Why I read

I have been asked this question enough times in my life to be bothered by it. Most times, I just get all prickly and silently bark ‘why the heck should you be concerned’ at the questioner while the audible quip is something more puerile and polite. I do not find it odd at all, for example, if someone who is knackered and at the threshold of being comatose, wills themselves to stay up a wee bit and read a couple of pages- so that if they die in their sleep reading is the last thing they did. Hyperbole eh?

Another common but equally witless query is ‘why so many books simultaneously? Huh? Come again please. We rotate clothes and food and even people (if we can)- and yet you want me to read the same book, at one go, without regard for how or what I feel at the moment? How naive can you be?

Then, there is the problem of content. Apparently, some people find it hard to wrap their heads around to the fact that Middle Eastern history, witches, reborn kings, lone- man demolition armies, Afghani housewives, serial killers, quirks of Gandhi, Indian elections, American democracy, second- chances romance; everything is worth a read. Of course it is, just depends on the disposition at the time of choice.

Now coming back to the question of why I read. I do not have or need a reason to do so. It is not for the need for information, or want of enlightenment or to further intellect or wisdom. I do so, because I enjoy it. Period.

Till next time,

J.

P.S. – Now, if someone asks me why I am an obsessive book hoarder- there is a question I CAN answer. I attribute it to the trauma during my childhood where my parents enforced the thought upon me that reading anything other than school textbooks is an utter and almost complete waste of my time. Probably.

Day 23- Of passion and discipline

“Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.”
Pablo Picasso

 

Bear with me here, folks. I want you all to do something, for yourselves. Put everyone to bed, find a decent pair of headphones, get to a dark and comfortable corner and listen to this. (The quality could be better of course.) If you have an iota of a muscial ear or even a flyspeck of an appreciation of the arts; you will feel it. The passion, the fervidness of years of toil, the infinitely knotty art of being present in the moment; the general awesomeness of it all.

A simply written but profoundly affecting sentence in a book. A physical feat achieved not only because of inherent talent, but by unfathomable hard- work. A master playing his beloved instrument or a dancer in her bubble where only she and her movement exist. A movie, where I lose sense of time and place, where the actors can only be who they play, where the picture is so magical that even real life cannot compare, emotions relayed by people who aren’t really feeling it. I am the sort to get goosebumps while I witness these. I am often inspired, belittled and humbled by artistic feats. I respect the discipline, commend the single- mindedness and envy the talent. There is something about doing a thing over and over and over and over again, only to do it perfectly that once.

I was raised in a middle- class home, where not much emphasis was placed on artistic or alternative pursuits. I was expected to get good marks at school and be docile and obedient at home. My one regret in life thus far, is not mastering an instrument. As a child, I scrimped and saved money to buy non- school books. I wished to learn dance professionally. I loved watching my artistically- blessed friend painting her Sundays away.

Maybe that is the reason why I have become a hoarder and ravenous devourer of books. I watch people play different instruments on YouTube, mesmerised. Send my daugther to art- class, wish she would pick up learning the piano or violin, cello, harp, flute; anything! Then I have to check myself. My unfulfilled dreams are my burden to bear, not my daughter’s cross.

I wish upon my children the pain and elation of creation. But art is never enforced, it a child of rigour and talent. Passion and discipline. Love and hardyness.

Therefore, all I can do is expose them. Give them chances I never had, Hope to instill the love for all things wonderful. Wish to make them multifarious. Appreciate all the wonder and beauty that humanity has to offer.

Z, Boss Boy and I are dancing to Hans Zimmer and 2Cellos as I type.

Fingers- crossed.

Till next time,

J.

Day 12- Of symbolism and hope

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Shame me, blame me.

Berate me, belittle me.

Hate me, spite me.

Slay me, burn me, stake me; if you so wish.

Find me kneeling at the alter of science, you will.

Shroud facts under heavy blankets of symbolism.

Mystify truths to cloud our sapience.

Call me faithless and a pariah.

To my outcry for common and uncommon sense.

Faith is incredible and hope is powerful.

But they are only shiny mirages, our paths we must forge.

Women and men of science, cursed as they are.

Wretched lives they lead; to deliver us our extravagant, extended and easy lives.

Clap we may, make noise we may. Thank we may, and light lamps we may.

I only hope the tireless tyrants of science and reason do not abandon our symbolic arses at this mockery and go home to rest.

For the Gods might be busy, or couldn’t care to save our lazy, bickering, whiny, pitiful selves.

Till next time

J

 

Mindfulness

Long before it became a high- society fad, an old, grey haired, yoga teacher tried to instil this quality into my 17 year old self. I thought it sounded good, but dismissed it as something that old people do. Not sure why the idiot me thought that though. Being aware of one’s internal self, and being in tune with the present moment, should not just be a old person thing. Ugh, stupid teen!

Mindfulness is important, now more than ever. We are a distracted generation. Technology, social media and the “flattening” of the world has literally ripped our privacy to shreds and most of us never seem to have single moment in a day when we aren’t occupied with something. Our children have no idea what it means to be bored and our grandchildren will probably have wifi receivers fitted into their heads or something.

I sometimes don’t remember for sure what I had for breakfast. One day coalesces into the next, while we swim deep in the quagmire of posts, blogs, vlogs, news, chats, video calls..

I switch on the radio every time I drive. I put earplugs on when I work out. I am reading something when I breastfeed. Watching TV when I eat and youtube videos when I get ready in the morning. A bit pathetic I think.

We are afraid or possibly bored with our own company, when did it come to that?

Yesterday, I chose to train without my head phones (rather I was forced to, as I had forgotten them). I concentrated on each muscle as I used them. I found running on the treadmill extremely boring, so I tried to focus on and try a new method of breathing.

I paid attention to every niggle and was mindful of how one arm seemed to take the slack for the other while I did combined exercises.

I always knew my forearms sucked, but not until yesterday did I realise how much.

I found out that my legs were even stronger that I thought they were and I was grossly undermining them by not pushing them hard enough.

I strained my neck muscles whenever I struggled with finishing a set.

My breathing was out of whack and was messing with my efficiency.

Just paying attention to my body and breathing, taught me more than anything that a personal trainer or expert could tell me.

I was so fascinated, that I chose to not to put the music on when I drove back. I was so much more aware of my surroundings. As I walked back to my car in the dim glow of the street lamp, I wondered how easy it would be for someone to grab the distracted me from behind and run away with my belongings, or worse. I looked back instinctively and found nothing amiss.

As I sat in my stuffy car and took a moment, I concentrated on breathing deep and full, and felt each muscle group loosen and relax, one by one. I noticed the unique hum of the engine, and how it seemed to mirror my breathing as we idled at a traffic signal.

Like usual, I took the stairs to our apartment. Usually, I run up the five floors, the aim being to simply finish the task as quick as possible. Last evening, I leisurely stepped on each stair, realising that unlike the usual running junkie I am hamstring and glute dominant rather than quad dominant. My quads are in fact an embarrassment! I also realise how much easier it is to climb five floors after a good workout rather than after I stand the whole day (in the procedure room or OR).

To continue on this path of accidentally discovered mindfulness, I chose to not have any distractions during our next nursing session. No TV, books, iPads, laptops or phones. I stared into the brown- grey eyes of my three month old. His eyes are the most extraordinary color I realised. Not entirely brown, sometimes grey. Their intrigue and beauty enhanced by startlingly prominent limbal rings. He watched intently and seemed to converse with me, as we sat silently in our private bubble of contentment. I was mindful of my indescribable feeling of belonging and attachment to this tiny human and felt a strange sense of joy settling in. Sounds like a load of crappy mumbo- jumbo, but honestly I speak the truth and nothing but the truth!

There is something after all to this mindfulness brouhaha. And I hope to practice more of it in my day to day existence.

You folks too should give it a go.

Till next time.

Dr J.

Don’t wait.

We are a restless generation, I’m told. We are impatient they say. We cannot wait.

Nobody seems to get the fact that we CAN NOT wait. This is the pace that life dictates. If you haven’t noticed, every succeeding generation is more prone to impatience.

Why wait anyway? Our lives are most likely going to be short. Our productive life I mean. Not the cancer ailing, hypertension controlled, medicated life that is waiting for us sooner rather than later.

An old senior of mine, back from my undergrad days has been in touch with me in recent days. She is 37, an OB- GYN with a busy private and hospital practice. She runs triathlons and has a Great Dane named Albus and cat whose name currently skips my mind (I remember ‘Albus’ only because of the Harry Potter reference). Her husband is a 40 year old bodybuilder who also happens to be an orthopaedic surgeon (so cliched!). They waited to get married. Surgical training came first. They also waited to have children.

Everybody is entitled to make their own choices. I’m not here to berate or judge. In fact I have made some bizarre, downright stupid choices in life. And I have paid/ or will pay for them. But the choice to postpone our lives, to delay family issues in lieu of a surgical/ medical career is sometimes encouraged or indirectly imposed (poor maternity policies, stigma, patriarchal heads of departments, discrimination).

This triathlete OB friend has given me permission to write about her. She believes it the waiting that did it (science may not agree). She wants people to not wait. The public in general and the surgical trainees in particular. After 5 years of “trying” to have a baby and two more years of failed infertility treatment- they are disillusioned and tired.

She is almost a role model to me. A woman travelling the world acquiring special surgical skills. Publishing dozens of papers, when peers struggled to have one to their name. I was a teeny bit jealous too. I thought, not being encumbered by young children must be a great thing for her career wise.

She does not think so, not anymore.

I was acutely aware that my mommy- rants and constant whining about sleep deprivation and chronic fatigue might not sit well on the ears of a woman who seems to have everything except the one thing that she desperately wants. For the alpha- surgeon types being denied something makes one aggressively pursue it.

She and I both think that it is absolutely fine for a woman to chose career over having a family. That is her prerogative. We are not discussing them here. Here, we talk about those who do want to try a hand at having both but are forced to chose or delay one in order to further another. Our sincere advise to such women is- DO NOT WAIT. Go for both, it is possible and someday you will be grateful for it. That “someday” you will also wonder, how in hell did you manage all that sh%* together!

I seemed to have slowed my pace, while my male peers and colleagues are scurrying to attain training goals. But I do believe I will catch up. And surpass. Call it cockiness or confidence, I have to believe it to keep moving forward. (Our fraternity values confidence above all else.)

So ladies, do not wait. If you feel like it, go for it. Don’t wait. Train for that marathon, marry that gorgeous man, backpack across India, have that baby. Surgery will wait. Life will not.

Till next time.

J.

P.S. Cautionary warning- Yay for having a family and a surgical career. But let me warn you, the sh&^ will hit the ceiling on many days. Buy a long handled mop or wear a raincoat- that choice too is yours to make! 🙂

I never said it is easy, only possible.

Broody mornings.

It is 0433 hours. The early morn. The city has already began to stir. The morning runners have commenced their warm up, at the least. The construction industry is well and truly onto the workday. The morning shift nurses have to be at work in about an hour. The school buses would have been plying their bleary eyed wards by now, if not for the summer holidays.

We better start our days early here. By late morning, the soaring temperatures start to roast us out of our juices. By noon, we are done. We might still be at our schools and offices, but we ARE done. We sit in our dry, artificially cooled rooms and will the clock to take us to the hour that can take us home.

I ain’t a morning person, by any stretch. At best, I’m inwardly broody, at worst I’m outright snarky and irritable. I am pissed off. I am like a coiled spring, a whip waiting to lash out or riled up like an irritated lion at a noisy zoo. I have learned to live with it. It is a personality trait, not a habit that can be broken.

And the earlier I have to begin my day, the worse it seems to be.

Thanks to my default mental disposition, the early starts affect me more than the general Janes and those annoying morning persons who wake up with a smile on their face and a song on their lips. I get by most of the morning with a furrowed brow and a perpetual frown. It takes about 2 hours or so to find my groove in the mornings. Things are worse now, as I not only have to get my arse to work; I have other broody, annoyed small humans that have to be prepped and primed for their day before I head out the door. Damn destiny.

Lil’ Z seems to have taken after her mother. She hardly ever wakes up smiling, and is always slightly angry at the universe in the mornings. The Little Man, I am not sure yet. He may have escaped the Broody Morning Gene, I hope he has. He is young yet. I cannot tell for sure. I hope he has, for this household cannot handle another temperamental morning person.

You might think, I should have found ways to improve my morning mood by now. After all, it’s been three decades. The answer is yes and no. The average crappy morning feeling can be conquered, but some mornings are unsalvagable. It is almost as if, I am pissed off at myself for not dying in my sleep.

There are a few things though, that I find help me ward off the sickly feeling that seems to be engulf me as I drag myself out of bed each day.

1. Wake up early.
Rushing seems to aggravate the situation.

2. Eat something as soon as you wake up.
Maybe it’s just a simple case of acute early morning hypoglycaemia.

3. Morning run.
Probably the best solution. Almost always works. I sweat the annoyance out of me.

4. Music.
Almost as good as the run.

5. Get things in order the previous night.
Outfits, work bag, breakfast plans, nursery bags, keys- for me rushing about in the morning to get these things in order is like asking a math- hating, deprived drug addict to solve a calculus problem whilst blaring loud, clanky music that she hates. Ha, what rubbish analogy. See, I told you I am not a morning person!

6. Shower, duh!
I am a night shower person, but a morning shower always helps with my mood I notice.

7. Marry a sane, morning person.
This can work both ways. Over time, you can erode his morning vitality, or he may vanquish some of your darkness. But beware, this can either make or break your marriage 🙂

This post is dedicated to all my fellow broody morners (pun intended). I sympathise, and you are not alone.

May our tribe decrease.

GOOD MORNING!
Till next time.

Dr J.

Dearest Zoe.

Today has been a hard day. I fought valiantly. I gave it my all. I warred with all my might.

My might obviously isn’t mighty enough.

You won every fight. Hands down. No arguments there.

I lost and there is no shame in it. I lost miserably, but I lost to you – my dearest. And though I’m clutching dearly to my threadbare sanity, I will live. To fight another day.

You may kick and scream and throw yourself violently to the hard- tiled floor like you did today. You may survive on just four strawberries and two morsels of rice for a day. But remember my dear, your Mama is trying her best. She is only trying to do what she thinks is good for you. Who knows, maybe she is right, maybe she is not. Just give her the benefit of the doubt please.

I’m not sure how your almost brand new brain processes emotions. But I’m assuming you don’t take things to heart.

You surely do not. Otherwise you wouldn’t throw a hundred watt smile my way the minute you wake from your nap. A nap that was induced by relentless crying for something that you could never have. A nap before which I yelled at you. Literally. And told you in very forceful tones that you cannot always have your way.

If you were anything like an adult, you would despise me. For all the rules. The discipline. The number of times I say NO. You would probably be plotting ways of running away. Or better still, of taking control of Mama.

Thankfully, you are not. You are but a two year old. Vivacious, sassy and incorrigibly adamant. I wish I had half the fight you have. I would breeze through my days if I did!

For all the times I say no, and for all the times I stop you from being yourself,  forgive me. I am just a frail and emotion- ruled mama who is trying to get through her day.

I see how important it is for you to clean the toilet seat with your toothbrush, and how wonderful the table salt looks, strewn decoratively on the leather sofa. (Like snowflakes on the tarmac perhaps).

I secretly admire your sheer guts in trying on my 4 inch heels and then climbing the bed with them on. When you manage to wiggle and contort yourself out of your shoulder straps of the car seat, even after I have tightened them to the point where you can barely fill your lungs fully; I am flabbergasted. I am also amazed at your sheer will and tenacity.

Disregard my reproaches and calls to slow down, my child. Forget all the inhibitions and doubts I unconsiously instil within you.

My fears are my own, and they should not be yours too. My failings and insecurities should not be your burden to bear.

When the time comes, spread your wings and fly my dear, as high as you can. As high as you want to. Remember that the sky is truly the limit.

Let no one, including  this silly Mama of yours, tell you what you are capable of. Let no one dictate what you can and cannot do. Heed my advice, but do not be a slave to them.

Remember one thing if that is all you remember. Despite all your quirks and idiosyncrasies, irrespective of your shortcomings and occasional disobedience; I shall love you. Unconditionally.

I shall be there, whenever you need/ want/ wish for me. And I shall find an inconspicuous corner for myself, and be out of sight, when you don’t need me to be hovering over you. I shall try.

For now, all I ask of you is to eat three decent meals a day, and help me keep yourself injury- free and alive. (Hint- climbing to the head rest of the couch and jumping off is not a good idea.)

 

Yours truly.

Haggard Mama.

 

 

The time of our lives.

I had an epiphany this afternoon.

It wasn’t a particularly extraordinary afternoon; it was in fact one of those mundane, lowly ones. I was driving home after a gruelling  8 hour ER shift and the traffic was uncommonly horrendous.

I had to wait full hog at every one of the nine, painfully long traffic signals on the way to Z’s nursery and the seven damned ones back home.

People driving around me seemed rude, rash and inconsiderate, and I was ravenously hungry- which in turn made my head throb (I have “hunger migraines” as I like to call them).

The joy meter was hovering over the ‘dangerously low’ mark, and the darkness within beckoned with her icicle arms. As a creature prone to odd highs and weird lows, it seemed like an opportune moment to wallow in one’s self- created miseries.

And then it hit me. With a gentle tug though, not a crashing thump like people usually say it does.

The epiphany.

What if these incredibly trying times, are the times that will most impact us.

What if these days are the days that make us who we are truly destined to be.

What if, unknowingly we are actually having the time of our lives?

The best days. The most productive. The fantastic, exciting, alive days.

Doing things and accomplishing goals that would have once seemed impossible.

Heavens forbid, what if these are the days that we would fondly look back upon. Days that we were at our physical prime, honing our unique set of skills to their zenith.

Days that challenge us, tease us and as cliched as it sounds- days that make us better. Sharper.

I am not sure if I believe in pure, pre- determined destiny or in unchallenged, human free-will. I don’t honestly care either way. But I’d like to believe that what doesn’t kill us DOES make us stronger. Once you have been in neck- deep shit and survived, you wouldn’t even bat an eyelid the next time you are in it waist deep! So, dial down the anxiety folks.

This is it. Life.

Take it or leave it honey, she says. And smiles; mockingly. Alluringly. Batting her long, flickery eye-lashes and and gazing at you with faux warmth and affection. She promises much, but beware; for she is a fickle, remorseless creature. One that is in no way indebted to you. You are but given a free gift, one that is not designed to your likes or preferences, so use it the way you deem most fit. For there are no replacements and definitely no cash refunds.

You and I are most likely having the time of our lives. So, let us give in and have fun while being beaten around ragged. Along the way, let us teach Ms. Life a teach or two of our own. For throwing us around and dragging us in the mud like a battered, beleaguered rag doll.

Till next time.

Dr J.

 

P.S. Just realised what must have been the trigger for the general bleakness- bumping one’s car 😦

Being extraordinary.

We envy the extraordinary.

We wonder how they came to be.

What makes them tick.

How they got there.

We wish to BE them.

 

What does being extraordinary mean?

To you?

 

Being extraordinary isn’t easily done. It isn’t cheap, or common.

It is rare and comes with a hefty tag.

Being extraordinary, means you have to go the EXTRA mile.

Stay up more. Work harder. Work smarter. Stay longer. Listen harder. Speak smarter. Read longer.

An ordinary existence versus an extraordinary life is chasms apart.

So mere envy doesn’t cut it friend, one has to get off their lazy backside and get to work.

TO BE EXTRAORDINARY.

 

 

Till next time.

Dr J.

 

Letting go.

Wanting to be in control is a basic human attribute. Needing to be in control is a specific personality trait. An annoying trait on most occasions, and crippling at others. It is a need that consumes you from the inside; an ever- present, relentless, churning desire to be on top of things. To know what happens when, how and where. And to be able to plan for it, and see it to conclusion in exactly the way you deem fit.

Even the most meagre of modifications conspired either by circumstance or by fellow human intervention produces a restlessness within that cannot be easily contained. It might ruin your hour, day or week and destroy other concomitant arrangements that you might have laid in place.

Why then do we hold on to this vile desire?

Why do we subject ourselves to this vicious, tortuous circle of plans and failed plans?

What is the harm in letting go?

 

The more I let go, the more I am in control. I can control my being and thoughts without regard to external influence. I am no longer an underling to fate and chance.

The more I let petty matters slide, the more self-mastery I attain. The restlessness abates every time I tell myself I don’t care. 

The more important things will always be important. And I can expend my inner resources on them more efficiently once I decide to let go of inconsequential matters.

And so, here I am. A woman who no longer obsesses over laundry. Or the “grocery shop day”. This woman’s inner state is not ruffled by a ruffled bed, or made unkempt by an unkempt home.

The art of letting go, is the key to freeing myself from the vagaries and mercy of  Messrs Chance & Circumstance.

Till next time.

Dr J.