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Other than greying hair, some wrinkles, and ever more frequent visits to the doctor, aging is a beautiful process. It feels like I am peeling through the layers of an onion; each layer is juicier but the onion keeps shrinking.

Blowing candles and cutting cake with family and friends felt embarrassing when I was a kid and it still feels the same. I loved and still love receiving birthday gifts. My mom is still the best cook and dad always gives the best advice, sleep is most peaceful and sound when it’s time to wake up. I am always running late for morning meetings at work, I still get overwhelmed and anxious easily, I still cringe when I am around superstitious people, my love for watching movies and reading books has only grown, and I still behave like a 4-year old when my parents are around.

Bidding adieu to four decades is not easy but growing up has its perks. I am much more comfortable in my own skin. I don’t look in the mirror 100 times a day. I don’t have lofty goals and if I sail through a day without making a fuss about the daily grind, it’s an accomplishment

First Decade

I remember few things from the first decade of my life. Like any other kid, I was imaginative, curious and playful. I always needed a best friend. And I got into trouble for trying to make more than one at a time. Having a backup did not work. As I grew  older, I remember questioning everything that didn’t make sense to me like organized religion and rituals, superstitions, blind faith, and gender bias. Soon I realized that some rules are not worth following – but it can be equally difficult to break them. I am grateful to my parents for their liberal outlook in the way they raised me  My eager questioning was never questioned by them. I didn’t get all the answers then, but when answers came, they made me a little less wrong about life.

Adolescence (12-20)

A phase when I was not quite ready to say goodbye to the little kid in me but inherently biology was forcing me to embrace the new “me.” Shifting  between these two identities, I navigated through my teen years. Until then, my parents had made decisions for me, but now I was adopted by more controlling parents called hormones. Life seemed to be running on steroids.

I soon realized that this pleasantness didn’t last for long. Life kept marching on, and I felt as if I had been blindfolded all along, till unpleasantness crept in to teach me valuable life lessons.

  Early Adulthood (20-35)

  1. Educational institutions could teach  me facts and formulas. But none taught me how to think. I learnt that on my own.
  2. You can get immediate attention by looking good, but to make a lasting impression I needed to do something worthy of praise.
  3. Asking the right questions was as important as giving the right answers.
  4. When I paid too much attention to the details, I tended to miss the big picture.
  5. Always better to listen more. Talk less. Anyways, people around you are too busy to listen!
  6. I admired beauty, envied intelligence, and I didn’t know how it would feel to meet a genius. You can be beautiful, intelligent, or a genius, but people will gravitate towards you if you are humble – this I realized.
  7. I wondered if our dreams served as a window to reality (beyond time and space) and the reality that we woke up to was but a dream previously!
  8. I didn’t have big dreams, I just wanted to experience flying business class. I wondered if people felt turbulence differently there.
  9. Sometimes we keep doing things we are good at without getting any better. Is being good at something good enough? I think when we are not excelling, we stagnate and that’s when it ceases to be good enough.
  10. “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” – I knew. Doses of laughter are even better and cost less than an apple, I realized!
  11. Happiness is elusive. Our quest for it has complicated it even more. When we stop chasing it, it appears in unexpected nooks and crannies. It’s probably chasing us even as we are busy chasing it.
  12. Emotional intelligence is a better predictor of a happy and fulfilling life. And you need more than an average IQ to understand the truth of this statement.

Work

  1. Money can’t buy happiness, but it does help pay your bills. So don’t leave your job just to follow your heart unless you have inherited wealth, won a lottery, or have a rich “supportive” partner.
  2. The work that you do for your living is very important. Take pride in that.
  3. The benchmark of success is contentment.
  4. If your success has made you arrogant, you have stopped learning.
  5. Programming is fun until you stop getting it.

Relationships

  1. Ego is the deal breaker in any relationship. Forgiveness is the antidote.
  2. When a discussion leads to an argument, bail out for your sanity. A bruised ego is like a wounded lion – it always wants to win and when ego wins, you lose.
  3. Don’t expect people to respond to certain situations the way you do. You can’t teach people how to behave but you can learn to be more tolerant of others’ views and opinions.
  4. Anger can make the prettiest people look ugly.
  5. People will take you for granted only if you let them.
  6. Positivity is infectious and so is negativity. So choose your company wisely.
  7. I have heard that marriage is an institution. I defer. I think that marriage is like running an institution as it’s a lot of hard work. Another cliché about marriage: “Marriages are made in heaven” by God. If the institution of marriage ever became redundant in the future, God will sure get a nice break from this business of match making.
  8. Your husband and dad are not identical twins. They have inherited different genes so stop comparing apples and oranges.
  9. Motherhood is fun and tiring at the same time.
  10. Don’t try to be a perfect parent. Be an interesting one. If you are smart, kids are smarter. If you have learnt from your mistakes, they will too. Let them do their own mistakes.
  11. How many of you know that November 3rd is celebrated as National Housewife day? Like housewives, even National Housewife day is ignored.
  12. Remain invested in your family the most. They are the ones we come home to.
  13. Communicating well (both at work and at home) is an art. Sometimes our intentions are good, but they don’t translate well and we end up hurting people. Sometimes our fear of hurting others prevents us from communicating altogether. And we end up hurting ourselves. It’s only fair when we are kind to others and also to ourselves.

Midlife (35 and after)

When we are young, we all strive to do something extraordinary. Who aspires to having an ordinary life? Tired and jaded, I knocked on the door of midlife. In my quest for the extraordinary, I overlooked the ordinary things right under my nose. When I paid attention to those, I realized that the power that lies in enjoying mundane and ordinary things is beyond ordinary. Time has come to nourish my body, mind and soul and set my priorities straight and this will set the tone for the rest of my life.

Health

  1. Being pain free holds no meaning if you haven’t felt pain.To appreciate being free of pain, experiencing pain is an essential prerequisite. Dualities exist in our lives for a reason. Good appears good only because bad exists. It’s all relative.
  2. Being alone can be rejuvenating but being lonely is unhealthy. You are alone in your own company but lonely when you have abandoned yourself. That’s when we have to deal with the uninvited demons of anxiety and depression.
  3. We all need a friend we can call at 3 a.m. and this becomes even more important as we get older. We need one person (who does not share our DNA) in front of whom we can pour our hearts out. Its cathartic. So if you don’t have one, go find one because therapists are pretty expensive.
  4. Don’t google your symptoms. Self diagnosing and imagining the worst possible outcome is more lethal than the actual sickness.

 

I had a plan A in mind, and life kept moving on Plan B. Plan A was always perfect, but Plan B was always right as it took me where I was supposed to be (Can I complain that my heart is not beating on the right side?). This is the time when all the drama and noise in our lives starts to settle. For only in silence can we hear what life is trying to whisper to us. We learn the most important lesson: acceptance. And this is when the real transformation begins:

Spirituality

  1. Science is fun, spirituality is liberating. Life has a subtle way of teaching. If we are not aware, we miss opportunities to learn and grow. The more you learn, the more aware you become of your unawareness. And this revelation is humbling. It keeps you grounded.
  2. Don’t question peoples’ beliefs. They are ready to fight for it. They forget the very purpose of their beliefs.
  3. Whether you believe in God is a wrong question to ask. It needs to be rephrased. Because God is someone to know, understand, and feel. When it comes to faith, you cannot exchange notes. We all have to find our own path and live our own Truth.
  4. We live in a self-created bubble. We realize its vanity when it bursts, and we get to see life’s expanse and our delusions.
  5. The language of music seems to be closest to the language of the divine. And since I am not a musician or singer, I listen to it just to get a little taste of divinity.
  6. There is a difference between what seems right and what feels right. Go with the latter.

During my childhood, I had my nose pressed up against the glass wall as I was curious to get to the other side of it (to be a grown up) fast. Now again I have my nose pressed up against the same glass wall from the other side because I realize that growing up is a trap and it’s a one-way street. We all know that our marriage with life is a one-sided relationship. It is hell bent to leave us no matter how much we love it, cling to it, and hold on to everything it has to offer. The very nature of this life is playful. It knows how to make us dance to its own tunes. Trust me, this dance does get better with age. When we start improving our moves, we are not young anymore. Despite all its lows, life is a beautiful gift. It is  a journey whose destination has ‘lurking uncertainty’ written all over it. That’s why we are not too eager to reach there. Whether we like it or not, time is constantly propelling us in that direction and birthdays are a good reminder for that. 

My daughter always asks me – what happens to us after we die? How can we not exist? Obviously, I don’t have an answer. Living becomes a habit (not a bad one) and like any other habit, we become a slave to this one too. We can’t comprehend what it is to not exist, not be alive, and be nowhere! For now my answer to her is: “Let’s not go that far, I am just 40!”

Tamanna Raisinghani is a senior software designer working in Santa Barbara. She believes that aging can be a beautiful process if instead of paying attention to the years we are losing, we choose to pay attention to the wisdom that we are gaining and the lessons we are learning along the way.




 

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