The Rich Vegetarian

An Examined Life

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Tag: love (page 1 of 5)

Equal and Separate

One of my nieces is a high-school teacher. She was asked by a student, “Do you have a favorite student?” She responded, “Do you have a favorite teacher?” Her point was, yes, of course. She had some students who were absolute darlings, and then there were others that she wished would stay home more often. But as a teacher, she was clear that her personal feelings about the students were separate from how she treated and evaluated them.

Perhaps it is the same for a parent?

As an adult, I often reflect on my own childhood. It was perfect. Or was it? Well, what is perfect? Perfect does not exist. We are groomed to put a positive spin on every experience. Perhaps it is a technique to stave off pain, to prevent an emotional setback. So we layer the prettiest colors over all our experiences, refusing to see the blacks and dark greys underneath.

Who’d relish knowing that perhaps, they were the less favorite (or less favored) child?

I think each parent relates to each of their offspring in a different way. Maybe you share a passion with one of your children. Or maybe both of you have similar aspirations. And then it could be that you share nothing in common with the other child. Or maybe s/he is so similar to you that it becomes a bit of an irritant, a sad reminder of some sort. Perhaps you have a dream that one of them looks poised to fulfill. Perhaps there is a natural reserve in one of the relationships that simply cannot be overcome, despite your best intentions. Maybe one of the children is a natural attention magnet, and all of it flows in their direction.

After all, parents are human too.

I know it is common to evoke compassion at this point. To encourage adult children to forgive and forget, to focus on the present, to let go.

Perhaps these actions, if undertaken in a spirit of sincerity and empathy, serve their purpose. Perhaps they bring closure and peace. Or maybe they take a lot of effort and energy, and you end up empty-handed, right where you started.

I think truthfulness can help. By not pretending, not hiding ugly emotions behind positive affirmations, by not prettifying unpleasantness… we may hope to gain closure. It sometimes feels long and arduous, but it will ultimately heal hearts and minds, I think.

Husband

He was a tall man, a little portly around the middle. His eyes were deep blue marbles that shone bright, not cold or hard. He had a nicely shaped head, the hair gathering gray near the temples. His face had the ruddy sheen of a healthy man, warm-blooded and passionate. When he laughed, his eyes crinkled shut, mouth open. His face was transformed, its contained expression morphing into one of simple joy, open and uninhibited.

Then he started, “My husband says…”

And my heart plain burst with the unexpected sweetness of it all.

(How wonderful it is to hear “my husband” and “my wife” in all kinds of hitherto unknown contexts.)

Today

I turn 37.

We have a snow day in Atlanta, and that is as good a reason as any to celebrate. So long as you are comfortably ensconced indoors, warm and toasty, tea and biscuits and toast handy, socks and blanket on the ready, books to read, movies to watch, that is… Yes, I realize that that does make me a very privileged person.

Birthdays come, birthdays go. This one is no exception.

Any day is a good one to feel grateful. Not that one can really “feel” grateful, because that would amount to mood making. However, simply becoming aware of everything one has been given in this lifetime would suffice. If gratitude wells up, so be it. If not, that is okay too.

If I have learned anything in this last one year, it is the importance of being authentic. Being truthful to oneself is the starting point of leading an authentic life. I am also beginning to see that it takes a certain degree of courage to lead this kind of a life. Now, I don’t regard myself as a courageous person at all (but maybe I am one?) but I have taken some decisions (or waltzed blissfully unaware into situations?) that some would regard as requiring courage. I have quit decently well-paying jobs, joined school part-time, changed careers, walked away from projects and activities typically deemed “good” for you… all with scant regard to long-term plans or profit or happiness. I went along with what I knew, what felt right, and the rest is history.

Today, I am happy and at peace. And it may be my naivete, but I wonder: How difficult is it to experience such contentment? I have done nothing particularly notable or spectacular in this lifetime thus far. I don’t have a glamorous job or title. I have no accolades or achievements to my credit. In fact, at the age of 37, I feel like a semi-retiree. I have found bliss in a cup of tea, a good book, a quiet walk, birdsong. I have found utter joy in solitude and emptiness.

Questions, questions… There is an eager child within who used to question endlessly. Now she lives in a state of perennially wide-eyed curiosity. The answers keep coming. Some days, I can hardly believe my luck. It feels like a treasure chest has opened within me, and I am lifting out one jewel after another. Such is my wonder and amazement at all these riches I find… I am too joyful to grab anything more than I can hold. Yet I have the confidence that the stream of riches is endless. It will never run dry.

If all that sounded like some kind of psychobabble, I apologize. I couldn’t help rhapsodizing about the many gifts I have received, as I walk along the path of introspection and self-enquiry.

Ahh, gratitude. I meant to talk about Mummy and Daddy.

Mummy

Amma

In a recent Facebook post, I remarked that Mummy’s love is like Space. You cannot grasp at it. It is impossible to get a hold of it. But it envelops you whole without touching you anywhere. As a child, I tried in vain to grab it — touch it, feel it, hug it. But I couldn’t. As an adult, I understand the sheer expansiveness of a love like that that only gives and asks nothing in return. Freedom… Mummy’s love was/is freedom and space, and I marvel at her spirit. She walks lightly on this planet.

Daddy

Achchan

In contrast, Daddy’s love is Earth. It is tangible and real. It expresses itself so clearly. If I were to describe Daddy’s love as a taste sensation, it would be like eating a date. So sweet, rich and unmistakably satisfying. It grabs you in all the right places, at the right times. It fills you up entirely.

There you have it… I grew up between Earth and Space. Held by one, freed by the other. Grounded by love, space and freedom.

Didn’t I say I was privileged?

So, on this lovely snow day, as I look out the window at our winter garden (still green), I see snow lightly splattered across the greenhouse roof and the bushes. I see bare trees, shiny sunlight, rays glinting through the spiny branches, and endless space.

Life is beautiful. It is Guru.