The year 2017 was the first new year in my life which I started without my Papa, my beloved father. He was my guru, mentor, friend, advisor, in short, everything. The year started after 4 months and 2 days of his absence from this physical world. So I could not welcome it with the same mindset that I used to welcome the previous years. I missed him and was feeling miserable. I was clueless about how to overcome it.
Papa’s passing away made me aware of the fact that anything can happen in a split second. Our life can change altogether in the very next moment. Papa was about to go out to buy grocery when he met some people who came to the neighbouring house and was talking to them casually. Before completing two sentences he collapsed and left us for heaven. The whole incident happened in a couple of minutes and within the compound. Everyone who visited us afterwards said my father had a beautiful death. But I feel he disappeared leaving behind plenty of incomplete conversations with us.
My journey through 2017 was full of experiments with myself to overcome the pain of loss, and much more! Each month taught me different lessons of loss and gain, of joy and grief, of pleasure and pain, of give and take, of taking care of myself and others. Each experience was unique and was a stepping stone to the path ahead.
January: I was trying to distract myself from the thoughts and memories of Papa. I was experiencing unfamiliar emotions. I started losing my temper for each and everything and got angry for almost everything. I googled to find how others are coping with these kinds of losses. I was finding it difficult to absorb the fact of my loss, and to give myself a break, I joined some certification courses in data analytics and management.
February: Even the courses could not succeed in distracting me from the constant awareness of Papa’s absence. My mind was regularly wandering through all my memories of Papa starting from childhood. When I was in school and college, I used to share the day-to-day happenings with Papa on a daily basis. It is true that the father is every daughter’s first love. When my daughter celebrated her 19th birthday with her friends in a grand way in her college hostel, we all joined her. For a 19-year-old, it is the last time they are celebrating their teenage years so it is really special! That reminded me of my teenage days and my memories with Papa. Whenever I used to cry for a small cut on my finger, he used to tell me that I should be strong and not cry even if I had a big bleeding wound. He used to insist that I accompany him while shopping for hardware, paints, car spare parts, and so on, and ensure that I understood the ‘look and feel’ and names of each item. He didn’t show any difference between bringing up my elder brother and me. Little did I know then that he was equipping me to face the real world.
March: My search for ‘like-minded’, grieving people continued. I found many blogs written by people who shared my feelings. I started spending more time reading such blogs and books. Meanwhile, I completed the courses I had started earlier and obtained the certifications. I decided to start a technical blog to note down whatever I had learned in my classes.
April: Celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary. We went on a road trip with the kids to Bangalore, the city where we started our life after marriage! The city has changed a lot but our memories and our friendships remain untouched. Some things don’t change no matter how many years have passed. Time flies but memories last forever!
May: “Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile” is one of my favourite quotes from Albert Einstein. That set me thinking about doing some voluntary work. Anyway, we all know that one of the greatest gifts we can give anyone is our attention and time. I started working in a publishing house where I could use both my technical as well as management skills. I started helping them with their data analysis tasks.
June: After a month of volunteering, I felt a huge difference in my overall well-being. Not even a single day did I feel tired or stressed. Which reminds me of another saying: ‘Don’t pick a job with great vacation time; pick one that doesn’t need escaping from!’
July: I was doing some online data analysis courses along with my volunteering work. I was trying to build up my technical blog too. Maybe due to excessive use of the computer, I got neck pain and severe migraine. I was forced to take a break from all the above activities. I unplugged from social media also. Rest is what makes our body stronger and mind calmer. I started focusing on my health by starting yoga and meditation. Fitness doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a general state of good health that builds up in small bits over a long period.
August: We all went to Rameswaram for performing Papa’s first death anniversary rituals. I could feel Papa’s presence throughout the trip. He had an amazing observation capacity and a great eye for detail. He was very fond of ancient history too. I could hear him telling us to enjoy the temple architecture of Rameswaram. Had he been there in his physical form, he would have explained the history behind Sethubandanam too. He was a great soul. His love for writing, singing, drawing, painting, pencil sketching, gardening, and teaching (any subject, but especially Maths and Civil Engineering) were incomparable. He also used to make beautiful curios out of things that we usually throw away.
September: My son turned 23. Time had really flown. The baby I carried in my arms is now a handsome grown-up man. In those days while crossing roads I used to hold his hand, but now he holds mine! Then, I used to bend down to talk to the cute little boy, but now, he bends down to talk to me! To celebrate his birthday, we went out to dine, and he told us that he had a great party with his office friends during lunchtime. I was thinking of the different shapes of birthday cakes we used to buy for his first 12 birthdays: a car, a train, Popeye, Spiderman, to name a few! Thoughts of children growing up crept through my mind and I realized that I was starting to experience the ’empty nest syndrome’.
October: I celebrated my birthday on the day when the world celebrated Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam’s birthday as ‘Students’ Day’! I decided to share my life happenings and experiences of midlife as an empty nester. I started Melodies of Midlife. I became a midlife blogger. This decision changed my life completely. Remembering the quote by Mark Batterson: “We are just a small decision away from a totally different life.”
November: I shared my blog, Melodies of Midlife with my friends and family. The support and encouragement were overwhelming. That boosted my confidence to open up more through weekly blog posts and move forward. I am not sure whether you are aware of the depth of the impact your constant encouragements have on me, without which I wouldn’t be writing this blog post now. It has really inspired me to follow my passion and pursue my dreams. Thank you very much for all the support!
December: The word ‘minimalism’ started attracting me more and more. The definition of minimalism from the internet is intentionally trying to live with only the things we really need. Nowadays I have started decluttering my home often. I am slowly breaking the habit of accumulating things like dresses, shoes, bags, vessels, curios, and so on. Minimalism is not about having less. It’s about making room for more of what really matters! When we start practising minimalism we realize that less is more 🙂
I don’t have a 9-to-5 job now, but I am fully absorbed in my passion right from the moment I open my eyes in the morning to when I close my eyes at night. I have set deadlines for myself for writing weekly blog posts and daily reading, but I never feel stressed and don’t feel the time passing at all! I am realizing that ‘the things we are passionate about are not random; they’re our calling’!
I have learned that if I want to change the direction of my life, it won’t happen overnight. It takes time and I have to focus all my energy in the new direction. If I change my priorities and put in the necessary effort and complete dedication to my newly set goal, life transforms magically!
Your life is your story. Write well and edit often!
Wishing you all a very happy and prosperous new year!
Happy empty nesting! 🙂