A Comedy of (Slight) Errors

November 4, 2017

I’m late with my posts but hey, as long as it’s in chronological order who cares right?! right.

I have a funny story to recount from my day! This anecdote stars my SuperMom and me in a random, comical confusion of sorts.

MORAL OF THE DAY: Misunderstandings can never be blamed on one person. A communication gap is a lot like clapping. Both sides need to put in equal and opposite effort for the desired result. In fact, the person who talks needs to be very clear, making sure their thoughts are being formed into words, while the person listening also needs to consciously hear without putting their own interpretation into it. A gap grows when a speaker cannot put his or her ideas into words, and a listener cannot understand what he or she hears.

Since I started this Maun, I’ve been relying on hand signals and my version of sign language to communicate with my family. [Actually, only SuperMom can understand what I’m trying to get across, and she has to translate for my dad and everyone else, who just frown and give me blank stares. Let’s hope they get better at playing Dumb Charades or decipher my coded signs before the month ends!]

Anyway, this morning marked my mom and my first epic fail….. Thankfully, the misunderstanding was nothing serious, just funny from my point of view. As I was leaving the house to soak up my daily dose of Vitamin D this morning, I signalled SuperMom the following:

What I mimed:

SAY — HIM — I (my) — BATHROOM — NO — I — SHOWER — LATER

She nodded her understanding, and I left. (Normally SuperMom verbally repeats what I’ve mimed to her so that I can confirm she understood correctly, but this time we somehow forgot that step.) So, what did my hand signals mean? Well, isn’t it obvious – I said “tell him (the cleaning guy) to not do my bathroom because I’m going to shower when I get back.”

I soon returned, covered in beads of sweat and wanting to jump straight into a cold shower. Only… it was being cleaned. Did SuperMom forget to give the cleaner my message? I went in search of SuperMom to find out what happened. That’s when I realized my sign language got lost somewhere in translation.

Bottom line, SuperMom interpreted my signals to mean:

What she (mis)understood:

‘tell him to clean my bathroom because I’m not going to shower today.’

Ummm…. oops? Honest misinterpretation right?? Funnily enough, the slight difference between what I said, and what she (mis)heard, is a completely understandable situation.

Had I originally mimed what she thought I mimed, then my hand movements would have looked more like this: “SAY — HIM — CLEAN — I (my) — BATHROOM — (pause) — I — NO — SHOWER — NOW.”

Not much difference right?! The difference in meaning is so minuscule, that it could easily have happened between two speaking voices anywhere. Thus, Day 2 of my vow of silence began with this comedic exchange.

Until next time,

Ciao!

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Hello there!

Exciting news! I’ve decided (on a bit of a whim) to take a vow of silence (also called Maun Vrat) for the month of November. Depending on how I get on after 30 days, I might extend my vow! I’m hoping to document some of my insights from my journey here on the blog too, so keep checking back for more!

Since my mind is exhausted and now blank after a full day of introspection, relaxation, and settling into a new routine, I’ll just get down to some basic Q&A for today.

Enjoy!~

What’s a vow of silence?

A vow of silence is when you commit to not using your voice for a set period of time. Whether it’s an hour or a lifetime of silence, you can make up your rules. Vows of silence can be private (silent vacations, silent retreats) or public (while going about your daily routine). A vow of silence can be undertaken for religious, spiritual, and even political reasons. It is also known as Maun Vrat (Mauna Vrata in Sanskrit) or simply Maun (meaning silence) in many Indian religious traditions.

My explanation is rather elementary, simply because there are so many ways to undertake a vow of silence. In terms of complexity and variety, there is a lot left unsaid still, but I’ll leave it at that for now.

So what kind of Maun are you doing?

Glad you asked. I have previous experience with religious (Jain) Maun Vrats, but decided to take a public, non-religious, and more spiritual vow that does not focus on not speaking or talking at all, but rather targets increased awareness and presence of mind. Therefore, I’ve given myself the freedom to communicate in any way I see fit as long as it doesn’t use my vocal cords.

In the past, my religious Maun Vrats have meant I abstain from any form of communication with others. No making noises, sign language, hand gestures, facial expressions, and no writing/reading/singing/talking. This means practitioners cannot use cell phones, and technically, cannot write, read, or type. This cuts a person off from the rest of the world because sending emails, writing journals, making blog posts, sending texts, and attending to social media are all distractions from looking inwards to hear your inner voice and meditate upon your thoughts and consciousness.

While I enjoy these religious experiences a lot, what I want for myself right now, in 2017, cannot be fulfilled under the Jain guidelines for vows of silence. Instead, I’m interested in noting down the thoughts I have while I’m having them, and making this experience about learning to listen, increase one’s spiritual awareness, and be more in-tune with myself and who I am and who I want to be.

When do you start?

Actually, I started at the stroke of midnight on November 1st (Indian standard time). So today was my first day on my vow!

How did Day 1 go?

Surprisingly well. I put a lot of pressure on myself to prepare for this month on Halloween – that would be yesterday. I notified friends, family, co-workers, and people I communicate with on a daily basis. I also sat down and tried to hash out the terms and conditions I’ll be following while I’m on my Maun Vrat. Made good headway today, but definitely hoped not talking would save me energy, and that I could use that surplus elsewhere.

Any new insights you’d like to share?

I’ve been thinking and note-taking a bunch of points in my little notebook today. But I have made one important, and insightful decision today.

THIS VOW IS ALREADY A SUCCESS, WITH NO CHANCE OF FAILURE. WHATEVER HAPPENS, I WILL NOT FEEL GUILTY OR BLAME MYSELF FOR ‘NOT DOING ENOUGH.’

Taking this decision automatically made me feel happier, more relaxed, and put my mind at ease. I’m a master of self-deprecating humour, and more often than not, find myself the butt of most of my own jokes (where others will laugh at my expense). Alongside this, I also have unrealistic expectations of myself, which I can rarely ever live up to.

I’m a recovering perfectionist with the tendency to be overly critical of my own merits or successes. By choosing to not feel guilty, or be too hard on myself, during my whole Maun Vrat was both liberating and enlightening. May it propel me forward to strengthen my skills and convince me of my talents.

So how long is your vow of silence?

Because my decision to do the vow of silence was only decided one day in advance, I haven’t fixed on a length or duration for my vow. It will be anywhere in the vicinity of one month, going up to 12 months. But to play it safe right now, let’s say my vow of silence will be for the month of November 🙂

Why 30 days? and why now?

Well, as soon as we enter October and approach November, I always get a bit anxious. Somehow, this NaNoWriMo phenomenon makes me think of the month of November as a sort of free-for-all Lent (where I need to make a resolution and stick to it). With such strong feelings associated with the eleventh month of the year, I decided November first as initial day.

I could have waited to start on new year’s day or any other important day I wanted, but the only thing going through my head was…. why wait? If you know you’re going to do it anyway, then why waste time. Just jump right in. And so I have!

– – – – – – – – – – – – – –

(Some Afterthoughts)

Wow, it’s been ages since I wrote my last blog post! But here I am, and I did it. I’m not going to make any excuses or apologize for my absence.  I’m relieved to say my health and mood are much better now. But what does my mood have to do with blogging, you may wonder? Well, I’ve noticed that I tend to write and blog under three conditions:

[1.] when I’m under loads of stress,
[2] when I commit myself to doing a challenge, or
[3.] when I’m feeling particularly depressed/angry and need to get it off my chest.

So what does this mean? It means that when I’m happy, content, and feeling calm, it never crosses my mind to write anything. This is why I’m gonna keep this journey guilt-free and not challenge myself to post x times a week during this personal time.

Peace out everyone!

**This may not be the best argument for why someone should be a vegetarian, but I struggled a lot in my teenage years to try to persuade others to follow this exact argument… fond memories… This is my attempt at writing persuasively**

Are any of you vegetarian?  There are many different kinds of vegetarians but in general it is the practice of being an herbivore and not eating meat, poultry, and fish.  Why would you become one?  Well, there are many reasons.  It may be a requirement of your religion, or you may just hate the taste of meat.  Also, you might be against the horrifying injustices and cruelties animals suffer in slaughterhouses, or just want to lead a healthier lifestyle.  The three main types of vegetarians are lacto-ovo-vegetarians, who eat eggs and dairy products, lacto-vegetarians, who use dairy products but not eggs, and vegans, who consume neither.

Milk and other dairy products are not used by vegans because they believe that it is only meant for calves.  We are the first species to drink milk after our weaning years and the first to drink the milk of other animals as well.  Also, eggs are not alway considered vegetarian because they are the hen’s offspring and the product of their sexual organ.  Also, the size of the egg grows as time passes.  Therefore, they are impure and not completely lifeless.

I am a lacto-vegetarian.  Since the time I was born, I was brought up to follow this diet because of my religion, Jainism.  As ahimsa, non-violence is one of the most important Jain principles and way of life, being a vegetarian is a way of minimizing the amount of violence and pain I give to other living creatures.  Other Jains who are very pious, are much stricter than myself and don’t eat tuber-roots, which are vegetables grown underground.  The reason is that vegetables, such as carrots and potatoes, are the home of many tiny organisms.  So, by digging up these vegetables, the lives of many creatures can be in danger.

Being an herbivore doesn’t mean I don’t harm anyone.  Science has proven that vegetables and fruits are one-sensed organisms.  They have the sense of touch.  However, there is less violence involved in plucking a fruit rather than killing a chicken.  Trees are living beings as well.  Scientists have been able to hook up cardiographs to them, which show their heartbeat.  They are very sensitive and their graph goes wild when someone comes to cut them or their friends down!

Did you know that many famous people are either vegans or vegetarians?   This includes Drew Barrymore, Michael J. Fox, Brooke Shields, Brad Pitt, Ricki Lake, Leonardo da Vinci, Louisa May Alcott, and Mark Twain among many others.  All of theses individuals probably realized that by eating meat they would become murderers.  In other words, by being a non-vegetarian, it would be like you were killing and eating your own ancestors, which is the not too different from cannibalism.

There are many advantages of practicing vegetarianism.  People have less pesticides, fats, and cholesterol, and at the same time, are less likely to have a heart attack, cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes, gallbladder disease, hypertension or any other illness.  Their bodies retain fewer antibiotics, fossil fuels, and toxic chemical residues, and they have a very small chance of receiving a bacterial infection such as E. coli.

Vegetarians get their calcium, protein, iron, and vitamins from different vegetables, leafy greens, beans, cereal, nuts, fruits, juices, bread, and about fifteen minutes in the sun each day.  The proper food promotes their physical and psychological health.  Meat has more proteins than the daily need but an excess amount of meat protein creates unnecessary uric acid, which is a breeder of several diseases.

Becoming a vegetarian is the first step in lowering the violence done onto animals.  A total number of about seven billion animals are slaughtered each year in the United States alone. SEVEN BILLION ANIMALS ARE SLAUGHTERED EACH YEAR!  That’s about 500,000 animals killed each hour!  Animals raised primarily for the production of food are not capable of having natural sexual, social, hygienic, and parental behavior.  They are in excruciating pain from they time that they are born and taken away from their mother to the time they are taken to the slaughter house.  R. M. Dolgin once said, “Anything that can feel pain should not be put to pain.”

Individuals who consume meat, dairy, and egg can cause many sicknesses including: strokes, heart attacks, kidney stones, breast cancer, colon cancer, ovarian cancer, cervical cancer, prostate cancer, and stomach cancer among others.  Vegans have a four percent risk of death from a heart attack compared to fifty percent risk for meat eaters.  Also, the intake of cow’s milk is linked to dysfunctions of the thyroid gland, osteoporosis, headaches, and even Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, Lou Gehrig’s disease, and Multiple Sclerosis.

It is imperative that everyone become a vegetarian in the near future for the sake of the environment, for animal rights, and for health purposes.  Being a vegan or vegetarian will significantly increase the lifespan of human beings and help them have a more tension free life.  They will be able to save the lives of about 100 million people who would have starved to death as a result of malnutrition and at the same time decrease the amount of pollution in rivers and streams.  Vegetarianism will help make the world a better, happier place where all beings will be treated as equals and animals will have their own rights.  As Leonardo da Vinci said, “The time will come when men will look on the murder of animals as they now look on the murder of men.”

elevator-up-button-1024x440Using the elevator isn’t as easy as it sounds. Elevator logic and etiquette are actually rather complex and forever changing, and you suddenly realize (if you’re anything like me) that a day doesn’t go by when you’re not annoyed at somebody’s behavior or mannerisms while riding the elevator that day. It’s not like lifts have directions or a how to manual that everyone is required to read. Neither does it have visual diagrams that illiterate people can use to understand how to use this machinery. On top of that, using an elevator is not taught at primary school as an essential life skill, unfortunately.

I’ve really gotten used to the non-uniformity in elevator practices among riders, but it hasn’t escaped my critical eye. I feel like today’s blog post has been waiting to be written for about 10 years now. Well, at least I finally got around to it!

I feel like its commonplace for myself and other people to make occasional mistakes while riding an elevator and getting embarrassed over our actions. However, I believed these mistakes were a rare occurrence while I was growing up. But when I moved to India, the ratio of clueless elevator riders seems to exponentially increase. (Is this why buildings still have a liftwala to guide you?) Unfortunately, since I’ve been living in India, the error in people’s thinking and ways is all-too-evident to see.  Whether it is getting on the lift without paying attention to the direction it is going in, forgetting to press the button for which floor you’re intending to get to, or not pressing the appropriate ‘up’ or ‘down’ key when calling the elevator to you, elevators are contraptions used to serve knowledgeable and ignorant folks alike.

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So let me just cut to the chase –  it doesn’t matter where the lift is at that point in time, whether you press the ‘up’ or ‘down’ button is very straightforward. If you would like the elevator to take you up to a higher floor – press the ‘up’ arrow. Even if the elevator is already on a higher floor and needs to come down to get you, you simply need to press the direction button for where you want to go. The elevator doesn’t need to be told how to act, you need to feed it information on where you want to go and it’s up to the machine to figure out how to do it. And if you want the elevator to take you down to a lower floor – press the ‘down’ arrow. Regardless of whether it is already on a lower floor and needs to come up to pick you up and take you back down, you simply inform the lift through the ‘down’ button that you’re destination is below you’re current location.

Related Sites:

How to Operate an Elevator and Make the World a Better Place (disorganisationguru.com)
How to Use an Elevator (katyjane.wordpress.com)
Nudging to choose elevator arrows correctly (mostlyeconomics.wordpress.com)
Going up in the world? Why where you stand in the lift reflects your social status (www.dailymail.co.uk)
How to use an elevator… this is silly but plz help? (in.answers.yahoo.com)
How to Ride an Elevator (www.wikihow.com)

The one biggest piece of advice I can give you is to get into the habit of treating yourself when you feel stressed out! We often forget ourselves in our busy routines, and this is your body’s way of saying that it needs care and pampering too!

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Everyone has days or moments in their day when they just want to throw their hands up and just stop everything because life’s getting a tad too stressful. Or you are so mentally burdened it’s time to force relaxation. Either way, the usual tips given – to eat healthy, sleep enough, exercise regularly, meditate, and take time out for yourself – can all start to seem like a chore when you’ve reached your breaking point.

Either way, give yourself at least an hour or to relax and calm down. Over the years, I’ve come up with my own toolbox of things I can do to give myself an enforced time-out. Everyone’s toolbox will be a bit different, as it depends on what you consider work and play – for example, walking doesn’t help me clear my head so I don’t do it!


The following Top 10 quick pick-me-ups are quite helpful stress busters. Make your own Top 10 activities toolbox that can be your go-to whenever the next stress bomb hits too!

1) Take a Hot Shower

Other people walk to clear their heads, I shower. There is something about standing under a hot jet stream of water that dissolves all my stress. I’ve had days when I take 3-4 showers a day just to wipe my mind blank!

2) Take a Nap

I’ve been doing this for as long as I can remember. Especially when I’m trying to write a 5000 word essay the night before my assignments due (procrastination queen) or after big fights or particularly bad depressive episodes. As long as you’re not an insomniac, and even if you’ve had enough sleep during the night, just turn the lights off, snuggle under your covers, and close your eyes. I find these naps refreshing and the pressures of the day don’t look so scary when I  open my eyes again.

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3) Get a Haircut

I’ve mentioned this in yesterday’s post as well, but going and getting a haircut or highlights  is a great stress buster. You can’t do this activity too often as it can become a very expensive endeavor (plus you only have a certain amount of hair to play with), but I’ve been known to use this method about 2 to 3 times a year.

4) Do a Color-by-Numbers

The mechanical and rote action involved in coloring needs your full attention and it stops you from thinking about other things. I see it as a form of active meditation. I learned to do this from my friend in Chicago. We’d have coloring parties when the tension of being grad students was crushing us!

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5) Watch a Movie

I go to the cinema (or nearby discount theater) to watch my movies but you can just as easily watch them at home too! Just make sure it’s not a heavy and serious film. I get wrapped up in watching and it takes my mind off….well, me. Sappy tearjerkers are a bonus.

6) Get a Face Massage

Massage-lovers will love this one! Any kind of massage is good because they are such a treat, but I’ve found that the following areas often feel the best when I’m particularly stressed out: face, head, arms, and hands. Do it yourself, find a professional, or teach your spouse/partner!

7) Do a Jigsaw Puzzle

For jigsaw puzzle enthusiasts like myself, I’d definitely recommend this method of relieving stress. I have one or two easy puzzles in my house that I love to make when I’m stressed. I made sure they’re small enough that I can complete them in one sitting (my beach puzzle is 500 pieces and takes me 2 hours flat to complete). I never choose a puzzle I’ve never done before, it’s in the ‘familiar’ that relief and comfort lies. Again, it has to do with making the movement as rote and mechanical as possible to produce the effects of meditation. If I’m still not completely de-stressed by the time I finish, it’s not uncommon for me to disassemble the puzzle and start over again. Sometimes I’ll feel better even if the puzzle’s not complete, and I just put it back into the box ready for another ‘rainy day’.

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8) Have a Cry

Again, I’ve used this therapeutic tactic for as long as I can remember. When things get overwhelming, just have a cry and you tend to feel better afterwards. If you’re having trouble crying to the point of relief, can I suggest looking at your red, blotchy face in the mirror – it’s bound to bring on a fresh wave of tears!

9) Eat a Take-Away Meal

Delivery doesn’t do it for me because it involves interacting with the delivery guy/gal too long. Instead, I walk to a nearby restaurant that serves yummy food, order, pay, get some other nibbles at the corner grocery store, pick up the food, and head straight home. You don’t have to worry about cooking, and eating great food can be your treat for feeling so stressed.

10) Text your Friends

Sometimes it’s nice to talk to friends and partners face to face too (they are natural pick-me-ups), but that can seem like too much work at times. Sometimes you just want to scream or punch a pillow and aren’t ready to talk about it yet. A simple, one-sided text full of frustration and angst is enough to make me feel better. Even if they don’t reply for a few hours, just sending it seems to soften the ball of stress within me. I have a handful of friends who I will write to, at any time of day or night (and always out of the blue), with a short burst of “I’m going crazy!” or “why is life so hard :'(” or something similar. They have come to expect it from time to time, and send their own versions of similar outbursts when they are feeling overwhelmed as well. There is no need for explanation. If you don’t do this already, get into the habit! And honestly – that’s what friends are for!

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