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 is the first of a 3-part series about my weight woes. Read Part 2 (Journey from PCOD to Weight Watchers to Gymming Frustrations) here and Part 3 (Journey from Physical Fitness to Mental Fitness) here.

I’ve been overweight since I was a child, and clinically categorized as obese for nearly half my life. I’m still courageously battling my weight issues daily. But does my weight actually bother me? Yes and no.

It may be false, but in my memories, the origin of my weight problems started when the Great Hanshin Earthquake hit Japan in 1995. I was seven years old then, with no idea what an earthquake was… Our apartment building swayed a bit too dangerously for us to stay there, so we moved to a nearby school grounds to live for the next few days. We were homeless and dependent on strangers for food and water. Being a part of a fairly large Indian community, all the families stuck together huddles in blankets (in unusual sub-zero temperatures) on the floor of the school. One of the families, their home relatively safer to get to in order to scavenge edible scraps (I suppose), passed out Choco Pies for us kids to eat – the cream-filled chocolatey goodness that is so popular even today in Japan.

I started going from scrawny and underdeveloped to becoming ‘fat’ after that Choco Pie.

How my obesity problems started with Choco Pie

Ironically apt isn’t it? Because those chocolate Pies were what stopped us from going hungry in a time of crisis. (Not to mention that starvation, hunger, and famine are my most passionate research interests today.) I still eat them Pies whenever I visit Japan. I don’t blame the Choco Pie, just the memory of eating it while in shock and full of fear is seared in my memories… and the fact that I started developing a paunch and getting comments about my weight not long after.

When we moved to the US it just got worse. In fact, with every new move I made, circumstances just got worse and so did my diet. Even though I worked my ass off in PE all through school, and my diet at home was relatively good and healthy (in retrospect) compared to my peers, I still couldn’t stop gaining. I wasn’t actively trying, but I was definitely putting in all the effort I could to be on par with my schoolmates.

Had I been a child of the 21st century, I probably would have been told by a doctor to get on a diet and lose it immediately using xyz methods. Or even pestered by unforgiving contemporary aunties and uncles from the age of ten to stop being a lazy bum. Thankfully, I wasn’t. Well, I might have been, but I don’t recollect it.

Having a weight complex was disguised more subtly back then. I never got sneered at (at least for my weight) in school, coupled with my parents’ conservative style of dressing me in loose comfortable clothing, and my own wish to not reveal my bulges. I got ignored as the quiet mouse I’d been programmed to be (gracias Nippon) by all but my closest friends. No nail polish, no sleeveless shirts, no dresses, no shorts, and no fashion sense. I guess I was a wallflower? I dunno. Either way, I was self-conscious, and worried about being firmly in the overweight category with no idea of how to get to the right shape. So while others probably saw me as having no modern fashion sense, I worried about the body under the clothes. Communication gap anyone? Haha.

When I decided to go to boarding school for my senior year, with every life lesson I gained, I also gained matching kilos because of the horrendous vegetarian options given to us at the cafeteria. And with a small weekly allowance that gave me enough to afford Lays, Pepsi, crackers, Maggie, and the all-important toilet paper  to sustain my livelihood that year, I was definitely off on the wrong foot. If I hadn’t already crossed over into obese territory before, I definitely crossed it by my high school graduation. But at least I had a fantastic and memorable year in the hills of South India!

Then came college. Thankfully there was no cafeteria program in the UK – you had to fend for yourself. But, being the stingy and money-pinching girl I was, plus the fact that I had actively avoided learning how to cook up to that point, the price of fresh produce made me freeze in fear. I probably lived off of MTR packets that had been couriered to me from my parents for the first half of my freshman year. At least until I found friends who would cook for me. Not out of pity, but out of friendship.

With college came passion for knowledge and academia, freedom and independence, and the joys of dating, and lifelong friendships. Haven’t we all heard of newlyweds gaining rapid weight from happiness? Yeah, that completely happened to me … minus the whole newlyweds thing. I think I came back home that first summer break having gained 10 kilos. But when my friends and romantic interests loved me unconditionally exactly the way I was, giving me daily confidence-boosts about my abilities and capabilities, why would the weight problem I’d always struggled with bother me?

So when I was finally diagnosed with PCOD (Polycystic Ovary Disease) back in 2007 (after years of suffering from menstrual irregularities), I had already begun the transformation from timid self-conscious teenager to the woman who had miles more body confidence and embraced her frumpy and rather unfashionista style. The PCOD also confirmed 2 things:   (1) it wasn’t my fault; and (2) there were people who liked and respected me no matter my body shape and size. Of course the doctors who diagnosed me and who I consulted with would disagree, even telling me that I should stop studying to lose weight if I said I didn’t have the time (and in what universe would that have worked!). But then the question would become more moral wouldn’t it – stop following your dreams and passions in exchange for a slimmer me? It didn’t seem justified back then somehow…

…the story of my weight journey continues in Part 2 (Journey from PCOD to Weight Watchers to Gymming Frustrations) and Part 3 (Journey from Physical Fitness to Mental Fitness)! Until then, stay plump and happy! 😀