Posted in Children, Family, Kindred, Life, Memories, Moi, Parenthood, Personal, Relationships, Soul crap, Thoughts, thoughts to think

Learning to Live

The seed did not fall far from the tree.

Nine months later when the new sprout first took a lungful cry, It was
greeted by the warmth of the pleasant shade from its parent.

A deep rooted strong tree, it appeared, giving the new shoot an ideal to
follow.

With every growing year, he turned a blind eye to the rotting side of the
depleting force, and the brights of the beaming green was much too powerful, or
may be it was the shades of the youth that eclipsed eyes of the adolescent one.

The young adult now clearly feeding on its parent roots, blossoming into a
aping trunk.

It was is turn to seed and now they were a bunch.

The once strong parent living its life and the younger bunch loving it.

A day came when out of the blue the parent fell, catching the bunch off
guard. The grand tree had lived it’s sudden death

The bunch lived.

An old partner stood where the former had once ruled. The frailty of the
surviving partner apparent to the loved one.

Every day the loved one saw what it had not seen for years, the warmth of
the shades that it had once taken for granted threatening to completely vanish.

Every day the loved one, lived in fear of the loss, the one that was lost,
and the one which will not last.

Yet there was it’s own younger self, feeding of it’s root now. Living the
same life as it had once lived. Loved one’s rotting self, completely invisible
to its younger shoot.

The dual life of strong and week, the fear and the strength, the inner child
and the real one, the seeker and the giver.

Yet, the tree learns to live, it lives.

 

Posted in Kindred, Memories, Nostalgia, poésie, poetry, Thoughts, thoughts to think

Magical Mirror

Young I was,

As I looked into the mirror,

Seeing things that I saw,

Things that were,

And a few, which ought to have been,

Some that shouldn’t have been,

A few convenient voids,

Some I was looking for,

Some that showed up,

Strange corners well lit, at times,

Striking features blurred occasionally.

The mirror has aged,

Lasted for more than I imagined,

People have walked in and out,

Adding themselves into my sight.

My loyalties to you may have strayed,

As you lay here in dust,

Still doing your job,

Giving me the best of my dirt,

A chance to wipe them clean,

A chance to regret and remorse,

And of course, watch my glee too.

A friend that you have been,

Leading me to several souls,

Some mates have lasted,

And some buried in sand.

Thank you, would mean nothing to you,

Or so it seems,

Virtual that you are,

A Ramblings galore.

*****************************************************************************************************

I complete 15 years of blogging today. I cannot believe Virtual Ramblings has lasted 15 years. Thank you to all you kindred souls out there, you have made me who I am today.

I did my first post on March 23rd 2006 here.

Posted in Children, Family, Kindred, Life, Memories, Moi, Nostalgia, Parenthood, Personal, Relationships, Thoughts, thoughts to think

Memorabilia

Switching channels constantly and not stopping at one, is probably the most widely popular pastime for bored people. I am no stranger to that. As I was switching channels today, I came across a song picturized on a huge star of yesteryears, from his last movie before he passed away recently, I have never been a fan of him or his brand of movies, but just the sight of him made me watch the entire song, a horrible tune and lyrics full of cliché, yet my eyes were glued to a visibly old and immobile star in his last movie. It is funny how the mind associated him to this era of my past, when he was a star, when his movies were hugely popular, when he was young and famous. It was not him I was seeing on screen, but the idea of me from that era, people who were around, things which interested me back then, life I had, Bangalore that was, my world in which I lived, ah what a bliss of nostalgia the song gave me. My eyes were glued to this star on screen, feasting on moving talking memorabilia from my past.

“Hello’ was all he said, as he answered my phone. Growing up is not easy, when you are an only child. Only another single child can understand the feeling of missing out on the camaraderie which comes naturally to siblings. Fortunately I had loads and loads of cousins, who were around during holidays and vacations, family gatherings and functions. I can remember so many occasions spent with a level of happiness which no amount of money, fame, travel or any other delight from today can bring back. We were a close pack for a long period of time, even when elders in that group got married and moved on, or found jobs and became busy, still we kept meeting each other, having fun at each other’s homes. I never realized when it all slowed down, when it became so few and far, and we all got lost in our own lives. All of us now have kids of our own, again many of us have a single child at home who is going through the very same pain as we did as kids. Hearing my cousin today made me hear all the words and stories from those days when our house buzzed with us cousins, our songs, our plays, our fights. Memorabilia of sounds that I cherish.

Blame it on global warming, or just time, weather has changed. We got untimely rain today. Rain in February was never heard of, and yet it happened yesterday and today. As I woke up after a customary weekend nap in the afternoon, my nose immediately got the whiff of the rain. My nose took me to our balcony to a smell of wet mud, a familiar smell of wet mud from my childhood. Bangalore in early 90s was nothing similar to current Bangalore. I remember a year when it rained 3 days straight, and so heavily that we were literally struck at home, with no power and supplies. It has been a few years, since it has rained for more than an hour. In 90s Bangalore, June to August saw rains every day, it used to be my favourite season. Our school year began in June, and so did the rainy season. As I walked back from school, I used to be was greeted with heavy clouds almost every single day, the smell of rain on the plants, trees and grass gave a fertile odour, a smell that I love till date. If nature were to be a perfume, it would be this. I woke up to these familiar smell from my past, and right into my school days. What would I pay to capture this memorabilia into a spray bottle.

Recently I chanced upon a shop selling a fudge of sorts, something which used to be very popular in late 80s and early 90s. The shop even had the same packaging as it used to be sold in those days. A fudge[halkova] wrapped in butter paper, cuboid shaped, sold in all small shops around schools. ah those days of spending .25Rs to get two full fudges. I could not resist but buy a whole box of fudge from that shop. It has been more than 25 years since I last ate those fudge, as I unwrapped the butter paper and put the delicate piece in my mouth, the taste transformed me into so many memories from my past. There is something about elementary school, the years before the high school which we tend to remember more. The childish curiosity in the world, in people, in friendships, learning/seeing so many firsts. Tasty memorabilia is all I needed to liven up my palette.

My oldest memories about my father is how he had a big hole in one of his earlobes, something which was due to an infection from an ear piercing. As a kid it fascinated me, how could a person have a hole in his skin. and that I could see through. Whenever he carried me, I would keep touching his earlobes, ask him many questions about it, keep asking him if it pains, and if it is possible for me to get such a hole when I grow up to be his age. It just became a habit for the 5/6 year old me to keep touching his earlobe. Many many years later, the memory of how I used to hold his ears has stayed with me. My son was goofing around with me today, and jokingly he held onto my earlobes. The touch, though brief brought back so many memories from my early childhood. A single touch is all it took.

We collect tangible souvenirs, and material memorabilia. Our senses preserve many more.

Posted in Children, Family, Kindred, Life, Memories, Moi, Nostalgia, Parenthood, Personal, Thoughts, thoughts to think

Gifts

I woke up with a smile on my face, it was pleasant dream, one of those, which kind of leaves you in a nice mood. I had seen my grandmother, the one who took care of me with so much care, I had grown up under her watchful eyes. She was trying to give me a gift in my dream, she was saying she does not know what to buy me anymore, she wanted to give me some money so that I can go buy something for my self. My grandmother never earned money of her own, my grandfather passed away when I was atoddler of 3 years, yet she saved from what ever little money she got from her sons, she made sure she always gave me a gift for “Ganesha Festival”. She passed away a year before my son was born. she is in my dreams albeit occasionally, this time around trying to gift me probably for the upcoming Ganesha festival. I vividly remember the dream how she wanted to give me 5000rs and wanted me to buy something which I enjoy. In my dream I was trying to not accept the gift from her, I was trying to persuade her how her gesture was enough, and she should use that money for some of her own needs. I woke up with a smile on my face.

I have never been able to relate to my dreams well, some times I get such unrealistic ones, and other times something which is believably close to reality.

Adulthood ruins simple pleasures.

Long after I started earning, my parents used to gift me occasionally, I always tried to say that I did not need anything, even though deep in my heart I loved a gift, more importantly their feeling of wanting to buy me something. Birthdays are no fun if you have to buy your own gifts, festivals are more fun if your loved ones buy you something. Call me materialistic for loving my gifts, I wouldn’t be apologetic for this.

Having enough buying power does not make me forget the longing for asking someone to buy me something. I love it when I can ask my wife to buy me my favorite cup of coffee, when she asks me what she should buy me, my face lights up. I am sure she knows how much I enjoy these things she buys me when we go for a walk, be it coffee or a lovely dosa around the corner. It just makes me feel a little younger, gives me a feeling of being taken care of.

My parents have stopped buying me things, they have stopped even attempting to buy me gifts for my birthdays and festivals. It has a lot to do with me profusely refusing their previous gifts, it could also be something to do with them knowing how much money I make, or them thinking I no longer entertain their gifts. I dont know how I can tell them I miss those gifts. I miss the freedom with which I could ask my father “Anna, please buy me that chocolate”, “Anna, buy me that shirt”.

Adulthood ruins simple pleasures. It has ruined the ease with which kid in me asked things from his parents.

As I watch my son grow, and every time he asks me something, I kind of think of this and feel sad, feel sad about how a time will come when he will not ask me for anything.

Posted in Kindred, Life, Memories, Moi, Nostalgia, Personal, Randomness, Thoughts, thoughts to think

A tale of two hobbies

“It’s funny how life turns out”  goes a Josh Joplin song, so very true. It is as though all of us are waiting curiously to check out what is in store for us. When life pans out, it is fun to look back and see what became of it.

Growing up, in school, I was a nerdy nerd. I was always focussed upon scoring well. As I was trying my level best to make a future for my life, there were few things my mind had worked out. One of them was, “it is a waste of time to read for pleasure”. It sounds very idiotic, doesn’t it, but pressure of modern competition can do that for you. I thought, why waste time reading something which will not help me in scoring well. What it clearly meant was I had no idea about what entertainment was, and how much it is required for a healthy mind. The idea of “books” being the best wholesome entertainment  one can get was far from me. When I was in my early 20s, my life changed completely, I was now a working professional, with much lesser “scoring” pressure, I had some free time which I could use to do things which were “fun”. I was looking for ways to entertain myself, something beyond television and movies. I was not an outdoor person ever in my life. I chanced upon, what you may call a crossover book. A cheesy romantic comedy which was later made into a movie, and not a book I am proud of to have begun with, but “five point someone” was my first read. I actually liked it at that time, something which was very similar to many movies which were popular. At the end of reading this one, there are a few things which I realized. I could now actually read an entire book without having to worry about comprehending it, I could now spend time doing something imaginative. After reading children classics during my summer holidays during my schooling, I had not really thought of reading as a hobby at any time, however my success with this one book made me want to read more. I am a man with a lot of prejudice. I am not proud of it, but I am what I am. So when I started reading, my immediate judgment was, I should read non fiction. Fiction is for people who are not so serious in life. It was “time” in my life where I should do some serious study. I stuck to my non fiction books, it started with self help, I read a lot of books which were bordering on self help, books which have a lot of thinking to do, I slowly moved on to travelogues and then memoirs. Still sticking to my non fiction clause. I dont realize when the “border” melted away and I was not fully into books of all kinds. I was enjoying all kinds of books now, infact I was trying out new genres, new languages each time. I had now started reading books in my native language “kannada”, I was reading translated books, even topics and subjects which were alien to me like “science fiction”, “horror”, borderline “erotica”. You name it, I was willing to try it.From a person who considered reading a waste of time, to a person who is totally invested in finishing the project “Around the world in 80 books”. I have come a long way. This is one hobby I am happy to have picked up in my 20s. One thing, which I will probably take to my grave.

There are people who love nature. There are people who don’t care about nature. I was one of those who are indifferent towards it. I am no big animal lover, pets were a big no no. They still are. When I was in my early 30s, many things were different. I was now a married man, with a lot of responsibilities at work, and some at home. I had my reading, I had my travel, I had a married life, I had too many things happening to think of adding anything new to my life. Well life does not really shape things at our will. Let me tell you growing up, we had a very small house, with hardly any space for us people let alone any plants. We had no soil anywhere around us, and I had no inclination towards plants whatsoever. When we reconstructed our house in my early 20s, I was still trying to get a decent place for us to live, and with accommodation just enough to fit in things which I had missed all my life, like a bigger kitchen, decent living space, a place to eat, a bathroom of my own. I did not think of creating some space for a garden.When a tenant vacated a floor above us, they left their pots on our terrace. I tried calling them multiple times for them to pick it up. After waiting for months, I gave up on them picking up. I always felt these pots were a nuisance on the roof, as it spoiled the water proofing. Now left with a choice to give/throw them away, I chanced upon an idea of trying to grow something. I started with two simple plants. Tomato and Chilli. The whole process of planting the seeds, tending to them, the joy of sight of the first green shoots, to the flowering, to the time when you see the first little green veggies in them. I was just in awe of this nature. I did not know how much I loved this creation process. Within weeks I was hooked on it. I had repotted all the remaining 4 pots with good soil, and I was planning to start a garden of my own. It really helped that my wife was super supportive of my developing hobby. Starting with a few pots, to my full fledged terrace garden, my new hobby has come a long way in my 30s. I have grown fruits, vegetables, flowers, herbs, and even root veggies in pots. Watering my garden every day, and tending to it on the weekends has become a routine in my life. Potting new plants, and seeing them grow is the most satisfying feeling that I have known in recent times. It is almost like becoming a father over and over again. How protective we become, how parental we become with them has been surprising. The pleasant effect of the greenery on our eyes, and the proud feeling we get when my wife and I get to walk on our terrace is something which is beyond my ability to describe. 

Curious to see what my 40s has in store for me.

Posted in Admiration, Kindred, Life, Memories, Moi, Nostalgia, Personal, Thoughts, thoughts to think

The Last Conversation

I have been listening to a lot of TED talks lately during my morning walks. I was struck by one of the speakers recently who spoke about last conversations. He was talking about how people feel when they realize that the conversations they have had was the last one with that particular person. It is not similar to how would I live life if this was my last day, its more of a realization rather than reaction. This aspect of the talk got me thinking about many of my last conversations. That friend who disappeared, friends for whom I disappeared, people dear to me who are now stars in the sky, a special someone who knew our fate all along, blogworld people who have vanished. I have realized how unknowingly I have had my last conversation with so many of my dear ones. In many a cases, I don’t even remember what we spoke about, if we enjoyed our conversation, or if it is of any significance. In retrospect, when I realize that was our last conversation, a kind of a lump sets in my throat.

A conversation is not just about words isn’t it?, there is so much more to a conversation then the mere words, to begin with there is the voice, the persona, the smell of the person, the warmth of the unspoken words between people, the touch of intimacy amongst people involved, and many more senses which come into play when two people converse. The last conversation, invariably means that we have had last of the experience of all these senses.

Think of a book or a movie which you have loved, that one which spoke to you, when you try to reread that book or watch the movie again, don’t you realize a difference in your experience?, I am not saying the repeat does’t give us joy, it does, however it is not the same. There is something about the virginity of the unknown, which once broken can never get back to what is was. Conversations are like that, I have tried to relive many of my last conversations, trying to see if I can feel the emotion which I was going through, it just isn’t the same.

There is no escape from last conversations, reasons for these conversations being last may be many, some under our control and some out of ours. Apart from experiencing nostalgia I am wondering what purpose these memories serve?.

These people who once may have played a big part in our life, are just gone, they are not going to come back. They will not be able to “speak” to me the way they once could. So why bother about the last conversation?, shouldn’t we just let it go?

What good can those last words, or our thoughts on them do to us?

 

*********************************************************************

blast from the past

https://virtualrambling.wordpress.com/2010/05/03/in-spite/

 

Posted in Kindred, Life, Memories, Moi, Nostalgia, Personal, pure pursuit, Thoughts, thoughts to think

Nocturnal

Every time that happened I woke up with a guilt, of having done something which is shameful, something impure, something which a teenager wasn’t supposed to think about. An involuntary, normal and natural function is not supposed to feel like that right?. How was I supposed to think rational, I was a teenager, and I felt what I felt. Worst were the times, when I actually dreamt something sweet and pleasing, and I had to wake up with a feeling of having ruined it forever.

There was no internet back then, I didn’t have access to the latest Agony Aunt Google to answer my questions, I didn’t even know if it was common among other boys, who was I supposed to ask?. It did not even occur to me that this was something I could ask people about. I guess back when we were teenagers we had no access to any kind of material where we could look this up.

It did not change much with age, much later when I could read how common this was, and what causes it and so on, I still continued to wake up with, “What I have done” feeling.

The funny part of all this is that it was never funny, it never has been funny.

One day my son will grow up, and will reach an age where he is going to experience this. I know I am not a cool enough dad who can talk about this with him. I just hope he has enough information to know more about this and not feel the guilt which I do.

Posted in Kindred, Life, Memories, Moi, Nostalgia, Personal, Thoughts, thoughts to think

Nature’s Timemachine

I have always wondered about the associate nature of our memory. It is fascinating to see how our memories are interlinked with various aspects, and a single key can open a huge number of interlinked doors into our past. Many a times it makes me feel, if we were this organized in our thoughts human mind would have discovered wonders.

Just the other day, I was listening to songs from the movie Rangeela. I was pleasantly surprised how I could remember lines to a song which I haven’t heard in ages, and on the same day struggle to remember name of fairly popular Ranbir Kapoor. Our memory is just not fair. It can play games with us, pleasantly surprising at times, and terribly disappointing at others. As I was singing along to the song from Rangeela, my mind was racing into the past, it took me back to my high school days. I was now remembering impromptu singing games we used to have on Saturdays at the end of which students used to be given merit certificates, and how my fellow students used to come up with absurd words to fill the holes in the lyrics to the song they were attempting to sing. I remembered my classmates, and how naïve we were when it comes to boy girl relationships. I remembered this one girl who somehow felt courageous enough to ask me if I could partner her in school antakshari. How big it was for a nerd bookworm like me to be asked for such a thing. I still wonder, how she spotted the love of songs in me.  Anyways, she reminded me of my crush in high school, petty fights with my friends. It reminded me of the insecurities I had in high school, how the fact that I was coming from a less income, majorly kannada speaking household troubled me competing with a majority of upper class, fluent in English peer group. I remember the teachers whose classes I used to love, and how some of them unknowingly were partial towards me. As the song changed on my music streaming app, I just came back to where it all began, the next song from the movie Rangeela.

I guess, I have made my point. How a single trigger took me into a swirl of memories. I have always wondered what triggers these memories, and what is the interlink between each of them.

I believe that the trigger to most of our memories is fired from one of our senses.

There are times when I have been able to smell my way into memories. Somehow there are distinct smells which we associate to certain things, and they just sweep you off into those memories. I remember this distinct smell from my days alone in the united states. It had been a wonderful getaway into a single life, where the life both shattered and nourished my dreams of possible opportunities of living alone in a developed country with a more liberal society than ours. The smell which transforms me into many escapades I had as a single 22 year old, feels like a distant memory now, but I am amazed how smells from empty cardboard boxes can take me back into those days.

There are days when my mom prepares rasam exactly like my paternal grandmother, though very rare. When I am eating my meal, and my taste buds strike a match, my mind invariably races past into the most affectionate period of my childhood with my paternal grandmother. The days, which remind me, what being cared for really felt like. The days when I used to wake up in the morning and sneak into my grandmothers bed for a second nap. The days I could walk into the home and I could smell whats for lunch, and the pleasant surprise on my grandmother’s face looking at a 5/6 year old doing that. I miss the taste of her food. I miss her. I am so thankful for moments like these when something I eat can make people who are no longer with us,  to come back to our lives.

Visuals are probably the most powerful triggers into our memories. You look at something, it many a times reminds us something in our past, setting our memories reeling in super sonic speeds to various periods of our past. We see a photo, and immediately our mind is racing into the time the photo was taken, people who we were with or the place we were in. It opens a bundle of memories about various things associated with that photo. Many a times I look at what my son does, and I am transported into beautiful memories of him being a baby, his cry face especially reminds of all the times when he was a tiny doll for us to play with. Visuals are very powerful when it comes to exploring our memory to give us more visuals from the past which have been close to our heart.

Amongst all the things which remind us of our past, one amazing trigger is  “feelings”. There have been umpteen weekends where on a Sunday evening when I know the weekend is just few hours and the mad rush will begin starting Monday, in midst of a helpless sad feeling, it reminds me of times in my past where I have been helpless and sad, times I have been wanting to curl up into a cocoon and time just freezes. How many times have I watched a movie, and have been so involved with the emotion being presented, that I have gone to my past and found memories of similar emotion that I have felt. Emotions are such abstract things, and yet they can trigger our minds to remember things which are so well associated to that emotion in our mind.

The nerd in me always wonders, what data structure our mind must be using to be able to fetch the values from the triggers, and also iterate to so many related memories from our past by linking across via keys of various types.

The poet in me, is in awe of a wonderful time machine, our mind offers for us to go into past within minutes and feel a reality which once was, with people who once were, and at places we have been.

 

*************************************************************************

This day years ago

https://virtualrambling.wordpress.com/2008/04/10/traffic-signal/

 

Posted in Kindred, Life, Memories, Nostalgia, Relationships, Thoughts, thoughts to think

21 years is a long time

21 years is a long time.

No two friendships are alike, every friendships begins differently, it grows with different speeds, some just fade out, some age. Some are beautiful to begin with, some are sour to begin. It is as though each one of them is supposed to live different lives.

Time has dried up a really flourishing river. It had fed a numerous thirsty moments. I can see wet land at places, but somehow it feels like a mirage. I am still hopeful of a thunderstorm which can add life to this one.

This plant felt like a weed, it was just a tag along. Sometimes you ignore things as if they are unimportant, but they surprise you at times coming to the fore. The weed had turned out to be a nice flowering plant. The one which blooms not so often, but when it does, it has a pleasant fragrance. It never grew into a tree. It turned out to be a bonsai.

It was a sumptuous buffet, it had so many items for me to choose from. It fed me with so many tastes, some familiar and some extremely novel. It lead my senses into places in me which I didn’t know ever existed. It has been one never ending buffet. Then it was time for me to go home, with pleasant memories of course. I thought that’s it with this one. The buffet, slowly morphed into my daily diet. It stayed with me during morning breakfast, lunch and dinner. I got so used to it.

One day, suddenly, it became an expensive restaurant. You know you love their food, but you can afford to go there every day. Its just too impractical. Finally it ended up like your grandmothers recipe, its just not there every day, but once in a while when your mom makes it and you eat, it just takes you back into a happy place.

There are times when a long chat can take you back into what had been, and what can still be.

21 years is a long time.

Posted in cubeland, Memories, Moi, Personal, Randomness, Thoughts, thoughts to think

2019 mythbusters

2019 has been a year of myth buster of sorts. It appears that life keeps coasting along with not many changes, and then comes a year, once in a while, which kind of jerks the pace of our lives. 2019 has been once such year to me. Professionally speaking I have been coasting along for quite a while now, and personally too I have enjoyed a major event free life for a while now. A level plane can be looked at both, with happy contentment, and an unhappy anticipation. I guess I was more of the happy contentment kind of guy.

I have been a workaholic from my school days, I don’t mind slogging and I am kind of proud of using it as my differentiator. Endurance and perseverance have been my virtues. 2019 gave me a rare low workwise, to be able to slack a bit. With not much expected out of me, I could laze around a bit. I discovered lazy can be fun too. Long coffee breaks, chat sessions, thought breaks, you name it I have had it this year. It gave me some time to reskill myself, but also a lot of time just to relax and enjoy some time off. It’s really fun to be lazy.

Having a busy work life means, personal life invariably suffers. I hardly spent any time with my son in last few years. Last few months have been a boon when it comes to parenthood. I am really surprised by my teaching skills, and my ability to create a project out of everything. I am extremely proud parent to have thought my son a language, math skills and some general stuff over the last few months. My 6-year-old son is not entirely happy though, to surrender his free time. Having time with kids is really important to build the bond. I had been always guilty of not spending enough time with my son, this year has been amazing when it comes to family time.  Parent in me, has left me pleasantly surprised.

We love to be happy, we all do. A great aspect of hindu religion is to not instil any guilt in happiness. The true essence of happiness is in enjoying it. Last few months have been good in removing a lot of guilt from my happiness. Having time, kind of reduces the reason to be running short of it all the time, when you are doing something, you are not constantly worried about things which you are missing out on. This kind of helps you to enjoy what you are doing now, and in a way enjoy the happiness of “now”. It made me realize, it is OK to enjoy happiness and there is nothing else more important than that enjoyment.

Anxiety was to the fore in so many ways. After a long time, I did not know what is is going to happen in near future, I had no idea what is right, how much risk is too much, how much of laid back is too laid back. I hate anxiety and am too poor in coping up with it. Well guess what, surprise surprise, I got past it like a pro. I was super relaxed [comparatively] for most part of it, and I even enjoyed that state a bit.

2020 promises to be an exciting new year, with lots on the anvil. I am going to miss my free time, hopefully 2019 has taught me enough skills to be able to balance my life a little better.