Reflections

Then there was trouble!

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August has been a month of upheavals for our little family. First, we lost a long-running war with termites to reclaim our wooden floors and had to undertake a major emergency home renovation. Then my lower back pain resurfaced (thanks to a slipped disc I suffered back in 2009) making me bed-ridden for a week. And today, we had to cancel our long-awaited and well-deserved vacation to Thailand at the last-minute due to yesterday’s bomb blast in Bangkok.

To be honest, trouble was brewing in our home beneath the surface for quite some time, so to speak.

And it all began one fine day when hubby noticed some brown droppings in our bathroom. Being the neat freak that he is ;), he started investigating to discover a huge colony of termites thriving behind the bathroom mirror (I had, of course, ignored it thinking the brown powder was just plain old rust from the hinges holding the mirrors in place!).

 

Anyway, once we found the termite colony, we called our very own desi terminator to launch a full-blown attack on the colony to get rid of the infestation once and for all. The mirrors were removed from the bathrooms and a termite killer liquid spray was applied to all doors and entry points of the house. And for a few weeks, it seemed to work. The chemical he used was awfully pungent – it had “lethal” inscribed in its name itself – so you can very well imagine how deadly it must have been.

But then there was trouble!

Though the termites reduced in numbers and we could no longer find any more visible signs of the infestation, they kept lurking in the back of our minds. The fact that this year NCR has seen a generous share of rainfall (way more than usual) leading to humidity and dampness, made matters even more worrisome.

And one fine day, hubby (of course!) discovered a single termite making its way through the bathroom. And that was it.
It was time for battle number two in our ruthless war against those tiny yet very dangerous pests.

We called in the home renovation team to assess the amount of damage and get rid of all the affected wooden items. And since two of our bedrooms had wooden flooring, we decided that the floors needed to go too. Of course, we could not know for sure before the floors were fully removed whether they, indeed, were infested or not, but we reasoned: why take a chance?

That was, I think, a couple of weeks ago. From then on till now, we have lived like refugees in our own house, moving from one tiny corner to another, craving privacy and silence, while a bevy of construction workers went about their merry way annihilating the master bedroom and sonny’s bedroom every day, from morning till evening (The guest bedroom, thankfully had marble flooring and so did not need any changes).

But then there was trouble!

Amidst all the moving, laundering extra sheets and cleaning grime (oh you won’t believe how messy re-constructing a floor can get!), my lower back pain resurfaced in its spiteful avatar. To be honest, it had started rearing its ugly head in July itself, but as always, it took a backseat to all the other things that needed attention THAT VERY MOMENT.

Perhaps it was my abuse of the laptop a bit too much or my lack of exercise (ahem!), or all the upheavals brought in by the renovations and sitting in an unnatural slump trying to confine sonny (least he got in the way), my back finally gave out.

And I was back to square one in my fight against the herniated disc 🙁 Well, not exactly square one to be very honest, if you consider this: Unlike the termites, I knew my opponent inside out when it came to my back pain and I knew how to get rid of it (Read power walking on the treadmill 3 times a week for 30 minutes or less. Sadly I am not allowed to run or lift heavy weight due to my weak back, which sort of complicates things in the workout department 🙁 !).

Anyway, knowing is one thing, doing an entirely different one. I just don’t have the time or space to focus on the remedy for a couple more weeks. Till then, the bhujangasana will have to suffice (especially during my long bouts of laptop addiction!).

Nonetheless, the troubles were still well within my normal range of tolerance. Our home had grown old (10 years, give or take) and a renovation was in order. Plus, since it had nothing to do with how well or not we kept our house, we could rest easy that it was not something we did or did not do. (Of late, termites had become a common problem in our area for many houses thanks to the dampness in the air). So, it was simply the way it was and not anyone’s fault.

And, as for the back pain whom could I blame if not for myself and myself alone? I was reckless and did not take the precautions that should have, by now, become second nature to me. Eh, anyway, it still was not a big deal yet and so, what the heck? Right? So far, so good.

Since the last 2-3 days, the bedrooms have started looking inhabitable again thanks to the stone floors. All “termite gnawed” door frames and mirrors are gone. A couple more rounds of stone polishing and a few coats of paint and our bedrooms will be good as new.

In fact, the day before yesterday, we even spoke to the painter to finalize the painting job for mid-September.

And we were happily in the midst of wrapping up the last few items on my shopping list for our trip to Thailand next weekend.

But then there was trouble!

I had no clue until late evening about what had happened when my mother called up and asked me to cancel the trip. And a quick browse of the news channels revealed the “worst ever attack” on Bangkok. And it all quickly went downhill from that point forward.

Our Thailand trip was planned a couple of months back and in retrospect, from the get-go, it was marred by a series of unfortunate events. First, after we’d booked our seven-day trip through MakeMyTrip, one of our relatives wanted to join us. So we altered the booking to include their family as well. Then they were not sure if they would get their passports and clearance on time (Visa is upon arrival in Thailand so that part was not an issue). So, we put the booking on hold. After a few back and forth rounds with the travel agent holding and confirming the bookings, their travel got canceled in the end due to clearance issues. And then, yesterday’s bombing was the final nail in the coffin of our doomed vacation 🙁

The trip was eagerly awaited and much-needed. So I was pretty disappointed and sad. Sad for all the people who had gone there to have a good time only to suffer at the hands of perpetrators of evil. But sadder still because of my lost chance to visit that beautiful country. And saddest because of sonny’s robbed opportunity of enjoying its pristine beaches and his beloved idea of an ocean, which was supposed to be his gift for his upcoming fourth birthday.

But when the anger, disappointment, and frustration subsided and I shifted my perspective, I realized that what I should feel instead is gratefulness. Gratefulness because we did not plan our vacation starting this week. Gratefulness because our home was still intact and beautiful. Gratefulness because we were still intact.

So, as chaotic and troublesome as August may have been for us as a family, this is what I have learned so far this month by shifting my perspective just a little:

  • Clutter is Chaos:
    • We know it, but we still can’t help it. For hoarders like me and sonny, who have a tendency of saving each and every physical evidence of a beautiful memory, clutter builds up exponentially within no time if we are not careful.
    • From that knocked off toy car wheel to that busted doodle board, sonny’s toy bins have it all. He carefully gathers every chip and broken piece with the meticulous precision of a watchmaker and saves it in his room as if his life depends on it.
    • Of course, I know where he gets this trait from! I am THE HOARDER of the family. I have trouble letting go of sentimental pieces. So, it builds and builds and builds. Everything utterly chaotic and totally irrelevant.
    • Not to forget the third person in the equation (read hubby) who is equally responsible for the propagation of clutter in our home ;). I have difficulty getting rid of old emotional stuff and he can’t stop buying new ones :p New toys come long before the old ones have become old in the real sense of the word (Talk about pampering 😉 sonny!) and so on and so forth.
    • But you don’t realize how much clutter you have built up over the years until the chests and drawers and tables and cupboards are all emptied in your guest bedroom and overflow to your living room hallway for everyone to see, day in and day out.
    • And you realize how useless those things are. They are just sitting there gorging space. They may have been relevant at some point in your past but now you don’t have a need for them and yet, they still exist. And you start asking why?
    • I’d recently de-cluttered my wardrobe and gotten rid of all my pre-pregnancy clothes…all of them, even my most favorite ones! (Because sooner or later, you have to face facts and realize that you are never going to fit them anymore, ever. Lucky are the few who still do!) And the utter feeling of levity and clairvoyance it brought to my senses haven’t left me yet. So seeing that chaotic dump sitting in my house day in and day out for the last few weeks has given me the steely resolve to get rid of Sonny’s old and broken toys, my old books (the bulky and outdated technical ones only. I am still too much in love with all the others to even dare to think that!) and perhaps a few pieces of furniture and kitchen utensils.
  • The Burning House experiment works :
    • This experiment by Foster Huntington asks you to imagine a hypothetical situation where your house in on fire and you have to run out of the building grabbing only a few items on your way out. Which ones would you choose?
    • A variation by Author Erik Cobell clarifies it further by excluding your loved ones, pets etc. (basically all living things) from the equation (they are already outside the house and safe).
    • If you think honestly, the burning house experiment can give you a view of your must-haves from your good-to-haves very clearly. During the renovations, I was able to fit in our necessities, the must-haves into a regular sized laundry basket. Rare was the day when I needed to bring additional things with me to our designated nook of the day. And that was an eye-opener.
    • Hubby and I have been talking about removing the good-to-haves from our house and go minimalistic (not Steve Jobs extreme but close) for a very long time. Back in 2010-11, we took a step towards it, when we gave away the giant bulky sofa set in our living room to an old age home. But then Sonny happened and getting rid of furniture became the last thing on our minds. We still got rid of things from time to time, a couple of extra beds, a few chairs, tables, a fridge and truckloads of clothes and shoes, but it was never a well thought out clearance. And way more things made their way into our home than out, increasing the clutter in the process.
    • The termite infestation has again put our clean living dream in the spotlight. As we look at our bare bedrooms stripped of all belongings, we don’t see the need to fill it with stuff just yet. We are happy enjoying the space.
  • Planning doesn’t always work:
    • I had my travel checklist, shopping checklist and sightseeing checklist all well planned and ready to go. Shopping was almost done, packing was merely a formality of bundling all things into a suitcase. We were ready to go and then the plan went kaput.
    • And it made me realize for the umpteenth time how transient everything could be! Being the anagata-vidhata that I am, I will still continue planning for the future, but I will do it with a pinch of salt. Future is uncertain and it should always be treated as such. One cannot plan for every permutation/combination of the infinite possibilities it beholds, we can only brace ourselves for the ride.
  • Children are resilient: 
    • We don’t give our kids enough credit for their resilience.
    • Here we were annoyed at all the chaos and dust and pollution brought in by the renovations and sonny, who has difficulty sitting still for even one second, was sitting in a tiny corner of the house, coloring in his notebook or glued to his iPad, without complaining. He just seemed to get the seriousness of the situation and the only explanation I’d given him was “They are fixing your room. It will be new.” and he was happy.
  • It’s the everyday small things that count the most:
    • As much as I was disappointed by the fact that sonny’s birthday trip was out of the window, I wanted to make it up to him and asked him what was the one thing he would love to get on his birthday. “My red striker, Ma. It’s missing.” came the reply. (Red striker is actually one of the pegs from his carom board set, it’s been missing since the day we moved the furniture). And that is the one gift sonny wants for his birthday. Not a red car, or a blue bicycle, just that one small red striker. That was the moment I stopped feeling sorry for myself and all that had happened this month and mostly for our canceled trip.

And I have been trying to go with the flow ever since (well it’s not 24 hours yet, but I am trying).

Of course, I could still continue cribbing on and on about our little “misfortune”, but when I think about all the people who have lost their lives to this senseless crime, I just feel terrible to be worried about our little house and my weak back and our little trip. They just feel minuscule and trivial in comparison. I am just grateful that we are okay, vacationing or not is unimportant.

As for sonny’s view to the ocean, it will have to wait for some other time.

But now, I need to get back to my “here and now” and start planning his birthday party which is just around the corner!

To conclude, our month of upheavals has given me a wider perspective on the meaning of life, possessions, and happiness and I intend to implement part of that mindful living going forward, with a dash of optimism and perspicuity, of course.

Before I end this post, here’s a question for you to ponder: When was the last time your life turned topsy-turvy and what did you learn from it? What are the things that you will save from your burning house?

Don’t forget to share your views.

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