Day 944

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The Great Master

All I manage to read these days are short stories. Partly due to my abbreviated attention span and partly because the time has come when I ‘should’ start wearing reading glasses but I don’t. I get by, by increasing the font size and by reading for short periods of time. Also by squinting a lot.

‘The First Forty nine stories’ is a collection by the Nobel prize winner, Earnest Hemingway. In the preface he says, “In going where you have to go and doing what you have to do and seeing what you have to see, you dull and blunt the instrument you write with. But I would rather have it bent and dull and know I had put it on the grindstone again and hammer it into shape and out a whetstone to it, and know that I had something to write about, than to have it bright and shining and nothing to say, or smooth and well-oiled in the closet, but unused.”

After devouring the collection, I read up about him and was saddened to find that he suffered with depression and died of suicide. Here’s an example of the sensitivity and vulnerability of his characters and the simplicity of his story telling style. It’s called ‘Cat in the rain’.

https://soundcloud.com/user-474898075/new-recording-2

 

Day 939

Me? Lonely? Naah!

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Joe put an advert in his local paper which read: “Senior citizen, 89, seeks employment in Paignton area. 20 hours plus per week. Still able to clean, light gardening, DIY and anything. I have references. Old soldier, airborne forces. Save me from dying of boredom!” He said he had lived alone since his wife, Cassandra, died two years ago and had been lonely. “When you live on your own there is no one to speak to. Since she died I’ve moved into a flat and it’s a big block. Once you walk into that flat it’s like solitary confinement,” he said. He is due to start work at a cafe in the town after the owners of the family-run business spotted his request.

Film-maker Sue Bourne says it’s a major public health issue. Her BBC documentary is called “Age of Loneliness”. It tells the stories of 14 people, young and old. “A silent epidemic that’s starting to kill us. But we don’t want to talk about it. No-one really wants to admit they are lonely.”

Si is away for a week. It’s only tolerable because I know I will see him at the end of the week. I tell myself it’s ok but it’s not easy. I miss him. I have something planned with friends for every other evening of the week so that I have something to look forward to. Something to keep me distracted. I can’t imagine how it must feel to loose a spouse or a partner you love and have been with for decades.

Source:
View: An online magazine that talks about issues that matter.
Editor: Brian Pelan

http://viewdigital.org/2016/11/03/need-talk-suicide-prevention/

 

Day 927

Westminster-Abbey-DrugFAM-10th-Anniversary

The bags from my journey home 2 days ago were still waiting to be unpacked. I was in two minds whether to go for the service or not. I could think of a hundred items I could tick off my ‘to-do list’ if I didn’t go. It was optional after all, even though I had booked a place for myself.

I have lived in London for nearly 11 years. I work 150 yards away from it and yet, have never visited the Westminster Abbey. This was my chance. If I didn’t go today, I would probably never make the effort.

‘A Service of Celebration and Hope’ was being held by DrugFAM.

A charity that provides a lifeline of safe, caring and professional support for families, friends and carers who are struggling to cope with the nightmare of a loved one’s addiction to drugs and alcohol.

Elizabeth Burton-Phillips lost one of her twins, Nick, to heroin addiction in 2004. During this harrowing time, she and her family had very little support. In 2006, she founded DrugFAM with the sole aim of ensuring that no family, friends or carers are left living in isolation, fear and ignorance of the support available.

Silence, shame and stigma – these terms apply to Mental illness and  Drug addiction. Both remain deeply misunderstood.Both claim many young lives – lives worth talking about. Today’s service was a public acknowledgement of the strength and courage of those lost to addiction and of those who are still living with active addiction in their families. In her address Elizabeth quoted Robin Williams,”I used to think that the worst thing in life is to end up alone. It’s not. The worst thing in life is to end up with people who make you feel alone.” She said, ‘Today, no one in this Abbey is alone.’ It was indeed a celebratory, yet serene and unifying one hour. It was a renewed commitment to continue efforts to  enable every human being to live with dignity, to be respected and to fulfil their potential.

Even though my ‘to do’ list was left untouched, I felt honoured to be there.

Day 925

Vulnerability. Not weakness.

Stories are data with a soul. Researcher and storyteller Brene’ Brown has taken the time to take a deep hard look at shame and vulnerability.

She believes that ‘connection’ is neurobiologically why we are here.

Shame is fear of disconnection or not feeling like you are worthy of connection. For example, not good enough, not pretty enough, not strong enough, not rich enough and so on. All experiences of excruciating vulnerability.

After 6 years of researching ‘Shame’ she took a closer at a sub-group of individuals with ‘Worthiness’, people with a strong sense of love and belonging who believe they are worthy of love and belonging. She called them  ‘Wholehearted’. This group had a few remarkable  traits:

  1. Courage – to be imperfect
  2. Compassion – ability to be kind to themselves and others
  3. Connection – ability to give up the idea of perfection

They fully embraced their vulnerability. They believed that vulnerability makes them beautiful. They were willing to reach out their hand first, to invest in a relationship that may or may not work out. It was not comfortable but they did it anyway.
Vulnerability is also the birthplace of tenderness, belonging, love and joy.

What makes us vulnerable?
The simplest things like asking for help, waiting for the doc to call back, initiating sex, loosing a job, asking someone out on a date and many more.

Why do we struggle with vulnerability?
The uncertainty is too uncomfortable. So we numb it.

At present, we are most highly addicted, medicated and obese populace ever.
We can’t selectively numb feelings.
When we numb vulnerability we also numb joy and connection.

The ways in which we deal with our discomfort with vulnerability are:

  1. We make everything uncertain, certain, eg- religion.
  2. We Blame- a way to discharge pain and discomfort.
  3. We Perfect – most dangerously our children.
  4. We pretend – like what we are doing doesn’t have an effect on people.

We need to let ourselves be seen.
To love with our whole hearts even if we are unsure.
To practice Gratitude despite the uncertainty because our vulnerability means we are alive.
Lean into joy and believe – I am enough.
That enables us to be kinder and gentler to the people around us and to ourselves.

Ref:

Book :
Daring Greatly by Dr Brene Browm
TED talk by Dr Brene Brown on Power of Vulnerability:

Day 924

 

Day 924

CHIRAG
(Central Himalayan Rural Action Group; Also means ‘lamp’)

Every time I return to India I witness immense beauty in simplicity. I feel that beauty changing me. I grew up in a simple, sweet world. Moving away from it was difficult but time moulded me. Somewhere deep within that appreciation of simplicity remains. I see it without romanticising it. It is a part of me. I feel closer to myself each time I am faced with it.

Last week I volunteered to tell a story at a primary school in a small village in the Himalayas. I sat in a circle on the floor of a well lit large classroom with a group of  sixteen 7 year olds and we chatted for about half an hour in a mixture of Hindi and English. One of them asked me if we would be singing but I wasn’t able to confirm that. It bothered me.

The Principal, an enthusiastic young man of 29, said they didn’t have a music teacher in the school as the charity had just about enough money to pay for teachers to cover the academic curriculum. A local musician has offered to teach music but they are waiting for funding to come along to be able to employ her.

It is Saagar’s 23rd Birthday today.
I think he would have liked for that school to have a music teacher.
Happy Birthday Darling!

“O Bud! Your life is so moving that only for a while
You blossom, for just a smile.
“In this garden, O dear,” said the bud
“Just a few are lucky to smile, even for a while.”
(Translation of an Urdu couplet by Josh Malihabadi)

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Chirag School Newsletter 2_Autumn 2016

 

Day 915

A simple source of hot water in Delhi is the sun heating up supply pipes. Very eco-friendly.

Another simple yet highly un-eco-friendly source is an immersion rod. I used it today after about 3 decades. It was like revisiting my university days. The plastic bucket and the broad clip reminded me of the 2 parallel burn marks on the edge of the light blue bucket in college. The soft hissing sound of the frantic molecules was all too familiar. Seeing the little eddies set off by the heat waves made me smile. All those times when I had completely forgotten about the water and got distracted only to come back to the horror of half a bucket or less of absolutely boiling hot water! Adding just the right amount of cold water was crucial especially at the peak of winters.

The geyser with a red and a green light is another old friend. My brother lives with his family in a rented house in a little village in India. The landlord and his wife live in part of the house with a separate entrance.  For some reason, the guest-room (my room) bathroom geyser is shared with the land-lord. The switch happens to be in their house.  This is never a problem as most people are around most of the time. We forgot to ask them to switch it on in time, hence the immersion rod.

This kind of arrangement between neighbours, land-lords and tenants is normal here. It’s no problem. It’s perfectly workable. There is no desire to change it. I suppose things like this make it a close community. It would be quite unthinkable in more ‘advanced’ settings.

Fact: 4 days is the time it took for our next-door neighbour to find out that Saagar had passed away.

Ref:
Dying alone:
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jun/27/anyone-can-die-alone-isolated-age-uk-loneliest-country

Britain, loneliness capital of Europe:
http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/features/britain-has-been-voted-the-loneliness-capital-of-europe-so-how-did-we-become-so-isolated-9566617.html

Day 895

The New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Emma Lazarus wrote this sonnet in 1883 in America to raise funds for the  construction of the pedestal  on which stands the Statue of Liberty.

The glorious aspiration set out in this poem seems to have been well forgotten and contorted over the years.

It appears as though humanity sits at the verge of self destruction. We refuse to learn lessons from history. All too familiar ugly realities of the past repeat themselves -demonising of a particular religious group resulting in seemingly justified atrocities against humanity, wars in the name of peace and liberty, a conviction of weapons of mass destruction/chemical weapons proven wrong, rightful nuclear assault of another country, false news and propaganda, massive unplanned military operations used as knee-jerk reactions to events in order to overthrow tyrannous regimes, complete lack of meaningful dialogue and statesmanship.

The awfulness of it!