It’s Not Always Dark

It’s not always dark.

From dull, earthen breast,

Rise sweet songs of the skylark.

It’s never always pale and withering.

In cold, dead winter’s bosom,

Beats the heart of spring.

It’s not always so stark.

Wildflower blooms do blushingly brighten

The fallen and forgotten old tree bark.

So much to achieve even at life’s rim.

Feverishly hungry flames still burn,

In lantern’s long past brim.

Life’s too short to lose that spark.

Just a spot of sun after the rain

Brings forth the rainbow’s arc.

You can always make a new start.

Chaste, humble morns after a dark stormy night

Are all part of nature’s spectacular art.

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I wanted this poem to be about hope and the silver lining that we are constantly looking for while under a dark cloud. When things don’t go our way, or circumstances lead us to a dark place, we sometimes tend to fret about our luck. Everything seems bleak and  we just can’t see the light. We feel helpless and overwhelmed by our state of affairs.

The worst storms sometimes however carry the greatest blessings. Just because we don’t see the light, doesn’t mean it’s not there. If things aren’t going the way we planned them, doesn’t mean they are not working in our favour. The fact that we can’t see the bigger picture provides me with the greatest relief because I know my limited vision cannot perceive how bright the future really is. Our creator witholds something at times perhaps to offer it to us at a more opportune time in the future, or He gives us something better instead.

The fact that we are blessed with the ability to trudge on in the face of adversities is evidence enough that we are heading towards refuge and comfort. We were born to survive and stand the test of time. If we take the time to look around and immerse ourselves in the natural world, we might get better attuned to the way life works. There is healing and comfort close at hand and light will eventually dawn over darkness. Nothing stays the same and as do the seasons, our time shall change too. Spells of joy, sorrow, comfort, abundance, scarcity and contentment will chase each other throughout our transient life on this planet, but faith and hope will keep us going stronger than anything else.

What gives you hope? Do you have a hope inspiring anecdote to share?

The Fear Monster

It holds me back.

It folds me back.

My fear often goads me back.

I wonder when, and linger long.

I ponder on what might go wrong.

All my dreams, it dares to throttle.

I tell myself, “I am mere mortal”.

I wish for strength, I wish for luck.

When action calls, I choose to duck.

I like to play the waiting game.

Then all else, I seek to blame.

My spirit’s curbed; deep lines of pain.

My reflection mocks; drives me insane.

Can’t let it override my senses to flight!

Can’t let it destroy me in such clear sight!

One day I will strive to banish this demon.

This vicious bandit that seeks to steal men;

Of dreams of glory, of joys unchained;

Of strength and valour, of skills unclaimed.

I will find my voice, I will find new skies.

To claim myself; one day I will rise.

Fear is one of the most frequent visitors in our subconscious. Even if we choose to deal with it squarely or ignore it completely it still hounds us. And for those who often fall prey to it, the vicious little creep tightens his reins around their faculties to the extent that they no longer have the will to shake it off.

Our inner fear is probably the greatest hurdle to any sort of forward movement in life. It is the annoying little pesky voice in your head that says, “Don’t even think about trying for that job, you aren’t qualified enough”, “Don’t make that call, they won’t entertain the likes of you”, “Don’t even bother with that silly idea, it won’t work”. No matter what you attempt to do, it gives you hundreds of reasons why you shouldn’t and highlights how miserably you would fail if you go ahead with it.

I have realized that the more I acknowledge its presence, the easier it is for me to shrug it off. I try replacing the negations with positive assertions. If it conjures up limitations, I strengthen my belief that I have been blessed with life and the ability to do wonderful things with it. I might as well have a good go at it than hang around the periphery like a spectator and wonder what it must feel like to be a big game player.

Fear will always be an integral part of our life. We do need it to a certain extent to propel us to work harder, to be more prepared and to sharpen our instincts. But it is important to avoid falling in a perpetual trap of doubts and imagined failures.

How do you handle your inner fear?

Put a Pause on Your Own Sob Story: Let’s Try Being Better Listeners

Remember that time when you feel completely overwhelmed by some situation in your life, a fight, some family upheaval, employment issue, health or emotional trauma? You really want to let some steam off, and vent your heart and soul out. You expect some sort of relief, a sense of direction or at least a sympathetic listener. In fact you feel so stressed that you actually end up pouring out in front of a friend, colleague or family member only to have them make a scoring match of who’s got the better sob story.

Sounds familiar? Probably been there either at the receiving end or the volunteering, “Here’s my list of grievances,” bit. If you venture to talk about an ailment, they want you to know how they braved a deadly disease and didn’t complain even a wee bit, if it’s not their own case, they decide to tell you about some other family member or acquaintance or at times even a public figure who out shined you by his or her patience and iron will. You seek comfort and get to hear how small your issue really is, how ungrateful your stance is and how exponentially better equipped they are in sorting their life out.

And if you are a woman then you get treated to a tirade of long drawn life experiences of all those hardworking mothers and daughters of yesteryears who endured much and said very little. You are reminded that they lived in an age where there were no diapers and instant food and no gadgets that made life easier. If you have a job then you get pointers on how much easier it would be if you resorted to being a homebody. Your stress levels are then attributed to your lazy, selfish lifestyle and an excess of free time at hand that you have deliberately misused in stressing out about useless things.

Do we really have the right to assume that somebody’s response to a given circumstance is uncalled for? Isn’t it unfair to judge others on the basis of our individual responses?

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Can we not for that brief moment hit the pause button on our own grievances and just patiently fine tune those darling implements we call ears and LISTEN. I use the term ‘We’ because I have been guilty of doing this too. Sometimes all we intend to do is provide the comforting notion, “You are not the only one going through a rough patch, I’ve been there too and you will sail through the way I did.” But we forget that all of us have a completely unique emotional quotient and the dynamics of our reactions are all very different. We are not an assembly line production and respond differently to the same pressure tests.

I might not be able to cope with the same situation the way you do, my internal wiring is specific to me only. I do not mean to say that we shouldn’t learn from other people’s experiences. We should and we must. We have support groups to allow people to learn from others who have gone through the same trying situations in life. But people who join these groups have decided that they want to hear about others who went through the same ordeal. Someone who just seeks you out to lighten his or her emotional baggage, needs only that much and a little empathy perhaps.

Sometimes being a good listener is all it takes to add a little sunshine to someone’s bad day. We need to listen with a patient, and empathizing ear and without the intention to judge. The more attention you give, the more attuned your mind becomes to the speaker’s emotional cues and this really helps you to know when and how to respond. If you do not really have any useful advice or words of comfort to offer then perhaps the act of listening calmly itself might be the greatest help.

You might be going through a bigger and more trying ordeal, but you don’t really have to talk about it at that moment. Someone trusts you enough to seek you in a time of need and that’s a real blessing and a big compliment to you. Hope we can all work on our emotional intelligence and perk up our ears for some sincere listening next time.

Have you been through something like this? Is there an experience that you care to share? Our little experiences, and what we learn through them at times shine out a tiny beacon for someone else.

 

 

Bite That Quivering Lip: Speech Anxiety and Me

Do you feel nauseous when facing an audience? Do you shy away from the glare of the spotlight? I do! Try as I might I cannot stop the dreadful shudder down my spine when I have to speak to an audience of mostly adults. It’s strange that I have absolutely no inhibitions when the audience constitutes of my students. There I feel like the reigning happy queen and words flow like magic. My mentor says it is because I subconsciously feel I can intimidate them whereas I probably don’t believe I can do that with others, but I am not really sure about it.

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People who do not suffer from speech anxiety probably have no idea what it feels like when red hot churning fear spirals from the pit of your tummy to your throat and strangles your attempt to speak. The feeling of nervousness and overpowering panic fills every inch of your body and the only thing you are painfully aware of are those eyes that you want so much to run and hide from.

The best part about this whole deal though is that no matter how badly I shiver or how stubbornly my limbs threaten to buckle under me, I mostly insist on standing my ground and facing people in a group whenever required. I did walk back from an entire school audience once  after my voice just refused to squirm out in tune for a birthday song I was supposed to deliver. It was a disaster because as ridiculous as it might seem I kept trying to sing again holding the mike and moving back into the audience, but my voice just choked out on me.  My principal made me sing again after a few days and in that instance it went rather well…..My chest did feel like it might explode any moment but I did survive to tell the tale.

I refuse to let an opportunity to speak out pass me by because some strange wiring in my head makes me phobic. What could be the worst case scenario, I would probably stumble over my words, repeat the same sentences over again or because of my numbed senses, forget why I am standing there in the first place. I think it’s really fine to have a few such incidents in life where things don’t really go the way we expect them to. We all have those embarrassing moments which we feel so terrible about at that precise moment, but years down the line we chuckle over them and even willingly share them over dinner table banter.

speechI think this anxiety of speaking in front of large groups mostly stems from being too self-conscious. There is also the underlying dread of others judging you or comparing you and some people probably feel ill equipped and underestimate their own potential to deliver something worthwhile. Whatever the reasons, we end up losing some really good opportunities in life. Even if it is not a major breakthrough event in your life where speaking up would escalate you to sure success, the tiny achievement of being able to win over your fear would definitely boost your self-esteem. I feel like a winner every time I add one of those invisible “Done That Badges” on my chest.

These fears are real and have obvious physiological effects. If we recognize and acknowledge it then it takes us a step closer to finding a solution to it. What I usually do is to prepare myself really well, pray ardently, do some breathing exercises and indulge in some pep talking in my head. And if it’s an impromptu speaking opportunity, well, maybe another funny feather in my cap. I would rather try, than fail to make an effort. Come to think of it, a little bit of anxiety is actually a good trigger, makes one work more diligently on the preparation part.

Do you suffer from speech anxiety? What helps you to overcome your fears? Do let me know, maybe you have a solution up your sleeve that might help others.

The Red Flag of Criticism

I personally find it to be one of the most unnerving words in the dictionary. You could slot toxic as a most likely synonym to this one. I am speaking of criticism. Doesn’t seem like much on paper, and glides pretty easily on the tongue too. But it’s the way it settles in the heart and streams of our subconscious, the way it pockmarks our self-esteem; that’s what makes it an unlikely villain.

It has become something of a habit or better stated, an acquired tendency to immediately point out what is wrong, or rather what we find wrong in others. Criticism, I had learnt as a kid was a useful tool to perfect oneself and others around you. It took years and years of being too hard on myself and the ones close to my heart that I learnt that maybe it was time I needed to unlearn this annoying trait.

To be fair, most people don’t actually criticize to belittle another individual, it’s their whole perspective of offering an honest opinion. Or sometimes we tend to feel correctional advice must be candid and free of polite deceit. Whatever our reasons may be and no matter how innocent our intentions plead, the damage criticism does is sometimes irreparable and pretty dismal.

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Criticism Kills Self-Esteem

An incident from my childhood springs to memory as I think about criticism. For talking and disturbing the class my English teacher pulled me out in front of the class, pinched my arm and said aloud, “Now that’s what I call elephant hide!”. I can still remember the horrid feeling of anguish that I felt at that moment. My writing mostly came back from her desk highlighted throughout in red ink and a miserable looking “poor” for a comment. I always wanted to know what was wrong with my writing but the teacher felt “poor” justified it all. That criticism never really did me any good.

When I became a teacher, I thought I would definitely handle things differently. I conscientiously checked my first set of student essays and underlined the students’ writing mishaps and offered explanations and helpful suggestions in the same potent red. I thought I had done pretty well. When the graded papers were handed back, I watched with disdain how those eager faces fell in disappointment. I hadn’t fared too well in comparison to my own teacher.

It took me a great deal of reflection and consistent effort to change the way I offered the help that my students actually needed. I became a better educator and facilitator when I held back the immediate red flash of criticism and gradually introduced more opportunities to tackle common problems in their writing.

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Criticism is Detrimental to Learning

I realized to what degree criticism can be demotivating and obstructive to any form of learning; be it academic or otherwise. Criticism that I received in my initial years as a rookie teacher; saw being meted out by superiors to colleagues, and offered so offhandedly to students made me realize how we were all going wrong. To rectify mistakes and work towards improvement is not just required but also conducive to a better world. However, the process of improvement is not something that can be brought  about without due consideration to time, place and certain sensibilities.

There is a huge difference between offering helpful advice and fault finding. And I sincerely hope we all understand this difference and  cultivate a more mindful approach when we try to offer advice. What we do not like to receive is certainly not worth handing out. It’s always a better option to withhold our opinions until we can make them more constructive and of any substantial use to the receiver.

Do share your thoughts I really value them, they might add value to my insights.

 

 

The Oh So Reluctant Nightbird

There goes another dreamless night dragging its weary feet;

Dull, heavy wakefulness reigns the retiring sheet.

Thoughts at random chase each other; my mind’s an open door.

The taunting clock goes ticking by, cant wait to settle the score.

Watching the tireless shadow play; unwavering owlish glare.

Sleep plays truant yet again; such an adamant mare.

I curl, uncurl; I toss and turn; my hair’s a raggedy mess.

The blissful snores of those around all add to my distress.

Sheep filled pastures counted bare; all slumber tricks undone.

When morning rears its glorious head, hope sinks with the rising sun.

Then I stumble sluggish, bleary-eyed when all rested souls awake.

And pray my subdued spirits rise, the dawn’s fair tidings to partake.

 

I do not suffer from insomnia, but have had my fair share of sleep deprived nights. Sometimes a string of thoughts work a recurring loop around my mind maze or some barely audible night time sounds play “Let’s Holler”in my ears. And I definitely can’t sleep when I am trying really hard to grab a few winks.
I actually penned down this poem during those weary postpartum  nights when my dear little tot cried away most hours of the night. The poor bunny was colicky and even when he did fall asleep, I just couldn’t. My mind refused to adjust around the new interrupted sleep schedule. I didn’t want to get depressed or worked up about it so I took to writing which gave me a lot of comfort and kept my spirits up. I couldn’t wish for a better name for my blog too, after all, my writing spurts occur during my episodes of sleeplessness.
Hope you like this poem:)

Sweet Spell of Adolescense

Under moonlit skies merry whispers bloomed;

Our thoughts and dreams in gay abandon groomed.

A smile for today; a prayer for tomorrow.

Radiant faces; untainted by deep sorrow.

A skip and a hop; careless happy feet.

A brazen wanderlust; fear didn’t dare defeat.

Beyond horizons young hopes soared.

Unfettered spirits like lions roared.

Arms stretched high like fledgling boughs;

We outreached destinies to sift and rouse.

Striking high notes to a juvenile beat;

Our robust hearts scarcely knew retreat.

We skimmed and searched for ventures bright.

No shadows dark scarred our effervescent light.

Youth was the time of gaiety and bloom.

The sweetest spell around life’s grand ballroom.