I was sitting in a dark room with just a diya (oil lamp) lit in front of me. There was a big life size picture of Sai Baba placed on a velvet purple sheet. The room was filled with the aroma of incense sticks. Sure. I experienced temporary peace but my mind was racing with little anxiety of being in a new place with a new person.
As she appeared we exchanged warm greetings. She was a self-proclaimed guru. And out of my many doubts during our conversation led her to saying- “You cannot have it all”. I looked at her dumbstruck. For many years that conversation with her stayed with me as I navigated through my own life journey.
I was born to and nurtured by a fairly career- oriented woman. My mother. And now with my own current phase of life I see many people, like me struggling with this dramatic question. While in my mother’s world life is all about prioritising - sometimes kids, sometimes a job and career. That means when one is prioritised the other will take a backseat. This belief seem to have served her well. Sure. She raised two “independent” girls but what was the cost?
As I saw my mother struggling to maintain a balance, the idea- I must work - was indoctrinated in me to the extent that after the first episode of a neurological disorder I found myself sitting in the board room giving presentations. I just could not live without the stress. In fact may be I was addicted to the stress and pressure. The long hours seem normal and taking time off for oneself seemed sinful.
As I sat down in front of Megha, a coachee (name changed) her chatty nature and animated expressions immediately caught my attention. I saw a lot of me in her. Within few sessions it was evident that she was having problems with her health. Actually, she also mentioned how she was grateful for the pandemic and that she doesn’t have to go to work but can be with her family.
I am by no means saying that you cannot or should not aspire to become the corporate honchos or look for senior position in an organisation. But my sincere appeal is - don’t deny the cost. If it is coming at the cost of your own mental well-being, disrupting the dynamics of your family (this can be a very tricky situation as it requires firm boundaries and clear communication) and no creative satisfaction or financial sustenance then you may want to rethink it.
While I was busy making my plans in my late twenties, life had other plans for me. I was taught (not so gently) to slow down. Since then I learnt observation, listening and quiet reflection. Now that is my second nature. Rushing, second guessing my intuition, trying to make things happen has always backfired.
So in this small piece of writing let us explore how you can learn these very essential skills so you can have it all and define “all” as per your personal standards and not the societal standards. Here are some beneficial tips:
Pause to reflect: Take a break from work, home, relationships or whatever is your prime stressor at the moment. Get away and take some time to reflect. A short trip, a holiday would be great but a walk in a park or sitting under the night sky can be equally invigorating.
Take a stock of your emotions: Journaling how you feel will work wonders and yes initially you will resist this idea but if you move past the resistance it will really help you at a much deeper level. Become aware of the feelings in your body. That tightness in the chest, gut or throat. That shallow breathing. Is it the anger or frustration of having to do it all by yourself? Is it the guilt of not being there? Is it the helplessness and hopelessness? Whatever it is- name it, write it all down.
Track your thoughts: Now this is a very important step- Can you trace back to those thoughts that are causing these emotional malady in your body? If you pay attention you will very often know the cause of these mental afflictions. As the answers lie nowhere else but in your mind and in your own thoughts.
The alternatives: As every stress causing emotion will have thoughts in its background if we change that underlying thought our emotional state will change too. Example: I never get enough time with my family. Can become- I can balance my time between work, rest and play. They all get equal time and space. How does that make you feel? Yes, there will be many ifs and buts in the way. Stay with it. It will pass as it is only a thought (not writings on the wall) and a thought can be changed.
The application: Now you have the plan so the implementation is equally important. This brings us to the declaration- announce to your body and mind that you will be going to bed early and not mindlessly scrolling through social media or checking emails. Taking time for exercise and breath work minimum three hours a week. Meditate at least ten mins a day. Too much? Start with three minutes. Asking and letting your family know what activities you all love to do together. Make time for it and be present fully. Also, let your co-workers know this new design in your life and set correct boundaries and expectation with them.
With little awareness and implementation you can create a balance. After all, the one who created us has it all and wants the same for us. Make him the centre of your life and surely you can have it all!