Gratitude Wrap up February 2023

Shailaja V
7 min readMar 3, 2023

{Scroll to the end of this post to find links to any articles/books referenced in it}

It’s been a while since I did a wrap up post on my blog and it gives me so much joy to bring it back again. Reflecting on the month gone by is a very therapeutic exercise, as I have learnt in the past. You know that saying, ‘Count your blessings’? Well, a gratitude post is a great way to do just that. The thing is, small events tend to pass us by when we are living life. But slowing down and remembering those moments is just the tonic we need to keep us going, when the days ahead may seem tough.

So let’s begin, shall we?

Health

A few years ago, I wouldn’t have imagined putting ‘health’ on top of my gratitude list. Now, I cannot begin a list without thinking of health and its impact on my daily life! Ever since September 2022, when I began eating right and paying attention to regular physical movement, walking has been my mainstay as far as basic activity is concerned. I generally try and walk at least 3 to 5 km a day, spread out between the morning and the evening.

All that regular walking really paid off when we took a trip to the temple town of Thiruvannamalai last weekend and ended up doing the ‘Girivalam’ or the circumambulation of the Arunachala Hill, which is 14 kms in length.

That’s right. I did it on foot and took about 3 and a half hours to complete it. It was simultaneously a humbling and exhilarating experience. On the one hand, it gave me so much time to slow down and appreciate being in the moment as we put one foot in front of the other. On the other hand, there was a sense of purpose that I felt had been missing from my life for the last several months. It’s almost as if God had called me to this place to guide me on the path towards peace. Finding joy in just being, living in the moment and cherishing each breath, what a wonderful way to spend a day!

A note of gratitude for my legs and my stamina for seeing me through this experience without much trouble.

Travel & Family Time

It feels like a dream to be able to travel again, without restrictions or masks covering our faces! So happy that we managed to take a whole week off at the end of February to visit Chennai, Mahabalipuram, Pondicherry, Chidambaram and Thiruvannamalai. Our Chennai stop was primarily to visit my maternal grandmom and my only suviving grandparent who turns 90 later this year! I am so pleased to report that apart from a slightly elevated blood pressure reading, she is in great health. It was such joy to spend time with her, reminiscing over the past and marveling at how sharp she still is to this day.

We visited Mahabalipuram on our way out of Chennai towards Pondicherry and this is a place that will delight history buffs no end. From the famous ‘Four Rathas’ monument to the Shore temple, Arjuna’s Penance to Krishna’s Butterball, it’s easily doable in a day.

Our 3-day stay in Pondicherry was made extra special because we opted for an Air BnB apartment this time — our first time ever! It was a great decision because we had a lot of freedom to move around while staying in a home away from home. Having a kitchen with basic amenities also made it convenient for us to whip up light meals when we felt like it. The real benefit, though, was the facility to have freshly laundered clothes daily which can be a bit tricky when you stay in hotels.

Note: You can easily cover all of Pondicherry’s hot spots in 2 days. We managed to visit the Promenade, Aurobindo’s Ashram, Auroville and the Matrimandir, Arulmiga Vinayagar Temple, Serenity Beach, Paradise Beach and Chunnambar Boat house in just two days. The third day was quite relaxed for us, and we actually caught a movie since we had nothing else to do. However, if you’re planning for a longer stay, look up volunteering options in either Auroville or Sadhana Forest.

Our trip to Chidambaram was brief but gorgeous, given that it was my first time at the famous Nataraja temple. We then wound it up with an overnight stay at Thiruvannamalai (remember the Giri valam I mentioned earlier) and visited the peaceful ashram of Shri Ramana Maharshi to close out the trip before heading back home to Bangalore.

Since we prefer to drive everywhere our plans remained rather flexible. Booking an overnight stay at Thiruvannamalai was a last-minute decision that was made convenient thanks to Booking.com.

As a vegan, I really love using the Happy Cow app to find restaurants that were vegan-friendly. This helped us discover some new eateries that we cherished. The Gelato Factory outlet in Pondicherry was fabulous with multiple vegan ice-cream flavours on hand!

Reading

Probably one of the biggest benefits of taking a sabbatical from all things work related is the time on hand to dive deeper into my favourite pastime — Reading. In February, I re-read A Man Called Ove which was like a warm and comforting blanket of hope all over again. Fascinated as I am about good health and longevity these days, I then turned to Dan Buettner’s The Blue Zones which takes an insightful look into the secrets of centenarians and their thriving health into their later years. Followed up this book with Arthur Brooks’ very wonderfully written From Strength to Strength: Finding Success, Happiness and Deep Purpose in the Second Half of Life.

ME-TIME

For the first time ever, I wound up going for a movie all by myself. It wasn’t planned that way; it just happened. I saw that ‘A Man Called Otto’ based on Backman’s book was releasing in theatres in early February. One Monday morning, I checked with a few friends if they’d be keen to watch it with me. Nobody was available. While debating on what to do, my husband casually said, ‘You could always watch it on your own, you know.’ That’s when it hit me. Of course I could!

And I did. It’s a different feeling, I’ll give you that. Followed it up with a solo lunch at this place called ‘The Asian Curry House’ which was again vegan friendly.

WORK SABBATICAL

On the work front, I’ve decided to extend my sabbatical from all professional writing/coaching/ business until the middle of 2024 when my daughter will be done with her final year of schooling. This gives me time to focus more on the home, my health and fitness and my family. Honestly, I have never been more sure of any professional decision than this one. It feels absolutely right at this time.

Of course, I also realize that I am privileged to be able to take this decision. Not everyone can take such a long sabbatical and I respect that. I am grateful for some amount of financial planning over the last few years that has helped me make this decision without anxiety.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Today also marks the first day of my daughter’s final year of school. It’s such a bittersweet moment as I watch the baby I knew blossom into a young, confident girl and take one step closer to womanhood.

As March begins and I look back at this fulfilling month, I am overwhelmed at how much the Universe has given and continues to give me in the shape of health, family, travel, books and friends. May I never take any of it for granted.

REFERENCES/LINKS mentioned in the post

  1. Dan Buettner’s ‘The Blue Zones: 9 Lessons for Living Longer from the people who’ve lived the Longest
  2. Our Air BnB Stay in Pondicherry: 4 Seasons near Auroville
  3. A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
  4. My review of A man called Ove written in 2017

Originally published at https://shailajav.com on March 3, 2023.

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Shailaja V

Digital minimalist. Writer. Bibliophile. Vegan. Walking is my meditation. More about me: www.shailajav.com