I’m the girl who believes in ghost wings. Think of the physical sensations–itching, burning, presence, movement—that people who have lost limbs feel. It’s the feeling associated with a phantom limb. I feel the same way about wings. They are a metaphor. Having wings is like being able to fly, not just jump up and down as mere mortals can only do. It’s the equivalent to being able to do-everything-all-at-once-and-do-it-all-well-instantly, instead of being able to just do some things sometimes, and a few of those well and probably not instantly. Me, I believe I have these wings, these phantom limbs. I want to take each step like they exist.
Over the last decade, I’ve come to realise that this expectation is unrealistic. I could only do so many things, and probably only one thing, well at a time.
During my PhD, I imagined myself in a meditation from 6pm to 6 am. The goal of the meditation was to sit there, at that stop in my path, in quiet concentration from sunset to sunrise. To do anything else, go for tea with a friend at 7pm or watch an episode of Law and Order from 10pm to 11pm (till 12 if you get caught in those back-to-back episodes) or whatever, was to have to start again. One couldn’t make up the extra time after or get back to it after a break in between. There was only one meditation to do and only when it was over was it done. Everything else would have to wait. When 6 am came, I could open my eyes and take the next step in any direction, knowing one can only go in one direction at a time. This second metaphor describes how I learned focus and discipline, and that I had to make choices if I wanted to meet high standards.
It’s how I came to know I’d have to make the most of each leap in the air, rather than flapping phantom wings, aiming to fly in all directions and ending in frustration and futility. I also continue to learn the lesson of manageability from watching my mentors. I used to have no idea how they did it and I knew I couldn’t be like them. But over time, I’ve seen when things fall through the cracks, when too much of everything takes a toll on health or human relations, when some things could have been better if fewer things were being done simultaneously and other things not at all. And, as mentors enable you to do, I want to learn from their life lessons too. I spent most of yesterday almost single-handedly rearranging our bedroom—the one room where the whole three-people family lives and sleeps. Zi is now climbing on everything and I wanted to create a space that was safe for mountaineering, rolling, tumbling and beginning steps. Hours later, when I finished, there were two options. Write or sleep? Like any smart new mama, I slept. Growing up is about learning when it’s also okay to quiet your wings.