“The timeless in you is aware of life’s timelessness. And knows that yesterday is but today’s memory and tomorrow is today’s dream.”
- Khalil Gibran, “The Prophet”
“Last morning, I peed my pants.”
“Last morning, I got a boo boo, Mommy.”
“Remember? Last morning, Shaila hit me.”
These are all things my three year old son, Nico, can say on a given morning. You would think that “last morning” might mean yesterday, or the day before yesterday morning. But no. Last morning can really be any morning that happened in the past. Heck, it might even be an afternoon or an evening.
We have a lot of stories about “last morning” going on in this house. “Last morning” basically is a sum of all our yesterdays; it’s where the accidents of our past took place and where we lay our mistakes to rest.
I look at my own past, kind of how Nico does. A lot of memories of yesterdays seem to jumble up together. I don’t often remember the order in which all the memories take place but they sometimes stumble upon each other when I look back at them, forming a mosaic of “last morning” type of scenes.
Last morning I had a baby named Shaila. (Granted that morning was almost six years ago now. Just stick with me on this one).
Last morning, I suffered through terrible post-partum depression, which lingered on when I had my second child, Nico, two years later.
Last morning, I started to question the marriage that John and I built together.
Last morning, the questioning grew stronger.
Last morning, John and I wondered if we were quite right for each other.
Last morning, John and I separated.
Last morning, I went and bought a house.
Last morning, John and I realized that we wanted to work on our life together.
Last morning, I had to “return” the house, just two weeks before going to closing.
Last morning, I lost some people I really cared about. Only a few of those lost actually were to death.
Last morning, I cried. Shit. I cried a lot of mornings.
Last morning, I laughed. Some mornings it was easier than others.
Last morning, I drank too much wine. In my defense, it was really in the last evenings.
Last mornings were hard.
Last mornings are now just a series of my yesterdays.
The past few years have been hard for me. Hard meaning things hurt, I hurt, I have been through things I didn’t expect and I have felt a sucker punch or two (or three) that I wasn’t quite prepared to handle, last morning. Heck, I don’t know if I am prepared to handle them THIS morning. I know I feel things hard. Even before I started writing this blog, I always seemed to accessorize my most often mismatched outfits with my heart positioned right on my sleeve, where everyone could see it.
Maybe even poke at it a little.
“Kiran’s… sensitive,” is how my closest friends might describe it. The friends who have been there for me on my last mornings and continue to be there for me might describe it as something else outside of my own hearing. If they are honest, the words “impulsive,” “constantly searching,” and “dreamer” might be a part of their description as well. I know they love me, but I think I confuse them. I think we handle our last mornings differently. I would say they do a better job than me.
They would probably agree.
The last mornings of my recent past where I started to juggle a full time job with motherhood, marriage with my own independence, family with my need to still be my own person were tough. I imagine that they are for a lot of mothers and fathers like myself who have felt their last mornings implode on themselves. I also know that there are many who handle it all with much more grace and wisdom than I have been able to manage, across all my last mornings.
My last morning were not always joyous and no, they didn’t always fit into a nice little package that I yearn to re-open on rainy days.
I feel like they belong in my past, where they will stay.
Still. Regardless of the challenge I might have felt in the most recent years of my life, there were so many gifts I got last morning.
Last morning, I had a beautiful daughter named Shaila.
Last morning, I was blessed with an amazing son named Nico.
Last morning, I rediscovered my marriage.
Last morning, I realized how lucky I am to have many of the people in my life who have chosen to stick around.
Last morning, I realized how lucky I am to have my parents, and John’s parents, alive and a part of our lives.
Last mornings, while challenging, were also really quite amazing.
And I need to remind myself of that. Whether it’s Nico tattling about his sister when he talks about his last mornings or whether its me, trying to make sense of a few years full of last mornings I once had trouble navigating. Last mornings pave the way for a new today. And maybe an even more amazing tomorrow.
On Wednesday, John and I are going to see my favorite band, Mumford and Sons. I am extremely excited and this was kind of both of our big Christmas/Birthday/Valentines gift to one another because I got the tickets too late and basically paid an astronomical amount for them.
It’s worth it for us though. Or, maybe I should say for me. John loves them, but not quite as much as I do. I sometimes think there is a 6th sense and that is the thing you experience when a song touches something in you that seems otherworldly. It’s bigger than the sense of hearing, because an amazingly written song can bring all of your senses into sharp focus.
I wrote something about Mumford & Sons a few years ago that I wanted to reshare.
A song that I have heard this year which has touched me deeply is “Roll Away Your Stone” by one of the best bands to emerge in the past five years, Mumford and Sons. For about the past 6 years, while I was able to experience many joys in life, especially my two children, Shaila and Nico, I found myself struggling with physical pain and weakness that doctors could not diagnose. I found myself feeling increasingly helpless. The doctors told me I was depressed, to which I replied, well, “Well duh. How long did it take you to get that degree again?” (Apparently it made me cranky too).
If you feel sick ALL the time and your body hurts so much that you have to give up the things that you love – like running, it makes you sad. Holding a guitar was hard on me, someone who had always taken pride in my athletic strength and abilities.
Holding my kids was tough, but that was one thing I always pushed through.
So yeah, the doctors told me it was depression, which I acknowledged could be a secondary issue.
Again, its a little bit of the chicken and the egg conundrum – which came first? Not positive, but I felt like the physical limitations did push my world into some darkness.
I could barely lift my kids. Look, if that’s not depressing, I really don’t know what is.
This year the diagnosis turned to one of fibromyalgia. To which I said, “Fibro my WHAT?!” As I listened to the doctors explain the symptoms, I started to feel relieved. I FINALLY had an answer. The symptoms I had matched the symptoms of fibromyalgia. Basically you hurt all over. Your muscles could be crunchy like mine were. You could have exhaustion which could render you more tired than the most tired pregnant woman.
But the relief kind of turned to something else pretty soon.
I let the doctors prescribe me meds. And the meds took away some of the pain but made me even more tired. And I couldn’t help but feel that maybe this wasn’t the problem either.
And I realized I would not let this physical pain continue.
So I fought. I fought to have MRIs. I made finding a solution a priority. I made coming up with a recovery plan more than just “upping” my meds. I think the enormity of what my life would become if I accepted this diagnosis hit me when I went to my rheumatologist. I could tell she was busy but wanted to get more than a five minute checkup.
“So how are you doing since I put you on the Lyrica?”
“I think it helps.” Just to be clear, Lyrica would help with pain for almost anybody. Like if you had a broken nail, it would help.
“Well, let’s go on and up yours then. Let’s double it.”
Um, ok. And I realized that my path to recovery would always just be about conquering the systems, not the underlying issues if I did things this way.
I wasn’t going to take this lying down, even if that is the position you want to be in if you really have fibromyalgia. Lying down in a bed, for long periods of time where sleep washes over you like the warmest blanket.
I decided to lift that blanket. To reduce the meds. To look for real answers. Sometimes those are with a doctor. Sometimes they reside with me.
And I am trying to get stronger every day. There are days when the diagnosis feels like a distant memory and I forget about it completely. And then there are days where I am thrown into a fatigue so deep that when my children stand next to my bed and say, “Mommy, are you sick?” I can hardly look up to reassure them that I just need a little rest. Even though it’s much more than that.
You told me that I would find a hole,
Within the fragile substance of my soul
And I have filled this void with things unreal,
And all the while my character it steals
Darkness is a harsh term don’t you think?
And yet it dominates the things I seek
It seems that all my bridges have been burned,
But, you say that’s exactly how this grace thing works
It’s not the long walk home
that will change this heart,
But the welcome I receive with the restart
I look at the past few years as a long walk in many ways and to be honest, I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it home. Some bridges have surely burned, those which should have even earlier and those which were too unstable to begin with.
By and large, the ones that needed to remain intact, have. I am able to plot a course to where I need to go with the support of those bridges.
In the last line of the verse, Mumford uses the word “Restart.”
I have decided to restart. This blog represents the me I want to embrace going forward. There are times where I have to restart again. Maybe not all the way back to the beginning, but I take a few big steps backward and have to remember that it’s not a race. That I am not racing myself.
I have to just remind myself that I am stronger than I think and I can burden the weight of these stones. And I have to start pushing the ones I can’t hold away.
“It seems that all my bridges have been burned,
But, you say that’s exactly how this grace thing works”
I am always trying to find my grace. I still don’t know how this grace thing works. Trying to figure it out is tough. And maybe in finding grace, we have to stumble a few times and be quite graceless about the whole thing. And I tell myself it’s okay.
Please join me? We can start with small grace things like telling each other if we have spinach stuck in our teeth as a starting point before moving on to bigger things.
Rolling away our stones. Together.
Sorry, this post is a little later than promised and I know many of you are biting your nails and waiting with baited breath for me to hit publish. Oh, you’re not?
So I started my adventures in “Les Mis” over the holidays, writing in this post about how I had seen it twice in one day. I consider that to be pretty extreme, hard core movie lovin’. Sure, I didn’t sleep in a sleeping bag to get to see the first show – I’m not that pathetic. Especially not on Christmas. I mean, even for people who are crazy about something like “Twilight,” – well I think even those guys would look at me weird, which is pathetic because hello. They are in love with vampires.
It’s about perspective people.
So yes, I saw it that second time. And I walked back into the house twirling and singing and dancing.
“ONE DAY MORE,” I belt out, making large operatic gestures with my hands. My kids usually enjoy it the first few minutes. But then they are like, “Mommy. You sing nice. But can you please stop?” and I have to be like, “Come on, just one more verse?” or “Wait, wait, but this is the best part!” And they just look at each other, roll their eyes and turn back to me and let me finish.
And just know that I sing the ass out of this soundtrack. I do it all in the character voices. So what if I sound a bit like Sean Connery when I do Jean Valjean’s parts?
It’s authentic, guys. And has anyone thought it odd how only “Les Mis” makes it totally reasonable for a play that takes place in France to have everybody talking in an English or Scottish accent.
Even if they’re American? Or Australian?
And then I put out a poll on the blog’s Facebook page. Which is a smart way to parent, I think. Put it out there and make it democratic.
The gist of the question was this: “Can I bring Shaila, age 5, to see “Les Mis” with me, one of the things I am so passionate about in this world. John thinks I am crazy, but I’m not. Right? Right?”
I was waiting for all my friends and readers to tell me that “mother knows best!” and all that stuff. But it didn’t quite work out that way.
The answers were a resounding:
Hell to the no.
These were the responses I got. Opinions ranging from “Guuuurl, you be CRAZY,” to “I’m calling Child Protective Services on yo’ ass” were thrown out and I realized I would not bring Shaila. This would be a love we could not share for some time. I was on my own.
See how I did that? Get it? Eponine sings that song … Ok, fine I get it. I am a geek. My “Les Mis” jokes are a bit obscure.
So, when my parents came to visit us a few days before New Year’s and while Ma was making her amazing chicken curry, I sat around the kitchen table with a bottle of champagne making mimosas and set out three glasses. I reached out to serve Ma and Papa.
Me: “Ma, do you want some?”
Ma: “No. It make me too much gas.”
You might not understand what that means, but it made perfect sense to me. Papa declined too, but I had already popped the cork so what could I do?
So I sat there with my parents shooting the shit while they each had a glass of red wine and I had a bottle of champagne to make apparently enough mimosas for a sorority tea party.
It was FUN. And then I came up with the GREATEST idea EVER. If I couldn’t bring Shaila to see “Les Mis,” perhaps I could bring my parents? I mean they were of age and we could also take advantage of a senior citizen discount.
And so in my slightly buzzed state, it was decided. I would be taking Ma and Papa to see “Les Mis” in the movie theater while John watched the kids the next day at noon.
So the next day, the three of us bop along on our merry adventure. We get to the theater and grab some popcorn and head to our seats. This is hard for my dad because he has a cane and is legally blind, so he had to go really slow. I don’t have a particular need for speed, but I felt bad not realizing how uncomfortable and long the walk must be for him in a movie theater with no light on to guide him.
I felt terrible about that. So, better planning required on my part next time.
He was a trooper though. We got settled into our seats, me sitting in between the two of them. The previews started. I couldn’t really hear them, though I was aware of the loud crunching of popcorn resonating in my ears IN STEREO.
Am I the only one who realizes how loud her parents chew in public?
So, the movie started and I was immediately swept into another world. I sat there and watched when about ten minutes in, I heard someone snoring. Yes, it was my father on my left. Completely passed out. Now I was not going to wake him up, because it won’t end well. When he used to fall asleep when we would re-watch seasons of “24,” he would awaken in a panic and ask as he adjusted his glasses, “But where is Chloe?” It didn’t even matter if Chloe was IN the episodes. Heck, it didn’t even matter if we were watching “24.” I couldn’t wake him up and risk having him yell something like, “Has Chloe broken the code? Did she find Jack?” during “Les Mis.”
I let my father sleep and miracle of all miracles, he seemed to come to on his own.
I leaned over to my mother. “Do you know what’s going on, Ma?” I asked.
“Yes honey. It’s not too bayd.”
Good. So about 30 minutes in, when one of the characters becomes a prostitute and the audience is watching a gut-wrenching, terribly sad scene, tears running down many a face, Ma leans over and taps me on the shoulder.
“OH, THAT’S BAD,” she announced in her Megaphone Voice. Yes, having to turn to a life of prostitution because you can’t get a job to feed your daughter is a little bad, I would think. Um, to say the least.
“yes, ma, it’s bad.” I said, trying to whisper.
“VHAT?!” she asked, leaning in to hear better.
Now, I don’t want to give anything away, but Jean Valjean is the main character that is in the movie. It starts with him, it ends with him. About 40 minutes in, during a critical scene between Fantine and Jean Valjean, you know, the guy whose life we have been watching develop the LAST 40 MINUTES OF THE MOVIE, Ma leans over, grabs some of the popcorn I have taken back from her and says, “Yeh kaun hai?” (Who’s this guy?)
“Ma,” I whispered, just loud enough to be heard over Papa’s snore. “That’s Jean Valjean. You know, the same guy from the beginning of the movie.” ?
She looked perplexed.
“Ma, he’s been here since the movie started.”
I still don’t think she got it.
And it hit me. How could I forget that my mother has trouble telling white people apart? I mean, she has trouble telling anyone apart other than Indian people and she messes that up sometimes too. The only white person she could pick out of a crowd is Tony Danza and that’s because my mom thinks “he’s the boss.”
If you know what I mean.
At that point my father’s head fell on my shoulder and he started snoring fully in one ear with my mom eating popcorn at the highest volume in my other.
We went on this way for the remainder of the movie, Papa popping in and out of nap mode, waking up and catching himself before he yelled, “Has Chloe broken into the mainframe yet?!” Ma sat there and kept hitting me if I cried.
“Oh Gawd. It’s just movie, dohn’t be crybaby.”
We had a good time. No, seriously. It was awesome. I am so glad my parents went with me and I kind of love that they went to go see something I loved that much, just because I asked them to.
Well, asked. And then begged. And then begged some more.
Something still tells me that Shaila may have appreciated it a little more (no, don’t call CPS!), but I was glad to be able to have that day with my parents.
I come from a family that doesn’t always share. I mean, they share food and clothes and they pray together a lot and things like that. But things like feelings and whether we are angry or whether we are sad? Stuff like that?
That stuff, we don’t share as much. I would dare to even say, that when we do? We don’t do it that well.
This whole blogging thing has been hard for my family. It’s been hard that I have shared things that were not only mine to share. It’s been hard when sometimes they don’t understand why I feel the need to be so confessional. Why can’t you maintain some boundaries? they ask. It’s mainly Papa, who thinks I have diarrhea of the keyboard, with no filter on to keep the shit from flying out.
The thing is, I actually do. There is A LOT I don’t write and I don’t say here, knowing how it can impact others once I push down that first domino. In retrospect, there are some things I wish I had refrained from sharing. Of course there are also things I don’t share because if I do, you can see me for what I really am. An often insecure woman, with big dreams and sometimes little faith in herself. Someone who talks with a bravado she rarely feels, but hides behind humor or sarcasm and cheerleader type euphemisms like “Love wins!” or shit like “Don’t stop believin’!” Like I’m fucking the lead singer of Journey.
Not Steve Perry. The other one.
The truth is that there are some days where I really wonder if love wins. I wonder if dreams are just a distraction from accepting disappointment. I wonder why someone else would believe in me when I don’t have much faith in myself.
I don’t like myself much on those days. Truth is, I don’t like most people on those days. It’s hard to be loving, kind and supportive of others when you can’t even be those things to yourself.
A lot of bloggers will ask other bloggers, what’s your end goal? Some really want to blog, because they love the act of blogging itself. And let me be clear, blogging is different from writing. Blogging is not just the act of writing a post, it’s being interactive with your readers, finding other work that you love and want to support, working with other bloggers to build communities and encouraging and evangelizing others’ writing.
It’s a LOT of work.
Sometimes I am good at it. Most of the times I am thirty steps behind, trying to catch up to be a “good blogger.”
The Facebook page thing is the hardest. I feel like whenever I am most honest on it, I lose people. And that, I’m okay with. Once I stop being real and just spit stuff out to please others, nobody is going to be happy. It’s not sincere. It’s fabricated.
I would make a joke about Manti Te’O except it’s a bit overdone. Plus, we all had fake boyfriends and girlfriends. Right? Hello?! George Glass, everybody. Jan Brady started the trend a long time ago. I’m sure George Glass died an untimely death as well at some point.
Anyway, I like blogging. I think I will always be a “blogger.” But what I really want to be, like many other bloggers as well, is an author. Of books. I’ve got the blog thing down. Songwriting will always be a part of me.
But I want to publish and feel the pride of dreaming and crafting and writing stories that touch people. And that’s scary. It’s really freaking scary. There are some days when I look around and feel like the writing here is something that people love and there are other days where I know I have fallen short. That something was just missing.
And gosh. Who doesn’t want to write a fucking book? If I had a dollar for every blogger I knew who wants to eventually write a book, I could actually quit my job so that I could stay home and write a goddamn book.
I have found a few bloggers who don’t want to write a book or get away from blogging. They use this as a way to help promote a business or a brand. Make some extra money for the household.
And now I guess you know why I do it.
So I’m putting myself out there. This is it. This is me. Naked. Varicose veins, stretch marks, muffin top and all. Ok, ok. Don’t worry, Papa. I’m putting on a robe.
Better now? Ok, good.
I have decided not to give up on it. Even though sometimes disappointment seems like a shadow that I can’t get away from. I have decided to have some more faith in myself. Even on days when I stop believing I have “what it takes.” On days when I read David Sedaris and cry like a baby because my wit and attempts at humor will never compare to the masters I admire.
And well, I have decided to believe that love wins. Because I like who I love, even if it hurts. Even if I bleed. Even if it’s not reciprocated.
It’s still worth it.
So give yourself a hug.
Ok. Stop now. I don’t want everyone in your office to think you’re a freak.
A woman lies naked on the side of the road.
She is bleeding profusely. The flash of headlights rushing by barely registers and she can hear the screams from her friend, who seems to be asking for help. He sounds like a broken record. She vaguely remembers them beating him, and trying to call the police on her mobile phone. That was before they had snatched the phone from her hands and moved on to her.
Another pair of headlights goes by, even faster this this time, her friend’s shouts growing weaker. She knows his last pleas are ignored as she feels a layer of dirt and rocks kick off the tires of the passing vehicle and hit her tender skin in a light hailstorm of earth. She wanders in and out of consciousness, barely aware of time. The minutes seem like hours, the hours feel like days.
Yesterday feels like it was a lifetime ago.
She thinks of her family. She tries to find comfort in the things she loves. Her movies. Her friends. She and her friend were just coming back from seeing “The Life of Pi,” one of her favorite books. She won’t let her mind go back to what happened after that. Somewhere between when she boarded the bus and when they threw her and her friend out of the bus. She can’t think about what just happened to her and the men who did it to her. Each memory feels like another wound, another blow, another thrust.
The world goes black.
A woman lies naked on the side of the road.
She is struggling to breathe, not realizing that she is slowly dying. Inside she feels like she might be dead already. At one point, as the men handed her off from one to the other, she had stopped fighting. She could never win, physically, this she knew. She had heard the men encouraging each other, congratulating each other after each had their turn with her. She had felt their flesh and the the unyielding stabs of the metal stick they had violated her with.
She wanders in and out of blackness. Is this it? Is this how it ends? she thinks. I am someone’s sister. I am someone’s daughter. I am someone’s friend. I had thought that maybe one day, I would be someone’s wife. Someone’s mother. Someone’s grandmother.
I was not supposed to die like this, she thinks. Not like this. Not today. As someone’s nobody. That much she knows. That much they cannot take away from her. She knows she is worth more than this, that this is not her shame.
A woman lies naked on the side of the road.
Her insides have been crushed by the iron rod that was ruthlessly thrust into her again and again and again. Several organs have been ruptured and damaged, which explains the flood of blood surrounding her, surrounding her naked body. The police will finally come, though there is some confusion about how to get her to the hospital it seems, and discussion of whose jurisdiction this falls into. She can hear the sirens and her friend yelling, “Bachao! Bachao!” (Save us. Save us) and someone seems to finally have heard. She does not know that by the time she makes it to the hospital it will be too late. Two hours too late to prevent her death.
A woman lies naked on the side of the road.
Her name is Jyoti.
And it was NOT her day to die.
The media has been covering the brutal murder and rape that occurred in New Delhi last week and took the life of a 23 year old woman. The woman’s father has decided to come out and publicly announce to the world that he is not ashamed to tell the world his daughter’s name. He wants her to be known as more than the woman who was gang-raped and killed in New Delhi. He wants to give other rape victim’s the courage to step forward to reveal their identities and to not live in shame of the crimes committed against them, not BY them.
The woman’s name is Jyoti Singh Pandey. She was 23 years old.
This piece is a work of fiction. None of us will ever know Jyoti’s thoughts or the terror she went through on that night. It is a torment that no woman should ever bear. When the official death of this woman, this CHILD, was announced last week, not only did her family mourn. Strangers from around the world mourned and grieved with them.
They grieved for a nameless woman.
And now we grieve for a girl with a name. Below is an image of Jyoti’s father who came forward to announce that his daughter’s name should be known.
There is something about the look in his eyes that I feel has haunted me since I saw his face in the article by The Mirror yesterday. They speak of a grief in this world that no man or woman should have to bear. I pray for Jyoti’s family that they will find a way to honor her memory and that seeing Jyoti’s name will bring other victims forwards. I pray that her friend recovers and can live his life without being forever haunted by the horror of that night.
I pray that this tragedy sparks a revolution in this world. Let nobody shy away from railing against the injustice of these travesties.
Every rape victim on this earth is somebody’s everything.
“It is little wonder that rape is one of the least-reported crimes. Perhaps it is the only crime in which the victim becomes the accused and, in reality, it is she who must prove her good reputation, her mental soundness, and her impeccable propriety.” – Freda Adler
In memory and honor of Jyoti Singh Pandey. R.I.P.
I don’t remember when I first learned that “Les Miserables” was coming to the big screen, but I am pretty sure I jumped up and down and screamed like I was a 12 year old girl with a new training bra at a Justin Bieber concert.
I know that there are people who find “Les Mis” to be cheesy. Let me be clear that I am NOT one of those people. If I was on a deserted island that had electricity and a CD player and a wall (because you need to have an outlet somewhere) and I only got to pick one CD, I would pick the original London “Les Mis” cast’s recording in its entirety.
Not to push things, but I might also ask for some chap-stick, a razor and some soap.
When I was 16 and in the High School Choir, our teacher, Mr. Diehl introduced me to “Bring Him Home” from “Les Mis.” It’s the song that the main character, Jean Valjean, sings to God, asking him to save his adopted daughter’s true love. Instead, he asks God to take him, for he had lived his life.
“If I die, let me die. But let him live. Bring me home.”
I remember falling in love. With the song. With this character, who would give up his life to ensure his daughter’s happiness. With Mr. Diehl, whom I had been previously upset with for not letting us sing Diana Ross’s “Do You Know Where You’re Going to?” My brother, who was always excited when I showed some passion towards something other than MTV, bought me the dual tape soundtrack.
I remember going to my room at night and looking up at my ceiling as I would listen to song after song. Pretty soon, I knew every line of the soundtrack, and it was committed to memory. I would weep to myself as I cleaned my room and heard Jean Valjean asking, “Who Am I?” I wanted to scream, “He’s Jean Valjean, bitches!” as the tears streamed down my face. Once or twice (or maybe like a hundred times) when a crush of mine went unrequited, I would sing along with Eponine, the beautiful brunette whose love for Marius, the brooding student revolutionary, was forever doomed in “On My Own.”
When I was in my twenties, I finally saw my first love showing at the Warner Theater in Washington, D.C. In my life, I have seen the play for a total of four times at the same theater. Every time I brought more than enough tissues but still ended up with a sea of snot and tears running down my face.
When the movie came out on Christmas Day, I knew I needed to be one of the first to see it.
I got John to agree to go with me the day after Christmas while Heather, our Au Pair, stayed home with the kids. Things did not start off well. During the lunch we grabbed before the movie, I realized that I had forgotten the case for my Invisalign braces. In a MacGuyver-esque move, I decided to wrap the braces in a cocktail napkin and slip them into my pocket.
The theater darkens and about three minutes in, I start crying. I know, I know. It was just the previews, but still, that new Tyler Perry movie looks intense, yo. So you can imagine that during the film, perhaps the tears might come quickly. They did. I wasn’t about to get up and miss anything though and all I had was the napkin with my Invisalign braces in them.
Oh well, a cocktail napkin would have to do.
As I snotted and sobbed into my single lone cocktail napkin for the next 3 hours. I felt like I had been granted a Christmas gift that I had been waiting for for years. When John and I left the theater, I could not shut up. About how brilliant it was to bring back Colm Wilksinson, the orginal Jean Valjean to play the Monsignor who saves Valjean’s soul in the movie. About Anne Hathaway’s incredible performance. About how much I wish they had cast someone other than Russell Crowe as Javert, the officer whose life purpose had become chasing escaped ex-con Valjean. The brilliance of casting Sascha Baron-Coen and Helena Bonham Carter as the Thenardiers.
John said he liked it, but I think he was just saying that to make me happy. When we got home, I told Heather, our Au Pair and friend, about the movie.
“Oh, I can’t wait to see it!” she said in her lovely Welsh accent.
“Ok!” I said, putting the coat back on that I had just thrown on the chair.
“Ok, what?” she asked.
“Ok, I’m in. Let’s go! That’s cool, right John? You’ve got the kids, right?”
He looked at me like I was crazy, and perhaps what he saw that moment WAS craziness because he did not argue. Not for too long anyway.
And so I went back to see “Les Mis” again, this time with Heather, on the SAME NIGHT.
And I decided I wanted to share this thing, this movie, this experience, which had been such a big influence on my own life and my own love of music, with my daughter.
But I was conflicted. You know? Because, well. She’s only 5 years old. But she is a mature 5 years old. If that makes any sense. Anyway, I talked to John about it and that went really, really well. (He said no and asked me what the hell I was thinking.) And of course, at that point, I decided I would put out how crazy I am on the Masala Chica Facebook page.
Here is what I posted:
“I keep trying to get John to agree that I can take our five year old, Shaila, to see “Les Miserables”. I know. I know. But if i close her eyes through a few bad scenes, I figure it should be alright. what do you think? (I grew up on Indian movies where I saw tons of violence).
Would really appreciate it.”
Of course, everybody agreed with me, which you can see if you go to the post written on December 28th.
Ok. They didn’t. At all, really. My favorite response is the one from Masala Chica supporter (in this case, dissenter, Sabina). Go and “Like” the page and add your own comment.
But don’t you fret, I did manage to see it a third time all before New Year’s Eve. Just in case you were worried for me.
More tomorrow on the “Les Mis Holiday Adventures.” Tomorrow’s post has a special guest appearance from Ma and Papa and a lesson on why you shouldn’t start drinking champagne in the middle of the day.
P.S. Sneak preview – this is Ma and Papa, at our wedding reception seven years ago. Ma is like a typical Hindu Desi woman. She is the original “Village People.” Papa is just like Gandhi, and not just because he is Indian and bald. Wait, now, that I think about it, he may not be like Gandhi at all other than those two things.
But he does remind me of Belle’s Papa in “Beauty and the Beast.”
“Love is a temple, Love a higher law
Love is a temple, Love the higher law
You ask me to enter, But then you make me crawl
And I can’t be holding on, To what you got
When all you got is hurt – U2, “One”
I am not the most religious person. I believe in something. I just don’t always know what that is.
I believe in God. I believe there was a great man named Jesus. I look at the people I admire most in life like Mother Teresa, Mahatma Gandhi, Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama and their grace, dignity and presence have left me no choice but to accept that there is something divine inspiring them.
I will admit that I don’t know what form God takes. Some people believe they do. People have died over what that image might be.
I don’t claim to know. I don’t think that makes me less worthy.
Although I am sure there are those who disagree. To be more clear, I KNOW that there are those who disagree.
I was born Hindu. It is a religion, like most others, which when practiced with good intent and true faith, espouses love, acceptance and forgiveness. I believe that there are flaws, as there are with most organized religions.
But being Hindu has been a part of my identity that I can not shake, just as I can not shake the tan skin that betrays the Indian heritage of my family.
I can’t wash it off – just as I can’t change the tone of my flesh. It is immersed in my culture, the seams which make up the fabric of my family.
It was and has been a part of my identity, though you can probably question how “legit” I am in terms of actual practice.
I recall having questions about religion early on. I attended an epic number of “pujas” or religious ceremonies, that my parents and family seemed to hold each weekend – sometimes multiples on one weekend.
That’s a lot of praying.
It’s especially a lot of praying for a child who could not understand the Sanskrit readings of our family priests, yet had to sit for hours, laboriously feigning interest in something I could not interpret – while shamelessly daydreaming about my crushes at school or how I might get the curls to lay flatter against my head.
My mind was elsewhere.
I recall hearing from a friend in high school that I was going to hell. We were reading the Divine Comedy – more specifically – “Dante’s Inferno” – in AP English. I was having trouble grasping some of the levels at which Dante Alighieri had allocated some of the true despots, heathens and unworthy to their specific levels, or circles of Hell.
I described the trouble I had understanding the idea of “Limbo” – which was the first circle of Hell as described by Dante. This is where all the unbaptized and the virtuous pagans, who had not sinned, but did not accept Christ, were actively punished.
Having been fairly sheltered thus far from such ideas, at the age of 17, I was startled when my friend said, “That’s ridiculous!”
I was not startled by the fact that she said, “That’s ridiculous!” because I too was thinking, “This Dante is talking some ridiculous shit!” I was more startled by what she said next . . .
“Everyone knows there is no such thing as limbo for people like you. You are just going straight to the deepest levels of Hell.”‘
But you know me. I don’t usually stay silent for long.
“Really? So if I rape and if I steal and if I murder but I repent and accept Christ – I would be in better shape than I am today?” I asked.
She looked at me as if I was crazy and said the words that left a very lasting impression on me.
“Well, that’s just the way it works. Everyone knows it.”
My thoughts ran through my muddled mind, searching for lucidity.
“But this is how I was born. Why would God punish me for that?”
“Even if I convert, would God punish the rest of my family? What kind of idea of Heaven is that for me if I don’t have my family with me? Even if I convince my family here – what about my family in India? What about the ones who are already gone?”
“So many parts of the world have never been exposed to Christianity. Was God’s intent to banish them directly to that circle?”
(And no, I am not talking about the world today, where internet technology, global cell phones, international video conference calls and ever-expanding missionary efforts are taking place – but the world we lived in for much longer, where in fact, Christianity was centrally focused in Europe).
Even then, you must assume in the deepest villages, Christianitynwill not make it to many children who live by candlelight at night and work in fields during the day.
“Did that mean God did not want (for at least a few centuries) – non-Europeans to be granted access to Heaven?”
I have had friends who have discussed conversion with me. In a safe, approachable way. And I have considered it. I think there are two quotes by Gandhi (who per this definition, would also be confined to that first circle of Hell, a thought which completely boggles my mind) that really define how I feel about the matter.
In regards to conversion, Gandhi said at his famous speech at Harijan in 1935:
“I believe that there is no such thing as conversion from one faith to another in the accepted sense of the word. It is a highly personal matter for the individual and his God. I may not have any design upon my neighbor as to his faith, which I must honor even as I honor my own. Having reverently studied the scriptures of the world I could no more think of asking a Christian or a Musalman, or a Parsi or a Jew to change his faith than I would think of changing my own.”
So, while sometimes I remain confused and sometimes I believe that I am just a “little bit of everything” for now, that works for me. And I find my own truth and faith in that and I am content.
Because, similar to Gandhi, I also believe that when you take the best parts of religion and evaluate them and leave the noise behind, that there is truth in all of them:
“I came to the conclusion long ago … that all religions were true and also that all had some error in them, and whilst I hold by my own, I should hold others as dear as Hinduism. So we can only pray, if we are Hindus, not that a Christian should become a Hindu … But our innermost prayer should be a Hindu should be a better Hindu, a Muslim a better Muslim, a Christian a better Christian.”
Gandhi, (Young India: January 19, 1928)
You don’t have to agree with me. I am not seeking validation of where I stand. I am far from fundamental so I can handle a little discussion.
What I can’t handle are absolutes that don’t address the true nature of the reality. Our world is not that black and white.
Hoping you all are close to your own truth.
“One love, One blood
One life, You got to do what you should
One life, With each other
One life, But we’re not the same
We get to, Carry each other
Carry each other.ONE.”
“You’ve been getting really political lately” – My husband, in regards to my activity on Facebook, Twitter and yes, this blog.
When John told me this a few weeks ago, I was like “Really?” knowing in my heart (yes, this bleeding, left leaning heart) that he was right. “What do you mean?” wanting him to tell me so I understood what he means by “really political.” You know, versus just “slightly political.”
“Well, you put up a link to a post that is obviously written with a liberal slant on your Facebook page and then you ask people for their thoughts.”
“So? I am asking for an open discussion.”
“Well you never put up a conservatively written link and ask for anybody’s feedback on that,” he countered.
This is, in fact, NOT true. I will put up posts from “out there” Republicans like O’Reilly. Or Ann Coulter. Even Glen Beck. Republicans who I really don’t believe speak for the moderate minded side of the party.
And then I sit back and call them names and talk about WHY they are wrong.
HMMM. It seems like my husband may have a good point.
I know that with blogging, unless you are writing a political blog, it’s best to stay away from touchy subjects like politics or religion. They teach you that in like Blogging 101.
So, sorry. What can I say? Oops?
I have a problem with getting a little too into politics. It’s an annoying habit that I have. Ever since I took a sick day in the 7th grade when Michael Dukakis lost the Presidential Election to George Bush, I have realized that I have issues.
But since I was twelve, I think I have matured a little bit in my political outlook. I have come to the realization that while I identify myself more as a Democrat (oh goodness, this is like blog suicide right now, isn’t it?), I have also come to terms with the fact that it’s not as black and white as that.
I also realize that while I support “the party line” on some issues, it is not always with the same cheerleader type of enthusiasm I may have in the past.
I think I just look at these issues differently now.
I attribute my change of opinion, or at least my questions regarding it, in large part to becoming a parent.
You’re Pro What?
Ever since I can remember, I have always said that I am “Pro-Choice.” I have resented that my stance on being “Pro-Choice” indicated that in some way, I was “Pro-Death.” I would get even more annoyed at that because it seemed like such a hypocrisy since many traditional Pro-Lifers support the death penalty.
“Nobody has the right to tell me what to do with my body,” I have said. And I still say it. I don’t want anybody – my neighbor, my dentist, the grocery checkout lady or the guy in the U-Haul next to me who is driving a little too crazy – what I can do with my fingers, my toes, my esophagus, not to mention my uterus.
I also don’t want anyone telling my daughter what to do with her body either. EVER. Anybody who even tries to better BACK THE HELL OFF.
So What’s My Deal?
Prior to having a child of my own, if someone asked me when I believe that life begins, I used to respond fairly confidently with, “Somewhere between the second and third trimester.”
Since having a child, my view has changed when someone asks me that question. I don’t always answer right away, because I don’t really feel that confident in my answer anymore. It seems at odds with the confidence with which I approach most of my beliefs. Unlike the old me, the post motherhood me believes that it starts right away.
As soon as the bullet hits the target.
It’s weird writing it for me and seeing it in print, but it’s true. A part of me feels like I should be modifying this to say, “After the first trimester” or maybe even, “Once the heart starts beating.”
It’s just that, I remember the voracity with which I would read “What to Expect When You’re Expecting,” oddly one of the most mundane books in the world to read EXCEPT when you are pregnant. Then it becomes the most fascinating piece of literature in the world to read as you sift through the pages and hungrily absorb the details about your baby being the size of a pea, an avocado and other sized fruits and vegetables.
I remember feeling the exhaustion and the effects of both pregnancies almost immediately. And each pregnancy seemed to have it’s own stamp. As if each child was already making its mark, its imprint.
On me. Really, really early in the pregnancies.
Straddling a Fence?
So it sounds like on the one hand I don’t want anybody telling me or my fellow sisters in this world what we can do with our bodies. On the other hand, I know that the day I discovered I was pregnant each time, I stopped throwing back things like vodka martinis and expensive wine, NOT because of the calories.
Because they were bad for the baby. The one that was growing in my belly.
I fear what would happen if our government were to overturn Roe vs. Wade.
I fear what happens when a woman or young child who is raped no longer has the right to regain control when control has completely been taken away from them.
I fear what happens when a woman finds herself in a situation where she has no other option and must seek a back alley abortion.
I fear what will happen to the many children, now brought into this world where a parent cannot support them or does not want to support them.
I fear what happens when a woman who is faced with the likelihood of death is not given the option to choose whether she can live. I am especially thinking of the death of the young woman in Ireland, Savita Halapannavar, who was declined a D&C a few weeks ago, even though there was no chance of her baby’s survival.
I fear that something as scary and frightening as “rape” will one day be defined for me by a primarily male Congress. I laugh at the Tina Fey quote below, but it’s a truth that I don’t feel comfortable with.
I also fear that if you tell someone that they can only be granted an abortion if they have been “raped,” after it has been defined by the powers that be (see point above) that we will see a frightening number of “Salem Witch Trial” like accusations going down, on innocent people.
So Where the Heck Does that Leave Me?
Good question. I thought I may have lost you there. These are murky waters.
I am “Pro-Choice.” Not because I am “Pro-Death,” because I don’t believe in the opposite of the “Pro-Life” movement. Nobody who is Pro-Choice is against life.
The problem I have with overturning something like Roe vs. Wade is that I can’t count on absolutes. And I greatly fear consequences of looking at the world in absolutes.
The fears that I listed above would all be consequences of Roe vs. Wade.
In fact, both sides (Pro-Choice and Pro-Life) are looking at the value of life and protecting those lives. We are just looking at the issues with our own lenses.
We just don’t live in a world of absolutes. We never will. It’s not as easy as Life vs. Death. Choice vs. Death.
What happened in Ireland a few weeks ago should not and cannot be allowed to happen in this country. The thought of any woman being in the same situation as Savita Halapannavar and not having a choice between life or death is terrifying.
So I support choice. Not lightly.
Not lightly at ALL.
And as I write this post, I greatly even debate whether I have the guts to hit “Publish.”
Closing my eyes. Here goes.
When I was younger, I always had this vision of what being a mother would be like. I knew it would be hard, juggling that successful career, running around with my kids in parks, cooking homemade meals every night while still remaining to stay in shape through all of this.
Because everybody knows if you are doing that much work, you must be burning a lot of calories.
But being a mother is NOTHING like I thought. Nothing that I bargained for. These were the realizations that hit me very early on.
1. Control. Or lack thereof. As someone who could be relied upon to be on time, stick to commitments, be out of bed early and even manage to throw a workout in before a 7 AM flight, losing this practically gave me angina. I cannot tell you how many times I have gotten my family prepared to go somewhere to be stalled by a “What’s that smell?” from my husband or a “Mommy, I need to go potty!” or an even more reassuring, “Oops, Mommy, I missed the toilet!”
So shit, if you are expecting to be on time for anything, you better be ready and prepared for poop explosions.
In regards to control? Well after a few kids, some of us also have bladder issues when we sneeze or cough.
Not all of us. I just heard about it from a “friend.”
2. It’s more challenging to stay in shape. Now I am not saying it CAN NOT, it SHOULD NOT, or it MIGHT NOT be possible. I am just saying it’s harder. And sure, you can drop your kids off at the daycare at the gym, but if you work, you feel guilty about leaving your kids with someone else again.
So you go to the Fitness Store or Sears or something and buy an elliptical. You set up a TV with cable and DVR all your favorite shows. And every night you set the alarm because in the morning you will go down to the basement and watch Gossip Girl while getting buff.
Yeah. It can be kind of like that.
And then your husband asks you if he can cancel the DVR since you never use it anyway, which only makes you feel worse. Hearing his words makes your ass sag just a little more.
3. Running around in parks and shit. Oh this totally happens. It’s just that vision I had of running around with my hair done and bouncing all healthy like a damn Clairol commercial while running after my kids and taking pictures of them with my SLR camera is far from what is usually happening.
I am usually in my yoga pants. I may or may not have showered. My hair is not bouncy. It is, in fact, pulled back into a tight bun on the top of my head and I am not bouncing around the park with them Clairol, Revlon or even Suave style with them. I would have grabbed my SLR but I forgot it, damn it, but I’ve got my iPhone so I can snap pictures on that.
What’s that? Oh Shaila – you want to go on the swings over there and Nico you want to go 200 yards in the opposite direction to that slide? To that particular slide, because none of these other twelve slides will do? Oh ok, of course that makes sense.
After some negotiation, we are good.
Oh, what’s that? Oh you need to use the potty? Oh – well, we can use the Port-a-Potty right there. What? Oh you think that’s disgusting? Oh ok, let me magically make a shiny new toilet appear with this Harry Potter like wand that all mommies have. They came out of our vaginas the same time we had you. Oh, you peed yourself? Oh, ok. Let’s go home.
And then even though I have watched Food, Inc. and I know terrible things about the food industry, I will stop at McDonald’s.
4. Cooking homemade meals and crap. Some moms are really good with this. Heck, I have a friend from high school named Deb and she is one of the most popular food bloggers in the whole world, the author of a blog you may have heard of called “Smitten Kitchen.”
I read it from time to time. The pictures on it are pretty. I also really like her granite counters. I wonder what kind of granite they are.
See what I mean? Those counters are really pretty.
Before I know it, the time I needed to cook a homemade meal is gone.
So I pick up the phone and call for delivery. The guy at the pizza place asks me if my cold has gone away and if I’ve scheduled that mani/pedi. I ask him if he gave that girl he was talking about a call. The one he told me about the LAST time we spoke.
Anyway, these are just some of the things where my vision has not quite matched my reality. If I were to liken it to a novel, the title is no longer “Great Expectations” but more like, “The Little Engine That Could.” Just trying to get to the top of that hill.
I think I can. I think I can.
There are loads of other things I suck at, but there are only so many hours in a day and a blog post can only be so long. Maybe I will mention them to you another day. (Laundry, anybody?)
I do know one thing for sure. I think one thing that I am good at is loving my kids. I may not be the shiniest, slimmest, most glittery, in control, homemade meal cooking, organic-y kind of mama that I thought I was going to be. But I think my kids will forgive me.
I have given them life.
I remember the moments I held each of them for the first time and the expressions on their faces like it was yesterday.
I know the patterns of their breath when they sleep at night. I notice the cute little tics each has.
How Nico does this cute little shiver when he gets scared.
How Shaila makes “the love face” when she looks down at her brother in those rare moments where she is not occupied with throwing something at him.
The small things, the little nuanced behaviors that remind me of a family member on my side or John’s side.
I have held them close when they have been sick, I have felt the sweet touch of theirs lips against my own.
For what it’s worth. They are kind of stuck with me.
And to me, that’s worth more than anything else.
“Even if I’m setting myself up for failure, I think it’s worth trying to be a mother who delights in who her children are, in their knock-knock jokes and earnest questions. A mother who spends less time obsessing about what will happen, or what has happened, and more time reveling in what is. A mother who doesn’t fret over failings and slights, who realizes her worries and anxieties are just thoughts, the continuous chattering and judgement of a too busy mind. A mother who doesn’t worry so much about being bad or good but just recognizes that she’s both, and neither. A mother who does her best, and for whom that is good enough, even if, in the end, her best turns out to be, simply, not bad.“
― Ayelet Waldman, Bad Mother: A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities, and Occasional Moments of Grace