Tuesday, 20 October 2020

Don't stress me out!

My mother stuffed us with healthy food. Breakfast consisted of rava, porridge and half-boiled eggs, while chicken or veg stew, and fish made up lunch. It didn't matter if we made a face or pleading puppy dog eyes, we had to eat what was given to us. Birthdays were the only occasions when we were showered with gifts and Sunday was the only day the television was turned on and everyone would gather around to watch the 6 pm movie. If we fell ill or got hurt, simple home remedies like brandy and iodine were used. But those were simpler times with no video games or the Internet to keep me from heading outdoors. Sometimes, it feels like I fell asleep, woke up, and overnight, the sweet, frugal pace of life had switched to crazy mode with too much consumption and too little appreciation. So yes, as I look at my own kids and the world they inhabit now--I do realize that there is no going back to that. At times we will make mistakes and screw things up. At other times things will go wrong when we least expect it. And although sometimes we will achieve our goals quite easily, sometimes we are bound to fail dismally. This is a fact of life, no matter how talented or dedicated we may be. Michael Jordan, commonly acclaimed as the greatest basketball player of all time, provides a good example: I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I've been trusted to take the game winning shot . I've failed over and over and over again in my life. That is why I succeed. PAULINE: So, you had a pretty healthy view of yourself and so did others; LENNY: I guess so.

PAULINE: Is that how you see yourself now? LENNY: Not at all. I just feel like I can't do anything right. I'm a failure. PAULINE: Part of what we're going to do in therapy is to find out whether this idea, that you're a failure, is accurate, or whether it's actually a depressed idea. Maybe you're a competent person who is currently depressed. At a future session, you can ask clients about their view of themselves before they became depressed. PAULINE: Can we talk about the time before Joseph was hired, when you were doing well at your job? How did that process begin in the first place, and how does it eventually play itself out? With these questions in mind, we can begin to understand why through no intention of our own, poor communication in our relationships results in frustration and disappointment. But let's start at the beginning. Imagine this conversation among four mothers, each with small children: He's such a quiet baby--never gives me any trouble. Mine won't stop screaming; They say she's colicky--I say she's a nightmare! I can't leave this child with a sitter, let alone at preschool. She clings to me like Velcro--just won't let me go without creating a huge scene. You'd think I wasn't ever coming back . In short, things can only be simpler now if we choose to make them so. But more on that later.

When I turned sixteen, life changed drastically for me. I started getting modelling offers. That came as a huge surprise because I was a shy kid with braces and glasses and little confidence. Around this time, I also met my husband Chikki. Our innocent meetings turned from quiet love to open declarations, and soon culminated in marriage. We both came from very different backgrounds and as a young bride in a joint family, I had to make many adjustments. It was tough going but I chose to look at the positive side of it. Most of us are not very open to change, especially after we have developed our own style of living. We can easily agree with this intellectually. Making mistakes is an essential part of the learning process. At these times, the mind's `default setting' is to beat us up; Now, here's the million-dollar question: if beating yourself up were a good way to change your behaviour, wouldn't you be perfect by now? Just think back over all the floggings, hidings and beatings your mind has doled out over your lifetime. Did they really help you? Or did they just make you feel bad? And even if they did get you off your butt in the short term, did they sustain your commitment in the long term? Flogging ourselves for `failure' is largely a waste of time. It saps our strength and vitality, and makes it hard to learn and grow from our experiences. How did you see yourself? Did you think you were incompetent, a failure?

I mean, I wasn't perfect, but I did a good job. PAULINE: So was your belief I'm basically competent? PAULINE: Good. Now the depression is interfering with your being able to act as competently as you'd like. And I'll help you with that. But I want you to know that you haven't lost your competence. You haven't become an incompetent person. It's your depression. Well, at least she acknowledges you. When I come to pick up my kid from preschool, you'd think I was invisible. He acts like he doesn't even know I'm there! Most people probably would be concerned about the screamer, questioning what is wrong with her and worrying about her safety if the exhausted mother ever reaches a breaking point. Many would also assume that the clingy child is either too fragile or too spoiled. On the other hand, it might be tempting to believe that a quiet baby is a contented one or that a child who ignores his mother is simply self-reliant and independent. On closer look, however, we might see that the quiet baby seems to stare into space, not making any contact with his mother. We might notice that the child who seems unaware of his mother is generally indifferent to her presence and seems disconnected from her. Furthermore, if we checked this preschool child's heart rate and blood pressure, we might see that his nervous system mirrors that of the hysterical child. If we followed these children throughout their school years, we might find that the quiet ones are easily ignored because they seem invisible. But sometimes, accepting change and learning new things in life helps you stay positive and grow as an individual. My kids Alanna and Ahaan were born soon after.

Soon enough, a publication asked me to write a fitness column for them. My first thought was, `Are they crazy? That set the ball rolling and pretty soon I became the agony aunt of the fitness world. My hunger for knowledge never ceased. I was always curious to learn more about the latest in fitness. When Alanna was four years old and Ahaan was two, I left for Australia to do a two-week fitness course and ended up staying for four months. It was a wonderful, exciting time. I was surrounded by people who not only lived and breathed fitness, but to whom it was almost a religion. A far more empowering response is `self-acceptance' - which basically means letting go of all self-judgements. Now before reading on, just pause for a ten-second `check-in', and notice what your mind is saying. Did your mind protest or argue? Did it leap up and down with joy? Did it point out all the flaws in my argument, or go along with it? Did it have a gripe about all these `check-ins'? Did it to tell you to skip the check-in, and carry on reading? Or did it go all quiet on you? All of these are perfectly normal reactions, so please thank your mind and carry on reading. Let's return to the phrase `letting go of all self-judgements'. LENNY: (Nods. PAULINE: Am I right about this?

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