We watch this amazing Atlantic sunrise this morning. The breeze is perfect. Florida has beautiful summers.
As we wash our feet at the beachside shower, I notice sand stuck on my feet; I do my best to rinse my feet. As I enter my Q5, the freshly shampooed carpets import a dusting of that sand.
I have a feeling, it will irk me when, the next day, that sand attaches itself so callously to my shoes, with some sort of a romantic vision of changing Italian leather.
Like a small blemish, on perfect skin.
It’s all in my twisted thinking.
My daughters openly protest my OCD habits of cleanliness and organization. When I unload the dishwasher, the glasses need to be lined up in a particular manner. And absolutely no transparent objects (like drinking water glasses) can be in the same area with translucent (ceramic coffee) cups or bowls!
For years, I have told myself that things “out of place”, give me anxiety and I don’t correct it. I try not to modulate this expectation and just surrender. In this constantly changing and chaotic world, I organize, whatever I can organize.
This morning though, after sharing that magnificent ocean sunrise with Shania, I look at that sand and encourage my mind to think a little differently; I ask myself how often, and how many people get to do what I do? How often do they soothe their souls with the lapping of waves on their feet. How often do they get to sip their favorite latte, while listening to their favorite tunes, with someone they love! Today is a special day in my life.
I need to let the sand linger on my feet, for as long as I can.
When tomorrow that hard pair of dress shoes pick up some of that sand, its actually a good thing! It’s a reminder of a softer time in my life, when there was a perfect moment of alignment.
I saw a quote this morning that made me think: “Look around you, and enjoy, be grateful; in a year, everything will be different.”
As I look back a year, with or without the help of social media, so many things have changed, for me. Especially, in the lives of my children. But also, in my own life.
Last Spring, I was a pensive from the roller-coaster feeling from my constantly changing role at work; I was also in pendulum motion, from my home that I love, in Florida, to the cold of Boston. I had a feeling that this Boston chapter of my life, has to come to a close soon. And, by Fall, my role ended; allowing me to seek what I have wanted all along.
This Spring, I am ready to move to Florida, permanently.
Some things have become more certain, and other, more dispensable things, people or feelings, have dissipated. There is no lingering nostalgia about losing these feelings, which didn’t serve me.
My children have made tremendous strides in a year.
After a re-defining 2018, Daiyaan graduated college in 2018 and found her professional footing, bought her “dream” Jeep (that she has named Natasha, after the singer Natasha Bedingfeld) and now wants to buy her first home this Summer/Fall. She is starting to put down her own roots, in a place she loves. She has chosen a healthy lifestyle of balance. She took her first ever solo trip, and conquered Puerto Rico; she has grown up.
Last Spring, Shania, competed to become her Middle School Vice President and won! She has switched from softball to golf and today, loves basketball as her main school sports; instead of acting in plays, now she is co-directing, for the second year, a school play! She was accepted to attend the prestigious Dana Hall school in Wellesley, MA, but instead, is heading to be with family and joining the pre-law program at her new choice school in Florida.
As their lives unfold, and I see these two beautiful women take their next steps, I enjoy listening to their musings, and life interactions. The new friends they make, and the relationships those fray over time. I tell them my stories, from that particular time in my life that maybe relevant to their experience.
Even though I was raised as a teenager in a different continent, in a completely different era, with no electronic gadgets, or Google, to help answer my questions, the struggles of all awkward teenagers, or young people defining their dreams, are still the same.
Whether you are 13, 23 or 52, Constantly, we search for belonging, love and certainty; it’s tough to accept that none of these feelings are constant, and just to maintain an equilibrium, is a lot of work!
This morning, five of my close friends (same age group), are in deep pain: one from a broken hip (from a fall), another from domestic abuse, and one more, with cancer. Two of my best childhood friends lost their mothers in the last weeks – I knew these loving moms – I have eaten meals with them at their dining tables; having lost my own mom a few years ago, I know that big hole in their hearts are not healing soon.
I pray that my friends have the courage and support to bear the pain they are feeling today. When you experience pain, the depth, the excruciating nature of it, numbs us. There is nothing anyone can say or do, to make you feel differently.
Like last year, I know with certainty, this year, there will be those moments of joy, and sadness. You know there will be a Spring of hope, and the still of Summer.
I know, that whatever incremental, or disruptive changes we are experiencing, pain or happiness, it too shall pass.
It fatigues me to think that, the pain and frustration of the political turmoil we experience today in the US (and resultantly, the world) will only sharpen in the next twelve months.
In my adult life, I have seen and experienced progress, and I don’t give up hope, but I choose to take a long view on history. While things are not perfect, I see progress in health, well-being and innumerable sources of joy.
This weekend, in my little microcosm, I am again, taking a good look at everything and everyone around me.
Acknowledging and accepting that change is continuous and constant – I will do my best to appreciate all those gifts that I have in my life today. I am grateful to the Universe for the love, beauty, health and contentment that I am experiencing today.
And I believe that things happen for a reason. At that happening moment, often, we don’t realize what that reason maybe; over time, we understand why this just needed to happen.
Also, I see, that the series of experiences I have had, were just preparing me for this moment of time.
Today, I closed on my first holiday-home (and possible final home) in Oakland Park, Florida. For seven months, I have been following the construction of this home; cinderblock by cinderblock, windows, doors, electric wires and tile work. As if, I am preparing for a child to be born.
When you talk about serendipity or happenstance, on this same date, I arrived in the US, some 32 years ago. Maybe the date is just a coincidence.
I started my new life in this new country, bursting with desire and ambition. Even after so many years, my heart and mind are just as excited by possibilities of love, friendship, a great meal, or a bottle of wine.
This morning, Shania, my twelve year old and I drive to sign the paperwork at the closing office; all the way, I keep thinking of the first home I bought on Merrimack Lane in Toledo, some 24 years ago. I remember the night before the closing of my first home; my mom and I kept talking about the concept of buying a “home”. She was worried that if I bought a home in the US, I would never return to Bangladesh. She was right.
She sat with me through the signing of papers, insurance and documents. At the end she asked me, “Bujhcho, shobkichu?” (Did you understand everything?)
Today, my strong Shania sits with me, quietly, for more than hour, while we go through some 30 signatures, deeds, titles, insurance….all of it. Later, she acknowledges, it was really boring, but she didn’t bring her headphones to the closing because she thought it was impolite. I am grateful she is here; I believe she is here for a reason more than, just that I asked her to be there. Just like my mother, twenty-four years ago, she is is providing me strength and support to nurture my dreams along.
We get home and Daiyaan arrives; we unpack boxes and put things away. We are sleeping on air mattresses tonight, just like camping. Sheets are unfolded. New dishes are put in the new dishwasher; new towels are hung up. All to the girls’ favorite music – dancing, joyful and bright.
In the evening, my friends Toby and Ray, bring champagne. We toast in our new glasses, nibble on tapas, listen to good music and break out into utter goofiness. I feel like I have been designing and planning for this day, all my life.
The goal tomorrow is to make breakfast for my girls, at our new home.
Multi-grain bread with Guacamole, sunny-side up eggs on toast, and a sprinkling of Sriracha. Orange juice, hot tea or coffee.
This is a great day for my family. 32 years from landing in this beautiful place, to 24 years from learning to buy a new home, I am here today because I have been preparing for this day. This is no coincidence. This was meant to be; Guacamole toast for my princesses, and a hot cup of red-rose tea for me.
The last four weeks have been some of the most tumultuous times in my life.
After struggling for three years, with dissolving the institution of marriage, the divorce finalized.
I moved from one home to another.
I was offered another “once in a lifetime” chance to join a world-class team to take an organization from “good to great” – the kind of opportunity most people dream about.
Heading into these four weeks, I was nervous, anxious, worried; I stayed up late thinking about all the possibilities of things going wrong. My analytical mind concocted up linear algorithms of disaster, trauma and tragedy!
Finally, the nail-biting stormy, triple effect night passed, and none of those disasters materialized; this morning, as the sunlight shines down from heaven, I feel stronger, motivated and relieved. The feeling isn’t euphoric – it’s just a “deep breath” moment.
I have regained my confidence in the energy of the Universe; good things do happen, when you keep your intentions pure and clean and when you choose to do the right and beautiful thing.
Your expectations do become your experience.
All through my journey, I am grateful for the moral compass of my two beautiful daughters. Every decision I make, every step I take, I have made their safety and well-being as the center-piece. This centering allows me to think clearly – even if my heart is wondering or my brain is analyzing and criticizing.
I am also grateful for a wonderful, supportive community of friends and family who watch me struggle – never interfering– but keep telling me over and over – “This too shall pass – you are making the right decisions”.
Just before the three events took place, I went away to Key West for two days and just walked the streets or sat by the pool trying to re-focus my energy. When quandary overwhelmed me, I called a friend asking for his guidance – specially on this emerging new role; his answer was clear, “Dude, you have trained yourself for this role all your life – why are you thinking so much? Do you think Shania will be happy if you aren’t happy? “ It gave me the clarity of thought at that moment to stop being a worrier!
I remember the evening before the court proceedings, I texted a few friends about being a nervous wreck; they left their work early, and met up for a glass of wine and helped me divert my attention to other things in life.
I Skyped my sister on weekends and unburdened my emerging feelings and anxiety. She patiently listened and encouraged me to keep moving forward and staying focused on the day after – the day when all this drama will be over.
At the end of the day, as I look out to what the Universe has gifted me; my health, my two awesome daughters, wonderful – supportive friends and family and a truly wonderful career that has availed me possibilities to learn, grow, travel and work with some amazingly talented people. I have re-connected with my spiritual side and found peace in boating, writing, reading, wine and food.
I have so many things to be grateful for.
I watch the Atlantic this morning – the surf on the azure blue sea and wonder about the changing scenery – the clouds appear and disappear in a moment’s notice; as if the sea and the sky are teaching me that same lesson.
Good things do happen, when there are good intentions.
The skies do clear up and the ocean does regain its blue; just have to keep believing in the immense possibilities of the future.
I stand on the upper deck of a massive ship – as if the rain can’t touch me. There is a subtle moon hovering over the ocean. A short distance away, I can see the dark clouds and the halo of the rain approaching, as we move forward in the dark waters
I can smell the rain from far away; I sense it’s velocity from a mile away.
At times, in life, we are anticipating this momentary, yet tumultuous change; we can feel it coming. Like a slow motion movie, it’s happening right in front of us. We wait, paralyzed by the motion and unable to change the outcome.
Maybe it’s a loved-one suffering illness – maybe it’s watching the break-up of a relationship – maybe it’s the dissolution of an institution that you have served for many years; maybe it’s just a dogma or an illusion, that’s crumbling in front of our eyes.
Like many, I experience multitudes of change and am just the spectator of this change. I sit here, thinking and worrying, how I can affect this change – how I can come out better or stronger, after the change – how I can make the outcome different from what I foresee. I search my mind for strategies and paths forward.
Often, life doesn’t follow a strategic plan. It just takes over like a un-forecasted storm.
Sometimes, you just have to let that change happen and not try to hold on to what was true in the past. Whether it’s a job, a belief, or a relationship – you have to let the change take place on its own motion.
I am learning to take deep breaths as the change moves toward me. I am learning to tell myself that there isn’t much I can (or should) do, to affect the upcoming tumult.
I am scared of that period of uncertainty, which comes right after the change – when things are vulnerable and in a flux – when boundaries are not set and we wonder what’s going to happen to us, if things don’t settle down. I feel insecure and want to run back to the past.
A good friend reminds me: This Too Shall Pass.
When you have experienced massive changes, like migration from one part of the world to another, or dealt with major corporate upheaval, what you have developed, is a strong intuition to foresee change – to understand the nature of change, and most importantly, the learning that, the easiest path forward is to just embrace the change – versus resisting it.
I remember, when I first came to go college in the US, I experienced a similar loss of environment; my father had died recently, I had left my loving family behind and adventured out to a foreign land where the sounds and smells were completely different where I grew up. Change was all around me, engulfing me, overwhelming me; I managed to learn and grow with that change; eventually, I embraced it and became one with it.
It’s only when I let go and not try to impact the change, that I gave myself the permission to be free.
The wind becomes stronger and I feel the intensity all around me. It starts with a few large drops and quickly turns into a downpour as I hold on to the wood railing to balance my step; I feel the piercing of the rain on my face and my clothes, as it zips by – touching all over, all encompassing, not waiting, not really caring how I feel. I try to open my eyes but all I see is a glassy glare around me. It’s only when I completely surrender, does my anxiety dissipate.
I know I am standing here, in this sudden rain, for a reason. And the rain doesn’t wash away that reason.
The quick rain passes in a few minutes; but in person, it feels like a long period. You realize you are drenched. But there is a freshness about in the air. I survived the change – I made it through this unpredicted storm. I feel stronger now, than I was a few minutes ago.
Sometimes, things just change. No notice, no reason.
9/11 changed our lives forever; it changed the way we travel, the way we think about business risk, the way we feel when we stand atop a sky scraper and look out at airplanes. It even changed the way we react when we hear of another Muslim/Arabic name when it shows up on the news, related or not.
That’s just the way life is. When things are going “good” – something will change the direction. Since 9/11, frequent travelers like myself, have adjusted to the way we travel – with or without luggage – how we carry liquids in our bags – or even, what we decide to eat or drink as we head out to the airport. Over time I have accepted that, it’s the new normal.
Recently, when the congresswoman Gabriel Gifford was shot, I felt really bad for her and her family. However, there is a part of me that was a relieved that the shooter didn’t have an Arabic name. There’s a part of me that just automatically cringes every time I hear an Arabic named in the media. I believe, this is the New Normal, after 9/11. After ten-years, it’s still tough to get adjusted to this New Normal.
Change is difficult to get used to. Business philosophers write numerous books on change, and how to deal with it, every year. However, at the end of the day, it’s really tough, when you are going through that particular change.
It maybe a job change, a life change – or a rule change that creates all sorts of negative emotions in our hearts and minds. I read in the book Sway (Ori and Rom Braffman, 2010), that the most rational beings (like a perfectionist pilot), can demonstrate the most irrational behavior (like trying to take off a Jumbo jet in the middle of a weather event), because some rule has changed (about the way he is judged on overtime hours). In broad view, it makes no sense. However, these irrational fears or negative emotions, can take over our minds and make us do some unusual things.
During a recent series work of negotiations, on a multi-year, multi-million dollar contract, the other party kept changing the rules on the negotiations every few days. It’s easy to get frustrated, while trying to change the dynamic in the negotiation. However, it’s important, in all aspects of life and work, to keep the long-view in mind. Once you keep the long-term context – it becomes easier to keep focused on what needs to be accomplished.
Having suffered through through illness, death, heartbreak and other personal difficulty, I can attest that it’s more difficult to keep oneself focused on what’s right for the long term, when the change has an impact on your personal life.
Emotions sway us even more widely, when the issue is personal; the external environment influences us more deeply. Friends and family feel obliged to give you advice on what to do.
At the end of the day though, one has to stay focused on the long term – what’s important in our lives. In our life-journey, we have to first accept that we have been dealt with this challenging New Normal.
We have to stop blaming others or the external environment; once that acceptance is there, we have to recognize that only we have the ability to adjust and change the outcome. The world can advise from the sidelines – but at the end of the day, they are just spectators – you are the only one playing the game. If you win, it’s your victory – if you lose, it’s your loss.
Someone sent me a text recently, Life’s like a box of chocolates, you don’t know what you will find next; keeping that in mind, we must learn to discern carefully – make our own choices – and not try to engulf everything with speed.
Time heals, and we adjust and learn to live with that New Normal.
During my first job as a Manufacturing Engineer for a small company in Ohio, one of the plant foremen taught me a great lesson. One day, I accompanied him to the attic of the plant to find a cataloged tool; I asked him how we would find these tools the day he retired. He brought a glass of water and asked me to stick my finger in it; in a few seconds he asked me to remove the finger from the glass. He then asked if I saw a hole in the water; “if you didn’t leave a hole in the water, you are dispensable!” said Al, roaring with laughter.
This lesson has had a great impact in the way I have made decisions in the course of both my personal and professional life. While we would all like to believe that we are somehow indispensible at work, with friends, or even with family, at the end of the day, we are all replaceable, in one form or another. Someone will take our place one day, just like the water that moves into the hole in the glass!
Some twenty five years ago, the day I lay my father down in his grave, I thought that that there would be such a void in our lives that we may never be able to move forward. But our lives did move forward; on that day, my mother single handedly assumed the dual role of a father and a mother and raised both me and my sister. Yes, it’s been tough at times, and yes, we still miss his presence in our lives; but our worlds kept on moving.
Having held at least nine different roles in the last 18 years of my career, it has not escaped me that at the workplace this transition happens even faster. I have noticed highly successful leaders move on from their roles and, in relatively short time, are replaced by new leaders and the organization moves ahead.
Instead of feeling conflicted about this conundrum, maybe the lesson is to actually strive for quick dispensability; as parents, this means helping our children to quickly become independent and to acknowledge our role change from “I tell, you listen” mode, to more a balanced, caring-sharing, friendship; at the workplace, maybe we need to strive for rapid obsolescence and eventual re-invention of our own roles.
For young leaders, the first step towards becoming dispensable is striving for transparency of all our actions and sharing information generously. There was a time when managers considered “Information as a source of power”. In today’s wired world, where one may Google or Wiki just about everything, we should instead use the mantra of “no-holds-barred” information sharing. We have to passionately adapt to the role of a teacher in all our work activities.’
One of my favorite past times is watching the waves of the blue Atlantic constantly lapping away on the beaches of Lighthouse Point. When you watch the nimble motion of these wonderfully dynamic waves, one has to wonder if life is meant to be more like the ocean: dynamic and constantly in motion. If you notice carefully, new sand arrives at every moment and the ocean washes away old sand in a zest to re-cycle it back to some other coast on another day. The ocean re-invents itself with the changing weather and helps the coast re-invigorate it’s boundaries.
Just like the lesson from the foreman from my first job, maybe the lesson is to constantly re-invent ourselves and to develop processes, institutions and leaders who survive fine without us – just like the ocean: innumerable, constant, high and low, in rain or shine.