birthdays are coming…

Tomorrow we go back to work and school after a 10 day break. Although we arrived back in Bay area late Friday night, the vacayness of our schedule continued. So tomorrow is really our first day back from our summer vacation.

This break was likely one of the more refreshing trips we have taken in a while. Sometimes you need a vacations after a vacation. But not this time. Our batteries are charged.

It’s birthday time in a few weeks. And unlike other people my age, I still care a lot about birthdays. Simply because I use them as a milestone when I measure myself against who I was a year ago. Have I become more patient or less? Did I learn something new? Did I meet interesting people and did I keep up my relationships or did they wither? Did I help someone grow? Did I pick a good habit in the last year? Did I get better at time management? Did I write more or less? Did I spend time doing things I love, with people I love? Did I make new resolves? Did I learn new cuisines? Did I come up with a cooking hack that saves 3min in making quinoa 🙂 And most importantly did I share insights from my success and my failures with the world at large? Was I consuming or creating? Was I giving or taking?

I will be answering a lot of these questions, and asking some more over the next few weeks. FUN!

Islands

Islands are special. They are self contained, breezy, small enough to have a close knit community and large enough to have their own micro climates. It takes very little to step in, soak up and just be here. With no desire to be anywhere else, doing anything else and be with anyone else.

These islands are my cleansers. I lean on them to find balance. I come to them to slow down, and calibrate my circadian rhythm. I keep the watch aside, and let the time just roll. The position of the sun guides my activities. I need no alarm clocks on the islands.

It feels almost surreal to feel so connected to a place that is not your own, where you don’t belong. It makes me question the concept of “belonging” as it relates to a piece of land.

I didn’t grow up close to water or nature. I was an urban breed. Concrete jungles of Delhi is how I remember my childhood. The first time I saw the ocean, I was 17. Yet, at first glance, I developed a kinship with it.

It is so forgiving and yet so powerful. It is not calm, yet it gives a calming effect to those that come to it. It is a giant machinery that just works, day in and day out. It consumes the sun and lifts the moon. It is the world that we don’t see with our naked eye. Beneath its surface it hides several mysteries.

The ocean has three parts to it – the waves, the shore and the vast base. The ocean in that sense is similar to a human – with the body, emotions and principles being its three parts.

We are born with a body, we ride our emotions and we anchor against our principles and our values. And day in day out we balance the three and live.

We’d live a very unfulfilled life if we did not have emotions. Just like a placid ocean is no better than a still water lake. If we did not have principles and values, what would we run to when we need to make decisions? And what good would the emotion and principles be, if we did not have this life, this body.

Anyways, I am just letting the words roll and thoughts take shape. It is not everyday that one feels so overwhelmed, so superfluous and yet so much at peace.

We are wrapping up a break that was much needed, not planned, and an escape from a disastrous set of events that ruined our Euro travel plans. In hindsight, this is the vacation that I needed.

Hawaii, and in this case Maui, a place I call my own. I know which coffee place to go to and which açaí bowls are the best. The most enjoyable fresh ahi poke place and the best produce on the island to put together simple meals for my family. I know the roads, the highways, the stores, the food trucks 😉

While I was typing, Agam and Tara are getting ready for their final trip to the pool. The mind is at so much peace that I could tune out the activity and continue to let my thoughts ramble. This state of mind is quite hard to achieve when you are in the grind. But that is the state to desire.

On this trip Agam and I spent time talking about some of lessons from out thirties. Here’s a summary –

– Care less about what other think, about who you are, what you’ve got and where you are. Keep being a better version of you. Ignore the yardsticks. You are competing with yourself.

– Do good and keep good intent, that’s as far as you can take it.

– Prioritize your time with people that matter most. You will have to be rude. But know what matters. Simplify and succeed.

– Know what gets your blood rushing – an chase for some unknown, finding our ways to do things better, for me, financial independence for Agam, and swimming pools for Tara 😉

– Nobody gives a damn about you and your preferences! Learn to take yourself less seriously.

– As you grow old, you learn to stop giving a damn about more and more things. Keep at it. The smaller the list, the happier you are.

For now, I do give a damn about these islands and I am committed to them 😀

a hiki i ka manawa aʻe (until next time)

Scotch

I choked up reading Scotch’s farewell messages today. I don’t know what to write. But I want to write so much. Sigh! I wonder if I should just send an email instead.

Scotch was one of the first leaders at Google who showed me the mirror. In a good way. My favorite Scotchisms are the analogies he used to explain things.

One was that of a glue. A glue so strong that holds teams together despite their siloed agendas. He told me that I was a glue for him. I could be applied to a lot of relationships and teams – be it across product areas or within his staff. I love that analogy. And I live by that mantra. When he asked me how I do it, I did not have an answer. I recall saying something like – it’s not intentional. It’s just how I look at things. And he asked that I never change that way of looking at things.

He then went on to tell me about the Tesla windshield glue that can withstand the impact of 35 airplanes put together. A glue holds it together and saves the drivers in a crash. Imagine the strength of that glue. That’s the strength he wanted me to have.

A few weeks later he asked me if I had figured out how I do it and surprisingly I did give it a thought and responded that I play from the middle and take no sides. I play for the big G and no one else. And he nodded in agreement and grinned ear to ear. I won’t forget that grin.

And the other one was the third legged stool of management, leadership and governance. And also the three legged stool of trust that is built on playing with competence, concern for others and keeping commitments. He liked 3 legged stool analogies.

Scotch taught me how to write my perf as a people manager at Google. Now that is a bit of an art. He taught me to think like an entrepreneur and act like one. Maximize my resources and drive for more.

He told me that secure people build safe environments for their teams. And he thought that my team felt safe.

He also told me that to those whom much is given, much is expected. His generosity knew no bounds. And he gave silently.

When I told him that I am considering another role, he did not try to stop me. He asked me who would I work for. And he did his background checks and came back and said, wise choice. He did not ask me to stay. He simply said, go play on the other side. Regardless of which side you play for, we will win as a team.

I will miss his warm smile and twinkling eyes. His loud thud on the table and his swearing (that I did not appreciate and called him out on). I will miss his loud voice and boisterous laughter. I will miss his swinging by our desks on a late Friday evening picking up casual banter and connecting with the team.

People did not exhaust him. He derived his energy from them. Scotch was a sunshine yellow and so am I. V though that yellows attract other yellows. She always smirked at the instant alignment we’d reach in any debate. It’s true that Scotch and I were never on the opposite sides of an argument. Either he indulged me or V was right, yellows attract yellows 🙂

Regardless – Scotch was an anchor for me at Google. And his departure has been difficult to process. But I am sure he will find more meaningful pursuits. And I wish him all the best.

somewhere over the rainbow

I have probably written about how I associate rainbows with my father. When I see a rainbow I feel his presence. It goes back to the fall of 2010 when Agam and I returned to US after a month of activities following my father’s death. We had an evening to ourselves and so we drove to Shoreline Lake. As we made our way to the bay side, I saw a rainbow appear. It was my first smile, after I had landed in the US, after losing what was to me the most precious relationship I ever had. Since then rainbows and I have developed a strange bond.

Similar to the rainbow at Shoreline, I often see a shadow of him sitting in the back seat of my car. He appears when I need him. Of course this is all a figment of my imagination. But it helps fill a gap.

Yesterday after a tumultuous week, I finally gained some perspective and some very good advice towards the end of the day. And I felt nourished. It felt like rain on a parched dry land. My impatience with myself sometimes gets overbearing for me, and those around me. And I need this calibration from time to time. I am usually not very good about seeking help. But I did yesterday, and it made me feel better. I worry about adding to people’s troubles when I take my woes to them. I used to also worry about being judged. But with some people I don’t have that fear anymore. I am so thankful for the conversation that turned my narrative around yesterday. I secretly aspire to be that coach who has that impact on someone’s life. It’s a powerful skill. Some day, some day!

In a nut shell, when someone helps me overcome my fears and my frustrations, sometimes with myself and sometimes with the system, I feel this sense of comfort. And despite how uncomfortable I felt through the week, I settled, and I calmed down just before kicking off the long weekend.

When I am low, I always end up wondering if Papa was around, I’d just go to him with these appeals. Instead of bothering people around me with it. But I don’t have that option. So I brace myself and open up and ask for help.

On my drive back home, the car in front of me had the initials SPK in its license plate. Those are my Dad’s initials.I looked at it, and smiled. Papa was right there. Watching me deal with my insecurities, my dilemmas, and watch me seek help, and get it too, and he watched me bounce back. He was there all this time, watching me. I know that for sure. He just happens to choose his mediums from time to time. Sometimes it’s a rainbow, sometimes a shadow and sometimes in license plates.

Let it be

Regret has settled into my abyss
Broken is how I feel today
It’s been a few long weeks of gloom
And it looks like this phase is here to stay

I roam the streets with an open wound
And sometimes someone heals it up
It helps me mend my broken heart
And it temporarily fills up my empty cup

I am the gap I hope to fill
But I don’t feel I have it left in me
To heal myself and stand back up
So I give up, and just let it be.

Perhaps someday I will find the strength
To reclaim what is meant to be
Perhaps someday I will fill my cup
With courage that is somewhere hidden in me.

Not meant to be…

If all had gone as per plan, we would have been on our flight to London right now. And in a few hours, we would have connected to a flight to Athens and met Tara’s grandparents there for a vacation that took four years to materialize, and a few months to plan.

But nothing went as per plan. And I am here, typing away on my laptop, from the comfort of my home.

So what exactly happened – We needed two visas – UK visa, since we were planning to a short stay in London before returning to SF; and a Schengen visa for Greece. Now we are not newbies when it comes to visas. We have done this drill several times over. But this time, a chain of events, led to a mega screw up that led to a collapse of our well intentioned and much awaited travel plans. It was just not meant to be.

Agam’s passport was up for renewal. It took a few weeks longer than expected. But we still had time. So we started with the UK visa. We got an appointment for biometrics. When we went for the appointment we were informed that the application center in San Jose is not accepting any applications. No new date was provided. We were asked to check the status on a website. And so we did. A week later when we found out that our new biometric date is three weeks after the original date.

So we called the Greek Consulate for a visa appointment and they told us to come in June. I laughed at the receptionist since by then even camera’s my reels would have developed. She did not get the joke. So we ditched the idea of a Greek consulate appointment and started looking for any Schengen country that could give us an appointment. We landed with an appointment with the French Consulate for May 1st.

We were certain that we will get our UK visa before that and that we have 20 days to process a Schengen visa. It was close but not impossible.

But then UK Visa took three weeks longer, and only arrived on May 14th. There was no way for us to secure a Schengen visa. Disappointed, and exhausted, I canceled all flights and reservations for our leg of the plan.

And then we decided to convince the grandparents to go. By then the over all morale was so low, that the entire plan collapsed like a house of cards in a few days.

We could have gone to UK, but again, we have been to London twice and I was only going there to eat at Dishoom, for the third time. So we let go of it all. And we accepted our fate.

Sigh! For the planners, here’s a lesson – It doesn’t matter how early you plan, your plans can come crumbling down, for no fault of yours. In that moment you realize how little your contribution matters. And you settle your losses and book yourself eight days in paradise with the funds you recover.

More than the effort and the money, what crushed us was how we had planned for this milestone celebration for so long. And how, for the worst predictable reason possible, it all came crashing down.

Regardless, we learnt our lessons. Tara gave me grief about not getting to see Dadu and Dadi in Greece. And I pledged to never go to Greece. No thank you, I can go without seeing those ruins for a lifetime.

We really needed this break. But here’s a silver lining. And I am a queen of silver linings. As per our original itinerary, we would have spent our ninth wedding anniversary on a return flight to SFO. But now, on June 4th, we will be in Wailea 🙂 We have hardly ever traveled on our anniversary. Since Memorial Day is usually the weekend before that, we usually travel on that weekend. So this year, for a change, we will be together on a vacation, on June 4th 🙂 [I don’t want to jinx it yet].

In another news, and on a topic as depressing as canceled travel plans, being an ENFJ is hard on you! I sometimes wish I could ignore the constant sensing that I am engaged in. The extraverted sensing part of an ENFJ comes with a lot of cognitive stress. It is the joy, and yet the burden. It is like a magic trick you wish you did not have. Just like you cannot unsee what you have seen. You cannot ignore what you have sensed. And especially when your mind has trained over the years to be pretty accurate with your sensing.

My compass has shifted. It is that time of the year when I know I need to make some conscious decisions about my year, before I let the time start running against me. This time, I am more resolute. And I am not going to convince myself out of the challenge I am setting up for myself.

Let’s go find this joy that has gone missing. But first, a pit stop in Maui. Since all good things start in Hawaii 😉

Gloom

Let’s be honest. Nothing good has come out of this year so far. And it’s half over (almost). I don’t expect anything to come out of the next half either. I rarely sound so dejected and disappointed. But that’s just how I am feeling this week and I am not going to lie about it.

I am not able to shake off a certain feeling of gloom that set in almost eight weeks ago. It’s been a series of depressing and demotivating events and I’ve been experiencing a new low that is hard to come out of. Circumstances aren’t helping either. Truth is I am just tired, of personal, professional and emotional rollercoasters.

I am questioning and overthinking every thing. There is no trust – in people, self or the workings of the world. It’s all very brittle and flaky.

Yesterday while I was writing an email, I stopped. I read what I had typed so far and it was very inauthentic. It did not represent who I am. It was some other fake woman, being pretentious and indirect and skirting around an issue she deeply cares about . I decided not to send the email. That feeling dropped me into this mode of regret. Which is really causing all this gloom. Regret and I stay far apart. But when we meet, we cling on. I need a change of narrative. Just that this time it’s harder to come up with one.

Hopefully I will bounce back from this gloom by the time we hit the weekend. It’s just around the corner.