Letting Go!

Some decisions in life are hard to make. Even if you know something is not right, it is difficult to take the first step in having the courage in yourself to change your life. The same goes for cutting people off who are a negative influence in your life.

I used to have this close friend who would discuss every minuscule detail about her family with me. At first, of course, I didn’t mind it: she was my friend, she had a problem, I was there. She would call me up on early Saturday mornings to complain about what was wrong with her husband, her son, in-laws, home, her finances and so on. This would lead to long conversations with me advising little things that I felt she could do to change things and take charge. My suggestions always resulted in evasive responses like “I know, you are a strong woman” but “My situation is different” or “My family won’t like it”, etc, etc.

I pressed on, committed to her growth, but in vain.

Realising that I wasn’t able to any value, I encouraged her to seek professional help and even offered to pay half of the amount. There had to be some stake from her side because ultimately, she was responsible for her own life. But I soon realised that she wasn’t willing to take any action whatsoever and over a period of 3 years, I had been reduced to a mere shoulder to cry on – and I don’t mind it, as long as I see progress.

The impact it had on my life was enormous. Despite having a happy life myself, I was under constant mood swings as her calls weren’t just limited to Saturdays, and her conversations were always limited to problems. For me, there was that feeling of not being able to do anything to resolve her situation… I felt badly stuck.

Eventually, it was my husband who made me see that my friend was unknowingly spreading her negativity to my life by her constant criticisms of people who I didn’t even know. I will always remember his words “the only role you are playing in her life is that of someone to share her pains with – there is no output, no gains, no changes. There has to be forward movement in every relationship. Where is yours?”

This wasn’t the only example. In wanting to help people, I allowed many other friends to rub their negative state of mind on me. A lot of people would hold on to their unpleasant experiences by insisting that “Your life is perfect” or “You are too strong” or “your husband is very supportive” and that their situation was different and could not be changed whatsoever. If a person was looking to seek support to get out of an unpleasant situation or willing to make changes to pull themselves out, I was more than happy to contribute.

But on one of those Saturdays, after spending hours into a phone call, I realised that I was powerless to do anything in this situation and what it was doing to me. It was then that I said to myself, “I am done with it”.

I still remember the courage I had to gather all night to take the first right step.

I called up my friend the next morning and told her that I would not be able to continue the conversations and that I have decided not to go on with that senseless criticism any more. I politely but assertively told her not to contact me anymore until she was ready to take responsibility and change things. I still remember the deep hurt in her voice; remember the sense of guilt that I couldn’t help feeling, but I needed to do justice to myself, and that was long overdue.

It’s been 12 years since and she has never called me after that. However, I have never once regretted my decision. I will not exchange pains with people without progression.

This episode brought massive changes in my life, weeding out negative conversations, mindless criticisms and discussions from which there were no learnings, no feeling of contribution and no forward movement.

Over the years I’m proud to say that I’ve managed to fire all the toxic people from my life. Have I lost good people along the way? Unfortunately, I’d be lying if I said no. But those good people were not doing any good to me or me to them.

My life is now enriched with positivity, being surrounded by friends who have a growth mindset and who believe in mutual growth and abundance thinking. Are these people perfect or without problems? No. They have issues like any of us, but we learn and build on top of each other’s experiences. Weekends are more fulfilling as we spend time in constructive talks, amidst joyful laughter and much satisfying happiness.

As Robert Tew says, “Don’t let negative and toxic people rent space in your head. Raise the rent and kick them out.”

The friends who surround you reflect who you are and where you want to be in life. Choose them wisely!

Mum’s Journey: Back to Childhood!

After years of constant persuasion, last year my mum finally decided to to visit us in Australia for a few months. Coming from a small town in northern India, she had only seen that part of the world and like any other person from the mountains, her life had been very simple and self-sufficient.  

The moment she landed, I felt a strange sense of pride as I saw her walk on a land far from her known territories, something she had never imagined, let alone desired. My daughters excitedly skipped beside her, explaining everything, from the automatic tap at the airport to the accent of the people around us, and other tiny wonders on the way home like the wooden homes without brick walls inside, boundary-less compounds and pedestrian traffic lights, all of which left her astonished.

In the days to come, everything was a delight as she wondered at the much larger size of the fruits and vegetables in the local grocery store, the bottled milk that we could pour directly into glasses without having to boil, every small thing brought her inquisitiveness out. She was very surprised about the fact that people here came home only when invited. 

She continuously missed our live-in housekeeper in India as she saw us cooking our own meals, cleaning our own dishes and wiping floors. She did love the fact though that all of us could be home with her each evening, to have tea together, a rarity as me and my husband could barely made home by dinner time in India.

As a mix of such surprises continued to unfold for her, I saw amazing changes in this beautifully wrinkled old woman, my mother, who has been the strength of our family, my father’s best friend until his last day and a forever-strong woman who was always on top of everything in her life. My definition of who she was changed so much. I felt that I had not seen her face closely for a while. All I could see in her today was a bubbly kid whose eyes twinkled at every new thing and who tried to learn how this world was different from the world she was a part of back in India. She was now the youngest kid in the family and all of us, including my daughters, tried to satisfy her curiosity as best as we can.

The months that followed included her first ever amusement park ride, clicking selfies and some adventurous road trips. Then it was time for me to introduce her to something completelynew… something that could expand her horizons… the world of internet!

I bought a smartphone for her and spent two days convincing that it was an old phone lying unused (she would have refused to take it otherwise). I then opened her Facebook account and showed her how to send friend requests to myself and her other two children so that she could see what was happening in their lives. She slowly started enjoying her online connection with them and I nudged her to send friend requests to her own siblings and their children. This opened up a whole world of possibilities for her: talking to my father’s relatives whom she had not met in 18 years, seeing her grown-up niece and nephews, chatting with her neighbours and friends in India and connecting with her childhood friends – it was pure MAGIC!

Every day, after finishing her morning regime of chores and prayers, she would sit in the backyard, with her phone in her hands, playing with this new toy called Facebook. Like an obedient student, she would adhere to all the cyber security instructions that I had given her as a newbie in the internet world. When I came back from work in the evenings, she would hand me her phone to check whether she had correctly sent and received friend requests. I patiently worked with her enthusiasm as I deleted the typos that she had made in comment sections across Facebook. There were both funny and exasperating moments; once she accidentally commented a smiley face on a post which mentioned that an uncle had died. Several times, she posted messages meant for one person on the wall of another person. Her excitement was evident and so, I didn’t mind all the corrections that I had to go through in the evening. 

Soon it was time for her to return to India. As she delicately bundled up her new learnings to be taken home, Facebook topped the list. She soon advanced in her use, moving from phrases like “good”, “nice”, “thanks” to typing full sentences. She started reading news on Facebook, learning new recipes and even taking part in competitions. She still enthusiastically connects me to her local community and family groups (lest I lose the touch with my roots). While I’m sitting on this side of the world, it’s a delight to see her exploring new things. There are still funny, burst-out-laughing moments, when one of us has to rush to change some words on her posts, but it’s a new and pure joy to see her connected to the world through her little Facebook window. 

Introducing my mum to this world has been my most satisfying experience recently. It feels as if I have nurtured another child. 

We sometimes get so busy growing up that we don’t realise when our parents become kids again, and the child in them yearns for new experiences. I urge you to take the time to see that child and take them on unexplored journeys, destinations and experiences. The satisfaction you will get will be unparalleled and this will definitely move a few chords in your hearts. 

And if a 75-year-old can do so well in unexplored territories, why can’t we? Jump into terrains never visited, explore the unseen and expand your world of knowledge.

Fear is not a reason, curiosity is!!!