The Guilt Tax

thought2This is a touchy subject so let me start with a disclaimer that I really don’t intend to judge anyone for their actions – never have, never will. After all, we are the best judge of ourselves and the actions we take.

There are so many instances I could recall in general from my life and the lives of those around me, when I sensed someone feeling guilty or felt guilty myself. You might be able to relate to some of them too I guess.

The time when you perhaps forgot a dear one’s birthday or a special occasion and tried hard to make up for it by splurging and going overboard with your gift spend..? Or the time when you had a bad fight and realized later it was completely uncalled for..and tried all kinds of things to somehow wipe off the event..? Or the time when you found yourself slipping away with your emotions, bordering or even crossing the line with legitimate relationships and then being extra nice at home, sending lovey-dovey messages..or flowers? Or how about you really wanted to spend that time with your kid and just could not manage it and somehow thought some treats (mostly unhealthy) might make up for it?

There are many more…maybe some we witness every few days. The interesting thing is, that most times, our guilt tax ends up being something material. Guilt is monetized. The guiltier we feel, the more we might end up paying as tax.

The funny thing is..nobody I know is into the guilt tax collection business. People are in relationships and there is love (of varying kinds) in relationships. You give love, you get love. That’s really how relationships work. Love is given by spending time with people who mean something to us, doing the things they love to do…listening to them…making their unexpressed wishes come true.

In fact, I would tend to think that every time we pay a monetized guilt tax, we might run the risk of demeaning a relationship. A chocolate? Is that really what someone’s happiness is worth? Or flowers? Or an expensive watch? Is that really what you believe might give your loved one the happiness they deserve?

How about giving some thought as a tax? Think about what might be valuable to them? What might be something that would truly delight them and make them forget about what you did not do? I have tried it a couple of times myself and it does give me a great feeling at the end of it.

So here is what I propose – don’t monetize your guilt. Choose to pay ‘thought’ tax. Try it the next time you feel guilty – hopefully over time, you won’t have many more such reasons to be guilty :).

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Cntrl + U

take-control-lifeThey say that if you keep your hair tied up most times, you are probably the kind who likes to be in control. I have, however, often found myself coaching women who believe they have lost complete control of their lives. It is almost like they knew there was this control switch somewhere and then life happened and they just can’t seem to find it any more.  It might sound extreme but this is really how many women I have coached have described their situation to me.

How does that happen? I don’t claim to know all the answers and nobody does I guess. I do, however, have my own life experience and the experiences I have gathered from my conversations with people around me, which I believe, help in uncovering the answers.

Losing control of life, is usually, a slow and gradual process. It is a process that is usually devoid of our conscious self and heavily influenced by the environment around us.

It might be tough to nail the exact trigger for this process but there are some early warning signs that might be helpful to be aware of. If we find ourselves reacting, instead of responding to things or people or circumstances around us – examples being peer promotions, inadequate increments, break ups, disagreements, unreasonable material pleasures and the list is never ending, we should know that we are treading the path of losing control of our lives.

We drift away with the food options in a restaurant because we don’t really don’t think it is important to think about what we eat. We drift away with our emotions because the people around us are perhaps too busy to hold us accountable or wary of showing us the mirror. We drift away with our work as we forget that work is an important part of our lives but does not define completely who we are. We drift away from our family and parents by not thinking about them and letting them fade into the background of our lives. Before we know it, we tend to drift away from ourselves and all the things and people who, to begin with, had meant the world to us and reach a point where we forget what we stand for. Every time we exclude our conscious self from the decisions leading up to our action, we lose a little control of our lives.

And then, one fine day, at the end of an uncontrollable outburst or a lost relationship or an estranged spouse or child, we realize that all this while we thought we were busy making a living, we were losing control over our life, bit by bit by bit.

At the end of the day, we are the Chief Life Officers of our respective lives. We are and will continue to be, solely responsible for ourselves. Watch for signs in universe around you that remind you of this every now and then.

Choose to be in charge. Ctrl + U.

This blog is a reproduction of my column ‘Her Point of You’ for the SHE section of The Great Goan Weekend edition of The Goan. Read my column every Saturday at http://epaper.thegoan.net.

The Power of ‘Not’

Dont Give Up What You Want MostI know what it is like to be at a point in life when you feel that you don’t know anything anymore. You might start questioning your judgement, your decisions and might hesitate to make any changes to your life lest they turn out to be, god forbid, the wrong ones.

We end up being in a spot when every cell in our living body tells us we need to change and do something different. We just don’t know what. And that is killing, isn’t it. It is like – somebody, please give me a clue and we keep waiting and waiting in despair.

Fortunately, there is a way of getting a breakthrough that I discovered and would love to share with you all. I decided that I will trust my intelligence. I started with the assumption that I must know something and set out to discover what that was. What I realized was that while I had no idea about what I wanted to do (and it had been a while that I was in that stage), I was very clear about what I did not want any more. I started making a list of things that were not acceptable to me any more. Not surprisingly, it turned out that I was living many of those things on a daily basis!

It was my A-ha moment! If I was so sure I did not want all these things, what was really making me live those things and include them in my life? I answered that question for each of those things and realized that there were some things that were critical to me and family at the present moment but with careful planning, I could do away with them – not immediately, but over time. With that, came another realization – it was only by being able to eliminate the things that I did not want in my life that I would be able to make space for the things that I wanted. It was simple Math. The sum total of what I can have can only be 100%. What goes into making this sum is what I can control.

I realized the power of the ‘not’ and stopped thinking of it as a negative word since then. Choose to identify the things you want in life by first striking out the things that don’t work for you.

Tried it and it did not work? I am happy to help! 🙂

The wait

FamilyLivingPicture1I met this really old woman the other day at a party. She came by, assisted by a younger woman and sat at our table. She had this permanent, apologetic smile on her face and kept on looking at me and my friend, waiting for us to say something. We did say something polite and she replied – ‘This is old age. I have lost all of my five senses and I am unable to hear you. I am waiting for God to locate my file so he can finally call me to be with him’. I had this strange urge to just walk up and run away or just get up and hug her or just say something to comfort her but I did nothing of the sort. I just kept sitting, looking at her, trying hard to smile, feeling a strange sharp feeling – I don’t know what it was – maybe sorrow or fear or perhaps guilt. It made me think of all the people in my family who were getting old – the pain they were all going through, silently. In that moment, I prayed for all of them and their happiness.

I don’t know what it is about old age – like they say – it is your second childhood. I shudder to think how one must feel as one grows older – living with multiple medical issues which only get worse; getting up every morning, hoping someone might remember to call you or make the time to meet you; thinking every day, what can I do today while I still have some good days left; feeling torn between one’s desires and duties (which are usually born out of selfish expectations from one’s own children); not having anyone ask you for a very long time – ‘what do you want for your birthday’ or ‘what would you like to do today’?

It is like we treat our children sometimes – thinking we know what they want better than they do, when we actually don’t. My heart goes out to all the old people around me and I remember the irritation I used to feel as a teenager when I would find myself standing behind one of them in a queue. Maybe this is what growing up is all about..knowing that you are getting closer to being there yourself. It makes me think – how do I want my old age to be? How do I want people around me, my child to treat me then? What can I do today, to help them prepare for the future and what lies ahead of them? Who knows how long we have?

Wanting to stay young and being with young people is the easier thing to do. Choosing to make a difference to people who are growing old is tougher. Why the wait?

Sink or Float?

positive-people-e1350527502707My 4 year old daughter loves to experiment with water and what it can do. She tends to pick up different objects each day, tries to fill water in them, drowns them in the bucket, see if they come up and float or stay down. As I was watching her take pride in her discovery, I realized how relationships as I had known them, had the power to sink or float you.

There are many people each of us have in our lives who have this sink effect. They would just say something and send you spinning down a spiral, in other words, make your happiness sink. We all have those kind of people around us, right? Sometimes by default and sometimes by chance. I have known such people in my extended family, at work and even in business. Sometimes they know they will sink you yet they do as they don’t know any better and sometimes they lack the wisdom to know otherwise. Either ways, they sink you.

And then there are these people who have the ability to make you float. They would be so accepting of you, would just get you and would just know how to elevate your state of happiness. It is fun being around such people and I guess we are all naturally drawn to such people. Again, I have known such people in my extended family, my work and at business. The world, is hence, made of sinkers and floaters. I don’t know a third kind…maybe there are more but I never paid enough attention (please do share your thoughts) – I love creating theories from experience 🙂

Here is my thumb rule on ‘The Floatation Principle of Life’ (just coined this and if it exists somewhere, please do let me know!) – if sink does not turn into float sometime soon and you start running out of patience, move the ‘sinkers’ away and if you can’t, move away from them. It is, however, important that we don’t dismiss the ‘sinkers’ right away. Some amount of sinking is good, of course. It is a good break from the constant floating and a bit of change always does some good.

Constant sinking, however, is not good. Life is too short to spend it sinking. Get some floaters. Get the sun! 🙂