March 10, 2010

{Being Hard on Myself}

Before I posted last week's blog post, I sent out a pre-posting to a select few fans of the blog to get their reaction. The reason for asking for feedback was simple. I wrote from my heart but was unsure. I know each of you have a busy life and was not sure how many of you will be able to take time to write back.

I was amazed when I got the feedback. Wow! I was touched. Of course each of you are very involved in your relationships in life and your feedback helped me understand that there are different ways to “BE PRESENT” in the relationships in our life. But the part a lot of you disagreed with me was about me being “too hard on myself for past failures.”

I thought for a while and I humbly disagree with you all on this issue. This works in the business world, but not in relationships. Let me tell you two stories from my childhood which have never stopped haunting me. 

The first one, those of you who read the book know. It is about my debut as a soccer goalie when I was in grade three. The debut was not a “great launch” to my soccer career as I had more than my fair share of embarrassing moments when I let two goals in. The worse thing, however was when I slipped and fell as I went to retrieve the ball from the net. None of those mattered as much as seeing my parents watching behind the goal line and finding my failure of slipping funny. I have heard that story repeated over and over by my parents to my friends, but I have yet to find it funny.

The story that left a deep bruise in me happened when I was just two years old. I have to confess that I do not remember the event happening but I have heard the story repeated over and over. Every time my parents start telling the “stale story,” I become uncomfortable. I know every pause in the story. The story goes as follows: I was two years old and living with my parents in New Delhi. They were renting the second floor of a flat. On weekends, my dad would sit and read the newspaper and I would be outside playing on the balcony.

On this particular day, my dad was reading his newspaper, my mom was in the kitchen making breakfast, and I was out on the balcony, with my clothes off, enjoying life and maybe scaring passersby. My mom made toasted bread for dad and I. That day there was no butter in the house. So dad was a bit disappointed as he chewed on the toast without butter between sipping his cup of tea. Finally he noticed that I was trying to reach out to him from the window that opened to the balcony. I had my partially eaten toast with butter on it.

This upset my dad. He called my mom and asked why I got toast with butter and not he. My mom was perplexed. They both rushed to me to see how I got butter on my toast.

This is the part where my parents will pause when they tell the story. It is a pause before the grand finale. Then they would laugh out loud as my dad discloses to my friends, “Arjun’s mom and I realized that Arjun had pottied and very neatly spread it on his toast, as he ate it.” The whole room at that point will burst into laughter. The only person who doesn’t laugh is me.

It was only a few years back when I heard the story for the hundredth time, I intervened and told my parents that I do not want to hear that story again. “This story is not funny! This is a story of neglect and recklessness. This is a story that makes me sad and hurt!”

As you can see, the events of the past that we face as a child stay with us. They shape our lives and our memories. Crossing the hills of happy moments leaves a sweet memory mark on us, but the gorges of pain cut a wound that is deep and the pain stays forever.

Hence when I am being hard on myself, I know that I cannot change the past. To me, however, that is the driver and constant reminder to stay in the present and not go back to the past.
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