Don’t ask me…please don’t!

I brace myself for ice breakers in meetings. The worst of them is “tell us your strengths”. What are you good at? My mind goes blank. I hear others come up with wonderful strengths but my brain freezes. The only thing that surfaces is reading. I read a lot. But I don’t read informative non fiction. I read books that appeal to me. Stories appeal to me so that is what I read.

After some thinking, I stammered, “I have been told I ask good questions and I listen.” Another friend in the meeting chimed in, “You ask outstanding question.” She comes to my book clubs so her compliment was wonderful. I was relieved when I could pass the mike to another participant in the meeting.

I was complaining to my daughter that I can not think of my strengths when asked and I hate ice breakers. She asked me what I said. And then advised, “Mom, don’t start the sentence by saying you have been told that you are good at something. Own your strengths. Tell them you are a good listener. End of sentence.”

I said she was right. Why am I so wishy washy when it comes to saying my strengths out loud? I blame my upbringing. I always blame my upbringing when something goes wrong. Don’t you? 🤣🤣

Don’t sing your own praise, let the world tell you you are good – this mantra was ingrained in me since I can remember. Be humble. I take humility seriously. Too seriously, as I find out these days.

I asked my son, “I stumble when I am asked about my strengths. I never know what to say.”

He kept it simple. “Tell them you are a great mother.”

“Thank you. But how does that relate to my work?”

“What are you talking about? Great mothers are great leaders.”

This blog is not about you all (those of you know me) telling me my strengths. Nor am I fishing for compliments. I actually quite like myself. My strengths are kindness, being available, empathy. I am indeed a good listener. People feel comfortable talking to me and I do ask good questions. See, I can write them all down. I can not articulate them when asked.


Do I want them or not?

As I did a puja for my parents after their death, the priest explained that I am releasing them from the worries of this world. As a daughter, I am telling their soul that their watch (over me) has ended, the priest explained. Go in peace, I told them as their souls supposedly merged with water. We come from water and we become one with water when the soul leaves the vessel, our body. Whether that is true or not I don’t know but the idea is beautiful. After a lifetime of watching over me, they were released from the responsibility. It will be 2 years in May. I truly spend my every morning with them before I begin my day. When they were alive, my day began with either a message with them or a phone call. A quick message or a quick phone call, but some connection nonetheless. Even today, my days begin with a connection with them. A silent communication or remembrance but a connection nonetheless.

People say they will always watch over you. Or they are blessing you and loving you from far. While I want their blessing and love throughout my lifetime, I don’t want them watching over me. I want them to be free of me. I don’t want them to witness my grief. I don’t want them to see the hollowness or the eyes that remain sad no matter how much I try. Parents don’t live forever, that is the absolute truth. No one lives for ever. More than the deaths, it was the cruelty of it. It was how they went. I could not be there. I did not even know where their bodies were taken to be cremated. They did not receive the last rites. They, along with thousand other Covid patients in India, were deprived of the honor that the dead receive. I am devastated about their death and I am devasted how it happened. The question ‘why’ that I often ask the universe is not necessarily why they died. We will all die. The ‘why’ is more for the way they were taken, without the comfort of them knowing I was with them.

Anyway, I digress. I was saying that I don’t want them watching over me because they should be free now. But when their grandkids achieve something, my first thought is how proud they would have been. I hope, then, that they are watching and beaming like they used to. Sahana graduated from college right after their death. Ryan learnt to drive, Sahana got jobs, she bought a car, Ryan became captain, he got into college. After each achievement I said to them, “Are you watching? Do you see that your grandkids are growing up? Since they were born, you two lived for them. You cherished each phone call, each laughter, each joke. When they came to visit, you bought all the toys from the toy store and all the books from the book store. Do you see how they are growing up and becoming decent human beings? You would have been proud of them. You would pick up the phone and announce to the entire extended family in Kolkata how great your two grandkids are. You would tell your friends and post on your social media. You would shout from the rooftop.”

I don’t want them to be witnesses of my sorrow. I want them to be free from that. I do, however, want them watching their grandchildren as they grow. I don’t want them to miss out on this joy. I feel like they missed out being part of the lives of their most loved people. So I am in two minds – do I want their watch to end or do I want them to watch over us?