I, on my side, require of every writer, first or last, a simple and sincere account of his (sic) own life, and not merely what he has heard of other men’s lives; some such account as he would send to his kindred from a distant land, for if he has lived sincerely it must have been in a distant land to me. Henry David Thoreau
I don’t write about my family except in the most general terms. I chose to make my life public by this blog, they do not chose. One must be sensitive to their right to privacy. I make an exception here by publishing this photo me and my younger brother. I meet him for the first time yesterday. Not a step brother, not a half-brother. A brother. My father adopts the younger child of his second wife back in the day, while I’m busy living in the South Pacific. (I sent a wedding present.) Distance and expense preclude my visiting them in Chicago. What with the financial fall out following my second divorce (if you read this blog regularly you’ll recall that was the time I lost my house, my health, my job, my savings, my belief system, my friends, my dog, my credit oh THAT financial fall out. . . .) Yeah, so like I never had chance to re-visit the MidWest until my younger brother here had already grown up, completed college and moved to a foreign county. Oops.
TCdeS, my younger brother, wants to know why I don’t keep in touch. In my defense, I say what I always say, “Anyone who wants to know how Kumari’s doing can read this blog.” My life is extremely public; my family opts, of their own free will, to avoid reading all about me. And hey, I start the blog in the first place so I can stop sending engraved invitations to potential yoga students, clients and customers. This is the one stop shop with an event calendar. Of course, I don’t say all that to him. I can’t expect a person who lives in Dubai to have found kumaridotcalm.com on the internet, but lots of people do – from far away India, Canada, the US. I also have many European readers. So you can see why I don’t have any sympathy for family members who wonder how I am doing. By the click of a mouse they’d know. They choose not to.
Being silent and misunderstood is emotionally easier than speaking up and being misunderstood.
Being misunderstood is “ouch.” I hate feeling misunderstood. Whereas being silent is emotionally neutral. Or, put another way, if I thought my family knew I’m going in for a biopsy and didn’t bother to call I’d be sort of “Wow!” But when I know they’re not calling because they have no idea what’s going on in my life I am cool. Serene. Not hurt at all. Not just that, though, getting in touch with them can be financially dangerous to me. I’ll never forget the time I invite family members to join my former website. My eldest brother posts inappropriate material, chasing off my original students. Rebuilding a core group sets me back two full years, during which – I lose my house. If you’ve ever felt forging a relationship with your family of birth is a one way street I’m here to let you off the hook. I’m here to ask you, “Does that even make sense?” When people are damaging to me, it’s time to find different people.
Create perspective shift.
For example whenever I’m silly enough to admit my lagging clip to another human person I’m greeted with the less than enthusiastic reply, “15 minutes a mile? Gee Kumari. That’s pretty slow.” Sometimes they ask if I’m not just walking hahaha. Mo bettah, I tell people I ran a mile. Distance, in lieu of time. Suddenly they’re so damn impressed. I can’t explain the logic between the two different responses – I can only say from experience the second statement, “I ran a mile,” is met with approval 100% of the time. Running for 15 minutes? Not so much.
Yesterday my hip is out of joint. I can’t find my groove. I’m loping along like a marionette in short jerky strides, hoping to get warmed up. My yoga withstanding I’m off kilter. I change my sequence to minute run/minute walk until I stop flopping. Four and a half kilometers later I finally hit stride. I loosen up. Those are the slowest splits ever due to the short bursts, each kilometer taking me over 10 minutes – but hey. Ten sounds so much faster than fifteen, does it not? I ought to always pace in kilometers; my speed would be shrouded in mystery to the armchair quarterback.
Why I am such a jerk?
At 14 I’m hit by a car while riding my bike. Afterwards the doctor suggests trail running in lieu of running on asphalt. Whether or not that really makes a difference I can’t say. But he did save me a lot of grief by opening up the joy of non-competitive running to me. Although there is a level of camaraderie inherent in team sports I’m not fast enough (even before that accident) for the team to miss me. Never mind how I run now. The first injury is severe muscle bruise the second an actual fracture. I am destined to be a slow runner. A penguin in progress.
My high school track coach, Mr. Drozd, is encouraging without being patronizing. After every meet he reports not just the win, place and show – but anyone who achieves a personal best. He’s proud of me for bettering myself; happy for me. He also let me ride in the side car of his motorcycle. That’s fun. I knew then, and I know now – who is on my side. I spend more time with people who enable me to feel good about myself and less with the people who ask “Why didn’t you win?” Despite being a bookworm and budding writer, I don’t chum up with my be-speckled English teacher, or the school librarian. I wasn’t like that. I wanted what every kid at that age wants, someone on my side – someone to share my accomplishments and acknowledge my defeats. For me, that was kind, compassionate, straightforward Mr. Drozd.
Watch the feedback loop.
Far too many people follow an opposite pattern: that of drowning accomplishments with admonishment. “Don’t get too excited” or “don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched.” Rain-on-my-parade disguised as mildly protective advice, is emotionally muting. A very terrible feedback loop. When coupled with encouragement after disaster, you know, those people who say “there, there, things will get better”. . . a very destructive pattern emerges: people share only bad news (for the sake of being cheered) and refrain from sharing good news (for fear of being discouraged.) Have you met these people? Because I find them everywhere, churches, families, workplaces, especially middle management.
I religiously take note of who is supportive of me and my endeavors. Those people who cheer me on are the people I mos def need to spend more, more and more time with and those Debbie Downers? Not a minute longer than required by law. If they are church members, I switch churches. Family members? I’d unfriend on social media. When they are employers I change jobs. I don’t ever apologize for being self-protective. The life I save is my own.
Now y’all play nice.