If I haven't called you in a few days it's probably because my cough is back and I can barely talk for 5 minutes. The cycle of antibiotics upon antibiotics has begun.
Indian SplendorSun, 24th Dec '06, 11:50 pm::
I took a break from my holiday coding session tonight and watched a surprisingly delightful film, American Splendor. It's a biography of an underground comic book writer (not artist) Harvey Pekar, an everyman super hero. Says Harvey, "Ordinary life is pretty complex stuff," and it's not difficult to agree with him on that. What was difficult for me was to realize that the movie is fact and not fiction. We're so accustomed to seeing larger than life characters in films that we become immune to their charms. Then when a real life character comes along, it's hard to suspend belief and play along, after all, THIS character can't be real! He's too real to be real.
One aspect of the film that enticed me was Harvey Pekar's 25-year long autobiographical comic book series that lends its name to the film, American Splendor. While I loved comic books as a kid, my interest slowly waned as I discovered that real life is more raw than kryptonite and adamantium claws. When I started writing my comic strip Calm Down! a few months ago, I had a general idea of what it was going to be about - me and my splendorous* life. At that time, I didn't know why I decided to do that but I think I do now.
Towards the end of the movie, Harvey's wife asked him to write a comic book about his struggle with lymphoma/cancer, saying once he makes himself a character in yet another comic book, he'll be detached from his illness and thus from his own life and problems. It was more than slightly unnerving to grasp that I probably did the same. Well, no point in stopping now. More Calm Down's coming up in the months and hopefully years ahead.
* Of course there is fine print.
Baby, don't hurt meFri, 15th Dec '06, 8:15 am::
I think my favorite aspect of keeping this personal 'blog entirely public, is that often I have to say how I feel without disclosing the precise details. I don't say "XYZ bad things happened and it's ABC's fault so I'm doing 123 things to fix it." Specific issues, advice, and words are short-lived and don't apply to others beyond myself. Hence I generalize and try to look at how and why things happen instead of trying to figure out what exactly to do in this one instance. I have my friends and family for that; how unfortunate of them.
When faced with problems beyond our control, each of us reacts and deals with them in our own unique ways. How we confront a negative force depends on our personality and understanding of the world. While it is very difficult to change our innate personalities, it is relatively easy to adapt our philosophical views over time to help us deal with life better. Regardless of how aware we are of our own views on life, everything in this world is shaped by what we think about abstract terms like good, right, justice, karma, greed, equality, success, friendship, and love.
A person's notion of success might make their views on greed benign. That is to say, in order to achieve success, that person will not consider greed as a strongly negative trait. We have people that take solace in karma and think that good things will happen to good people. We have people that think justice is only what they themselves agree with. I know people that equate friendship with networking for potential personal gain. How you think of these few words is what you think of the world. What you think of the world is how you will act and react throughout your life. Some think that what is good is right and some believe equality should have limits.
It is the difference between our personal understandings of these words that causes all the problems in the world. If we had a standard definition for abstract terms like this, life would be quite easy. Socrates questioned what justice was and everyone from cheesy POP musicians to scientists ask what love is.
It is not possible for us to agree on what something is but it's quite easy to agree on what it isn't. Love isn't selfish, abusive, or conditional. Justice doesn't necessarily have to make every side happy. Right doesn't mean that it must feel good. We all make mistakes and we all make short-sighted decisions. True test of your abilities is how you recover from your failures. For some, it's as simple as fessing up and saying "Oops! I screwed up." And for others, it is unleashing yet another round of lies upon lies to cover up past acts of deceit. You can't waste your time on them; their definition of love, greed, and good is completely screwed up.
Sometimes coincidences freak me out. I was just checking my email while watching a video on Chinese history. I got a confirmation email about something and as I read the phrase "Powered by Movable Type" within it, the narrator on the show said "and by that time, Movable Type was invented in China." My heart literally thumped and it's been beating really fast for the last three minutes. Freaky.
Another lazy weekend. I hope to get some work done though. Not much really happening in this corner of the woods.
Cats out of the cradleFri, 8th Dec '06, 6:00 pm::
As it often goes, I was talking to a good friend of mine online and she mentioned how her mother kept expecting too much out of her and despite whatever my friend did, it was never enough for the mother. The parental pressure was not just infuriating my friend but also slowly depressing her. About a year ago when she was living with her parents and going through similar situations while selecting a graduate school, I suggested that she pick a school outside of her hometown and learn to live on her own. And she did.
So far, she's loved the freedom it has brought to her after 27 years of being told exactly what to do every single moment. I never expected her mom to stop nagging after she moved out. But I did hope that my friend wouldn't feel so emotionally tortured. That hasn't happened. It hasn't happened to my buddy who moved to Colorado and still hasn't happened to my friend who got married and moved with her husband to Boston two years ago. Yet, it happened to me. Despite being very close to parents who expect the world out of me, I don't feel emotionally tense anymore because of what they say or think of me. It took years for me to figure out why and how.
I want my parents' love, not their approval. I love my parents more than anyone else in the world but I have learnt that what I should be seeking in return is their love, not their agreement with everything I do. Moreover, not wanting approval doesn't mean I don't care about their opinion or that I don't care when I hurt them. I'm just saying, when I do something that I think is right but they don't, I understand it is a difference of opinions and carry on.
Oddly enough, it was my mom that taught me this lesson. Like every good son, for two decades I did everything I could, to get my dad's approval. Many times I succeeded but more often than not, I failed. Part of me knows that my dad held back many well-deserved congratulations so I would try even harder and go further. He wanted me to be a true winner. However, after seemingly failing over and over again, I would feel dejected and go to my mom asking for advice. She said simple things like "don't worry" and "just try harder."
I don't know when it struck me but one fine day, I stopped craving for my dad's approval. Everything changed instantly. I'm no longer living my life hoping he'll rubber-stamp my big ticket purchases, career path, new friends, or potential soul mates. I no longer expect my parents to like everything I like or appreciate the things I care for. I feel wonderful when they tell me they love me and my decisions but I'm not hurt or disappointed when they express their disdain for my unorthodox ways.
This is not a criticism of my parents but rather of my past self. Parents seldom change. But the kids can. And have to. I would love it if both my parents approve of everything I do but the world is not perfect and I would be foolish to expect the same. My dad and I can't agree on the same sport to watch together (cricket vs. soccer) yet for twenty years I hoped he would approve of every new friend I made. He is perfectly right in his mind to judge, like, and dislike whoever he wants in the same way that I have the right to talk, befriend, and love whomever I want. He does his best to prevent me from destroying my life and I do my best to explain the reasons behind my choices. Sometimes we agree and sometimes we agree to disagree. In the end, we remain close without any bottled up frustrations; at least I try my best to.
The day I realized I want my parents to love me and not wholeheartedly approve of me, is the day I truly became an "adult." Since then, I've expanded this rule to encompass my family, relatives, friends, and even coworkers. I'm glad if you appreciate what I do and am thankful that you care to offer criticism but if someone tells me I HAVE TO DO things their way without sufficient logical reasoning, that'll be the last day I talk to them.
1) Chant 2) RepeatSat, 2nd Dec '06, 11:55 pm::
Last two weeks have been pretty hectic for me. Lots of little and big things happening that have changed my life in ways beyond what I feel comfortable discussing openly. No matter how neurotic life has seemed lately, I keep catching myself saying "It's OK, we'll get there."
I don't realize it most of the times but often when I'm going through different phases in life, my inner voice keeps chanting little slogans that push me along. Right now, it is "We'll get there" and last year when I was sick for months on end, it was "No worries. We be good." When I was training for hours in the Florida sun for the marathon it was the mushy "What doesn't kill me only makes me stronger."
Chanting religious mantras isn't something I do in my everyday life and never really felt comfortable praying to a divine entity to help me through my personal issues. However, somehow I feel much better saying these little catchy slogans. Most of these are simple phrases that I probably said once to someone and then kept repeating over and over because they made me feel better and pushed me on. I could say that while these slogans don't fuel my inner-strength, they keep the engines well oiled and flowing smooth so when I need to muster up some courage, I'm always ready. After all, the journey may seem a little long-winded today but it's ok, we'll get there.