Author: sukanyabora

We Arrived at Middle

Middle school “back to school” night was tiring. For me. The newly minted sixth grader skipped ahead of us, donning an air of familiarity and pride as he directed us through the crowded hallways to individual classroom presentations.

Middle school has been fun thus far. For him. He tells me he likes how it makes him independent. When probed further, I realize that independence and having a locker go hand in hand. Every story he narrates revolves around the said locker. Every detail he shares somehow finally ends at the locker. LockerLove, hence is new, alive and strong.

Middle school has been a transition. For his sister. She no longer has a bus mate to travel with. Or an older brother to watch out for her.

Middle school has been an adjustment. For me. From a full-time stay at home to a fully employed commuter, getting up earlier so I can pack a proper lunch and feed my boy a decent breakfast before he toddles off has been a challenge.

Middle school will be demanding with higher loads of homework, assignments, quizzes and tests. It will challenging as we grasp newer grading systems, online platforms and overall expectations.

Middle school will be about stronger partnerships with teachers and school officials, closer monitoring of the boy’s performance, keener observations for growth and success opportunities.

Middle school, finally, promises to be exciting, intensive, trying and revelatory. Of the boy and his capabilities. Of us and our ability to guide, advice, support, encourage and love.

Fifteenth

It’s our fifteenth wedding anniversary today.

The day started with getting irritated with the kids, giving them a piece of my mind, making my youngest cry.

Just like some many other days.

Fifteenth, tenth, seventh, nineteenth….

Does it really matter anymore?

To us, hubbs and me, it does.

On FB, with her wish, a friend suggested that I write a short story about our union. My response: a story won’t cut it, it will have to a long thesis. One that is presumably open-ended.

Come to think of it, fifteen does seem long. It feels like a lifetime. It is, in many aspects a lifetime. Cannot put a finger on any particular reason that made or makes us tick. Like most things and specifically relationships, it is a culmination of many factors. But I do believe that because we are opposites (I am crazy, he is sane), we fit. It works. It’s easier to make it work. We have definitely found a rhythm of sorts. A routine in a seemingly, occasionally chaotic terrain of emotional highs and lows.

I call our marriage, a union of codependence. And with kids, this notion of co dependence takes a whole new meaning. Reliability, consistency, constant communication regardless of how mundane and automatic it may seem sometimes, honesty, flexibility, integrity and respect are elements that we continue to grow with and learn from.

It helps to have a solid support system to navigate and stay happily married as well. And both are supremely fortunate to be blessed to have a slew of people who continue to unconditionally support, love, encourage, guide and pump us along the way.

Like most things, to make a relationship tick, one’s got to invest wholeheartedly. Both hubbs and I vowed to do exactly this fifteen years ago. Our relationship continues to be a work in progress. It also reminds us that we have come a long way.

As we take the time to dissect, reflect and look forward to the future, we will raise a toast to us. To celebrate what we have. To remember how incredibly proud we are of us.

Motherhood Lessons from a Novice – Part II

With Mothers’ Day just around the corner, I thought I’d do an upgraded version of this post. The kids are older with more defined needs. They are definitely  temperamental with moods changing like the seasons except in a quicker and more volatile manner. Precious learning continues as we slowly creep into presumably challenging years of adolescence. I am torn about this next phase, it’s positively bitter-sweet, forcing Hubbs and I to accept the grim reality that the time we have with them is brief. Below are lessons learned and unlearned thus far. They are my truths about raising two demanding, flourishing kids, who bring me immense joy, happiness, worth, disappointment, pain, anxiety, all in equal measure.

Doesn’t matter how informed you are or how many books and articles you read about parenting, you are never prepared when inevitability strikes. With newer and tougher territories, oh fuck crap becomes the IT phrase.

Somehow things tide over. Maybe not the way you expect them to. But they do with happily ever afters. Happily ever afters? Nah. I was kidding. Things end. They just do. And in a few days you will look back at the same instance and marvel at the hold some situations can have on you.

If you are one of those moms looking for details, especially about their day at school, get used to the “nothing much” response. Its starts in pre-school and shows no sign of evolving into an intelligent, detailed, exciting response for a long long time.

“I love you”, a term they learn to say very young and rather frequently or randomly. As they get older, the frequency may taper down but when uttered, it takes on a deeper, richer meaning, one that will leave you feeling incredibly blessed.

“Pick up after yourself” is like a company’s vision. It’s just looks good on paper. It’s downright lofty.

Chores are a hard sell. Unless you add an incentive, they will not get done.

Brace yourself for more laundry. And smellier clothes. Those darn hormones do their thang and kick up the unpleasant many notches up. The personal laundry needle moves from dislike to abhor.

If you want to be remembered as a “rockstar chaperone”, go ahead and knock yourself out with a bazillion after school activities. Also prepare to turn your car into a house and a McDonald’s into a dining room. Trust me, less is more.

Brace yourself for the vocabulary showing off phase. The spellings will remain dismal but catustropi, humeliating, sircastik, pursepective and such get used frequently and with much aplomb.

Hug them tighter, kiss them plenty. Even if they turn away disgustingly. The PDA’s take a whole new meaning for the mommy. One that makes her proud, happy, wistful and sad, all at the same time.

Conversations definitely improve in quantity and quality. You get ample opportunity to ramp up your listening, negotiating, conflict, questioning, probing, asserting and other such skills.  Most force you to reevaluate your credibility as a parent. Each reinforces the fact that learning is always a two-way street.

They may look annoyed with public display of affection but they still yelp like monkeys on crack when you volunteer at their school. They cling to you, show you off like a prized thoroughbred leaving you with an utmost sense of flattery and admiration.

The sibling bond gets tighter, stronger and fiercer with time. I dare you to say anything remotely harsh to one of them. The protective fangs come out in a jiffy to insulate against all things evil.

Mommy is the tech dinosaur. No matter how hard you try to keep up with the rapidly changing world of gadgetry, you are always two steps behind.

Mommy is everything. Nothing feels right or works without mommy.

They fight. They make up. They fight. They make up. They fight. They make up.

And oh, that game called Minecraft. Less said, the better.

“If momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.”

Tell us more about your childhood is a request that is on auto play. Stock pile your stories and be prepared to throw one at them at the most unexpected hour. Like “mamma, my poop is not coming out. Can you please tell me one of your childhood stories?”.

Apologize when you need to. It humanizes you. They quickly realize you are flawed and they accept you without judgment.

The beautiful thing about kids is they allow you to redeem yourself. To make amends, to better yourself. This is how magnanimous they are.

Moving the ‘I Cannot’ Needle

So I managed to not get lost in the second guessing soup.

Because I am now obsessed with the aliens who have landed on my chin.  They are happily building deep, painful craters that flare up every morning. They make me wish I was the evil queen with a magic mirror.

Acne, my resolute confidence smasher.

For the longest time, I struggled with body image (which in my definition also includes acne). It was mainly mood and /or day driven. If on a Monday I was obsessing about my thundering thighs, on a Wednesday, the preoccupation would turn onto my fat arms and by the time Friday rolled around, I was brooding about my lack of boobs.

There was always something to be troubled with. My extra weight or my chubbyness added to this dynamic, especially in my teens.

I was into sports in middle and high school. Despite being rotund, I was extremely flexible and quick on my feet. I played a mean game of badminton. Often people would be taken aback when they found out about my game. My built automatically made them think that I was more suited for a sport that needed muscle strength like wrestling, weight lifting, javelin or discuss throw.

Darn first impressions.

People often commented on my weight. But I don’t recall ever getting bogged down by them until this one experience. My teammates and I were in a rigorous coaching camp, preparing for the upcoming nationals. It was our physical training hour in the morning. After completing a 10 m run, we were back indoors, stretching and doing  floor exercises. A senior was helping me with some sit ups. I was exhausted, drained and was generally struggling to get to the fifty I needed to complete the set. I slowed down and that irritated my senior. He slapped my knees hard and literally yelled, you fatso, you will never be good at this game if you don’t do anything about your weight. And with that, he left, his face donning a look of disgust.

While I laid there gobsmacked, embarrassed and close to tears.

I came home with the glum-est look ever. I recall locking myself in my room and bawling. I decided not to talk to my parents but write them a letter. This letter was one of my firsts to them and in it I pleaded to them to not force me to eat, to help me check what goes into my body. I pleaded that despite my undying love for chicken, I was willing to sacrifice it for the rest of my life just so I can stop ridiculing myself in front of others.

I’d like to think that this was one of the turning points in my life but I am not sure. It definitely made me realize that I was wrong to believe that people’s taunts and jibes about my weight didn’t bother me. They did. Immensely. They quietly gnawed away at my self-esteem, my confidence. I started wearing loose-fitting or over-sized clothes. I used to wear my father’s. Friends and family members thought this was my attempt to be cool but to me, this was the easiest way to hide, to not call attention to my body.

Eventually, in my early twenties, I lost a whole lot of weight. Not because I took care of what I ate. Not because I gave up on chicken. It was because of an unhealthy lifestyle of skipping meals, living on chai and biscuits, smoking, late nights and such. But despite becoming the thin person I always yearned to be, I continued my struggles with body image.

My thighs and arms still looked fat and flabby to me.

My boobs continued to be non-existent.

My nose, too large.

My acne, a constant companion.

I have traversed a long way in the journey of body image. I am better off. I am no longer bothered by my thighs or my unshapely arms or my large nose. Boobs, well as long as I have them and not lose them to cancer, their size is irrelevant. But my acne is a different story all together. I continue to struggle with it. I continue to allow them to affect me. I continue to give them free pass to make me feel insecure, unattractive.

I am not a make-up person but in the recent years, I have relied on it heavily. To mask the flare ups, my increasing dark spots (new development) so much so that I feel like a layered cake with tons of unpalatable icing.

Why do you have to use make up? my daughter asked me once as we were getting ready to go to an event.

To hide my acne. One of the many wishes I have for you is this-that you don’t get my skin, was my response.

But lately I am beginning to question whether I really need to hide behind make up. I would love to step out of the house without a pinch of foundation on my face.  It’s not a ‘should I’ but a ‘can I’ question.

I have been regularly asking myself this question. And the best answer I can muster is ‘I cannot’.

I am afraid I will look awful. I am afraid my red, flared up pimple will distract folks from listening to me. I am afraid that my kids will be embarrassed to be seen with their mom.

I am afraid.

I am fucking insecure. The first thing I see when I look in the mirror are the damn craters on my chin. Nothing else. My somewhat pleasing face totally disappears. And this is exactly what I believe will happen when I step out without make up.

I am quick to reveal many of my insecurities. But this one is and has been a tough one for me.

I want to be that woman who is content, is at peace with who they are, how they look. As much as I have succeeded in following my heart and not worrying about other people’s judgments as far as body image is concerned, I am not there yet.

I have a lot of growing up to do.

In other words, I will continue to be a work in progress. It isn’t a bad thing as long as I don’t let my acne insecurity take over my life.

I am confident that I will get to not relying on make-up one day. That I will be able to step out of the house, meet people and not get conscious of the Martians happily partying on my skin.

I am working on moving the needle from I cannot to I can. 

Gloomy is the Flavor of the Day

I am an optimist. I think I am. Most times. But I wish I was like my mum, an eternally positive thinker.

I worry but am not a champion worrier like some others in the family.

I am fun. Funner than hubbs for sure. He needs to lighten up a bit, I keep telling the kids and him often.

I used to be wishy-washy. But not any more. Thanks to motherhood/parenthood. Decision making for the kids, by the kids has been a good practice. I had to learn this by unlearning some.

I am self-critical. So much so that I enjoy stewing myself in a bubbly second guessing soup. I had a phone job interview yesterday. I screwed it up. Big time. My over confidence got the best of me. Decision hasn’t been made yet but I know I won’t be short listed. Rejection, humbling to say the least. Makes me realize how imperfect or flawed I am. I spent the rest of day moping and thinking. Thinking about how ill prepared I was. More so, how hard I tried to impress the interviewer. In doing so, I didn’t come across authentically. I was not me. By the end of the day, that interview conversation looped in my head at least a hundred times. In the end, I found myself yet again in the bubbly second guessing soup.

My emotions are exaggerated.

When I laugh, I laugh with my whole body, that loud, full throttle laugh.

When I cry, I let me tears flow freely. No hiding, no sneaking away. I cry my soul out.

When I am angry, I release my wrath without inhibition or considering the repercussions.

When I beat myself up, I become a relentless self critic. And in that moment of weakness, I push myself to believe that nothing in my life is in order. If only he would talk more; if only my mom in law will stop worrying so much; if only the kids were more responsible; if only I had money to travel; if only……

A fault finder. This is who I was yesterday. This is who I allowed myself to become.  Like so many times in the past.

I call hubbs to whine. He tries his best to pacify. I call a good friend to unload. She tells me “give yourself permission to mope. But you have until 5pm, till the kids come home from school”. At 5.08pm, she texts, “its 5.08. Time is up. Only positive thoughts now!”

If only I was as strong-headed as her.

At 7pm,  just so I can commit myself to getting over my fault-finding, mopey frame of mind, I put up a status update on FB, “it was a sucky Monday and I am ready to leave it behind. On to Tuesday, on forward.”

Tuesday comes. I wake up with lingering thoughts of self-doubt. I am not done yet. The gloomy, sunless day makes it some what harder.

The bubbly, simmering second guessing soup is tempting me to jump right in.

Why Banana Nut Bread?

So I decide to try out the 21 day meditation experience developed by Oprah and Deepak Chopra.

Fourteen minutes into the session on “finding success from within”, I stop the audio and log out.

Instead I decide to make banana nut bread. I am no baker but this recipe never fails me.

Fifty five minutes since the time I decide to meditate, I am blissfully relaxed. Because of the warm, nutty banana aroma that fills up my kitchen.

Sixty minutes since the time I log off the meditation session, I shove a forkful of warm home baked banana nut bread into my salivating mouth. Within seconds, the mouth-stomach duo is doing a gratifying dance relishing the sweet, savory taste. It happily hollers to my limbic system, get another piece will ya!

Moral of the story: If you can bake a mean banana nut bread, you don’t need meditation.

It Doesn’t Discriminate

Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) runs in my family. My paternal grandmother (Aita) lost her life to it. Her old age added to the complexity of the disease. I saw first hand how this incurable disease took a toll on her eight kids and the extended family. It was tough to say the least. I saw my father, mom, uncles and aunts rally around her well-being. Despite being doctors, my parents struggled with her care. They didn’t quite know how to manage her and more specifically the condition. The caregivers had it worst than Aita, who slowly and gradually got pulled into a dark, bottomless pit. Watching her sense of self diminish, getting devoured by this unrelenting, ravaging monster of a disease was perhaps the hardest thing I witnessed as a teen.

My seventy-nine year old mother has vascular dementia. A condition that got aggravated due to diabetes. She is an insulin dependent diabetic, has been for over twenty-five years. Fortunately her deterioration has been slow but like anyone else afflicted by AD, her short-term memory is literally non-existent, is losing her spatial orientation, her sense of hygiene, self-care and such. In short, we cannot leave her alone. She needs 24/7 care. My father has become her care taker, her medicine giver, insulin manager, dietician, nutritionist, her deliberate constant companion. She is my purpose of existence now, he said a few years ago. As long as I am alive, I will take care of her. That was good until he fell gravely ill recently and was hospitalized for almost a month. This unexpected setback threw us off kilter in the most unimaginable way. We didn’t realize until then how clueless we were about my mother’s health and welfare needs. And how hard it is to remain patient, calm and unstressed with someone who has dementia. Add my mother’s inherent stubbornness and deep pride to the mix and we have an emotionally catastrophic situation at hand.

My father in law is also going down this path. Forgetfulness is one thing. But when one loses his way back home on a walk or from a routine errand run or when one does not recognize his son’s house, one he visits often, it’s another thing. I look at my mother in law and already see the toll its taking on her. She is an anxious person by nature, someone who worries constantly and this development doesn’t make the situation any easier.

With all this history, I may be a likely candidate of this condition. I read an article on AD some years ago that said it spares a generation. More convinced, I remember telling my father, hey it skipped you, therefore I will be next! I may have said it in jester but I could very well be afflicted sooner than later. I am in my 40’s and I could get AD.

Early onset Alzheimer’s was the topic that framed Still Alice. A book I just finished reading, written expertly by Lisa Genova. I have already spent the last 24 hours on FB complimenting and promoting this book, hence will spare you the pain. But if you want to understand early onset AD, how it affects people in their 30’s, 40’s and 50’s and what it does to them, this is the book to pick up. I loved every chapter, every scene in it. Genova chose the protagonist’s voice to tell the story-how she loses her family, career, and dreams to AD. Culturally we associate AD with older folks and therefore this book serves a critical purpose of making people aware that AD doesn’t discriminate. Age isn’t really a factor.

Seeing how my grandmother suffered and now my mother, I don’t wish it upon anyone and any family. Given my obvious predisposition, I am tempted to test for the gene but I am not ready. I am plain scared to find out. I know it is foolishly risky but as of now I am better off not being proactive about it. At least this is what I would like to believe.

Call me a scaredy cat, call me a wuss. I am not letting AD testing rain on my parade.