An Open Letter to All Gentlemen | Let's be Gentle and Empathetic
Two weeks ago, India was locked down in its battle against COVID-19, at the same moment hundreds of women and children were locking themselves into a cycle of abuse. As I flip through the news, there is tragedy spread all over the pages about the rise in domestic violence. What leads us, men, to unleash the beast in us? We are all regular people with regular jobs and regular lifestyles, of course now trying to cope with irregular routines and rituals. What pushed many of us over the brink?
We can choose to stay silent or we can speak up, converse, discuss and help prevent.
In a country where statistics point out the fact that one in every three women undergo domestic abuse and most of them are forced to stay within the four walls, I’d like to share something with my fellow men out there.
Amidst the lockdown, all of us have been thrown together in an internal churn. As much as we humans love constant companionship, we also most often like some solitary time. Many of us didn’t have to make that choice since routine work kept us out of our homes for very many hours. Fast forward to today, we are in a confined space, sharing it with other members of the family- spouse, children and parents probably. Friction is high, nerves are frayed and the pressure of work hasn’t reduced.
So gentlemen, let’s be gentle – on ourselves and others. This is a time to be patient with yourself. This is the time to promote the ethos of compassion, to step up with kindness and goodwill.
We resemble the Ship of Theseus; we are constructed with ideological components and we learn and unlearn ourselves over periods of time.
I have tried to deconstruct our personality and how each component can help us mould ourselves into better people.
You could be a leader, manager or supervisor who handles tough role calls and busy schedules at your workplace. Now’s the time to reimagine your role and lend a hand at home. Does household chores need you? Maybe lend a hand. Help with the house cleaning, the dishes, the laundry, fill up those water bottles, water plants or babysit your children. You may not be used to this but this is the right moment to step up and be pro-active at home. On the other hand, you probably are one of those folks who hear from your spouse that you lending a helping hand causes more disruptions than actual help to what otherwise works like a well-oiled machine. Offer to help anyways, at least show them you care.
Do you dread losing a sense of freedom? For someone who is used to travelling to work, multiple in-person meetings, the smoke breaks, the chai conversations and the weekend parties, this won’t come easy. This is a major change in lifestyle and it’s understandable to be frustrated. Yet, there are ways to ease into the situation. Take ample breaks and give yourself ME time. Watch your favourite movie, listen to your favourite podcast, read that book from your wish list and go for short walks. Work out, take up an exercise module from the hundreds of free or paid online version available at the moment. Do not let the situation become stronger than who you are as a person.
Yes, you have that work call to attend and you also need to take care of the kids at the moment. The chores are waiting and you may need to chip in with lunch too. It may feel a bit too much, this juggling. You may feel overwhelmed and that can border into nastiness. Step back and take a deep breath. Choose an anchoring technique that helps – yoga, running, workout, there are hundreds of them. An activity for twenty minutes, each day – make that a resolution. This may help keep your temper in check, be more kind and promote sensitivity to others around.
In these unprecedented and equally unpredictable times, it’s easy for little things to bother you. The way some things are said, the way things are placed/misplaced at home, the not-so-used-to chaos at home, children tugging at your sleeves, your parents seeking help or your spouse requesting an act. What otherwise didn’t bother you, starts to play on you. Choose to be empathetic. Remind yourself that they are all going through the same stress in varied measures, just like you.
Situations are dire and factors of stability are unsteady. Causes of fear can be many – about losing your job, a pay cut, that promotion that you were eyeing for, or your business plans. Do not lose hope. Show yourself some peace. Listen to positive affirmations for at least ten minutes, every day – you’ll find many on YouTube. Believe that things will only get better from here.
Validation and Respect
You may be one of those who are used to constant appreciation at work. Celebrations of achievements could have been a regular thing at the office. Though at the moment, you miss all of them and the lack of validation may leave you demotivated. Now, think of your family, how keen they would be to get a kind word of gratitude from you, too? It’s a simple mantra, give what you expect. Use ‘Thank You’ lavishly even with your family, don’t hold back the apologies, and start recognising each other’s efforts. You’ll feel rewarded involuntarily.
Times are tough, the going is rough but remind yourself, that we will get through this.
We are in this together. There is a very fine line separating who you are and who you can become. It’s a choice in awareness.
Step up and make that choice today. You can!
Author: Roopak Nedumpilly