There is something strange in that collection of words. Its like talking about wet cats (bheegi billis) or unfaithful dogs. Its like those typical British phrases too, which I cannot remember now…aargh!! Those wonderful memory cells and their flickering synapses—they have to blink out when one wants to fish out that one right word which is hovering just below the surface of my vocabulary ocean.
I have been reading one of my favorite blogshttp://zenhabits.net ( in fact, I am certain that Leo Babauta writes only for me and my current situation—whether its about knitting, or skipping exercise, or wanting to reach across and grab the I-phone from a distracted friend and smash that instrument into a million pieces) and there was this concise and clear post addressed to young people ( I am a young-at-heart-reader). He talks about the benefits of “learning to be good with discomfort”. About the fact that most amazing things begin with/flanked with/surrounded with discomfort and avoiding discomfort to live a safe life will mean that a lot of great things, good achievements, happy memories and amazing success (adjectives added by me) will not enter your safe life.
It got me thinking…thinking back and thinking hard. And yes, great things have happened when discomfort has been embraced. So, shall we take a quick trip through some life-events and see what am I talking about?!
This blurred, grainy picture of my last days in school surfaced on FB and opened the floodgates of school memories. I could remember lots of names and remembered all the girls whom I looked up to. Tall girls, smart girls who would laugh loudly, good singers, girls who had seen their attractive image in the mirror, girls who would ask questions in class….I could see them all. But where was I? who was Mala? I found her finally in the last row, trying to hide between two smiling friends. That Mala wouldn’t talk to anyone, would wear massive glasses, wear sensible dresses and just come to school and go home. It was easy and safe to be an obedient student and daughter, to keep quiet and never offer an opinion, to wear whatever parents chose, to just get through each class exam.
My life began to change when school ended. As old ideas and habits were analyzed and pushed out, discomfort dashed in and filled up all those empty spaces. Discomfort wrapped me up in its thick cloak till the new outcome emerged and dazzled me with its truth.
Bunking college classes and playing dumb charades the entire day—the discomfort of getting a second division result ( yikes!! No one had got a second div in the family! And while my sibling was in the top list of the national school board exams). The discomfort of looking at admission lists of medical colleges and not finding my name anywhere..of seeing tears of disappointment in my father’s eyes…of having to watch my friends go on with life.
One year of working really hard, focusing on multiple choice questions and ignoring that pointed single question from “well-wishers”, I cleared the entrance exam and entered AFMC..
Deciding to choose the service branch of my choice, deciding to marry the man of my choice—the discomfort of being disowned by family ..of getting married with only my brother beside me..of living with only our combined wits and paychecks and advice from friends.
Years of working at setting up home and house, of decisions and designs, of ghastly mistakes and disasters, of surprise successes and blessings….and I turned into a woman who could host parties, be a loved and respected doctor, enjoy motherhood and doggy love.
Realizing that marriage was stifling and sapping me, instead of supporting and enlivening me. Going against family-and-friends advice, deciding that the truth of a broken relationship was more important than a false show of all-is-well and wrapping that cloak of deep discomfort of being a divorcee, a single mother of two young daughters and the challenges of keeping a family and life going for the girls.
Learning to attend social functions alone, entering parties alone, fending passes from curious men friends, feeling those wary insecure vibes from other women.
Being parent, driver, teacher, joker, cook, tormentor and so much more to the girls.
Wondering what is wrong with my mental makeup…wondering why was I alone when I would see vapid women with adoring husbands at their side.
A million more issues which added colour and shades to my discomfort cloak.
I have become my best friend. I have two amazing women as my daughters—they don’t stay in their comfort zone all the time, like their mother in her young days. I have found friends who are strong and steady, like diamonds in my sky. I can attend weddings alone, I can strike up great conversations with passing souls and I can walk out of boring parties without a second thought.
Taking politically and socially incorrect decisions in life. Refusing to study for a post graduate degree.
Giving up a great practice in Oman and returning to India without any game-plan for the future.
Watching class-mates soar up the medical ladder and feeling proud of them.
Feeling equally proud of my realization that behind every illness there were issues which not related to medicine.
Joining the WHO and working with colleagues half my age, double my expectations from life and work, and treble my qualifications and degrees.
Having to work harder, listen and learn more and admit to ignorance and mistakes to my young bosses and guides.
Taking a lot of chaos and confusion in my stride, because of not having the qualifications to refute orders, or question decrees.
By keeping my eyes and heart open, I gained experience and confidence in my sixth sense, in the power of the Universe, in being an instrument of The Force. It kept me humble and grounded. By focusing on the work to be done and by ignoring the discomfort of taking orders and advice from younger people, I have gained admiration , respect and love from them. These memories helped to craft me into a good director..a leader who could empathize and empower, who could support and shield and most important, be curt or kind depending on the situation.
Leaving the city, career growth, children and family and moving to these hills.
Embracing the quieter and slower life.
Leaving financial security and fixed deposit farms to finding my feet in fields of knitting and pine trees.
Not knowing if this shift would be viable. Wondering if I will need to return back to the city and continue to work on reports, proposals and documentation which deadened my mind.
Decades of discomfort as my security blanket are paying dividends now! I live joyously, secure in the knowledge that most fears are founded in loneliness, insecurity and social conditioning. I have my daughters supporting me with all their strength, my family standing solidly behind me, my friends cheering and clapping from the sidelines and skeptics changing into reluctant admirers. I have a simple and satisfying life. It makes me wake up with a smile on my face and it ensures that I fall asleep soundly every night.