More love

What effortlessly-picking-up-exactly-where-we-left-off looks like.

We hadn’t met in nearly a month — not something that’s happened in over a year now. And we hadn’t really talked much either. I have been too preoccupied — and generally feeling quiet — to engage with all my attention. And it has been strange for us to be in the same city and not in touch or up to speed with what the other is up to. Especially if one/both parties hasn’t been up to the mark. And then there has been so many thoughts about loss through this process, of a bare few remaining, of moving on and leaving behind, of the grief of that loss, of the grief of possible loneliness. And a few restrained exchanges about fear of abandonment on one side and fear of not knowing where all this peeling off is leading to, on the other side. Andnsome distance between us, because of all of this. And then we met today. And we effortlessly picked up exactly where we left off.

I’m glad I’ve finally had the privilege of experiencing what this kind of friendship feels like. I know it’s something I’ve always had a longing for, without quite having the words for what it was that I was missing. And now that it is here, I feel so full from it that I know just what it is. A friendship where there is space to unravel, but also to just agree to put it all aside and have a few laughs, without the need to fill in the gaps of so many weeks of silence gone by. This kind of friendship that holds quietness and a containment in its palms. The kind of friendship with endless space, and a strong connection, both. The kind that starts and pauses and has an effortlessness about it all. I feel blessed, really.

New love

One of the things I’ve been grateful for in the past six months is the companionship I have shared with S. As a co-learner, but also as a curious person in the world, keen to understand ones place and how to belong. It’s been an ongoing journey and I have realised time and time again what a boon it has been to have someone who shares and understands this journey so keenly. It has taken the edge off the loneliness many times, it has given me a sense of belonging too. It most of all it has given me yet another safe space to take every little nook and turn of my bumbling journey so it can be held and heard.

So many gems emerge from our ongoing sharing. On chat, in person, while we have studied, while we have worked and now, as we plan our work as fellow practitioners.

Today’s gems:

I’m not disconnecting. I’m individuating.

An examined life takes hard work.

What is being separate? And what is the bond of love even as we hold our own separately?

It’s thoroughly refreshing to share with someone who isn’t in a rush to spout intellectual, cognitive, nearly figured out answers to all our questions. Someone with whom I can throw around the ideas bouncing about in my head, and hold them as unanswered questions still. Giving space for the answers to emerge in their own time.

This is not a friendship I went into with any intention of cultivation like one does sometimes. It kind of happened and grew organically over shared experiences. In a year that has thrown so many friendship rude shocks my way, this has been such a pleasant surprise.

There is a very refined quality to this friendship that I haven’t had ever in my life. And I am enjoying it with such relish.

Little tricks

Somewhere in the utter landslide of grief and sadness from everything that came up this week, I forgot what it takes to ground me. I was so caught in the undertow and flailing from trying to stay afloat that I completely forgot that I know there are a few practices and things I can do for myself. To help myself. To bring myself back to my body, to the here and now, from the far distances of despair that I felt.

Exercise. Everyday.

Salt in my bath water.

Gardening and tending to my plants.

Cooking a meal from scratch.

Walking barefoot.

The 5-4-3-2-1 method.

These have all worked for me in the past. And a couple of them like the salt baths, cooking and exercise are my usual go to that I turn to quite frequently. Something about a mundane, monotonous rhythm of chopping vegetables or running on the treadmill one step in front of another does the trick.

And yet, so heavy was the despair that I just clean forgot.

I’ve exercised and cooked everyday this week but it’s been two days of doing all the rest and it has made all the difference. I feel alive again.

Today I stepped out to catch coffee with D this evening and I ended up telling him how it’s been for me since class ended. What a relief it was to hear someone say;

I get it.

There were cheesy garlic toasts and French fries to boot but my god there’s nothing like connection from a shared moment of vulnerability with someone who can hold it — without either brushing it aside to tell me to feel better or rushing to panic/worry on my behalf — that can do the trick.

One year ago: Now I’m free falling
Three years ago: Grasp

A little care

What will you do to take care of yourself?

 A daunting question when I think about it. Even more so when I see this list of answers I narrated to D after much thought, and she jotted them down for me, as part of an exercise in an Inner Child healing workshop we did together at the start of the year. I see the answers and I see the sweet earnestness with which I had written them. I meant every one of them.

End of the year, end of the decade, end of my 35th year feels are all up on me and almost as if to answer my where-am-I-going and what-have-done angst, I found this list in my notebook quite by surprise.

I’m so thrilled to see I’ve done all of the things on this list a fair bit. Some more intently than others, some with a few fits and starts,. It I’ve given each of these things a fair and heartfelt shot. And that makes me happy.

This has been a quiet but big and important year for me. It’s been the year I gave myself, amongst many other subtle things, the permission to take care of myself.

One year ago: Trying to get high enough to cut the clouds
Three years ago: Happy high

Better

This morning, I woke up with the thought that there’s no more fighting the fact that I’ve been feeling some pretty high highs and low lows, and it has all been a little too intense for me. More intense than anything else this year, more intense than I am used to handling. That kind of intense up and down always drains me. This morning, feeling a little low-er than I have in a long, long time, I wondered if the advantage of hyper-awareness and knowing I can manage and regulate myself through this might also carry the disadvantage that that very self-regulation may actually keep me from getting help if and when I need it.

I woke up with strains of memory of my 2016 self, when I was at probably at the worst of my discomfort, disillusionment and dealing with a directionless life. I am pretty sure now that I was borderline depressive then, and this morning I worried just a wee bit that what I was feeling, felt like it did back in 2016.

I have not felt this way — this intensely low — in literal years. It has been an intense ten days (all this emptiness/displacement I’ve been talking about), there’s no denying it. And while I have been moving through it quite alright, underneath it all, I’ve been wanting and trying to just feel better. Even while I do nothing but simply observe and move through the feels, I’ve been trying to feel better.

This need to switch out of uncomfortable feelings, the disconnect, to run, to do something, is so, so, so deeply ingrained in me. I am now having to very, very slowly unlearn the default reaction to get up, move on, cheer up and instead invite the difficult emotions in, give them my presence and ask difficult questions like What are you here to show me, this time?

This morning, I suddenly realised what I needed to see once again was that I don’t need to keep trying. I don’t need to feel better, if I have woken up a touch out of sorts. What is better, anyway? And who decides what the exact level of goodness it is?

C, in class last week, asked us to invite nervousness in, if that’s what we had entered the room with. To give it a place. To welcome it, and see how it could be an ally in what we were feeling about what we were about to embark on — the “exam”. What a wildly revolutionary thought that was. To embrace a negative, otherwise uncomfortable feeling. To give it a place.

So, I found some relief just by inviting the intense lows, the listlessness, the disinterest in. I embraced it, accepted that I’m not feeling quite my best. And that it was perfectly alright, even if it lasts a day, or two or five. That gave me the energy to get on with my day. Without having to lie about how I felt, even to myself. Without having to get over it. Without having to pretend about how I was feeling.

I have to say, it was a good day. An invigorating chat about future work plans with S this morning, lunch with A, shopping for organic produce, chai at an old Bangalore home tuned cafe, painless metro rides to and back, an evening of writing by myself, a delightful chat with D, and a simple, quick dinner and getting into bed and under my blanket by 8 pm.

And you know what? I feel better, without even trying.

One year ago: November

Life goes easy

Somehow, spontaneous Monday lunch has become an unplanned thing. Yesterday, when VC and I realised that Vidyarthi Bhavan is just a 17 minute direct metro ride away from us we decided to go there for lunch. Spontaneously. They have such odd timings, so this was also a great tactic to beat the crowds — reaching there at 2 pm which is opening time.

It’s supposedly the Mecca of doseys in Bangalore and I was going back after over a decade. The place looks exactly like I remember it from my last visit which was so far back I don’t know when it was. It’s just spruced up and cleaner, I think. The doseys, on the other hand, were a bit underwhelming. I know I could spark off a potential South versus North Bangalore war, but really, I think CTR wins this round for me. And it will probably stay at the top of my dosey list as a clear winner for a very long time to come, by the looks of it. I was happy for the outing though. For the metro ride. For the spontaneity.

***

I’m revelling in my home again, like I said yesterday. However today, I realised I need to also get out and find a space of my own from where to get work done. It’s becoming exceedingly difficult to do it from home. Especially since VCs return, the new adjustment and excitement of having him home all day long, and the added element of having to now adjust my space around his. He did something in one week that I hadn’t done in the two years since we moved here — turned the extra bedroom into an office/work space. I’m glad he did because finally that room is being used, and not feeling like that ghosty isolated, pointless room that it used to. The house feels filled out and lived in. And yet it’s left me feeling a bit displaced. Sitting at the dining table is not working for me. Lying in bed, impossible.

I feel the need to not only separate my workspace from his, but also my own workspace from life-space. Nothing confirmed it more than what happened earlier today. After procrastinating on an important task all week, simply because I haven’t had the mind-space to work from feeling so displaced, I sat at Koshys for half an hour today and banged it out like it was waiting to come out of me. A cup of hot tea, music in my ears and a desk of my own is all it took.

I realised I need a space of my own. A space that’s not at home. Even if it’s not a fixed space, I need to take myself out of what is essentially a domestic area now, and get going with all these things I’ve been brewing up inside of me.

***

Meanwhile, the waves of grief continue to come. I’ve almost got it down pat now. The cues, the coming of the wave, I ride it and it and it ebbs and flows, and leaves. I wonder how much more there is to feel so much about. I know everything I changing and I feel so deeply unsettled already. In addition I can also already see how my reactions to so many things are changing. So now, in addition to lamenting the changes itself, I also feel a pang for the fact that my stock responses are changing too. It’s like letting go of parts that I have held close to me, parts that I have known to be me. And in their place there is, once again, emptiness. A new emptiness waiting to take life again. But that is a slow process of its own making. I cannot rush it.

I feel naked like a baby. And it’s a very vulnerable and exposed state to be in. I feel sensitive and touchy and just a lot of wanting to be on my own. It’s not going down well with folks around me hahaha. Oh well, c’est la vie.

One year ago: Anyway, I should be doing alright

Moving on and letting go

It’s curious that what I am experiencing since the ending of this phase of my course, plus the slow and steady ticking towards the end of the year, is actually a lot of space and openness, and yet again and again, I chose to articulate it as emptiness. Maybe it is both. Maybe it is one or the other, depending on my state of mind at any given moment. But that choice of word — emptiness — is telling and interesting.

This past week and weekend, I sat with this emptiness a lot. The growing distance and spaces between me and many aspects of my life — my slightly nebulous current relationship with work, the yawning silence I have with most all of my closest friends, my family and how I am moving differently around them, cohabiting with VC and sharing all of my living space with him again. It has been a lot to contend with, while also being acutely present to the ever-shifting minutest changes I am experiencing within.

There’s an inexplicable sense of an ending with what feels like multiple open ends in my life, and yet I cannot quite put a finger on it. All I feel very aware of is the ask to stay in the present, with all that I have integrated and all that I am today, while holding space for what was once an old way of being (in similar circumstances) without feeling too drawn by it’s lure. After all, new ways of being bring with it opportunities to do things differently, hack old patterns and cycles and await delicious new outcomes. This is essentially what the process of moving from dependence to autonomy has been for me.

The changes call for me to be a new way — which the more I do, has created so much space and silence — while that same silence and emptiness constantly triggers the old narratives and old ways of being.

And since going back to the way things used to be is just simply not an option anymore (it is physically impossible), I find that all I can really do is make as much space as I can for everything that is shifting and the changes that are coming because of it. It has meant watching and listening to some of my old behaviours as they are called to the surface, yet silently let them just be. The more I sit silently, without rushing in to do something, the more the the old tendencies to fill those expansive spaces, the emptiness, the silence with activity, with doing, with unfulfilled desires, with music, with idle chatter and more, have surfaced. And the more I am able to not give in to them, they have receded to the background too.

To witness it all without acting, has been the way in which I am able to finally tell to some degree, which of the behaviours have been comfort-seeking coping mechanisms, and which have been genuine needs from within that I must respond or tend to.

In the process, I have watched as a lot of those comfort-seeking coping mechanisms have slipped away, and it has left me quite destabilized inside. imagine trying to walk again after years of having a crutch and having that crutch taken away.

There has been a fair amount of heartbreak and a lot of grief to experience. Grief for all that is shifting, and how nothing may ever be the same — with respect to people, work, my surroundings, the very fabric of my existence even. I know deep down that in all this emptying out (which currently feels endless) I am making space for something new, and I know it in my bones that that whenever it arrives slowly will be sweet, but until then there is no denying that this process has been equally fear-brewing, as it has been thrilling.

I am hyper aware of what is changing, what that newness means to me, and that for many folks in my life, this might all be too much to take. That it might be that many will leave once again. And so I sit, wait and watch, equally thrilled at how liberating it all is, as well as how horribly lonely my world sometimes feels because of it. And like S said to me last night when I shared this with her — quite rarely, I wonder if I’ve signed up for something way beyond what I can handle on my own, in terms of how much I will be on my own.

I am learning that this eventuality might very well come true. And so to hold both sides — the joy and the pain of it — equally, with grace, and honouring my needs, mroe and more these days. That’s a step up, I guess?

There were also some other small IRL heartbreaks. Heartbreak at finally accepting — after fighting this for literally months — that we won’t be walking the OXFAM trailwalk in February next year. Some sadness that despite all my efforts I haven’t jumped back on the exercise wagon as quickly and efficiently as I’d have liked to and that I might need to actually listen to my body some more. There was heartbreak at realising that I have to still play second fiddle in VC’s family and that this may never change — not for any other reason but because it simply cannot be any other way — because it’s not on me and there’s nothing I can do about it.

We spent the weekend entirely at home, chilling. I got a wee bit of work done, and we finally settled our second bedroom into a temp home office for VC. I enthusiastically cooked a whole lot more than I usually do — in quantity as well as variety. We watched some movies together, VC and I. And there was a lot of music. I dragged myself to the gym one morning and yesterday I was determined to get our Sunday walk in, despite the steady drizzle. It was such good weather to be out, and to eat a hot idli vada after. But then, I was holed up in my bedroom under the covers all day, until I couldn’t take it anymore post 6 pm.

I am really, thoroughly enjoying my home lately, in a way that I haven’t before. In a way that feels beyond and more than the last two years through which I have anyway really loved this space. There is connection and involvement of a different degree and I know this is coming from rightfully taking my place and acting from my own power and making this space mine, which is not something I have done very much in my life so far. It feels good to be beginning right here at home and feeling the effects of it so palpably.

Three years ago: November

Old-new, new-old

It has taken me many months to accept that the cost of that degree of honesty — the cost of owning my full power — is sometimes the friendship itself.

I just wrote these words a few days ago. (Not so)Strangely this was the very crux of therapy today. I want to say I didn’t see it coming, or that I was taken by surprise. But the truth is I’ve felt this welling up in me — the gut wrenching and heartbreaking truth about dipping fully into my power. Because it has meant witnessing the shifts, the changing dynamics with everything and everyone around. And the inevitable consequence of letting it all go to the point of facing emptiness where there was once the fullness of comfortable relationships.

With some helplessness and some liberation, I’ve been watching subtle, small changes and the difficult realisation that many are slipping away irrevocably. That there’s that gaping emptiness that may remain for a long time to come, and while it is always an opportunity to reconnect anew, this may be yet another time of letting go those relationships where reconnecting is harder still.

This has also felt like the ground beneath my feet has been totally shaken up and like nothing is quite the same anymore. Quite destabilizing, if I were to be really honest. And yet, I’m seeing how this time around even as I’m aware of what’s happening, the old stock response to resist it has faded away significantly. In its place is a gentle witnessing and awareness to make space for everything that comes up.

This is bringing waves of grief on the flip side of the excitement for the new. Grief For the impending loss, for how quickly and painfully things are shifting. For change. For transitions. For loss. For moving on. For letting go. Over and over. On and on we go.

***

On a separate note, speaking of change and letting go, I’m that weirdo that replaces an old pair of shoes with a new pair of exactly the same kind.

There’s something about old-newness or new-oldness, which ever way you prefer to look at it, that has presented itself loud and clear in my life recently.

I’m sitting with it all, making space for the whole gamut of emotions that it is bringing with it.

One year ago: I’ve got a good feeling

Just chill

Life is finally slipping back to some form of normalcy. It’s hard for me to explain what I mean really, because to anyone who has been reading this blog often/regularly, it might seem like nothing was…abnormal?…to begin with. But ever since class (semi)finishing this past weekend(I have a long break until March next year during which I go out into the world to put what I’ve learned into practice), I’ve been slipping back to normalcy. VC has been in Goa since yesterday, and so I even had the last two days by myself, which gave me a lot of time to catch up on some stuff that I’ve been ignoring for months on end because I’ve been mostly mentally too preoccupied to do much else.

I’ve been hitting the gym every morning, cooking myself meals, spending some down time by myself, figuring out some work prospects and generally decluttering my mind.

Anyhow, the chill (the relaxation sort, not the temperature sort) has seeped into my bones today. I spent the evening with P who came over, and then I decided to have a glass of wine (which is rare for me, and which turned into two glasses) while I video-chatted with N for over an hour just catching each other up on life, and then while I was at it I video called VC, and had the privilege of catching this unimpressed pupper too. Clearly, I was more excited than he is!

It’s been a good day, and I can’t believe the week is nearly done.

One year ago: Shoot high, break low
Three years ago: Toast

Friendship, and owning my power

At the lunch table with my buddies from class last week, someone asked me about a friend that has recently slipped out of my circle in just the last few months. It was a fall-out that was difficult and confrontational, yet very essential for me, because it demanded a level of strength and honesty out of me that I had hitherto not extended to very many relationships. It made me confront some “not so nice” parts of myself that otherwise remain hidden, presenting a “good” but continuously inauthentic self to the world out there. It made me sit with being the “bad guy” in that conversation and situation, and yet be the one that could be honest, take a stand and stick by it.

In many ways it was one of those pivotal events of the last six months that pushed me to embrace parts of my shadow, without which there’s no beginning to step into my full power.

It has taken me many months to accept that the cost of that degree of honesty — the cost of owning my full power — is sometimes the friendship itself. One would like to think that with enough time and healing, repair is possible. But it is not always the case. A great degree of honesty can only pay off if and when the other is strong enough to hold that honesty too. And even though I wasn’t holding out for it, the confirmation that this wasn’t going to happen, was a bitter pill to swallow. Because it meant temporarily facing the empty space that the friend has left behind. Staring at the vacuum where that friendship used to be, and wondering when it will be filled with something else, something hopefully more meaningful, authentic and fulfilling.

Even though I ponder about the coming and going of friends, how dynamics with pretty much all my friends have been altered so much as I figure myself out, every time that there is a development, it is just as bittersweet as it was the very first time. One doesn’t get to acceptance and peace without first going through the initial throes of anger. It’s difficult to reach a place of compassion and forgiveness towards oneself without first submitting to beating myself up a bit. And so I have time and again felt caught up in a loop, wanting freedom, wanting to let people from my past go fully.

And so, in the months since, every time I’ve been triggered by a memory, or a glimmer of something form the past that I have shared with said friend, I have been filled with rage for allowing myself to feel so used and dispensable, self-loathing for not seeing the signs sooner, anger for sometimes sensing them and brushing them aside anyway, regret for allowing fear to take over and for being a pushover, and for “wasting” so many years putting up with inauthenticity.

But somehow that day, for the first time, I found myself very easily, reflexively saying, We’re not friends anymore, without feeling compelled to explain those words. That truth.

Of late, I have seen that I find myself in conversations  about the the difficulties of navigating friendship as an adult, a lot more than before. Every time that it comes up, a little something in me is triggered, and finds a new settlement again. That’s what happened at the lunch table the other day. Then on Sunday, N and I talked about how growing spiritually, continually and deliberately, means letting go of people more frequently than one otherwise would and how it means facing the empty spaces more often. This morning in a reading for D, about friendship, I found myself answering a question I had myself been simmering over for a while — when do you know it’s time to let go?

Coincidentally (but really, these aren’t coincidences anymore) I saw this on The Artidote’s Instagram page, that I visited after literally six months.

Forgive yourself for⁣ all of the relationships⁣ and friendships you settled⁣ for when you weren’t in⁣ your power.

I had realised earlier this morning that all of this has everything to do with feeling and owning one’s own power. The ability to face the truth, to know what you’re holding on to even in a failing friendship, to see the truth about allowing yourself to be “used”, to know when to let go — none of this is truly possible unless I am fully, feet-firmly-in-place feeling my power. Because when the ground beneath my feet shifts from asking some of these questions and facing the answers that emerge, I need to know I can hold myself through it. And not in a delusional way, but in an authentic, compassionate way that allows me to free myself from bitterness, regret and the very notion that I had made a mistake.

One year ago: I need to free my mind and see what I’m feeling

Rant

As a city dweller who routinely braves the crowds and gets out and about to function, I am also routinely faced with dismal truths and realities about human nature. The fact that it’s a dog-eat-dog world has never been so apparent and in my face, as it has when navigating life in Bangalore.

Sometimes, many times, I feel we don’t deserve good things. Like public transport, infrastructure, organised means to get places. Because we always find ways to ruin whatever little steps we make towards these improvements. And so the system is constantly stuck in a loop to level up the system to make amends for the fuck ups we cause by simply not behaving like humans.

It’s very disappointing, and I often feel despair at where we can even begin to make amends, and overwhelmed at what it will take to even take that first meaningful impactful step, helpless when I’m standing in queue ready to get on to the Metro fully in firm faith that I must do what’s right by me even though the crowds don’t get what queues are, what these arrow markings on the floor are, and are generally clueless about how to exist in a peaceful and non competitive way.

One year ago: I can buy the sunshine

Stop this train

It’s been one of those strangely full but quiet days. I got a lot more done than I’d anticipated, and yet not enough of all that needs to be done that’s been piling up while I was first in Goa, then moving back, then unpacking, then in pre-class prep, then in class, and now here I am raring to go but able to only make small steps.

I’m calling it a day, and I’ll try again tomorrow.

Three years ago: One number mini rant about Instagram

Keep going

I made it from home to town in just fifteen minutes today. This, after waking up late and feeling extremely slow to start, leaving later than usual and thinking I’m not going to make it to class in time.

Bangalore is such a dream on winter mornings like this. Bright and cool, full of life.

It was just one of those bright and sunny days, with no traffic and all green lights. I’ll take that as a sign for a massive go-ahead from the universe.

Three years ago: ‘ssupdates

Up

It took a yellow saree, that I’ve been dying to bring out of hibernation, and new juttis to get me to get up and going today. I’m suddenly feeling very spent and in need of some space and time away. Some distance to regurgitate and reorganise all the learning that I am feeling just so full and welled up from. And I am so looking forward to doing that in the coming month, once tomorrow is done.

That’s all.

One year ago: Oh god I feel like I’m in for it now

Pause

Today was rest day, before I go back tomorrow for the big exam. And I spent the day mostly chilling, because it’s been a rather intense couple of days with all the examination prep and practice that I’ve been doing. I woke up with what felt like a trauma or vulnerability hangover, with a dense head and knew at once that I needed to just decompress and conserve energy. And so I cancelled plans to get out and meet S. Instead, VC, Niyu and I went to NGMA to check out the Prabuddha Dasgupta show that’s happening there (It’s on for nearly a month more, and it’s quite excellently curated, in case you’re interested in that kind of thing, and you’re in Bangalore). And then we had a lazy cup of tea each, after which I lunched with Amma and Niyu. A longish nap, an evening spent drawing with Niyu, chatting with VC and her, and a masala dosa for dinner later, I’m in bed at 8 pm.

I’m not feeling quite ready for tomorrow, in terms of my energy levels. But a part of me also wants to get the next two days over with, so I can dive into my plan to get a break and some distance from this work in December. I feel the need to process, to regroup and re-compartmentalise and digest all these learnings within myself. I feel so full, and I feel the need for things to settle in me. For the learning to become muscle memory. So I can get more ease with working through my body than my head/mind.

It was a good day for a pause, but today I felt like it was just not enough and it makes me increasingly present to the fact that my internal pace has slowed down so very much.

That’s all.

One year ago: Discover some new truth that was always wrapped around you
Three years ago: Paint me like the sky