“If you have never been hated by your child, you have never been a parent.” – Bette Davis
got to love Bette’s quote. Being at the receiving end of your child’s
concentrated hatred, irritation, scorn, anger and contempt is pretty normal for
the average parent. Here we are, surrounded by people who constantly question
our sanity, second-guess our every decision, and sometimes bad-mouth the way
things are. In the meantime, we are also working hard to provide for them,
educate them and ensure they learn and succeed and soon become financially
After two decades of entrepreneurship and parenting, I am beginning to see similarities and patterns! So what is it that parents and entrepreneurs have in common? Here we go.
The goal isn’t to pretend everything is fine; it’s to stop wallowing in negativity. – “Making Sure Your Stress Isn’t Contagious” – Kristi Hedges
Untold suffering seldom is. – Franklin P. Jones
Show me a person who says he does not complain and I will show you a liar. Complaining is a universal trait. And calling it by any other name – venting, talking, discussing, bitching, explaining – does not change the very nature of complaining; an obsession to tell others what we feel. Again and again.
But, what’s wrong in telling people, especially our close friends and family, how we feel? What if they are interested in listening to me and my problems? Isn’t this why we are social creatures – to talk and share and learn from each other?
Let’s dive right into it. Here are four REAL reasons why you need to stop complaining today.
I had a fracture on my left foot exactly 3 weeks before I left for a 10-day vacation of Dubrovnik, Croatia and Rome, Italy. While there is certainly no good timing for a fracture, this certainly came at the most inopportune time. We had booked the business conference in Croatia and the family vacation in Rome months before. We almost canceled the trip the day before we were flying out, but my Ortho doc (God Bless him!) saw my x-rays and actually said I had healed enough to walk with just my special Ossur shoes on. However, just to be on the safe side, he advised me to use wheelchair assistance at airports, and use a single crutch as support on uneven grounds.
Rome and Dubrovnik – here I come!
While the trip by itself was one of the best vacations we had as a family, and the food in Rome simply delicious, all that is another blog by itself. In this blog, I just want to focus on the lessons I learnt while traveling with a temporary physical disability.
Lesson #1: Learning to accept help gracefully from strangers
Since we had requested wheelchair support at all the airports, from the time I got out of the car until I reached the entrance to the flight, the attendants took charge of my movement. And that of the Krishna family.
During this trip, I had 6 flights to catch from airports in 4 different countries – India, Qatar, Italy and Croatia. While I could walk with my shoe, airports presented way too long a distance for me to do it without pain. So I became intensely grateful for the help extended, very naturally and simply, by each of these attendants in all the airports. It was as if they considered it my right that I should be helped. Not a privilege extended because I was on a wheelchair.
Accepting help is very humbling for the ego. We love helping others. After all, we feel good and noble when doing so. However, when it comes to asking for help, it becomes tough for our ego (and our sense of self-confidence and importance) to handle. I was already feeling prickly because of the loads of people staring at me. However, the natural way with which strangers and officials extended their assistance simply made the whole experience very special. The attendants ensured that we whizzed past, in super record time, ticket counters, security checks, Immigration clearances, and boarding lines. Not just once, but every time we had to catch a flight.
By the end of the trip, I had become a pro at jumping in and out of wheelchairs. And at accepting and appreciating every act of kindness extended to me.
Lesson #2: Learning to put myself in other people’s crutches
This acceptance of my disability and receiving help in airports and from strangers was easier because in my mind I knew it was only temporary, and that in 2 weeks I would be fine. But then I imagined how life is for those who have permanent disabilities. Wherever I went, I became extra sensitive to those who were on wheelchairs or used crutches to move around.
I slowly realized that as a person I had no clue how a person with a permanent disability felt. I was guilty of staring at them before. I was guilty of not helping them or reaching out to them – in fact, I even ignored them or pretended they were not there. I became aware of the total inadequacy of my empathy, or perceived empathy, before I had the accident. Nothing, not even a temporary fracture, can help us realize the daily pains and frustrations a person with limited mobility feels.
Lesson #3: Learning that chivalry and decency is not dead
When random strangers came and commented on how brave I was, or how sporting it was to travel with a crutch, it was extremely embarrassing at first. I felt like a fraud and that I did not deserve these compliments. After all, I had a customized shoe for a cast, my husband and my daughters were supporting me every step of the way (literally), and I was traveling in total style and comfort. But the fact that at every stage there were people who were ready to lend a helping hand made me feel good. Indeed, chivalry and decency was not dead.
So what is the big deal when random foreigners (and even Indians!!) help you? I know all of us are in this rat race and too impatient to get ahead, even when on vacation. But maybe because I was taking my own time to move around, or could sit and observe others, I became intensely aware of these tiny, insignificant acts of kindness – moving out of the way, a warm smile, helping to reach the paper towel in bathrooms, letting me go to the front of the line, sharing their travel stories so I feel better… I could go on and on, but these gestures became valid evidence that people are intrinsically nice.
Am I waxing maudlin simply because strangers were nice?
Not really. It is just that only when we are down and out that we become sensitive and receptive enough to the niceness around us. We normally take all these for granted, but when we are in trouble and desperately have to depend on others, we realize how blessed we indeed are for all the help.
That probably is the best lesson I learnt during my Roman Holiday.
When you enter your 40s (mostly), you become a sandwich. On one end are the millennials bandying words around like “triggered” and “swag” and on the other are senior citizens with urinary infections and dementia. As the sandwiched person, you are probably going crazy ordering tickets for BTS concerts (just the only most popular Korean boy band in the world, duh!), disposable catheters, anodized silver nose rings, dog food and under pads. We are the only customer segment that Google has not figured out yet.
But how does this help me at work? Just read on.
You become better at coordinating and managing: Imagine getting a phone call at 6 AM and the voice on the other end says, “I have collected the urine. Now what should I do?” There is no preamble, no intro – just this question. In an instant you have to understand context, calculate gravity of the situation based on the note of hysteria in the voice, and come up with practical solutions for the problem. As a tool that sharpens your analytical and contextual ability, these kind of conversations take the number one spot. As you explain the next steps (some steps at least 3 times) and then call the lab guy and then call the senior citizen back, you have spent the greater part of an hour ensuring that the urine is collected on time and tested.
Once this 6 AM call is taken care of, it is time to prepare for the next set of phone calls during the day that will ask questions regarding the communication from the lab, test results sent to the family doctor, his feedback, and the change of medicines and antibiotics, if any. Rest assured, once the antibiotics are purchased and given to the trained nurse to administer, you will still get calls from the senior citizen just before the antibiotics is administered every time to ensure the nurse is doing it right.
You become more patient with your peers and employees: If the above exercise does not build your patience, don’t worry. This is where the millennials come in. If you thought the senior citizen’s attention span was abysmal and their questions trying, wait till you try and get the kids to go with you, say for a religious event. Or even a family dinner. From the time we decide to go, rapid and logical explanations for every question/decision has to be patiently explained – the time you choose (it’s too early to eat!), the occasion (who celebrates their 80th birthday?), the venue (the reviews on Uber Eats is bad), the cuisine (not Indian again!), and food selection (you eat this at home; why can’t you try something new?). Assuming all these are answered satisfactorily and you do get to the restaurant, conversation gets difficult as they start fiddling with their phones. You dig deep into those hidden reserves of patience as you try to have a “bonding” session over dinner. Most times you come home exhausted, and promise yourself that next time you would order pizza for them and eat left over curd rice and head to bed. But since hope springs eternal, we are back next day, more patient.
Since your own blood relations don’t listen well, and it takes enormous amounts of patience and persistence to get things going at home, this is amazing training for when you get to work and have to deal with professionals who are willing to sit through an hour worth of powerpoints and hastily put plans, and then seem eager to get things done. Heaven indeed.
You become a master multi-tasker: Going back and forth between 4 senior citizens from the ages of 72 to 88, with afflictions ranging from cancer, dementia and Parkinsons to blood pressure, diabetes, heart conditions and bone loss, and 2 millennials who are into sports, fitness, Korean boy bands and want to pursue careers in foreign services and sports science, our household is a constant hotbed of activity/planning/discussion/budgeting/prioritization/change management/time management that would put a Fortune 500 company to shame. In a typical day, you are moving seamlessly between hospital visits and PTA meetings, booking tickets for concerts in London and planning trips for the senior citizen to visit her guru’s ashram in Chennai, conversing knowledgeably with lab assistants and personal trainers, and trying to fit in everyone’s agenda so you can get to work. And take a breather.
And when you arrive at your workplace, you truly are grateful for the relative order and peace, the logical flow of events and people’s ability to get you, mostly on the first try. The productivity of a grateful employee knows no bounds.
I am not a senior citizen; just a recycled teenager! Never have truer words been spoken. So if you don’t have senior citizens and millennials at a home near you to learn business lessons from, don’t fret. Just call me (hopefully not at 6AM) – am sure we can work something out.