Do You Wait Till Things Get #Interesting ?


I’m not big on Author Fan pages on Facebook, don’t have one myself (haven’t written anything worth a page. So far, anyway). But I ‘Liked’ Elizabeth Gilbert’s page at random and haven’t regretted it.

Writing about interesting things

When things get Interesting

Yesterday, I saw a post on her page I want to share with everyone (who hasn’t seen it yet, cos she has a gazillion followers):

Somebody asked me the other day if writing was easy for me.

When I hesitated with my answer, they asked, “I mean…has it gotten easier over time, as you’ve gotten better at it?”

And still I hesitated with my answer. Because the truth is, I’ve never asked my work to be “easy”; I just want it to be interesting.

(By which I mean — I want my writing to be interesting for ME. If, as a side effect, my work eventually becomes interesting to you, that’s awesome. But mostly, I am just trying to interest and educate and occupy and challenge and delight myself.)

Often writing is indeed quite difficult for me. But I’m not sure that’s the point, and I know it’s definitely not a problem, because all the really interesting things in life are difficult — love, wisdom, growth, compassion, learning, travel, loyalty, courage, endurance, transformation…

The post goes on, and if you’re on Facebook, I encourage you to go read it, whether you’re a writer or not.

In my writing and in life, I’ve often found that I have to keep going, even when (especially when) I reach a breaking point. Be it writing, swimming, household chores, hiking, research– the best part is after you climb that one seemingly insurmountable hill– the other side’s where that gorgeous sunrise is at, or that wonderful dizzy feeling of making your 10th lap (I learned swimming two years ago, so), or that shiny house or that nugget of information. In writing, especially, every time I’ve pushed harder to a more painful place, or to a higher word count, I have found something worth keeping.

Because stories come to me– I don’t make them up. On days when they don’t come, I wait and I work, till they do. So, as Ms. Gilbert says:

Whatever it is you are pursuing, whatever it is you are seeking — be careful not to quit too soon. Don’t quit the moment it stops being easy, OK? Because that moment? If you stay in it and then stubbornly push past your fear and resistance? That’s the moment where INTERESTING begins.

Do you stick at stuff till you reach ‘Interesting’ answers, levels, revelations? Any experience you want to talk about when you quit, or when you didn’t quit and came upon something worthwhile? Heard of Elizabeth Gilbert? What are your thoughts on her?

Who’s your Hero? #India #ProjectWhy

Who’s your Hero? #India #ProjectWhy


Everybody needs heroes. And I’ve needed mine– I just had to wait around to find her, way into my adulthood. Today, I’m talking about her on Daily (w)rite as my contribution to the Who’s Your Hero Blogfest.

Anouradha Bakshi NGO India

Anouradha Bakshi: My Hero from Project Why

Joy Campbell is running the Who’s Your Hero Blogfest today on her blog: Post approximately 300 words about someone who has encouraged or inspired you. Your hero may be a friend, spouse, teacher or writing buddy.

I love my friends, adore my spouse, have tremendous respect for some of my teachers and writing buddies. But the person I want to write about is someone I’ve met for a very short time in real life, but who’s had a huge impact on my way of thinking, my attitude to the world around me.

Her name is Anouradha Bakshi, the founder of Project Why, an organization that works in the slums of New Delhi. Lots of such organizations are doing good work, so what’s special about Anouradha and Project Why?

Project Why works with the slum children and women from within the slums by empowering the slum community. Some of the teachers were once maids, who got an education at the Pwhy, and are now teaching the kids from the slums. Others are helping to manage the project and run it. Yet others work as drivers, who ferry the kids and teachers from one learning center to the other. A Project Why team member’s family helps cook the midday meal for the creche kids. Most of the education given to about a 1000 kids from creche to secondary levels is free, as are the courses on sewing, and other skills for women. One of the schools is literally situated in the middle of a dustbin, because that’s where a majority of the kids who attend it, live.

Visiting this school, as I did this month, is heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time.

All this is supported by donors touched by Anouradha’s way of thinking– “Seeing with the Heart

Where others see a burden in a disabled person (a common sentiment in many parts and social strata in India) she saw God’s own children. The Special Section, which I visited on my recent trip to New Delhi is poorly equipped, but full of love, as is the rest of the Project.

Project Why Kids, Doll Museum New Delhi

Day out with the kids at Project Why at the Doll Museum, New Delhi

Anouradha insists on spending most of the donations received on the kids and the women, finding innovative ways to cut corners on overheads. One of the centers uses a solar panel donated by a businessman introducing their use in India– and the water system is donated by a visiting school.

Tying all this is together is Anouradha’s compassionate yet indomitable spirit: you can’t help but be touched by the smiles she brings on the faces of so many people, with such honesty, kindness, and willingness to move on despite tough circumstances. (Her honesty, and her unwillingness to make a circus of the slum dwellers makes it difficult for her to raise funds– donors sometimes come in with cameras trying to pose the kids of the Special Section for public relations exercises, or to exploit them for publicity.)

Inspired by her, I try to look at the world around me with the eyes of the Heart, to understand, empathize, relate, build community, spread joy, in whatever small way I can. Not that I’ve succeeded, far from it– but I’ve made a start. I’ve been a contributor of sorts for years, and now, I’m trying to help get their social media and online fundraising efforts off the ground.

We need more heroes like Anouradha Bakshi. To my mind, though I can never become the hero she is, maybe I can learn and become a better person each day.

Who are your heroes? How long have you known them? Would you like to join in the Who’s Your Hero Blogfest, or just talk about your heroes in the comments? Would you like to support Anouradha Bakshi in her efforts?

How Self(ie) Obsessed are You?


Writers have an excuse for people -watching. Research, they say.

Today, at the beach with the family, I spotted a thin young man, with his techie camera, floppy hat, long-sleeved, stylish clothing.

I paid him no mind when he took the first selfie. After all, people all across the beach were either jumping in front of someone with a camera, letting out squeals, arms raised in fake ecstasy; or fishing for selfies, waist deep in the lapping waves, selfie-rod held in firm grip, grimacing away. (Notice the women modeling on the rock in some of the pictures.)

But this man’s persistence amazed (amused) me.

He kept trying to take Selfies, with a focus to rival a fishing stork–only he didn’t remain still except to pose.

He kept skipping and scampering across the sand and splashing into the water, busier than a seagull, and possibly livelier. He had no use for the blue vistas and white sand spread out before him, other than as a background for himself, and his nascent muscles.

I’m cruel. I guess so is my family.

That man adjusted his camera and jumped in the sun for the best part of three-and-a-half hours. For all that time, in between snoozing and chatting, we snickered at him, and I took pictures. I know I should have walked up, offered to take his picture, put him out of his misery. But it was far too much fun to just lie back and watch.

Here, I bring you the man on his quest for the Perfect Selfie. I hope he got it.

Selfie-Obsessed Man on a Beach Sunday morning Thoughts

Sunday Morning Thoughts: Selfie-Obsession at the Beach!

Selfie Obsession

Jumping about in Search of a Selfie

Do you take selfies? Possess a selfie rod? How many selfies do you take in an hour/day/week/month? Have any selfie-obsessed friends or relatives? Do you think we sometimes lose the moment while trying to show off on social media?

What was the last city you traveled to and how did it make you feel?


Last week, I went to Paris.

I would have posted excited pictures, breathless descriptions. I would have told you I saw the Eiffel tower, arriving there after two missed trains, just when the lights began to blink, that I stared up at it against the clouds, that it seemed to rise and hover in the air, like a golden tower made not of steel, but strings of light.

Paris evening

An evening in Paris

I would have told you that the bridges gleam day and night, that the coffee is lighter than in Rome, that the croissants and crepes disappointed me somewhat–not that they were bad, that sitting outside watching the world go by seemed overrated when tourists sat by the Seine in traffic smoke, that the Notre Dame looked like calligraphy in air, like a papier-mâché thing I dared not visit for fear that the illusion of its lightness would disappear.

That the Mona Lisa underwhelmed, the ladies taking selfies with her made more of an impact, but that the Louvre made me feel like I wanted to lie down and die, because surely then I would be reborn inside of it, as a guide, a cleaner, a waitress. And wouldn’t have to leave. That d’Orsay does not do justice to the Impressionists, shutting away all their shimmering outdoorsy light in a smallish hall, where you have to peer over heads and shoulders to see them from a distance. That Van Gogh looks sadder in his swirly blue self-portrait than I remembered from prints, that his starry night over Paris looks far better than the sky today. That Rodin’s Thinking Man makes just as massive an impression as I imagined from the pictures.

But it is the people who remain with me.

The waiters who looked down their noses as they took orders, unsmiling, the pretty girls in snug scarves, that tall man crossing an alley shouting in French on his phone trying to look manly, the Chinese model being photographed at the Tuilieres Garden, who joined us minutes later in the metro wearing frayed shorts and golden eyeshadow, the artist at Montmarte drawing a smiling little girl’s portrait who would be oh-so-disappointed in a few minutes, a group of old women dressed in black lace, hobbling uphill on walking sticks, laughing, lugging loaded Desigual shopping bags, the Arab women covered top to toe, being led along by their husbands in shorts, the tall black men at shops and restaurants, regal despite their valet coats, the young couples, kissing in parks, eating long sandwiches, sipping wine, smoking, always smoking. I’ll remember being stuck in a jam in a back alley, looking up at the sky, only to find a bald old man and his Persian blue cat staring straight down at me from their red-flowered window.

I will, of course, go back, given half a chance. And this time I would spend more time watching people in the less tourist-infested areas. I’ll sit down and get lost, merge, disappear. A writer’s job is to paint what she sees, not interfere with the picture.

But on our way back now, on this long haul flight back to Singapore this is all I can think of: each of us, the protagonist of our lives, is just a part of the picture in someone else’s eyes. Note to self: no matter where you go and what you do, you’re just a tiny, insignificant part of the picture, remember that. The world is bigger than you, it would go on. Be here, now, and let that be enough.

Been to Paris? What is the one thing you remember the most? Would you go back again? What was the last city you traveled to and how did it make you feel?

Walking with Tina– Do You Believe Life is Good?


Sunflowers for Tina

Sunflowers for Tina

For the coming week, Daily (w)rite ‘s header would remain a field of sunflowers, in honor of Tina Downey, my friend, fellow blogger, and Sister in Spirit.

Today, on the 8th of September, the blogging world is coming together to celebrate Tina’s life, and all that she stood for– beauty, brightness, good cheer in the face of all kinds of odds. This is the Sunflower Blogfest, folks, for a woman who adored sunflowers. Sign up if you haven’t already.

If you knew Tina, send her a tribute. If you didn’t know her, celebrate anyway– because joy needs to be celebrated now, today, every moment. Tina embodied that spirit of Taking joy in small things, and smiling through suffering.

For as long as I’ve known her, she’s struggled with her health– and she has never let that stand in the way of life, family, church, friendships, blogging, creative writing, or gardening– she did it all with a snark and a ready smile.

Tina and I spoke often, and every once in a while we spoke of visiting each other. I’ve never been to the USA and she’d never been to Singapore– so between Colorado and Singapore, we exchanged snapshots and dreams.

Tina Downey's Sunflower in SIngapore

In Singapore, with Tina Downey

I know that I still want to visit the United States, and if I do, I would like to spend an hour beside a field of sunflowers, soaking in the sun, remembering Tina’s voice, the one that always sounded so happy to hear mine– even on the days she had a hard time breathing.

I wrote about Tina and my swimming pool in my other blog, and on this one, I have this to say: Never ever postpone a plan to meet friends or family. I had planned a trip to surprise Tina this year.

But instead, I have this photo above, of my sunflower.

This is the view from my balcony, the view we would have shared, had Tina visited me, like she’d talked about doing, so many times.

I could have had other photos, different ones, had I made it to Colorado last year.

But I shall not shed tears.

“When you part from your friend, you grieve not;
For that which you love most in him may be clearer in his absence, as the mountain to the climber is clearer from the plain.
And let there be no purpose in friendship save the deepening of the spirit.
For love that seeks aught but the disclosure of its own mystery is not love but a net cast forth: and only the unprofitable is caught.” ~Khalil Gibran

Until we meet again, dear Tina. Life is always Good, and I believe it, in part, because of you.

(Tina’s family has set up the Downey Education Fund for Tina’s sons, if you’d like to donate, the way I and some others have done, the Donate link is given below. If you want the code for a badge on your own blog, drop me a line at atozstories at gmail dot com)

Donate to the Downey Education Fund

Donate to the Downey Education Fund

Would you all celebrate Tina with us?

Do you believe, the way I do, that no matter what, Life is Good?

Are You Searching for Beauty in the NOW?


Beauty in the NOW

Beauty in the NOW

I’ve had a sad few days.

After this post, you know some of the reasons why. There are others, but they don’t matter.

We all get a little blue from time to time, so we all know what it is about, don’t we?

But over the past years of occasional bouts of feeling blue, I’ve realized one thing. It is never a loss or a problem that causes my sadness.

It is my attitude towards it.

If I look at my sadness, accept it, watch it, it reduces. I see that I can either do something about the problem, or accept that I can only do something about my attitude towards the problem.

As I watch the sad part of me, I also see that the happy part of me, the calm blue lake within, hasn’t gone anywhere.

It is up to me, to choose to be in the NOW, be mindful of what blessings I have at present, and focus on those.

I took the photographs of these orchids two weeks ago, and saw them on my phone just now– and they made me smile.

In this moment, now, watching the orchids as I type, the sad part of me has receded.

It is in this spirit that I also write about the Sunflowers for Tina Blogfest , which we at the A to Z Challenge have organized.

Sunflowers for Tina

Sunflowers for TinaSunflowers for Tina Blogfest we at the A to Z Challenge have organized.

This 8th of September we hope to cover as big a part of the internet as possible with Sunflowers, the favorite flower of our dear Tina who we lost all too soon.

As we mourn her loss, we also celebrate who she was: a bright, compassionate, large-hearted personality.

If you knew Tina through her blog, I encourage you to take part, by signing up here.

If you didn’t know Tina– celebrate this Blogfest as a day of choosing to be joyful– a choice Tina Downey made, despite all her suffering, every day of her life.

——

Would you join us in celebrating Tina with the Sunflowers Blogfest? In your life, are you searching for beauty in the NOW?

 

 

To Tina, with LOVE.


For Tina, with Love

For Tina, with Love

As I type this, my fingers shake on the keyboard. Once in while, my stupid tears reach my lips and I taste the salt of them.

I’d never expected such heartbreak at the loss of someone I’d never met, but here it is.

I have also wondered about sharing personal stuff on my blog, but  this time, I can’t help it, so again, here it is.

The blogging community lost Tina Downey yesterday, but I lost my sister in spirit. SIS, we called each other, half-joking. On Skype calls, we giggled over small things, over random stuff of her American life, and trivia from Singapore.

And she could make you laugh, even when connected to machines and tubes. She made light of all her suffering, medical procedures without proper anesthesia (prolonged treatment had made her body very resistant to some drugs) and not being able to breathe well after a few minutes on the phone.

She joked through our April madness, and she organized and herded the A to Z Challenge team. She loved her blog, and blogging, and blog friends. She could be fierce in protecting those she considered her own. She adored her husband, doted on her sons, stood by her relatives and community.

She loved sunflowers. Always sent me a sunflower icon on whatsapp.

She stood by me when I suffered a bereavement, and we cried together when she suffered a loss. Wish we had talked more when she was healthier, wish I’d pushed on the US trip that’s been on the cards for a few years now. And now she’s gone, leaving me determined to hold my friends, both online and off, closer. To tell them they mean so much to me.

Having lost many friends and family to the grim reaper, I know that the first hours are gut-wrenching. But this year, while discussing death and dying, Tina and I had discussed this quote that comforted us as we cried, and I want to share it with you all today:

“Death is nothing at all. It does not count. I have only slipped away into the next room. Nothing has happened. Everything remains exactly as it was. I am I, and you are you, and the old life that we lived so fondly together is untouched, unchanged. Whatever we were to each other, that we are still. Call me by the old familiar name. Speak of me in the easy way which you always used. Put no difference into your tone. Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow. Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes that we enjoyed together. Play, smile, think of me, pray for me. Let my name be ever the household word that it always was. Let it be spoken without an effort, without the ghost of a shadow upon it. Life means all that it ever meant. It is the same as it ever was. There is absolute and unbroken continuity. What is this death but a negligible accident? Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight? I am but waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near, just round the corner. All is well. Nothing is hurt; nothing is lost. One brief moment and all will be as it was before. How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting when we meet again!”

Rest well, my friend. You’ll continue to inspire me, and one day we shall meet as we did not in this life, share a joke, and burst out laughing.

——-

Dear readers, has any of you interacted with Tina Downey?

I’ve always counted on and appreciated your advice, so: Have you suffered loss of friends or family? What is the best, most positive way to respond to such a difficult time?