May 2nd: Comparison Is a Thief Of Joy

Sometimes, I find myself comparing my life to others from my friends, coworkers, to complete strangers on the internet. I often compare the milestones in my life to theirs. I worry that I am not measuring up or I am not “good enough”. As unproductive as this thought pattern is, it is also very human. We measure things by putting two things together (is school A better than school B, is house A better than house C…etc).  We have used this skill to make decisions all our lives but, we deter when we apply this to human beings (especially ourselves).  Comparison goes against the very essence of being human. Our creator designed us all to be unique with unique souls, desires, and ideas. The notion that we’re going to have similar paths to others is not fruitful or helpful. Take today to thank our creator for making you unique! Do not rob yourself of joy by comparing yourself to others. 

Be joyous that you were made unique. Do not let comparison steal your joy. 

May 1st: Pain is Temporary

“Son of Kunti, the touches of the senses, bringing pain and pleasure, heat and cold: they come and go, and they don’t last forever, You must try to endure them” 

The Bhagvad Gita, 2:14

What in your life is causing pain? Is it a physical pain that you can feel in your senses or is it an emotional pain that you feel in the heart? No matter what pain you’re feeling, the Lord wants you to know that the pain is only temporary. Our physical state, as real as it feels to us, is only a fraction of who we are. The pain we’re going through whether it be job loss, failure in education, or heartbreak are all temporary experiences of being a human being. Our soul transcends all pain and this sloka lets you know that all pain in the human form is temporary. It does not say that the pain is not real or that it doesn’t exist. The pain exists. It is so real. It is the ache in your feet and it’s the burden you carry in your heart. It is real but it is not the end. You have all the strength and knowledge within you to endure this pain over and over all. No matter what your circumstances are, you will come out of it a better version of yourself. This strength comes from the Lord and is the very essence of being human. 

Keep going: No matter what obstacles are in your way, keep moving with the knowledge that pain is temporary. 

 

Feel the fear and do it anyway

Fear.

Sweaty palms, worries, and a crippling sense of anxiety.

For our ancestors, fear meant to withdraw from danger. A hungry lion was in the bushes waiting for its meal and they had to survive. This fearful gene has been embedded so deeply in us that it hasn’t been able to keep up with how safe our world has now become. We no longer have hungry lions hunting us or the fear of not being able to survive till the next day. Now our fears are more internal. Fear of failure, fear of embarrassment, fear of disappointing our family, and much more.

I was offered a job this week (yay) but, instead of joy – I have been crippled with fear. The joy is also there but, I am more fearful of things not working out. The job is a start-up so, I will be losing the comfort of an established company. It is a new sector for me altogether. It is with new people and everyone knows – I am scared of people.

Despite this fear, I know that I have to move forward. The fear is not real and on the other side of fear lies my future. We are taught to rely on our instincts and our “feelings” too much. Feeling fearful of something isn’t an indication of real danger. Sometimes, it may mean that you are actually moving forward.

Feel the fear and still do the damn thing!

Wishes

Sometimes I feel like I can’t breathe

Like the walls I have created are caving inside me

I feel the need to breakaway – somehow uproot myself – far away

I feel like someone cut my wings off and I can’t seem to fly away from the ground

I feel suffocated, heavy, and tied down

I wish I could feel like a rising phoenix – soar far away – soar up in the sky

I wish I didn’t care

I wish I felt free to be me

I wish I knew me

I wish I could fix my pain – sometimes I wish there was a medicine that could fix me

I wish I felt at peace – at home in my skin

I wish I didn’t feel the need to hide who I am

Sometimes I feel anger flowing through me

I wish I could drain it all away

I wish I was full of love and hope

I wish I knew what being free felt like

I wish i didn’t feel anxious – so choked up – that I can’t see

I wish my tears weren’t so familiar to me

I wish my mind would stop slowly killing me.

Is forgiveness a requirement?

Forgiveness has been a topic I have been thinking about lately in my own personal journey. Whenever we are faced with heartbreak or betrayal – the first piece of advice we come across is to forgive the other person. Forgiveness feels graceful. It feels like a natural requirement to healing. How can I be healed if I haven’t forgiven? Lately, I have found myself torturing myself  over the fact that I wasn’t able to forgive a person that hurt me deeply. I felt “lesser” because I hadn’t forgiven them and I felt resentful. I found myself confiding to my therapist about this guilt I felt over not forgiving . I told her I felt like a horrible person because, I wasn’t able to forgive. I felt resentful and angry still and all I wanted to was forgive….and let go.  She paused and encouraged me to think about what forgiveness would provide me in this journey.  She asked me why is it that forgiveness is so important to me and asked me to understand where this need was coming from?

 

When I asked myself these questions, I realized that I wanted to forgive because it felt like the right thing to do. I have always been understanding and empathetic I told her and all I wanted was to empathize with the other person. After all, how can I be this empathetic person if I felt resentful?  Staying with my feeling of hurt and resentment felt ugly and messy. It would be so much more graceful to forgive…. It would make me feel above all the “negative” feelings that I feeling. I didn’t want to feel resentful so, I thought that saying I have forgiven this person would make me feel better… someone above the feeling of resentment.

 

But, bypassing these negative feelings and jumping to “forgiveness” did nothing for me. I had to sit with each negative feeling I felt: pain, rejection, hurt, anger, resentment, self-loathing and more anger. Sitting with these feelings and being true to emotions allowed me to understand that I hadn’t completely healed. This all made me realize one big thing: Healing is a prerequisite to forgiveness. We cannot forgive unless we have healed. It isn’t the other way around that once we forgive, we heal. Once you have healed, forgiveness is the natural next step.  Once you have made peace with your pain, there is nothing else left to do but, forgive the other person…. it comes by itself without force or torture.

 

I tell my friends and myself that forgiveness is not a requirement to healing. Healing is a prerequisite to forgiveness. You cannot have one without the other but, forgiveness does not come first. Bypassing negative feeling by forcing yourself to forgive will only suppress these emotions internally. Be truthful and honest with yourself even when it is difficult. Let yourself be angry and in pain for a moment… let these emotions ring true and let them work themselves out without being suppressed. Once you can make peace with yourself – forgiveness will show up where you need it to be.

 

The goal isn’t a Band-Aid solution to pain. It isn’t spiritual bypass through difficult emotions. It is to be authentic in all our feelings and emotions.

 

Heal first then, you will forgive.

 

Why we should redefine our identities constantly

As we get older, I think it is important to constantly redefine and challenge your identity. Who we think we are based on cultural conditioning or past experiences may be completely deviant from who we strive to become. For me, I defined my identity based on being nurturing, caring, and selfless.

I am the friend people turn to when they need advice, I am the daughter that is there for my parents when they need support emotionally, and I am the person that people rely on to be “there”. This idea of who I am has become so strong that I have let it be the most important definition of my identity in the expense of my own well-being. I put others in front of me because, fixing other people’s mess is easier than dealing with my own. I take care of everyone else empathizing with their situation and internalizing their pain. What I want to do or what I need to do is an afterthought that I save for when I have time. Being in tune with my emotion always comes secondary to those around me who rely on me for advice, love or support.

As much as I love being this nurturing person and I consider it a gift, excess of something is never good. It needs balance like everything else. I cannot internalize everyone else’s pain to the point that I cannot feel my own feelings. I cannot focus my life on “saving” others or improving their life that my own life goes astray. I need to respect myself to honor my own time. Being “selfish” seems to be viewed as something completely negative but, respecting your own time is self-honoring rather than selfish.

So, I encourage you to constantly redefine who you are to keep yourself balanced. Some values are important to us that we hold on to forever. I will always be the caring, nurturing, and a giving person. It is something that I am proud of but, I will also hold myself accountable when I find the balance tipping. I will prioritize myself to be able to care for others so, I don’t become resentful, angry or bitter. I will walk my own path and create identities that are more than just these limited value systems.

 

 

 

Are you healed or distracted?

Hi – this post has been getting a lot of hits. I wish you luck with your healing. Please also check out my other posts and let me know if you have any suggestions / topics. 🙂

Yesterday, I had the urge to go to a lake by my work. I left work on time finishing up all my emails and tasks and happily headed to a lake. It was a bit past sunset and the lake was a beautiful hue of dark blue. There were birds floating peacefully through the water and a lot of people running and walking by. I strolled around the pathway passing by all sorts of faces. I sat in a park bench in the cold and just looked at the Denver skyline and I felt relaxed…I felt at peace. I wanted a mental break – a moment of peace – and I got it. I hadn’t felt this peaceful since my breakup so, I was feeling zen (or so I thought).

After about 15 minutes of this pure bliss, I went to my car to head back home. 10 minutes into the ride, I started crying uncontrollably. I hadn’t cried in weeks but, somehow my emotions overwhelmed me. I had gone through a heartbreak a few months ago, so I knew the pain was still there. I just did not know how desperately my pain wanted to be heard. All my emotional pain was spilling out in the car ride. I went from feeling shame and guilt for how I let myself be treated to feeling soul crushingly hurt. No matter how much I tried,  I could not stop crying. This outburst of emotions left me feeling confused and frustrated. Hadn’t I been through this already? Hadn’t I made peace with my relationship ending? The more I asked myself these questions, the more my heart said no. I had suppressed these emotions through distractions so deep down that I had confused the state of being distracted for healing.

We’re told to handle breakups by cutting our hair, focusing on our jobs, maybe even moving to a new city. That was what I was doing. I was focused on work more than ever, I was teaching myself how to code and I felt like I was the queen of breakups. Deep down what I was really doing was distracting myself. From the moment I woke up to the time I went to sleep, I had an escape. Either through work, studying, social media, Netflix, or even reading – I had an escape. I did not give myself a minute of me. The person closest to me, myself, was nowhere to be found.  I had no time for thoughts, feelings, happiness and especially not pain. I distracted myself to the point of extreme shunning of anything internal….anything real.

It is human nature to avoid pain and uncomfortable situations. Our brains are designed to protect us from pain. Protection in the form of distraction led me to confuse distraction with healing. Not giving myself the time to feel my painful emotions did not mean that they ceased to exist – they just kept being suppressed. I asked myself if I was healed or if I just distracted? Had I worked through my pain or had I just shoved it to the innermost corners that will most likely erupt one day?

This realization has made me realize how important it is to be alone and to hear your voice. Alone does not mean eating ice cream and watching Netflix (although, there is time for that as well). Alone means staying with your emotions and feeling them authentically no matter how painful or burdensome. It is allowing yourself to have the quiet and peace where you can check in with yourself. It truly means time spent alone in the quiet, in nature, or in a place where you do not have any external stimuli (podcasts, reading, TV, music etc). All of these things are positive and deserve their own time but, these things do not let us be fully with ourselves. The time spent alone in reflection can lead to true healing – to healing that is honest and authentic and not created out of insecurity and avoidance. Once we remove distractions, we can begin to work through our pain and find ways to mend it.  This honest admission of pain can lead us to healing.

I encourage you to take some time to be alone with your own thoughts. Let that moment with yourself be a guide towards your healing and wellbeing.

Interesting thing I learned this month: Simpson’s Paradox

This month, the most interesting thing I learned was about the “Simpson’s Paradox” in statistics. Simpson’s Paradox is a phenomenon in statistics where two different conclusions / results can be derived from the same data.

simpsons-paradox

Image source: RJ Andrews (https://twitter.com/infowetrust). Will happily take down upon request. All credit goes to the creator.

How does it work?

Let’s say you’re comparing average income of households in Texas vs Alabama. The results show up as follows:

Fake Data Between Texas and Alabama (Income):

  • 2011, Texas: $37,000
  • 2011, Alabama: $50,000
  • 2012, Texas: $43,000
  • 2012, Alabama: $53,000
  • 2013, Texas: $50,000
  • 2013, Alabama: $55,000

From this alone, you may conclude that people in Alabama make more compared to those in Texas. But, how about if we divide these groups by ethnicity? The results may look like this (showing one as an example):

2011 Texas Fake Data By Ethnicity: 

  • White: $50,000
  • Black: $34,000
  • Latinx: $44,000

2011 Alabama Fake Date by Ethnicity: 

  • White: $47,000
  • Black: $30,000
  • Latinx: $37,000

As you can see – when we divide by ethnicity – the same data tells us that each ethnicity group in Texas actually makes more than ethnicity groups in Alabama.

How is the same data saying two different things? That is because we need to account for other factors that influence the data (such as ethnicity demographics in both states). Maybe Texas has more of a diverse cultural / socioeconomic population compared to Alabama leading Alabama to seem more “affluent” in comparison to Texas. These external factors such as race / socioeconomic make-up end up impacting the data and we can see two different trends based on the same dataset.

Simpson’s Paradox really made me question the data we see normally. One great example is shown in this research paper: https://homepage.stat.uiowa.edu/~mbognar/1030/Bickel-Berkeley.pdf

What have you learned this month or today? 

 

Second book of 2019: Metamorphosis

Is this cheating as Metamorphosis is a really short book? It might be but, it’s okay J I am still happy I read it. I really enjoyed this novella and honestly it was a sad read. I have at times struggled with finding the time to read but, I have been really good for the past two weeks. I think it’s because I enjoy it so much. Although, I must admit that I have ignored some of my personal responsibilities to read which I need to be better about.

Book Name: Metamorphosis

Author: Franz Kafka

Rating:  4.5 / 5

Genre: Fiction

Summary:

This book is sad. I don’t get emotional about reading but, this book made me sad in more than one way. First, Gregor Samsa (the main character) in the novella is so relatable. He works hard to provide for his family. He has a vision in his head that he’s going to tell off his employer once he is financially stable and quit his job. Everything he does is to take care of his family. I relate to that in so many ways. I am the oldest in my family and in my short life – I have made sacrifices that most people probably do not have to make till later in their life. Gregor one day turns into a bug / cockroach which ends up changing his entire life and his relationship with his family. His family cannot bear to look at him and he becomes dispensable very quickly. His presence is mostly felt because his income isn’t coming in. This made me think of much labor is tied to a person’s identity. What are we without our work? What are we without labor defining us? Before, Gregor was a “travelling salesman” and a son who provided for his family but, after his transformation – he becomes nothing. His family slowly starts to resent him and even plans to get rid of him. In the end, Gregor passes away as a bug and his family moves on. His sister, the baby of the family, starts sprouting into a woman showing the end of one life and a beginning of another.

Overall, I really felt for Gregor. I think we all know how it feels to be excluded from a group at some point in our life. It also shows how his life plans ended before he could do anything about it. I imagine we all want to live our life a certain way and cannot do it because of limitations we put on ourselves.

Have you read the Metamorphosis? If so, what did you think about it?

First Book of 2019: God of Small Things

 

Yesterday, I finished my first book of 2019. I want to read 24 books this year and wanted to stay on track as much as I can at the beginning of the year. I don’t want to make it a chore as I really do love to read. I do want to make it a habit so, I have been reading for about 30 – 45 minutes each day. It’s one of the most peaceful / enjoyable part of my day J Reading was really helpful for my mental health last year so, this year – I hope to incorporate it to my daily habits. One thing I did notice last year is that it’s easy to read something and then forget about it right after you finish it so, I plan on writing a brief summary of what I read just as a reminder to myself. I won’t discuss the plot in the summaries to not ruin it for others J I will just cover the general theme / idea.

 

Book Name: Good of Small Things

Author: Arundhati Roy

Rating:  3.5 / 5

Genre: Fiction

 

Summary:

*Spoiler Alert* 

 

This is a fiction book written by Arundhati Roy. She’s an Indian author which made me interested in the book in the first place. I have really been trying to read more from writers with diverse backgrounds. My favorite author is also Rabindranath Tagore (who is also from India). Arundhati has a poetic way of writing her novel. I really enjoyed the novel being written in a perspective of children (twins) and the same twins when they are older. The book covers a variety of topic that are specific to India / other countries surrounding India: caste system, sociopolitical hierarchy based out of caste system (especially with some people being considered “untouchable”) and uprise of Maoist based regime (the communist party of India and some other countries surrounding India). It also covers other universal topics: forbidden love, a failed marriage, interracial / multicultural relationship, and twins.

The part of the novel that really stuck with me was how a woman leaves a home to escape abuse from her father and ends up in another abusive relationship. Cycle of life, I suppose. The same woman then struggles with going back home as well as falls in love with an “untouchable”. Her needs are considered taboo while her brother’s similar needs are valid and accepted part of life. The difference between the two genders are made very clear in the book and seems to fit the cultural setting of India. She feels liberated by sex and enjoys it but, since the person she is engaging in sex with is an “untouchable” – the matter becomes more taboo than it already is (a divorcee from an upper class background with kids in a sexual relationship with an “untouchable”).

Similarly, the dynamic between the twins is complex from the beginning. Through their narration, they keep referring them themselves as a part of a “whole”. They’re not “Us” or “Each Other” – they just are. They were together even before birth.  The twins are separated and grow into adulthood separately. They are reunited in the end while the novel unfolds and towards the end the twins engage in sex. It was the strange part of the novel for me but, I figured the author was trying to bring home the concept of their “oneness” which she refers to multiple times within the book. It also felt “appropriate” because they do not talk to each other until this moment.

This act of another “forbidden love” brings them together while they narrate their mother’s own forbidden love. They cannot be together or be accepted by larger society so, both their mother and the twins are limited to enjoying / celebrating the “small things” hence, the title of the book “God of Small Things”.

 

Have you read this book? If so, share your thoughts below.

If not, what books do you plan on reading in 2019?