Sunday, January 17, 2010

the balance beam.

i have been thinking a fair bit about how to achieve more balance in my life. it seems to be more and more relevant in recent years, not just for me but also for the people around me. i think it might be one of the bigger challenges for folks at my stage of life, world 'round.

a lot of people seem to settle into a fairly domesticated routine. routines are comfortable. routines allow us to feel in control of our lives. and the domesticated routines allow for higher productivity. all of these are positive outcomes, and yet the thought of each day being identical to the ones before it, and after it, prevents me from ever truly imposing the most productive routines on my life.

comfort, control and productivity are all things i seek. but i also enjoy interaction with other people more than almost anything else. the domesticated routine almost without fail, limits us most in the social pieces of our pie. while my social pie piece has never been all that small, i have noticed that most folks who have become more domesticated over years have by necessity shrunk down their social pie piece... and mine has actually grown in recent years. the cancer blip was probably a large part of it. being that sick taught me a lot of things, and by far the biggest lesson was that none of the other pieces of the pie will ever matter as much as the people in our lives. we can strive to be productive, domesticated efficiency machines, and to an extent we all should -- but no job, hobbies or activities will ever shape our lives nearly as much as the people in them.

there are few things i enjoy more than real conversation, even if it is hypothesizing for hours about why the world seems to work the way it does. i also love meeting new people, if nothing else but for fresh perspectives. i think i might always need these parts of my life, but i don't want them to always trump the other pieces of my pie.

close to a year in india has also made me acutely aware of how focused on efficiency we are at home. everything is focused on using every minute of our day in the most efficient way possible, and as much as the laissez-faire attitude of india can be frustrating -- especially for folks raised abroad -- it has stopped to make me question WHY we focus on it so much at home. between delhi and bangalore, i was home for 6 months, and i remember even meeting friends for coffee involved scheduling ahead by 6 days, nailing down the exact time, location and other details well in advance. the strict scheduling and focus on intense efficiency spirals out into all parts of our life until we're in a go-go-go mode, and i definitely found it stressful when i returned. i permanently had a feeling of "gotta do X, gotta do Y" and so on even for the most trivial things. with the noticeable exception of the workplace, i have fully adjusted to 100% spontaneity in almost every part of my day in Bangalore. it in many ways makes more sense to me -- when exactly did 'meeting someone for coffee' turn into 'meeting someone for coffee in the most efficient way possible'? and more importantly, why? i resist conforming to what i now view as unnecessary (although it's likely that i'll instantly revert back to the more stressful, efficiency-focused lifestyle at home :)). and i have come to recognize the go-with-the-flow, spontaneous attitude as one of my most favourite approaches to taking on the day.

obviously, it comes down to balance. the ideal outcome would be productive, efficient workdays, evenings filled with activities, and social weekends. i have not yet learned how to switch from one mode to another; when i am most on the productive track, i spend a lot more time in my head and far less time interacting with others. i become far more reclusive than i otherwise am, and in time the productivity doesn't make me feel quite as satiated as solid interaction with others. on the other hand, when i am spending most of my time interacting with others, it becomes the focus of my time and other parts of the pie take a backseat. achieving a routine of balance is by far my biggest current goal, but i am not sure how to create one without repeatedly jumping from one extreme mode to another.

i clearly don't have the answer just yet, nor do i have a conclusion to this post. i think many of us are struggling with the same battles right now, and we're probably all going to reach different conclusions on which size we want to maintain for each piece of our pie. let the struggle continue :)

Monday, January 11, 2010

2010 -- upwards from here :)

happy new year! gather 'round so i can tell you how my New Year's Eve was...

on my way home from work, i got into an accident in my auto. it would make more sense if i could tell you a car hit us, or there was some sort of collision with another vehicle of sorts. there was nothing of the kind. it would make even MORE sense if i could dismiss the autowalla as a rash crazed lunatic who was weaving unnecessarily through traffic. in reality, he was a very old, sweet man, who let everyone and their moms cut in front of him as he just kept truckin' along at a rather slow pace. i had almost reached my grandparents' house, where my parents and sister were all staying for the holidays amidst some wedding shopping (!), when the auto flipped.

you read that correctly. my auto flipped.

i don't really know how or why, and i certainly had no idea they could actually do that, but as our fairly slow auto chugged along, we were airborne in the middle of a major intersection.

if you've ever been to india, you may have noticed a beautiful public trend in social justice. it can lead to ppl beating the crap out of a burglar or purse-snatcher. i've personally seen it in action twice in relation to traffic accidents, both to horrifying degrees. it also means that if you are part of a freak auto-flipping accident, the kindhearted people around you do what their instincts tell them to: turn the auto rightside up. so sweet! yet as one of two people thrown around inside the auto (the other being the driver), i did not find their gesture sweet. i was far more concerned with where exactly i was going to land once they had it back upright. so i did what any hotheaded spitfire would have done in my position. i yelled and swore like a sailor about what the heck people were doing out there. in english. i happen to live in a city where you can almost entirely get by on english... but even if you couldn't, i'm sure the urgency of my tone would have conveyed my emotions loud and clear :)

the kind social justice public heeded my pleas, and then proceeded to drag both the driver and me out of the auto and across the asphalt. again, a potentially sweet gesture was drowned out by the panic that any neck or back injury was about to become a LOT worse. so once again, i screamed like bloody murder to back off and let me get to the side of the road myself. i'm fairly certain i looked like a madwoman, limping and pointing my finger at anyone who _still_ insisted on trying to help me. persistent bunch, they were! but i was pretty fired up. and adrenalin certainly does interesting things.

as i waited for my parents to come and collect me from my rather vague and shellshocked directions ("you know that place where you turn and then you're on Richmond Road? that's where i am"), it dawned on me that i was extremely grateful i hadn't lost consciousness. in addition to the numerous health scares it could have created, i also wouldn't have been able to choose my hospital. or how i got to it -- apparently random strangers offering a lift to a nearby hospital is entirely commonplace here. maybe i'm too wary of getting into random cars after living in cities like New York and Delhi, but especially as a woman, i am never ever going to get into a car with strangers!

fast forward through some x-rays, CTs and wound cleanup, and i'm very happy to say that i'm virtually unharmed! sauf a few bumps and bruises and scrapes, and a bum leg that has a gash in it, some tissue damage, and a great deal of difficulty walking :)

almost without fail, people have responded to my accident with comments about how i need to stop getting myself into accidents, how i hurt parts of my body over and over again, and how i seem to have bad luck. and that is certainly one way to look at it -- i was in a car accident at the beginning of september, i hurt my toes trekking in the Himalayas in october, followed by some checkups and scans and typical cancer fare to make sure i'm still in the clear (which i am, hooray!) in november and december, and then this. in the last few months, i sure have made my share of visits to the hospital :)

maybe the craziest part is that it doesn't actually feel like bad luck to me. i actually feel REALLY lucky! my auto flipped, and i have a few weeks of pain at home? if anyone's auto is to flip, as i suspect the statistics predict more often than i've ever previously thought about, their auto should flip like mine did. it is as close to walking away unharmed as the situation can create. so it is a little surprising that the only person who has confirmed my self-acclaimed luck is my cousin-cum-doctor, who has seen much, much worse from patients whose autos have flipped. understandable given my track record, but also hopelessly glass-half-empty about it all. curious.

the accident did not in any way make me feel unlucky. it DID, however, make me really start to question why i choose to live here. the way the folks on the street reacted, as helpful as they were trying to be, scared me. the lack of protocol had i been unconscious, the lack of informed consent before i was given some shots, the lack of explanation for pretty much any medical procedure i've had in the last few months -- the combination was overwhelming. and once it was coupled with the pain from my leg, it was quite a struggle to feel as committed to more time in India as i previously was.

as with all things, i am quick to anger... and quick to forgive. it didn't take long for me to arrive at the same conclusion: i am still not ready to leave India. unfortunate incidents happen everywhere, they just present themselves in different forms. and more importantly, there are things i still need to do here, things i will undoubtedly regret if i move home again before crossing off my list.

and so, because i was on leave from work all of last week to let my leg heal, i had an insane amount of time to carve and edit my Arches Does India list. it started in Delhi, and parts of it have been accomplished. parts of it have been forgotten along the way, and 2010 is about steering back on course.

i'm not going to run you all through my many resolutions; the daily pillars of my life here know about them and can provide some of the accountability that all resolutions seem to require :) the resolutions all fall into one of two categories, though: health, or self-improvement. my 2010 is going to be the Year of Health. my health. i hope one year from now i can say it was the healthiest year i have had yet. my 2010 is going to chip away at the points for self-improvement my environment has been teaching me about. and my 2010 is going to take advantage of the unique parts of spending this year here, and nowhere else, to tackle my resolutions.

like everyone else, i am a work in progress. but i am excited for the work to progress from bangalore. and i am excited to see 2010 move on an upwards trajectory, not just for me but for my nearest and dearest as well!

HAPPY NEW YEAR! thank you for helping shape my 2009, even if it was from afar. let's all make this next one count :)