Your own small place under the sun

I’ve loved the short story “What’s your dream?” by Ruskin Bond since the first time I read it.

An old man, a beggar man, bent double, with a flowing white beard and piercing grey eyes, stopped on the road on the other side of the garden wall and looked up at me, where I perched on the branch of a litchi tree.

‘What’s your dream?’ he asked.

The boy tries not to answer but the beggar persists.

‘A dream, my boy, is what you want most in life. Isn’t there something you want more than anything else ?’

‘Yes,’ I said promptly. ‘A room of my own.’

The beggar understands.

‘I see. What you really want is freedom. Your own tree, your own room, your own small place under the sun.’

‘Yes, that’s all.’

‘That’s all? That’s everything! When you have all that, you’ll have found your dream.’

That’s my dream as well. I want a room of my own. Not a physical room – although that would be nice – but a space under the sun and in my mind that’s all my own. I want the space to be with myself – like taking myself on a date. I want to make myself feel special – make myself laugh. I want to be my own best friend.

As I grow older, this need for space becomes more important and it manifests in a thousand different ways. The precise way in which I arrange the kitchen. A locked phone and the jealousy with which I guard even forwarded WhatsApp messages. A notebook I carry around to scribble in – and I record work, new home projects and personal thoughts in the same book because they’re all equally private to me. The need to work in a corner of the office with my earphones plugged in when I’m really working (as opposed to writing status updates and doing other process stuff). I need my space all the time.

Am I on my way to becoming a recluse? I don’t think so. You see, while I do need my space, I can so easily overdose on it. A rich inner life and the space to dream are all worthwhile but without a way to connect back with the outer world they’re meaningless. This space I’m looking for has more to do with being a sensitive person than with disliking the outer world. Think of it as a tortoise’s shell. If you’re a co-introvert or a fellow sensitive, you probably understand what I’m talking about. Everything from the third hand smoke from the guy sitting three desks down to the erratic whir of the coffee machine has the potential to drive one nuts. Sometimes, the only way to deal is to escape.

There are so many ways to escape. You can escape physically by going home or going out for a walk. Sometimes you can escape into your work. Other times you dive into a book or into a world of your own creation. Sometimes the escape is another person – a spouse, a friend, a lover (or all of them rolled in one). It can’t always be the same space each time. But it’s always, always a space that’s safe. Your own place under the sun where you are free to be who you’d like to be.



ps: the story is copyrighted but I was able to find it here. Just open the pdf and search for “Bond”.

pps: I’ll just leave this quote hanging here:

“Some of us are born sensitive. And if, on top of that, we are pulled about in different directions (both emotionally and physically), we might just end up becoming writers.”
Ruskin Bond

Introversion and stay-home parenting

 Picked for the week of 24th March 🙂

I’ve always known I’m not really stay-home mom material and this vacation is just reinforcing that. Let’s pretend I put in all the standard disclaimers about loving my baby, etc, etc and get to the juicy stuff, shall we?

Staying home with a curious toddler all day is the equivalent of having a conversation that never, ever ends. Or even pauses for breath and a snack. Here’s a sample conversation when we were reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar for the 763,897th time*:

Source: Wikipedia

Chotu: Where is the caterpillar?
Amma: The caterpillar became a butterfly
C: How?
A: It made itself a little house and turned into a butterfly
C: Why a butterfly?
A: That’s what happens when a caterpillar grows up… Babies become boys and girls then men and women. Caterpillars become butterflies.
C: Who makes caterpillars?
A: A caterpillar comes from the egg
C: (thankfully doesn’t mention where eggs come from) Who makes the butterfly?
A: God makes the butterfly**.
C: What does God make?
A: God makes everyone. People, butterflies, doggies, cats, everything
C: Who makes steam engines?
A: Erm, people make steam engines
C: Why? Why not God? What if God? (totally lacking the vocabulary to express himself but making do with emotion)

Two thoughts that keep going through my head: How amazing is it that this little person can learn so much without getting exhausted? There should be some sort of cheat sheet to answering these questions. How am I even qualified to be answering these questions?

I’m completely exhausted by the time Chotu lunches and settles for a nap. I need to watch 4 episodes of 2 Broke Girls back to back before I can even get to Seinfeld. And then I need a few episodes of Seinfeld before I can function again and get a few chores done. By the time I’m done with my chores and ready to really relax, Chotu is up and it begins all over again. Introverts are not wired for such levels of intensive conversation with anyone. Even my lunches with friends end in shopping, silence, and small talk after an hour or two of extreme conversation.

So what does this mean? Am I a bad mother because I don’t have what it takes to spend 8-10 hours alone with my son each day while his dad is in office? That’s what everyone would have you believe but let’s be honest. We all know how much real work happens in an office.

How can a parent be expected to do so much more uncomplainingly? Not only does a stay-home mom have to be present for her child(ren) the entire day, there are other things to be done. Laundry, cooking, general tidying up, other chores, you know, the entire logistics of living don’t come to a standstill just because you have kids. Anyhow, I digress. That’s a different soapbox altogether.

The point I’m trying to make is that… I don’t know what point I’m trying to make. No, wait. Here it is. There’s nothing wrong with being a mother who needs a break from her kid(s) during the day. Not being able to do it all alone is not a sign of bad parenting. It’s a sign of honest parenting. We all have very finite resources and… No, that might not be the lesson. It remember it was something catchier.

Let me try again. Parents need to support each other the way The Goddess and her Hero do. The Hero makes sure I get some down time when I need it and last weekend I handled everything but Chotu-care. All men should learn from The Hero… No, that’s not it either.

This is the lesson: kids need school and play-groups. Only qualified professionals and other tiny human beings can keep toddlers occupied without going insane. Now I remember, this is the lesson:

A pox on all viral infections**!

If you’d like to read another introvert-mom’s perspective read the last post by noob mommy.

* The Hero prefers to take the genes activating approach. Peh, geek!
** We’re keeping Chotu away from school as a preventive measure because a particularly nasty viral seems to be going around there