Saturday, November 19, 2005

Being Alone

The one thing that has alot of people giving me flack is my apparant lack of a social life. I don't deny it. I keep my friends circle small, only including those I trust completely and for whom I'd go out of my way. The one personality trait I've always seemed to hold on to throughout my young life is the love for focused solitude.

According to the Myers-Briggs Typology Indicator (MBTI) I am a classic introvert, and a highly conceptual thinker who likes to explain the world away using reason and logic. I am a serious thinker and whenever I am looking for solutions, I seek them within myself. I do not rely on emotions for my decision-making. I go to experts if need be but the final decision is always mine. If experts in the field tell me to do something but it doesn't strike me, I will not do it. That said, my need for friends and social acceptance is not on my life's priority list. My personality type according to the MBTI makes up only 1% of the total population. I am clearly abnormal and proud of it!

While most people would prefer having a large set of friends to meet various emotional needs, I tread the other path. Friends are a luxury for me. I have no inclination or interest to go bar hopping, shopping, or lazing about. Yes, I do like to have a drink once in a while, but only if its with company that I am constructive with. Giving comfort to close friends, talking to business associates discussing strategies, or even discussing the new rules of cricket with random people I just met in the elevator. I visit the mall only when I seriously need to buy things for myself or if there is a great movie on. Shopping sprees bore me. When I like to take time off, I usually laze off all by myself surrounded by my books, DVDs, music, and professional journals.

I actually love being alone. I get excited when I'm with my thoughts. Great ideas come to me when I am alone enjoying my bubble bath. I experience a deep peace at night while reading an inspiring book before bed. All throughout my college years, if there would be an odd count in our class for group projects, I would always volunteer to work alone.. double the work, but double the results. When you want something done right, do it yourself.

The French existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre once said "Hell is other people". Well I wouldn't go that far. I still enjoy going to networking meetings, getting to know new people, what they do and finding out how we could help each other. I only like associating with people if they add significant value to my life, and vice versa. I do not mean to give off the impression that I am a complete loner who doesn't know what fun is. Bottom line is that I keep my life pretty simple. My idea of fun is gaining knowledge, talking philosophy, writing, traveling, cuisine, music, a soothing aromatic massage, and enjoying my relaxation time.

Being alone stems from my disdain for the materialism and superficiality that is so prevalent in my city. I am so sickened by the lack of depth in people's minds it is almost like we are regressing. People are so blinded by their abusers, and things are taken for granted so easily around here. People are held captive in the matrix. I'd like to qualify Monsieur Sartre's statement and say "Hell is other superficial, materialistic, robotic, and egoistic people."

Sometimes I truly wish I lived during the time of the ancient Greek philosophers where the pursuit of truth defined a person, rather than the kind of car you drive.. where solitude was the norm.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Time of Death

I have just returned from India after attending the funeral services of my maternal grandmother. She passed away November 7th 2005 at 8:50 a.m. India time. She died peacefully at home surrounded by her son, daughter, and daughter in law who saw her breathe her last. I reached Bombay with my father at 7:30 p.m. India time after my grandmother had been lain to rest at her grave, a few steps away from my late grandfather's tomb.

My mother can't believe the timing of it all. She was called to India by her sister in law on Nov 2nd when my grandmother slipped into a coma, everyone realizing it would only be: a matter of time. People could stay in a coma for a day, months, or years. Mom was to fly back home on Nov 9th and she was prepared to see her mother go. Call it fate or good fortune, my grandmother's passing came at such a time, one would think it was definitely all worked out and planned. No visitors were there at home (which would happen at odd hours everyday) so my grandma seemed to be subconsciously aware that this should be ideal time to bid farewell.

She left behind a legacy that touched so many in our community. She was quite the celebrity with her religious poetry. She was one of the last in a generation who saw India under colonial rule and witnessed countless loss of life during the Partition. Her lowest point came when the head of our religious community decided not to allow gatherings devoted to one of our martyred historical leaders, without their permission. She no longer could express her deep love through her hymns in public. Nevertheless, hundreds of people came in to pay their respects at her funeral service. Hearing about how her poetry gave them strength and bolstered their faith made me proud to be her grandaughter. Although it is not true in all cases, I felt that the tenet of "the way you die most often is a culmination of the way you lived" hit home.

I find myself instantly transformed in 3 days. I've been supporting my mother and never leaving her alone. I have free passes to the Phil Collins concert (the final tour of his career) tonite but have decided not to go. Two years ago, I would've attended this show.. because I was such an individualist, always thought that the best way to help people through trials was to leave them alone and by not extending pity, they would get over whatever they had to easily. I think I was wrong. As you get older, it is only natural to think about what will happen when it is finally your turn. You may not even get a chance to forsee your turn. Our family is thankful for having the luxury to prepare ourselves for my grandmother's passing.

The burning questions for me were this: Who's gonna be at my funeral after I die? How is my body going to be treated? What will I leave behind? The one thing I am sure about is that we don't take anything with us when we depart this world. No amount of material wealth or social status distinguishes one dead body from another. But what you leave behind could make you more alive in the hearts of those who surround you at your time of death. What would anyone remember about me when I'm gone?

Saturday, November 05, 2005

My Will of Iron

I have just finished listening to Robin's latest podcast on his website. A few minutes of his words could inspire you to at least make the effort to change. Although I do feel that he mostly talks to the rich and well-established not to mention his not-so-subtle marketing of his high end clients like Starbucks, NASA, and FedEx, he does bring a light to my day.

He talked about self-discipline as a way to build a willpower of iron. I have already started to implement the first of his practical tools for a successful life, waking up early in the mornings. I still feel like I have to battle with my mattress sometimes when I wake up.. but then I think how badly I would regret it if I woke up in the middle of the day, not accomplishing what I could have.

His tips for developing self-discipline for a will of iron are:
1. Wake up early at 5 a.m. everyday
2. Finish what you start
3. Do what makes you uncomfortable
4. Celebrate little wins

I truly am making good inroads into my well-being with the first tip. Robin says that it generally takes 3-4 weeks to install a new habit, but I surprisingly was able to wake up early quite easily. We tend to think that sometimes we have a great battle ahead of us and that things like changing our habits are too out of our reach. But believe me, it is not as hard as you think. Going out for a run every morning has helped clear my head and set my tasks for the day.

I must admit, I have a long way to go for the self-discipline I want for myself deep inside. I do not have a problem finishing what I start. But I do have a problem starting something I have to finish! Sometimes I feel like I'm afraid of success as well as failure. I guess this leads to the next tool of doing what makes you uncomfortable. Since I clearly stay away from what makes me uncomfortable, I probably can't start what I have to finish. I need to jot down what makes me uncomfortable and weird, and then try those things out.. if getting up early wasn't that hard for me, maybe overcoming what I feel uncomfortable doing won't be either.

I definitely celebrate little wins. I feel rewarded inside when I wake up early every morning and take in the cool crisp air while I run. But I confess that I celebrate more of the things I get that aren't in my control.. like an email or a message from someone special, or when a high-level executive accepts a request for an appointment with me. I need to start celebrating the accomplishments that I've achieved out of my own doing.

I limit myself believing I can't do certain things. They make me uncomfortable, and I wouldn't do them right if I tried.. and when I try to do something new, I rarely embark upon it without some sort of support by my side. It is not so easy when you haven't found solid ground in life yet.