Tag Archives: Mommy Rage

Why I Will Never Call Myself Fat Again

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Ok, this is an unusual admission from me – I am not fat. Not saying I am not thin, but am not fat either, whatever the definition of thin or fat is.

Which brings me to this question: what is the definition of fat, or thin? And who defines it? And why do we accept it?

The truth, unsurprisingly, is based on our perception about the issue. What I may think of as thin, may not be so for someone else (my children’s friend’s bordering-on-anorexic mothers probably think I am fat. I differ. Conversely, my mom thinks I am thin. Again, I differ). It’s all relative.

Today, somehow, being thin means being skinny, or somewhere near it. The whole definition of beauty has changed completely. And women, more than men, are trying to live by some warped standards of beauty, and are putting themselves through torture to conform to it. Innumerable studies and life experiences of people have repeatedly shown that physical qualities in people do only so much to make them happy and contended – one because they are fleeting and two, because they don’t add meaning to people’s lives. That may be a philosophical outlook that you may or may not agree with, but it does not take away from one simple fact – that our obsession with looking good and the methods of achieving it are unhealthy. And this must stop – because what we’re doing, and by we I mean women like myself who have unknowingly fallen into the trap and perpetuated the idea, is passing it on to the next generation. Most of us (like yours truly) may not mean to, but we are. Every time I look in the mirror and exclaim that I have gained weight, I am (albeit inadvertently), passing on my idea of beauty to my children. I may tell them otherwise, but children look at actions and take away from that. They are watching us at all times and learning from our behaviour. What we do or say seeps into their sub-conscience and feeds their ideas about life and society – in this case about defines being thin; it tells them what they must be like to be accepted as attractive.

Children are sponges – so if you, even in jest, say that you are fat, they will process this very differently than you may have intended.

Let me now confess that I have been guilty of this. I have often made a correlation between my weight with feeling good and not, as I should have, being fit and feeling good – because that’s what it should be about. I want to be healthy, and not being fat, in the medical sense, is part of it. But that’s not what I conveyed in my actions and words. I am a runner and I do believe that it makes me fitter. Yet, I have somehow done a bad marketing job of making those feelings known and amplified the ones that I don’t really believe in – which is about wanting to be thinner than I am.

For instance, when my sister and I joke about “going on a crash diet”, we lead our children to believe that depriving yourself of food is justified and even required if one needs to be acceptably thin (and thus physically attractive). The fact that neither of us never act on our words may not be enough to quell the ideas we had engraved in our children’s impressionable minds.

Why this sudden awakening you may ask? Because my older daughter (now ten) said to me the other day that she feared being fat when she grew up. It was one of those passing things that kids say, which they forget about the next moment and move on. But, her words stopped me in my tracks. I realized what I had done. I knew she didn’t fear it, like she fears the dark, or earthquakes. Yet, just the fact that she, at ten-years-old, had thought about gaining weight when she grew older, was enough to set me on a path of correcting the wrong I had done.

Parenting, I have learned, is not about the ability to always do the right thing, or about berating yourself for doing the wrong. It’s about realizing and admitting when you’ve made mistakes, and setting them right. That’s exactly what I plan to do now. And it can’t be done by siting my daughter down and giving her philosophical monologues on the idea of beauty. That’s taking the easy way out and frankly, it never works. She’s growing up in a world surrounded by image-obsessed people, who, along with some ill-timed remarks by her mother about her own weight, have influenced her little mind. What she needs is to see the right ideas in action. She needs to see her mother run and then talk about being fit, she needs to see her mother dress for a party and not ask if she’s looking fat, she needs to see her mother feel good about herself about the way she looks and not rue about her lost youth when she was thin.

My new-found resolve, however, does not mean that I shall now proceed to wander around with unkempt hair and live in sweatpants, because that would really prove I don’t care about how I look and thus send the right message to my kids. It won’t, they’ll just think I am sloppy. No, it means that I stop saying things I don’t mean and, through my actions, I prove that being healthy is what matters.

And the effects of this will be two fold – one, of course, I will teach my daughters the right thing about their body-image and two, I will feel good about myself, which I have not been doing lately. I run to be healthy and because I enjoy it, not to be thin – whatever that means today.

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Someone Has To Fix The Mixie.

I am feeling a bit metaphorical this morning.

Nothing unusual has happened. The day, so far, has not gone according to plan (nothing odd about that) I’ve not written the article I need to write. Instead I’ve just returned from the local market where I’d gone to get the mixie fixed.

Why, you could ask, did I drop work to get a mixie fixed? And what’s with the metaphor? The answer to the first question – because someone has to do it, and that someone is me. And the second – because the fixing of the mixie, I’ve realized (while I was on my way to the market) is a great metaphor for describing my life right now.

I am a fixer. I fix everything, from the stuff in the house to the lives of my children, from their projects, homework and broken toys to the washing machine and the problems of my domestic help. I fix it all. Yes, the irony is all too apparent, that I can’t fix my own life. Or maybe, that’s why I can’t fix my own life, because I have not the time or the mind space left for it.

Why am I feeling this way? Allow me to tell you (I am bursting with it). Let’s see, what have I done since the morning so far? Woke up at 6, dived straight into the tempest of sending the children to school (one twin had severe Monday morning blues and simply did not want to get out of bed, so that was fun). Anyway, somehow we managed – it was a collective effort of getting them up, bathing them, dressing them, feeding them and then dropping them off. Then I returned home and read the paper with my two cups of strong tea, as I tried to ignore the post-it on my desk that was bleating at me incessantly. It listed the six things I absolutely had to do today.

1. Get swimming costume changed (for the kids – 3 day exchange policy)
2. Get the mixie fixed (falls in the kitchen no-go category)
3. Give the clothes for darning and dry cleaning (summer is here in full swing, need to put away the winter clothes and bring in the summer ones, but can’t put them away till they are darned and dry cleaned, hence cannot put the summer ones in the cupboard. But, it’s too hot, so need summer clothes, which lie in a heap, and the heap moves around the room, from the bed to the chair, to the piano, to the chair, to back to the bed. I can’t stand the heap anymore, it’s bleating at me too)
4. Give the kids’ clothes to the tailor for minor (yet extremely crucial) tinkering that will make them wearable. Summer skirts’ elastics are loose, some buttons have fallen off, don’t have the buttons, so need to go to the market and then to the tailor.
5. 3G on my phone is not working – this is not on an essentials lost, but I miss What’s App.
6. Buy black shoe polish (for the kids and the husband)

Looking at my list, I decided not to let the article hang on me. I’ll burn the midnight oil and sacrifice my candy crush tonight, I thought. I was unusually calm today while I went about doing the chores I hate to do. I wonder why? Am I finally coming around to accepting my role as a SAHM? I don’t think so. It’s a phase, probably.

You could ask why I am questioning the peace in my head? That’s because it could be the first sign of the fact that I’ll remain a fixer. If I lose my angst, what on earth will I be left with?

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Marathons, Mid-Life, and All That Jazz

Apparently, I am smack in the middle of a mid-life crisis. That’s why, it seems, I ran the marathon. It’s got to do with hitting forty (no one lets you forget it, it’s almost like you’d be disappointing your generation if you declare you’re fine).

It’s when the whole mortality, existential stuff hits you, and needless to say, you can’t deal with it. You search for meaning in your life and look for answers, but there aren’t any (or they are, but you don’t like the sound of them). So you panic, somewhat. You wonder if there’s anything more. You wonder if you were meant to do something else, or if you should write that book, go for that start-up idea, learn a new language, or take a trek to figure things out – you need meaning in your life. The whole, if-not-now-then-when syndrome biffs you on the head pretty hard. Then you panic some more. Now you need motivation and positivism, so you read about people who did incredible things in their forties, fifties and sixties. That encourages you, but you still don’t do much about your angst. You start running and it makes you feel better – them endorphins do the motivational job. They fool you into believing that the crisis has passed you by, when all they’ve done is sedated it (but it helps). All this, of course, conveniently comes at a time when your children are young and they need you, when your parents are old and they need you, when your work is not that exciting (or too tiring) but you need it (to me, this is precisely why it comes)

So, if you have the money, you buy a Porsche, as they say. Lesser mortals like us run marathons, or get a dramatic, image-altering hair cut, or just die it blonde. I think what you do and how far you go is directly proportional to the level of the crisis. I am guessing the I-am-going-to-be-blonde ones are the hardest hit. Either that, or they just really want to be blonde. Actually, I take that back. Maybe it’s ok. I mean, who am I to judge why someone should or should not dye their hair any colour; if someone wants to pretend to be somebody else, who am I to pronounce it as a character flaw or wave it away as a mid-life identity-crisis? Who can say that I am not going to be that person in the future? The one thing that you learn by the time you’re forty, is that life has a strange way of coming around. Never say never (or forever) – it’s pretty darn true.

Anyway, I’d wanted to talk about my marathon (you know, blow my trumpet a bit). I still feel good about it, but I have to admit, linking it to mid-life is a bit of a mood killer. I didn’t realize it could be a sign of the crisis that I am pretending has passed me by.

I called my mother the other day and asked her if she had had a mid-life crisis when she was my age, or is this one of those new-generation things that she laments about often – you know, like children were better behaved in those days, parents didn’t agonize over minute details of their kids and just let them be, they didn’t splurge as we do, rents were low, politicians were less corrupt, there was no tawdry display of wealth, teachers taught for the love of teaching and the like.

She said that she was too busy for it. Now, that wasn’t the answer I was expecting. I wanted to be told that she had had it too but it really wasn’t that bad and that it passes (without taking it’s toll). It left me wondering if I am feeling this way because I have too much time on my hands. But then, I thought of my husband, who has the reverse problem – too little time and too much work. He’s not running any marathon (because there’s just no time) but he is turning to philosophy, doing yoga and questioning why he’s working so hard. So, I don’t think it’s about the time one has to ponder over things. Having said that, if you’re neck deep in work or anything else, in a strange way it helps, because you then focus on the task at hand and leave the larger questions for later (the definition of later is not a constant)

I don’t have the answers to the questions in my head. I am not sure anyone does. That’s why, I guess, there’s faith. That’s what my mother told me – to just have faith. It’s what, she says, is gong to help me through my anxious moments – it helped her raise three kids with not much money.

I am not sure I can be my mother. Actually, I am pretty certain I can’t, but I can try and take her advice and learn from her. Have faith, bury yourself in something and keep going – it’s a tunnel, this age, you just have to keep going till you reach the other end. Just focus on the light at the end of it, because it’s there.  This is our rite of passage.

So I am going to continue running. It gives me a feeling of accomplishment. And if it’s a sign of the existential torment in my head, then so be it. I am forty-two and I am going to act my age. Besides, there were some twenty-somethings who I left behind in the dust at my marathon and it felt good.

Now if I write that book, I’d have put my angst to pretty good use.

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Why Does It Get To Me?

Does any mother not yell? No, seriously, is it possible? – leaving aside the Swedes, of course, who apparently don’t believe in using the word “no” to a child, let alone raise their voices ( my mother thought I was kidding when I told her that) .

I try as much as I can to be patient, but sooner or later the tantrums, the wailing, the sulking and the pestering gets the better of me and I find that the only way of making myself heard is by raising my voice.

I am not a patient person by nature ( it took me years to admit this) but with the kids, I try. A few months ago I told myself that I’d try to be more patient with them, no matter what.  So, when the other day when my eight year old made an unreasonable demand,  I declined gently, explaining all the reasons etc (all that textbook stuff about dealing with questions in a positive manner) but, the demand persisted. I counted to ten and explained it again. This happened about three more times. I continued to explain the reasons while holding my ground on my decision.  She didn’t take to it well and started to bolster her argument with talk of equality and fairness. It’s a time-tested strategy – when in doubt, bring in justice. Kids are clever enough to know that this usually puts the parents on the back foot.

Well, not this parent. I told her my reasons for my decision and expected her to understand.  I also wanted to make it clear that if she could not fully comprehend my reasoning then she would have to sort-of lump it, because sometimes parents have to do what they have to do. I always think of my own parents when I over-explain things to my kids in an effort to be the modern, involved (read evolved) parent. I cannot help but feel, at times, that their method of dealing with us was far better. My father had two pet phrases : ” you will know when you grow up” and “because I said so” as an answer to many questions . End of story. That was that.  My mum would try and tell us more, but only so much. I know that every generation glorifies their age and loves going down the how-things-used-to-be path, but my parents’ method did give them a lot more freedom than we give ourselves.

Anyway, that’s a whole different post. Coming back to my tale of patience, I tried as hard as I could to make her understand my point. And to be fair, she did get it, except that she still didn’t accept my ruling. Then the tears started. I took a deep breath and told her that she was overreacting. This seemed to open a can of worms and she went into previous arguments about this and that and how I never let her do blah blah blah. So, it finally happened . I caved and blew a lid, high drama followed (I am telling you, this teenage thing hits about five years too early) and more tears and apologies later, the matter was laid to rest, for the time being that is.  It ended, as it always does, with sorry notes from my daughter for the things she said in the fight, and apologies from me for losing my cool and making her cry. After having sworn, during the fight, not to take any more notes from her, I wiped her tears, kissed her, put the note in my cupboard (with the numerous others) and told her I’d never scold her that way again (this happens about once a week). What didn’t help (at all) was my husband’s comment about my handling it.  So I sulked and he didn’t address it, which, you can imagine, made me madder than ever (more on that in a later post, because man, that needs some venting)

With remorse comes guilt and with guilt comes introspection. I regretted the way I spoke to her and wondered, again, if I was being too harsh with her. I’ve never been able to decide this one,  does she react this way because I am too harsh? or does she react this way because I’ve not handled it right earlier? The guilt lingered and I thought about my own actions, of why I got so worked up and yelled. I started to question my reaction and look for a deeper meaning into my angst.  Surely I wasn’t so angry just because my daughter had cried.

Well, yes and no. Yes because the tears get to me. I can’t handle them beyond a point. I know it comes with being eight, when things that seem of little consequence to me, are matters of great importance to her and thus, when they are denied, there’s much gnashing of teeth. But when the tears flow so freely (with all three of them) I reach my limit and let my anger get the better of me. There’s only so much wailing one can take in a day and with the twins preferring it as a form of protest, I look to my older one for respite.  And no, because my anger is not only a reaction to her crying, it’s a symptom of the bigger problem (for lack of a better word).

I know I’ve said this before, but I wish that I was one of those women who was content being at home with the kids, or at least one who could make peace with it. But, I am not. And I am not even sure if such a woman exists.

I am reading The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friednan – it was a book that addressed, head-on, the real truth about the picture-perfect life of the suburban American housewife, about her angst and and of how she felt unhappy in a life that she’d longed for in a mistaken belief that that was what a woman must aspire for – a life of domestic bliss filled with a husband, children and a nice house. The book is said to have started a second wave of feminism ( don’t care for that word).

Here’s the opening paragraph:

“The problem lay buried, unspoken, for many years in the minds of American women. It was a strange stirring, a sense of dissatisfaction, a yearning that women suffered in the middle of the twentieth century in the United States. Each suburban wife struggled with it alone. As she made the beds, shopped for groceries, matched slipcover material, ate peanut butter sandwiches with her children, chauffeured Cub Scouts and Brownies, lay beside her husband at night — she was afraid to ask even of herself the silent question — “Is this all?”

My life could not be more different from the American suburban wife of the fifties, and yet, I can relate to her  “strange stirring”.  I guess that’s the stirring I need to address, because it’s whats causing the yelling. From what I hear from other women (and it’s comforting to know that I am not alone in this) it’s the way a lot of them feel.

So, what’s the solution? Not sure. But I know the problem, and that’s always the first step..

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Am ready for work, but..

“The more you grow old, the more you need people who knew you when you were young”. That, or something like that, goes an old saying.

This has never rung as true as it does for me today. I say this because I have some super friends who knew me in my youth (ok, I know I am still young, blah blah , but you know what I mean when I say youth – like youth youth, the 20s youth, and  the 30s, it’s-going-but-still-got-it youth). These are friends who I don’t talk to often, some of whom don’t live anywhere I can drive to and yet, when we talk, or What’s App, I smile. They make me smile, my dear old friends – because they remember me for what I was and not for what I turned into when this whole mid life thing hit me – it apparently arrives a decade earlier now, as do strokes, heart attacks, blood pressure and many such delightful accomplices.

Anyway, today one of my dearest friends called and I had such a girlie, refreshing, you-can-do-it chat with her that I felt instantly uplifted, and though I am not waltzing into the next company and selling myself big so they can hire me on my terms (sigh) just yet, I am feeling much better about myself. See that’s the thing about old friends, they remember things about you that you lost somewhere along the way; aspects of your personality that the black hole ate up, to the point that you did not even remember being that way; those are the things old friends remind you of. They remind you of who you really are. It sounds corny, but man it’s true.

I don’t know if I make sense, but talking to her today was like looking at an old photograph and saying “Gosh, this is who I was!” She just needed to prod that part of my mind and it threw up so many emotions that it forced me to kick into action. “You were one of those people” she said, with the alacrity of a cat chasing a mouse, “who could walk into any organization and make them see your point. You haven’t lost that, it’s just dormant. Just shake it up, pull yourself together” she said (she was one of those charitable friends who thought that my SOP for NYU rocked. I don’t know if it did, but I did make it there). I know all this is easier said, but still, speaking to her I felt that I had become too bashful about the gaping hole (more like abyss, but whatever) in my resume and that had rubbed off on my attitude towards everything. I have become diffident about myself, period.

I’ve been thinking of getting back to work, but I keep feeling that I am not exactly employable anymore and if someone does think so then I should just take it, even if it’s remotely what I aim for. It does not have to be that way. I mean it does and it doesn’t. I have to be realistic about my profile in any organization, so no matter how confident I feel right now I can’t just walk into an office today and demand my own terms of work. However, and this is the part I need to apply in reality, neither do I have to be too diffident about the break (ok, more like an immeasurable crater that could fit three moons) in my resume. I have certain qualities and strong points and I should dwell on those instead of the ones that I feel conscious of.

Women always sell themselves short. It might be a blanket stereotyping to say so, but it’s true. Men will boast of their glory even when they have little to show for it, women will do the opposite. In my heart I know that I will work hard and perform well but, the big but is that I need flexibility – it’s the only thing I ask for. Why can’t companies measure people  more by their work?

My previous boss is someone who likes to appear progressive and “employee centric”. But when I went to him with the idea of flexi-timings, he gave me his classic between-you-and-me bull about how he was all for it but, you know, that monster that watches over us –HR – thought that it “would set a bad precedent”.

At some level, I do understand that from an organization’s point of view an employee working from home is hard to justify to others and probably not the best use of a resource. But if a company really cares about its people, and it should, then there can be checks and balances in such a situation, a system could be worked out that’s be acceptable to both. It can happen, especially in an industry like mine (web based).

The bottom-line is, companies don’t care enough. Sure there are exceptions but those are few and far between.

I, for one, haven’t found such a dream place. But I like to believe that it exists.

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Minority Report

I am of the firm opinion that if Salman Rushdie tried to make a living as an online writer, he’d starve.

Why? Because he’s a master of the loop, of delightfully long and punctuated sentences that would send editors of online portals, much like Microsoft Word, into a tizzy, and they’d both come up with eerily similar suggestions to the tune of: “fragment – consider revising”. The unfortunate truth is that few today appreciate the beauty of long sentences, articulately written.

Don’t get me wrong. I know well the use of periods and their impacts – as Isaac Babel the brilliant Soviet playwright who was shot by the Stalin regime, (not, I suspect, for his love of periods) put it : “No iron can pierce a heart with such force as a period put just at the right place.”  I am all for periods and their uses and well understand that brevity can have an impact in a way long-winded sentences can’t.  But, I believe that it takes a superior writer to write a lengthy, masterful sentence. There is nothing more pleasing than  reading a long, perfectly punctuated sentence, much like the ones Emily Bronte writes so adroitly in Wuthering Heights.

By whining about this issue, I am not, for a moment, pretending to be a superior writer, one that the world has not recognized yet but for whom it will hold a bicentenary two hundred years from now in a belated attempt to assuage the guilt of not having granted her due recognition (though that would be nice). I am merely lamenting the fact that editors today, and I generalize here so pardon me those who do not fall into this miserable category, are incapable of appreciating a bloody good sentence just because it exceeds what they feel is the right length.

Where is all this coming from? You guessed it. From someone who recently asked me if I could shorten my sentences – you write well, except that the sentences are a bit, er well, a bit long. That was his only gripe – that the sentences were long – the only disqualifying factor. If I made it short (like some of the extremely mediocre writing on his site) then he could consider hiring me for which, mind you, I’d be paid some measly amount until  “you prove yourself and get maximum hits”. It’s all about SEO, you know, he added sheepishly. Stuff it, I told him.  Not in so many words, though, unfortunately.  Gosh I do want to say it once to someone real and not on my blog!

We now live in an age of instant gratification – there is this mercenary, make-it-short attitude towards everything. Publishers look for the next quick book to become a best seller, one that’s produced quite magically and sells a million copies.  Who has the time for tomes, no matter how well written? So, what about the people who seriously love to read writers like Salman Rushdie? Well, one word clubs them all wonderfully together into a nebulous mass – minority.

And that is the essential problem. That I am in the minority. Not that I am not going to, or can, do much about it. I sort of like being here, in the minority I mean. Am used to it, really. Go to a shop and ask for party-wear dresses and be prepared to be treated to piles and piles of outfits that look more like layered, fluffy puddings than dresses. Ask for a shoe and you’ll be shown an array of super-shiny, high-heeled monsters that look more like miniature rocket ships than something you’d put on your little one’s feet.  Wonder aloud about who wears this stuff and you’d be told that this was very much in demand and was “fast-selling”.  Sigh.

Back to the editor, though, (yup, not going to forget him in a while) – maybe someday I’ll write that book which has been exploding in my head for, well for as long as I can remember. Then I’ll send him a copy with a note, which, of course, will not be short, but long, with many punctuations.

Now there’s a happy thought.

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The Big 4.

I am now 40. Yes, it’s happened. It’s not a big deal, I know, except, that it sort of is.

What I mean is, that even though I don’t think it changes much, but, just by the fact that you enter another decade (and that everyone around you does not let you forget that one minor point!!), you are forced to retrospect. Which, of course, I love to do. Give me half a chance to reflect upon my life and my mind kicks into over drive. So, turning forty was hardly going to pass by without a bit of what-am-I-doing-with-my-life kind of thoughts flooding my brain.

I told myself, though, that I was not going to be hard on myself. I will think about the future with a degree of objectiveness, as much as possible. I liked what I thought. I have a lot of angst about not working right now, since I had kids late in life (older one was born when I was 34 and twins when I was 38), but, if you ask me, I would not have done it any other way. This is not to say that I do not see the merits of having kids young, there is a HUGE advantage to that. Some of my friends’ kids are teenagers and they are relatively free to carry on with their own lives, while mine are starting school! But, the big but, is that if I had to turn back the clock I would probably do exactly what I did. I lived up my twenties (which is why at forty I see little excitement in having a drink-till-dawn-dance-to-chamak-chalo party) While I was doing, what I think callow twenties are meant for – living it up, completely- some of my friends were changing diapers. Thirties were domestic, as I stepped on the accelerator big time and got married, had kids and all that.

Forties, now, will be different. While my kids are not going to grow up overnight, it will get better. I already find that I have more time. Also, I feel that I am forced to stay young – if you have three little kids you better stay in shape, both medically and mentally. So I spend my days trying to do a bit of work (have started my own web content consulting, a tiny tiny step) and alternating between playing jingle bells and Lady Antebellum on youtube for the kids (sometimes I manage to get “my song” in and play Lay Down Sally and we all jive to it). It’s a glorious time. And I wish I could silence that voice in my head and enjoy it fully. I can’t, no matter how hard I try. I have this nagging voice that says do-something-now, life’s slipping by and all that scary stuff.

So, I’ve embraced fortydom as I always thought I would – positive realism mixed with some trepidation. I like my life, and this may not be apparent to people around me (that angst tends to soar its ugly head). But I am, and maybe I keep saying it because I want to freeze these moments in a way, to enjoy the childhood of my kids and not worry too much about the future – it will get sorted out, in time. I hope.

And then there are resolutions:

I will:

Spend more quality time with the love of my life, my husband, my best friend.
Get Back to work
Listen to more music
Kiss my kids more
Not yell
Be patient with my parents
Visit them more often
Get my hair straightened
Dress better
Organize my papers
De-clutter my drawers
Learn to bake
Bake
Lose weight (how can that not be on the list?)
Do regular health check-ups
Read more
Write that book.

Here’s to the next decade. 40s, I embrace you.

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