Slow and steady

It’s been a rather flip-floppy week and I’ve floated along feeling unanchored for the most part. First the extended weekend and the extra day spent at the beach. It took me a whole day to recover from that and get out of the holiday blues and back to work. Just then I had the blow out with the client. I felt all loud and fierce in the moment when I stood my ground, but a couple of hours later I began to feel really sad about it. Not for what I said or did, because I was in the right, but just about yet another disappointment. Human beings are just so disappointing and it felt like a last straw.

So I turned to good old carbs for comfort. With a side of a Sri Lankan cinnamon and burnt star anise infused G&T at my new favourite pizza place. VC was only more than happy to take me out and so I binged on a meatballs on focaccia starter followed by a pepperoni pizza.

Today though, I woke up feeling quite rudderless because it dawned on me that suddenly a large chunk of my day is absolutely free and I didn’t know what to do with myself. Work does give my day structure and purpose and I’m back to the drawing board about where to go next. All of this is especially floaty in Goa where my days are long and lazy, and I’m technically in this limbo between holiday and regular life, not sure which way to go.

It could have been another floaty, aimless day but thankfully by now I have figured out my go to fixes that anchor me and bring steadiness to my days. I’ve dragged my feet with exercise this week, thanks to sleeping late so many nights in a row and all the indulgence in terms of food and drink. I’ve flaked and fudged a workout or two, even though I caught an hour long beach walk/run with R every morning that we were away.

Today I just knew I needed to not give myself any excuses. So I kicked myself to workout in the morning and forced myself to finish it strong, in a pool of my own sweat. I was finished, totally wiped, by the end of it but I felt so good. It’s like every single day, I forget how this is just starting trouble and that just seven or eight minutes in when I really break into a sweat and begin to feel the burn, is when the endorphins happen and I begin to thank myself for not allowing another miss.

I went to the nursery again this past weekend and got some new plants for the house. I’m afraid it might have become my new retail therapy, considering I’ve decided not to buy any clothes, shoes or accessories for at least another year.

After my workout I spent a good 20 mins tending to my plants. Don’t ask what I do and why it takes so long but I just enjoy pottering about, digging here clipping there, moving pots around. I don’t believe I’m very good at it but it is extremely satisfying and warms my heart.

I’ve also figured I don’t do well with just being cooped up all by myself for many days. I’ve been especially lonely after VC leaves for work this week, and the lethargy has made my enthusiasm to plummet. So today I got out and decided I should get out every few days, even if it’s just a supermarket run. I’m no longer the homebody I used to be when I lived here, going for days on end without stepping out at all. An hour outdoors was all it took, stocking up on groceries and stuff for a BBQ dinner VC has planned tomorrow, for me to feel steady and like I was back to being myself.

I came home, put things away listening to John Mayer and cooked myself a simple lunch. Dal, millets, a sabzi of sprouts and ate it with leftover kheema. Later, I watched Brene Browns new Netflix special and I ended up doing a couple of card readings for peeps.

This is pretty much all it takes to bring steadiness back to my life. A rhythm of utterly mundane tasks. Some days are just like this, steady and normal, as S said just as I was going about my day and she coincidentally texted me at the very same time telling me how she went about her plain and simple day and how it grounds her in ways nothing else does.

The benefits of having a routine are seriously underrated and I realise this is just what my parents talked about all along when I was growing up. I’m just living and experiencing the wonders as an adult.

Watching Gully Boy yet again in bed tonight and already looking forward to the beach tomorrow morning.

This is joy.

One year ago: The times, they are a-changing
Three years ago: Go far, they said

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Loud

Today, I had what I thought was a perfectly normal, if slightly loud, conversation that one has with a client. It started off as a clarification of miscommunication from both sides, but very quickly turned into a shouting match that took an unnecessarily emotional turn. I used to be someone who would get very worked up by confrontation of this sort, but I now much prefer having things out in the interest of a better outcome (even if that outcome is that I lose a client). But today, somewhere in the midst of decibel levels rising and emotions flaring, I realised that what was playing out was a story, a script. Something I have been a part of before — conversations with clients/colleagues where there is an unmistakeable undertone of a power equation threatening to be toppled simple because one party decided to come clean and ask the tough questions.

I used to be afraid of this kind of confrontation, no matter which side of the argument I have been in. I am not a fan of ruffling feathers (and losing a good thing) nor have I been a fan of being at the receiving end of a confrontation. But today, I initiated it. I didn’t even realise how naturally this had come to me today, even as I was doing it. And suddenly, in that moment when I realised what was actually at play, I had the blinding clarity that I refuse to play a part in this repetitive script in my life again.

It was suddenly no longer about missed deadlines, miscommunication, ironing out wrinkles so we can work it out going forward. It was about reclaiming my power from a person who was hell bent on irrationally taking it away. I have never been surer of how right I am in an engagement with a client. And today, I really had it out.

The conversation was difficult. It touched a very raw nerve, gave me a headache and tested me emotionally so much, I burst into tears when I hung up, even as I was so relived to have ended that contract. Now that I think of it, I think they were also tears of relief. But when the call was done, my temples were pounding, I needed a tall drink of water and immediately took myself to my air conditioned bedroom to cool off.

There’s suddenly so much happening with me, in this area of power, space and boundaries. It comes in waves with such intensity and is revealing itself in little and big situations, inspiring a host of different actions and reactions on an everyday basis. It is making me do things every single day that surprise me, push me, elate me, exhaust me.

This situation, this conversation and this outcome (ending a contract on a telephone call) would be so very unlike me. Except it doesn’t feel unlike me anymore. The more these situations present themselves, the more I am pushed to see this side of me that also exists, that has been lying locked up, that needs to be seen, the more I am forced to see what I really am. I’m a mix of it all. I am as aggressive and can fight loud and aggressively for what’s right, as much as I can be compassionate and let you have your way on a day when I feel kinder.

Today I may have shaken myself up a bit. This probably the first time I really stood up to a client who was being a bully. It’s the first time I really made myself heard, without relenting in the moment and saving up all my pent up aggression for a politely worded email sent much later when enough deep breaths were taken.

This new side, I find aggressive, loud, shrill, even hostile sometimes. But, I realise how much of this is conditioning. Conditioning that makes me believe these qualities must be hushed up. That I must be coy and cooperative as far as possible. That I must sometimes relent in the interest of work, and money. But I am so much more than that.

I am sometimes angry. Fierce. Unreasonable. I am all of this too.

When did anger get such a bad rap? Why is it looked down upon so much? I see now that anger and rage, when expressed, are clues to dig deeper. And invariably, when I do, I am compelled to change something towards a better outcome. Anger maybe a trigger emotion, but it’s certainly a catalyst for change. So when and why have we become so comfortable with pushing it away?

I feel loud and large today. It is like stepping into a side of me that has been a long time coming. But on the flip side, I feel emotionally very vulnerable and fragile. And yet, kind of empowered. I feel new.

One year ago: All the small things
Three years ago: Essay aftermath

Separate, yet connected

The biggest takeaway, for me, from this past weekend has been the realisation that I suddenly know what it is to be separate, yet connected. To engage, to relate just enough and connect, without losing myself wholly, or disconnecting either.

Somewhere along the way, all these weeks and months of owning the words and turning them around and around in my head, I suppose the inevitable has happened and it has sunken in just a wee bit, into my being.

For a decade now, VC and I have consciously believed that we are not one of them, and unconsciously kept ourselves away from extended family on his side, as a whole. I suppose there is a time for everything, and this past weekend was as much about testing my renewed capacity for this kind of togetherness, as much as it was for me to create a space for myself, just the way I am. I have always feared doing this because of how different I am. But I realised this past weekend that I’ve reduced different to be a weakness. Unknowingly, that difference became my strength over the last three days.

I’ve only ever thought of belonging in this family, as requiring losing myself a whole lot, and so I’ve always kept myself at a safe distance. Something happened this past weekend that made me realise what it is to be almost wholly me, rather fearlessly, and still believe that I can be one of them. Surprisingly, I received nothing but love for it.

I feel I have a better sense of what it is to live and let live now. The two may be separate and very different indeed, but they needn’t be mutually exclusive. The two, they can coexist in the strangest, most bizarre and satisfying ways.

***

It’s a bright hot day outside, with an over-zealous wind in the air. I’ve picked up toppled pots several times, watched my curtains billowing violently almost like they’ll snap and fly away, and I’ve devised many methods to keep doors from slamming. I have work to get started on, but all I’ve managed to do in between all of this is lie down and doze off from time to time. It seems almost ridiculous, but between the emotional stirring from the weekend and the excessive time spent in the water and the harsh sun, I’m totally exhausted. After pondering about why I’m so tired for all of today, I suddenly realised what I am feeling is a deep vulnerability hangover.

One year ago: Where is the love?

Postcard from staycation – 2

It’s been an extended weekend staycation by the beach. This time around, I have realllly indulged and maximised the time in the sea and pool, spending an average of 6 hours everyday between both waterbodies.

I’ve returned exhausted, burnt to a crisp (so burnt my shoulders hurt) but feeling really (surprisingly) fulfilled. I was super sceptical, borderline worried about this trip and was on the brink of chickening to stay home on the eve of it. But it has surprised and satisfied me in ways I will have to slowly unpack for myself over the next few days.

The best part? When everyone else was leaving, lamenting the end of the holiday and the crash back to reality that flying into Bangalore will be, VC and I drove 1.5 hours back home, still feeling the holiday feels.

Hashtag blessed, I guess?

More tomorrow when I can put my thoughts down coherently.

One year ago: Remind yourself, nobody built like you

Postcard from staycation – 1

Salt water, sea spray and soothing sand therapy – that’s what the weekend was about.

We were meant to check out and bid the family farewell today. Because we were so sure a day was all we’d be able to take of this organised fun. But I suppose there’s space now for new surprises.

We’re staying a whole extra day. And I’m not even complaining.

We’re just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl, year after year.

***

Three years ago: Satisfaction

And thanks Goa

Every time that I’m at the beach, it’s a reminder to get out in Goa more often.

Three years ago: Imperfect timing

Thank you, Bangalore

Couple of things I’ve been missing sorely:

Running on a treadmill. I’d built my way up to a decent pace and distance. And it was only going to get better with consistency, but running on a treadmill came to a grinding halt in Goa because I do not have access to a gym. I could run outdoors but I live just off what used to be a rather pretty highway flanked by villages in either side, that is now just a royal mess with massive road construction in progress for kilometres on end. It’s not only dangerous for me to try and run there but also just such a displeasure. The home workouts have been a blessing, but I’d be lying if I said I don’t miss the sheer rush of a good even-paced, speedy run on the treadmill.

Seeing Amma everyday. Most unexpectedly, I’m really missing Amma. I say unexpectedly because this is the sort of trip that’s happened many times before. We’re constantly travelling and not seeing each other for bouts of time. I wonder what has changed this time around?

My nearly-daily iced americano fix. I miss spending those couple of hours at Third Wave every other day, getting work done while nursing an iced americano that they’ve just mailed and that just hits the spot for me every single time. I’ve been demotivated to get working, enthusiasm flagging in the comforts of my home and loungey routine. I miss having the option to go to an “office” space.

My frennsss. Truth be told, I miss my friends too. I can count them on one hand, yes, but I miss them nonetheless. I’ve realised with alarming clarity that I am not as much of an introvert and homebody as I used to be or as I thought I am. I like the presence of people, I like making spontaneous plans, I like meeting with them regularly, I like going out and catching up over food and drink. And when I come here, all of that has a forced stop. The quiet is great, but I’d kill for some frequent, well-timed bits of action.

My therapist. Even though I continue therapy over Skype when I am in Goa, I do so miss the face to face interaction and the extra insights it brings.

Sunday walks. It’s been an unexpectedly long hiatus and it’s beginning to show, because last Sunday, I had visions of walking the snaking paths we do in Bangalore, covered by green, and the idli and vada we have after. Green space I have aplenty here, but I will never find an idli or a vada to match up.

***

I guess what I’m also feeling, on the flipside, is gratitude for all of this. It fills my life with a certain energy and richness that I feel the palpable lack of when I am away. This, I realise now. I’m so grateful for all that I receive from Amma. I’m grateful for the renewed inclination to get fit again and for all the help and resources I have to make this happen, uncompromisingly. I’m grateful for work, and all that it enables. I’m grateful for my friends, the ones who remain and who always show up. I’m grateful for Bangalore and the nature in which it shows me a contrasting experience to the one I have in Goa, because it makes me realise again and again that I am not bound to any one place, vibe or state of being.

One year ago: And I’m feeling so bohemian like you
Three years ago: Lucid

Making space

Some recent developments in a couple of relationships in my life have had me react in a way that is very new for me. Where there was once a need to immediately let go (read: discard) when things were on rocky turf, I have observed that I am now able to let things go (read: let them be). And wait and watch a bit, patiently.

There’s been a lot of talk about reclaiming space for myself. And I have been feeling this palpably in everything I do. Today I realised that this too, is a manifestation of claiming space, making my space, drawing a boundary and having a very clear idea of what I am and am not willing to do any more.

Something has changed, yet again. I have changed, yet again. And I feel it in the difference between the way in which some old relationships were severed with every effort made to discard them, versus just letting things be now, without assigning a definite label, without making unnecessary meaning of every action or mission action, and without forcing a conclusion as to where these relationships now stand.

I feel a little bit more graceful in the way I am with people. It isn’t so much about putting my own needs first as it is about just acknowledging that sometimes more often than not I have a need too. And that sometimes, it is quite the opposite to what I end up feeling compelled to say/do.

I have been sensing the end is nigh with a few relationships in my life. But the refreshing difference this time around is how this impending loss, while heartbreaking, doesn’t grip me with fear. I see it in how I am no longer rushing, throwing myself into a dramatic tizzy of exchange of words to have a definite conclusion. I feel a patience and grace about letting things be.

Today, I realised this is what normal people call holding space. I’m merely holding my space, for a change. It is essential space to let people do the work they want or don’t want to do, depending on whether the feel the need to do it or not.

I’m also seeing how this holding of space is playing out differently in different relationships in my life. It’s so telling to note the relationships where I take the liberty to push and pull the boundaries of space, where it comes naturally and comfortably, and where I feel absolutely no inclination to. So many clues all the time about where I stand with some people vis a vis others.

I had a sobering, settling session of therapy today where I was quiet a lot, for a change. This, and many more new developments came to light. It’s been a while since I felt like I am at a milestone, where I had a clear sense of progress or movement into a more authentic, whole sense of self. This is a largely lonely, self-motivated journey. There are no markers of progress, no cheerleaders, no incentives to keep going even. No paycheck at the end of the month. No encouraging pats on the back. There is no right or wrong way, everything goes. Most of all it is a deeply solitary journey that will not let me forget that I have nothing to prove to anybody. Not even myself.

So to have a glimmer, just a tiny hint, of something small beginning to change is like holding a world of promise carefully in my hands. It stirred the same excitement and satisfaction that gardening did the other day. Much like with waiting for the seedlings to sprout to new life, breaking ground and reaching out for the wide open, now begins ultimate test of patience, compassion and kindness with letting myself unfurl and see which way I want to go next.

One year ago: Forever in-between
Two years ago: Serendipity
Three years ago: Mondays like this

Goa vibes

It just dawned on me that possibly one of the reasons I’ve been in an easy frame of mind and just so happy is I haven’t had any work to do since the start of the month – hahaha. I realised it this morning, as the work for the month began trickling in.

It explains why it’s just Wednesday morning, but I’ve watched  five Hindi movies already. I managed to get in a pedicure and a foot massage a couple of days ago. I have worked out and cooked meals, every single day. And despite it all I have been mostly chilling, relaxed at home. I’m aware I cannot exist like this forever, my inner Type A is always lurking close behind, egging me on to do something, be useful. And so I’m glad for the little bit of work that I have. It keeps me going, my writing muscles in use, gives me just enough of a purpose without taking over my life, and while it may not be adding to a huge amount of my savings, it helps pay my bills.

That said, I’m glad for this unexpected downtime. It feels like events converged to make this happen, at a time when I least expected it. I would not have been forced into submitting to this week of distraction-free life if I hadn’t uprooted myself so suddenly to come to Goa. I’m reminded again that Goa slows me down. Something in the air, compounded by the fact that I live so far out without not much of interest in my immediate vicinity, plus just a quintessential simpler life here makes me slow down.

This time, I have only three food wishes to tick off my to-do-in-Goa list. A trip to Burger Factory, one to Melt and a round fo sushi with D. Eating out in Goa — unless I’m scoping out something truly unique that I wont find back home in Bangalore, like a Goan taverna or a local food haunt — just doesn’t hold as much of an lure as it did when I lived here. I’ll just come out and say it — eating out in Bangalore is better. So I’ll take this time as a great way to kick things up a notch with my efforts to eat clean.

***

When I wasn’t really thinking a few months ago, I accidentally agreed to spending a weekend with 30 members of VC’s family (his cousins with their families) in Goa. That weekend is coming up in 2 days, and suddenly I’m wondering what I was thinking when I agreed to this. I am gearing up to feel a whole lot of feels — from isolation to anger — but for now I’m trying to just let myself take things as they come. Maybe this will be a chance to be just the way I am in Goa, on my turf, a side of me his family has never seen. Maybe I won’t have to straddle the two worlds, maybe I won’t have to force myself to be a girly-girl and discuss shopping and make up or gossip about the extended family any more than I truly can or want to. Maybe I’ll just hang with the boys and let them deal with dealing with me being the kabab mein haddi. Let’s see.

The truth is, so much has changed within me, and for me, in these past few months. And because chances of extended interaction with folks from VC’s family are so rare, I don’t know what this fresh set of variables will bring. There’s also the bit about a large number of members being people I have actually never interacted with. Let alone their spouses and kids.

I’m partly curious to see how this plays out. But I won’t lie, I’m also partly inclined to just and stay home to stay safe from putting myself in unnecessarily abrasive situations that will make me feel vulnerable. Ideally I’d love to just be a fly on the wall than an active participant.

On the upside, we’re checking in to a resort by the sea. And it is just a matter of two nights and a single day. If all else fails, I will just spend longer than usual hours at the beach, swimming in the sea and burning myself to a crisp. When I’m done doing that, I’ll hide behind my shades and keep a stiff drink for company at all times. Either way, it promises to be a time for a lot of observation, people-watching and figuring out the games they play. All of which I love to do.

So. Let’s see.

***

It also just dawned on me that today is Day 100 of posting this year!

One year ago: To the gypsy that remains

Happy days

This post is just to record present happiness levels. They are high. Not soaring high, but just enough. Enough so there’s a mellow hum in my heart, a spring in my step. This sense of everything being in its place, and a rhythm to everything that I do. There is flow, there is equanimity. There is a reservoir of calm. There is a promise of peace and oneness, a feeling of coming, being, at home.

I am not jostling for space. I am not running helter-skelter. I don’t feel like I’m spread too thin.

I’m just happy. Plain and simple, after what feels like a rather long time. (But a look back tells me exactly when I felt a similar goodness, and I realise it wasn’t so long ago.)

***

I’m happy that I’ve been able to continue working out, uninterrupted. In fact I’ve discovered I quite like working out in solitude at home. I’m glad I’ve been fighting the urge to sleep in, and have managed to get up and get going everyday. It’s a bloody good feeling to have worked out and showered before 8 am and have the whole day ahead of me to do as I please. I know that sounds like I’m raring to go out and about, but the truth is most of those days were spent lounging at home.

I’m feeling that old itch to push my body resurface. That extra rep, that whole extra set, that extra HIIT burnout round at the end — I’m feeling that burn to do it all again. Just the way that I used to. Pushing my body and seeing it achieve things makes me happy. Endorphins make me happy.

I’m glad we’ve been eating at home as much as we have, because it means I have more control over what I eat and what goes into it. I’ve been able to push my intermittent fasting up to 16 hours this week and eat low carb dinners of my choosing before 9 pm every day. This is a serious boon. Eating well, eating healthy keeps me happy.

I’m happy that for the first time in my life I’m feeling a sense of balance and the promise of sustaining this without swinging wildly to the extremes.

I’m really glad D kicked the planting bug alive in me again with just a bag full of cuttings fresh from her garden, because it really made me move my arse on the repotting and the plans for more plants that I’ve only been thinking and talking about a whole lot. I was feeling a little sad about how I only just did this whole exercise at home in Bangalore, but couldn’t stay long enough to enjoy it, but didn’t think an extended stay here meant that I could very well do it here too. So, I got my hands dirty and did the work myself, spending a greater part of Sunday doing this by myself. Sticking my hands in soil makes me happy. The smell of wet earth, the woodiness of mulch, the slight stickiness of manure, it makes me happy. Fresh green plants in the sun make me happy.

These fools make me very happy. In a way that I actually don’t have words for. Some people are overjoyed to meet their friends kids. I guess this is the equivalent of that in my world. I get the joy. Puppers unabashedly wanting endless petting make me really happy.

***

This feeling of peace and happiness even in the face of impending uncertainty is new. I’m just happy to be experiencing it.

One year ago: You’re beautiful, it’s true

Home

What coming home feels like: Finding home within

The Goa home is small, cozy. I walk from one room to the next and out into the balcony and I have coursed the entire distance the house has to offer. That small. Before VC moved here, I swore we wouldn’t be able to live here together. We’d be all up in each others faces too much, I said. A single loo between the two of us? Impossible, I said.

Early on when we were contemplating splitting locations between us, living apart and the like, one of the nascent plans we had in the middle of last year was for me to semi-relocate to Goa and spend extended periods of time here. It seemed idea. The house is great for one person, especially the sort who has a homebody within them. So, briefly I nursed the dream of living in this single-persons pad of sorts all by myself, until VC turned the tables on me and we decided it made sense for him to come here.

On Friday evening, when I stirred after several hours spent lying on the cool floor under the far trying to work, I got my evening coffee. I decided to have a side of raisin and walnut bread that I only get to enjoy in Goa. Slathered with my new favourite peanut butter. It’s come to be a little guilty pleasure I associate with Goa evenings.

Eating that crunchy toast, the salty peanut butter, the yellow light filtering through the curtains indicating another afternoon coming to an end, I realised it had been three days since I had stepped out of the house.

Every time that I visit VC in Goa, it seems I get spurts of time to enjoy that life I imagined for myself last year. When he leaves for work early every morning, I get to ease into this one persons home the way I imagined I would. My day is marked with little rituals I enjoy by myself. Cooking for one. Music all day long. Watering the plants. An afternoon lie-down whether I need a real nap or not. Evening coffee and peanut butter toast. Shutting the doors and turning the lights on at mosquito time. There’s a rhythm to my life here, it comes without disruptions. And I realised that day that perhaps because the home is so small, I don’t even have the disruptions of chores and maintenance it would otherwise compel me to do.

I am yet to figure out what it is about utterly simple mundanities like this that helps bring me back home. And here I don’t mean home as in this house, or Goa. Not even the eternal should-I-go-or-should-I-stay conundrum vis a vis home. I mean home within myself. A grounded, centred, sure-footed sense of home within me. And maybe thats the core that makes me feel settled whenever I need it the most? Wherever I may be. Wherever I may go to.

Three years ago: On being average

Chance encounters

One of my big fears about coming back to Goa used to be facing some of the people I left behind when I moved. I say left behind because it’s what I did. My moving cities coincided with a gradual moving away from certain people. It was an inevitable, gradual shift in my mind, but I can see now how and why it must have seemed to them like an abrupt kind of abandoning. And so every time that I am here, I wonder about what it might be like to meet them again. Goa is a small place, and thanks to my workplace, my freelance work, the gym I went to my circles were all very mixed and I was in a social space where everybody knew everybody (that in itself was too much for me, and a big reason why I just wanted out). On past trips here, I’ve been unusually stressed about possible encounters, getting riled up at hearing about things they’ve said about me post my leaving, and such. But I underestimate myself, and the capacity of enough time having passed and the wonders it can do for growth.

It is my tendency to protect myself when I feel vulnerable and my insecurities are exposed, and so in the past I may have done things like measured and calculated my wandering within Goa in the hope that I do not encounter someone I do not want to meet. I didn’t realise when this phase had passed, because on day 1 here, I didn’t even think twice about walking to VC’s office and waiting at the entrance for him. This was unthinkable last year. I was engrossed in an email when a friend from back in the day approached me with a tap on the shoulder. I turned, and when I saw it was her, I instantly expected a wave of panic and rage to come over me.

But it didn’t come.

We chatted, exchanging mundane pleasantries. And then she said those dreaded words.

Let’s catch up sometime.

Again, I waited for the polite response to make its way out with extra faked gusto: Sure!

But it didn’t come.

In its place was a measured, polite It’s alright.

And maybe I was saying that more to myself than her? It’s alright to be me. It’s alright to be honest. It’s alright not to put myself in a place I know will not make me feel good. It’s alright not to want the company of people I have chosen to move away from. It’s alright.

I’m grateful for whatever it is that’s happening with me that has suddenly brought forth this ability to put myself first. Even if in little, seemingly minor ways. I’m enjoying cutting away a lot of the unnecessary politeness, that stemmed from wanting to be seen and known in a certain light, fall away. I am grateful for the openness to discover this confidence to be seen as I am.

Sometimes distant. Sometimes impolite. Sometimes aloof. I am all these things sometimes, and it’s been freeing to let these sides be seen too.

***

With VC, I feel like I’ve come home to a whole new-old person. Does that make sense? Do you know what it’s like to know someone, deep in your bones and be so familiar and used to it that when a big change strikes it sweeps you over and knocks you down just like the charm you felt the very first time you met them? Maybe he’s changed as much as I have and I needed to be here to really see it. Maybe I’ve changed and I had to be here to see how it all plays out and what possibilities it now opens up for us? Maybe this is the beginning of something new and there was no way to unlock it than to come here. I’m grateful for the visible changes. I’m grateful for VC. I’m glad I came.

***

The very next day after I got to Goa, I visited A who has suddenly taken very ill. Last week, I sat in Bangalore, worried sick, helplessly wondering what I could do to make a difference. Distance is such a bitch at times like this. I’ll be there in two weeks. I’d said to JC then, feebly, feeling so inadequate and hopeless for not being able to be around when they’re dealing with so much on their own.

I guess it was just meant to be because here I am two weeks ahead of plan, and A got out of the ICU and came back home the same night that I landed. Which meant, I could see her immediately.

I know I went there for her. To be present, to offer support, to check in on her. But it was oddly fulfilling for me. There is an openness and welcoming nature she has that always, always makes me feel so warm and happy. I think even if 20 years go by and we meet again, I will feel this again. As I often worry about friends in Goa and having to start over in a pool that is already small, made smaller still by my very efficient first round of selection, I’m grateful for people like A who make me time and time again feel that it will be okay.

***

Of course I also went to visit D, Olive and Lego on day 1. The pups greeted me with exuberant jumping and many licks, hyper sniffing and loud demands for biscuits. All of this lasted much longer than usual. I am tempted to say it was the doggy bag of tandoori chicken that was parcelled in my bag, but I also want to say maybe it’s just that they remember me. And they are always so unabashed in showing that they remember, and welcome me back home. As per the norm, D and I chatted on and on and as per the norm, I caused her to miss her siesta again.

I like that we can pick up from wherever, whenever. Despite being emotionally all over the place in our own respective ways of late, I like that the prolonged silences do not get in the way. I’m truly grateful that I don’t have to pretend, or make extra overtures to bridge them. I can be what I am, the way I am and we still have a world of things to talk about, or sit in silence together, equally.

***

I know why I resisted coming here sooner than planned so much. It’s because the circumstances brought out these latent fears full force, and I was just not ready to face them. But today I think maybe I needed this. As much as VC did. Because it’s been just a few days and, I felt it the very next morning. I felt like something very fundamental that I was missing in the last few weeks has suddenly been found.

In many ways I feel like I have come full circle, and I feel today, like I did one day two years ago when I finally made some sense (and peace) with moving to Bangalore.

I just had a strangely serendipitous conversation with VC about how sometimes one has to really go the distance to learn something very basic. It seems like an unnecessary journey, and sometimes the upheaval seems disproportionate to the truth learned, but it is how it is.

One year ago: A life of stranger things
Three years ago: Busy bee day

New ground

It’s going to be six months since VC moved to Goa and I decided to stay on in Bangalore. I have travelled here a lot, and we have actually not been apart for very long periods during this time. But even so, I feel it has impacted us in many positive ways.

Sometimes I feel I cannot get enough of this solitary life and I lose myself in thoughts about the future, the worry that this blissful new-found joy will come to a premature end eating me up. But there are also moments when I miss the everyday togetherness of our life, the comfort and intimacy of a life together, the familiarity in a rhythm that renders words redundant, makes mere movements suffice, and I long to be with VC enough to want to impulsively buy an overpriced ticket to fly off immediately.

I suppose those are the two most obvious, yet opposing feelings. They both exist, and accepting that two equally has been a journey in itself. Nonetheless, this time away and apart has been transformative for me. I have had the luxury of a support system, a city that I have grown to love and that really works for me just now, three homes to choose from, and abundant company and bodies around me whether or not loneliness strikes. VC on the other hand, has lived the truly solitary life, shuttling between work and his home-for-one, and pretty much staying afloat all on his own in the way he knows how. The experiences and effects of each have been drastically different for the both of us.

Our lives now look entirely different. Not just from the way they used to be when we lived together, but also from the way each others lives as individuals are. And one of the things I have enjoyed observing is how far apart our disparate lives can and have moved. Conversely, thoughts about whether they might meet again, and when and how that might be, follow close after.

Back in 2016 when we first contemplated the idea of living apart to see what a little space could do for us, VC was the first to suggest it. I wanted to move to another country and VC was undecided. I wasn’t entirely ready for the distance. I was open, but apprehensive. I’ve ended potential relationships in the past because long distance relationships frightened the hell out of me. So to actively choose this of our own volition, when it would be the easiest thing for us to just be together has been interesting.

As I work on myself, I’m slowly discovering the many, many misconceptions I have about the idea of space. In life, in relationships, in my physical world. What it is to give and take emotional space? How can I make space for love change and growth and all the many things I want in my life, even as I give of myself to people and things around me? As I navigate my way, finding new sense and context to the aspect of space, I realise the work is in finding what works for the person I am today.

I’ve watched in fascination as the changes have slowly crept in. Into my life, into some key relationships in my life, into my marriage, and certainly into my physical world too. Whether it’s the little act of taking up two cupboards instead of one, or going out all on my own, how I carry myself, how I feel within the space my body occupies, or feeling unabashedly, righteously upset to have the flow of my routine upset by this unexpected travel — I’m seeing surprising shifts all the time.

***

The predominant reason for the muddle of anxiety and fear that I have unconsciously harboured over the last few weeks has been the sinking feeling (almost a premonition) that sooner or later something will happen to make me move to Goa. And it’s something I am not ready to do, yet. I’m not done soaking up all the space I’ve made for myself. Whether physically — enjoying living alone, exploring my city and my interests on my own, travelling, or even emotionally and spiritually — experiencing what it is to be alone sometimes, lonely sometimes, how it is to be tethered to relationships even as I hold my space and play with re-making  boundaries in this new reality.

In essence, this time apart has given me the space to be me again. The me I’d blended away and mushed up into marital roles, gender stereotypes, stuffed into the only kind of life I knew to live in Goa (where my adult and partnered lives both really began). The time apart has given me the space to dig out old facets of me that lay in hibernation, and it has given life to new facets to emerge, alike. Sometimes, on an idle moment when I catch myself saying or doing something I would deem so “uncharacteristic” of me, I take myself by surprise. Quickly, I remind myself that perhaps this is in fact not our of character at all. It is characteristic of the me I am now.

The claiming of space, cultivating it and nurturing it slowly over the last many months has been precious. Through therapy, writing and constant witnessing of my life, I have built this step by step. And I’m only getting started,

So the fear is real. The fear 0f having to lose this new, hard-won space, freedom and being, so quickly. I’ve only just dipped my toes in, and I want to deep dive in this, still. So the question arises again — when and how will our disparate lives meet again? And can they meet without either of us blending away into each other once again? What impact could a life bound by a certain geography (Goa) have on me? Will it bring back the inherent compromises to my life that it did back then? Or will this new me navigate these same spaces differently this time around?

***

Just two days ago when I was experiencing heightened anxiety, I felt hollowed out and like I was melting away, at the mere thought of what this sudden trip to Goa means, and if maybe it’s the beginning of the inevitable move that looms large. As I fought it hard and even as I found myself digging my heels in, I had vivid images of having to jump back into a life and an existence that feels so small and constricted, that I wanted to do nothing but dissolve and disappear through the gaps and cracks.

But the new me has surprised me yet again. Just two days of being here already, there has surprisingly been no talk of moving back (in a hurry or otherwise). I find myself at peace. Where I felt hollow and like I was dissolving, I now feel full and alive. The shaky ground beneath my feet now feels solid and sturdy. I’m here now. I don’t have to run.

In the smallest ways, I can feel my body adapting to what it is to really be with someone, to share space, without having to dissolve myself or melt away to make space. I’m discovering what it is to be a support for another, without destabilising myself, how it’s possible to relate but not at the expense of myself. I can be whole, even as I am with the other. I can be myself, even as I am being there for the other. And what a frighteningly refreshing way to be this is.

For now, I’m taking small sips at it, rather than rushing to gulp this experience down greedily. I’m taking tender, gentle steps, my body slowly taking shape and space, yet again. I feel like this is a whole new opportunity to grow, yet again.

One year ago: March
Three years ago: Because everything is never as it seems

Same lessons, new me

This is my fourth trip to Goa in just six months, and every time that I come here — to this second home, to VC, to this old space I once called home — I see the little things that have changed for me, within me. It’s like seeing an old world with new eyes. And what a difference that makes.

It’s usually small, subtle things. Minor shifts in the way I feel about some of the things I encounter in Goa, and how I manage them. This morning though, it felt like something fundamental has shifted for me, in just the time between my last visit and this one.

Yesterday, I frustratedly chuckled to myself about how the perfection lesson has come back to me yet again. I often think I’ve “cracked” something, in my mind there’s a neat little tick box with a green tick against it. But even more often I am reminded this is not a one way path with to-dos to tick off. Even as I may grasp at and internalise some level of improvement in one area or another, it almost immediately opens up space for more work to be done in that very same area.

I realised I have loosened my grip on the pointless pursuit of perfection in some areas of my life, but I am still hung up, hopelessly caught up and wound up about getting it right, in these other areas of my life that now need looking at. Re-looking at, perhaps.

Even within myself today, I see a sudden shift between the way I’ve been the last two weeks and the way I suddenly am feeling this morning. I’ve carried around a knot of bubbling anxiety/fear in me for nearly two weeks now. I can call it anxiety now because I only just figured out what it was yesterday. Until then I had no clue what it was, where it was coming from or what to do about it. It made me feel knotted up, but also waffly and floaty like I was slowly dissipating with nothing to hold on to. That knot has dissolved, and in its place is a solid whole, filled-up space. I feel solid again, not shaky. I can stand, and I can walk knowing where I’m stepping one foot in front of another.

All it seems to have taken is an honest acknowledgement of the truth about what I am really feeling. Deeply afraid and unanchored.

Ironically, my post from the same day last year talks about something similar  –embracing all aspects of emotions equally and giving them a space so I can hold them in equal honour.

When I consciously or unconsciously turn away from that which I cannot or do not want to accept, it only grows larger and begins to feel like a menacing dark cloud chasing me around. When I consciously acknowledge it, give it its place and sit with it, it begins to feel like a part of me returning to find it’s space within me.

In many ways, this completes me and makes me whole, so I can stand again.

As I stand here this morning, feeling a different kind of whole from the way I’ve been feeling these past few weeks, a different kind of me than I’ve been on recent trips here, a new me from the person I was even just yesterday, I begin to see everything that is just the same, look entirely different. And what a refreshing change it is.

One year ago: Out here without a shield

Going the distance

I don’t know if there’s a better picture than this one to aptly illustrate just how much I am being pushed and tested to let go of all the perfect endings and neatly laid plans I have in my head.

Time and time again these past few weeks I have been shown that it’s important to just go the distance, even if it isn’t all the way till the end line I imagine, or even if the route to getting there isn’t the one I’d have chosen. What matters is giving it my all and going as far as I possibly can in that moment.

To actively work towards hitting 5k in under 35 minutes and nearly make it, only to be stopped just short, by a pre-timed treadmill that’s trained to shut off at 35 minutes was serendipitous today. It made me laugh hard at the gym today. It felt like a small scale version of what happened yesterday when it felt like my life, that was moving happily along, was forced to come to an abrupt grinding halt. And there was absolutely nothing I could do but to go with it.

I’m headed to Goa, two weeks ahead of schedule. And for the first time in perhaps ever, I’m not thrilled about it. After more than a day of fretting and stewing silently, I now feel a little bit at peace with the acceptance that I don’t have to force myself to feel kindly towards what’s going, but I can still do what’s needed and what’s asked of me.

It isn’t perfect. But it’s far less worse than it could have been. And for now, it’ll do.

One year ago: March