We hear the phrase, ‘be mindful of others’ regularly. Especially with social media consuming our lives, we consistently hear people say, ‘pay attention to your surroundings, be present, be aware, be mindful.’
Growing up, my parents really wanted to embed mindfulness in to us kids. To be quite honest, it’s all they cared about. If we were sitting and someone (mainly elder) was standing, we should be mindful and offer our seat. If someone came to visit, I should be mindful and offer water, or chai. If someone was complaining about a situation we should be mindful and offer help. To constantly be aware of others needs. Growing up, my sister would jokingly refer to our mother as a social worker. Despite having three kids, she took on tasks for people like it was her job. Both my parents really. They were so kind to open their doors and have people stay if they ever needed a room or food. Literally anyone could call my parents for help, and you’d never hear a no. Never.
I am truly grateful to have witnessed such kind, extremely giving, and mindful parents. They not only taught us to be respectful to others but to always show compassion to those in need. And they really taught us to be attentive to not only others’ experiences but their feelings especially.
Desis are ALL about emotions. I mean just watch any Bollywood movie and see how we like to pull at peoples heart strings with emotional blackmail… err situations. Being mindful isn’t a dreadful thing. It’s a wonderful attribute but is there such a thing to be too mindful? I genuinely don’t think I have EVER made a life altering decision without listing the pro’s and con’s of how OTHERS might feel (and when I say others, I mainly mean my parents.) Sure, I’ve been selfish and did things I wanted but I also drove myself pretty crazy up until I made that decision.
I find my mindfulness has spread to other areas of my life. With friendships, with work. I have a hard time saying ‘No.’ Because, again my parents taught us to always be mindful of people’s feelings. I don’t quite know how my parents provided for three kids and were able to take on more than their share – because I find myself struggling. On one hand I want to be able to make everyone around me ‘happy’ (I say happy but I know it’s nearly impossible to make everyone happy – a general consensus if you will) but on the other hand it can take a huge toll on one’s sanity.
My friends who are amazing wives struggle between what their husbands want, what her parents want, and what her in-laws expect from her. She’s busy in her own life and of course has a voice but is also extremely mindful of keeping the harmony. I often listen to their struggles, pause and ask, “and what do you want?” The most daunting question of all time. We’re so wrapped up in trying to balance the beam. I truly believe they forget what they even want to begin with. I don’t want to make the bold statement that more often than not, women are asked to be more mindful than men, but in this case I’ll say it.
I once read a story that really resonated with me for many different reasons. A couple gets married and they make a pact for the first couple of weeks they won’t let anyone bother them no matter what. The guys parents come and they ask each other do we let them in and break the pact? The guy says it’ll be okay, they’ll be fine. The following week the girl’s parents are at the door. And of course not wanting to break the pact she convinces herself that it’s okay, they’ll understand. After a couple of minutes, she can’t take it, she tells her husband we should let them in, what if it’s something important? She opens the door. Fast forward a couple of years they have a son and then a girl. On the arrival of their daughter, the husband began to cry and the wife jokingly asked why are you crying? And he replied, “because the one who’s going to open the door for us, is here.”
I know plenty of guys who are mindful. I know plenty of women who are not. But there is something about this story that really resonates with me. The girl felt so many emotions upon opening that door. Firstly, to not want to disappoint her husband if she did open the door or feel guilty if she didn’t open the door for her parents. I often find myself at a similar crossroad. When my co workers say no to my boss for an extra task, I start to think of the all reasons why I should take the task. Mindfulness. It pops up everywhere.
For once, I’d like to be mindless. To solely make a decision based on my needs, only. We often spend our adult life fixing what our childhood broke and I’m not sure which part is more broken now.
My parents raised humanitarians, and as grateful as I am to them, I’m also upset they set me up for failure for my own sanity. The world wasn’t raised the same. The guilt that consumes me when I don’t fulfill a task that’s asked of me, will be the death of me. Many would say, this is a personal problem, and that’s feasible. Nevertheless, how is one to turn off being mindful? That’s just it though, there is nothing noble about not giving grace. It could be I’ve been on the right side all along, although for the sake of my sanity (and others like me) it’s time to fathom that No is a full a sentence and completely okay to use every once and awhile.
I do mind.