On Being Accepted Unconditionally

Growing up in India, I grew up in a middle class family where the only way you can get upward mobility is through *education*. I spent most of my teens (like 10 years in extreme educational competitive environment), and years after that mired in studying and working hard towards something which I never clearly understood what it will be like. Now looking back on my life I realize there was some meaning to it. I mean it’s kinda assigned meaning but yeah I will take it.

So what does it mean to get out of a middle class in India and to make to to this land of opportunity? It means no one around you accepts you as you are! Yep. My father was never, never happy with the grades I got. I mean c’mon I was like breaking bank with Physics! My professor met with my dad and told him that I had a great future in Astrophysics. But he didn’t accept it just because I wasn’t top of my class in Math! I did my best with computer science, but my dad wasn’t happy with any of it. He had some other plans for me. I would say some other expectations of me.

My extended family was surprised I wasn’t going to US of A when I made it to Singapore. They were like kinda unhappy about it. I mean I frigging took a risk and made it in Singapore, but none of my family acks that!

So the sad story of my life is – even though I excelled in a lot of things – people around me thought I wasn’t doing good enough job and wasn’t good enough. Which kinda left me with a feeling of lack and insecurity in my life that still to this day haunts me.

But not my daughter – the other day she asked me to tie her hair up and put it in a *bun* as she calls it. I tried. I mean I really tried. More than I would try to fix the nastiest bug at work. I couldn’t make it work. All I got was a lame bun and a half assed pony tail up her hair. Finally, I told her – “You know your mom actually knows well how to fix up your hair, I don’t know how to – you should ask your mom” – It was a very vulnerable moment for me. I am like admitting that I suck at this. All my insecurities flying all around. My daughter, looks at me – I swear to god there was a pause for like 2 seconds but it felt like eternity – she says “It’s ok daddy, I actually like it the way you did it”.  For the record, she is 4! She just scooped up my heard with this unconditional love.

Later I tried to get her hair fixed by asking my wife but my daughter refused it. She just wanted it that way. I think I have rarely felt unconditional love, but it was one of those moments. I know my daughter isn’t aware of all this stuff, but whatever she did – no one did that to me for a very, very long time. That acceptance of who I am – I haven’t seen it or experienced it in for a long long time. It really made my day. I think I will remember that forever.

How I increased my attention span

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I know this might come off as boasting or trite. But the most valuable thing we as individuals have is our attention span. Our ability to give our full attention to one and only thing in front of us. Amidst the tumultuous waters of multi-tasking and constant binge tapping of alerts, social conversations – our attention span is dying. Dying by million distractions.

A few weeks ago – I started doing couple of simple things. No big plan, I just thought I would do some simple things to make myself less distracted. Here is the list of things:

0. I meditated for 15 mins every evening.

1. I stopped using my laptop or phone at least 30 mins before I went to bed.

2. I read an actual dead tree book for those 30 mins and then simply went to sleep without worrying about what happened on FB.

3. When I wake up, I didn’t jump into my phone – which usually starts of as, what’s the weather going to be like and then like 30 mins later I know everyone’s status on FB.

4. I didn’t check my personal email till noon.

5. I didn’t check FB when I was bored. I read something interesting about my field of work.

6. I jumped straight into work as soon I got to office.

This was all new to me and somedays really hard. But I kept at it. Not sure what’s going to come off of it.

After like 7 days, I realized few things.

1. My concentration while reading a book or writing code, spiked up. I was able to focus on one thing in front of me for more than 30 mins, without being physically interrupted.

2. To my fascination, whenever I read long articles – like from longform etc, I was *actually* able to finish the article in one sitting.

3. When I interacted with my daughter, I was not hiding behind my iPhone, I was able to pay full attention to what she was saying. Oh what a fascinating mind is of a 4 year old!!

That’s it. Nothing major. I wasn’t aiming for this level of focus and concentration but I think what I did actually helped me build it.

Why I think Parenting is tiring

Parenting I think is a moment by moment minute or minimum impact decisions for which your whole brain has to use immense resources to compute and decide on each of them. Parenting is deciding what is good for your child every moment. It’s tiring because there are many times that you yourself don’t know that something is good for your child or not. Added on top of that, the behavior you might be prescribing or expecting of, in your child goes completely against what you might believe or it could be something that you think it’s good because some expert thinks so.

Parenting is a profession where you practice it, as you learn it and you become expert when it’s already too late. Maybe useful for nephews or grand kids!

Parenting is a lot about doing exactly what you believe in and setting examples to your child but often what we say, what we believe and what we do is so in-coherent that it hurts to see that we are sending mixed messages to our own child.

Parenting is tiring because in essence it’s a minor step in the grand scale of this social conditioning, this retrofitting of a free flowing wonderful creature into tiny slots and shapes of order, structure and behavior.

Parenting is tiring because you sometimes get that glimpse of your own conditioned self – preaching, pontificating and trying to convince your child about ideas, theories that you don’t believe in.

That’s why I think parenting is tiring. I am not saying it’s bad or good (it’s your call) but it’s my observation. It’s a multitude of unexpected and unseen challenges. One that makes me feel extremely thankful to my parents and have high regard and respect for other parents.

Look Up!

I love this video. Somehow this guy has managed to put this so well!! “We are a generation of dumb people with smart phones”

I could say that not to look awkward on BART without digging myself in my cell phone – I end up closing my eyes!

I notice that the speed at which people walk now a days is how fast they can like the things on their facebook wall! The amount of time we spend at red light is how many text messages we are reading and sending. It’s kinda sad.

I love what this article talks about how we don’t know any more about just purposeless walking – –http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-27186709

And added to that this book really shaped about what I think about how technology is disrupting families.

Big Disconnect

This is me

Watching this moved me a lot. This was me growing up. This was me in every social situation that I came across. This is still me. I vigorously cut those cutouts and work very hard to fit myself in. It never worked perfectly and I ended up carrying so many of them with me. This is me. This made me both sad and happy.

My Worst Fears

Couple of days back I had a great realization. I realized what my greatest fears are (and have been). I mean I kinda knew some – but this time I came across the core of them. We all have our own dark corners and I nurtured mine with complete denial and ignorance. It was culmination of what I have been reading and that one amazing video watched the night before. Here is the book –

tamingA simple and amazing book which talks a lot about how internal chatter creates these seemingly uncontrollable gremlins that we carry around and believe the picture they paint as true. It’s really hard to identify them as they usually become part of our identity and severely limit our scope to catch them in action.

The books premise is – there is a core in everyone of us. The pure core and then there are these gremlins. We are kinda slaves to these gremlins (if you watched Cloud Atlas, there is a perfect example of it in that movie. The “Old Georgie” is nothing but a personification of Gremlin). Gremlins control us based on a pattern. They keep us anywhere except the present and now. Obsess about past, fear the future – that’s gremlin talking.

I think that book needs to be re-read and re-read till we can clearly identify and sort out those gremlins. So, here are my worst fears.

1. The Fear of not fitting in : This is so much part of me that it was really, really hard to dislocate and watch it. Basically not fitting in for me means anything from clothing, accent, pronunciation, culture, politics, knowledge, humor, sports, finances, habits and everything else. I am so dreaded by the fact that I won’t fit into something that I will totally avoid anything if I have a slightest hint of not fitting in well. It’s a painful truth and probably has kept me off of many astounding opportunities in my life but yeah that is my fear and it’s part of me.

2. The Fear of not being nice : This is nuts as well. I hate to be one with conflicts. I mean internal conflicts I seed and grow a many but outer conflicts I can’t take it. I am so scared of not turning out to be nice to other people that I will actually avoid them rather be angry at them or even show even a hint of discontent. Once again this fear is part of me and defines me.

3. The Fear of not being smart enough : This is the most craziest and the more I dwelled into it the more I realized that this is a double edge sword. I hate to be not smart enough among a peer group. If I am among a bunch of smart people, I strive really really hard to act and do smart things. But on the other hand if I come across someone who is not as smart as I think they are – then I drop, I completely drop and “act” stupid to accommodate me. So, I act more smart and more dumb when required to fit into the above two fears.

Remember the question here is NOT “why am I this way?” Doing that encourages another gremlin and you lost your battle already. It’s just to put the fears out. Pull out these grotesque creatures I have nurtured and created since my childhood and just watch them. Just be aware of them and do nothing. As simple as it sounds, it’s one of the hardest things I have ever done. Just writing this blog post makes me think that I am publicly shaming myself and making vulnerable to outside world.

The video I talked about which helped me to figure out the above process is by Alan Watts. Here it is.

I created this blog to actually post stuff that surfaces in my psyche and in the past there have been many books and stuff I read that have helped me to identify these. Here are some of them that come to mind.

I just came across this gem – The Blerch is nothing but a Gremlin – http://theoatmeal.com/comics/running

 

 

 

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Like is the new Subscribe

First there was print media. Next came the Internet revolution and it got the 4th estate all riled up and they started out their websites. Blogs started complimenting the news and then came Twitter. People started to talk to each other using tweets and then the idea coalesced into leaders within Twitter providing information. The media was late to it but it joined eventually. The news started getting disbursed in 140 characters matching the 10 seconds attention span. Then came Facebook – colonizing the friendship graph. They pulled in all of us and all our friends and everyone we knew. Enticed us to “Like” each other’s stuff and encouraging activity, eyeballs and addiction. The media was late there as well, but now it’s catching up.

Facebook announced 2 major things last week. In video side of it’s 1 billion dollar acquisition of Instagram. Perfectly timed 15 secs (as opposed to 6 seconds on Vine) – matching the advertisement requirement, videos in your feed. Another thing is about Mark Zuckerberg’s passion to make Facebook as a place to get all your news. I think this is a genius move on Facebook’s behalf. I have literally stopped going to websites to read news – all I do is like them on their site when I visit them first time – and lo and behold I get all my news on my wall. Facebook turned it’s “Like” button into a “interested”, “permission to invade”, “subscribe me” button.

Pretty soon we will have news media saying – “Only available on Facebook“, “Watch it first on Facebook” – because that is where the action is. Because that wall you take for granted on Facebook is definitely a wall – a wall where you put your virtual TV on, a wall where you pin your address book on, a wall where you have your calendar on. Facebook wall is the new Desktop – it’s just that we are not aware of it yet. It’s here and it’s slowly creeping on us.

I feel sorry for Google and Apple – both companies still stuck in the old thinking and investing in good old media hardware – Google TV, Apple TV(the actual TV which is rumored). I feel sorry that Google dropped it’s Google reader which could have competed with Facebook wall. I feel sorry for Youtube Channels because you are way too far from my wall and need a new tab to visit you. It’s just a matter of time before we see HBO exclusive on Facebook wall.

This is how a simple Like turned into a mass consumption channel. A pathway to new consumers.

Mourning

This morning I got a call from my home in India. My dearest grand dad passed away. It hurt so much to learn that. He has been sick from some time and I made it a point to spend a lot of time with him on my trip to India last month. It’s been a weird day. I tried so many ways to find solace in many things. It’s hard. Death is such a full stop to everything that happens around it that it throws people off their rhythm.

My grand father was the sweetest person in the world. The only person who would let me do and let me have whatever I want while growing up under my strict dad. I don’t remember when it started to happen but I think around the age when I was 7 I started to go spend all my summer at my grand parents place. It was so much fun. I used to look forward to that. The summer was the best. I would just spend time with my friends and watch movies. My grand parents took care of me.

Then later when I was went to college, it so happened that it was like 20 miles from my grand parents place. I loved it. Every weekend I would go visit them and spend a good amount of time. My grand father was so much fun to hangout with. He was a farmer. I would go to fields with him and watch him do the work and try to help. He loved farming. He has un-usual way to telling weather. Just by smelling the air and looking at the sky he could tell if it’s going to rain or not. It was fascinating to me.

It was always sad to leave their place to go back to my place. But one thing that got etched into my memory when I was kid was – as I was saying good bye to him – my grand father started to cry. I could never imagine that he could cry and I was shocked. I still remember that day.

10 years ago he had a stroke and everyone thought we would lose him. But he came back like a rock star. He got healed and miraculously also managed to do his pilgrimage and live this long. He was 80+ and in a good health. He doesn’t have any of the modern lifestyle diseases, no eye sight and still was going around on his bi-cycle.

I love him so much and I am going to miss him a lot. My only solace is that I saw him last month and he saw Sahana and was able to bless her. It’s painful to digest this and there are no words sometimes to express it. One song keep going on in my head and I just keep listening to it. It somehow soothes me.

Rest in Peace Nana. I will miss you a lot.

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Dream

This morning I had a pretty amazing dream. I mean this one really tops the list. I was led into a chamber by my mentor or some person who I don’t remember now. This chamber is a special one which bestows on you special powers if you are ready for it. There were other people behind me who were getting inside.

As soon as I got in, I felt this energy wrapping me and I was feeling completely different. Then I put my legs on the wall and was able to walk on the wall! Later I was pulling things out of walls etc. 

That went on for quite a while but the cool comprehension I came out with was – I am creating my own reality. That’s what the main message was. This energy which was within me was letting me do that. And it felt like the dream went on forever.

That was one of the coolest dream I ever had!

Talking to the 6 year old in me

Last weekend – as our dear friend Rebecca agreed to babysit Sahana – we decided to go watch a movie together! Just me and Sangita. Sangita picked a non-commercial movie called – The Sessions – to watch. I had no clue as to what the movie is about. When it started out with a man who is paralyzed – I was expecting a miracle and thinking that the movie will end in a happy ending by Mark getting better! (It’s based on a real story of Mark O’Brien). How lame of me.

The movie is very touchy and moving. It shows a completely basic level of human nature which we don’t encounter in a day to day life. No drama, just great stuff. There is one scene in the movie which moved me a lot and I have been thinking about it a lot. In one of the scene – Helen Hunt who is the sex surrogate asks Mark – who is getting upset about how he is doing – to close his eyes and imagine the time when he was 6 years old in a nice place. Not in the body of the 6 year old, but as if he is watching the 6 year old version of him. Then she asks him to tell that 6 year old – There is nothing wrong with him, he is not the reason for his disability.

That was really moving. The 6 year old in me keep banging on my door asking for me to talk to him. After a lot of thought, I relented. I imagined a time when I was 6 year old. This was 1980, so we were in Bapatla, AP. After my school the best place to play was in a big pile of sand in our backyard. I would take a bunch of bricks and make them bus, car etc and drive them around – often resulting in some accidents. I watched my 6 year old playing for a long time and then approached him and said these 3 things-

  1. There is nothing wrong with you
  2. You don’t have to be perfect
  3. You are loved, always

I  know that this may sound very kooky – but there are 2 things to take into consideration. First, if you study time. I mean the time time, you will know that past and future are nothing but ideas – temporal placement of events in our minds. They don’t exist. To add a meta-physics level to it, you will learn that everything is happening at this moment. Irrespective of how hard it is for linear mind to understand it – I believe in that. The 6 year old is playing with those bricks right now as I type this. Second, the emotional release it had on me was immense. I just couldn’t take it and it explains why I had to wait like 5 days before I talked to the 6 year old – even for my imagination.