Year-end Wrap-Up: Top 10 lessons I learnt in 2012

Image courtesy: Jamie Oliver

1. I enjoy cooking! Not everyday cooking, but trying out new, interesting recipes that make people’s jaw drop in awe. 😉 This was a year when I tried some great new dishes, and  all of them turned out really well. So well, in fact, that it can serve as an alternate career! From yummy pastas to baked fish and roast chicken, I served it all on the table with elan.

2. I’ve got no head for finances, or rather, for tracking investments. I’ve let things slide too long, though. Next year, I’m going to work on changing that for sure.Continue reading

Year-end Wrap-Up: Top 5 books of 2012

2012 was a stellar year for me in terms of reading and all things book-related. I read over 60 books this year, across a variety of genres. I came across some brilliant writers, and some not so brilliant ones. I was approached by Random House India to participate in their book bloggers program, under which they send me books to read and review. And I joined a cool Twitter book-chat – TSBC.

So, what better way to kick-off this year-end wrap-up than by sharing with you my 10 favorite reads from the year? Without further ado, here they are!Continue reading

I wish someone told me…

I wish someone told me…
That the sun and moon wouldn’t really rise with his smile
That life isn’t really a dream that you dream with the one you love
That just believing I could wouldn’t help me to fly
That a hero doesn’t always lie in me, there is a coward lurking in there too…

This post is dedicated to those incurable romantics, who believe the songs and the movies and the books…who believe that what is sung and shown and written is literal…and are heartbroken when they realize that it isn’t.

Come on! How can you think that love would be so all-consuming that it would seem like a utopian dream from which you’d never wake up, or that just a smile from the person you love would light up your life, never mind their words and their actions? If it really was like that, life would be so exhausting! You wouldn’t be able to get anything done, because you’d just be melting into the other person. Not to mention that you would lose your identity – lose YOU. And seriously, that isn’t healthy. A relationship requires hard work. There are nasty fights and heartbreaks along the way. If you’re going to breakdown at the first sign of disagreement you’re going to be a mess!

Replace that narrative with this empowering thought:

Couples that are meant to be together

Can you really be so naive as to believe that just thinking is going to attract what you want into your life? Really now! The Secret may be great and all, but it’s very simplistic. Thoughts turn into things, sure, but it’s not magic. A lot of hard work goes on behind the scenes. You cannot just think yourself into a new job, for instance. You need to create or update your CV, send it out to multiple people, attend interviews, and only then might you find yourself with a job. And given the economy in most parts of the world, that isn’t even guaranteed! What thoughts do is help you focus on what you want, and give you the necessary inspiration to put in the hard work required to “attract” it into your life.

Replace that narrative with this empowering piece of advice, given to me by my teacher at school:

Luck is 99 percent perspiration and 1 percent inspiration

Do you believe that you will eventually find the hero within you? That you can always rise to every challenge thrown at you? That you can face anything and everything that comes your way? Listen to the lyrics carefully – all of them. To those lovely lyrics, I’d like to add this: It takes a great deal of courage… and before you can find the hero within you, you have to confront the coward lurking in you. Your fears and anxieties. You need to calm that coward down and reason with it. At times, you just have to downright ignore it. That is hard. Very hard. To listen to the fears and insecurities and go ahead anyway. Not everyone can do it all of the time and in all circumstances. And that’s OK, too. Instead, learn your limitations. Work on what you can, accept what you cannot, and take your decisions accordingly.

Replace the thought of always wanting to be the hero and beating yourself up when you aren’t with this little gem:

I'm strong becauseI've been weak

This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.

The prompt brought to mind my role as agony aunt with a friend who believes everything you tell her – literally – including these things I’ve listed above! If this helps you or someone you know, if you agree with the thoughts I’ve shared here, please feel free to share this post with your friends.

Now, it’s your turn. What do you wish someone had told you?

Solitude: How to make it work for you

Most of us are afraid to be alone – we confuse it with being lonely. But there’s a fine line of difference between the two. Being alone means being happy in your own skin, on your own, enjoying your relationship with yourself. Being lonely is when you crave external company, oftentimes because you don’t know yourself.

Solitude: You need to be happy just on your ownSolitude is powerful. It’s time you carve out for yourself to take care of the most important person in the world – you. It’s a time for self reflection and introspection. To examine your life and your emotions, get a grip on what is working for you and what isn’t.

When you’re in tune with yourself, you’re in a much better position to face life head-on. Decision making comes easier because you know exactly what you need at any given time to move ahead. You know what’s working and what isn’t and can take steps to change or correct your course.

Some of my best times are the few hours after I get back home from work and before the husband returns. It’s my time to do as I please – often I read, sometimes I go out for a stroll and on most days I journal. On Saturdays I’m out with friends because the husband works, but sometimes I stay home – alone – and take myself on a mini-retreat. I come out of that feeling rested, recharged and ready to roll. If I go too long without my alone time, I feel anxious and out of sorts.

If you’re afraid of spending almost an entire day with yourself, why don’t you try spending half an hour to an hour in solitude?

Here’s something you can try during that time.

You will need:
A journal or paper and a pen

  • Sit in a comfortable position and spend a few moments focusing on your breath. Take a few deep breaths in and out to center yourself.
  • Close your eyes and ask yourself: What do I need to know most about myself right now? What am I feeling? Is there any part of me that is feeling neglected, unwanted, unloved? How can I nurture myself?
  • Hold the questions in your mind for a few moments then open your eyes and write. Write without thinking, stopping or editing. The words will flow out of you on to the page.
  • Once you’re done, close your eyes and take a few deep breaths once again.
  • Then get yourself a glass of water or a cup of tea or coffee, and sit down and read through what you have written.
  • You may find kernels of wisdom in there or you may be surprised at the things that have come up in your writing. Find a way to incorporate the wisdom you’ve just gained into your daily life.

Or consider creating a simple morning ritual.

Do you find it easy to spend time with yourself? If yes, what do you do to connect with yourself? If not, why?

You may also like:

How to introspect

Preserved memories: on keeping a hand written journal

This is non-negotiable

non_negotialble_list1. My personal well-being: I’ve realized that when I am mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually well, I am in the best position to live my life to the fullest. This includes being my own best friend and loving myself unconditionally, even when I stumble and fall; replacing my inner critic with positive and encouraging self-talk; eating healthy and exercising, even if all I can manage is a 20 minute walk; time to connect with a higher power; and to meditate.

2. My self-respect: There may be times in my life when a friend or loved one walks all over my sense of self, damaging my self-respect under their hob-nailed boots. I’ve learnt it the hard way to never, ever, no matter what the circumstances, let anyone walk all over me or treat me like a doormat. My self-respect is the most important thing. Period.

3. A home that feels like me: Note, I didn’t say a magazine-perfect home. With all the amazing home interiors I see on Pinterest, in magazines and on blogs, it’s easy to look around my pad and hate everything about it. But when I stop and analyze, I realize that I love each object in my house – it all has a history, a story. It’s warm and welcoming and lived-in, which really isn’t something I can say for a lot of those picture perfect “white houses” I see online. If I’m able to keep my home clutter free for long periods of time, more power to me! I am open to change, to better my surrounding, but I refuse to give in to internet envy.

4. Allowing myself to dream big and DO big: There are no limits to imagination. I’ve found that it’s very important to allow myself to imagine a live that fills me with joy, and then go out and work towards achieving all that my heart desires! I may win some and lose some, but I know what I’m working towards and why. When something no longer resonates with me, I drop it, instead of living up to someone else’s idea of perfection. Since I am a procrastinator, I keep reminding myself that the only thing standing between my dreams and reality is action.

So, what’s non-negotiable for you? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

The day the music died

I grew up with music…surrounded by it, immersed in it…I would go to sleep with a cassette playing on my tape recorder and wake up to the sound of music. I played with it in the background, danced to it, cried with it, laughed with it, sang along with it. Music filled me. More than that, it was almost a tangible part of me – like my heart, or coursing through my veins mixed with my blood.

During my formative years, my music choices were influenced by my parents. Musicians like Perry Como and Tina Charles ruled in our house, as did old hindi film music and ghazals by Jagjit and Chitra Singh. During my rebellious teens, I rocked Bon Jovi and Pink Floyd, fell in love with Madonna and Michel Jackson, and sashayed to Right Said Fred. As those erratic hormones loosened their hold over me, I learnt to appreciate the classical notes of Beethoven and Mozart, Yanni and Kenny G.

These days, music’s all about rap and hip hop, which I don’t dig that much, and somehow, it’s losing it’s tangibility. It’s now something I listen to while driving the car and occasionally at work, when I want to tune out the rest of the office and focus on what’s in front of me. Or for a few hours when I have the house to myself.

This loss of tangibility isn’t all about me. It’s also because the husband and I have very different musical tastes, and different listening styles. I like music to envelop the air around me, fill the house with it’s melodious strains. The husband prefers to get lost in his own private world with his music, blaring it straight into his ears through his headphones. It’s been difficult, almost impossible, to get these two worlds to meet.

On the few occasions when I’ve tried to initiate him to music my way, it’s ended in dissatisfaction. He turns the sound down until it’s little over being background noise – I mean, who listens to Another One Bites the Dust with the volume turned down? That song is meant to be blasted through the speakers. I like listening to each song on an album in full and in sequence. He listens to a bit of the song, then suddenly remembers another great track on the album and skips to it. This back and forth continues, leaving me unfulfilled….unable to immerse myself in the music.

And so I’ve given up on him coming over to my side, and sadly on music. Listening to it on headphones isn’t anything like listening to it on a music system, with the volume turned up, the thump of the drum underlining your heartbeat, the strains of the piano taking you through a whole range of emotions in one magical piece.

Sadly, the music has…not died, just faded away. Leaving me unmoored, if you will. Adrift in the sea of life without my constant companion.

5 tried and tested strategies to deal with stress

Here are five tried and tested ways to beat stress, calm your nerves and just relax.

Taj Spa at Taj Exotica, Goa

Taj Spa at Taj Exotica, Goa (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

1) Make an appointment at your favorite spa for a relaxing head massage and wash, followed by a manicure and pedicure. There’s nothing as relaxing as just sitting back and giving yourself over to the magical fingers of your therapist as she massages the knots out of your shoulders. Bliss! Follow it up with a manicure and pedicure – apart from making you look like a million bucks, it will leave you feeling totally lucid. I promise.

2) Don’t have time for a leisurely spa treatment? Never mind. This next strategy takes just 5 minutes. Put on some soothing music (optional) and deep breathe. In and out. Watch your breath. Focus on it. If you start thinking of something else, gently bring your mind back to your breath. It will leave you feeling re-energized and filled with energy.

Central Park Bridges (view from Bridlepath loo...

Central Park Bridges (view from Bridlepath looking southwest), Gothic Arch, Spanning bridlepath south of tennis courts at nort, New York City, New York County, NY (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

3) If action’s more to your liking, plug in your iPod and go for a walk – preferably in nature. There’s something calming about all that greenery.

4) If you find yourself unable to step out of the house try listening to some instrumental music. Classic overtures are excellent at taking us out of the humdrum of our daily lives and transporting us to a different state of being.

5) If all else fails, turn to the telly, more specifically, comedy. What’s your favorite funny movie of all time? Pop it into the DVD player and watch it. Mine is The Birdcage, by th way. No matter what my mood when i start watching that movie, 20 minutes in I’m laughing so hard my tummy hurts!

Now it’s your turn. What are your favorite stress busting strategies?

How I rediscovered the zest for life

Since a while now, I’ve known that not everything was right with me. Somewhere along the way life dragged me down. I lost myself. Lost my zest for life. My days became practical, mechanical. The only thing I looked forward to was the weekend – Saturday, when I would meet up with friends and we’d go out about town and Sunday, when me and the husband would do things together. The rest of the time, I was on automatic pilot.

All that changed this week.

A fun interaction with a very close friend on Facebook turned into a more serious talk. She told me she had started avoiding meeting me because I had become too “practical”, had lost the magic that was me.

Find your magic

That one comment forced me to think – something that I had avoided doing even though I knew that things weren’t right. We inbox-ed one another furiously, and as she asked me questions that forced me to think, it made me want to cry – for all the time I had lost, for all that I wouldn’t acknowledge even to myself, for losing the magic.

She’s one friend with whom I can be 100% myself. She’s my mirror. So when she tells me something, I stop to listen and think. And I knew she was right.

find_your_magic_2

We went out that night, and she turned the spotlight on me. Asking about my life (going on), what I feel (nothing much), how I feel about life (that it’s happening on auto-pilot).

Then she made me do something. She made me tell her 10 things I was grateful for and why. And as I spoke about my blessings, I felt a shift inside me. Slowly, the ice around my heart began to crack. As the night wore on and the conversation flowed, the crack spread and eventually began to chip off.

I feel much more positive already. More cheerful. More hopeful. And it was all due to that exercise, which I’ve been doing everyday since.

Try it.

I am grateful for ______ because ______. (x 10)

Nothing is too trivial to list out. If you think it is, imagine your life without it. Awesome perspective, eh?

Life is Beautiful!

Bonus tip: make a list of everything you love – and I mean everything. People, places, food, restaurants, movies, books, activities, plants, flowers, animals…you get the drift. Any time you feel negative (sad, angry, irritated) think of this list. It will lift you up immediately!

Here’s to a wonderful life!

What are you grateful for? If you’ve already experienced the power of gratitude, tell us about it in the comments!

How to introspect

Introspection

Introspection (Photo credit: gurdonark)

There are times when we over-think things. Like introspection, or self reflection. I know I’m guilty of it. I’ve spent hours reading up on the right way to introspect. Wondering what questions to ask myself. If I was even asking the right questions.

Then, one day, I decided to just stop thinking about this whole thing. I was tired of trawling through websites and looking at lists of questions to ask myself. Some as inane as: “What are your favorite things (books, movies, stores, etc.)? Why ?”

So I just put the whole introspection thingajammy behind me and concentrated on doing different things. Things I’ve been putting off since a while.  Like reorganizing my craft room. And then suddenly, one day, I just….introspected. No muss. No fuss.

And I realized there is one and only one thing that was holding me back and making me overanalyze this whole introspection thing: fear.

I was afraid of what I would find. The person I would come face to face with in the mirror. Once I let my guard down, I found that it wasn’t so hard after all. And the person I saw wasn’t all that much of an ogre. She was normal, with her strong points and weak, successes and failures, areas of confidence and insecurities.

So, if you’re having trouble getting in touch with you, ask yourself: What are you afraid of finding? Chances are, you’re blowing your fears out of proportion.

I’m going to let you in on another secret: it isn’t even necessary for you to answer that question. Just acknowledge that you’re afraid and leave it at that. And one day, when you’re least expecting it, you’ll rediscover yourself.

Here’s to you!