Sunday, September 27, 2020

42

Freshly 42.

~~~

Self-help books have always gotten a bad reputation, at least in my television and cinematic experience. I saw Bridget Jones toss all her advice books in the trash along with her cigarettes and empty vodka bottles as a sign that she was "getting herself together." In an episode of Sex and the City, a newly separated Charlotte approaches the Self-Help aisle at Barnes and Noble (or as Carrie says in her witty narration, "the self-HELL aisle") only to see heavy-handed portrayals of depressed people reading and sobbing in the middle of the store. 

So yeah, my perception of reading a self-help book was anything but positive a couple of years ago when one was recommended to me by a friend. This friend, who I consider an incredibly bad-ass lady hero of mine, sent me a book called, "You are a Badass." We were texting about a very problematic professional relationship I was in the middle of dissolving and she suggested I read it. Since I trusted this person so much, I decided to download the book.

Since then, I've read a few self-help books and while none of them personally live up to the pull-quotes on the back covers, I have gotten at least a handful of helpful tips from each... all of which have elevated my life experience in different ways.   

Most recently, I listened to the book, "Buy Yourself the F*cking Lillies" by Tara Schuster. Of all the books I've read in the self-help/advice genre, this one was probably the most enjoyable for me personally. Tara is a huge proponent of journaling. She often cites how her bevy of journals helped her figure out a lot of the destructive patterns in her life. One of the first pieces of advice she gives early in the book is to start a practice called, "Morning Pages." This entails writing 3 pages of thoughts, word-vomit style, first thing in the morning. Keep the journal at your bedside table, she says. Wake up, get journal and write 3 single-spaced pages of whatever is on your mind. 

I could do that, I thought. That very day I picked up a cute journal from Target, put a reminder on my phone and waited until the next morning to start my journaling adventure. It's been fantastic so far and I really enjoy the freedom to get my thoughts out in any way, shape or form every single morning. It takes about 20 minutes out of my morning routine, so I get up 20 minutes earlier. Totally doable and totally worth it. 

10 days into my morning pages adventure, I celebrated my 42nd birthday. And well... I had a lot of thoughts about turning 42 that morning. I've decided to share that entry on my blog because it turned out pretty decent. Considering most of my pages have so far consisted of complaining about making school lunches, which Hamilton song is stuck in my head and a list of what I need to get done that day, I was rather pleased to have my best entry fall on my birthday. So, here it is in all its word-vomit glory... 

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9-26-2020

Ha! I almost wrote '1978' in the date. 42. I feel so lucky. My life has taken some twists and turns but I'm sure I am exactly where I'm supposed to be. It's funny, you grow up thinking the younger you are, the better life must be and yes... youth has it's benefits. But while physically you are perhaps more tolerant of indulgence whether it be with food, drinks or a more sleep-deprived way of life, emotionally you are most likely a mess. At least I was. As I wake up today having completed 42 years on this Earth, I sort of feel like I've just begun. After turning 40 a couple of years ago, a major mind shift occurred almost instantly. The theme of that mind shift being that I am the one who controls the trajectory of my life. No longer do I default to the stereotypical wife and mom narrative of "my life revolves around my family." That was the story I was sliding into, like being pulled by a tractor-beam into a large spaceship in the shape of a mini-van covered in stick figure family decals. Nope. I still had dreams and goals of my own that only I had the control to propel towards. No more fucking excuses. And I had so many excuses. In fact, I believe I had inherited the excuses trait from my dad. I love him so much, but Daddy sure could think of every excuse NOT to do something and it infuriated me as a kid. I'm sure he had his reasons, but as a kid, all I knew or saw was that my dad never wanted to take a risk or go through any inconvenience for the sake of fun or a better life. That's a short-sighted take, I know that now at the wise age of 42, but even then I knew I did not want to be like that. And what happened? I began to do just that. Finding every possible reason why my dreams were unattainable. Especially in my mid to late 30s it was so easy to say, "Well, I'm way too old now, I blew it." Even though I was doing improv and exhilarated by performing, there was an element of feeling sort of pathetic. "Am I just the older lady that everyone humors?" I really don't think I was, but it didn't stop me from letting those thoughts enter my headspace. Today, I know and more importantly, I believe what I'm capable of. There wasn't one thing that changed my mind either. Like, I didn't have a conversation or read some life-changing book. It was all me and I'm fucking proud of that. My body, mind and soul finally decided I could create the life I would be at peace with whenever I'm taking my final breath. There were small moments of clarity that would wash over me and they were inspired by other moments - hearing an interview with accomplished writers or actors, finally allowing myself to listen to people who believed in me rather than those life-doubters to whom I gave years and years of power. And most of all... I was plain exhausted. It's fucking exhausting making excuses all the time. There's some statistic that says it takes 4x more muscle power to frown than to smile. I'm not sure the actual numbers, but you get the gist. Well, it takes so much more out of you to knock yourself down under the surface of your potential than it does to bounce up and do the work. And yeah, it's fucking work and hustle and figuring out very new paths with almost no information... but the "figuring out" itself is the joy, at least for me. I'm working everyday to give my life some real meaning. Today, as a 42 year old woman, I have never felt more like myself, more sure of what I'm doing and more proud of who I am.

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OMG, Sheevani... brag much? I guess I do. I'm never going to apologize for figuring out that I'm worth something and neither should you! Just a little advice for ya... 

Sunday, September 20, 2020

All Boys Allowed, Period


Kristy just moments after her big life moment. Photo: The Babysitter's Club

~~~

It was a perfect Sunday afternoon, complete with elastic waistbands and bellies full of breakfast pastries only reserved for a lazy weekend morning. 

"Can we watch something, Mom?" my daughter asked.

"Of course! But you both have to agree. I don't want a fight."

"Babysitter's Club?" my daughter asked.

I braced for my son's whine and nasally request for an off-roading YouTube video. 

"Sure!" he exclaimed.

"Mom, will you watch with us?"

We all snuggled on the couch as my girl scrolled through the episodes. Since they had both seen the entire first season of the Netflix series, episodes were now chosen based on my kids' personal rankings. Which, thank goodness, seemed to be similar.

"Oh, Kristy's Big Day!" my son excitedly said.

"Yeah!"

The episode, which mainly focuses on the wedding of Kristy's mother, also includes a big milestone for Kristy herself - getting her first period. The moment is treated with the perfect combination of sincerity and humor and then knocks it out of the park with a display of beautiful female support. After Kristy discovers her period has arrived in the middle of her mother's wedding reception, her closest friends are right there with a pad and hugs. I was so lost in the magical girl-power of it all that the next moment felt like a poke in the eye. 

"What is going on?" my son asked.

"Huh? What do you mean?"

"That... Kristy's... what happened in the bathroom?" my son said with his index finger pointing at the screen.

My 7-year-old son wasn't following the first period storyline. Why the hell would he? I froze in the moment and could feel my knee-jerk response of "it's hard to explain" brimming at my lips when I had moment of clarity. It's not that hard to explain, after all. I mean, I wouldn't have to go into every scientific detail, but I could give some explanation. Before I could utter my off-the-cuff period lesson, my daughter interjected.

"It's a girl thing. You don't need to know." she said.

Okay, that was all I needed to kick my ass into gear. Bullshit he doesn't need to know. 

"Now wait a second, actually he should know," I started with my heart pounding and my butthole firmly clenched, "Kristy started her period. That's something that girls get around her age because their bodies are changing. It's totally natural and just means she's growing up into a woman."

He looked at me with furrowed brows and I knew there were more questions coming. I mean, let's face it, I gave a solid C minus definition.

"But what did Mary Anne give her? She said to put it on her underwear?"

Oh boy... well, can't stop now!

"Okay, so when a girl gets her period, she bleeds. Um... blood comes out of her... (unnecessary throat clear)... her vagina. So a pad is like a protective kind of towel that keeps her underwear and clothes from getting... er, bloody."

My words were echoing around my brain like a bad remix of a PM Dawn song. Towel? Did I say a pad is like a towel? That was weird. Whatever. While the wording may have been odd, I was glad that I didn't shy away from explaining a period to my son. I looked at him, his big hazel eyes darting around, absorbing what I told him. AH! I should have used "absorb" in my clunky explanation. 

"Feel free to ask me any questions, buddy." I said.

"No, that's okay," he said, "Hey rewind it! I like when Richard asks if his shirt smells like meat!"

My son flopped back down on my chest and I wrapped my arms around him. Whew, that was a moment I didn't expect to have with him for a few more... well, wait... I don't think I ever planned on having that conversation with him. How dumb.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

My memories of the sex education unit I sat through in 5th grade are sparse to say the least. We watched a video showing 80s, poofy-haired girls talking about hiding their pads and tampons in their jean purses. In between the robotic delivery of poorly written dialogue, we saw animated depictions of our reproductive organs with a little cartoon egg making it's way through our fallopian tubes and so on. I do remember how that 30-minute video showed so much detail, but the word "blood" was never uttered. Instead, I believe the narrator mentioned the "shedding of tissue" or something without any animated visual aid to help us understand. 

After the projector made that flapping noise and our eyes adjusted to the lights, I remember thinking, "What the heck are pads for?" At age 10, I wasn't a believer in the notion that there "are no stupid questions," so I kept my burning query to myself. Luckily, a classmate raised her hand immediately. 

"I don't get it, what are pads and tampons for?"

The two female 5th grade teachers glanced at each other, shifted nervously and waited for the other to speak. Finally, Mrs. Freeman broke the silence. 

"Well, honey, to catch the blood."

You would have thought Freddy Krueger entered the room. We all gasped and yelped at the thought of blood coming out of our vaginas! The teachers tried to quell our horror, but it was useless, so they handed out a pamphlet and sent us out to recess. On the other side of the hallway, the boys were handed a pamphlet about boners or whatever and also sent out to recess. By the time we were in our single-file lines coming back in, there were dozens of ripped pages with illustrated pubes, breasts and dongs blowing all over the playground. That was probably the last year they let kids take the puberty pamphlets out to recess. 

I felt dread as I walked home that day... my brain heavy and confused with all the new information. One thought that was not confusing? I was terrified to get my period.

Let's Talk About Sex, (my first) Baby

My daughter will be going through the sex education unit this year. She's in 5th grade and if I'm honest, I'm excited for her to learn about her body. I feel a strong need for her to understand herself and to not be ashamed of her parts. Growing up, I never felt comfortable talking to anyone about my body. Not that I felt ashamed, per se, but it was more a belief that everything about sex or puberty shouldn't be discussed openly. 

F*ck that. I've already started the conversation a little bit with my girl. She has seen my feminine products and asked me why I need a heating pad on my abdomen sometimes. Without hesitation, I've answered her questions. Depending on her age, I would tweak the explanation, but within the last year, I've sensed her curiosity go from "what's my Mom doing" to "this will happen to me sometime soon."   

Even though my first period wasn't as traumatic as I thought it would be, I definitely did not feel comfortable talking about all the emotions of that day with anybody. So, that's what I hope to be for my daughter - the person she can come to when she sees blood on her underwear for the first time. And not only me, but Paul as well. There is no reason a father cannot help his daughter during one of the biggest transitions in her young life. While he may not be able to give any experiential advice, he can simply be there with an ear or a hug, whatever she needs... and play a very important role in cementing her acceptance of her beautiful body. 

Got Penis? 

Hey men! Chances are you know at least one woman, right? I thought so. Congratulations, you have qualified to learn about what we ladies go through. 

When I think back to my sex ed unit back in 1989, I find it a bit silly that they separated the boys and girls into different rooms. Just because you don't have the parts means you shouldn't learn about what the other gender experiences? That makes no sense to me. Both genders benefit from learning about the others' experience. If I had learned about boy parts, perhaps my penis-ignorant brain wouldn't have imagined that pubic hair grew down the entire shaft. Yeah... I was 19 before I knew a penis wasn't covered in hair from base to tip like a little Alf hanging from men's bodies. That was a big reason why I was scared to DEATH to see a real-life penis for a long time. I think I just heard my late father sigh with relief. 

Expanded education can help de-stigmatize all the changes women experience in their lives. Maybe if a girl bleeds through her pants in class, instead of being grossed out, our boys could serve up some supportive energy and dampen the humiliation for their female classmate. When a new mother is nearing the end of her maternity leave, wouldn't it be fantastic if the transition back to the office could be handled in a way that takes into consideration all of the emotions she may be going through? When a woman is experiencing a hot flash in a meeting, supportive men at that table can take note and give her space to deal all the debilitating symptoms of menopause. Acceptance and understanding by our male counterparts without judgement is the way to move forward and improve the operations of any society. Girls and women should never feel ashamed or penalized for simply going through natural lady stuff. 

From periods to pregnancy to motherhood to menopause... be in our corner, guys. 

Timing Terror

I recently figured out that I will likely be experiencing the onset of menopause at the same time my kids' will be going through their own hormonal rollercoasters with puberty. Ohhhhhh man. That realization stopped me in my tracks... literally. I was on my daily walk when I did the math and my feet stopped receiving messages from my brain since it was processing so much terrifying information. I'll be 42 in a few days, and peri-menopause can start as early as... well, tomorrow. DEEP BREATHS, SHEEVANI. 

Well, since my name isn't Marty or Doc or Biff, I have zero chance of taking a time machine to alter my history, so I have to tackle the hormonal intersection of me and my kids head on. Honestly, I think the awareness of this reality is a good thing. While I'm not sure how I will handle menopause when it arrives, I can hopefully keep in mind that we are all going through some very natural transitions that may cause some tension, bad moods, emotional tirades, physical discomfort, etc. I include Paul in this as well, not that he will be dealing with anything hormonal per se, but he will be dealing with 3 very unpredictable people for a few years. Any help you can send his way is much appreciated, please and thanks.

Since both my kids are old enough where I can remember myself at their ages, I rely heavily on my own memories from those times to guide my parenting. My mission is to approach them with understanding and empathy. I remind myself how emotional I was in junior high, how sensitive and moody I could be in my teens and so on. So often during my formative years, my feelings were dismissed and invalidated. Because of that, I feel a responsibility to apply my experiences as a guide to help my kids deal with some brutal shit. That's not to suggest that hormonal changes absolve all shitty behavior, mind you... for me or them. My hope is that keeping a constant hum of empathy in my soul will help squash some serious meltdowns over the next 10 years. Seriously... keep Paul in your thoughts.

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I'm writing this post in the wake of the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Her tireless work as a champion for women and gender equality is something for which I will forever be grateful. As I think about her life's work as it relates to this post, I'm not sure there's a better way to wrap up my sentiments than with her wise words:

"Women will have achieved true equality when men share with them the responsibility of bringing up the next generation." - Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Saturday, September 12, 2020

The Backslide

 

A dear friend posted this at the exact moment I needed to see it. (Thanks Kristine) 

~~~

I checked again even though I had just checked 30 seconds ago. 

"Stop," I exhaled.

My part of my heart that had healed a little bit started to ache again, and I could feel the worn down splinters re-break with every passing minute, hour and day.

I reached for my phone.

"Just let it go," I told myself.

I leaned back and closed my eyes. Goddammit. All the progress I made is slipping away... I'm giving up that power... again. I'm so mad at myself... again. But, it's just for today. Tomorrow, that power is all FUCKING MINE.

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Awhile ago I wrote about needing the validation of people who have shown no genuine interest in me. I waxed poetic about how that was all in the past and how only I determine my self-worth from now on. Boy, had I been living in a paradise. While I still believe in the message of what I wrote, keeping that up is really damn hard. Especially when tested. 

I've let myself backslide and now I have to forgive myself. 

Rather than focus on the person who I am allowing to break me down (I've spent enough time and tears on said person in the last week), I'm focusing on how important it is to allow for these episodes of backslidation (new word alert) while also remembering the progress that has been made. I'm talking putting all that progress on huge-ass mental billboards in my brain so I do not let a couple acts of hurtful indifference consume my mental well-being. 

Part of my refocused energy is to nurture the relationships that bring out the best in me. As someone seeking constant evolution, I need to practice better outreach to those who have shown me nothing but support, love and healthy challenge for my entire life. Why waste my time begging for scraps from someone who has no interest in feeding me when I have a trove of incredible folks tossing me the tastiest items from their emotional kitchens? Is that a taco supreme from my cousins? GULP! Oh, look at that avocado toast from my best friend! GULP! Damn, a big bowl of coffee ice cream (that won't make me fart) from my comedy peers? GULP! I'm gonna let myself get fat with love from those who are worthy. I've wasted enough time starving myself. 

I won't be able to truly leave behind all of these hurt feelings, I know that. It's okay. And one day, I hope to have the courage to have a discussion that could help. I'm really scared though. And that's okay as well. One thing at a time. 

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If any of you are dealing with similar struggles, I'd love to chat about it! Please drop me a line or comment below. Take care of yourself and remember... rid yourself of toxic people and keep those who make you a better person. xoxo


Sunday, August 23, 2020

No Pain. No Gain. No Love?

Michael Jordan's emotional moment that inspired this post

~~~~~

"COME ON!!!!!!"

"Not so loud, Sheel! GOD!"

"Shut up! We're playing the Bulls! We have to beat them!!!"

I rolled my eyes at his retort, but fixed my eyes back on the basketball game. Truth be told, thanks to my brother I had gotten very into our "Bad Boys" and hoped they would win their first NBA championship. Through forced viewings of all Detroit Pistons games, I knew enough to know that the Chicago Bulls with superstar Michael Jordan were a huge hurdle to achieve that goal. The weight of the Eastern Conference Finals was palpable in the Desai household in the spring of 1989, and watching game 6 next to my brother was the most tense I'd ever been about a sport in my short life.

"YEAAAHHHHHH!!!"

"Well, there you have it folks, the Detroit Pistons have defeated the Chicago Bulls to take the Eastern Conference and advance to take on the Los Angeles Lakers for the championship," boomed Pat O'Brien into his CBS microphone.

Sheel was running around our living room, jumping and cheering loudly as our father entered from the back of the house.

"They won?"

"Yeah!! They won!!"

Sheel ran over and awkwardly high-fived our grinning dad. We all watched as Isaiah Thomas and John Salley engaged in sportsmen handshakes with Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. 

"That's right! Take that Jordan!" Sheel roared at the television as if our chunky box RCA television set had some sort of Royal Oak to Chicago megaphone into Chicago Stadium. 

I watched as Michael Jordan hung his head and walked off the court while the announcer said how the championship had, yet again, eluded the best player in the league. Even at 10 years of age, my empathetic side swelled and I felt bad for him. Imagine being the best player in the NBA, but having to walk off a court without a chance to win the big trophy. 

Even though I was so happy for our Detroit Pistons, my mind kept going to thoughts of Michael Jordan. What would he do that night? Will he cry? Does he watch the rest of the playoffs or is it too painful? 

Sheel would go on to watch more of the post-game coverage which would include interviews with the players, including Michael Jordan, where some of my questions would have been answered. As for me, on that early June night, I went back to my room with one big question:

How does Michael Jordan deal with losing?

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Bull-y

I recently watched The Last Dance on Netflix and was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. In an effort to get out of my nightly Gilmore Girls rut, I tuned in to the docu-series that highlighted the championship-laden era of the Chicago Bulls. The 10-episode series covered a myriad of aspects of the team all leading up to their last Larry O'Brien trophy with Michael Jordan in 1998. The series, through interviews with the notable participants, beautifully showed how each piece fit into a carefully constructed puzzle that built an unstoppable team during the 1990s. The most essential piece, of course, was in the shape of Michael Jordan. The story is very much from his perspective; the what and how of everything he has done in his career with the why simply being his passion for winning. Every old teammate who took part in The Last Dance spoke about Jordan in a very measured way, carefully choosing their words. The one constant? They all respected his drive and raw talent. 

Respect is one thing, but it was also very clear that not one of his former teammates consider him a close friend. I'm not sure any of them would even see him as a cordial acquaintance at this point. I had noticed the disconnect of that sentiment while watching all the interviews with those who were professionally closest to him, but it wasn't until the last 3 minutes of the seventh episode where the question was explicitly asked by the documentarian: 

Through the years, do you think that intensity has come at the expense of being perceived as a nice guy?  

The pause that follows and his subsequent response caught me off guard and, quite frankly, looped in my mind for a couple of days. Just as I spent time thinking about a defeated Michael Jordan that night in 1989, my empathetic side took over as I watched an older, tearful Jordan come to the realization of his unlikable reputation. That despite the fact he helped these guys achieve the highest success possible in their careers, they cannot bring themselves to LIKE him as a person. He almost seemed surprised at the question, but it also appears the question itself confirmed something he had always suspected: he cannot call his old teammates his friends. 

In his response, there wasn't a hint of defending his method as a leader; he knows how harshly he treated his teammates during those games and practices. What seemed to hurt him most was the fact that his motivation was to see them succeed alongside him. Sure he wanted to win for his own glory, but he was also doing it for them. During the last 30 seconds of the episode, Michael Jordan can only choke out that it was his mentality and the way he played the game at that time. Again, there was no apology or regret, but his words were coated with genuine hurt feelings. It was that sheer emotion, after which he announces he needs a break, that led me down a spiral of curious confusion. How could this behemoth of a man, this infamous icon with all his raw talent and success be brought to tears because he's unliked?

After my husband was finally able to get through episode 7 without falling asleep, we ended up having a long discussion about that moment. Paul expressed how he could understand how MJ felt upset that his persona was not regarded positively by those who he had boosted to greatness. He suggested, and I think he was accurate in interpreting Jordan’s feelings, that the end result should absolve the method by which he used on his teammates. I saw it differently. While yes, those guys all have multiple championships on their list of accomplishments, I can understand why they don’t feel all warm and fuzzy when discussing Michael Jordan. They won, but as many of them described in the documentary, they also had to deal with a very difficult man who verbally abused them if they didn't perform to his specific standards.

Push Push Push

Our discussion led me to other examples I had witnessed in my own life. Being a first generation Indian kid, you see a lot of  pressure-charged family dynamics within the community about achievement; education, career, wealth, family, etc. The optics of one’s life often supersedes actual happiness.

Thankfully I have just been an observer of that sort of intense pressure. Sure, my parents wanted a traditional Indian path for me; excel in school and achieve success in an approved field (medicine, engineering, law, business), but there wasn't a level of stress where I felt that if I didn't follow that exact path, my relationship with my mother or father would be in jeopardy. I've gone into that in a post about being the Imperfect Indian Daughter. What I did see in a few of my fellow peers was an almost militant display of coercion where it was very clear that if a certain path was not followed, he or she would bring shame upon themselves and the family. 

Through the years, I've seen friends of mine follow very stringent rules in order to appease a parent and, many times, avoid psychological abuse that made for very painful childhoods. To follow the rules was survival. Once I attended a memorial for a friend's mother who was notorious for treating her kids very poorly unless they did as she asked. As her kids reached the podium to make their collective speech, I was very curious how they would speak of her. Granted, they were in the throes of grief (after all, she was their mother), but after a lifetime of various degrees of psychological abuse, what would they say? Well, as they spoke, I thought their words were very true and very poignant. All of them credited her for their achievements and success, particularly in their career; that without her high standards, none of them would be where they are today. As I sat there listening to them praising the impact she had on their lives, I found myself wondering: But, was it worth all the pain?

Here is where I make the leap of connecting that mother to Michael Jordan; if the end result is a win, then the method was correct. With Jordan it was NBA Championships, with that mother it was her kids reaching lucrative careers. Based on what I know, this mother would consider her tactics as completely successful since her children achieved everything she demanded of them. And further, they should be nothing but grateful. And EVEN further, if she knew that her kids considered her to be incredibly abusive she would be shocked and hurt. "But, look at all everything you've achieved? That was MY doing!"

This led me to my next question: If the relationship had been less tumultuous, would the results have been different?

The Softer Touch

In the same episode where MJ breaks down, they cover his first retirement in 1993. For the season that followed, Scottie Pippen took over as the leader of the Bulls. Now, the stark contrast of how the same guys talk about Scottie Pippen is clear as day. They spoke about how Pippen had a softer touch and was there with comfort and encouragement. When asked how the team did during that first season without Jordan, Pippen responded without hesitation, "Great. They had nobody yelling at them, they got off plenty of shots." Without Jordan stealing the spotlight, other guys were able to shine under Pippen's leadership which made for a much happier team. But, does a happier team translate to a championship team? 

Well, unfortunately that is impossible to answer for a couple of reasons. One of which was a very tough test of the team's affection for Pippen during the 1994 Eastern Conference Semi-finals. After losing the first two games to the New York Knicks, the Bulls were trying to get back in the series. After Patrick Ewing tied game 3 with about two seconds left, the Bulls needed a surefire buzzer-beating shot to win the game and save themselves from playoff elimination. Phil Jackson gave that chance to newcomer Tony Kukoc and not Scottie Pippen, who felt insulted. In the heat of moment, Pippen chose to sit out the last seconds of the game in protest. Kukoc made the basket and the Bulls won, however, the sting of Pippen's selfish dissent hung heavy in the locker room afterwards. Bill Cartwright made a tearful speech and told Pippen directly that he had let them down. Scottie Pippen broke down and apologized and the guys accepted his apology. 

During this part of the docu-series, I was struck by how quickly the team's emotions shifted from disappointment to forgiveness and then to concern for how this incident would affect Scottie's reputation. The concern for his character could only be attributed to the love he earned from his compassionate leadership. As Steve Kerr expressed, "Scottie's one of our favorite teammates, one of our favorite people in the world."

The Bulls came together and fought hard in that series, but ultimately fell to the Knicks in 7 games. That incident certainly hinders my ability to conclude that a gentler, softer touch as a leader could propel a team to the same greatness as Jordan's methods. Plus, Jordan came out of retirement to return to the Bulls in the middle of the following season, so it's hard to say that had Pippen been given a couple more years, perhaps he could have built just as strong a team with happier guys.  

Bringing it back to the discussion about that strict mother I mentioned earlier, could she have gotten the same results from her kids with a softer touch? If there were no threat of epic meltdowns and psychological games, would her children have chosen the same fields and achieved the same amount of success? For many reasons, I cannot seek the thoughts of her kids today, but I did talk to a few friends who went through similar situations with a difficult parent. I was so fascinated to learn that they all felt their lives would be even more successful had that parent been more encouraging (these friends are all doing very well in life, by the way). Another commonality with all of the situations, including that militant nightmare mother, was that the other parent countered the negativity. For all the times they were broken down, they had the loving arms of the opposite parent to turn to. So perhaps it's all about balance? Perhaps we all need a Jordan AND Pippen in our lives to succeed?

Of course it's impossible to know what could have happened in any of these scenarios, but one thing is for sure... those Bulls sure loved Scottie Pippen and those kids have greater fondness for their gentler parent.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I'm well aware I have made some pretty significant leaps in this post. I mean, I see Michael Jordan cry and suddenly I'm on a mission to understand how extremely strict parenting may have affected my friends?!? Ah well, my mind can be minefield of disparate connections. At least I'm not bored. 

Ultimately, I'm intrigued by people who consider themselves deserving of love and praise only based on results, that their tactics of getting what they wanted should not matter because the goal was reached. It's the psychology behind that disconnect that grabbed my mind for so many days. As an empathetic person, I can sometimes get lost in analyzing how I've treated various people in my life, so to see a display of complete disregard for that very significant part of my nature is jarring.

In watching The Last Dance and chatting with my friends, I feel like striking a balance is key to leading people. You don't want to be too soft and you don't want to be too hard. Sure, you can catch more with sugar than a stick, but sometimes a stick is necessary. Michael Jordan's tears told me that perhaps he wished he'd used the stick less and dished out more sugar if it meant winning actual love and affection from his old teammates. 

For me, I'll be using a sugary stick... or embodying a mashup called Michael Pippen or Scottie Jordan or Michie Jorppen, whatever. Knowing when and how to use each side will be the challenge, but a challenge worth taking on. 

P.S. - Do not look up sugary stick on the internet... it's dirty. #themoreyouknow

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Shhhhhh


I looked down at my phone and saw an old friend was calling. He and I had more of a text or Facebook message correspondence, so a phone call seemed a bit odd. Although, I had an inkling about what he may be calling about. After a deep breath, I swiped to answer. 

"Hey you!" I said.

"Heyyyy," he responded, "I had to call you... your comments on Kellie's post were incredible!"

"Ohh, heh.. thanks."

I knew it. My stupid Facebook outburst with a mutual ex-coworker of ours made it's way to his feed. Apparently it had really entertained him while I was going back and forth about whether or not I have some serious online rage issues. 

"First of all, she's a total idiot and secondly, THANK YOU for saying everything I was thinking!"

I sighed. My ego was swelling a bit from this friend thinking my tirade was amusing, but I was in full-on regret mode. 

"Ohh, I don't know... I feel kind of bad now."

"WHAT? Do not feel bad. She is so tone-deaf. I'm glad you pointed that out. What a dumb thing for her to post!"

"Yeah I know, but I should have seriously taken it down a couple notches. I feel like a dumbass."

A few hours earlier:

I was on Facebook at the office instead of working on some boring ass Ladder Plans. What are Ladder Plans, you ask? Oh, you didn't ask? Of course you didn't... let's proceed.

I see a post from a former co-worker. I should mention that this particular person had a tendency to post very annoying things that basically put her wealthy lifestyle on display; complaints about her housekeeper, seeking advice for St. Barts resorts, pictures of her baby son in Ralph Lauren outfits... shit like that. I'd usually just roll my eyes and roll on by her posts. Today, her post caused my finger to stop mid-scroll:

Just got off the phone with my manager and was offered a position that requires a move to some city in India for a couple of years. INDIA! Yeah, no thanks. No way (my son) is going to eat naan before eating a bagel!! Any jobs available in Paris or Milan? LOL! 

Okay... I'll admit that the actual post on its own wasn't terrible. Annoying AF which was par for the course, but not terrible. Then I read some of her friends comments:

Ew, no way. India is filthy.

NEVER!! Bill wanted to go there for vacation and I refused. I hate Indian food and I've heard it's so gross.

I had a friend move there and he hates it. Stay in America!! Keep your baby safe!

Not unless you enjoy diarrhea!

I looked to see if Kellie had refuted the xenophobic comments. Nope. Nada. She liked all of them and even threw in an LOL to a few. 

After a couple of deep breaths I started typing:

I understand that a move to India is not for everyone, but let's not say insulting things about the country considering there are people, like me, who take offense to such insensitive comments. 

Okay... that wasn't bad, I thought. Gets the point across but doesn't take any cheap shots at anyone. I felt good about it. 

Well, what ensued over the next couple of hours escalated into a full Facebook fight. Her friends dug in and defended their xenophobic comments. Other friends chimed in and defended the India-haters. I even think Kellie's grandmother commented in all caps saying that Kellie was "THE SWEETEST SOUL AND IF YOU REALLY KNEW HER YOU WOULD NEVER ACCUSE HER OF SUCH THINGS." 

Oh man. I engaged and now Meemaw was yelling at me. None of their empty defenses changed my viewpoint, however. At the core of it all, I was pissed that Kellie couldn't even acknowledge that my feelings were at all valid. She just kept repeating herself and saying I was being too sensitive and she was "half joking" anyway. Her friends, she insisted, were the nicest people who certainly didn't mean to insult India. Soooo they accidentally insulted it? My responses went from polite to bitingly sarcastic and nasty. By the end of it all, I had accused her of being a typical white elitist and that it was laughable that she was in the Human Resources field considering her lack of human understanding, not to mention that her first action after being offered a job was to scoff at the notion of said job on "f*cking Facebook." I may have even threatened to warn her manager about her shitty unprofessional attitude.  

Yeah, I unfriended her right after that. I didn't regret that I had spoken up, but I had let it get to a point where I was saying things out of pure emotion rather than keeping it measured and at a level to keep some integrity. The message I had started out with got lost in a sea of insults that were satisfying at the time, but upon reflection, they were petty and ended up making me look rather unhinged. 

Back to the phone call:

"Well, I thought it was perfect. Don't waste your time beating yourself up. She needed to be called out," said my friend.

I smiled and reluctantly thanked him. The icky feeling in the pit of my stomach would remain for the next couple of days. Never again, I thought, never again will I allow myself to stoop so low and conduct myself in a way that negates the legitimacy of my beliefs. And especially not on Facebook.

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That Facebook debacle happened over 9 years ago and yet it still informs my online behavior today. If I see some ignorant comments, I definitely scrutinize the who, the what and the why before I choose to engage. Most of the time I deem it isn't worth it... because it's Facebook or Twitter and really, debates on those sites may as well be in an echo chamber where everyone has their own deflector shields. 

In addition to deciding when I should speak up, I've also seen the necessary choice of keeping quiet, especially lately. My choice to stay quiet is not to take the path of inaction, however, in fact, my silence is to engage in something I feel is just as important: LISTENING.  

Believe me, I've seen those who have chosen silence because neutrality seems easier. I've been that idiot. I've also learned that posting on social media is not the only way to take action. Especially since I feel people use a Facebook post or Tweet as a social record of what they've said, not necessarily of what they've done. 

Since I'm an improviser, I'm in a community with much younger friends who have grown up in a post-internet world, so their interpretation of involvement is heavily measured by how often you post what you're doing. Not that I'm immune to that behavior just because I was born in the 1970s, mind you. My time spent on Facebook isn't something I particularly like to brag about. As I get older, though, I'm seeing the pitfalls of the medium and am being more selective about how I utilize these sites. 

The world's on fire... it's more than I can handle.
~Sarah McLachlan

I'm trying to handle it, oh am I ever. The current state of the world is by far the most divisive in my lifetime and while so much of it hurts my heart and brain, it's also forcing a lot of reflection. In yoga we learn that we are exactly where we should be at this moment in time. With that in mind, I've been in mental overdrive thinking about why I'm supposed to be here... in this moment, with all this strife about so many things. And as I was trying to listen to what the universe was telling me, I realized that listening and, in turn learning, is the answer after all.

After I saw a post from a friend equating silence to being a racist apologist, I sat back and thought about how she really meant social media silence. That if you hadn't chimed in on a post with your own comment, you'll be seen as siding with racists. This was in reference to a specific movement within the Denver improv community. When I read her post, I realized what an odd requirement we put on ourselves to only express our outrage or ally-ship on Facebook or other social media outlets. Personally, I'd rather show my action in other ways that don't include wasted time on flawed websites.

With all the issues at the brink (or in the midst) of exploding in our world right now, inaction is not an option. However, bulldozing into issues without the necessary knowledge cannot be the other option. I am listening with wide open ears and mind. Too often I see that comment box trigger finger strike only to show a person spew thoughts without any foundation of understanding an issue. That's the heart of what's broken in the world I see. Even within the communities with which I identify and agree, I see a lot of talking without understanding... reacting without learning... shouting loudly only to drown out the complexities of what we're going through.

I've done the Facebook fights and Twitter debates and you know what happens every time? Nothing except it ruins my mood and my internal shame tumor grows because I've wasted my time and energy. Sometimes you have to trudge through the shit tunnel that is social media in order to come out the other side a more enlightened person. I've learned a lot of what I don't want to be through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram... so I do value that. 

There are times to speak and times to listen. I'm in listening mode right now and when I feel it is time to use my voice, you will hear it loud, clear and informed. 
 


Friday, May 29, 2020

Unbitten Tongue

"I'm not racist, but those guys were a bunch of n*ggers!"  ~Dude from college describing some black students at a pick-up basketball game (who were far better at basketball).

"Ugh, why are we listening to this Martin Luther King music?" ~Girl from college upon hearing a group of us listening to rap music.

"Hey, check this out! N*gger lips!!" ~Multiple kids in grades K-12 curling their lower lip and resting their tongue on their upper lip as a joke.

"Black people are just dumber than white people, my dad told me." ~Girl from 7th grade in front of a black boy... who stared straight ahead and said nothing.

"It's not a racist thing, but I just don't find black people attractive." ~Co-worker reacting to a discussion about hot celebrities, commenting specifically on LL Cool J.

"I'm sorry, but I won't be coming to you anymore... it's getting too "dark" around here." ~Client of my mother's who stopped going to the salon where she worked because of the increase of black patrons at the mall.

"Well, you know, all these black people came out of the woodwork and started voting all of a sudden!" ~Appalled family member reacting to Barak Obama's victory in 2008.

"If he would have just listened to those police officers he wouldn't have gotten the shit beat out of him, serves him right!" ~Father of my friend watching footage of the 1991 Rodney King beating.

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I am not a confrontational person. It's one of my personality traits that I think has helped and hindered my life in equal measure. While it has helped me to not overreact in many situations, it's also prevented me from saying many things that have needed to be said.

I bite my tongue when I don't want to offend or upset another person. There are so many occasions where I've chosen to keep my mouth shut in order to keep the peace, occasions where I have been personally offended by something, but opted to "not go there" because it won't be pretty. In essence, protecting the offender while my night has been ruined from some offhand comment.

George Floyd is the latest black man to be murdered by excessive force at the hands of police. I watched the footage and once again felt the absolutely nauseating heartache I do whenever these stories emerge. I wonder how the hell this is still happening. I marvel that these cops see people filming and yet continue abusing a non-violent, unarmed black person because they're aware of the historic lack of consequences. I get enraged, and I'm ashamed to say... I haven't done much beyond that. That is going to change.

Check Your Empathy
In reading articles by black journalists and authors, I've gleaned so many helpful insights into the appropriate ways to address these horrific stories with sensitivity to the black community. The biggest lesson is to not make it about you. This isn't about you. Rather than focusing on the emotions that YOU are feeling, express your sympathy for your black friends. Saying 'I'm so sorry this has happened again' or 'I see you' and lending an ear goes much further than expressing how the event has made YOU feel. Again, if you aren't part of the targeted marginalized community, do not make it about you.

Part of me thinks, "I can't win! Even if I express my own shame or disgust, I'm in the wrong!" That statement proves the point. I should focus on re-directing my feelings outwardly and make it about the feelings of those in the community. I'm still coming from a place of honesty; it's still the same sentiment that my heart is broken about what happened, but instead of saying how it affects me, I am recognizing that it affects the black community in a way that I cannot comprehend.

I'm guilty of being that woman who posts my reaction on Facebook and thinks I'm really doing something. I'd feel better since I expressed my disgust and heartache in a wordy diatribe. Again, I made it about me and how I felt. "Oh, people will know where I stand and that I hate when these incidents happen, good for me!" Even though I was being sincere in my words, my lack of action always left me feeling very inauthentic, because it WAS inauthentic. I'd say, "THIS MUST CHANGE!" but without the courage to actually participate in the change. My fear of putting myself in the fight has gone on too long.

If I truly care about these issues of racial injustice and want to be part of the solution, I must educate myself. I will join/donate to organizations that focus on serving people of color, I will read books and attend workshops about how to be an ally. I won't rely on my black friends to educate me, I will do my own work. I can get up on my soapbox all I want and say all the right things, but this is about DOING the right things.


My Lips Are Unsealed
In a previous post, I wrote about how I was always one to speak up against racist comments at school or other situations with co-workers or acquaintances. I didn't let that shit slide. However, when the racist person is my father-in-law, it hasn't been so easy to openly chastise him. Let's just say he and I couldn't be more opposite about many things, but specifically racism.

I'll be honest, it's been a real challenge to endure his racist comments in the almost 19 years of knowing him. My body tenses up and my heart pounds in my chest when he flippantly says things that make my blood boil. I internally try to calm myself with reminders that he has been a father figure to Paul and a great husband to my mother-in-law after a tumultuous first marriage to Paul's biological dad. While his opinions about black people are gross, I cannot deny that he provided a much needed support system for the man I love since his formative years.

One Thanksgiving, years into my relationship with Paul, I couldn't take it any longer and we had it out. It got heated. It wasn't pleasant. There were tears on both sides of the table. I needed my father-in-law to have the decency to recognize that his racist beliefs cannot be on display around me. After so many years of biting my tongue, I was glad to express how his words had affected me, but I was afraid that I may have splintered the relationship between Paul and his parents. As anyone who has racists family members, the feelings are very complicated. You love them but absolutely abhor a big chunk of who they are.

Since that night, we've tried to avoid hot-button issues that could spark a racist tirade. He and I don't have the closest of relationships, but we can be civil. More recently though, he's had the tendency to slip and say offensive things and I bite my tongue. "It's not worth it" I tell myself. "You're never going to change his mind, so what's the use?" I say. "We're only here for a short amount of time, let's not turn this into an argument," my mind screams.

I recently started examining those situations and the position my silence puts me in:
  • My father-in-law says something racist 
  • I choose to let it go because I don't want to cause tension 
  • He has no idea that he upset me
  • I hold in my anger and it causes me stress
  • He moves on completely at peace
  • I'm on edge and exhausted from putting on a happy face to protect his feelings 
It's really f*cked up. He's the one who said something awful, yet I put an incredible amount of energy to not upset a man who inflicted all of these feelings of anger and hurt. He continues his ignorance while I have to expend so much mental energy to figure out how to reform my attitude towards him and remember "he's good in other ways."

Those days are gone. Now, I don't want to turn everything into a heated argument, but a simple, "that is a racist thing to say," can be effective enough. I know I cannot change his mind and it's not even about that. I've always known that wasn't possible, but I cannot stand by any longer and let him say things that are blatantly prejudiced and let him think it is okay. I'm tired of making excuses for him.

And to echo the point I made earlier, this isn't about me. Sure, my own personal emotions get affected, but this is about speaking up for every black person who has had to suffer from ignorant prejudice. My father-in-law epitomizes the attitude that holds back progress for the black community, and as an ally, I will make sure he knows that. They aren't the problem... he is.


Passing It On
Racism is learned, so I'm not teaching it.

Once during a Facebook thread about the Trayvon Martin murder, a black friend of mine thanked me for my sentiments and then said something that I wasn't quite prepared for. She thanked me for "raising kids who won't see her son as an enemy because he's black." I hadn't even thought of that as something notable, I mean, I'm just raising my kids to be good and decent people. But to her, I was taking part in forming a new generation with less racism. As she went on to explain, she had seen the prevalence of black oppression through generations of her own family. From slavery to the civil rights movement, she could track how her own ancestors had been affected by each era. I was so inspired by her hope, even in the midst of such brutal violence on the black community by law enforcement (amongst so many other racial viral stories), she still holds onto hope.

Her words have never escaped my psyche. It is my duty to teach my children to see everyone as equal and further educate them on what has occurred throughout history and what is still happening today. When they see me enraged watching or reading the news, they often ask what it is about. I'm open and honest with them about these issues. And when I don't know something, we look it up together and learn together. I apply this to all marginalized groups. Sure, it's about being an ally... but it's also about doing what is right as part of the human race.

I'm aware to not to pat myself on the back too much with raising good kids... because as I've already stated it is not enough. Beyond talking about it, I need them to see me put those words into real action.

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Click below for a comprehensive list of resources for those who want to be an ally to the black community.

Anti-Racism Resources

"In a racist society, it is not enough to be non-racist, we must be antiracist.” — Angela Davis

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Dear 1996 Sheevani...

Not sure I went one minute without that dark lipstick on in high school 

~~~

"Sheevani, you're almost done, huh bheta?"

I leaned forward and craned my neck to see the auntie inquiring about the end of my high school career. With three tables pushed together at Buddy's Pizza, it was a bit hard to see her. Whenever a few of our Indian families went out to dinner together, the chosen restaurant had to scramble to accommodate all of us. Part of the evening was usually spent entertaining ourselves while waiting in the lobby. We'd nurse hungry bellies until we heard the hostess mispronounce the given name followed by "party of (greater than 6)." At least Buddy's had video games.

"Oh, yeah. Just a couple more weeks left," I said. This particular auntie always intimidated me. She had an air about her that always made me feel like I was beneath her, which was ironic since her petite stature allowed me to grow taller than her by age 11. It also didn't help that both of her kids were in the academic elite of our community.

"Very good, bheta. Which college are you going to?" her chin jutted forward and her eyes narrowed. My heart started pounding in my chest. Ugh, WHY does she make me so nervous?

"Um... I got into Michigan State, so..." Please let this conversation stop. I had barely talked with my parents about a final college decision and I absolutely didn't want to go down that road with Judgy Auntie as the moderator.

"Oh? Not U of M?" There it was. No, not f*cking U of M. I wasn't smart enough to get into the superior University of Michigan unlike all the other brilliant ass Indian kids!

"Still need to figure a few things out," my dad interjected. Whew.

"Bharati and Janak, Michigan State is a party school... Sumbalje (be careful)."

I internally rolled my eyes at her warning to my parents. Of course she would think any school that accepted me was some second-rate party trash school. Ugh, where was the waiter with more sesame breadsticks and butter pats?!

"Are you having a graduation party?" The parents were talking amongst themselves now, thank goodness. I pretended not to hear them.

"No, she didn't say she wanted one," my mom said and she was right. I didn't quite know why I wasn't inclined to celebrate.

"American people make such a big deal about high school graduation... it's not a big thing!" my dad said.

Oh yeah, that's why I felt no desire to celebrate. My parents barely considered this an accomplishment.

"Well Janak, unlike our kids, many of these American kids don't go to college, so this is a bigger tradition for them."

"Even so, big parties and gifts... family coming from out of town to celebrate? All for just high school?!"

I wanted to scream but I wasn't sure if they'd be able to hear me from atop their high horses. Graduating high school was special, I thought. Maybe it wasn't some big accomplishment for me, but it certainly was a milestone. Just because it was expected doesn't make it any less significant. But, I couldn't say that. They'd never understand.

Once our orders were taken, the conversation had moved on and I was ensconced in the latest triviality in which a 17-year-old could revel down on the kids' side of the table. I'd be done with high school in exactly 12 days and I guess I was the only one who thought that was... something.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I will admit, at the onset of this pandemic where everything was shutting down and all I could think about was where my next toilet paper roll would come from, I scoffed at the woeful posts, "Oh no, my kid won't get to experience all the last traditions of high school!" In my own personal panic haze, I couldn't fathom giving a shit about missing a prom or a long-ass ceremony. Come on people! THERE IS A RAMPANT VIRUS DEVASTATING COUNTRIES ALL OVER THE WORLD!!

Cut to now; quarantine life is the new normal and I've had time to adjust and realize we aren't all imminently doomed. Now, I can totally feel that sadness. I also feel fortunate that my kids aren't being robbed of those last special months of high school.

I'm choosing to focus on the high school graduates losing out on their closure since, for me, that was the one academic rite of passage that was most impactful in my life. My entire childhood I longed to be older and graduating high school felt like that entrance into my adult life... with endless possibilities.

After watching the graduation episode of John Krasinski's Some Good News show, I was transported back to that time where everything was winding down; last final exams, banquets for all the clubs to which I belonged, my last time on the Kimball High School stage, my last choir concert, prom and graduation followed by the all-night party. In addition to those memories coming back, I could actually feel that indefinable energy that came at the end of high school; a mixture of excitement, relief, sadness and nerves. That collective feeling that we all knew our lives would markedly change after that last day... we all left with different memories of our time in that building, yet we could all say we were leaving as very different people than when we entered.

In the SGN episode, some lucky graduates got to ask a question to their commencement speaker, of course, not knowing who John Krasinski would present via pop-up screen during their online ceremony. The questions were fantastic and ranged in topic from holding onto your dream to a simple, "Now what?" Each celebrity guest gave very poignant answers and advice as only an accomplished and much older person can. It got me thinking that if I had the chance to talk to myself in 1996 when I graduated high school, what would I say?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Dear Sheevani,

Whoa, you're done with high school. Can you believe it? I mean, doesn't it feel like just yesterday when you'd steal Sheel's yearbooks and study every single page for hours? Now, you've got 4 of your own yearbooks and you're actually IN them! Insane.

Okay, first of all, great job in high school! I know junior high left you a bit scarred, and your strategy entering into 9th grade was to find friends who were good people and treated you well. And you did just that. I can further tell you as your future self that many of those same people will remain in your life for a long time. Just thinking of them and their impact will bring you to tears, so well done.

Now I know you think you aren't some academic stand-out, but you did well. Yes, Mummy and Daddy never seemed quite satisfied with your grades, but I know how hard you worked. Especially in all the math classes. While you could have put in some more elbow grease overall, I don't think you should be ashamed of what you accomplished academically. Plus, you rounded out studies with fabulous social experiences. Okay, all of your crushes went unrequited, but don't worry... good guys come to girls who wait. And believe me, I know it was frustrating that Mummy and Daddy were so strict about dating, but you'll thank them in the long run.

Okay first thing, keep writing. I'm sad to report that you'll give up a lot of things that give you joy pretty soon. Don't worry, you'll find your way back, but there will be long and painful detours. You've been writing in a journal pretty much everyday since age 10, so don't stop. Even when you don't feel like it, WRITE. A lot of what you write will be shit, but write it anyway. Much like Andy Dufresne, a river of shit can lead you to greatness on the other side. Oh wait, you haven't seen The Shawshank Redemption yet. I know the title isn't very catchy, but just know that this movie will be on regular rotation after you see it in college. Ah, back to writing! It has been your therapy thus far and as you get older, you'll need it more than ever so DON'T STOP.

Also, don't stop acting. That fear thing you've succumbed to a bit in high school only gets more forceful in the next few years. The world is bigger and scarier, so yes, the chances of getting the part lessens dramatically (pun alert), but remember, everything is an exercise in experience. You can grab so much from every experience, including failure. The more you give in to your fear, the more you'll lose yourself and not in the Eminem way (that'll make sense in about 6 years). You are so much more capable than you think, trust me.

Please seek help when you need guidance. Don't just assume there's no one who will understand your lack of direction, because there are literally people whose job it is to help you. See your guidance counselor regularly, talk to friends, talk to professors. Also, and I know this seems totally impossible, but talk to Mummy and Daddy. I know, I know... serious conversations with them have never gone particularly well for your whole life, but trust me... keeping them in the dark about your struggles will be a regret from which you'll never recover.

And finally, trust your strength. Okay, I can see the confusion on your face... damn, your face is so skinny and smooth. Whoops, sorry... anyway, YES YOU ARE STRONG. Tell those voices in your head that are comparing you to all the "good Indian kids" to shut up. Their accomplishments do not take anything away from you. You are different and you've felt this your whole life.  Different doesn't mean worse or less than those other kids. And believe me, many of those kids are not happy. They are living their life for their parents approval and nothing else. Staying true to your core isn't a betrayal to Mummy and Daddy, but it is a betrayal to yourself. None of this will be easy, Sheevani, but it'll be so worth it.

Oh yeah... hug Daddy a lot and ask him a lot more questions about his life. Don't leave any questions unanswered... please. And tell him you love him about 1000% more than you do now. Cherish his wisdom and advice. For all his faults and annoying habits on which you tend focus very heavily at the moment, trust that everything he does comes from a place of complete and unconditional love.

Well, I think that's all I can say, 1996 Sheevani. Congratulations on graduating and know that even if you follow NONE of this advice, you will still be okay. You've got a good head on your shoulders and while things may go in the pooper every now and then, you will pull yourself out and find a new way. All of those nights you stayed in over the last 4 years really served you to become your own rock. You listened to music, wrote in your journal, talked to yourself in the mirror and basically, became comfortable with being you. That's better learning than any math or history class as far as I'm concerned.







Oh right, one last thing... you meet Depeche Mode.


Love,
2020 Sheevani

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My heart aches for these kids who will not get to experience all the things they have been looking forward to for so many years. It's not fair. But I am sure that so many of these kids will come up with some fantastic way to properly celebrate when it is safe to do so. I'm a strong believer in the "better late than never" philosophy. And whenever you do have your 2020 grad bash, pay no attention to the random Indian woman weeping in the corner... thanks.


Wednesday, April 1, 2020

My Guilty Plea

A few posts ago, I wrote about being too comfortable... about how I needed to get out of my comfort zone and take some chances in my life and career. Well, little did I know how uncomfortable the entire world would get in 7 short weeks.

While many of us are feeling a lot of the same emotions; stress, fear, impatience, sadness... this pandemic has brought out a feeling I wasn't quite prepared for; guilt. All different shades of guilt, too. From vintage to new-found, my guilt cup runneth over.

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Security Guilt
If you're lucky, you still have a job and are working from home. As an actor and freelance writer, I'm on hold with projects. With acting, self-taped auditions are always a possibility, however as most productions have shut down, there aren't any jobs available. As a writer, clients aren't looking to hire for any extraneous writing projects at the moment. So yeah, here I am in limbo from any paid gigs, but my husband has never been busier. He works in a field where his digital solution-based background is pretty invaluable.

I'm not freaking out about financial security because of my husband. Oh, welcome back vintage guilt about Being Financially Dependent On My Husband! You're always lurking in the shadows, but man did you make a grand entrance recently! I ping-pong between gratitude and guilt, spending more time on the guilt side of the table since I know so many family and friends who are worried about how long receiving a paycheck will be an actuality.

Even before this pandemic and quarantine, this is something I've wanted to write about for a long time. In a nutshell, I feel very undeserving of the life I have. The house I live in, the car I drive, the ability to not have a traditional job with a regular paycheck... none of it. The reason? Because I do not feel I've earned any of it. Simple as that. If my husband and I purchased our house 50/50 with both our incomes, the guilt cloud would dissipate. If my job was paying for half of all our expenses, that guilt cloud would never reappear. In reality however, my contributions in the financial arena of our family life isn't a blip on the screen. And I know myself enough to know that that guilt will never go away until I have the goddamn bank statements to back it up.

Now, I realize there are different ways to contribute to a family that has nothing to do with money. You could say that my taking on the brunt of all the home and kid stuff has allowed my husband the time to focus on his career, thus his success is also my success. Yeah well... I can barely balance that pin at the end of the lane before the bowling ball knocks it down. And not without severely pinching my fingers, as well. I've been so conditioned to see money as the equivalent to worth, and now with the financial security of millions in jeopardy, I've never felt guiltier about my lack of worth... and guiltier still that my lack of worth won't be an issue since my husband provides our security. It's a whole guilt tornado that I have too much time to think about.

Guilt Academy
This is the second week of e-learning for my kids and it's been pretty smooth so far. Well, because I have the time to spend organizing and helping. On a recent Zoom call with some lifelong friends, all the busy working parents were lamenting about how difficult it is to juggle work and all the virtual school stuff. Oh, hi Stay-at-Home-Mom guilt! You surged after both kids went to school full-time, ebbed after I had accepted my creative purpose, but your re-entrance last week was epic!

So many of my working mom friends have posted about squeezing in lessons in between conference calls, or after work entirely so it's sort of a night-school situation and some are even saving all the work for a marathon lesson session over one day. For us, the daily work is usually done by lunch and the rest of the day I can focus on my stuff. Only, sigh... my stuff has been neglected and that segues nicely into my next type of guilt...

Useless Guilt
Oh, is that... oh it's you! Hi there No Practical Skills Because I Squandered My Education And I Make So Many Excuses To Justify My Lack Of Motivation Guilt!! Ya know, I had made SO much progress squashing you into a deep dank hole, but the way you just sprung up a few weeks ago was one for the books.

Besides feeling useless because I cannot be saving lives or making PPE for medical professionals, I've also let my projects suffer because... pandemic. My tendency to let every emotional upheaval affect my productivity has been in overdrive. The old Sheevani stand-by to let projects suffer because of "going through a hard time," couldn't be more prevalent and I feel guilty about backsliding. Before all this madness, I was on a productivity streak of writing, auditioning, setting goals with timelines, etc. But like... the kids need my computer for school, so OF COURSE I cannot do my writing. What? Oh right, they are done by lunch... but like, I just need time to workout and decompress after making sure they turned in everything, ya know? Huh? After they go to bed? I mean... I could... but like... pandemic, ya know?

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Okay, guilt pity party over. This isn't about feeling sorry for myself, BELIEVE ME. It's just about acknowledging what I'm feeling. One thing I am VERY proud of is the grace I give myself to evolve and learn from the past. I know the things I feel guilty about are the things I should feel gratitude about. I'm so f*cking lucky to feel secure and to have the time with my kids and engage in their schoolwork... and well, taking a break from a project or two doesn't mean I cannot jump right back in with more vigor than before. Which is what I'm doing right now. The guilt I'm feeling is pointless... there are plenty of ways to support those who are truly suffering and I am already doing that. Food banks, neighborhood senior support, reaching out to friends in need... done it, doing it and will continue. If I turn this guilt into action, then I have nothing to feel guilty about.

In the spirit of gratitude, many friends I made during my formative years have turned out to be brilliant humans who I have the honor of knowing. One of those friends is Dr. Jenna Elwart. She recently posted a video that spoke so loudly to me. I can think of no better way to end this post than with her message:

"Living in the Ands" by Dr. Jenna Elwart

Stay safe and stay home, friends xo




Monday, March 16, 2020

Probably...

My dad Janak Desai during some fun times.

~~~

I never really know how I'll feel on the 16th of March. In the last 10 years it has ranged from contentment for all the memories to a blubbering mess at any mention or thought of why the day has such meaning. One thing I never expected was that the mood had no bearing on the proximity to the actual event. If I were to chart my feelings on this day for the last decade, there would be peaks and valleys versus a smooth curve downward with each passing year. Nothing about grief is smooth, really...

Ten years ago on this day my father, Janak Desai, passed away peacefully at my childhood home in Royal Oak, Michigan. After at least 100 friends and family came to wish him farewell while he laid in home hospice over 3 days, he took his last breath while my mother, brother, sister-in-law and I sat one room away. He planned that, I just know it... he never wanted to be a burden.

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I've always turned to humor in times of great stress and worry. My father did this as well and while I could always tell his stress was never fully at bay, a small quip or funny face to cut the tension helped all of us... especially him.

In the throes of self-quarantines and virus dread, the anniversary of my dad's death has steered me to think about all the funny stories about him... many of which entertained my friends for so many years. When he died, I was inundated with messages from friends telling me about those stories that tickled them.

SO... if you need a laugh right now... I give you some highlights from my life with Janak Desai:

Member's Only Comfort
I had moved back in with my parents in the summer of 2001. My time at Michigan State University was over and with no job or real inkling of what to do next with my life, I returned to the familiarity of my childhood home in Royal Oak, Michigan. After 5 years away, the adjustment wasn't too terrible and I could tell my father was thrilled to have me home. As a retiree and empty nester, having his daughter around definitely lifted his spirits.

One day late in the fall, the weather had made the shift from those waning days of warmth and sunshine to full on brisk and downright icy.

"Take your coat, Sheevu, it's supposed to be cold today," my dad said as I grabbed the car keys. My unemployed ass had plans to meet up with some friends for lunch and then knock around Best Buy to look for some CDs (like we did 100 years ago).

"Okay, " I said, "Do you need anything while I'm out?"

"No bheta," he said while rinsing his plate in the sink. My mom had made some Indian food for lunch before her full day at the salon. Daddy was always good about cleaning up after enjoying his prepared food... that day I believe it was fresh handvoh or spicy lentil cake, one of my dad's favorites.

After a few hours of being a jobless wanderer around the suburbs of Detroit, I came home to a dark house. Our Royal Oak house was built in the 1950s, so the creaks and cracks from that day's winds gave it an eerie feel. Upon entering, I saw the dim living room empty, a place where my father would usually be sitting and watching every 24-hour news station in rotation.

"Daddy?" I called out. No answer.

My warmth from the car heater soon dissipated as I removed my jacket and took off my shoes. "Man, it's cold in here!" I said, "Daddy? Where are you?" No answer again.

Our house was very small and a call-out from anywhere could always be heard. I started to worry since my father had to be home... he was no longer able to drive and besides, I had the car even if he could. I walked in the kitchen where the tile felt like ice under my feet. Empty. I called out again with more urgency. Nothing. Had he fallen? Was he hurt? Why was it so damn cold??

I rubbed my arms quickly to generate some heat as I walked to the back of the house. No, he wasn't on the computer or in the bathroom. Finally, I turned the corner into the master bedroom. His eyes were closed as he lay on his back. The darkness caused me to strain and look a bit closer... he was asleep, but was... was he wearing a jacket? Was he wearing his beige Member's Only jacket?  Was his beige Member's Only jacket zipped up all the way with the banded collar totally snapped? Was he wearing his beige Member's Only jacket while laying underneath the covers?

"Daddy!" I yelled and his eyes popped open.

"Oh, hi bheta!"

"What's going on? Why are you sleeping with your jacket on under the covers?"

"I'm feeling very cold," he said with a serious expression and a shiver. I glanced at the thermostat right outside his bedroom and noticed the house was at 62 degrees and the heat was off.

"Is the heat not working?" I asked.

"The heat is not working??" he asked with alarm hearing the opposite of what I said.

"No, I'm asking you... did you try turning on the heat?"

"Oh," he paused for about 10 seconds, "No," he finally murmured turning his head flat against the pillow with closed eyes.

"So, you felt cold and you didn't turn the heat on... but you put on your Member's Only jacket and got under the covers??" I couldn't hold in my giggle. Daddy cracked a smile and I saw his shoulders bobbing underneath the layers of 80s fashion and a floral JCPenney comforter.

Shaking my head, I walked over and slid the little plastic wand to 72 degrees and heard the furnace click on. Soon the vents were exhaling warm air. Daddy emerged out of his cocoon and joined me in the living room where I was turning on the lamps to cease the creepy vibe. He was feeling warmer, but not quite enough to remove his Member's Only jacket.

"Bheta... warm up some handvoh for me?"

Probably...
Give my dad a little information and he would expand on it in great detail complete with grand assumptions and unfounded theories. Something as little as a store closing early could elicit a long story complete with a backstory and plot twists. If my dad responded to your comment with a "Probably...." you knew you were in for some confident pontification.

One day I was taking him to get his blood drawn, something he had to do every week to check his Vitamin K levels since he was on some pretty strong blood thinners. At a stoplight, I noticed a car pulled over on a side street adjacent to the main road.

"Whoa!" I said.

"Su thayu (what happened)?" my dad asked.

"Looks like they are arresting that woman over there!"

"Where?" he asked. Since my dad suffered from poor eyesight, I had to describe the scene unfolding about a hundred yards away; a woman being handcuffed by a couple of cops.

"Probably..." he started, "She was drunk driving..."

"Drunk driving?" I said mid-chuckle, "It's 10am!" The light turned green and I knew Daddy was still thinking about the law enforcement scene as we continued to the doctor's office.

"You know, maybe she's going through a divorce and drinking a lot," he said with no hint of humor in his voice. I grinned and settled in for a stellar "explanation" of what woes this stranger was suffering from to be arrested so early on a Tuesday.

"Probably fighting for custody of her kids and losing her house... beecharee (poor woman)," he continued.

"Wow, Daddy... lots of assumptions about her life," I said unable to keep my amusement from invading my voice.

"You're making fun of me," he said. My laughter was met with a smirk on my father's face. Then came one of my favorite Daddy-isms he'd throw out when he knew one of us was poking fun at his expense.

"Slap yourself."

Champps Fetish Date??
Now, I wasn't present for the event that spurred the next story, but it became a Desai Family classic thanks to both the oddity of what happened and the subsequent frustration it caused my father when others reacted to the ridiculousness of his version.

Many years ago while my mother was away on a trip to India, my brother and father went to dinner at Champps, a sports bar famous for its enormous entrees, huge beers and everything else expected of an all-American sports bar. Now, my brother's version of the story details some very odd service. As he and my dad were eating their meals, their server kept checking on them over and over again, almost too often. Then, the manager came out to chat about how they were doing. My brother wasn't sure why, but it made them uneasy and they felt like something else was going on. The frequency of both servers and managers coming out to check on them was almost comical.

The following is a paraphrased transcript of my bro and dad's conversation at their table as told from my brother over 15 years ago:

BROTHER 
What the hell is going on? So weird how they keep checking on us.

FATHER 
I don't know.

BROTHER 
Makes me uneasy, like maybe they did something to our food?

FATHER
You never know, maybe they are playing a joke.

BROTHER 
It's very annoying... I might say something.

FATHER
Well... maybe... maybe they...

BROTHER 
Maybe what?

FATHER 
Maybe they think we are... a gay couple.

BROTHER 
(furrows brow and blinks rapidly... probably)

FATHER 
You know... they think we are gay and want to make fun... 

BROTHER 
But... what... why would they... WHAT!?!?

FATHER 
What?

BROTHER 
How does being a... a gay couple connect with them checking on us so much?

FATHER 
I don't know! But probably they think we are gay and on a date!

BROTHER 
 I, um... I don't think that's it.

FATHER 
(shrugs) But maybe...

Later when my brother recounted this story to the rest of the family, we all laughed with amused confusion... well, except my dad. He did not like us laughing at his explanation. I'm pretty positive he believed his reasoning until the day he died. Any argument against it, which was mostly by me, would illicit a very temperamental response from Daddy. He wouldn't budge... those servers and managers 100% thought he and my brother were a gay couple and they were making fun FOR THAT REASON ONLY. Once during a retelling of that story at our family Christmas, I kept trying to get Daddy to explain his reasoning only to have him whip his head at me and yell, "YOU WEREN'T THERE!!"

For my brother, who was there, it was naturally disturbing to think of his dad talking about he and him as a romantic couple... but also, as my brother said as a sort of footnote, "If I were gay... I could do much better than Daddy!!"

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Sometimes thinking about my dad makes me cry, but today I choose to remember all the times that bring a smile to my face. I'm thankful for so many things he gave me during our life together, but that sense of humor tops the list... no question.

Thanks for the laughs, Daddy. Miss you always.



Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Girl Talk

Just a few of incredibly inspiring ladies in my life <3

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"Men, I love you but... there's nothing like a long chat with a close girlfriend. Here's to the unbreakable bonds of sisterhood."

--Sarah McLachlan introducing her song Good Enough at the Buell Theater on 2/11/2020

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I want to be a fabulous girlfriend.

For the early part of my adult life, I meant that as a part of a heterosexual couple. Today, I mean that as a fiercely loyal friend to other women. It took me way too long to figure out that close girlfriends are a necessity in every woman's life.

There was an episode of Seinfeld where Elaine comes to the realization that she has no female friends left. Kramer's response is, "Of course you don't... you're a man's woman. You hate other women and other women hate you!"

For a long time, I felt like Elaine and I were the same in that regard. I couldn't figure out why I could maintain friendships with many men, but time and time again my female friendships would dissipate. I'd tell myself that friendships with men required less maintenance and since I consider myself low maintenance the dudes just... suited me better. However, that rationalization never totally squelched my shame about the lack of female friendship in my life.

I've already covered my past of being a shitty friend in another post, so in this post I'd like to focus on what I've learned from all the women I'm honored to call my friends. Since I no longer take them for granted, I've learned how incredibly necessary they are to my survival.

As I covered in Validation Station, I was sort of burned by female friendships in my youth so I know I tried too hard when it came to keeping gals interested in my friendship.... so much so, I lost my own personality in order to fit whatever mold she seemed to want. I believe "thirsty" is the term now? I don't know... but I do know that when I look back on those years and even through many years as an adult, people could smell my desperation.

In short, I needed to smooth out my own personality flaws before understanding how to be a worthy friend to other women. As cheesy as this sounds, I needed to become the best gal pal to myself in order to properly friend other women. Once I started becoming more genuine and true to what was important to me, I was able to relax and make deeper connections. Today, I have a keen sense of what brand of women I need in my life and not all of them pass muster. I have a type, ladies, and well... it includes he following:


  • Genuineness - After 41 years on this earth, I can spot a fake pretty quickly. I have learned so much from the women who own who they are no matter what, and do it in such a way that takes vulnerability and repurposes it into a superpower. 
  • Kindness - Sounds so simple, but after years of giving so much power to a few women who tout kindness in public but shame people in private, I know that my circle of ladies must prioritize kindness. 
  • Supportiveness - In my ridding of toxic friendships, I had to let go of a few women who claimed to be feminists, but turned out they only marched for the women who were like them. For someone like me who didn't live my life according to their rules, they shut me out and judged my life choices as less than theirs. Girl, bye. 
  • Constant Evolution - As someone who believes that we should never stop seeking a better version of ourselves, I gravitate towards women who want to explore everything the world has to offer in order to thrive, contribute and improve.

And that's about it... it's not a long list, but it's weighty. I've learned so much from the women who posses these attributes, but also from the women I had to let go in my purging process. Sometimes the bad can teach you so much about what you seek. 

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Being a woman is hard... and it's hard in ways that only other women can understand. During that time where I dismissed myself as a "man's woman" like Elaine, there was an enormous lady shaped hole in my heart that ached for that sisterly bond. Today, I'm so lucky to have many ladies just filling that hole right up. No, I'm not rephrasing that. 

Thank you to the wondrous ladies in my life for constantly inspiring me in innumerable ways. I promise to never take you for granted again. 

Hoes before bros, yaknowwhatimsayin?