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.

 

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.

 

A Competitive Community

Indians are competitive. We are competitive in every possible thing that we can be.

As a child, I remember the competition to get the best grades. Later, it was SAT scores and colleges. After that, it was careers. Then came marriage and children.

It was also happening within the community outside of our Indian one but it was definitely amplified within it.

It didn’t matter if we were in the top 10 of our class in our school, we had to also to better than the people we were growing up with (or at least comparable).

I’m positive that there is always some talk about who is married and who has had kids and who is a stay at home mom and who is a working mom. There’s definitely competition in who has the best wedding and the most original wedding and the most expensive wedding.

This competition exists in whatever we do. I’ve experienced it heavily in different dance companies. The crazy thing to me is that I honestly believe we limit our potential as a culture if we compete.

We want to be able to share how wonderful the Indian culture is with the world. But how can we do that when we try to keep each other down? We want to involve and encourage as many people as possible.

So the question becomes why? Why should we encourage others in our community? What if they are our competition for schools and jobs? What if their business competes directly with ours? Won’t it hurt us?

In my opinion, no. I’ve seen the discouragement and disappointment of a competitive community and I’ve seen the amazing community that people can build if they have each other’s support. In the long run, everyone moves forward if we work together and lift each other up. Maybe, just maybe, India with its billion of people can have more of a presence world-wide. We could enter in the Olympics and have more than 4 people. We could be more than a side-note in the entertainment industry (especially since India makes the most movies in the world). We could build a great, progressive country that is respected.

I honestly believe this all starts at home. Build each other up. Encourage each other. Help each other move forward.

Health Insurance Is Not A Guarantee Of No Stress

I am epileptic. I have given birth twice. I am a normal person.

Yet, one of the things that causes me the most stress in this life is my health insurance.

Unfortunately, I have a chronic condition. It’s not an option. I’m lucky enough that I can afford insurance. I’m lucky enough to be able to control my condition. I’m lucky enough to have a simple enough solution to handle it.

Dealing with insurance, however, makes the condition feel worse than it is. There are constant problems with meeting all the requirements to get the medicine I need to control the condition. The insurance doesn’t talk to the pharmacy, the pharmacy doesn’t talk to the doctor, the doctor can’t talk to the insurance. It’s like I need to conference call all of them constantly to make everything function smoothly.

In the past 4 months, I have had to deal with it all at least 3 times. For a month, I was constantly calling the insurance company, the pharmacy, and my doctor to get all the paperwork in order so I could continue to get the medication that I’ve been on for 13 years.

Why is it so hard? Why can’t something that should be so basic be easier? I’ve definitely read that it’s easier in other countries. I do realize that the insurance industry is a for-profit business and this is a way to make money. Why is that the case though? Shouldn’t our healthcare be a necessity, not a luxury? Shouldn’t we be able to get what we need without stress? Isn’t getting sick stressful enough?

I hope I get to see things get easier in the insurance world in my lifetime. I don’t know how this country can untangle the mess that it is. I don’t even know if the people in charge want to.

All I know is that it’s frustrating that in addition to whatever our bodies and minds are going through on a regular basis, we have to add a good dose of stress to it.

The Boy Who Wears Bows

We are in a new time in our lives. When I was growing up, the ideas of what boys wear and what girls wear were pretty established.

Now, if you were growing up like me, it was okay to be a tomboy. You could wear boys’ clothing and play sports and video games and it was no big deal. But if you were a boy, the same gender neutrality wasn’t the case.

I have a son and a daughter. My son is the baby so he follows his sister everywhere. She is a tomboy in princess’s clothing. She wears dresses, does her hair, and puts on a necklace and then goes to climb mountains and play baseball. There is no separation of what is acceptable for her to do or wear from any other child.

My son likes to do the same thing his sister does plus a few things she didn’t do. He loves cars and trains and trucks in a way she was never into. And he will participate in all of it with a bow on his head. He sees his sister wear bows and asks for them as well. Because we have never established something was a “girl thing” or a “boy thing”, we put the bow on and let him rock it.

It definitely raises interest especially in our South Asian circles. We have heard “that’s for girls” a few times. But really is it? Or is it just something that we have established as a “girl thing” in society? If boys were given a fair chance to express themselves, would they themselves have immersed in the bow culture?

The next question that arises is what happens when my son wants to wear something else his sister wears. What about princess dresses or necklaces or bangles?

What do we do when we have let the kids live in a gender neutral zone where they can be free to do or wear whatever they want? Is it better to follow society’s gender norms at least for now so we can protect our son from the chance of being bullied until he can understand how to protect himself? Would we follow the same rules of parental protection as we would with climbing structures and riding bikes? Would we do whatever we could to protect them in the real world until the real world catches up with the way we think?

As parents, what is the correct path? I don’t know if there is one. I think we are in a new territory where children have the freedom to become who they really are, who they are truly comfortable with. I want to be able to be there for my children for whatever choices they make. I want to be there for them to fall back on and to be their shield when they need it. My parents did that for me when I was breaking society’s norms and I don’t want to be any less for my kids.

It may turn out that our son doesn’t care for “girl things” as he gets older. It may turn out that he loves them.

It may turn out that he may go on to drive monster trucks with a multitude of bows in his hair.