home or met anyone but my family and few next door neighbours. People have been pushed to two extremes while working. There are those isolating with other people – spouses, roommates, families etc and are looking forward to get some distance from them once the lockdown ends. Those isolating all alone craving for some in person human interaction – I am not in this category, but believe this is a trickier one to handle. It can be difficult to differentiate between work and home and life can become really monotonous – I am going to share some tips and tricks which have ensured, this lockdown has not overwhelmed me too badly. There are good and bad days, but these tips from people who are making it work, me included are sure to make prolonged WFH during isolation more bearable, daresay, even enjoyable for you
Dress up for work. Make the effort to take an early bath, put on nice clothes, do your hair and put on some makeup(if you do put on makeup), fragrance and accessorise – it will make you feel a whole lot better and make changing into pajamas at the end of work day all that much better. My go to is a bright lipstick and bandanas
Have a start and finish time for work, and force yourself to cut off from office calls and emails beyond a point. It’s so much more difficult to do it while being stuck at home, but resist the temptation to open your laptop when you have nothing else to do. If you must do something in non office time, pick up something to read or learn
Play a sport. If you are alone – dance, do yoga or anything that works for you – that makes you move. The goal isn’t to lose weight. The goal is to keep your limbs moving and healthy
Ok, this will sound counterintuitive – but have a routine. Mothers are told to keep babies and young children on routine to calm their restlessness and to channelise their energy. For some reason, this nugget from child psychology also works on us humans in dark times. A routine and its predictability gives a sense of familiarity in an unpredictable world and calms stress and anxiety. A routine doesn’t have to mean monotony – it has to mean well spaced out and consistent daily activities
Have a workspace. Even if it means a tiny space you create on your bed while working. Put a pen/notebook, some water and a nice picture or book or visual next to you to self – motivate. Maintain your ‘workspace’ during ‘worktime’ by keeping it mess free and food free as much as possible
Block some time out for strategic pieces of your goals, so you aren’t just reacting to work but responding to it
Neither overwhelm yourself with meetings, nor avoid them altogether. Make effort to be seen and then decide when you want to put the video off
A lot of my colleagues are avoiding taking leaves – thinking they will be wasting them as a leave simply means one is still stuck at home. I have taken physical rest and mental health days to make up for troubled sleeping and just to get some ‘do nothing’ time and it has worked wonders. The importance of taking a break on a working day during these times is underrated
When you talk to colleagues in similar situations, as you speak about how different it is from usual working – speak about what you are grateful for in your life and what you find positive. Positive affirmations are good for our mind as well as they beget positivity. Avoid negative talk and if someone is only indulging in that, avoid talking to them if they refuse to change. If you cant avoid them, practice breathing and meditation after speaking to them. 😉
Make time for self pampering AND for a creative pursuit that you either want to learn or practice -that can be cathartic for you!
Lastly, nice stationary, visual boards and ambient music put me in a mood to work like a boss!
These are some tips and tricks that I am practising – some on my own, other by watching other positive people around me. There could be many more and I would love to hear what you are doing to keep yourself positively engaged.
Lastly, some of the startup’s founded during 2008-2009 recession as I have been told are Slack, WhatsApp, Airbnb, Uber, Pinterest, Square and Venmo. Some of the greatest scientific discoveries were made during pandemics of last centuries. Can you create your own masterpiece (a music, a food, a dance, a song recitation, a poetry, a painting) or anything that would be your medal that will leave you with good memories of these times for the rest of your life?
There is grim news related to financial situation in the world every time I open google news, new channels on TV or on social media. We know that it will become even worse as billions remain in lockdown. There is a legitimate fear of survival that people are generally going through.
Chances are, your investments have seen a devaluation, if you are a business owner, your work is stalled/slow and you have started to dip in your savings. If you have a job, you are worried about lack of growth, more work stress, paycuts and job loss. If you have loans and liabilities, vulnerable family members without medical insurance – all these things are causing stress and anxiety. I am also afraid that we will see increasing emotional distress and possibly suicides related to money, hunger related deaths, malnourishment et al in time to come.
In times like these, India is a vulnerable country with a huge population and lot of poverty. While this year we will see a retraction in growth in decades, projections for next year are better as compared to other economies. However this growth will not happen automatically – it warrants all of us to collectively act towards it. We are all worried about what will personally happen to us. But the solution to financial strength is a whole community taking steps that will save the individuals. Very much the way lockdown worked. All are shut to ensure individuals are safe and well.
A lot of countries are are already encouraging their citizens to take prudent steps to ensure their country prospers but we Indians do not have a huge sense of supporting local or swadeshi. Our inner need to get things cheap is so high that collectively we buy Chinese goods, hail imported stuff and thus hurt our own GDP and thus earning capacity in return. I am no financial or economics expert but I do remember the story of a village that was in draught. On a shaman’s advice the king said to his subjects that if all citizens put a pot of milk in the local pond as offering to God, God will be pleased and it will rain. The citizens were selfish and petty and all of them thought, since everyone else is going to put milk in the pond, why don’t I just put a pot of water to save money. No one will notice and it wouldn’t matter. In the morning, the pond was full of water and barely any milk since everyone cheated. There were no rains either. This is a great analogy on us Indians. How we want to behave exceptionally individually with an expectation that others will make up for us. And thus we end up losing the game. Perhaps, this one time we need to do few things individually and not cheat, so that this can lead to a stronger economy and thus a better chance of survival and growth. Here are few things I suggest we all do once lockdown ends for at least a year to strengthen the economy, create jobs and bring money to the country
Retain habits of prudence – This lockdown is making sure that we do not eat out often, shop for junk a bit less and do not spend unnecessarily. Perhaps retaining one good financial habit of not wasting money will go a long way in ensuring that the hard earned money is there when we need it
Buy Local – Farming and weaving is the work done most in the country. For a year, lets not go back to the fast fashion of foreign chains and try and support handlooms, local artists and artisans, local food chains and local food in our pantries. Let’s check for the made in India label and buy India made products for home and otherwise. There was great logic in ‘khadi’ and ‘swadeshi’ movement from the independence era – it strengthens economy and takes poverty away for ALL. If we don’t practice this even now, there isn’t much hope for us as people.
Travel Local – On holidays, lets go to local destinations -support hotels, tourist based businesses etc for India. Luckily we area big country with a spectrum of travel options. If people from smaller countries of Europe can decide to travel local to support local economy, why cant we Indians?
Invest Local – Direct your investment towards manufacturing sector in India, agriculture, core businesses and up and coming projects. The more we inject in our economy collectively, the better results it will give us individually
Learn something new – A lot of institutes right now are offering free programs. Enrol for something that can be a skill for you. May be learn a core life skill like farming or carpentry or weaving. Transform yourself so your skills are valuable in the new world and can help your get business or job opportunities. Upskilling is always useful
When you read these asks, do not think about whether someone else will do it or not. Dont worry that ‘What if I am the only one and it still doesnt do anything for the Indian economy?’ If a handful of us do this, it will create an impact, if more people join even better. And none of these things will have you losing out on any part of your life. Let’s start thinking smart if we want a better future for our children and to see India turn around to be world’s global superpower like Japan became post WWII.
What are your tips and tricks for strengthening individual financial safety post corona? Ensuring survival?