Winter joys

So, yeah I missed the best, coldest winter days because they passed when I was in Goa. The first week of January saw lows of 9-10 degrees, I hear. I was so jealous.

Thankfully 12-13 degree lows we’re having no are pretty cold. My home and Amma’s too, while well-lit don’t receive too much direct sunshine. There’s plenty light but no spots in the sun to sit in. So I’ve been in full sleeves clothes and feeling my fingers go cold and refusing to co-operate when I try and type.

JOY!

I may be revelling in the dregs of winter a little more dramatically than I need to, with:

The ten minutes of snuggling in my blanket, that I allow myself after getting out only to turn the fan off

Resuming yoga and breaking into a sweat even when it’s 13 degrees out

That scalding hot bath after, putting on two layers of clothes when my body is still warm, and trapping that post-bath warmth within

Sharp, long sunny winter morning shadows

Shawls, stoles and sweaters in the day

Socks in bed at night

Hot sugarless coffee with breakfast, after lunch, at teatime and sometimes after dinner

Soaking my feet in a bucket of salty water as I’m sitting by a candle writing my journal for the day, right before bed

Lohri, 2019

One year ago: You’ve been on my mind

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The morning after

Like the familiar tinge of regret and guilt after a night of indulgence and debauchery — a feeling I remember so keenly from my twenties — the start of a new year brings on the cliche stock-taking and performance-driven evaluation.

It was fitting in my 20s, and maybe even kind of cute because it came with copious amounts cluelessness about the self. This angst surrounding finding my purpose was at its highest then. I am much better now, and I’ll take a bi-annual bout of angst over that constant hankering for “something more”, any day. And even so, despite all the inroads I’ve made with self-discovery, despite replacing much of the cluelessness with a rather solid sense of self-assuredness, I go down this rabbit hole at least once a year. Transgressing, and succumbing to measuring my worth, my value, by an appropriated sense of success. Borrowed ideas from things I see, things and people I am influenced by, notions of what I should be (doing).

Almost like a sign, just as I was pondering this and writing this post, D has just sent me a video of Olive joyfully exploring an empty Amazon carton, snout stuck deep in a hole she’s ripped into it, with singleminded focus. The epitome of just being. With no feigned sense of higher purpose.

I yearn to get to a level of pure and simple being. The goal is to successfully rewire my brain to really hold myself to measuring success in happiness levels alone. I watched the video five times and laughed out loud each time she looks up for a split second, lifting her eyes off the box, not a hint of embarrassment or shyness, before she goes right back to it.

I hope that I get to a point where I can be that happy, in that most basic, simple, joyfully unencumbered way.

One year ago: Video killed the radio star

New light

It is possible, I have realised over just the last 24 hours, that VC was there all along, and it is I who have learned to let myself go and be held and helped instead. This dropping of my own weight from holding it all in and holding myself up, has been somewhat pivotal.

I accidentally encountered a term last week, in casual conversation, that perfectly describes this phenomenon: allowance.

To be in allowance — or the degree to which I am willing to permit myself, in this context — to receive this support. The allowance to feel fully, to allow my emotions to show, even if it means showing myself in a light different from the one I have been used to has been an unexpected plot twist.

One of the frightening realisations I have come to recently is how often I go through difficult times all by myself for no fault of anyone else’s but my own. All because I almost never allow what I am feeling to brim over and be seen. I rarely allow for help — whether it’s a listening ear or physical assistance or just an act of kindness, not random but in response to something I am feeling.

This is a script that has dictated much of my life. I’m seeing more and more how even though the circumstances and specific details of our lives may be different, this script has dictated much of my mothers life too. And similarly, my grandmothers too. A chat with amma the other day made me realise it probably goes beyond that too — my great grandmother was an outlier and a beacon of achievement and women’s liberation for her time. Her mother in law too, did some immensely formidable things. I realise I carry within me the spirit of what was once the definition of strength — to get through difficult times with a smiling face, to be put together and move on. It’s almost hardcoded in my DNA, much like the colour of my eyes, the tilt of my smile and the way in which my skin reacts to the air around me.

These are inherited stories, a collective culture of achievement, a legacy that I am compelled to step into and further. But the more grounded and secure I feel in getting to know myself, the more I feel ready to encounter and face the difficult emotions.

The more I listen to the voice within me wrapped beneath layers of this consciously learned and unconsciously inherited behaviour, the more I want to redefine what strength, achievement and happiness means to me. The more I want to open up to the authenticity of my emotions and consequently, the desire for help, the desire to no longer face life alone.

There are two threads to this. One, the capacity for admission and allowance for experiencing pain, grief, difficulty, sadness, rejection — the whole gamut of difficult feelings that I was almost afraid to allow myself to feel. Two, the consequent, chronic absence of people when I most need them. They’re separate, and yet connected. The truth, as I’ve come to painfully realise, is that all those difficult emotions are the flip-side of every experience of joy, love, happiness, togetherness and connection. They’re two sides of the same coin, following each other in a an infinite loop. It is impossible to separate the two, and so to live a life in constant negation or denial of the difficult is to make absolutely no space for emotions that are intrinsically 50% of me.

This script is another facet of the strong narrative. The deeply compelling belief that to feel difficult feelings is to be weak, that expressing them would amount to making a fuss, that making space for them would mean a life soaked in sadness, that asking for help would mean that I am somewhat incapable and an small. One thing leads to another and pretty soon it begins to feel like my entire life is a big fat lie. Because there’s no running away rom how often I do need help. How much I do need space to express myself. How much I do need to feel everything.

And so, the work then is to unpack the script. And very, very slowly rewrite it in a way that erases the notion that uncomfortable emotions will consume me if I face them. Because everything passes. Just like the sun needs to set and darkness must prevail, before a new dawn rises. Trees must get unabashedly naked for new life to sprout. The earth must be painfully parched to fully enjoy the gush of that first rain.

The work is in trashing the “suck it up” impulse that’s so quick to swoop in and call the shots. It is in, believe it or not, building a capacity not just for joy but also to invite deep sadness and the whole host of difficult feelings. To really see myself and my capacity to feel in a radically new light.

This requires strength. Just not the kind that comes from building an armour around myself, but from letting myself show. These past few weeks I’ve tasted that strength that comes from knowing that virtually no difficult emotion is so big it can overpower me. I’ve found security in my body and intuition that is beginning to tell when it is time to let my guard down, drop my weight and be seen. I’ve found safety in meeting grief and sadness and staring it right in the face, making absolutely no attempts to hide it.

I’ve held the words Vulnerability is strength really, really close to my heart for over two years now. But it is only now that I am slowly beginning to experience what it means. Vulnerability is in allowance. In seeing and being seen. And something tells me I’ve only just, barely, barely scratched the surface.

***

Title inspiration:

One year ago: Block rockin’ beats (Wayanad, 2017)
Three years ago: Come undone

Breathing space

VC is going to hate it and maybe tell me off a bit, but this is an appreciation post. For VC and the way in which he consciously or unconsciously always becomes the safest space in which I can allow myself to just be. Just the way I am, at my best and worst moments.

I’m saying this today because the couple of weeks have been sort of emotionally tumultuous for me. I’m going into previously unexplored, untouched territory at therapy and it has brought out a lot of (so far) unexplained grief and anger from a place so deep, so old and just so far beyond that sometimes it feels like I cannot take this outpouring all on my own. Very quickly I have realised that I don’t have to. Because VC has been there, listening, watching, sitting in quiet companionship while I just feel it all for what feels like the very first time in my life that I am allowing sadness to just sweep over me. Without questioning where, how or why it is all happening.

I’ll get to that later, I tell myself. For now, I just want to feel it.

It’s taking everything out of me to just be with it, without either having to stuff it all back inside me and put on a brave face, or allowing it all to dribble over, to hold it in the healthiest manner possible. And of course since I am only human, and already very vulnerable at the moment, there have been many a slip up where I have unraveled and much of these emotions as bubbled over, spilling all over the space between us.

So this is appreciation for VC always being my punching bag. My object at which I direct all these displaced emotions. Appreciation for how he somehow takes it all, and yet knows just when to tell me to shut up and watch what I’m saying. Shaking me out of an emotional nosedive, at the right moments, bringing me back up for a breath of air so I can see clearly again.

I am constantly talking about how emotionally incapable and stunted his family experience and upbringing has been. I’m actually the one who has had the privilege of an emotionally sound childhood where almost no feelings or opinions were too much (some of that may have changed after my teens hahaha), while he has come from a background of absolutely not acknowledging any depth of emotion at all. So it’s true, for the most part. But I guess not all of that has to endure. These cycles can be broken, patterns can change, new ones can be learned. And while my way to navigate these sensitive spaces may be to take a course or go to therapy, his is in practicing listening. And I see this work out very well for us on days that VC surprises (and humbles) me with his capacity for empathy and understanding. For just the way he listens, without offering counsel, advice or verbal responses.

There is great strength in having a body like that to just have it out at and know that I will mostly always be heard. I do not acknowledge this other side enough. I don’t talk about him. I haven’t had the space for much else but me and my thoughts these past few years. It’s been forever since I really wrote a Things About VC post.

Perhaps this side was always there and I have not had to lean on it as much as I have these past few months. Or maybe it’s a change, and a side VC is discovering himself. Maybe this change is a consequence of just making some space between us, so we’re able to be better to and with each other. These past few weeks that I spent in Goa with him, and even since being back, I have felt more than ever before a sense of being held just as I am, safe in this nothing-is-off-the-table equation. This is so new. And I am very grateful.

One year ago: Obscured by clouds (Coonoor, 2017)
Two years ago: Two new pieces
Three years ago: People puzzles

Solo Saturday night

Finding joy in my own light and the opening up of new narratives and possibilities.

Deep dive

I took this picture on a day when I was finding it hard to look myself in the eyes. It was a day when I had to remind myself that going through change also sometimes means seeing sides of myself that I may not want to, aspects I have forgotten because I’ve buried them away so deep such a long time ago, things about me that I didn’t see coming or haven’t prepared myself for.

But see it, I must anyway.

I take pleasure in my transformations, I look quiet and consistent, but few know how many women there are in me.

— Anais Nin

Few. Sometimes not even I myself understand how many, it seems.

So, this gentle reminder to go easy. To take my time. To take pleasure in this transformation. To actively participate with gentleness, in creating a channel. And to observe, witness and be present to all the women that may emerge.

One year ago: I have my books and my poetry to protect me
Two years ago: Inconsequential posts you really don’t need to read
Three years ago: This and that

And so it’s done

Came to Goa feeling quite like this three weeks ago.

Bright, spiffy and sunshine-y. Sparkly. Ready to cool off.

Njoyed lyk nething. And then some.

This has been one of the most memorable few weeks here in a long, long time, for VC and I. We set up a new home. We reconnected with old friends, in our old stomping grounds. We cooked together, laughed together, watched a lot of TV and movies together. And I developed an irrational interest in watching him play PUBG — another thing we did together. We barbecued for two to bring in the new year. We painted furniture. We ran away to stay at the beach for a weekend. We ate out so much.

Embarked on a new year. New life.

Finally, this party’s over. And it’s time to go home.

One year ago: Happier: perpetual WIP
Two years ago: A hazy shade of winter

This being human is a guest house

Breaking down two words in my head for a couple of weeks. Two simple words — I’m okay. Dismantling them, mangling them, turning and twisting them around in my head. Observing how often I use them, when the reality is so far from that truth. How many times I feign strength in saying them, just so I don’t have to show what I am truly feeling. How many different variants of these two simple words I have in my vocabulary, that help me sidestep the full strength of my emotions, settling for a comfortable white lie. How often telling myself that I’m Okay, is only so I can feel a temporary regaining of strength to get on. and, my God, I’m flabbergasted at the many, many, many ways in which they’re inadequate. Inaccurate. Insufficient.

I’m not okay. I haven’t been so many, many times that I have effortlessly let these two words roll off my tongue.

Realising slowly, with soul-crushing clarity that I’ve spent so long aspiring to be a strong woman. Strong like the women I was surrounded by all through my growing up. Strong like the women who choose the partners they will spend their lives (or not) with. Strong like the women who earn their own living, live on their own terms. Strong like the women who don’t take bullshit when they’re groped on buses. Strong like the women who lift weights and scream strong is the new skinny. Strong like the women who look down on Zumba and turn to kickboxing. Strong like the women who don’t cry as much as they might feel like. Strong like the women who suck it up and deal with their emotions themselves. Strong like the women whose mantra is Bring It On. Strong like the women who respond with I’m okay, no matter what happens and what adversity they’ve faced and overcome.

These are women in my life. Women in my world. Faceless women in my mind. Pretty made-up faces of women on TV, in the movies, online. These are women all around. Women I know. Women you probably know too.

And I’ve spent my whole entire life trying to be one of them. Fighting some labels, clinging to others. Redefining some. Creating new meanings of my own for some others. And the bargain, I’ve become pretty damn hard. Frozen. Cold.

So can you imagine my horror when the very definition, the foundation, of what I have been trying to be for only like just my entire life came slowly crashing down? Falling apart brick by brick, with a slow and painful realisation that this chase for power and strength, when pitted against The Other — men, bosses, mother in laws, mothers, friends — is but a clever and unmistakeable glorification of strength as an aspiration. This hungering for power, no matter how small or subtle, that every woman knows only too intimately is in itself the biggest tenet of patriarchy.

Every single day, for the last maybe 10-12 days, I’ve felt like another layer of this patriarchal hangup has been stripped away form my brain. And I am nowhere near done. As I peel back the layers, the my jelly-like throbbing heart beats faster and faster, awaiting its inevitable expose. This is a frightening as hell process. And everyday I have thoughts of backtracking and abandoning this unravelling that I have begun. Because to be exposed, raw, open, soft — a beating heart that’s alive for all to see as it is — is the most frightening thing I have ever known or done.

And I wonder if it is frightening because it calls for a strength I don’t know if I have? It’s the sort of power that no gym has ever prepared me for. I have absolutely no capacity for this kind of softness, handling my own heart with tenderness and love that this calls for. The job description is already intimidating.

It’s taken me only 34 years, and we’re only nine days into the new year, but I already know that this will always be the year I will spend rediscovering strength.

Finding vulnerability. Being soft. Faltering, fumbling, falling apart. Learning.

Making space to feel with my heart (and not my head) again. Giving space for the warm, fuzzy heart that’s buried under layers of strong to feel pink and fragile again.

To love. To cry. To be real. To unpack my backlog of unprocessed emotions. Discovering the gallons of grief that flow out when I drop the I’m Okay. Touching the tears that flow when I stop saying I Can Do This Too. Gently picking up the flowers of guilt and pain that fall when I say Enough.

Now I know that all of this requires strength. And it is going to bring more pain, fear, loneliness and grief to begin again. To start learning to be soft now.

But I also know that guilt, pain, fear, loneliness is as good a point to start, as any.

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

— Rumi

One year ago: Day 9: The hardest part

Changing seasons, changing reasons

Feeling the feels and thinking lots of thoughts about death of a phase, moving on to new horizons, finding new ground and growing into new skin since yesterday.

Maybe it was the massage I had yesterday that set of this feeling of having shed something. Or maybe it’s the energy of the first week of the new year that still feels like the dregs of the old, leaving on its last legs. I have actually been feeling this energy of something finishing since the last big full moon of December. Or maybe it’s the near end of this trip — that has in so many, many ways been life-altering — that makes me feel like something new has been set in motion.

Nothing confirmed it — this inner knowing of what was one young and tender, having grown, and what has grown and fulfilled its purpose eventually meeting a logical end, this feeling of the continuous cycles that keep finding their peaceful completion — like this splash of pink and white that’s taken over a curry-leaf tree whose time is in sun is clearly done.

This overgrown burst of colour that’s brimming with the kind of audacity that only be found in youth. The loud, look-at-me-flourish vibe that overshadows and drowns out what once was a wee little pot-sapling no higher than my knees, forced me to see what is.

Today, I went back to visit an old neighbour and dear friend, and quite by surprise found a parking spot right next to where it has grown into flourishing tree in it’s own right.

I’d planted that little sapling in the ground in the home I last lived in, in Goa. And something about witnessing this transformation, to see the blossoming tree full of life in all its glory, hit home today.

One year ago: Day 8: I’m just too good at goodbyes
Three years ago: Day 8: On waiting

I am the universe

Sometimes I am the sea. After a full moon night. Swelling and ebbing, in control and contained. Holding space within. Exuding gentle power and grace.

Sometimes I am a river in a rush. Reckless and raring to go. Slipping over hills, sliding under crevices. Solitary and single-minded. Making my way even where none exists.

Sometimes I belong to the moon itself. Blissful. Distant. Maddeningly bright on a starless, indigo night.

Sometimes those stars descend within me. Shimmering, pulsating with a self love that shines through. Privately, for me.

Sometimes I am reduced to a minute spot of magic dust. Small and insignificant. But present. Sometimes I grow into a dark cloud of grief. So gargantuan it could end me.

Sometimes my heart beats in consistent rhythmic bursts of happiness, that can light up a room. And sometimes that same heart breathes a sadness that stifles.

Sometimes I wake up to that old fire raging within. Angry, white, hot. Blind. Consuming everything in its way. Only to turn to the rain for relief.

Sometimes there’s friendship in the freshest dew on a lonely morning. Sometimes a heavy, hollow mist. Like a hug on a cold night.

Sometimes joy bursts forth like a volcano of laughter won’t be contained. And sorrow showers soon after like the unending tears of ash. They both come from the same place. The volcano that rages must also eventually meet a brutal wind.

Sometimes I ride an irrationally beautiful rainbow to great heights. And it takes a sobering storm to level it out again.

Sometimes the universe breathes down on me. Powerful and achingly beautiful. I cower under its overwhelming immensity. But more and more I find the bountiful gifts of that same universe within me. Flowing continuously, coexisting in a complex, confusing, beautiful mess.

It’s in those fleeting moments that the leaves whisper secrets in my ears. The wind caresses me gently in a new direction. I see reflections of magical new truths in the sparkling stillness of pools. I find a quiet rhythm in the breath of a bird. All I can do is bear witness. And it’s in those fleeting moments that I know what it really is, to be me.

One year ago: Day 5: Here I go again (on my own)
Three years ago: Day 7: Shiny new guiding lights

Boombox updates

Things that have suddenly kicked back to life, despite this half-life existence, during this WIP time in Goa:

  1. The will to cook full goddamn meals. I mean complete with dal, dabzi, curry and the works. And I mean the urge went beyond that two-day surge of inspiration.
  2. The self-imposed WhatsApp shut-down. Bliss has returned. I cannot wait for this to be the norm again.
  3. The urge to go running. And I’m kicking myself for not carrying my sneakers with me.
  4. MUSIC.

VC got me a portable speaker for the Goa house, days before I arrived here. Sure, I asked for it really politely, but the fact that he obliged without so much as a counter-question kind of surprised me. You see, VC is the kind of freak who finds music to be a distraction in most spaces. And I’d include a club or lounge too. This has significantly affected my music listening patterns. I choose earphones more often than not, and even though I manage, it just isn’t the same, you know?

Our home in Bangalore saw a minor resurgence of music. And that further blossomed once VC moved out last month. When I’m alone with nobody to feel bothered and hassled by the music, it was expected I suppose. But it’s been over two weeks in Goa and I have to state for the record that we’ve been listening to a lot of music. Everyday. And yes, it’s a we, because VC is yet to object or protest or ask me to turn it down/off. He’s living on the edge by tolerating music that I turn on the moment I wake up, and since this is a much smaller house it’s not even like he can hide himself away somewhere and escape it. I’d go so far as to say he’s enjoying it, maybe? Because he’s asked about some of the music I played, downloaded some of my Apple playlists too.

I don’t know what has changed, but I like it.

Here’s what I have had on loop of late:

This album rushed back to my conscious mind after we heard it at the pizza bar, sitting under an awning of inverted baskets with lights embedded in them, casting the best glow. Listening to it while I cook works best!

I don’t know how it happened that I missed this entire album. I guess there’s something to be said of how quietly and consistently JM keeps churning these extra tight, powerful, moving albums. Just banging them out relentlessly, it’s hard to keep track. Turns out I’d heard a couple of tracks of it, but didn’t realise they were from an entirely new album. This track particularly hits me in the feels. It’s just so tight.

I’m late to the PK party. I’m almost ashamed to say I really liked this song because I’d hitherto dismissed him as repetitive and monotonous, whiny music for heartbroken desi millennials. And maybe that description will ring true in a while. But this track, and this album, has stayed I keep waiting for when it’ll get annoying and it hasn’t happened yet.

One year ago: Day 4: Going by the book (and all that I read in 2017)
Two years ago: 2016
Three years ago: Day 4: Love letters

Inhale. Exhale.

And just like that, we’re more or less done. Yeah, still only more or less. I’d say about 95%. I’d like some more plants — indoors and out. Art and photographs on the walls and some more essentials in the kitchen. But for now, this will more than do.

Gratitude for the privilege that is a second home. In a second state. By the beach. For all the resources — monetary and otherwise — that came our way at the right time in getting this home up and going. For my folks who’ve cheered us on right from the word go when we put in our down payment on this home. For friends who pitched in all along in so many, many, many ways — I can’t even count the ways. For VC my rock. For VC my fellow-nester. For VC my all-time partner in crime who has more or less indulged my every whim as far as this home goes.

I feel like I can breathe easy now. Just like I did nearly two years ago. And five and a half years ago. And nine years ago.

I know this familiar feeling. And last evening, I was so grateful to have the house all to myself to just soak in it and let it creep into my bones. I’m home.

One year ago: Day 3: What is life
Three years ago: Day 3: Reminders and notes to self

Food and friendship

When the kind ladies at The Lookout Journal wrote in to ask if I could write a feature on food and how it forms such an integral part of documenting vignettes of my life, I was flattered. But also mostly shocked. That a) my blog interested someone enough to ask me to write for them and b) the angle they’d taken in talking about food was quite a refreshing departure from most things I’ve seen food-documenting in a while.

I didn’t end up writing the essay. What with being smack in the middle of travel, moving cities, setting up home, and continuing to work through it all. So they were kind enough to turn the opportunity into a Q&A with me instead.

I was deeply touched by how insightful the questions were, moving away from the most obvious and usual extension of food — nostalgia. Particularly inspiring for me to get down to answering their questions was the fact that really to got the heart of the place food occupies in my life especially this year — facilitating friendship with others and with myself. 

So here it is if you’d like to give it a lookie and a read.

***

It’s true. Food is such a vehicle for normalcy and finding grounded-ness.

This is the first meal I cooked at the new home in Goa and immediately I felt at home in a way that only cooking a full meal can make me feel. Even though it was just khichdi and aloo-fry. 

VC had been eating take out for over a month since he moved in. I had to buy a pressure cooker to begin with. But I went a little extra and bought a set of idli plates, a hand-mixie too. And I stocked up on a lot of masalas, which I’d been avoiding thinking VC is not going to ever cook an elaborate meal that will require them. Soon enough I realised the stupidity of that thought process. This is my kitchen too. I’m going to be visiting often enough. As soon as I gave myself the space to settle in, spices, pressure cooker and all, I immediately felt at home.

We have since had idlis and chutney, dal rice and anda-masala, aglio olio with mushrooms and sausages. On New Years Ever we even managed a barbecue for two — VC outdoing himself with a malai chicken (which had no malai hahaha) and paneer skewers. I tossed together some buttered veggies to go with it. It was simpler than I imagined, and we had a quiet, satisfying evening of it by ourselves.

***

Somewhere in the midst of it all R came to visit, and it happened to be the eve of VC’s birthday. So we bought our favourite chocolate cake for old time’s sake to surprise him with. And then on the birthday we had dinner at a quaint little “pizza bar” in North Goa.

I’m really enjoying exploring the food here. I didn’t do enough of it when I lived in Panjim, especially in the years just before I left. So I’m glad for the opportunity to be closer north. And for friends who’ve arrived bearing enthusiasm to make me get out and about. 

One year ago: Day 2: Gratitude. That is all.
Three years ago: Day 2: Love

Taking it slow

We spent all day today — all day except for a break for lunch and a snooze — in our night clothes and unbathed, painting furniture.

Deliberate, painstakingly slow, I realised only at the end of the day that it had been quite an exercise in relinquishing control — for VC, of the rush to get the job done, and for me, of obsessing over and being ring leader to make sure it’s a “neat” job.

Waiting for paint to dry meant what we thought would be a 3-4 hour job took all day. But that was the beauty of it all. It took an unplanned activity that we got into without much thought, to make a day of it.

When these chairs came home, I assumed I’d be doing this paint job on my own. Obviously, I assumed it wouldn’t interest VC, let alone hold his attention for an entire day.

I love that day 1 began with a pleasant surprise. And a lesson for me to allow myself to be helped. Even without asking.

They say what you do on the first day of the year sets the tone for the rest of the year. And if the contentment we’re feeling right now is anything to go by, this has been a good start. There was pleasure in having head, heart and hands all in, intimacy in working together and chattering through it all, camaraderie in the occasional laughter non-stop music. And all this while creating things that will go into making our home a little cosier.

Goa a second time around has been special. This trip, especially so. Something about making a home, our own home, has triggered a lightness about me. It has freed a little bit of me in an inexplicable sort of way.

I never want to forget what it feels like to be this free. This happy. This absorbed in building a life that fits and makes sense to me. And us. This interested in scribbling little anecdotes that will become slices of memories in the album of my life.

One year ago: Day 1: Onwards and upwards
Three years ago: Day 1: Move more

Day 365: December

Eyes wide open

On the first day of this year, I wrote a post that was meant to be a low-key, low-expectations, chill sort of post with things I wanted from the year. I look at it now and think wow, that’s really not low key. But I also look at it and think damn, a lot of that happened and got done.

I wished for more honesty. Of myself and of with people around that matter to me. I think this happened in some measure. More with myself than with people around me — that’s still learning process for me.

I wished for more vulnerability. This happened, in waves and troughs. It had it’s peaks and dips. Thanks to the course and now therapy, I’ve become aware of how much more I want of this and am keen to go deeper.

I wished for the ability to deliver my promises, on time. I think this was specifically related to work, which I didn’t know then was going to be the least of my priorities this year. But the little I did, I was fairly good about. Deadlines were met more often than not — this was kind of a big deal for the eternal procrastinator that I am. But best of all, slowing down on work and trying new things gave me some clarity about the kind of work I am now willing to put my mind to, and the kind I absolutely don’t want to do for some time to come.

So I didn’t swing back smoothly from yet another hiatus like I’d wished. The hiatus saw an unexpected extension. And then a detour. I didn’t pitch a single story after February. I changed course and did different kinds of writing, but yes, I did deliver better first drafts, quicker. Unexpectedly, I’ve become a little more aware of how to work smarter instead of harder.

I wished that VC and I move ahead in our business plans with alacrity and focus. And this happened too. Just not in the manner I imagined at the time I wrote the post. Life happened, and business followed in entirely different ways.

I wished for courage to break out of patterns I have with friends, to break old patterns that keep me from digging deeper and giving (and receiving) a higher level of kinship. Oh jeez, this one was a toughie. 2018 saw more people in my life than I have ever had in many, many years now — I reconnected with old friends, I made many, many new ones. And the best part — not all my friendships were alike like they once used to be. I have entirely different friends for a range of different activities. I know this happened because I’ve opened up. In some ways. But I’ve also realised in what ways I haven’t. I’ve realised why I still feel a deep loneliness that cannot be filled by numbers, despite how much the people landscape has changed in my life. I hope to sit with this and understand it better in the coming year.

I wished for simplicity. In the smallness of my day to day life as much as in the bigness of the things I chase. This wasn’t entirely true for me this year. If anything, I let go and lived big, thrilling in extravagance and all things an older me would deem unnecessary. And maybe a lot of it was, but from where I am now, I see it as a necessary step in the curve in getting to the point of realising and being honest about the fact that my life is anything but simple. I am privileged as fuck, and simplicity is a construct I crave for. A construct that makes my life look like something it truly isn’t. I hope to crack this one some, in the coming year. Finding some balance and a middle-path to a life that is simple, mindful and eco-conscious, while also being realistic and real about the inherent privilege that allows me to even have this train of thought and make this an aspect of focus.

Ending the year in Goa has set the wheels in motion towards this.

I wished for a little more travel. Not just holidays, but chances and ways to experience life outside of the set patterns that we know and exist in. And this happened. Oh how this happened. 11 out of 12 months featured travel this year, going west as far as Europe, east to Thailand yet again and closer home as near as Goa many, many times over, each trip so different from the one before. It opened our hearts up, it tore me up some, it made me desperate and it settled something in me too. And it contributed a fair bit to VC’s and my decision to live apart.

I wished for just a little bit more discipline in terms of daily habits. This was a big fat no. Very early on I gave up trying to be rigid with myself about this because I realised it wasn’t going to be a time of any sort of curtailing, but of flowing with the flow. I hope to regain some balance around this, and it’s interesting to see that the habits I want to inculcate in the coming year are things I didn’t even know I’d want to do 12 months ago.

***

If this is a post measuring all the ways in which I’ve grown this year, I have to say bullshit to everything above this line. Most of all, this year I realised that my need to measure and make goals and projections, no matter how well-intentioned, is also a manifestation of a much more deep-seated tendency to over-achieve. This plays out in everything I do, from making myself write a post every day (and I did it without missing a single day this time around – ho hum) to finishing a reading challenge, to wanting control over my home and routine and sometimes that of VCs too, to hyper curation of everything. This year, quite unconsciously and unknowingly, slowly parts of this began to fall away until in December I was left wondering what there was that I could hold on to and how I could measure this year. I was looking at nothing tangible. Absolutely nothing.

Only experiences. A whole treasure chest of them.

And suddenly, I no longer wanted to open and revisit them in a look-back post. I just want to let them be. I want to slow down and just be. With no finish line in sight. This year, I did a lot of things under the broad umbrella of working on myself. What I didn’t know I was also doing in the bargain was laying the foundations for this already.

I dropped the need to hustle. I rewired the part of my brain that believed the hustle added value to my life. I allowed myself to change my mind over and over and over. I allowed myself to choose the easier path without feeling like I had somehow failed. This was wildly new.

I chose to do the quiet work of building on myself. The work that brings in no bucks and has no visible results to show.

I became comfortable with the idea of giving myself to the business of I. So it was a lot of me, me, me 100% of the time.

I finally realised this was entirely okay.

I learned that not everything has to — or will — turn out matching the projections I may have imagined. Some journeys don’t have fixed destinations. Only milestones that keep changing as I go along. I learned to observe how the journey has contributed to me. This doesn’t render the effort or time spent useless. These are not small steps. These are all big, important parts of the journey.

And this, while difficult to learn and digest, has been precious.

I became willing to open my eyes wide and keep my heart open more often than not.

I found myself a little bit. Outside of being a wife, sister, daughter, friend. I got addicted to learning and growing into me. And I realised this journey will only keep teaching me how much more I have yet to learn and grow.

One month ago: Day 338: November
Two months ago: Day 305: October
Three months ago: Day 284: September
Four months ago: Day 246: August
Five months ago: Day 219: July
Six months ago: Day 184: June

Seven months ago: Day 152: May
Eight months ago: Day 134: April
Nine months ago: Day 92: March
Ten months ago: Day 60: February
Eleven months ago: Day 32: January

One years ago: Crossing over
Two years ago: Day 366: December