Floating

How many of you are currently living inside of your heads? No matter what’s actually happening, you are just floating through your day to day. You get through each day, functioning, doing your daily tasks but not really living in the present.

Has anyone else started worrying or thinking more about every day things that you wouldn’t have considered before? (“Started” might be the wrong word since covid has been going on for over a year now.) The slightest things I wouldn’t have noticed before stress me out now. Allergies, pain anywhere, a change in anything.

I recently looked up the timeline of the flu of 1918 to find out when things would feel a little bit more normal again. The article I read said that by spring of 1920, it was like it never happened. Overall, it doesn’t seem too bad, 2- 2.5 years of dealing with masks and quarantining. But living through it is harder than sounds. Every step we take is filled with worry and stress. The “what ifs”, the “is this the right choice”, the “should we” haunt us every day and every day after that.

We are living with loneliness even with a house full of people, the personal and professional sacrifices that some of us have made in order to deal with schooling and full time caretaking, and the lack of freedom that comes with thinking about what is necessary for the good of the community. The things that would have alleviated these feelings in the past are not options in the current state of society. The events and celebrations that we would have looked forward to have all but disappeared. We float.

It’s emotional and mentally exhausting. It’s surviving and dealing with small pieces of joy that are incredibly difficult to see. It’s feeling like things will never be okay again. It’s putting one foot in front of the other, while feeding your family, making sure they are safe and mentally okay, and giving them what they need to at least survive, if not thrive. And, in the end, what will each of us be left with?

I’m ready to get my feet back on the ground and move forward. I don’t want to float anymore.

Social Media In The Time of Covid

For almost a year now, we have been limited in our socialization. We haven’t seen a lot of friends or even parts of our families in a long time. We are lucky that technology is as advanced as it is. With covid around, at least, we are able to talk on the phone and through video chat. We can still keep in touch in ways that were impossible through the last pandemic. Another obvious solution is turning to social media. It’s supposed to be a tool to socialize, right? This way, we can still feel a connection with the world even though our surroundings on a daily basis is our own homes. What happens though when, instead of being a positive influence, this becomes a negative influence on our mental health?

Covid has exacerbated so many of the intense feelings we normally go through that social media, instead of being a helpful tool that helps lift us up, can drive us deeper down. I personally battle with my self-esteem and depression on a daily basis. Having a life where I could offset these feelings by volunteering, being around a multitude of loved ones, and helping the community in a variety of ways has helped me battle these feelings prior to covid. All of a sudden, a year ago, all of that stopped. While we still try to be outside and spend time as a family, we aren’t able to do all of the activities that fill our bucket. I found myself spending a lot more time on social media just because I wasn’t actively doing anything else. Recently, I’ve started realizing that it’s actually making me feel worse instead of better.

While I know that only the best parts of people’s lives are posted on social media, emotionally, I was taking in the adventures others were having or the friends they were seeing. Their lives seemed a lot more normal that mine seems to be. They’re still fulfilling themselves and finding some sort of the external validation that we all still need even though we don’t want to admit it. I know that internal validation is what we should be basing our self-worth on but let’s be real. We all also want to be recognized or appreciated for the things that we do and to hear feedback helps make us feel good about ourselves. And while in the past, I didn’t usually rely on likes or comments to validate the things I do but the fact that external validation in other regards had been completely cut off meant that this is what I was turning to. And guess what? My social media personality hasn’t changed. I’m not that interesting and I don’t frequently interact through it. So I didn’t get the likes or whatever I was looking for.

So in order to try to turn back inwards and figure out a way to feel good about myself by myself, I’ve now set limits on my social media time. If it helps people, that’s fantastic but for me, I think living in the moment and focusing on things I can control is the only way for me to hang out until we get out of covid. Until we can at least have some semblance of normality back, it’s better to be present and try living my life versus living in other people’s lives. I’m not sure if this will be the turning point for me but making this decision gives me some hope that maybe I can figure out what I’m looking for.

Grief

When Princess Diana died on August 31, 1997, I was 16 years old. In the time after that, I saw how much people grieved although I couldn’t quite understand why. It’s not like people really knew her. She was basically a celebrity. How could you feel grief for someone you hadn’t ever met or really even known?

Last Sunday, at 11:32 am, I received a text from my mom in our family group chat that said “Breaking news. Kobe Bryant was killed in a helicopter accident. Not 100% confirmed yet.”

I could feel the chills immediately take over my body. I did what I normally do when I hear a big piece of news. I start researching to find out if it’s true and what sources it came from. Obviously, there have been hoaxes before and I was hoping this was just another one. But as the day went on, the news was confirmed.

We were completely immersed in our personal family events that day so I didn’t really have time to process what had happened. The more we learned though, the more real it became. And when I went home that evening and finally had a quiet moment to myself, I felt it.

I don’t quite understand why I felt grief. I didn’t know Kobe Bryant other than he played for my absolutely favorite team on the planet. I never met him. I’m not very star stuck and am not really interested in meeting celebrities in general. With all of the drama and problems that Kobe had gone through and with the ego he had on him, I honestly didn’t really care to meet him.

So why? Why did I feel this way?

The best answer I can give is because we grew up together. I watched the Lakers from when I was a child but the Showtime era started before I was old enough to be a fan. I remember hearing about Magic Johnson’s HIV announcement and all of the questions that came with it at the time. I remember Johnson making a comeback and getting cut while playing and all of the players freaking out because he was bleeding on the court.

But Kobe, he came to the Lakers right after high school. Being only 3 years younger meant I was also in high school. I watched him learn how to play NBA basketball. I criticized what I thought were his stupid decisions (like marrying Vanessa at the age of 23 and having the power struggle with Shaq and Phil). I wondered as he went through his sexual assault case, wanting to defend him because he was a Laker but knowing full well that it was possible that he wasn’t innocent and that I would always side with the victim. I judged how long he stayed in the league and how he was drawing all resources to himself so we couldn’t put a decent team on the floor to win 3 more championships.

Then, he retired. I can honestly say I didn’t follow him so much after he was off the court as I did when he was on the court. I didn’t even know he made a movie until he won as Oscar. But when he did win it, I was proud like it was my friend that had won.

He was like that friend that you don’t see often or even talk to often, but when you do, it’s like nothing has ever changed. He would always be a part of our lives because he was a Laker. He was part of the purple and gold that runs in the undercurrents of Los Angeles.

It’s complicated. I know there are things he’s done that were wrong but I also believe that he learned how to change for the better. The more I learn about him now, the more I believe he might be someone I would have wanted to meet as an adult. He had drive, passion, and ambition. He was doing exactly what we all do with our kids every day, take them to their extracurricular activities and watch and support them.

The only way I can describe what I feel is grief. Grief over seeing someone I grew up with gone. Grief over seeing someone who was finding his new path gone. Grief over someone who had changed the history of our city gone.

I still have trouble believing it. I don’t know if I ever will.

The Inner Dialogue

Have you ever met your inner critic? You know, that version of you that tells you when you shouldn’t do something or tells you you aren’t good enough?

Lately, I’ve been having a lot of inner dialogue with myself. It’s not that this is something new but I’ve started recognizing it and being aware of it. Do you know how many jobs have never applied for because I’m telling myself that I’m not qualified enough? Do you know how many risks have not been taken because I talk myself out of them?

I deal with this when I travel as well. Initially, when a travel plan comes up, my immediate reaction is to stay home in my safe place. I don’t want to go somewhere new and have to figure things out and hope everything is okay. It takes work to quiet that negativity and really think about how much fun I’ll have traveling and all of the new experiences that will happen.

It’s scary to step outside our safe box. What if we get rejected? What if we fail? What if we just aren’t good enough?

The big question then becomes “Well, WHAT IF that actually happens?” Honestly, it will be okay. People have been surviving rejection and failure for centuries. In these cases, it might take work to get back on your feet and get ready for another attempt but it’s possible. The world hasn’t ended and we all get another chance. At least, we did try to do something new.

All of the dreams that I’ve had for years have finally made their way to the forefront. I’ve stopped repressing the things I want and have even managed to attempt at a few of things I used to dream about doing. This isn’t to say that I don’t experience anxiety and dread when I attempt these things. I do. But that inner critic can be quieted. I won’t let it get the best of me and block the things I really want out of life.

How’s your inner dialogue going today? Is it positive or it is trying to repress you?

 

Feeding Your Soul

Have you ever felt like you’re just living one day after another? Like it’s so filled with routine and getting from one place to the next? Is your goal every single day just to get through it? Does relief only come when the kids are in bed and you have that hour or so to yourself to relax and really connect with yourself (and your significant other)?

There is no getting around that we become our last priority when we have kids and school and extracurriculars and routines. Even when you find a free minute for yourself, what are you doing with that time? Are you choosing to feed your soul?

Recently, my sisters and cousin and I got into a conversation of things we would love to do again. Granted, it’s been about 10 years or more since the last time we did these activities and a lot, including our physical abilities, have changed. We don’t know if we’d even be able to do a lot of the things we used to be able to do.

But should that even be a factor? I loved taking dance classes and performing on stage in that particular dance style. Going to the classes would do something basic for me and my confidence that I wouldn’t be able to accomplish in any other way. It’s not something I have to be an expert at. I’m not aiming to achieve something great. I just want to participate in something that makes me feel good. I want to work on something personal that has no effect on anyone other than me.

I think we let this idea go too easily. When we talk about self-care, it usually results in massages and nail salons. While that is also fine and can work wonders (I absolutely love massages), there are times that we might need more than that. There is just something about taking a chance on something new (or old) that we can fall in love doing. Make your self-care really count.

Go sign up for something that you have always wanted to do. See how it makes you feel.

Removing Myself As An Obstacle

I have 2 advanced degrees, neither of which are in writing, English, or any type of journalism. Tonight is the first night that I am taking time away from my family to devote a few hours solely to myself and writing.

I am terrified. Who do I think I am? I am qualified to count people’s money. I’m not qualified to write words on a page and think that it can be “something”.

Yet I’m here. I’ve wanted to write since I was a kid. It’s hard to admit it but I would try to write stories since I was 10. I would dream of publishing a novel. Instead of actually trying to follow my dreams, however, I followed the practical road. I became an accountant. And that was after rejecting dentistry (science and I did not get along). Writing was never my first choice as a career in real life.

For the last 5 years, I have been a stay at home mom who has occasionally written in her blog. I would be focused for a few weeks and lose it after when real life overtook my side aspirations. Now, I’ve been given a chance at consistency.

And I am terrified. I was having crazy anxiety just driving to the coffee shop right now. I feel like a fraud. I’m not a professional writer. So why do I get to step away from my family in order to sit and put words on the screen for a few hours? Is it even realistic goal? Does it have to be? Can’t I just dream big?

I don’t know if this will even come to anything. All I know is writing has always been good for my soul. So here I am.

Second-Generation South Asian Indian American Identity

Something I constantly think about is how to pass down our traditions and culture to our children. I want my kids to know who they are and where they come from but it’s an interesting dilemma considering that my generation was raised differently than past generations. We were some of the first Asian Indian Americans growing up in the United States.

Being in America changed the way we would have traditionally grown up. I know a lot of people who grew up as close to the Indian culture as possible but even then, there were plenty of other influences affecting their childhood.

For me, growing up as a first-generation Asian Indian American in the United States allowed me and my siblings to define our own path. We chose whether or not to follow Hinduism. We chose which aspects of it we liked and didn’t like. Maybe it would have been the same in India. My mother’s side is pretty much a straight line of atheists. My dad’s side is religious but my dad never pressed us into following anything. He left everything open for our interpretations and let us make our own decisions on what we wanted to do.

Religion aside, being here in this “melting pot” gave us exposure to so many other cultures and religions. My family celebrates Holi which is traditionally a Hindu festival, Navratri which is traditionally a Gujarati festival, and spend Diwali at the Gurudwara since half of my family is Sikh although Diwali is also celebrated by Hindus and Jains. I am pretty sure that none of these are exclusive to their religions of origin. I know that garba during Navratri is well attended by people of all nationalities and religions.

Where does religion end and culture start? We are lucky to be in this area where everything isn’t so heavily based on religion but on our culture. I’ve never been really religious and if all of my family’s traditions were based on religion, I don’t know if I would feel as comfortable passing it down to my children. But since they have become much more based on Indian culture, we introduce our children to everything we possibly can so they are aware of our Indian traditions.

I feel lucky that Indian culture and religion can be separated as easily as it has. If our entire culture was rooted in religion, it would have been that much harder for me to accept this new identity that I have formed. It’s different now for my kids because they are learning second hand about our traditions. Whatever we have cultivated is what is being handed down. I have to accept they might never know our languages as well or the cultural norms that we grew up with.

How much can we expect our children to absorb? Is it possible that they will be as involved in the Indian culture as much as we were growing up. It honestly didn’t occur to me until my 30s that what we were doing was unprecedented. That means what our children are doing is unprecedented as well. I would like my children to take pride in the cultural traditions that we are able to pass down.

It will be interesting to see what our kids accept as and what they separate out from their cultural identity.

 

Real World Stuff

I had to stop going on Twitter and reading the news. Even then, yesterday, I saw a random headline pop out at me on my phone and it completely stressed me out.

What is the world coming to? The funny thing is that I’m completely aware that all of these problems existed before but a combination of I was too young to understand and no internet helped me to live in my bubble.

Now, the bubble has popped. No matter where we are, we are bombarded with information. And honestly, something bad is always happening. It doesn’t help that we are in a time when we have a leader that doesn’t know how to lead.

How does this affect us in our daily lives? For me, it sometimes makes me feel stagnant. I move because I have to but I’d like to crawl up in a ball and just hide until things get better. I have to also keep hope that they will get better but right now, that is definitely hard to see. So I freeze. I don’t know how to feel okay with the way the world is right now but I don’t know how to change it.

Social media also doesn’t help. It seems as though there are people who are still living in their bubble. I know it’s probably not true and they are probably just as worried about the state of things as I am but I wish I could at least feel that carefree sometimes.

I think having kids affects how I feel a lot. I worry about the future of the planet and the future of this county and how they will do within it. There are some days I wish they were still babies so I could keep them home and keep them safe.

Will it be possible to feel okay again? Is this temporary or is this the way we will be living now? Will these worries ever go away? Can we please get some good news for once?

Feeling Validated

A month ago, I looked at myself in the mirror and felt great about myself. Today, I look in the mirror and am having trouble processing the same image that I was looking at before.

What changed? I’m wearing the same clothes, doing the same things, and basically haven’t really changed.

I see myself differently. Nothing has changed except I may be more tired now that school has started. Our schedule is in transition which doesn’t allow for consistency yet. Our schedule is about to change again next week so I can imagine that things are going to feel out of whack for at least another few weeks to a month.

I know I’m not alone in questioning how I feel about myself. I’m sure that a lot of women are also trying to validate themselves. Self-acceptance isn’t an easy thing. Just when you think you have it down, there is a change and all of a sudden, you are questioning everything about yourself again.

What do we expect to see when we look in the mirror? We are definitely conditioned for perfection. I also thought as I got older, it would get easier to accept myself but it hasn’t. I have high expectations for myself and the older I get, I can’t seem to accept that I won’t always meet those expectations.

It’s funny. You’d think that it’s because after 2 kids, I’ve gained weight or have more gray hair or just look more tired. But if I look at a picture of myself 10 years ago, I wasn’t in as good shape as I am now and I was always tired then as well.

So is it possible that it’s only internal? Is it that our inner self is what needs to be validated? I know I personally have been struggling with the adjustment between being a stay-at-home mom and an ambitious woman.  Maybe it was easier to accept myself because I had other things that made me feel good about myself going on.

It’s an ongoing struggle. I don’t have answers as of now but I hope that someday I do.

 

Light the Night

Do you have childhood best friends? Like the type that you grew up with and is your  family even though you’re not actually related?

I grew up with a whole group of people like this thanks to our parents knowing each other since college and settling down in the same area.

One person, in particular, I had literally known since birth. His dad and my dad actually grew up in the same small town in India together so they had known each other their whole lives as well. He played the role of my brother in my wedding and I MC’d at his wedding. Needless to say, we had been through a lot of our ups and downs together.

One day, we found out he had lymphoma. He was in his 20s, just about to head into dental school. I remember that we had found out that he had felt something off in his lymph nodes and were waiting for the biopsy results. I remember coming out of the gym and getting a voicemail from my sister telling me the results were in. I remember calling her back and her telling me that it wasn’t good. I remember going home, changing, and heading straight to his house.

It was scary. It was something that we never thought about in our 20s.

He started chemo. It definitely took a toll. I wasn’t there for the every day but I do have one particular memory of him, I, and a third friend we had grown up with going to an Angels game together during this time. He was tired and he said he always had a metallic taste in his mouth. It honestly really sucked. But the mentality that we always had is that there was no other option and that he had to beat it.

And one day, he did. After that, he started organizing our family and friends together every year for a Light the Night walk. We are Team Unbreakable.

At Light The Night, it is our aim to bring light to the darkness of cancer through research and cures. Light The Night is a series of fundraising campaigns benefiting The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s (LLS) funding of research to find blood cancer cures. We bring hope instead of despair by working to ensure access to treatments for all blood cancer patients. We bring communities together to celebrate those who are fighting the disease and to honor those we have lost.

This year will be our 11th year walking together. It’s so amazing how something that was so hard has become such an inspiration. We hope this year, you’ll join us and donate to our team as well. We want to do everything we can in order to raise money to defeat cancer.

I hope you can find a way to help us out with our goal.