I have been a busy bee, working 60-70 hours a week on things my late husband, Naren, used to take care of, in addition to my own reading, writing, and competing in bridge championships which have been my focus for the past 10 years or so. I am also working on my first book, and continue to serve on non-profit boards.
In addition, there is always a painting on the easel, which allows my creative juices to flow.
At this pace, it is hard not to panic as problems have kept coming at me like bullets. Even prioritizing them seemed impossible. I forgot to pay the increase in Medicare’s prescription drug plan ten days after Naren’s death so it was canceled on me, with no recourse but to wait another year. My name was not on our credit card, so it was canceled and my charges started getting denied. And on and on.
I had no idea that organization and paperwork will take over my life. That I would have to become an expert on estate taxes. I had to explore files on the Mac that I have been using for over 10 years, to find passwords, organize folders in Finder, learn to work with Google Sheets and its nuances, organize folders and flags combo in the mail to respond to emails in a timely way, and use i-Calendar more effectively.
Fortunately, my two temp EAs, including my nephew Nithin, helped me out. My long-term assistant Veronica took over the routine part and more. With her infinite wisdom, she helped me plow through.
In the midst of this chaos, I have not even begun to address the strategic part of life: Where am I going? Why? How will I get there?
It feels strange to even write about these things; it hasn’t even been a year since Naren passed on Christmas Day. We were companions of 47 years. He was my check-back. I could count on his honest feedback when I was clouded by doubts.
How am I supposed to feel, after such a life-changing event? Why was I not more fearful? Did I get hardened by my experiences? Have I drowned myself in work to avoid dealing with my feelings? I think of Naren every day, and when I get overwhelmed, I write, following my daughter Anneka’s suggestion — turning my deeper feelings inside out. Writing has been therapeutic.
I am capable of rising to the occasion, I’ve learned.
I am the only parent my daughters have left and I need to be their pillar of support. In their early 30s, they have suddenly lost their father’s guidance and love. Our house staff is also experiencing a sense of loss. Thinking of others is often a way to lessen my own turmoils.
Then, I look for inspiration to keep going and evolving.
I already discovered my increased capacity, and capabilities to tackle new problems and challenges. Then last March, I had my best bridge tournament ever, and that really lifted my spirits. Then my daughter gave me a birthday present Yung Pueblo’s book Clarity & Connection. The book turned out to be the medicine that my soul needed.
After our 47 years of marriage, I still carry Naren’s voice in my head with admiration, but “Naren, I also have some shikayaten (complaints)”.
Then I read Pueblo’s Twitter feed, where he says “you have to fully say goodbye to the past, to move into a more vibrant life.” But how? My electronic diary of the past nine months, helps me look at myself. Pueblo emphasizes, “Cultivate a culture of honesty inside of yourself so that you’re not running away from yourself.”
Putting his messages to practice has invoked me to examine my deeper feelings, fearlessly.
But I still have a ways to go. How do I make better decisions and take on new initiatives at this juncture in my life? How do I become more self-aware — equally hard? Both science and philosophy are helpful in understanding the plumbing of the brain and how it works.
Professor Ann Graybiel, a member of the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT finds,
- Habits are behaviors wired so deeply in our brains that we perform them automatically. That is why addictions are hard to overcome.
- A new study by MIT neuroscientists on rats shows, “the brain’s planning center is responsible for moment-by-moment control of which habits are switched on at a given time.” And when the rats were prevented from carrying old habits by a medical procedure, they could adopt new ones.
We humans can also rewire, by intentional training. I have also discovered, that old patterns accumulate and can weigh you down at times. When the environment has forced a major change on me, it is an opportune time to free up my mind for adopting new habits. But at the same time, I may also be prone to new bad habits.
The quality of my future interactions and decisions will depend on my ability to let go of old triggers and make room for healthier patterns that will help me to reinvent myself, internally.
Dearest Vinita, I am in Vermont with family on a short 5day vacation returning to NYC on Thursday, September, 29th evening. I intend to write to you in detail after I get back to NYC touching on almost every point you have brought up in "letting it go"
This is amazing Vinita ji ! You inspire me !
Reinventing yourself sounds like a daunting task. Good luck and let us know how that works out for you.
Very interesting write-up. I know “letting go “ is difficult but with so much of your knowledge and life experiences, you are moving ahead!
Col Girish Chandra
I can see that you are keeping yourself very, very busy. It is a good antidote for loneliness. But 10 hrs a day, in addition to household work? Wow! I am reminded of my crazy working hours while I was in uniform, particularly during Ops or when on training exercises during peacetime.
The vacuum left by Narendra Ji in your life can never be filled by anyone or anything. Losing of one’s lifelong companion is inevitable, but anticipating or preparing oneself for it is not possible. As the cliche’ goes, time is the only healer…
Hemant Saran Lall
Dealing with the loss of a loved one is something we do not have experience with. I lost my son two years ago. I will always miss him and there will forever be a hole in my heart. Dr. Seligman, one of the most eminent psychologists of our generation, said to be around people who give love and friendship. I moved to LA to be close to my daughter. At the end of every conversation, she reminds me he is in a better place. We try not to drown in the sorrow of his loss but rather rejoice in the memories we created together. We celebrate his life. That is a source of motivation and inspiration for us that keeps us going.
Notwithstanding, we are still preoccupied with the loss at some level and simpler tasks and organizational skills escape us. But we are also driven to rise to higher levels to honor our loved ones.
Vinita, you have achieved remarkable success at bridge against the world’s best in spite of all the distractions. You are a strong, multi-talented person and I wish you peace and success in all your endeavors.
Your good friend,
It’s impossible to put myself in Vinita or Hemant’s shoes, but this post made me recall a Mahatma Gandhi quote that I read as a boy: “Life is like bridge — it’s not the cards you hold but what you do with them.” Since I loved bridge, this quote stuck with me over the years. And though bridge is only a game, the quote helped me in my performance when I picked up what looked like a poor hand.
Several years later I adopted a religious lifestyle with my wife Pamela (by looking in amazement at our new born baby, which we considered a miracle). We joined Chassidic Judaism and soon discovered our Sages said something similar to Gandhi: Everything is in the hands of heaven except the fear of heaven. In other words our only real choices in life are to do right or wrong.
The million day-to-day things like paperwork and traffic jams, are (we learned) engineered from heaven, like a great chess master is able to do against a novice — he can make the novice move this way or that by his own moves. This results in what some would call destiny, but we can affect that destiny positively or negatively.
I find it comforting that though we are always supposed to try our best, and make a vessel in our work, all we can really accomplish in life by our own free will is to do good or bad. Even that can be difficult!
Beautifully written Vinita. Much love to you.
Dear Didi, what a heart touching thoughts you have put out here , and one quote came in my mind when i was teaching yoga " that body is not stiff, our minds are stiff, "letting go is the hardest Asna " in ones life. I often think of this quote and find it useful that life is all mind game. I think of you always and would love to meet with you. Tried many times calling you but no luck. Didi take care of your self, you are very strong and amazing women. love you.
Article touched the deepest chords. To write abt ones innermost thoughts is Not easy. You’ve done it very sensitively. A good friend of mine lost her husband after 50 yrs, she married very young and grew up with her husband.
She is very bold and doesn’t share her emotions, I will forward this article to her.
This is therapeutic for those who have lost someone.
May Narens memories sustain you.
Your blog touched my heart. Just a few days back, I had penned this on letting go. Sharing it with you:
Shalini, wow! This is most beautiful.
Vinita Gupta ji your life is an inspiration. Your blog is impactful. But saying goodbye to past completely…easier said than done. A year back I lost my soulmate of 36 years and with that one part of my being is completely dead. Emptiness vacuum insecurity fears anxiety are hard to handle. Getting out of old habits, relinquishing comfort zone, reorganizing repriortising life are tough challenges. I have recently retired from my teaching job of 43 years. I am trying to bring life back on the track and am passionate about writing poetry, blogs etc that I find therapeutic. Your blog comes across as a gust of positivity optimism and mental strength to take on life with fresh resolve and fortitude
Your words are very precise and I can tell their meaning in context.
Vinita your blog is definitely inspiring and will motivate many who have lost their near ones whom they were dependent.. Learning to move on and forget the past is difficult . You have shown a way to be happy and move on