Day 39: Time bubble

8 Feb

There’s something to be said about the ability of siblings to instantaneously make time spin backwards within minutes of hanging out with each other after a spell spent apart. No matter how many weeks and months pass between those meetings, it takes barely any time for natural progression of time to dissolve and flow backwards, bringing out that child in us.

It’s definitely a special kind of regression, for me. It’s like being temporarily kidnapped by aliens and having a body double walking around in my place. Except the body double has the brain of myself from aeons ago. Swinging wildly across ages between 6-16. No telling which one will emerge when.

I’ve been suffering spotty internet for the last ten odd days, but thankfully work has been lean and the sister is visiting. That usually means far less time spent at the laptop. And a lot more time spent fooling around. Today though, the internet died altogether rendering us jobless (because both of us had work to do, that couldn’t be done offline) and left to our own antics.

So. This happened.

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It never ceases to amaze me how easy it is to regress into the headspace from my childhood when I am around my sister. Memories flow back incessantly, nostalgia rules and the weirdest, forgotten, unimaginably sweet anecdotes come up when you’re not even trying to recollect them.

For all the time’s I wish for time to slow down, or to temporarily turn the clock back in time, I must remember to just hang out with my sister more often. It truly puts the brakes on growing up in a hurry.

Day 36: Blush

5 Feb

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Touch of pink unfurled
Peeling back the day’s bright sky
She’s set for the night.

Day 35: Orange Is The New Black

4 Feb

Okay, I caught on late. Really late. But better late than never, I guess. So here I am binge-watching the television series that had everyone hook, line and sinker in early 2014.

Thankfully though, despite everything that was spoken, written or even said about the show I had little idea about what kind of show it really was. All I knew was that it had Laura Prepon playing an inmate, and that the show was set in prison. I wasn’t sure if it was funny, serious, what era it was set in, or anything else. I started to watch it on Netflix last week, quite by accident. I actually meant to begin watching Parks And Recreation, when I realised it isn’t available on Indian Netflix as yet (yeah, woohoo reduced/controlled content!) so I made do with watching OITNB. But I was hooked from the word go. At first it was just the girl-centric focus that got me, because I’m a sucker for girl stories. Much like I loved everything from Golden Girls and Gilmore Girls (what little I’ve seen of it) to SATC, Girls and now OITNB. But this show takes the girl-centric focus to a new level, by putting a bunch of powerful, colourful, characters in a tight box (literally, prison), and allowing their individual personalities emerge. The setting — prison — presumably chosen to enforce physical boundaries, is rendered pretty pointless, as you see how the individual personalities emerge despite the boundaries. And sometimes because of them. The restrictions created by prison dictate how the characters deal with situations, but also bring out the girl-centric aspects of the story out with so much nuance, because of the sheer absence of men in the main plot lines. The only male characters are the cops, and the various men in the backstories of the characters which are revealed in every episide. Aside from that it’s a girl power show, through and through. With the main characters filling the roles of mothers, sisters, friends, enemies, and lovers — and being there for each other as best as they can — within the walls of prison.

The context of prison, as limiting as it is, is actually what sparks many a personality to take flight in ways they probably wouldn’t have outside of prison, leading normal lives. Ironic. I’m only about 8 episodes in and I keep wondering when this structure and setting is going to pose a challenge, or get old. But it hasn’t so far.

The plot is a riveting telling of Piper Chapman’s time spent in prison, and the experiences, trials and tribulations she faces during serving her time for being involved in a drug scandal with her ex-lesbian partner from many years before. I’m a sucker for stories like this, that unravel slowly, are stark — equal parts hartwarming and horrifying, and OITNB with all its girly-girl-ness is right up my alley. It presents all manners of permutations and combinations of relationships shared amongst and between women, the diverse back stories, the conversations and situations the women find themselves in, and how they deal with them, each in their own way. While a lot of it is explicitly stated, so much is left unsaid and leaves you reeling and caught up with thought about their pain, suffering, highs and lows, long after the episode has ended.

Through the individual tales of every inmate, the show also sheds light on the several issues based on racism, class and white privilege and displays the obvious gaps in the penal and corrections systems that are always overlooked that invariably lead to obscene abuse of power. However, I wish these issues could have been brought to light without pandering to the most obvious stereotypes like portraying black women to be uniformly aggressive and uncouth; or Latina women to seem like they only ever have sex on their minds; the over-sexed, mustachio’d Mendez.

I’m hooked enough to ignore these prolem areas, and I will probably watch it through to the end, but those of you who have watched it already —are the stereotype deliberate devices? Does it lead somewhere? Does it get better? What did the show make you feel?

Day 34: Every day

3 Feb

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Absorbing it all
Peeling away time and pain
Waves, they come and go.

Day 33: January

2 Feb

I blinked, and January has passed. In a flash seems about right, when I think about how to describe it. Odd, because it was a stagnant month, and not much happened on the outside. I was mostly disinterested, but restless. I was eager, but felt crippled. I slowed down on work, choosing not to actively didn’t seek new assignments, because I was just about managing to keep my head up enough to see the commitments on hand to the end. Even the projects that were otherwise fun and engaging were beginning to get to me. A head full of questions and no answers in sight can only be pushed aside so much. And this was a long time coming, so by the end of the month, when everything related to work really began to weigh me down, I realised I could push it no more.

In another classic me move, I swung from one extreme of working madly to the other – giving it all up to start from scratch. So that’s where I am at now. Making measured baby steps.

But what else did I do in January? (Apart from feeling restless, hating the waiting and feeling like I have having a shit, shit month.)

Watched: Netflix came to India and opened up a whole new world for us, given that we live without cable TV for the most part. I watched Aziz Ansari’s Master Of None which came highly recommended by S. I loved it for its simplicity, warm fuzzies-inducing take on everyday stuff like work struggles, food, dating, co-habiting and many things that people in their 30s can relate to. It’s straight-forward, funny, relatable and just the kind of consumption I like – 10-episode season, 30 minutes each, and nicely made too.

What’s Love Got To Do With It is a Netflix documentary about the Indian culture of arranged marriage. Again, it came recommended by N, so I got around to watching it. I was equal parts amused and angry by the end of it. Amused because it’s always enlightening to get a peek into the minds and lives of your fellow Indians, with whom you feel like you share so much in common, but you also realise how you couldn’t be more different. Angry because the film left me furious not so much at the meaninglessness of the system and the marriage “market” (which I will admit, I can try and see the advantages of) but the reactions and thought processes of some of the men. And consequently, the women they marry. Obvious debates about arranged marriage aside, the movie left me questioning the institution of marriage itself. In recent times, I’ve seen relationships crumble for a variety of reasons and increasingly I’m beginning to question the importance we attach to finding a lifelong mate and binding ourselves to it. Instead my take has been more aligned to the the belief that it is not for everybody. That it works excellently well for some, is no sign that it must be the universal aspiration for us as a race.

Begin Again <spoiler alert!!!> is a rom-com with Keira Knightly and HUBBAHUBBA Mark Ruffalo and I was interested in watching it  because of the setting and plot – budding singer, song writer in search of herself, meets failed producer and they Begin Again. It was a lovely light hearted film, and I enjoyed it even more because it didn’t go the conventional rom-com route, had an open ending, and they’re both such lovely, real actors. At the end, I realised it was co-written (I think) by Judd Apatow, and that explained a lot of things. And why I liked it too. Also, lots of Mark Ruffalo being an angst-written passionate musician to see. And he’s topless in the very first scene. So. Yeah. Mark Ruffalo.

Read: After last year’s abysmal reading habit, I’m slowly getting myself back on track by making sure to read a little everyday, even if it is for 10 minutes before bedtime. On the upside, I found I chose reading over work, TV and going out more often than not. But it was slowly unfolding effort, and most attempts ended very quickly with sleep taking over.

I chose a simple, but by no means light, read and managed to finish it very quickly. This restlessness I’ve been going on and on about started to really rise to the surface around November last year, and when none of the small external changes I was making seemed to make a difference, I began to look inward quite spontaneously. This is something I haven’t actively done in a very long time so I was a) a little taken aback at myself b) pleased that maybe this was a natural sign of what I need to focus on more. When things come spontaneously, I tend to take them a lot more seriously than when enforced by an external force. Some events occurred around that time too, for VC and I, which made me sit up and accept that perhaps the answers I am seeking aren’t really obvious and won’t be found in places I was looking for them. I re-started a meditation practice I had near abandoned about 7 years and have been consciously looking inwards and trying to get to the root of everything I am feeling, my reactions to situations and relationships and my attitude to every day things that happen to me.

As I usually do, I shared all these experiences with N, who recommended reading this book she’s mentioned to me before. But something about the way she said I think this is the perfect time for you to read this made me want to pick it up immediately. It helps that it is a short, simple read, so great for someone restlessly seeking answers, and/or getting back to the reading habit.

Then she wrote a lovely post here that only reaffirmed my feelings. So I started and finished The Untethered Soul, by Michael A. Singer, and it couldn’t have come to me at a better time. I’ve always found modern spirituality book titles so fluffy and hard to relate to. Nebulous concepts, wrapped up in ambiguous, loaded words that actually mean very little when it comes to our daily lives. But I was pleasantly surprised with this book. A lot of it was good timing, because I’m increasingly learning the immense power of how everything has a time and a place. That I have been dealing with a lot of the questions the book deals with, in my own mind, is probably why N recommended it to me.

The book talks about spiritual growth, understanding things that we all deal with: fear, insecurity, disappointment, rejection, anger, frustration, inexplicable highs, satisfaction, joy and so much more. It has helped me understand a lot of what I have felt in recent time. It’s provided solace at a time when I was questioning every decision, second guessing my relationships, feeling fearful and unable to let things go and move forward.

It ultimately is a book about trying to slow down, listen carefully to what your mind is actually trying to tell you. It emphasises the power of every little thought and feeling we experience and the capacity of our heart and brain (the spirit) to give us some of the most important clues about who we are as individuals. The book has guided me to watch my emotions, my reactions to situations, understand my innermost feelings in dead simple, almost too simplistic at times, language, devoid of the usual mumbo-jumbo I was expecting. The process is continuous, of course, but I couldn’t have arrived at it on my own, unless I read something or spoke to someone who spelt it out like this book does.

If you’re seeking spiritual growth, trying to understand what’s going on in your mind, want a little peace and clarity and have come to believe that it can only be achieved by realigning your mind, this is a good book to read.

Did: I resumed exercise with a renewed commitment in January. It came back with a bang when I realised I was feeling unhealthy despite everything I was doing. I realised I hadn’t consumed a single fruit in about 4 months, simply because I have been too busy to notice. I immediately fixed those little things this month – easily done. Started stocking fruit again, getting my help to chop them up so I have absolutely no excuses to keep myself form eating them! And I have started pushing myself to be regular with exercise again.

Another big improvement is I started enjoying cooking my everyday meals again. An activity I loved and sought like solace, had been relegated to a 20-minute chore that was done with the intention to just get it done quickly rather than with a focus on the outcome. I’ve ignored this for a whole year now, and I know it has shown on the quality of the meals we’ve been eating at home. When my mind is restless it invariably shows in my actions and it’s reflected in my kitchen too. Haphazard shopping trips, badly planned menus, distasteful meals and close to no socialising that involved having people over and cooking for them. I’m starting with cooking well for ourselves again, before I try and get folks to come home again!

I’ve doodled a mad, crazy amount in January and enjoyed it a lot more than I expected it to. An activity that was meant to just empty my mind out has become something more, and that’s the stuff of an entirely different post that I will get to soon.

Apart from that I managed to write a little something everyday and go to the beach a lot more this month, and since they’re things I want to do more this year, that’s two more big ticks for me.

January was pretty shit, but I’m in a better headspace, and a better place overall than at the start of the month. So I’m going to count on that. Leaving you with a song I’ve had on loop a lot this month. Something about the monkeys in the video makes me really, really happy.

Day 32: On creative happiness

1 Feb

To finally realise, whether in a flash of an instant or a longwinded way, that it is okay to be happy with a calm life, has been the essence of re-discovering a kind of creative freedom for myself.

To have the ability to do x, y and z. But to realise that it is actually just x, that makes me truly happy. And to accept (even if painfully) that I must let go of y and z, has been oddly liberating.

I am cut out for a certain kind of life, work-style and my entire journey of discovering writing has brought me back to this point, several times, in several different ways. I have time and again found that all roads lead me back to this point – where at first I feel like a fish out of water, stick out like a sore thumb, but eventually I realise that it is okay to want to pursue a journey different from the one it feels you can manage perfectly. I’ve been in this same spot, arrived at it from various different routes, even acknowledged it and shifted gears before. So why am I resisting it so much this time? To finally let that guard down and accept that cycles repeat for a reason, that I find myself back at the same point over and over only because I’m not fully learning the lesson from that experience, has taken me closer to creative happiness.

To be able to really tell the difference between what I can do, and what I want to do; what is a nice-to-have career and a must-have purpose – that feeling perfectly encapsulates what creative freedom means to me. And to be in the privileged position to indulge that path inevitably leads to creative happiness. I have tasted, savoured, devoured it. But somewhere, I lost it too.

To acknowledge all of this, scale back my life and commit myself to living this dream authentically, is my creative freedom.

To dedicate myself to the smallest, most personal little goals, and watch them as they unfurl and create bigger changes around me, like ripples in a pond is what exercising creative freedom feels like. At the centre of that process, that journey, is chaos. The point at which the rock hits the calm surface of water. The dashing of peace and placidness, to make way for tumultuous action, that eventually transforms things. Within and around. That is creative happiness at work.

To understand that creative happiness is a choice. That it takes effort, it takes owning up to it, it takes following through has been my biggest learning in recent time. I fully understand that the slightest bit of wavering on these counts can make it slip away in an instant. Hang on to it, I remind myself everyday. Hang on to it, live it. And own it like you mean it.

creative happiness

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Some of my dearest friends and I decided to start a blogging prompt thingie, to help us get into the habit of writing more often. It actually came about from the fact that several time in our deepest most involved conversations about the things around us, things that affect us, the people we engage with, the relationships we have, the phenomena we experience and our opinions that are shaped from it, we’d tell each other “Hey, you should write about this!” So one day we decided to try and make a serious attempt at doing that. Except life got in the way, an absolute shit month ensued and this got forgotten. I don’t know if it will be a weekly thing like we intended it to be but, the prompt we started and ended it at – What does creative happiness mean to you? – seemed rather apt for the month I’ve had. Serendipitous, if you will. So I didn’t want to pass up the chance to write it down, so I can come back to this the next time I’ve lost my way.

Day 29: Emptying my cup

29 Jan

There’s a lot to be said for people who perfectly manage their busy, full, hectic lives, straddling work, family, a social life with equal aplomb. Then there are some who do all that and still make time for the simpler, individualistic pleasures like reading, indulging hobbies and such like, with equal panache. I always want to doff my hat in admiration whenever I meet or see folks like that – people who seem to have every single ball up in the air, at any given point, yet manage to perfectly juggle them, with a smile plastered across their perfectly preened faces, and not a strand of hair out of place.

I tried somehow found myself in the midst of a life like that. And I managed for towed the line for a good long while, at the end of which I realised I had failed was exhausted. For several weeks now this irrevocable truth was gnawing at me, nibbling bits of me, inside-out. Every time it threatened to reach the surface, I’d physically move it to another spot, so it would start chewing again. The immense burden of what I thought was wasted time, of sacrifices that I felt were perhaps in vain, of compromises that I convinced myself hadn’t paid off, weighed down on me like the heaviest rocks from the darkest spot at the bottom of a sludgy black river that moves ever so slowly. For weeks, I found comfort in beating myself up over whether it was worth it or not, looking intensely to find what possibly caused my severe exhaustion, over-analyzing the personality problems that always land me in similar situations and until I reached the inevitable What could I have done differently?

Which is when I realised the answer that was staring me in the face all along was, absolutely nothing. Because there was absolutely no way to know then, what I know now, or how it was all going to pan out. I was made to realise that there is no failure. Only lessons.

Suddenly, I am right back to where I once was. The world is my oyster, again. And being here is not as frightening as I anticipated it would be. And VC’s words ring true again, The fact is that you won’t ever be back right where you started, because no matter what, you’re better today than you were a year ago.

As I sent out the last few emails and cleaned out my virtual slate, wiping down the long list of to-dos, assignments, deadlines, I realised it has been so long since I’ve been at a loose end, of my own doing, that I have forgotten how immensely liberating it can actually be. I feel lighter, un-burdened. Yet stronger. Almost physically. If last year was all about that proverbial cup filled to the brim, that was in fact running over, it’s about time I empty that cup completely.

It takes me back to that old Zen story we were told. How can I show you Zen, unless you first empty your cup?

I started my 32nd year with a promise, that it was okay to be happy with a calm life.  And yet soon after that, I somehow forgot all about it and got completely consumed in the landslide. Yes, it felt good in the moment, in the long run even. But I eventually grew tired of it. And it left me with a big hole in the space of my heart that is usually bursting with joy at everything I have done. So when I let go at the end of the year, partly by choice and partly because it was getting physically impossible to keep going, I knew it was time to empty that cup. To make space for new work, new goals, new skills, new horizons.

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Today  a good day to remind myself of the peaceful thoughts I began my 32nd year with. It’s a good day to give myself permission once again, to allow myself to slip back into the calm life that I know suits me best. To regain some of that harmony and balance. And to have some fun while I’m at it. To know that a full cup was fabulous, but it’s time to empty it. Essential, even. In order to make space for the new. To remind myself that saying yes to everyone and everything that came my way was good, it was great, in fact. But it’s also safe to say yes to myself again.

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