NOTE: I did these monthly updates for the entire first year of my career break (December 2013 – November 2014) and then decided to abandon the format since I found I was feeling restricted by the format.
Happy New Year! Here’s wishing you a wonderful 2015!
When I look back to this time last year, I remember being very inspired, hopeful and full of energy. Quite unexpectedly, a year after I left work, November 2014 turned out to be a similar time in my life. It felt like I’d grown volumes as a person but also like I’d only just begun. I’ll warn you – This is a long post! I have a lot to say!
Early in 2014, I discovered the wonderful world of art journaling through Brene Brown’s Gifts of Imperfection eCourse. The dip in the weather in November made it a perfect time for me to resume this activity. My favorite exercise was one on how we numb pain. Have you noticed that certain triggers in your life cause you to numb how you feel? For example: I find that it is very hard to watch disturbing news stories without feeling like I’ve touched a live wire. A kind of pain that I want to flee. This in turn causes me to numb my pain by either binge watching TV or binge eating or basically any guilt-inducing activity that I know won’t bring me joy or comfort. In September, when I was interviewing for a job, my first reaction to the discomfort and stress was to run straight towards a Papa John’s pizza. What if I took the time to recognize the discomfort and then tried something that genuinely comforted me instead of rushing to the pantry or TV? Take a look at my collage of the things that I’ve found to bring me comfort – A better (if not good, great) mood is only a cup of hot chai away.
On a Curry Kick
PK and I watched British chef Rick Stein’s pursuit of India’s best curries on the six-part show “Rick Stein’s India” and we were hooked. Watching Stein sample India’s best got me to a place where I was finally ready to cook for the fun of it.
I went all out and started to seek out the actual recipes of many of my favorite curries and I found that the true way to make these curries didn’t involve dousing them with garam masala or cooking the heck out of them. I’ve never really been into following recipes but the day I made this recipe of Kadai Paneer and found it to taste exactly like the one from my favorite restaurant, I knew that sometimes it pays to stick to a plan!
Getting deliberate about Gratitude
Author Gretchen Rubin has a practice of listing out what she knows to be her “splendid truths” and “secrets of adulthood” – I have no such practice but if I were to start guess what would be #1 on my “splendid truths” list. This quote from Brother David Steindl-Rast: “It is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful.“ I’ve forever wanted to start a gratitude practice and this November something invisible pushed me towards my gently used Gratitude Journal that I got at Paper source. I kept at it all of November and I was diligent in recording all good things regardless of how mundane they seem – Grateful for the new recipe, grateful for the pleasant conversation with my mom, grateful for the new magazine in the mail and so on. A short break from this practice during a Thanksgiving vacation made me realize what an impact this had had on my day-to-day life. I found that I was subconsciously seeking out the ‘good’ in my day and sometimes even putting a positive spin on the ‘not-so-good’. Not everyone needs to buy a shiny new journal to start being more grateful about their life – What matters is to get deliberate about it and in this regard, a shiny new journal helped me. 🙂
A (failed) break from the tube
After binge watching Downton Abbey and Gilmore Girls in September and October, I was sort of sick of TV. The initial plan for the month was to turn off the TV. A plan I miserably failed at. A suitable substitute was to watch only documentaries and TED talks. I loved the documentary, “Urbanized” by Gary Hustwit on urban design strategies and the future of our cities. The one that stuck in my mind, long after I watched it was filmmaker Tom Shadyac’s documentary, “I am” – A quest to find out what ails the world that turned out to uncover what is right with the world. They’re on Netflix and highly, highly recommended!
November ended with a short Thanksgiving break in Orange County, California at my brother’s house. I was in 9th grade when I first became an aunt and my nieces and nephews mean the world to me. The weekend was full of good food, childhood tales of the kids (which I am sure they are tired of hearing again and again) and of course, wine for the adults! My favorite part was a duffy boat ride cruising Newport bay and then checking out the serious decorations on the houses on Balboa Island.
What I Read
I’m saving the best for the last because I get to tell you about some books that have once again, rocked my world.
I began the month reading American Buddhist nun Pema Chodron’s book, “The Places That Scare You”. I first heard about this book on Super Soul Sunday and it’s also been referenced a lot by Brene Brown in her books. Reading this book made me truly consider how easily we run to numb or seek comfort for our pain almost immediately. The book is based on Buddhist Bodhichitta teachings and gets tactical at times with slogans, chants and practices but the overall messages of self-compassion, open heartedness and stillness blew me away. This is one of the best books I’ve read this year.
After this, I picked up Elizabeth Gilbert’s first novel, “The Signature of All Things”. The novel is set in the 19th century and is the story of Alma Whittaker through her life. It’s a fast paced novel and seems like it would have needed a fair bit of research since it’s set in the world of botany and across several years and countries. The characters are well developed and overall I would say the book was a satisfying read.
I also managed to sneak in a small book I found at my niece’s desk – “How to be a High School Superstar” by Cal Newport. As a former high school non-superstar I was intrigued by the book’s ambitious title. Surprisingly, I quite liked the book and I think it’s a good book for college bound kids and their parents to read. The book follows students who made it to the top schools of the country without burning themselves out and focusing on what interested them instead of adding on activities for the sake of their college applications.
Finally, I’ll cheat and add a book I didn’t finish in November but was the highlight of my December reading. I considered writing a December post but aside from this book my month can be described as “met friends and family, celebrated, ate, drank, shopped, watched Game of Thrones, did not workout”. I am so glad I ended 2014 with this book – “The Untethered Soul” by Michael A. Singer. The book is a simple and beautifully written guide to our inner world of thoughts and emotions. What blew me away was how accessible and not lofty the ideas in this book were. I expect to be reading and re-reading and re-reading this book in the coming years.
And with that, my dear readers, I wrap up my tales of the first year outside the cubicle. Thank you so much for reading my stories, commenting on my posts and encouraging me to come back here often. This blog has been the most satisfying and liberating experience of my break and I thank you for indulging me. 🙂