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Effecting Change: Rebelling Against ‘Indian Woman Syndrome’

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 8, 2017 by tivaniam

“Smile quietly” was in the contract I signed when I agreed to be born an Indian and specifically a woman. We are raised to smile quietly because of “what the people would say”, and we are raised to smile quietly “for the sake of the children”. Two principles that I ferociously rebel against, and which I refuse to subscribe to, something that has become such a pandemic that I refer to it as the “Indian Woman Syndrome” although it extends deeply to Indian men alike.  Even in progressive times, this seems to be the mind-set that Indian people STILL adopt.  And sadly, as a result, we stay as sick as our secrets – that which we refuse to acknowledge, face or speak about.

As an Indian, specifically a woman, I was supposed to stay in my marriage for the sake of the kids. Because, what would people say if I chose the alternative? So I stayed. For a while, until death became an option. And I realised that my choice to live my life in sacrifice, wasn’t serving anyone, least of all my children – MOST of all myself.

So I left. Twice. Two marriages, several relationships and jobs and people – everything that didn’t serve me or make me happy. I went against the grain of what I was SUPPOSED to be, and chose to be real. And yes, people judged. Harshly. I lost friends and family. The words I was called and the judgment thrown at me stung me terribly. Enough to make me want to shrink back.

But I didn’t. Because there was something inside me that screamed louder than any of the names I was called.

Saying “fuck-it” to the ideals society prescribed for me meant choosing to turn my insides out, and with that meant not only making different choices, but also doing it vocally. I began writing my truth, living my truth and BEING my truth. And as I shared my life through my words, my truth started setting others free to share THEIR truths. Because there are people, Indians specifically, who knew EXACTLY what I was feeling, who shared the same hopelessness and helplessness and despair but stay in bad marriages or relationships for the children and because of what people would say if they chose to be selfish and do what makes them happy.

This limiting belief system perpetuates the cycle that I see continuously with Indian people. The antiquated, indoctrinated beliefs predominantly stemming from religion that promotes patriarchy and teaches us to live in sacrifice. The need to put on facades in an effort to save face has caused so many Indian people to lose themselves and live existentially, miserable and hateful of the world. This in turn gets repeated with their children who emulate what they learn – the boys become misogynists, the girls, doormats – and without any concept of what authenticity, aliveness, freedom and love truly means. Ingrained prejudices are carried forward and we do not progress as a culture or the collective human species.

So why choose to live in that limiting way?

To try and be liked by everyone? What a waste of a life. Because no matter how hard you work or how self-righteous you think you are, you will never EVER make everyone like you. But, if you make yourself heard, if you live a life that’s true, you will find the RIGHT people to love and be loved by. You would encourage your children to be real and teach them, through example, about self-love and true freedom of expression. Can you imagine the possibility of what the world could hold for them or you if you expanded your belief system instead of following old ideologies that had no place back then, certainly not now, that only serve to make people conform?

Be a rebel. Live your truth out loud. And see the ripple effects of what that authenticity, peace and aliveness does for you, your children and then the world at large. When you choose YOU, you give others permission to do the same for themselves. I am a living testament of that, and so are my children who are happy, well-adjusted, emotionally stable, kind and loving kids NOTWITHSTANDING the fact that I left their dads. Or perhaps…because of it.

Raising Boys 

Posted in Uncategorized on April 25, 2017 by tivaniam

My six year old son recently cut his own hair. When I asked him why he did that, he said “because it was in my way mummy”, which was a perfectly reasonable response to me. I accepted the explanation, laughed even, but his dad thought he needed to be disciplined. That resulted in some conflict – internally for me and then externally when I tried to reason with his dad.

It got me thinking and reminded me of the time I dated someone who thought I wasn’t making my son “manly” or “responsible” enough. My argument was, who gets to decide what “manly” is, and who the fuck should be responsible at the age of six? Needless to say, the relationship ended.

It made me look at the way people parent. And while everyone is welcome to parent their kids as they see fit (barring outright abuse), for me, I am choosing to raise an empathetic little boy who is not molded in my image but loved for his own special personality.

Our society is still programmed to stereotype boys. Boys don’t cry, and boys aren’t meant to be expressive with their feelings. Boys are meant to be taught the hardships of life and be super-responsible. What emanates from this mentality is that these boys end up becoming grown men whose suppressed emotions manifest through anger and aggression, often to the detriment of the people who choose to get involved with them romantically.

My son is unconventional and cannot fit into a neat little box. He spends a lot of time dreaming and his imagination creates exciting stories for him. He has zero coordination (much like his mother) and comes out last at sports. He is willful and affectionate and loving and demonstrative. He cries openly to me, and his cries are received with cuddles instead of criticism. He is complimentary and kind, and thoughtful and funny. His speech is weird, and he pronounces his “r’s” as “w’s”. He can only focus on one thing at a time, but that one thing has his complete and utter attention until he moves on to something else. He is incredibly talented with puzzles and building stuff and his attention to detail is admirable. He is observant and questioning and loves chocolate (much like his mother). 

In lots of ways, society defines him as being an anomaly because we are conditioned to raise boys to be hardened, disciplined, sport-playing, emotionless men as a measurement of success as a parent.  

Why don’t we embrace their quirks (like hair cutting), their differences (like confused speech) and their own personalities (like being bad at sport)? Why don’t we encourage emotion and demonstration even if that means them wanting to play with dolls or wear dresses?

Our boys are sadly modeled according to our prejudice, our antiquated thinking and our ideals or misspent dreams. What if we put OUR beliefs aside and opened the door for more?

What if we made it possible for them to feel ENOUGH, just as they are, instead of funneling them into a system into which they don’t belong?

I am choosing to raise an empathetic loving child who is compassionate and brings much needed kindness and joy and fun into this world. I care little for academia or sport or defined gender roles. I am instilling the freedom for him to choose to be whatever he wants to be, and I will love him regardless. Even when he chooses to cut his hair before his first ever school photo 😊

 

 

Rising Strong – My New Take On Getting Older

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on March 23, 2017 by tivaniam

My 36th birthday is looming and with it, the newfound excitement that I have for getting older. Yes, you read right. I am excited to be getting older.

For many years, I dreaded my birthday for different reasons, most important of which was the realisation that my lost youth could never be recaptured, as I inched towards “middle age”. That idea meant I had to finally step up into this whole ‘adulting’ concept, something I’ve waged a war against for many years. I do it grudgingly, and most often, badly. These days, I’ve learnt to embrace being a grown up and with that comes many privileges.

The last three years have been amazing for me from a growth perspective. Some of my toughest life lessons were the catalyst for such a deep awakening, so much so, that I still shock myself with the enormity of what I’ve managed to manifest in my life. This year, reflecting on my 36th year, I realised that I spent over two decades worrying about what people thought about me. And now, finally, I have zero fucks to give. Zero. I am so happy! I don’t care anymore about fitting in. I don’t need to please anyone except myself and I don’t need to conform to society’s idea of who or what I should be because no one knows, except me, the truth of who I am. Therefore why ask permission? Why ask for direction from people, for places they’ve never been! It’s no one’s job to know who I am becoming. That’s my job. So I don’t take on their fear because I choose to be brave about my life.

When I was 18, I entered a beauty pageant because I thought that would make me feel better about myself. Midway, I lost the lines to my speech and had a real life “drop the mic” moment and ran off stage. I don’t think I ever got over the judgment I thought I faced amidst the hordes of people who witnessed that, neither was there a bigger affirmation that I was not good enough. That narrative stayed with me and intensified over the years and needless to say, I created that reality of judgment and the perception of not good enough was revealed to me because that’s the literal way the universe works. And, for two decades that’s how I’ve lived.

Now, at almost 36, I am finally unbecoming. It’s only taken 36 years. I am finding my way back to innocence, purity, childlike joy and wonder and wide-eyed hope. It’s taken 36 years to return to myself instead of being what the world told me to be. With each year, I become more and more of who I’m meant to be. I embrace the fact that I’m a grown up and nobody is the boss of me anymore. I don’t need to audition for life because there are simply no more judges in front of which to freeze.

I am finally allowing life to live through me and I am finally listening to the call of my authentic self. That for me is the greatest gift of getting older.

Paying Homage to A Soul Sister: Keshni Pillay

Posted in Uncategorized on March 7, 2017 by tivaniam

Ambush is the word I use to describe my relationship with food – because struggle suggests resistance – and let’s face it, food never puts up much of a fight. It just sits there looking delicious and lets me eat it all. For me, my struggle with carbs and sugar is to create an induced coma, which in turn prevents me from feeling much. Mission accomplished. I overeat because it works. Not in the long run of course. Which is where I find myself now – a place of enlightenment and ready to face my demons.

I’ve said it before, that truth is a boomerang. As women, our stories are different threads of one tapestry, generation after generation. For me personally, there is a deep and profound connectedness when I “feel” someone else’s words. My friend, Keshni Pillay, highlighted exactly how I feel every single time I ambush food. And how, through her own journey, there is hope for the rest of us. This is her story.

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I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis in October 2009 – an autoimmune disorder where my immune system attacks my thyroid and results in my thyroid not making enough hormones for my body’s needs.  Coupled with severe anaemia, I had no energy to work out and comfort ate my way through a depression caused by my relocation from KZN to JHB, with no family support.  Regular gym had zero impact until I was diagnosed and put on medication. Eltroxin is no miracle worker and while it may slow down weight gain caused by Hashimoto’s, I did not miraculously lose any weight as a result of being on it. I tried working out five times a week, training with a personal trainer and even completely cut out carbs from my diet… but it didn’t last very long. While I did lose a few kgs, I gained it all over again and was still at least 20kgs overweight. My self-confidence was at an all-time low and I was constantly moody, tired and upset with myself for being overweight. A heartbreak in 2010 left me even more depressed and comfort eating.

Fast forward to 2012 – I had met my soul mate the previous year and suddenly life didn’t seem so bleak. But, at age 26 I was bordering on a size 16. Fast food became my best friend. Pizza, Chuckles and Pringles washed down with Tropika became a regular treat – and that was all in one night! In March 2012, I was introduced to SureSlim by a friend and I embarked on the most difficult yet rewarding weight loss journey. By November 2012, I had lost 20kgs and a total of 53cms and found myself wearing colour again (I used to only wear black so I didn’t draw more attention to myself).

Although I had lost all that weight, which I have maintained, give or take 1kg, I realised that I was still rather unfit. In 2013, I tried my hand at pole fitness for the first time, which I fell in love with, but stopped after a year due to a host of issues such as work pressure and load-shedding traffic. I missed it every single day for a whole year but just didn’t make any effort to start again. In 2016 I joined the SA Polefit Academy and I am in the best shape I’ve ever been in! I haven’t lost any more weight but I am stronger and more toned after every single class. I have stopped obsessing about that scale and instead focus on how many burpees, squats and push ups I can do. I can even dance a 3 minute routine without passing out!

I’d be lying if I said losing weight was an easy journey. There were many days when I could think of nothing else but carrot cake and a latte for dinner. Yes, I succumbed to my cravings many times along the way, but I picked myself up again the next day and got back on track.

I would not swop the self-confidence and freedom I’ve gained for all the carrot cake and lattes in the world!  While maintenance isn’t easy, I vow never to be that miserable woman again. I owe it to myself and my loved ones to be the best I can be.

Some of my recent hang-ups have been focusing on the lumps, bumps and stretchmarks instead of celebrating the fact that I earned those stretchmarks when I lost 20kgs. I have obsessed over the size of my arms to the point where I would not leave the house in anything sleeveless. I have focused on the 1 or 2 more kgs I’d like to lose rather than appreciate how far I’ve come in my fitness journey. However, over the past year, I have made a concerted effort to celebrate my body for all the wonderful things that it can do instead of focussing on how much it weighs. Pole fitness has helped me to overcome those hang-ups. I am a work in progress and that’s perfectly fine, and, I have biceps now!

Last year I came across a quote that absolutely resonated with me, “other women’s bodies are not our battlegrounds.” As women, we constantly compare ourselves to and measure ourselves against other women and their beauty. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with admiring another woman’s beauty however, being kind to yourself means that you don’t question your own beauty in that process. Being kind to yourself also means accepting compliments as graciously as you dish them out. Why is it so hard to just say “thank you” rather than side step a compliment?

I am very fortunate to be surrounded by positive influences. My supportive family, pushing me to new heights… the fun, fearless females at my pole-fitness classes who celebrate every new pole victory and my muscle “gains” with me… but most of all my fiancé who tirelessly strives to make me see my body the way he sees me. All these people have positively influenced the way I see myself.

You can lose all the weight in the world but if you don’t love yourself, you’re going to be weighed down forever.

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Relatable? Definitely. I know that I often vacillate between staying on the cold floor (eating my way through stuff) or getting up, and showing up for my life. Life’s brutal and beautiful are woven together and can’t be separated. It’s about embracing both and living well, hard and real by being healthy, kind and loving to ourselves first.

Thank you Kesh for sharing your story xoxo

 

 

 

 

Let Go and Let Come

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on February 7, 2017 by tivaniam

“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.” ~ Lao Tzu

Letting go is a simple concept. Like dropping a pen. It is, however, by no means simplistic. It is not passive. It is far from lazy or giving up. It isn’t merely saying “whatever” to the world. Letting go is wisdom and enables the flow of love and energy to move across freely.

I am the kind of woman who thrives on extremes. I love control. Letting go, goes against the grain of my neurotic patterns. For me particularly, during times of loneliness I want to move left or right. Over the last few years I have learnt the art of sitting in the middle and feeling what I feel.  It has been an incredibly difficult process of grasping and clinging and only after a while, easing my body into peace.

Most recently, I’ve had to address the aspect of letting go in relationships. Very big process for me. I had a major lightbulb moment when chatting to my friend the other day who mentioned that I am literally too intense and have no idea how to be light. I mother and smother and suffocate. Big, big moment of profound truth. When these things happen, learning is immediate – if you are open to being honest and actually paying attention. The common denominator with my failed relationships has consistently been my role as a “mother”, and my desire to have the love evolve in the way I want it to.

So my recent reflections had to be about the detachment that is necessary where love is concerned.

Detachment here is not about letting go of the relationship, person or love itself but rather the expectations and preconceived ideas that I carry into each relationship. I pride myself on being an awakened woman but relationships always challenge my shadow side, pointing out the work I need to do.  I’ve had a relationship blueprint that I thought I should follow: meet, date, kiss, talk, love, kids and families meet, move in together, ring, happily ever after. This became a plan for me that is actually totally limiting. I have such an issue with loose ends and undefined and indescribable situations. I have this compulsion to know exactly the type of situation I am in so that I can apply the aforementioned plans.

How limiting is that???

Am I not able to love someone and let the relationship speak for itself?

Fortunately, with insight, expectations can change and therefore the resultant experiences.

Today brought a new context. A big, scary one that if I didn’t document here, would fade into my thoughts. My writing cements my commitment to myself and forces me to level up. I cannot profess to be authentic if I write it but don’t live it or vice versa – that is my role as a conscious writer.

Going into a new relationship without any idealised thoughts of what it could be or how it SHOULD be allows for the union to develop organically rather than forcing it inside a box of my own definition of love. I want to love the man I am with because of the person he is without the expectation of him loving me back. To let go and let come means being able to enjoy the moments because there are no guarantees in life. This kind of love is not easy. It forced me personally to sit and call my demons by name – those frightful companions called “I am not worthy” and “I am alone” that rode shotgun with me everywhere I went. I had to learn that these feelings are mine to own. I cannot become anxious or fearful and look to a partner to heal me.

Letting go means respecting my partner’s journey. It means that the relationship cannot be forced. Love must be approached as an offering, acknowledging the sacredness of the feelings we have for each other, regardless of action, choices or results. Letting go creates the space for beautiful new journeys.

I am learning.

Become A Life Adventurer

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on January 9, 2017 by tivaniam

We are all raised with traditional dogmas that some of us – if we are really lucky – get to unpack as we get older. Growing up, I was supposed to honour the traditions that Indian women are raised with – selflessness, timidity and an unquestioning belief in the methodologies used by my ancestors. The questioning of these methodologies and ingrained beliefs were never obvious, it was more a desire to be more and do more. As a result, I defied convention in often cataclysmic ways. What appeared to be royal fuck-ups to others, became the unfolding of my soul. The beginning of this adventure was always quietly forming, appearing as restlessness and rebellion, all the while waiting until it was ready to emerge. As the emptiness grew, the desire also quietly unfurled.

So many of us play with the seduction of safety. We hear the waves of turmoil rise and relent until we hit rock bottom and our courage gets rekindled. As a result of living through this courage, I have learnt to trust the promise of beginnings that are aligned to my life’s desires. My spirit of adventure has been awakened and I have found a new ease in risk. My soul literally senses the world that awaits me.

I personally never pursued spirituality for spirituality’s sake, but being a life adventurer has culminated into a selfish service, where my quest for defying convention has allowed me to live my dream of being a writer and growing my own spirituality in a way that makes sense to me. We didn’t come here to live someone else’s life. Being a life adventurer is about living deliberately and creating consciously. As a writer, I get to plant seeds into people’s souls that would eventually give them new thoughts and hopefully the choice to live a new life.

This new year don’t make resolutions that are not sustainable. Instead show up every single day out of your comfort zone and run with those divinely inspired invitations to be even more awesome than you presently are. Life is an adventure. Dream big. Where you are is never who you are.

 

Being Brave

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 1, 2016 by tivaniam

The most repeated phrase in my holy text is, “don’t be afraid”. Even now, even after all the big moves I have made. Fear it seems, is the predominant reason for any of us to remain stuck. We all have fear. Fear is necessary in some instances and serve to protect us. In other instances though, we cannot allow fear to govern our decision making or let it prevent us from making breakthroughs in our lives.

We spend too much of time wishing and hoping. Wishing things could change or hoping for a miracle. Fear prevents us from listening to our internal whisperings and longings to be brave and do something different. Those whisperings end up becoming a roar if ignored, and most often that roar happens when you’re lying in a heap on your bathroom floor. Why do we need to wait for rock bottom in order to make that move? Surely the drama is not needed? I speak from personal experience here. Meltdowns happened because I ignored the inner voice and then landed on my bathroom floor bartering with God to make the pain go away.

For twenty years I heard a voice telling me, “You’re meant to be a writer”. I ignored the whisperings until it became a white noise that I got so used to hearing, I lived by its rhythm. Five years ago, that voice was screaming at me to be different, to make a change. I was so unhappy doing what was the “right” thing. It was also terribly inconvenient as I was a single mum with two kids and being a writer was scary. One morning, I woke up and resigned from my corporate career that made me miserable. I studied journalism and got to writing. I was not impressive. I garnered no attention. I got lots of rejection emails from magazines and editors who were not interested in my work. I was a novice writer and made no money from writing. But my soul was screaming. It was doing a dance of joy every single time I put pen to paper. And so I pushed through. And then my blog got noticed and one editor decided to publish me in her digital magazine. Then another. Then another in print. Then another newspaper. Now, five years after those rejections, I am published on many platforms, have a day job as a writer and am now busy with the manuscript for my first book.

Being in a state of flow has allowed me to sit with my fear but not be reduced by it. I have walked away from marriages, relationships, jobs and people that no longer serve me – some of them amidst harsh criticism and judgment. As women we HAVE to be brave. We have to train ourselves to listen to our inner voice and trust it. I know the amount of energy that is required to be true to myself and what that actually means. Therefore I know how hard it can be. I know the struggle of the unknown. But I REFUSE to allow women to shrink themselves. It is not okay to remain in bad marriages or relationships or careers thinking that you will not survive with the alternative. You WILL survive being alone. You WILL survive as a single mother. You WILL survive with less money, doing something that makes you come alive. You need to trust yourself and believe in your inherent strength and divinity and light – something that is in ALL of us. Not some of us.

The thing about rock bottom is, you are forced to get real. And the truth hurts. Badly. But that is how life lessons go. We always know exactly what to do. Always. Our heart and heads are often not aligned, but our feelings reveal the truth. That is the indicator of what is right and wrong in your life and where changes need to be made. We get too comfortable in the realm of “not knowing what to do”, but we always know. Always!

Sometimes that knowing, means you have to risk everything and yes, some people will hate it. Some people will never understand or forgive you. Some people may walk away from you. You may walk away from the situation, whatever it may be, with a battered heart. But remember this, if you are afraid to be true, the alternative is to stay stuck in the same bullshit death swamp that you’ve been stuck in FOR YEARS.

And that is not living. That is existing. It’s time to be brave. The time is now.

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