Choose Happiness, Please!

This afternoon I received an unexpected phone call from an old friend. Even before I had reluctantly answered the call, my mind was racing ahead of me, predicting the kind of conversation I was about to have. For the next fifteen minutes, I listened to my friend spout venom at the world. I knew it would be a couple of minutes before he would finally breathe or pause to ask ‘How are you doing?’

Some people I know choose to perpetuate a cycle of sadness. I mean they cling to their roles as victim or martyr long after their negative experiences have ended. They whine and cry and bring people down with their negativity and cynicism all the while choosing to wallow in self-keep-calm-and-choose-happiness-7pity and misery instead of letting go, breathing and choosing to move on. I hate having to smile and patronize these kinds of people. Making them ‘feel happy’ isn’t my responsibility.  We all have our burdens to bear. Trials and tribulations can be challenging and life-altering but they can also make us stronger. Unfortunately that’s a mindset that not many people possess. Many choose to stay stuck in a devilish limbo; bitter, angry, cynical and unconcerned about how their pessimism affects those around them.

Many people believe that happiness is a thing of chance – a result of the right wheels turning at the right time. It’s so easy to be happy when things are going right, when everything seems to be working your way, but when we have that narrow notion of happiness, we limit it to an offshoot of luck which if you ask me, it absolutely isn’t.

You see, happiness doesn’t just happen. It isn’t a well packed product one can avail when one needs it. Sometimes we have extremely good days and there are also days when we wish we hadn’t even gotten out of bed. It is on days like the latter that real happiness is harnessed or manifest. Do you know people who can smile even though their world is falling apart? I know people like that and I love being around them when I’m having a bad day myself. You see, being around these people has taught me that happiness doesn’t just happen – happiness is a choice. Your choice. No matter what your circumstance, we have the freedom to choose how we respond and react to all that transpires.

We’re all emotional beings. We go through so many different kinds of experiences that we respond to in so many different kinds of ways. Our feelings and how we deal with them shape us into the kind of people we eventually become. Some of us are born happy, the rest of us have to work towards it. I know happiness can sometimes seem out of reach, like reaching for a bubble or trying to catch a snowflake but I strongly believe that if the thing we value aren’t things, we can really be happy no matter what comes our way.

Happiness is a choice, I believe that wholeheartedly. Not the fuzzy, air head kind of happy. I’m talking about the kind of happiness that comes from grounded thoughts, peace of mind and genuine contentment – the kind of happiness that comes from logic perspective and an open mind and heart.

I hope my friend reads this post, it’s sure to pop up on his timeline. Maybe reading what I think will convince him to give happiness a try. At the end of the day, it really is a choice that he himself must make. As for me, I’m going to do something thing now that makes me extremely happy – I’m about to silence my phone, pour myself a glass of Merlot and listen to the haunting voice of Bonnie Raitt. Simple pleasures people, that’s the key.

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Moving Up!

This week, while working with some senior children, I’ve had ample opportunity to reflect on what makes the UAE so special. My first glimpse of Dubai was at night after I moved here from India four and a half years ago. I was amazed by the dazzling bejeweled skyline as my flight descended towards the city. But since settling down here I’ve realized that it’s not just the steely skyscrapers that sparkle, there are countless other aspects of a life in the Emirates that are dazzling as well.

In the west, Romney and Obama continue to fight it out with promises to revive America’s challenging job market while the UK continues to claw its way back up from the quicksand of recession. But despite testing global conditions, the UAE seems to be sizzling, both literally and in terms of its unparalleled growth in the region.

The Shamal winds which have started to sweep over the Emirates each evening, bring with them the promise of cooler days and comfortable nights and for now it seems as if the Emirates’ dark days are long gone.

In the four and a half years that I have lived here, I have seen the UAE being written off and have watched with pleasure as it rose right back up to be the kind of beacon and inspirational success story that it continues to be for this region of the Middle East. The Emirates are synonymous with progress and prosperity and for anyone who is willing to risk a life in these desert lands; the opportunities for success are limitless.

I know I grumble about work sometimes and I whine about how little I’d have to do if I were teaching in a small missionary school in India, but the truth is I’m a better teacher today than I was four years ago and that’s only because of the kind of opportunities and exposure I’ve had here in the UAE. Living alone in the UAE is liberating in so many ways and yet it has its challenges too. But a stimulating work culture provides routine, a sense of daily achievement and a network of colleagues who sometimes become friends.

Like any other modern metropolis, the UAE’s story is incomplete. It is a work in progress and its modern and progressive leadership will undoubtedly ensure that the Emirates don’t become complacent with their regional success. I am certain that in the future, the UAE will transform itself from a regional power to a global force to be reckoned with and that will make all the difference.

Sure there is a lot that the Emirates can do differently and yes there are high expectations that they must live up to. But this is the place of dreams and if I’ve learned anything here it is that, no dream is too idealistic to be achieved. I’m unsure if I’ll still around to be a part of all the changes that will help transform the Emirates into a global giant but one thing is certain, for the UAE the only way to move, is up!

Living Alone and Loving It…

After four long years of sharing apartments with friends, I finally have one of my own. Let me say this right at the onset, I’ve had the best flatmates anyone could ever ask for. In four years, I never had a single misunderstanding, no stacks of outstanding bills and definitely no invasion of privacy. In fact, I had quite the opposite; I had flatmates who cooked for me, paid bills promptly, joined me in some crazy misadventures and made our quirky rooms a quiet place where I could relax, unwind and be.

That being said, I’ve always longed for a place to call my own. Now, I’ve finally moved into an apartment and I find that I’m genuinely at peace. I love coming home and knowing that I’m back in my cocoon and that for the next few hours I can do anything I please. Even as a young child, I played by myself for hours at a time, listening to my music, drawing, reading everything from the latest Perry Mason novel I could lay my hands on to the trashy new tabloid that I picked up on the way back from school or college. You see, I love my own company. I don’t mean that I’m anti-social or anything, all I’m saying is that after a day of work, or a long day out with friends, I really do look forward to being by myself. It energizes me. It relaxes me. It makes me happy.

Over the years, many of my married friends have talked about my life filled with freedom and independence. Yes, I can come and go as I please and I can even create a Mount Everest of laundry until Sir Edmund Hillary himself would have to cart it to the washing machine, I sometimes even resort to lying in bed all weekend. But that’s not really why living alone is so important to me. Living independently (even if briefly) is so liberating, in so many ways. I won’t dwell on that thought, I’m sure you’ll understand exactly what I mean. It’s probably one of the best things that can happen to an individual.

Suddenly, there’s this deep contentment of turning the key in the front door every evening, closing it behind, pouring a glass of wine and settling down to watch a favourite movie, read a book or just mindlessly surf T.V channels. There’s a calm, a tranquil satisfaction in knowing that however busy and actively involved I may have to be all day, I’m free to enjoy my own company and my own space in a way that makes me happy.

My parents always made sure that our home was the nurturing nest it’s supposed to be. Right through my childhood I enjoyed being at home. In fact it was my parents really who taught me the value of coming home to a happy environment and the  pleasure to be gained from coming back to a space of calm, a restful space that was left undisturbed – waiting to nurture us – since we last closed the door on it.

It’s a very simple pleasure, really. But a very real one; and I love it!

Puppy Love

Good Morning everyone!

So, a good friend of mine recently called to say she was enjoying all the updates, as I’ve been blogging quite regularly this week. I was happy to speak to her and asked her what kind of blogs she likes reading. She mentioned a few and then asked me if I would write something about why people love their pets so much. Instead of doing exactly that, this blog post is dedicated to my dog SKIPPY and why I love him as much as I do!

My love of dogs has only evolved over the last three years. I had some less-than-positive experiences when I was younger and have only become a “crazy dog fellow” as an adult. Here are some of the reasons, and in no particular order except for how they pop into my brain, of why I love Skippy so much and what he means to me.

 

  • Let’s start with the obvious. Skippy is so cute. Sure, we all have our own definitions as to what breeds or features are appealing, just as we all have different appreciation for human beauty. Skippy’s eyes radiate with a childlike sheen! They have a mischievous tint to them and yet he’s probably the best behaved dog in the city!

 

  • He needs us and gives us a purpose: A lot of us have the strong desire and/or need to care for other living beings, but do not necessarily yet have or ever want human children. So, we get pets…often dogs, and possibly even jobs that help attain that goal. I love taking care of Skippy and he loves each of us back in a different way. He even gives us individual attention, believe it or not – he has us all wrapped tightly around his little paws and we end up doing everything with him in mind!

 

  • Skippy keeps us busy: Our four-legged furry friends are masters at helping us do this. Not only do they force us to get off the couch to stroll around the block or take a leisurely walk, but they can decrease our stress as well as ease loneliness and isolation. Skippy has an inbuilt alarm clock, whether we’re sleeping in on the weekend or tired out after a long day- he gets his daily outings as and when he wants them. There’s no way you can wiggle yourself out of those walks!

 

  • Dogs remind us to play: Well, they often demand it and we remember that it is fun and important to be silly and laugh. You don’t even need fancy toys. Just relax and follow your dog’s lead. Skippy has the biggest toy collection I’ve ever seen anyone provide for their pets. He has toys from Dubai, England and all over the place and ensures that we too pay with his fancy treasures whenever he’s in the mood.

 

  • I don’t know about the rest of my family but this reason in particular is one that means a lot to me. Do you ever need to get something off of your mind or practice saying something difficult? Well, a dog can be a great listener. Skippy isn’t so good at giving feedback, but that’s okay. The point is to be able to talk and I love talking to him.
  • The love of a dog is absolutely unconditional: Dogs don’t care what your financial condition is or what religious beliefs you have. They don’t care if you take a shower or not. You can gain 90 kilos and they’ll still love you. Trust me on that one! We are constantly judged by others, and even ourselves sometimes, but not by our faithful canine companions. Now, they may get a little irritable occasionally, maybe even throw a fit or sulk under the dining table but those are easy behaviors to resolve.

Skippy has his quirks too -hates his food, must hear my dad sing each morning, loves his baths , barks at ANYONE who comes near our door and hates it when we refer to children as ‘Baby’ – (he has dibs on the name).

I come from a wonderfully happy and close knit family, but we had no idea how Skippy would change our lives. He makes us laugh, cry, scream, shout, jump, run and he has the best time in the world doing so. The French Poet Anatole France once famously said ‘Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.’ And I believe  that to be completely true. Just spend a day with Skippy- You’ll fall in love- hook line and sinker.

Joie de Vivre!

My favourite channel on TV, other than CNN of course, is TLC. The reason I love TLC is because it caters to the part of my personality that is fascinated by travel and adventure and at the same time gives me a voyeuristic pleasure of looking into people’s homes. I’ve come to the understanding that what I really tune in for is the opportunity to take a sneak peek inside other people’s houses and into their lives – but not in a sinister or weird sort of way. I love shows like ‘While You Were Out’, ‘Trading Spaces’ and ‘The Nate Berkus Show’. You see, a home says a lot about the person or the people who live there. Their choice of furniture and the colours of paint they chose say as much about them as the personal items they choose to display and the ways in which they display them. Whether you choose a minimalistic approach or you’re a secret hoarder who loves clutter, either way your home or living space speaks volumes about the kind of person you are.

Whenever anyone walks into my apartment for the first time, they seem to go into shock for around about sixty seconds. I think the issue with them is, they come in expecting to see a typical bachelor pad – messy, bare, clothes strewn around and empty pizza boxes piled up high (the Hollywood stereotype) and what they get is quite the opposite.

I take a lot of pleasure in ensuring that my apartment is a reflection of my personality. My room speaks to my person, my interests, values and passions, and I hope that translates to people when they visit. My love for aesthetic spaces is not newfound. It has been alive and kicking from as far back as I can remember and gradually my taste has evolved quite a bit. I think the reason that I love it so much is the same reason that I loved it as a kid, even though I couldn’t have put it into words back then. When you decorate, you’re not just creating a beautiful room, you’re creating an atmosphere- and you can make it feel any way you want it to. That’s why I love decorating. The way you decorate your home says a lot about who you really are.

Sometimes life feels a little routine, and you need to make a couple of changes to feel better. When you start to get bored with your surroundings, you can always redecorate your space. Re-arranging furniture, painting the walls a bright colour, or hanging some art can transform your home within hours. You don’t have to have an incredibly creative mind to make a statement with your living space. I am by no means an artist, and I still think my room in my apartment says a lot about me. It is bright, clean and an organized mess, with artwork, trinkets and photos that I have collected over the years and from all over the world proudly on display.

So take a look at your home, your dorm room, apartment, house or whatever space you live in, and figure out what you want it to say about you. If you feel like it’s missing something, then personalize it! Are you organized? Eclectic? Traditional? Let your space reflect who you are.

Your home doesn’t only have to be the place where you eat and sleep. It should be a place where you express yourself.

But be warned, you might just get hooked.

All my bags are packed, I’m ready to go…

I have a little less than three days before I have to get back to my regular work routine in Dubai. It seems so impossible that my vacation is over already. I’ve been here two months? Really? These two months have felt like no time at all and yet all the time in the world, simultaneously. You know what I mean? I’ve become so settled at home.

I’m bracing myself for what a friend has called the “intense longing to be back home” once I get back to life in Dubai. I’m trying not to let these two days go by too quickly. I’m making lists of all the places I want to go before leaving, all the people I want to meet and talk to and all the food I want to sample. All the while, though, I’m reflecting on what an incredible break I’ve had.

I intended to write a longish post – complete with reminiscing and photographs of candid moments with friends and family. But, I underestimated the time and strength packing and running of last minute errands takes.

Homesickness is normal, and I know the next few weeks back in Dubai will be difficult. It is tough to be away form those you love no matter what your degree of dependence or independence. But, I think the last three years have made me fairly resilient. I know ill be back soon and that makes leaving a little easier on me. I choose not to reflect on everything I’ll miss in the next few months. Instead I reflect on the joy I’ve experienced from being back home in the last two.

After all this time, I’ve understood something very important – It makes it so much easier to leave – when you take ample time to really and truly appreciate the value of what you’re leaving behind. 🙂

Don’t cry because the holiday is over, smile because it happened.”
— Dr. Seuss

Posted with WordPress for BlackBerry.

Who Needs To Sleep?

The answer to that question is, of course, EVERYONE.

The problem, however, is that I have apparently decided to give up sleeping. Which is not a very good decision because I really do love to sleep. Sleep is awesome.

What is not awesome is lying wide awake in bed NOT sleeping. I hear the sound of dogs barking in the distance. The sound of windows rattling, bits of conversation as stray voices are floated on a sudden upswing of breeze. I hear all these things because I’m wide awake. I hear my phone buzzing incessantly. Having a Blackberry doesn’t really make for good sleep patterns. I begin to tweet about the Anna Hazare phenomenon that has gripped India. I tweet about Will Smith’s imminent divorce. I tweet about the bedlam unfolding in Tripoli and occasionally I re-tweet some random pearls of wisdom that Oprah’s elves or Deepak Chopra have released into the cyber world.

I lie in bed and think. I think about stuff I should write about. I think about books I’m reading or a show I watched that night, or shows I’m planning to watch the following day. I think about my plans (and heaven knows I have way too many of those) I think about things that irritate me. There are, often times, quite a few things that irritate me.

Like not being able to fall asleep. That irritates me.

And then comes that horrid point in time where, even if I could sleep, I wouldn’t bother because everybody else is going to be up in an hour and a half anyway because they don’t have the luxury of sleeping in since only I’m on vacation. Nobody else is. On the mornings when I don’t get out of bed to play around with my blog or read, or catch up on Season 4 of Dexter ( which by the way is an awesome show) I lie in bed and listen to everyone else going about their daily routines.

So here’s what I’m doing now to kill time: I read the Telegraph from cover to cover each morning. I do the crosswords and flip through my dictionary every time I get stuck and even though my mom thinks that’s cheating. I read everything I can lay my hands on. I just finished reading Jean Sasson’s ‘Mayada’ set in war torn Iraq. Now I have no reading material. My cousin promises to bring some books over or take me to the British Council Library, but that’s yet to happen. So I settle for a torn Mills and Boons that I see lying in my mom’s bedroom. I cringe at every development in the plot.

These stories are so NOT for me!

Days pass in this manner and then I’m sleep deprived enough to even Google some suggestions for getting a good night’s sleep:

**Avoid taking cat-naps during the day. (You have got to be kidding me. I love those!)

**Try to exercise at regular times each day. (If you know me … you know this aint gonna happen.)

**Avoid drinking caffeinated beverages late in the day–caffeine is a stimulant that can keep you awake.

Turns out the suggestions didn’t help me at all. I guess I’m just going to have to try and re-set my body clock to doing things in a routine fashion. I’m scheduled to fly to Dubai soon and these habits are just not going to work for me once I’m back to my regular work cycle.

This morning I actually opened the e-horoscope I receive everyday. I’ve been ignoring it for months now but suddenly I’m curious to know what it says. I open it and it reads…

‘Capricorn: Brimming with life and energy you will take on new tasks and see them to their completion. A restful period is on the horizon. Maybe even a vacation.’

Talk about irony!

Think I’ll go take one of those cat- naps now.