March Magic: Monthly Missives from The Dream Pedlar

March Magic: Monthly Missives from The Dream Pedlar
springtime snow | Photo by Jack Blueberry on Unsplash

March has been a wild month! In more ways than one.

First, it was the weather. There were a couple of balmy days mid-month, so much so that the ski hills up north had to cease operations for a couple of days. Then it went and snowed a week later as though it was Christmastime once again, and little D got to fly down the sledding hill in the neighbourhood for only the second time this season.

The other thing that had me unexpectedly reeling a little bit is this:

The Dream Pedlar's audience is growing in leaps and bounds! Hurrah!

Several new readers have joined this community in the past few weeks. Obviously, that's cause for celebration like never before! 🥳

Welcome one, welcome all! Thank you for allowing my written word into your hearts and souls, into your lives!

And now I'm also a little flabbergasted.

Until now, I wrote these musings for a small community of mostly family and friends, people with whom I've actually sat down and had long conversations over endless cups of coffee and tea on these very topics I write about — our fears and longings, feelings and emotions, the contradictory desires for family and independence, being human, being vulnerable, life, the Universe and its mysteries.

Now I'm suddenly fearful that these topics may not be 'adequate' enough or 'valuable' enough to a wider audience, even though I've been writing and blogging for almost two decades now in some form or the other.

gold and white masquerade ball mask
hiding behind a mask | Photo by Vlad Hilitanu on Unsplash

Maybe that's the problem of only 'knowing' people by their names and email addresses on a platform like this.

It's easy to forget we're all human. Flawed. Ever-evolving. Driven by our fears and longings.

Living and viewing our lives through the unique lenses of our beliefs and behaviours shaped over our lifetimes. Occasionally peeking through others' lenses to see if they too feel the way we do, and to reassure ourselves that we're not alone in this constant upheaval called 'life'.

As Alberto Manguel said,

Maybe this is why we read, and why in moments of darkness we return to books: to find words for what we already know.

So, buoyed by that thought and likening 'books' to the 'written word', I'm going to do what I always do — write about the stuff I feel deeply about — and hope some of it will resonate with you too. So grab a cuppa and read on!

I've been thinking about 'entitlement' these past few days. Not in the usual way the word has been bandied about in recent years.

In a blog post on AI (without getting into a debate on AI here), contemporary author Talena Winters wrote something that has stayed with me ever since:

Am I upset that other authors are using generative AI to help them do things they could pay me to help them with?
Not at all. First of all, because I’m not entitled to anyone else’s money (something many artists raging on social media would be prudent to remember).
~ Talena Winters

Replace the term 'anyone else's money' with 'success', no matter how you define it, and you'll get to the gist of my message today.

We tend to look at hard work and success as analogical to cause and effect. "You worked so hard you totally deserve to succeed/be happy," is something we'd say to encourage someone. "Well-deserved," is what we say to someone when their efforts yield the results they've been seeking.

Somehow, we've forgotten that while hard work may be a prerequisite to success, it does not make us deserving of or entitled to that success. It does not even guarantee a favourable outcome.

an ant carrying a leaf across a barren path
working hard | Photo by Vlad Tchompalov on Unsplash

In my childhood, many well-meaning adults often said to me, "You just work hard, don't worry about the results. That will come of its own accord."

They were mostly citing variations of this phrase in the Bhagavad Gita:

You have the right to work, but never to the fruit of work.
~ The Bhagavad Gita (Easwaran's Classics of Indian Spirituality)

I suppose this phrase in its unadorned form would have come across as a harsh truth to a child or a teen who's constantly told that the only way to excel in academics is to work hard.

"Are you saying all those late-night studies may NOT give me that coveted first rank or gold medal? What sacrilege!"

So that famous line from the Gita got twisted into a form that appealed to me and made a lot of sense in a cause-effect way. 'Work hard, and the results will come.'

Which in turn got even more twisted to mean, 'If you're not seeing the results you want, it means you're not working hard enough. Or smart enough.'

It was impossible to not buy into these beliefs in an ever-prevalent carrot-and-stick culture.

It was then time to turn outwards and seek other successful people and their advice on how to succeed, because obviously I wasn't doing the right things in the right way. If only I could find the silver bullet, I'd finally figure out how to make things work in my life.

(This probably explains why I loved math at school until we began studying probability and everything ceased to make sense.)

Desperate people like me, muddled by the inherent whimsies and uncertainties of life, have kept the self-help and how-to economy booming. That has been my small but not insignificant contribution to the world in the past several years.

I suppose I must consider myself very lucky that my first conscious awareness of the uncertainties of life came about only a few years ago. In the midst of the pandemic, as it were.

story of a vaccination, and of sadness - my everlasting companion and guide
I’ve just returned home after getting my first shot of the AstraZeneca vaccine, the only vaccine currently available to adults 40 years or older who do not fall in any of the priority or high-risk categories as detailed by the Ontario provincial government. I suppose I’ve been truly lucky to

Like for many others, the pandemic was the first time I was forced to grapple with the truth that had been waving its hands in front of my face all along.

That life comes with no guarantees.

That there is no recipe or formula for success.

That what worked for one person may very well not work for you, simply because you're not in the same situation, simply because you're a completely different person altogether.

It's only in recent times we've begun to wise up to these nuggets of wisdom.

Which brings me back to the original phrase from the Gita on hard work and success:

You have the right to work, but never to the fruit of work.
So my question to you this month is, where in your life are you holding on to the mistaken belief that just because you put in the effort you are entitled to an outcome of your liking?

I'm guilty of this in more ways than one.

  • I've written and published 8 books so far. Why aren't I a bestselling author yet?
  • I cooked an excellent meal today. How dare little D scrunch up his face and say 'Ewww', having barely tasted a morsel?
  • I worked so hard and so well these past couple of years. Why didn't I get a promotion this time? I so deserved it.
  • I spend so much time and effort crafting this newsletter every month. Why isn't every reader gushing over it? 😉

The list is evidently endless.

image of a hand throwing a large black dice into the air against a blurred background of neon lights
what are the odds? | Photo by Erik Mclean on Unsplash

The trouble with confronting this truth is that we may be tempted to veer to the other extreme and become too despondent and indifferent to the task on hand.

Why bother? Why waste all our time and effort on this, when we can't even tell whether this will yield any result or not?

That's where the 'process, not outcome' mindset comes into play. As long as I can enjoy the process of writing, I can (ideally) weather the external disappointments that come in the form of lack of visibility or sales despite my best efforts.

Even so, fears and anxieties about not being able to grow my book sales in the future have often kept me from making the choice to write in the present. I've let years go down the drain this way, I admit.

It's getting better when each day I make the choice between letting the day go waste because of fear of an uncertain future versus doing what I can possibly do today for the potential of a different future. 

If I don't create today, I wouldn't have any books to sell in the future. But if I do move the needle today somewhat, no matter how minimally, there's still a slightly greater-than-zero 'chance' of my books doing well in the market after they're released.

It's still only a chance, never a guarantee.

Yet, uncertainty does mean possibility!
This is liberating and terrifying in equal measures!

(Looks like I'm getting a grasp on probability after all. 🤭)

Besides, at the end of it all, the present moment, and what we do with it, is all that we can count on. Everything else is illusory.

Tales for Dreamers

underwater gods

When I first started to write Tales for Dreamers almost 13 years ago now, I mostly used images from the Internet, ensuring proper attribution and often writing to the photographers for permission to use their images.

Over time, many of these images have disappeared or the original creators have limited permissions for reusing these images. I have a bunch of stories that I took down from my website, hoping to find appropriately licensed images to pair them with.

A few weeks ago, I started playing around with Microsoft Copilot in Bing, which uses Dall-E to generate AI images. Some of the results were astounding.

I've used one such image to bring to you a decade-old tale that would have otherwise remained in a file on my laptop for eternity.

tales for dreamers: underwater gods
Everyone knows it’s impossible to spot an underwater God. But nobody knows why.

Books You May Love

I read a handful of books this month, but there are many stories about these books that I must share with you. So here's an entirely separate post dedicated to the awesome books I read in March. All of them were delicious murder mysteries!

books you may love: March 2024
March was a month of reading amazing murder mysteries.

It's Easter Sunday. If you're celebrating, I hope you have a lovely time. Even if you're not celebrating, I hope you're having a good time, wherever in the world you are.

In parting, I will leave you with a conversation I once had with a friend. I can't remember what we were talking about but I remember saying, "Sure, let's give this a shot. We're all going to die anyway. Might as well live while we're alive."

The amazing friend that he was, he paused, looked at me and said, "We don't try to live a good life because we're going to die anyway. We live because we have this beautiful life to enjoy while we're alive."

I wish for us all to imbue that spirit of engagement, involvement and enjoyment in all that we do in our lives.

~ Anitha