What Our Words Can Do

What Our Words Can Do

What do you think about when you hear I am from Israel? 

(Don’t worry, I am not about to get into the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. But the fact that we go there, and not usually in a good way, is kind of my point – and what I am going to talk about.)

It is exciting and a real privilege to be part of an international community – it’s one of the blessings of our generation, the ease with which we can interact with anyone, anywhere in the world. But what is it that we will use this power for? What benefit can we create with this gift we have been given? 

I have started about 10 different articles – for this – my first communication with all of you amazing people – and none felt exactly right. I love writing humorous pieces or sharing little moments of my life, but I feel that I first want to share something else. This. 

Everywhere we turn, it feels polarities are gaining strength and becoming volatile. Either you are with us or against us. So often when people speak about a person with whom they don’t agree, it’s with vehemence, or even with hate. Sometimes it’s because those opinions themselves are so extreme that they feel anathema to the values which we hold dear. It’s not as easy as just to say – accept everyone when some of those opinions or thoughts feel so wrong – and harmful.  So that’s where we are today, and it sucks. 

I don’t think I really ever experienced anti-Semitism in my life. Except for once, when I was in middle or high school, someone dropped pennies in front of me, but I didn’t even know what it meant and the boy with me knew and started swearing at the perpetrators and I think at the time I was more shocked by the way he spoke. (Apparently, they throw it because Jews love money so if I bend down to pick it up then it shows how desperately greedy I am. Even if I pick it up to give it back, which is kind of what I was thinking of doing until I was told why they did that. I was incredulous. How could someone look at me and want to do that?) This year, in some liberal spaces, which is always where I have always felt most at home spiritually, I have seen such venomous anti-Semitism, towards me, that, although it did not insult me per se, I am old enough and maybe thick-skinned enough to not be personally insulted by keyboard warriors, but the hate, it shocked me to my core. And yes, I know the Israel issue isn’t necessarily anti-Semitism, but the conversations I am talking about were purely anti-Semitic. I have never felt anything like it. 

And let’s face it – if those people who spewed hate at me really wanted to change something – would their calling me names make me change my beliefs? Would their wishing me dead make me go away? None of this does anything but make us more extreme. “Ah, you hate me. Ok, then, I will go in my corner and hate you…! Do you say awful things about me? I will say worse things about you!” Kind of back to 2nd grade. But it’s human nature. It feels scary to be sidelined, maligned, misunderstood, lied about. It doesn’t make someone want to engage, love, understand – it makes them want to hide, defend, protect. And this is true for anyone: democrats arguing with republicans, socialists arguing with libertarians, conservatives arguing with progressive. The more we polarize, the more we hide in our corners and send daggers out, to protect ourselves. 

So where does that leave us? Good people of the world who want to change the energy? How can we create change in a real way, in a way that doesn’t disrespect anyone, that includes and connects rather than separates and polarizes?

There is one thing that I believe in with all my heart. It’s something that I spent years trying to implement and figure out. This thing is the power of our words. 

Photo by Jeremy Beck on Unsplash

Words create. In the Old Testament, we are told this straight out – with no filter – God spoke the world into being. And then, it continues to say something that we don’t always remember: that we were created in God’s image, and therefore, we also speak our worlds into being. And the Old Testament is only my most convenient source material for this information – it is everywhere, and not connected to one culture or another. I have encountered this theory, this knowing, in so many of the traditions and cultures I have become acquainted with in my life; the power of words to create is a universal belief. It’s a human power.

The way we talk about something absolutely affects what exists. I have known this for all of my life and still, I don’t always know how to implement it in real time. 

In a lot of our self-help seminars we talk about this. Many of us use these concepts to help ourselves change our lives. 

On a personal level, this means –

We can’t have what we don’t believe we can have. 

We can only create what we imagine. And once we imagine our dreams, we need to speak them into being. Think about your own life and you will see how true this is. The things that exist aren’t necessarily what you have wished for – but what you believe you could have and what you have spoken about – and then taken action on. The action is of course important. But the belief and the words always come first. 

And I always think – this is just as true on a societal level. We spend all our time in fighting injustice, angry at what’s wrong – but how much energy do we spend building what we want – with our words?  I do it myself. I get angry at a political leader – and rile against things that I think are harmful. But how much do I concentrate my thought power, my incredibly creative and powerful thought power, to imagine what I want into reality? Why don’t I use my words to talk about what I do want instead of complaining about what is wrong? What would my world look like if I did that religiously and with intent? 

There’s one more thing I want to talk about – it’s connected. I have a great friend. I genuinely love him dearly. (I was going to write “but” – but the proper term is “and”) – and we are diametrically opposed politically. I sometimes read what he writes on Facebook and I visibly cringe. I can’t understand how he thinks that way. I don’t like talking politics with him because I know we aren’t going to convince each other – but sometimes he really corners me into a conversation – and while I vehemently disagree with his conclusions – I discover that his reasoning is not as “evil” as I worried. He is not basing his ideas on a nasty world view but a difference of belief in how to achieve good for all. And so, in this, I discover that there may be a way forward – there is enough common ground to build a future. Because the result that we both want is a good future for all. We disagree – vehemently perhaps – at how to get there. 

There is a concept in Judaism (probably in other cultures too – I just don’t know it from elsewhere that says “dan lekav zechut” – when we are appraising people, we should judge favorably, we should expect that they have good reasons – try to see them in the best possible light. Now, this is hard to do – we get angry at the person who cut us off in the road and it’s hard to think – oh, he is probably running home to pick up his sick child from school. But that is the idea. To try and judge favorably. Even in the most unlikely situations. When someone writes awful things about me and my people – like really awful – don’t run into my corner and think – what an evil person. What a monster! But, turn it around. This person is speaking from the knowledge that they know and coming to harsh conclusions. This person is speaking from a place of trying to do good in the world – but they haven’t been able to see me. Now, this doesn’t mean I accept the bad but I use my energy to send love to this person – not to send hate. I don’t descend into the spiral of sending hate as a result of hate. Now when I say “I send”, this is of course a figure of speech. I should be writing – I try. Sometimes I succeed and sometimes I don’t. This is a work in progress. It’s where I am aiming. It is what I know to be the building blocks of crystallizing myself to transform my world. 

And so this is my practice, and I share it with you. This is what I work on in order to create a world that I want for my child. Using my words to create what I want and when I meet the opposite, “dana lekaf zechut” I do my best to send good energy and judge favorably. And in a place of conflict, I send my energy to creating the best possible result for all involved. I don’t waste time “knowing the answers” – but send my energy to creating peace and happiness for all sides and let God or the universe – whatever we believe in – take that energy and turn it into gold. 

Throwback Thursday: Season of Letting Go

Throwback Thursday: Season of Letting Go

We first published this original post, written by World Mom Network contributor Tara B. from Washington, on September 17, 2018. It was well received and shared then. If you haven’t read it, we hope you will enjoy for today’s Throwback Thursday.

Early on a Sunday morning, I was driving my twelve-year-old to his karate class. Along the way, we chatted while both struggling to wake up. We have done this drive together many times, and I was mentally on auto-pilot.

As I pulled into the parking lot, my son turned to me and asked, “Mom, can you not come in with me?”

In about a second’s time, his life flashed before my eyes. I felt a flood of emotions that could evoke tears if focused on, but instead, I asked in a nonchalant manner, “Why are you asking?”

He explained how none of the other students have parents in there, and he was right. My son recently graduated to an adult class. The vast majority of students he now trains with are either teenagers who drive or adults. There are rarely parents sitting on the sidelines. After six years of walking into the dojo at his side, I admit that it was a blow to have my motherly wings clipped. On the other hand, I was proud of him for feeling a level of confidence and ownership to go the distance on his own.

So I simply said, “Sure. I can read my book in the car.” and watched him grab his bag and head in.

This is one of many stories that I could tell about living in a season of letting go. I am forty-two years old, solidly positioned in midlife.  I am past the everybody getting careers/getting married/having babies phase and into the everyone is getting divorced/heaving health issues/dealing with ailing parents phase. I, myself, had a hysterectomy this past winter. Talk about letting go! I wasn’t going to have more children anyway, but it definitely put a fine point on the midlife timeline. And the truth is that procedure was the easiest problem I have encountered this year. Each month has brought more challenges with greater stakes.

There is a point in midlife where you come to realize that while there will be an ebb and flow to things, there is no ‘off’ switch to the deep and complex situations you will find yourself navigating from here on out.

You are the fulcrum between multiple generations, trying to support all sides while simultaneously processing your own stuff.

But the world is not a perpetually sad and gloomy place at midlife. Quite the opposite is true. Because through this somewhat stormy transition phase of life, you can see the lights that do shine that much more clearly. This will make me sound ancient, but I understand why grandparents go bananas over birth or get overly excited about a wedding. I can see how sitting at a graduation or following someone’s career can bring such joy. It’s intentional celebration of all that is still bright and brilliant in the world to balance out the darker clouds.

It’s being able to make room for new moments while having to let go of old ones.

It’s being able to remember while continuing to look forward.

Every birthday, every anniversary, and every new milestone is meaningful. I take the time to relish them more fully now. While this season has brought some of the hardest moments, it has also brought some of the absolute best moments of my life.

As my son and I drove home from karate, I let him pick the music, which right now is always jazz. After a year in the middle school jazz band with a favorite teacher, my son can’t get enough of it. As someone who has spent years listening to Disney soundtracks and Raffi in the car, I don’t have enough words to express my euphoria of hearing “The Atomic Mr. Basie” on repeat. We talked about the songs, and he shared his thoughts on the solos. He has developed such a good ear for music and fills our house with his own playing.

The more he grows, the more I am grateful for the contributions he makes in our family.

I love who he is becoming, just as much as I love who he once was. It was a perfect drive home.

Tell me, what has this season brought newly into your life? 

Tara Bergman (USA)

Tara is a native Pennsylvanian who moved to the Seattle area in 1998 (sight unseen) with her husband to start their grand life adventure together. Despite the difficult fact that their family is a plane ride away, the couple fell in love with the Pacific Northwest and have put down roots. They have 2 super charged little boys and recently moved out of the Seattle suburbs further east into the country, trading in a Starbucks on every corner for coyotes in the backyard. Tara loves the outdoors (hiking, biking, camping). And, when her family isn't out in nature, they are hunkered down at home with friends, sharing a meal, playing games, and generally having fun. She loves being a stay-at-home mom and sharing her experiences on World Moms Network!

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Growing Up In Apartheid South Africa As A White Kid

Growing Up In Apartheid South Africa As A White Kid

When I was six years old, my father’s job took us from South Africa to the United States. The year was 1976, and South Africa was reeling from the Soweto uprising, a student-led protest against the Apartheid government that ended in the deaths of at least 176 Black school students, with thousands more being injured.

Being a six-year-old child on the privileged side of Apartheid, I didn’t really know what was going on. I was vaguely aware of something big happening in the news, but I didn’t know what any of it meant. At that age, all I really understood about Apartheid was that Black people only ventured into white neighbourhoods if they happened to work there, usually as someone’s maid or gardener.

When we moved to a quiet suburb of Connecticut, things didn’t seem much different. The small town we lived in was decidedly WASP by nature. Formalized Apartheid may not have existed in Connecticut, but the segregation was just as real. If anything, I had even less contact with Black people in the United States than I ever had in South Africa.

The Connecticut house the writer and her family lived in

My first week of school in Connecticut was uneventful – until the bus ride home one afternoon. What my brother and I didn’t know was that some of the other kids on the school bus were hiding rocks. As we got off the bus, these kids stood up and threw the rocks at us, taunting us for being the bad South African kids. I remember walking from the bus stop to our house under the protective arm of my brother, with blood gushing from a wound on my head.

It took many years for me to understand that as traumatic as that experience was for me, it was a curious embodiment of the privilege that I had grown up with. For us, this was an ugly isolated incident. For Black South Africans back home, being on the receiving end of attacks like that was a part of everyday life. They woke up each morning with no real certainty that they would still be alive at the end of the day.

When we returned to South Africa, I was three years older than when we had left. I was beyond the age of accepting things without question: now I was observing the world around me and asking questions about what I saw.

When my mother was driving me to school one morning shortly after our return to South Africa, we were stopped at a traffic light. As we waited, a police van drove up and parked on the shoulder, where several Black people were walking and chatting to each other. Two police officers jumped out of the van and approached the group. A few of the people showed papers to the police officers and were allowed to go on their way. The rest were forced to get into the back of the van.

“What did those people do wrong?” I asked my mother, as the van drove off, leaving a cloud of desperation in its wake.

“They didn’t do anything wrong,” said my mother. She looked immeasurably sad.

“So – why did the police take them away?”

“Because they’re not supposed to be in this area.”

When I got home from school that day, my mother offered me a fuller explanation. I got a lesson about “pass laws”, a draconian set of rules that made it illegal for Black people to be in white neighbourhoods without documented proof that they were employed by someone there. What I had seen was a typical police arrest of people who were, quite literally, in the wrong place at the wrong time.

As I adjusted to being back in South Africa, I frequently saw these arrests taking place. It bothered me every time, especially in the context of other hallmarks of Apartheid South Africa. The Group Areas Act, for instance, meant that South Africans were allocated areas that they could live in. The land allocated to white people was proportionately far greater than that set aside for other races. This led to chronic overcrowding in most of the Black neighbourhoods, which in turn resulted in a shortage of resources like water and access to healthcare.

From time to time, the government would reallocate land, usually in favour of white people, and whoever was living on that land would be forcibly removed. In many cases, there would barely be time for families to gather whatever belongings they could before bulldozers moved in and destroyed their homes right in front of them.

I was too young at the time to understand anything about politics, or to question why such grave human rights abuses were being allowed to take place. My parents, like other white people of their generation, couldn’t speak out for fear of losing their jobs, and possibly their freedom. But when the wheels of change finally started turning during the 1980s, the vast majority of white South Africans were in full support of reform.

The abolition of pass laws in 1986 was a major turning point for the country. That era also saw an end to the prohibition on interracial marriage, and the desegregation of public facilities such as parks and public restrooms.

There was still a lot of work to be done, though. The fight for change was not over. My aunt, who in earlier days had lost her position as a teacher because she refused to recognize the national anthem of an oppressive government, spoke to me about complicity.

“Every white person in this country who does not contribute to change is part of the problem,” she said.

I carried these words with me to university, where student protests against Apartheid were the norm. I was not a central figure in the protests by any means. I was never the one standing up front with a megaphone and an angry message, but I was there. I was part of several crowds speaking up for reform, demanding the unbanning of Black-led political organizations, calling for equal voting rights for all.

On a hot summer’s day in 1990, when I was in my final year of university, I joined the throng of students who went to witness the release of Nelson Mandela. I couldn’t see much from where I was standing, but that didn’t matter. The intensity of the emotion of that day swept through the crowd like a wave, going back and forth and back again. Strangers clung to each other, sobbing – partly from joy, partly from the pent-up sadness and despair that had built up over decades.

A newspaper headline on the day of Nelson Mandela’s release

To me, the true end of Apartheid happened on April 27, 1994 – the day of South Africa’s first election where people of eligible voting age from all races were allowed to cast a ballot. My parents and I stood in line for eight hours to be part of this momentous occasion.

Those were eight of the best hours of my life. No one minded being in line for so long. Impromptu barbecues sprung up here and there, and everyone was invited. Every now and then, people or groups would break out into song, or start to dance. There were no strangers that day: just millions of people nationwide who were participating in history. For that day, all that mattered was unity and healing.

But the spectre of Apartheid is still very much there. Millions of Black South Africans are still impacted by the damage done by Apartheid rules. The inequities in education will take generations to rectify. Overcrowding from the days of the pass laws persists to this day, along with the associated problems relating to healthcare and access to resources. The poorest 60% of the population, most of whom are Black, own just 7% of the wealth.

My experience growing up as a white kid in Apartheid-era South Africa impacts my life to this day. It is on my mind every time I hear about a Black person in the United States being murdered during a routine traffic stop. It was part of my visceral reaction of grief when George Floyd was murdered. The tears I shed that day were shed for George Floyd, and for the thousands of lives that were taken by Apartheid.

Most of all, it is present in my conversations with my children about race, racism, and white privilege. My husband and I are raising our kids to be agents for change and not bystanders. We encourage our boys to call out racism when they see it, to acknowledge their privilege, and above all, to keep quiet and listen to the voices that really matter – the voices of the people who have been marginalized because of the colour of their skin.

How has systemic racism shaped your view of the world? How do you talk to your children about racism?

Kirsten Doyle (Canada)

Kirsten Doyle was born in South Africa. After completing university, she drifted for a while and finally washed up in Canada in 2000. She is Mom to two boys who have reached the stage of eating everything in sight (but still remaining skinny). Kirsten was a computer programmer for a while before migrating into I.T. project management. Eventually she tossed in the corporate life entirely in order to be a self-employed writer and editor. She is now living her best life writing about mental health and addictions, and posting videos to two YouTube channels. When Kirsten is not wrestling with her kids or writing up a storm, she can be seen on Toronto's streets putting many miles onto her running shoes. Every year, she runs a half-marathon to benefit children with autism, inspired by her older son who lives life on the autism spectrum. Final piece of information: Kirsten is lucky enough to be married to the funniest guy in the world. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Be sure to check out her YouTube channels at My Gen X Life and Word Salad With Coffee!

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UN World Refugee Day is June 20th

UN World Refugee Day is June 20th

UN World Refugee Day 2021 is themed Together We Can Achieve Anything

“Only together can we end this pandemic and recover. Only together can we revive our economies. And then, together, we can all get back to the things we love.”

UN Secretary-General António Guterres

United Nations World Refugee Day is a day to build empathy and provide insight into the struggles and the resilience of the millions of people forced to leave their known lives behind and start anew. Each year on June 20th, World Refugee Day honors the tens of millions of humans forced to flee unbearable conditions with bravery and resilience. UN Refugee Day is also a day to applaud those countries and communities who have opened their borders to support and protect displaced persons on their way to better lives.

What would you take if you had to leave your home with only as much as you could carry? 

What risks would you be willing to take to keep your family safe or to secure a better future for them? 

Every day those in the world fleeing persecution, natural disasters, war, or famine have to face these questions. The numbers are astounding, and not just statistics, each number represents an individual human life. Each one uncertain what the future will hold. According to the 2020 UNHCR Global Trend Report one million children were born into displacement between 2018 and 2020. Making sure that their needs are met is not only important for their future success, but for the shape of global economies as well. Children are the future of this world.

 In 2021 UN World Refugee Day lands amidst the backdrop of a global pandemic. The world came to a standstill last year, yet the struggles faced by refugees persisted. The pandemic did not prevent conflicts, so while the numbers of displaced people hit an all time high in 2020, because of COVID-19 there were also fewer routes of safe escape. The theme this year for UN World Refugee Day 2021 is “Together We Can Achieve Anything.” We know this to be true. With collective determination and shared resources the world’s most pressing problems can be solved. Now more than ever, we need to work together to choose love and collaboration over fear and divisiveness.

We are witnessing a changed reality in that forced displacement nowadays is not only vastly more widespread but is simply no longer a short-term and temporary phenomenon.” 

-Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees

The heartbreaking reality is that most refugees flee due to ongoing human-made conflicts. Additionally the increased frequency of natural disasters due to the climate crisis impacts some of the most vulnerable populations from the poorest of regions.

Most recently, the ongoing fighting in the Tigray region of Ethiopia has forced over 45,000 people to flee over the border into Sudan. Tsige and her daughter had to stay behind as her husband and son fled to safety, not knowing when and how the family would meet up again.

The author’s great grandparents

Four generations later, my own family’s saga of fleeing persecution as Jews in Russia has been all but lost over time and assimilation. A tattered and faded newspaper clipping provides me just a glimpse of the story, the rest of which is forgotten with those who came before me. Their story gives me a feeling of solidarity and hope for those seeking a better future. I can’t imagine the agony of splitting up as a family to escape danger. Those in my family who came to the US by way of Cuba took years to reunite. In my own family’s story, I recognize that I am the future they hoped for: Safety, education, opportunities, and Home. The type of security all families want for future generations. To survive with the chance to thrive. Every human deserves that. Only by working together can we ensure a better future for all.

Together we heal, learn, and shine.

Here are a few ways to get involved from the UN Refugee Agency:

 HEALTH

 Donate to help protect refugees from COVID-19

EDUCATION

Donate to create scholarships for young refugees to attend university

Teach your kids and students about refugees

Watch one (or all) of UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Cate Blanchett’s Watchlist of recommended films:

Capernaum, directed by Nadine Labaki

Shoplifters, directed by Hirokazu Koreeda

News from home, directed by Chantal Akerman

The Other Side of Hope, directed by Aki Kaurismaki

Babel, directed by Alejandro G. Iñárritu

The Joy Luck Club, directed by Wayne Wang

Get a free copy of Tastes from Home: Recipes from the Refugee Community and unlock a donation tothe UNHCR in support of refugees and their families. #CookWithRefugees

 SPORTS

Watch this video to be inspired and see the power in Supporting the Refugee Olympic and Paralympic Teams  

This is an original post written for World Moms Network by Elizabeth Atalay

Elizabeth Atalay

Elizabeth Atalay is a Digital Media Producer, Managing Editor at World Moms Network, and a Social Media Manager. She was a 2015 United Nations Foundation Social Good Fellow, and traveled to Ethiopia as an International Reporting Project New Media Fellow to report on newborn health in 2014. On her personal blog, Documama.org, she uses digital media as a new medium for her background as a documentarian. After having worked on Feature Films and Television series for FOX, NBC, MGM, Columbia Pictures, Warner Brothers, 20th Century Fox, and Castle Rock Pictures, she studied documentary filmmaking and anthropology earning a Masters degree in Media Studies from The New School in New York. Since becoming a Digital Media Producer she has worked on social media campaigns for non-profits such as Save The Children, WaterAid, ONE.org, UNICEF, United Nations Foundation, Edesia, World Pulse, American Heart Association, and The Gates Foundation. Her writing has also been featured on ONE.org, Johnson & Johnson’s BabyCenter.com, EnoughProject.org, GaviAlliance.org, and Worldmomsnetwork.com. Elizabeth has traveled to 70 countries around the world, most recently to Haiti with Artisan Business Network to visit artisans in partnership with Macy’s Heart of Haiti line, which provides sustainable income to Haitian artisans. Elizabeth lives in New England with her husband and four children.

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The Pandemic, Traveling and the Power of NOW

The Pandemic, Traveling and the Power of NOW

World Moms Network changed my life.

The first time I traveled out of my country was in 2013. Jennifer Burden, Founder of World Moms Network, celebrated. She couldn’t stop talking about it on social media. I went to Chicago to collect the BlogHer International Activist Award on behalf of World Moms Network (at that time we were still World Moms Blog). That trip was life-changing.

Less than a year later, I went to Brazil on a reporting project, also representing World Moms Network [WMN]. It was my third time out of India. Jen sent me a card that said, “Report your heart out.” The words have stayed with me ever since and every trip after that continued to be life-changing. 

Now the world has changed and travel is restricted.

As I write this from India, we cannot travel to the next block or even the supermarket. So what of travels on planes or cars or trains, or even trucks? 

From an early age, my father used to take me on trips all over India, a few times every year. We used to attend a lot of the Heartfulness events, which happened all over India. I enjoyed not just the pleasure of a trip but also connecting heartfully with new people. Being part of events and celebrations, and networking with people for a purpose, for altruism, for serving humanity has always been part of my life. Perhaps being part of the World Moms Network, is a naturally joyful process because of that lifelong experience of trying newness, initiated by my father. 

So, traveling to the USA, or the UK or Brazil, and other countries was an extension of my childhood. The evolution of learning; the journey of growing as a person; the joy of seemingly tiny moments, continued.

Traveling is a privilege not a necessity.

Let me make a few things clear before I continue. First, I was not born into privilege but to a middle-class family. We saved money for our travels across India. That felt important to my father and as an extension to us. Second, now that we travel outside of India, we still save money, because that continues to be important to us as a family.

Also, I would like to point out, if you make intelligent financial decisions while planning travel, you can make it more affordable.

Also, for those who have challenging financial situations, I am not saying it is imperative for you to travel to find meaning in life. I would never say that. That would be thoughtless. I am not one to judge anyone. I am merely sharing my heart, my experiences, and my joys.

Adrianna and her son in Brazil

Traveling has made my heart softer.

Though not born into privilege, I lived in a very privileged atmosphere within my family, with all my needs fulfilled as well as some wants, and even a few luxuries. Though we were just a normal middle-class family, we were also content, satisfied, and always joyful – my father made sure of that. So, I have never had a need go unmet.

These days, every time I come across a mother in the slums, I am constantly reminded of Adrianna from Brazil, whom I met during one of the reporting trips. I wonder if all her 11 children are fed and receive an education. I wonder if she has a good job. I wonder if she is happy. I wonder if she had any more children. It makes me think of not only her but also about many other people Around the world.

I also think of Karma, the guide I met in Bhutan. He told us that, at the juncture of every Buddhist shrine, he is going to pray to Buddha so that he gets admitted to a university in Paris for his postgraduate degree in tourism. I wonder if he got in, and if he did, what is he doing now? And what happened to him when the world went into lockdown, with the tourist industry being the worst affected of all.

With Karma in Bhutan

Just before lockdown, my family and I traveled to Egypt. In Luxor, we met Abdul, our guide. He had just had a baby and was always impatiently (and endearingly) waiting for us to wrap up our day, so he could rush home to his wife and baby. Where are they now? How are they managing their livelihood? 

Traveling makes us think.

It expands our horizon; it helps create empathy; it has made me care more. I care for Abdul’s family. I care for Karma’s aspirations. I care for Adrianna and her babies. But I also know that my caring for them alone is not going to help them. A larger force is necessary for the world to get back to normal, to defeat that tiny microscopic invisible virus, now mutating into other variants. 

Traveling instills joy.

And now, not being able to travel, has made life very different. I look for joy in other things. I have discovered the joy of long walks. During the beginning of lockdown, there was just a ban on international and domestic travel but we could still move freely within the city and state. I used to go walking here in Chennai by the banks of the River Adyar. I spent nearly 2 hours every evening, walking beside the river. The narrow dirt road, the setting sun, the buffaloes bathing in the river, cranes and a few exotic seasonal birds hopping by to say hello, and me listening to my favorite Laurie Santos podcast. Now, even these are nostalgic these days.

Finding joy in other ways

On Thursdays, I would take my weekly WMN Editors’ call as I walked. Sometimes I would have just returned from my walk, with a fresh mind and joy in my heart, I would bond with my WMN girlfriends over a cup of hot ginger chai. On other days, I used to walk my feet off, and it felt good. Walking was my substitute to travel, it felt like trekking or hiking. But now, with my state entering complete lockdown, I miss my walks too. I miss the goats and buffaloes walking towards me and meeting occasional friends on the walking trail.

Lessons learned

One thing I have learned through all the travels, through all the walks, through all the lockdowns—which India is now so famous for—is to be in the HERE and NOW. To be present. The planning of the relaunch of the World Moms Network was the highest point in my life. I say the highest because I was at my lowest possible and it was these wonderful women from WMN who perked me up EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. That gift was the most important for me then. The relaunch? Yes, of course, now that Is also a gift but the invaluable presence of the planning phase was when I felt the greatest joy. 

Have you ever experienced the joy of a trek? I have. When we rowed the Phewa lake in Nepal and then trekked over a hilltop. We took breaks in between to drink chai from the village chai shops. When we finally reached the top of Peace Pagoda, it was like deja vu. I am sure you understand that. The joy of the journey of the NOW was the greatest. The sights and sounds and smells of the NOW were more precious than any future sightings of a heritage site. 

Traveling has made me appreciate the power of the now. 

But what of the NOW we are all going through? I will not be surprised if I feel nostalgic someday about the NOW of the pandemic. I already missed my girls last Thursday, when we did not meet (because of conflicts) for our editorial meeting. 

What else will I miss? Surely having my son around all the time. He is having a great time with two monitors attached to his laptop—one with online chess and the other with online school—as I holler in the background to close the chess window and focus on the school. I am sure I will feel lonely when he is back to full-time school and away from home for 8 hours. 

It is best to stay here and enjoy and be grateful for all that I have now.

Yes, I do miss traveling but I think I enjoy drinking chai every evening with my neighborhood girlfriends on the terrace of my house. And no trip can replace the soul-stirring conversation we have every day. 

Travelling gives me joy, zest, but this lockdown has given me so much rest too. It makes me take leaps of faith into the unknown. Lockdown has restored my faith in humanity too when I witness so many random acts of kindness between strangers. Travelling has made me realize that I know so little of this whole world and that there is so much more to know and experience and eat and see and do.

But this lockdown has also made me realize that I know so little of myself, of my family, of what we can do together when cooped up in a house for such a long time, of all the loves and joys we derive in each other’s company.

So, as I wait patiently, to start traveling again and to start walking beside the river again, I take a few deep breaths and let go…of myself, so I can enjoy the present and experience the joy of the NOW.

Purnima Ramakrishnan

Purnima Ramakrishnan is an UNCA award winning journalist and the recipient of the fellowship in Journalism by International Reporting Project, John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. Her International reports from Brazil are found here . She is also the recipient of the BlogHer '13 International Activist Scholarship Award . She is a Senior Editor at World Moms Blog who writes passionately about social and other causes in India. Her parental journey is documented both here at World Moms Blog and also at her personal Blog, The Alchemist's Blog. She can be reached through this page . She also contributes to Huffington Post . Purnima was once a tech-savvy gal who lived in the corporate world of sleek vehicles and their electronics. She has a Master's degree in Electronics Engineering, but after working for 6 years as a Design Engineer, she decided to quit it all to become a Stay-At-Home-Mom to be with her son!   This smart mom was born and raised in India, and she has moved to live in coastal India with her husband, who is a physician, and her son who is in primary grade school.   She is a practitioner and trainer of Heartfulness Meditation.

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