The love of laughter and playfulness!

I have always been someone who loves to laugh.  Not polite giggles, but full out belly laughs, rolling on the ground with laughter, kind of a girl.  When I was a little girl, I was the mischievous little miss who liked to be silly and loved to tickle others, be chased and was laughing the entire time.  Most of my childhood photos show me with a mischievous grin!  I definitely get this aspect from my mom, who taught me how to be silly and have carefree fun!

When I was in residence for university, the common refrain was that even with my door closed, if I was watching a sitcom or funny movie, you could hear my laughter down the hall.

When I started working full time, I loved pranking people, sending e-mails and calling using an alias.  It used to really add fun to work and make it less dry!

While I was pregnant, I made a point of watching really funny things because I wanted the kids in uterto to experience my joy and mirth.  I really do believe that joy and laughter is transferable!

But then everything collided together.  The workplace started enforcing some very strict measures, which made me feel that the pranks were no longer appropriate, especially as I became more senior.  I had kids and there was less and less time for me.  Although I love being silly with the kids, I am often the strict parent, which requires me to be the disciplinarian, the one who ensures the schedule is followed and keeps everything on track.

But lately, I have not been laughing as much.  I still kid around and have fun with my kids, but full out belly laughs are rare and I have to admit that I miss them.  I miss how I feel when I am full of mirth and laughter.  I miss being silly.  Do other people feel like that?

I recently watched a show where they showed in India, there are laughing clubs where people come together in the morning, before work, simply to laugh.  And at first, the laughter appears to be forced but then its contagiousness and joy spreads and the laughter becomes free and natural.  The dynamics of this type of club appeal to me.  Imagine just spending time on laughter!  The belief is that laughter is the best medicine and those people that are happy and full of joy, live healthier and of course, happier lives.

I now understand why adults go and see more comedies and watch more comedy specials.  Because unfortunately, for some of us, not in control of our work environment, and being so busy with life, the laughter and the ensuing silliness becomes rare.

And I have to admit, that without the laughter, I have started to notice that I am just not as happy.  And so more than meditating and finding my zen, I am trying to find ways to bring back the belly laughs into my life.  I am hopeful that by being conscious of seeking it out, it will become infused back into my life.   Now if only I could find a television show that causes me to laugh like Cheers and Everybody Loves Raymond did…..I would be set.

But that’s just one Diva’s view.

 

 

 

 

 

The importance of fashion

Growing up, I loved watching my mom getting dressed.  She paid attention to details when she was dressing.  Her jewelry and clothes coordinated, her make-up was on point and her hair was always glamorous, in beautiful updos.  Her favourite thing to do was to go to the local Flea Market and find unique jewelry, that were always statement pieces.  She loved flipping through magazines for ideas and all of this translated into her designing and sewing beautiful clothes.  When I went on a school trip, my mom sewed my entire wardrobe.  I did not appreciate how talented she was at the time.  However, after taking a sewing course, I realized that my mom had a gift and unfortunately, due to her Parkinson’s, a creative gift, that was taken away from her.

What does Fashion mean to me now?  It is a creative outlet for me to express different looks and moods.  Working in a professional environment, I never wanted to sacrifice style for utility.  For me, looking my best, translates into me being my best.

I always liked to look unique.  Growing up in the suburbs, it was easy to all have the same uniform of style – Ralph Lauren, the Gap, Laura Ashley.  But we could not afford those clothes and ultimately, that aesthetic was not my look.  I was very skinny, and often, those clothes were not made for my size.  And even as a pre-teen, I liked incorporating areas of South Asian accents into my look.  I used a sari border as a hair band and I loved the look.

Now my aesthetic has evolved, but the influences are still there.  My mom’s attention to jewelry has remained an important part of my look.  I love incorporating elements of South Asian fashion into my look and wish there were more South Asian fusion pieces using old saris for pants, dresses or suit jackets.  If my mom still could sew, I would have had a partner to work with, although saris are very difficult to sew with given the delicate nature of the material.   I digress..

I very much love the traditional look of Chanel and incorporate that into my style.  My OAC French project was on Coco Chanel and the Chanel influence has always remained.  But then sometimes, I like looking a little more urban and that translates to my hair, my clothes – my purse and even the music I am wearing when getting dressed.

And I have to say – I love putting together a look.  I still need help with shoes, but other than that, I like creating new looks and feeling my best.  I adore getting compliments on my outfits and I love seeing my kids admire my style and hope that I will be a positive style influence to them.

As Maya Angelou so eloquently put it,

“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.”

I agree wholeheartedly.  Style gives me a joie de vivre and I always say, take your happiness where you find it!

But that’s just one Diva’s view.

 

 

Environment; what it means to me

When I was growing up, my parents strictly cautioned me about the friends I had in my life.  These friends would contribute to my environment of growing up and my parents wanted to ensure that these influences were mainly positive and uplifting.  At the time, I thought my parents were being overly cautious but as I have become older, I realize the importance of one’s environment and how it impacts and affects us in every aspect.  And not surprisingly, those friends from childhood remain my close friends and our kids are now friends, which is pretty amazing!

Environment, for me, is what I surround myself with.  The space, the friends, the influences – for me, all of these elements converge to create my environment.  When my environment is positive and uplifting, that is reflected in how I carry myself.  When it is a negative space, the impact is detrimental to the infinite degree.

I was lucky growing up that I had friends who created a positive environment.  They were all good people at their core.  We all supported each other and were there for one another.  My home life, on the other hand, was a mix of environments.  At times, it was very nurturing and encouraging.  But at other times, it was very stifling and punishing.  And so the lesson I learned from being in that environment was that if the environment did not work for you, you had the power to remove yourself from it.  And so when I was old enough to leave for university, I left!  I returned, for short stretches.

Ultimately, through trial and error, I learned what I needed from my environment to flourish and to be my best self and sought to create or find that environment.

Does that mean that on a whim, I abandon my environment?  No.  But it does mean that I am not afraid to remove myself from a toxic environment, on the basis of self preservation.  It does mean that although I have committed to an environment, as long as the environment does not mire me down, does not reduce me to question my worth, I’m in.

And to be honest, like most people, I do better in a healthy environment.  An environment that understands and acknowledges what I bring to the table.  An environment that nurtures my growth and development.

But your environment is also molded by you and the decisions you make; the people you allow influence into your environment.  And therefore, that’s why my parents made me mindful to this fact, because that allowed me to understand the control that I had to exert to be in the best environment.

And as I get older, I realize the importance of one’s environment and its impact on all aspects of your health –  mental health, physical health, emotional health.

And so, although loyalty and perseverance are to be lauded, for me, being in the right environment, is what causes me to flourish.

So – make sure to do a check of your environment on a routine basis.   And if it needs a tune-up, don’t be afraid to adjust it or to change it.  Always evaluate!  As Michelle Obama eloquently stated, “Choose people who lift you up.  Find people who will make you better.”  This is the environment you want!

But that’s just one Diva’s view!

 

 

 

My love of reading

Reading has always been my magical place; my zen, my escape, my fulfillment.  I fell in love with books at a very early age.  I attribute that to my parents.  My dad loved and revered books. He had a collection of books that we kept in a bookcase which we were allowed to read, and look at, but only if we treated the books with the proper respect that they deserved.  No sticky or dirty hands….carefully turning the pages.  And in our culture, stepping on books is extremely taboo.   That was drilled into us from a young age.

My mom had a collection of books and magazines that she always kept by the bed and she always found comfort and peace in reading.  Her horoscope, the Farmer’s Almanac and books about faith and spirituality were her go to’s and were well worn from use.

And so, it was no surprise that I grew up loving to read.  In addition to loving books, my parents were very strict.  I was not allowed to go out socially like my peers and for me, reading gave me the socialization that I was missing in real life.  I experienced what first love was like, betrayal, close bonds, the consequences of making bad decisions….the list goes on.  And loved it all.  Horror, romance, sci fi, murder mysteries….you name it, I read it.  But I loved romance the best.  The commencement of a relationship, the building of the bond, the question of whether there was a true connection, the doubt and then the affirmation that this was true love gave me joy!  When I was younger, I would stay up until 2-3am binge reading.  When I would take the subway to work, I could usually read 1 1/2 Harlequins a day.

We did not have a lot of money growing up.  But we did have a library close by and that is where we would go every week-end.  During the school year, when I was in high school, I would go during my lunch break.  I always had to have a book.  I may have been a picky eater, but I was not a picky reader!  And for me, I always needed a book by my side to sustain me.

Now that I am older and with a lot more on my plate, my love of reading has not diminished – but my time for reading has.  That’s life.  But my husband and I have passed on our love of reading to our kids.  The library has become a place of joy for my kids.  And we ensure that the house is full of books.  And just like my parents, my bed side is never without a book.  And when I find a book I love, I share it with my friends and the book often becomes their birthday present.

It is nice to have this tradition of reading passed on and I hope that my kids pass on this love of books ….and the library to their kids!  In light of this, please make sure that your local library gets the support and respect that it is due.  I would not be who I am without our public library.

But that’s just one Diva’s point of view.

Watching a loved one die

I just watched the movie Irreplaceable You last night after coming home from visiting my mom.   Have you seen it?  It is about the journey of dying and trying to plan for life for your loved ones after you.  It was the appropriate movie to watch last night as I was full of a lot of grief which needed an outlet, and the movie provided that.  I always believe that certain movies come into our lives when you need them and this was an example of one of those moments.

My mom is in a long term care home and bluntly, she is deteriorating quickly.  We have been through numerous hospital emergency rooms and hospital stays and on the last hospital stay, the doctor told my brother and I to start preparing for the worst.  What the doctor failed to realize was that the worst has been ongoing for some time.

My mother was a strong, ferociously independent and stubborn woman who loved to laugh and cook.

The woman I go to visit now is so far removed from the mom that I knew.  One of the hardest aspects has been her interaction with my children.  She always dreamed of being able to cook for her grandkids and wanted to sew for them, as she used to be an amazing seamstress, but the dementia and the Parkinson’s put an end to those dreams.  Instead, she is teaching my children to be kind to those who are ill and is teaching them acceptance of those with disabilities.

But it is soul shatteringly sad to watch your mom wither away.  Yesterday, during our visit, she remained in her bed and there were moments when I was talking to her, when she just closed her eyes and her breathing became laboured and she started writhing in pain.

But the moment implanted on my soul is when she reached for my arm and pulled it to her face and held it there.  And even though her speech is starting to go and her memory is gone, in that moment, I had my mom and her love.  I stroked her face, with its soft familiarity and I wished away her pain.  I wished her peace.  I wished that she could be with her mother, who passed many years ago, and whom my mom misses every single day.

I will miss my mom dreadfully when she passes, but from her, my strong and determined mother, she has taught me inner strength and I know that even though I will miss her everyday, as she misses her mother, she is and will always be a part of me and I see that same strength alive in my kids.

But that’s just one Diva’s View.

It gets bigger?

So yes, yesterday on Keeping up with the Kardashians (yes, I watch it and am not embarrassed that I do), I was reminded that as we get older, our ears and our noses get bigger!  Really? I was just hoping for a larger wallet!!

Since I was a young girl, my “aristocratic nose” has been one of my things.  My nose became prominent at a young age, which is not surprising, given my parent’s noses.  My parents would show me paintings of Indian Rajahs and Ranis with prominent noses to assure me that this was a gift and not a detriment, but it was never a very convincing argument.

I read all I could about how to use make up to make your nose look smaller, and when I got older, I considered and explored getting plastic surgery.  And the only thing that held me back was Jennifer Grey.   Yes Jennifer Grey – Baby in Dirty Dancing.  She too had a prominent nose in Dirty Dancing, but that in no way took away from her appeal in Dirty Dancing and Patrick Swayze’s character falling in love with her.  And you have to admit that she was super cute in Dirty Dancing and had her own appeal. That was quickly lost after the nose job.  She became generic….not unique and I think that her lack of roles is a reflection of that loss of appeal.

And so I put the thoughts of plastic surgery on the back burner until Ashley Simpson…..yes I really do follow a lot of pop culture.  Her rhinoplasty was brilliant.  She still maintained her Ashley Simpson appeal…..she just looked better.  And so the thoughts of plastic surgery briefly visited again, especially if I could guarantee Simpson like results.

But I have to say that notwithstanding that with age comes a bigger nose and ear lobes according to Kris Kardashian’s plastic surgeon, wisdom and acceptance also come forth as well.  I was in my 20’s when I decided that if I felt that everyone was always staring at my nose, I might as well give them something to look at and I got my nose pierced.  And as I grew older, I just became more comfortable with my nose.

In the age of selfies, I took more side profiles and I did not love all of them, but I grew to accept that this is me!  And although it may not be my favourite feature, for now, it is a part of who I am, my look and my uniqueness.  I wish sometimes it was Sophia Loren in size and attractiveness, but that’s not my destiny.

And perhaps if it starts to get bigger in the future, then I may explore plastic surgery.  But for now, it is part and parcel of who I am and a part of my style and I’ll embrace it.  But that’s just one Diva’s view.

We are not all the same!

When I started my first “corporate job”, I had just graduated from high school and I started working as a summer student in a company.  In our department, there were 3 South Asian female students and we were forever being called the other’s name.  Being naive, I thought nothing of it, but was constantly confused as to why.  Outside of being South Asian, we looked nothing a like.  Our hair was different, our builds were different, our names were different, and yet..it seemed like we were interchangeable and for all intents and purposes, because we were students for the summer, there was no need for the regular staff to be able to distinguish us from each other.  But we were young, and needed the job and experience and so, I just spent the summer correcting everyone, when an error was made about who I was.  Because that is what your name is – an identifier for WHO YOU ARE!

Fast forward 20 plus years.

Now a partner at a mid size regional law firm, where at the end of my tenure, there were only 2 South Asian female lawyers, myself included.  Again, the only thing we had in common was that we were South Asian and both of our names started with an “S”.  I was at the firm for 13 years, and throughout my time there, I was provided the incorrect expense cheque for the other “S”, sent calendar invites meant for the other “S” and received calls for the other “S”.  That was nothing compared to being called to my face, the other “S”‘s name, all of the time.  At some point, after you try to laugh it off, you get angry.   Yes angry is the word.  Not annoyed or confused, but angry!

Can you really not tell us apart?  It is 2017.  Do all brown women look alike to you?  Are we all interchangeable, even at the partnership level?  Am I really making a big deal of a what is in your eyes, a minor mistake?

And that is why people are starting to push back right now on diversity, authenticity and feeling accepted, especially in the legal community.  It means something, not to be seen.  When you constantly confuse me for another South Asian woman, the message you are sending is that we are all the same.  You do not need to take time know me.  You do not need to identify who I am and what my worth is to your organization.

And thank goodness, I do not get my worth from you! At the end of the day, it was really only a pay cheque.

And although I believed that I would rise up and change the world, sometimes, it is just better to remove yourself from the situation and accept that the environment is not right for you.   If after 13 years, you do not know me, then it is time to say good-bye.

But here’s a word of advice……better not make the same mistake with your South Asian clients.  Because there are more and more “racialized” clients, who will respond by moving their business elsewhere, if they are thought to be “the same”.  Perhaps that will make more of an impact than the loss of just another South Asian lawyer.

But that’s just one Diva’s view.

 

Enough – keep it to yourself!

On the week-end, I was in a change room with my daughters.  A woman came up to me to ask if they were twins and I responded that they were and then she asked how old they were.  I advised that they were about to turn 6.  And she responded, “They are tiny”, while standing over them.  And that’s when I got angry, but decided to respond, as little eyes and ears were observing everything, and said that no one had ever referred to them as tiny and in fact, when they were born, they were each 6 lbs.  Probably more information than she needed, but she did not say anything and left.  I continued to change my children, but inside, I was upset.  Do people really have no sense?  And the answer is no!

I guess that I am more attune with this, since I have always been of a “smaller frame”, which is the kind way of saying skinny, thin, slender, skeletal……you name it, it has been said to my face.

And I was about the age of my girls, when I started to demonstrate a smaller but natural frame, which I had inherited genetically from my parents, when they were younger.  And as a kid, being heard yourself described as skinny and constantly being told by family, friends and strangers “to eat” really took a toll.  I have learned to accept that I have a naturally smaller build now, but back then, it seemed to be the only reason I drew attention.  Not because of my talents or successes, but it was a way to define me in a negative way, because too many compliments may spoil the child, you know !

And I really do not want this to be repeated for my children.  If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.  Especially, when young and impressionable children are listening.  Because as much as my parents made me feel beautiful and loved, the defining mark on me were comments by others on my weight and size and I really do not want my children having that same experience.  And I know that I cannot shield my kids from everything, but I can say, hey world – have some sense and think before you speak.  Be kind and keep your unkind thoughts to yourself.

But that’s just one Diva’s view.

 

 

 

 

Really?

I was recently at a business meeting.  Let me preface this by stating that I have not slept properly for a few days, due to my children being sick, waking up in the middle of the night….you name it, I have been dealing with it.  Knowing that I had this meeting, I may have overcompensated with the make-up, which instead of masking my fatigue, highlighted it!  Tip to self – watch more youtube videos on covering dark patches under one’s eyes.

My colleague sitting beside me commented that I looked tired, to which I retorted, that he really needed a course on compliments.  However, my other colleague in attendance commented that I looked like I had a “glow”, to which I suggestively touched my stomach playfully commenting, “well, you know…..”.  We were just bantering in fun, when a senior colleague responded in dismay, “You are not pregnant, are you?  You already have 3; aren’t you done?”

Let’s parse this out, shall we.  Part one; “You are not pregnant, are you?”  As if this was the worst thing that could happen.  As if my senior colleague is privy to my private family  planning discussions with my partner.  As if my senior colleague has the right to be in disbelief.  As if my senior colleague has the right to an opinion on this.

Part two;  “You already have three”.  As if there is a limit on how many children a professional woman can have.  As if 3 is too much as it is.  As if my senior colleague has the right to an opinion on this.

Part three; “Aren’t you done?” As if I am being greedy, selfish, idiotic, (insert any number of adjectives) by suggesting the possibility of a 4th child.  As if my senior colleague has the right to an opinion on this.

All of this in 2017.  And the senior colleague; a she, not a he.   Did that surprise you?

And as I think about how to raise to her, in private, why she should never make the following comments in public, let alone at a business meeting, it just reinforces that we may pretend to be progressive and forward thinking, but at the root of it, we still carry and perpetuate stereotypes, which we still feel free to publicly vocalize.

In this day and age, where we appear to pay lip service to diversity and sexuality, isn’t it ironic that we still cannot wrap our minds around professional woman having a family, and it not being a hindrance to her career?

But that’s just one Diva’s view.

Not your point of view…but don’t diminish it

Recently, at one of our company’s very liberal, semi regular “women’s meetings”, we were having a discussion about whether styles in delegation are gender specific.  And it has been my experience, that gender is not as paramount anymore regarding delegation styles, but what is dominant is personality and management style and these traits are not gender specific.

In response to my comment, one of the meeting’s organizers immediately stated authoratatively that not one woman at our company, in a management position, would delegate in an autocratic manner.  And because I did not want to be confrontational, the response was made and we moved on to the next person.

However, I knew immediately, from looking around the boardroom table, those “autocratic” delegators knew who they were and those who had been on the receiving end, knew who they were.  But no one wanted to call anyone out.  And in hindsight, I should have should, “that may not be your experience, but not for everyone”.  Because I did not want to be that person……the person who is constantly trying to hold a mirror up to others or teach them the error of their ways.  The one thing I have learned, much like the Danish Law of Jante, Rule 10 – You’re not to think you can teach anyone anything.  

But the meeting did leave me sad.  Have we really not evolved to being able to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes and see the world, if only for a moment, from their point of view?  Just because someone has never experienced sexism, racism, classism, shadism or any other type of “ism”, does not make it “not so”.  But unilaterally stating that it has not been your experience – what does that contribute to the discussion?  Does it not really just shut the discussion down?

Given all that is going on in the world right now, I think that different points of views have to be acknowledged and heard.  Because it is too easy to get stuck in your own lane, and forget that you are surrounded by millions of others on their own journey who have a different point of view.

That’s just one Diva’s view.