Thought for Today

By: Jack Xu

I don’t compartmentalize work and life and so the same set of rules apply to both.  A lot of you have appreciated blogs with my personal musings on pithy (ahem) issues.  So here is one:

We often wait for the perfect moment for everything, even though we know perfection is a mental projection.  I remember when I was newly married I was so unaccomplished in the home making department that I was reluctant to invite people over.  I could not get the house as immaculate as my neighbours and certainly had no culinary skills to speak of.  I struggled trying to keep up with those who practised housekeeping and cooking as a fine art.  So, when a cousin of mine said they were in Singapore and planning to visit me in my little village in Malaysia, I had some trepidation.  But I was lonely, and so looked forward to seeing her and her husband.  I rustled up a quick meal of pongal (rice cooked with lentils and spices) and a tamarind based stew (vettakozhambu) to go with it. I had yoghurt and pickles as well.  We had a wonderful time together.  They were famished and so ate well, chatted for a while and left.  When I met them again on my previous visit to India, some 33 years later, she reminded me of that incident and told me it was a memorable meal and time for her.

We are often inhibited by our need to make a good impression and postpone writing that piece, making that speech, inviting people over or doing anything spontaneous.  And yet, that’s our most beloved and authentic self.  Those are the moments that people, whose lives we touch, cherish the most.

On the flip side, we want everything to happen when we believe the timing is right – for the perfect job, mate, deal, what have you.  We order our lives with a checklist of “to-dos” and when things don’t go the way we want them to and we have no control over how we should make them happen, we falter and bemoan our unlucky lot.  But when we think about it, we have pitted ourselves against – get this – our own selves in the form of our expectations or our image of a perfect life.  Our life has become all about creating that perfect picture or image to the exclusion of all else.  We know we are participating in an elaborate deception and our lives are not that image, but we helplessly persist.  Maybe we should break free of these shackles and venture on that unknown path and make great discoveries. Few of us do.

And finally, no matter how well we manage our existence, life throws a kicker at us.  I was reminded of this on my morning walk today. We have this adorable cocker spaniel that is brought for a walk by our neighbor.  We stop to pet it always but do no more than exchange pleasantries with the owner.  A man in his early seventies, ramrod straight and lean he has a gravelly voice and a Greek accent.  He is the only person I have seen smoking on his walk up our hill!

Anyway, we asked after his dog and found out that Dacker, the dog, is the only person his wife recognizes.  I have seen her walking with him on previous occasions and remember her as being quite friendly and cheerful when we greeted her.  Little did I know, she has Alzheimer’s and does not even recognize her kids and their families – only that dog. The two of them had built a perfect life together, raised great kids who were successful, and then, out of nowhere, this kicker!  Just when they thought they could retire, relax and travel.  He is her caregiver and they don’t do much since she is not interested in and has no passion for anything.

It was a reminder to me that life is lived through our perceptions and experiences and if there is no memory, there is nothing.  On the other hand, we can make those experiences rich and fulfilled by not wandering into regrets about the past or expectations about our future but being here, now, letting life unfold and by responding to each moment with joy and good cheer.

-Latha Sukumar, Executive Director, Toronto, Ontario, June 28, 2017