MARCH 2018 – Part II
I got down to writing this post later than I expected, but better late than never, right? The first quarter of the year went by quickly, March was an extremely busy yet fulfilling month. Who knew pre-schoolers had so many school events that needed parental participation. Phew! The school doesn’t make attendance compulsory, but I must confess yelling my lungs out in support of the little Blue Sharks gave me a high. And did I mention, parents were warned not to get competitive about the races? “It’s all about team spirit” we were reminded, and I completely agree, grown-ups need these not-so-gentle reminders too.
Besides the daily grind, this month was also about a much-awaited family visit. Nearly a year ago my sister informed me that she and her family would be visiting us this March and so I had the dates blocked on my calendar well in advance. I planned my month in such a way that I had those days absolutely free. No magazine editing, no meetings, no writing, no school events. When you live far away from family and have to depend on a twenty-three-hour flight to be able to see them in person you know you have to have your planner perfectly sorted.
My Hypotheses: In order to enjoy the ordinary, one must be light-hearted, thankful, and forgiving.
Relationships: Be present in body and spirit
I don’t know if it’s just me, but I get all bunched up a week before friends or family visit my home. My husband’s always poking fun at my to-do list. “Are we having the Queen of England over?” he jokes. Sometimes I don’t think he’s joking, it’s more like he’s trying to wiggle out of the chores that he has to do. Well, for the first time in years, this month I didn’t drive myself crazy with a “have to dust each shelf” instruction to myself and kept it minimal. It’s true, my sister was visiting us in Bangkok for the first time, but it wasn’t like she was here on a Good Homes review visit. When I fell back in my recliner the evening before they arrived, I was pleased with myself. For me, not driving myself crazy about insignificant things like pretty flowers in a fancy vase on my dining table as part of my staged decor is a big win in itself.
That weekend everything went as planned, the man of the house was seen sans his favourite accessory (his laptop) and actually enjoyed a few beers and talked about stuff other than work. The kids were on expected holiday behaviour – the living room and every other room had toys scattered all over – and it didn’t bother me. Now if you ask my sister, she might have a different story to tell, but then again she hasn’t seen me around my child in my own home before, so when I say I was chilled out, believe me, it’s true. I can actually see myself evolve from a helicopter/drone mom to a little less of a tight ass. Light-hearted Donna is not too far away. I never said I was going to turn into someone else, just a better version of myself so that I could truly enjoy the joys of my ordinary life, and I’m on my way.
Now for the big leap I took last week. Our families had a beach holiday planned to Railay, Krabi, and I had been eagerly waiting to visit this fascinating peninsula in the Andaman Sea surrounded by limestone cliffs and lush jungle. The images that pop up on Google for this beach are breathtaking. My excitement was at 9, but something was missing, there was no reason for it not to be a perfect 10. Once we were checked in at the airport and I had uploaded my ‘Krabi bound’ post on Instagram it suddenly clicked. I was going to visit one of Thailand’s most beautiful beaches with the people I love and I was still hanging on to my phone and posting updates that honestly, I don’t know how many people care about. It didn’t feel right, and at that moment I decided I was going to try and enjoy an Internet-free vacation. I am proud to share I came close to being 100% successful at it, but I’d be lying if I left out the part that I did check three WhatsApp messages and one email (and of course, the breakfast/dinner/beach messages to my sister sleeping a few doors away) but other than that I was great. No social media, no random surfing the Internet on multiple loo visits, no emails, no TV, no Netflix, no Chatgroup messaging.
I didn’t want to accept it, but I am addicted to the Internet in a twisted way. A month ago, I thought it was just social media that was driving me insane, but I guess it goes beyond the photo upload. Many of us need the medium for our professional work but do we have to carry it along with us everywhere and every hour of the day? At first, I didn’t think I’d survive the no Internet browsing part, it felt weird to sit at the airport and simply look around (my better half had his nose deep in his phone responding to work emails). I could read a book but instead, I choose to sit and observe people seated around me. There was so much diversity; locals and foreigners, families and singles, senior citizens and the fresh-out-of-off high-school travellers were all headed to the same destination. Each group had a different expectation about what their time in Krabi would do for them. In the end, this time would mean something to all of us, and I wanted it to be one that my daughter will always look back at with fond memories.
When I was little, our vacations were far from fancy. We travelled by buses and trains for hours together to get to our holiday destination which rarely changed for the first ten years of my life. It’s an Indian thing for families to head to their ‘native place’ for the holidays. Luckily, my native place is Goa (balmy beaches, yummy food, free-flowing alcohol), so I couldn’t complain much. And even though I didn’t enjoy going to the same place every year, today when I look back at those vacations, the time I spent with my family features on the top of my list of best things I’ve ever done. Back then, my parents didn’t make any conscious decision to go Internet free. There was no Internet. No gadgets. Children had to rely on limited toys, free verbal chat and books to entertain themselves, and we did. I know I’d go crazy if I did that to my daughter so I didn’t impose the Internet ban on her or her father.
Beach life is fabulous minus the heat (I live in Bangkok, so I don’t care much for the sun. I’m happy with just the sand, fresh air and cool water ticking my toes). Lil Z had the time of her life splashing around, building sand castles, gorging on Nutella pancakes for dinner (you heard right, and pancakes for breakfast too) and just being silly with her cousins. We toured the island on foot, sipped on cocktails, and spent time chatting with each other. Our lights were out by 9 p.m. and it was bliss to enjoy ten hours of sleep at a stretch (which would never have been possible with Netflix). You see, it was all perfect. But nothing ever is and so as nature would have it a day before we could leave I began puking. It was horrible, the heat had taken its first victim. I stayed in all day while the others hung out at the beach (I needed the quiet and I was happy to finish a paperback I’d carried along in one sitting).
That night I was thankful for two reasons. First, I was glad that it was me and not the kids who fell ill, and second, I was pleased with the room arrest. It felt good to just lay back (once the vomiting stopped) and do nothing. As parents, we rarely get that chance, so when you do, you take it, even if it involves a few runs to the bathroom. Sometimes being still and soaking in what’s around you is the best way to unwind.
The highlight of my trip was a text message I received from my sister a day after we got back home (they continued their beach adventure to Koh Samui). This trip wasn’t a perfect vacation, there were flight delays, baggage issues, a room that didn’t match the website representation, heat exhaustion, puking (my sister fell ill too, the day we were leaving), but in all that she was happy that our families had the opportunity to spend time together. And she was absolutely right. Sometimes the externals don’t matter. It’s the people you spend your time with who are important. Life is unpredictable, things you least expect happen, so when you’re awarded the gift of time with family and friends you make the best of it. A room with a fabulous view will never be as fantastic as a room filled with laughter and genuine love.
That’s all from me for last month. Until next time, have a fabulous April and don’t forget to enjoy the ordinary.