Day 262: We’re speeding up not slowing

No matter how many times I do this, no matter how many borders and miles I cross, the idea that we can jet across entire timezones and mammoth continents in a metal capsule hurtling through the sky, never ceases to blow my mind.

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Day 261: Some things will never change

On the weekend, I had every intention to finish all my work submissions, so I had Monday to plan packing, and Tuesday to actually pack and tend to odds and ends like emptying out the fridge, doing the dishes and cleaning the dishes before we leave at midnight, tonight.

But the weekend got away in a haze of laziness mixed with some stress that had me paralysed even as I sat before my computer for the most part. I even cancelled Sunday evening plans that I was really keen to make. By Sunday night, I vociferously declared that even though I hadn’t met my weekend goal, I’d definitely finish my work by Monday afternoon. So with that in mind, we made plans to meet N and PK for breakfast on Tuesday (today) and I confidently messaged them about how I was “on track” to finishing everything off by Monday so I could really chill on Tuesday.

It’s not like thinking about packing and packing and shutting up a house require entire days. But I’ve been such a last-minute-leela about packing for the last many trips I’ve made that I’ve invariably either packed badly, or felt very overwhelmed and stressed in pushing everything to the very nth hour, that this time I wanted so badly, for it to be different. With work submissions in the mix, I just didn’t want to be in the same situation again. But my wants often don’t coincide with reality and last night, ie Monday, I found myself still 3 small submissions away from finishing my work, and with no packing done.

But nothing can get in the way of plans to eat masala dosas at CTR, so things proceeded to plan. The four of us caught a quick breakfast and came back home to have chai and chit-chat for a bit. In entirely predictable fashion, we chatted and chatted and I got so engrossed and was so relaxed that before I knew it, it was past 12 and I might have continued to sit and jabber if N and PK didn’t have to leave.

Anyhow, so we began at about 1 and somewhere between then and now I have packed twice over, finished two more submissions, had lunch, had coffee, hung out with my sister, the in laws and S’s mum who came over to pass on some goodies for us to take to him.

Meanwhile, VC has spent a larger part of the day chilling in his beanbag. Post breakfast and packing his suitcase, he has continued to binge-watch House, drink his beers, catch a nap and go back to binge-watching.

I, on the other hand, am predictably down to the wire. Just the spot I have been avoiding for a week now. I have one more submission to go, if I am to make it to holiday leaving my laptop behind and not have any unfinished business to come back to. Despite all my intentions and well-laid plans, here I am typing away madly, desperate to finish. And somehow, I didn’t stop to think twice about interrupting to come post this.

Some things will never change *shrug*.

 

One year ago: Back to base

Day 260: I don’t know if it’s even in your mind at all

A little over a 100 posts to go to close this year. I’m actually a bit flummoxed at how I’ve managed to do it without missing a single day. But the honest truth is, I’ve enjoyed keeping this habit and the benefits of it too much. So much that I’ve been wondering if this is something I want to keep going. Even if I am unable to post everyday, maybe a 2-times a week rule? Or 3, if I were to include a gratitude post every week.

The ups of this have been immense, and I’d be lying if I didn’t admit how much more addictive it has been this year, than in 2016 when I did it last. I can’t tell for sure if it’s the better state of mind that’s made writing daily a more appealing habits, or if the daily writing has contributed to feeling better over all. Maybe it’s different things at different times. Either way, this has worked very well for me.

***

The other thing I’ve been thinking of lately is how I’ve found a whole different dimension and depth of friendship in recent time. I was pondering about who I find myself most drawn to, and who I find myself very easily going out of my way to reach out to. And I realise that this year, it has been more about the grounding, nurturing and uplifting friendships far, far more than those that are good for just the laughs. I love those too, those are great and they continue to endure, but there has been a definite shift in some of my other relationships which feels like sinking deeper and like we’ve unlocked a new level I didn’t know possible.

It’s interesting also to note that all these friendships are with women, almost every one of them older than me. And suddenly my life is full of them. There’s S, and D, and K, and A, and N and then a few at the fringes who I may not get to meet as often as we intend to (what with traffic and failed plans coinciding so much!), but there are smatterings of conversations that assure me that there are connections with meaning.  This is not something I saw coming, and yet here I am, thoroughly loving it. Enjoying the way in which I can lose track of time and myself deeply engaged in conversation, finding how even the most simple hang-out over unfussy breakfast gives ample room for the kind of interaction that is life-affirming and soul satisfying.

Last week brought this fact back to my mind, yet again. And like S said to me after a gorgeous afternoon we spent together, this is the kind of friendship that feels affirming, like watering and nurturing a plant. That makes me feel physically warm, held and like I have grown in the minutes of that interaction.

***

On the weekend I was a bit overwhelmed. Despite my best intentions and plans, I still had a lot of odds and ends of work left to close before we go off on vacation tomorrow. I realised though, that panic is more debilitating than the real workload. The stress distracts me more than it fuels me to finish up. So instead of convincing myself that I actually didn’t have too much left to do, and that I could push it to the last minute, I actually have steadily worked through the weekend. While also juggling hotel bookings, train bookings and the like.

I’m not done yet. I have a few small things to wrap up today after which I hope to get a sense of what I want to pack. I am determined to not leave it all up to the nth hour as I usually do. But I suppose some things do not change.

Thankfully there is the rain to keep me indoors. I’ve been enjoying the weather so much this past weekend. After an blindingly bright and oppressively hot few days last week, it’s been wonderful to have the rain come back. It stirs a kind of homely nostalgia in me that is reserved only for Bangalore rains that makes leaving so hard.

One year ago: Grow
Two years ago: Day 260: Empty

Day 257: One breath leads to another

Why I write every single day

I started writing this year, to have a daily ritual that helps me connect with myself, and one that engages me entirely. It started as a habit I wanted to cultivate, but over this year it’s become that pocket of stillness that completes the day. Most days, this is an unhurried activity, almost like a daily meditation. It makes me stop, reflect, use my head and heart, use my hands and create.

I used to write to get out of my head earlier. And it’s helped escape monotonous phases in my life, get through sleepy days at work, distract me from things in my real life that would be insurmountable issues in my head. But I find that has changed and now I write to get in my head. To distill the jumble and get to the heart of it.

This has definitely meant I have slowly cultivated what it is to just be with me and my thoughts. The good and unsavoury ones.Without a necessary outcome as I used to know it. It’s helped me stay. It’s helped me be still.

It’s also helped me break my obsession with perfection in my writing. I write here, with a very specific objective to not curb, edit or filter my words. Purely because of the purpose of this blog as a journal, a notebook to mark my days as they develop.

I write to acknowledge and internalise the goodness in my life, and to record gratitude so it isn’t a mere passing thought, but a deliberate feeling.

Writing everyday is a tool for the constant work of going back to being me, the most honest version of me that I know, or can get to know, through this process. Words are the tool and writing is a bloody good exercise for it.

I write to record memories of instances when I felt things shift. This has 100% contributed to my sense of confidence in the way I carry myself. I suppose this is one of the crucial side effects of any daily ritual — do anything long enough, with enough involvement and it becomes you. Seeing, tracking, writing and reading about the changes I’ve experienced has trickled out from the innards of this journal, into my real life. It’s given me a solidity to my being, and a strong and renewed coherence to my inner monologue, the language of me.

One year ago: Go Goa Gone: End of My Sunshine Dream
Two years ago: Day 257: Down and up again

Day 256: Walking high on the wire

I’m grateful for the dinner VC and I treated ourselves to on the night of our anniversary. It wasn’t a place we’d have ordinarily picked, or the sort of thing we’d even treat ourselves to very often. With some big changes and associated expenses in the offing, I was predictably unsure and a touch guilty right till the very end. But I’m glad VC encouraged the idea. I’m grateful for being in the place we are today, to be able to afford (metaphorically too) the luxury.

I’m grateful for access to do things here that I have missed in Goa. And I’ve been making the most of that. This past weekend, I watched Hamlet The Clown Prince and thoroughly enjoyed it. Before that S and I caught up over coffee and giggles at Third Wave. (I know, they should pay me for my loyalty.)

I’m grateful for the ease of this week, and how I’ve been disciplined about finishing work on time while also getting enough time off. After the hectic energy of last week, things have been much more balanced this week.

I’m grateful for the day spent with A. It fired up my brain in ways not much has, and not too many people do for me of late. I’m glad I worked ahead of time to give myself yesterday off. We had a late breakfast of eggs and toast and coffee at Koshys discussing a potential new project that has my brain whirring slowly with a hum. And then we dashed off to catch the last of the Brass Tacks sale before they shut down. Brass Tacks on massive sale is the only time I’ll ever spend my money on there. And because after all those hours we were still not done, we ducked into Third Wave and nursed a cold brew each while we yakked on and on some more about everything from evolving views marriage to Chandralekha. I’m immensely grateful for some of the women that have come into my life this year, and have touched me in small, but special ways like this.

I’m extremely grateful for public transport. I’ve been using the metro more often than before, as far as possible, pushing thru the annoyance of getting to and back from the stations. But I’m beginning to see how it’s worth that effort. A and I took the metro to Indiranagar and I took the metro all the way back home from there. On the ride home, S texted me stressed out about how she nearly didn’t make her flight home because of the traffic on the way to the airport. I mentally said a prayer that this city gets hooked up by rail fast, because it’s quick, it’s affordable and it’s so very needed if we want to get people off the roads.

And today, on habba day, I’m grateful for family that reaches out even when I haven’t had a good track record of reaching out myself. SP invited me over for Ganpati lunch since my family is away. I happily accepted the invitation and I’m so very glad I did.

I’m grateful for the resources and all the ways in which I’ve been feeling my intuition sharpened. I’m so grateful for the signs. And for being able to see them. For weeks now I’ve been feeling like things have been building up to a time of high activity. I realised today that that phase of happening is upon me. I’m so ready to ride this wave.

One year ago: What coming home feels like: making friends edition
Two years ago: Day 256: Lines and dreams

Day 255: I want the truth to be said

I have a long post chock full of my thoughts and experiences post quitting social media, that has been in the works since almost the start of the year. I haven’t posted it because I don’t feels like I’m done. Because every now and then a new insight happens, thoughts follow and inevitably I see how it has panned out, continues to pan out, in my life. And I update the note. I revisited it last week after the recent, brief brush with Instagram, and I realised I will probably not post it after all. Maybe it’s one of those things that will remain in the realm of the really personal.

However, today, with the week-long hit of Instagram still fresh and buzzing in my veins, I’m going to put down a few fresh thoughts I’ve had about what I know for sure quitting Instagram (specifically) did for me. And conversely, what good has come from staying off of it. It reinforced the fact that just pruning my feed or curtailing the time I spent on the app would certainly not have done me as much good as removing myself from it entirely has. It made a very good case for not returning too soon.

I didn’t know it with this much surety then, but I do now. The obvious downsides of social media aside — like the playing on my specific insecurities and vulnerabilities, the steady cultivation of an attitude that preyed on feedback and validation, the unquestionable sinkhole of productivity and time — the single most important reason I needed to get away was that what I was choosing to see, the imagery and thoughts I was exposing myself to, and thereby the way in which they were being reinforced, was influencing the way I thought and lived. And not in a nice way. It had begun to get in the way of my self-improvement. My habits and patterns online — which were clear numbing patterns — were at loggerheads with the habits and patterns I was trying to cultivate offline. In real life.

One of the two had to change in order for me to move forward.

It goes without saying that I was, like all of us, choosing to see a very curated feed. One that suited my leanings and interests. It made for great viewing, but what it also did, rather insidiously, was make me unwilling to see other points of view. And over time, I’d become very rigid and cocksure about my beliefs and attitudes. Even the ones that needed to change so I could move into a healthier headspace. All of this was an  unconscious and rather slow process that crept up on me when I wasn’t looking.

Social media was great for the constant feedback loops — what with a willing audience that consistently clapped for me, liked everything I posted and thereby reinforced how right I was in what I saw, believed, shared and put out there — and the selective way in which I could expose myself to only a very stilted feed that reflected those very same beliefs and attitudes back at me further digging my heels in deeper, making it so hard for me to realise where I might have been wrong, where I could stand to review and reassess my views. And so hard to course correct.

Polarised and fixed views also allowed little to no scope for middle ground, flexibility, or even the idea that other people maybe coming from very different spaces worth considering. So sure and unshakeable have I been about myself that I now recall several instances of having taken a high ground when it wasn’t required, or even my place to. That high ground, build on a rather shaky foundation of opinions that were not fully formed, not even entirely my own, was bound to come crumbling down.

Opinions are great, but the finality of a social media declaration, backed by the external validation and further reinforced by the audiences repeated positive feedback solidified much of me in a very unshakeable way.

That was disastrous for growth.

So many of my half-baked and problematic (for me) views were being reinforced on a daily basis. Even on days when I didn’t post and was in the audience. And so many of them have gotten in the way of my movement and evolution.

Over the years, I lost sight of the basic truth that we are all evolving. That the very nature of growth and growing up is that we can be completely wrong about many things. Also, that everyone else is evolving too. That what holds true at one time may or may not continue to hold true at another.

Today, practically everything that I knew to be true and held as unshakeable truths, has crumbled and re-formed in the period of about 18 months. The only thing I know for certain is that absolutely nothing is certain, and everything changes.

Much of who I am today and the dramatic changes I have experienced, and the way that I have seen life surge ahead, is a consequence of allowing myself to change my mind. Without a doubt, this process was hastened because I just cut social media out of my life.

A lack of social media has:

  1. Shown me what feeling unsure is
  2. Opened me up to being wrong
  3. Encouraged me to look beyond the obvious, and see where people might be coming from
  4. Softened my need to have a fixed opinion about everything

I’m enjoying this space of being undecided and unclear about many things I had rather staunch opinions about. I’m enjoying figuring it out as I go. I’m reaching out for experiences much more willingly, I’m trying new things. Most of all, I’m getting better and better at asking for help, and find that I am able to receive it with a little more grace than before.

I’m finding unexpected outcomes all the time, and the process has really softened me in a way that has made life fuller and richer.

One year ago: Finding life again

Day 254: Not yet lost all our graces

For a bunch of reasons, some self-made some circumstantial, I’ve been so busy since the start of the month. Work has picked up suddenly, and I’m trying to get it done before I take off on holiday again for the last ten days of this month.

On the home front too, things have caught up with me. Rather, I’ve caught up with the home by sheer dint of being around. Since my mum and dad left, and with no sister in close proximity to go to (boohoo!) I’ve been having a regular life again. Waking up in my home, cooking myself proper, full meals, planning my work around things that need to be done, having a routine that includes some chores and some delegation and overseeing too.

And I’m trying to stay on top of it without losing out on having a life too. So in between all of this there have been outings to catch up with friends, working at coffeeshops, an anniversary dinner and watching Hamlet The Clown Prince.

Things have peaked, and despite the overwhelming busyness of it all, it has been such a good time. But, it’s been six days since I picked up my kindle, I realised. Instead, the pockets of time I’d otherwise dedicate to reading have been spent staying on my phone for inordinately longer than usual, and watching a lot of Netflix*. I have genuinely not had much time for TV this year, sticking to only my absolute must watches, like OITNB and waiting for This Is Us. I did watch the odd thing like Wild Wild Country, She’s Gotta Have It and Nanette, when the hype around it made it impossible to miss. But for the most part I’ve missed out on a lot of TV.

My whatsapp DND time has also gone out of whack with all the travelling, when I go easy on the self-imposed time out. I haven’t been strict enough with myself to enforce it again once we returned. More recently though, with my mum in the states, I find it easier to just stay available during the hours she’s awake.

This has meant a lot more screen time than I’ve been used to these past 10 months. So, it was natural and only a matter of time before I noticed that it was not a mere coincidence that a natural spike in my busyness saw a spike in screen time.

This is probably my pattern. When my brain is over-stretched, few things help me numb it out than mindless screen time. And no matter what the nature of what I am watching, or how scintillating the conversation on whatsapp is, I know that I turn to screens mostly to shut my brain out.

Here’s the thing though, it feels like a numbing mechanism, but it is anything but. If anything, it activates my already spread-too-thin brain some more. And instead of stripping down the number of thoughts, adds to them, thereby contributing to an overall restless feeling. Which is all very well for a weekend or a few days here and there, I suppose. I like a good mindless binge-watch every now and then, but last weekend, I suddenly realised I was missing the quiet in my head. The silence that that made it possible to put my phone down and actually forget all about it for hours on end because the book I was reading had me rapt. The silence that encourages me to read, even when I am tired because it soothes. I realised this when even though I had finished my tasks for the day, sent out my work, met my deadlines, my mind wouldn’t stop racing. I didn’t have anything else left to do, I could have picked up my kindle, but instead time after time, I turned to my phone. Or laptop.

Shit hit the fan when VC took this picture of me on our anniversary. I’m not one for big, outlandish celebrations, but I would certainly have liked to keep my face our a screen. And I’d have liked to spend the entire day, and not just the evening, really together, minus laptops and phones.

In a flash, it reminded me so much of my years spent in long hours at work. TV was mostly the only thing I could manage to do to unwind then. The idea that my brain had been occupied for 10 hours a day at work, almost warranted the binge-watch before bed, to just stop my brain from thinking thoughts.

I’ve come a long, long, long way from there, so to slip back momentarily and have those same feelings of restlessness and chatter in the brain surface was a bit unsettling.

The other non-coincidence was that the week of extreme phone usage happened to be the week I re-entered Instagram after nine whole months. I went in to retrieve some images and writing from last year that are locked away on the app. But the cheeky little thing that Instagram is, it wont let you deactivate immediately anymore. One needs to now wait a week between deactivations. It’s a tactic to make you stay and lure you in, I’m sure. And let me tell you, it works, for the most part. I didn’t get lured back in, but in the knowledge that I had a weeks worth of access, and once the literal anxiety and breathlessness I felt to see the feed (and how much it has changed, in form and content) had passed on day 1, I was back watching and watching and watching and watching. Till I could watch no more.

I’ll say it again, it’s not the app. It is entire me. Us. And the way we allow the apps to draw us in, but there is an undeniable link between the quality of the way I spend my time, the state of peace and calm in my head, and being on or off social media (Instagram and Whatsapp, in my case).

It was eye-opening to notice the difference. But it also makes it easier to acknowledge a pattern and reconcile with slowly slipping back to normalcy. I’m trying to wrap up my work at a sane hour rather than let it slip into the evening and night, just because I have the luxury to do that. This is another interesting space to test boundaries and reclaim space for myself, and so I’m trying it out.

Reflecting on the whole experience the other day, wondering about what drew me in, even though I know and have lived a whole, full life and realised that I’m absolutely not missing even the good stuff I thought was keeping on Instagram, outside of it. It’s the very nature of the application. And in some way, maybe it is  in fact a reflection of the nature of the world itself. Aptly described in this quote from Matt Haig’s Reasons to Stay Alive that I read earlier this year.

THE WORLD IS increasingly designed to depress us. Happiness isn’t very good for the economy. If we were happy with what we had, why would we need more? How do you sell an anti-ageing moisturiser? You make someone worry about ageing. How do you get people to vote for a political party? You make them worry about immigration. How do you get them to buy insurance? By making them worry about everything. How do you get them to have plastic surgery? By highlighting their physical flaws. How do you get them to watch a TV show? By making them worry about missing out. How do you get them to buy a new smartphone? By making them feel like they are being left behind. To be calm becomes a kind of revolutionary act. To be happy with your own non-upgraded existence. To be comfortable with our messy, human selves, would not be good for business.

*What I watched:

  1. To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before (Netflix): it was so sweet and light and lovely. Perfect for a Friday night.
  2. Bareilly ki Barfi (Netflix): was really, surprisingly good. I’m a blind supporter and fan of all of Rajkumar Rao’s work, and even though he isn’t the central protagonist here, he steals the show. Ably supported by excellent work by Ayushmann Khurana and Kirti Sanon who I had hitherto dismissed as just a pretty face.
  3. PadMan (Netflix): was terrible. Lazy, convenient, disastrous way to tell an important story about a real man, and turn it into an outrageous story that doesn’t even so much as acknowledge the man whose life inspired the movie. Again, maybe I’m not the audience, but the way in which everything was dumbed down I wonder if it even did the trick for the audience it was aimed at. Also made me wonder when Sonam Kapoor will figure she cant act and that she should probably try production or something.
  4. Sierra Burgess Is a Loser (Netflix): light, simple kiddie rom-com, worth a watch even though it was problematic in parts and gave me a lot of thoughtssss.

Day 253: Shine a little light on me

Plot twist.

As much as the process of shedding the old and stepping into the new feels one must discard the old entirely, I’m beginning to see the subtle difference between acknowledging what’s old and no longer serves me well, giving it a good place in this process; and turning my back on it completely. All those parts I’ve grown out of, were still me after all.

Maybe growth and evolution doesn’t have to involve rejection of the old, but simply a healthy honouring of the way things used to be, and a happy acceptance of the way they are now.

I’ve often wondered, and I’ve written about it too somewhere on this blog before (cannot for the life of me find the post now), about where our old selves go to die, when we scrub off the layers and move closer to the truth of what lies within.

Of late, I’ve realised they don’t go anywhere to die at all. They find a place within us, settling into the background and letting newer, younger selves emerge. Younger, relevant and current selves that are roaring and alive, raring to go. Current selves who have been lying in waiting for their time to come.

I’m finding (albeit with a little difficulty) that it is possible to look back on these past selves with a little bit of compassion instead of loathing, or embarrassment, or disgust, or criticism, or all of the above. These past selves, complete with all the not-so-great decisions I might have made, that led me to not-so-great events, not-so-great people choices and the not-so-great ways in which I dealt with it, were the journey that has brought me here, after all.

Inclusion has taken on a whole new meaning, suddenly.

Two years ago: Day 253: Disjointed, incomplete thoughts

Day 252: Every inch of sky’s got a star

It’s certainly a great time to be thriving. I feel it in the air and in my body. I know it, because I see the signs all around. In the way that every conversation, every passing thought and every single time that I look for an answer — everything points to one direction.

I know it because there’s a bubbling sense of newness on the horizon as I merrily amble along towards it. I’m not in a rush, the getting there feels as distractingly important and is all-consuming as the where I’m going to be.

I know it because the air, it really feels thick with abundance, the skies is weighing down with opportunity. The path is lush and full of promise. It’s so hard to choose.

But mostly, I know it because I feel full and inexplicably happy. It’s certainly a time to be thriving.

Two years ago: Day 252: Eight

Day 251: It’s just the nearness of you (Ten)

For several reasons of late, VC, I’ve been feeling a sense of perspective about the passage of time, about my age, about how far I’ve come. The trouble is I don’t normally register these things on a regular basis. Who does? 18 years since I finished school, 13 years since my first job and since I first met you, 10 years since we’ve been married.

10. TEN!

Let that sink in a little. Like it did for me. Because the thing is, when time zips by like it does but the more things seem to change, the more the stay the same. And so, I don’t register how long it has been. So many things about us are just the way they were 10, 11, 12 years ago. And I’ve said that many, many times before. That it just doesn’t feel all that long.

It doesn’t. But this isn’t about what it doesn’t feel like. It’s about all that does feel like. All that is has felt like this past year. Selfishly, this year has been the year I singlemindedly focused on me. On myself alone, more than us. From being the reason for uprooting us and moving from Goa to Bangalore, to ditching nearly all my “responsibilities” about the house,  just going about doing everything that I wanted to for myself, this is the year I didn’t pay too much attention to us.

It’s entirely the headspace I’ve been in for nearly two years now, and our marriage has really experienced the ripple effects of it all. But here’s what I do know for sure. I couldn’t have done any of this — embarked on this completely self-serving, self-centred journey — if it weren’t for us and how comfortable I feel to be me, in this marriage first.

If my own journey has been about coming into my own, oddly being with you has given me the best space to live it. Our marriage will always be the first space where I learnt to be myself this year, wholly, completely and imperfectly.

Suddenly ten years begins to feel like a lot when I measure it in the comfort that I feel.

I went through a phase where I believed relationships shouldn’t take work. That if they’re demanding hard-work and more effort than joy, there must be something wrong that needs inspection. This year really made me eat those very words. Because this year, our marriage really made us work.

Ten years begins to feel like a lot when I think about how much work it’s taken to get here.

Relationships take work. Doing the work doesn’t have to be at the cost of joy, is all. Something I’ve also learned from you this year. Sure, the exact instances of painfully etching out our individual spaces in this relationship might have be full of pain, rage, loud arguments and cold silences, and maybe we both have awful memories from those times, but it has been such a joy working this out with you. Because it’s given our relationship a sense of life and agility. An always moving, ever-changing quality that defies settling.

It feels solid and safe to do this with you. And ten years begins to feel like a lot when I measure it in this safety.

This year, more than every before, as I made my own journey of self-discovery and realisations. It means I told you umpteen times that we married too soon. That in hindsight, I should have waited a while. That maybe we didn’t give ourselves time and space to bloom as individuals.

I’ve even gone so far as to say I lost some very significant parts of my self to my marriage, and the early years of being together. That I’ve forgotten what it was to be me, or who I really am outside of the roles that marriage brought to my personality. And finally, we’ve even discussed how some part of putting those pieces back together means I want to live alone, away from you for a while.

None of this has been easy of course. It’s all very well for me to sum it up in a paragraph or post, but that is a collapsed, neatly-packed version of many, many months of conversations, of learning on the go, of fiddling around with the mechanics of us. The constant work.

Even the space and silences we have learnt to give each other, has taken work. This year more than ever, I took the liberty to occupy all the emotional space in our equation. I needed it and I greedily went in and grabbed it. Sometimes walking all over you, in the bargain.

I know for sure how I’d react and how I have in fact reacted, when roles have been reversed, and it is not pretty. I have not extended nearly half the grace and understanding that you have to me, and that makes me feel extremely lucky.

Ten years feels like a lot when I think about how relaxed I have become. How many of my peeves I’ve overcome. How easy it is with you.

And then there is the bedrock of honesty and vulnerability that we both treasure and hold so valuable. It’s allowed me, and you, to bring our worst versions of ourselves to the table, not a luxury one has with too many people. And somehow, it’s the worst, hardest moments of the last 18 odd months that stand out as moments of strength. We may have been broken, but I’ve been held by an inner solidity and quiet confidence that we’ve got this, every single one of those times.

This was the year I’ve experienced the most flux in terms of people. Almost as many people have left my life, as new ones have come in. It’s been high-energy and high-activity in this regard. I have had more than my fair share of moments of abject loneliness and disconnection, and even at the worst of it, I have always had you. Because of what we share within, and what we have shared and cultivated this year. Together. The clarity about what is important, that openness to accept that everything changes, that it is not worth settling, and the permission to absolutely change our minds no matter how frequent or unsettling that may be.

Ten years feels like so much, when I realise it’s a almost a third of my entire life. The years I’ve spent figuring myself out, I’ve spent with you. And I really couldn’t have done it if we didn’t see eye to eye.

With so much going on with me, and so much of it reflected on our marriage, I sometimes balk when I think about how much I have changed as a person, from the person I was in 2008. I’m literally a whole new person in every sense possible.

The other day, I wondered, if I am a whole new person, how is it that you still love me?

As I’ve reworked so many of my own beliefs about me, myself, my body, gender and sexuality, the institute of marriage itself, it took tearing down and rebuilding what I feel about our marriage too, it’s take a hell of a lot of effort to walk the talk and bring all that I was feeling, into my life with you.

I couldn’t have done it if I didn’t believe you had my back. That you’d stay. That you’d be on board with me. In fact you’ve been so instrumental in encouraging me to be free to change my mind, to reimagine my reality and to give every little whim a chance to fly.

This year, I’ve learned what it is to uncouple. The importance of letting go, even as we remain together. That we don’t have to constantly agree, do the same things, want the same things and always be together in more ways than one, to feel like a unit.

Ten years feels like a lot when I try and measure the togetherness I feel so deep within.

As we begin this 11th year, I have a hunch that it features a lot of time apart. Somehow, that makes me feel immensely close to you. Yet free. And what an absolutely lucky place to be, that is.

Thank you for ten years of joy, VC.

Every time that I have had to take a leap, make a go for it, jump. I know I have you, no matter what the outcome. It’s what keeps me afloat.

It’s ironic, but it took a year spent so fiercely being just me, to realise how much I love and cherish what I have with you. And that’s really it.

I love you.

One year ago: Nine
Two years ago: Day 251: August

Past anniversaries: nine, eightsevensixfivefourthreetwoone.

Day 250: Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof

I’ve had such a delightful week. Despite the heavy stress of procrastination-led deadline-fuckery. Despite having dragged out some quick work, all week long. Despite feeling overwhelmed from it all. Despite starting the week with the emptiness that comes from amma being in the US, anna being back in Wayanad and Niyu being all the way in her new home.

It was weird. And even though I started the week disoriented and a bit out of rhythm, it was still a simple, delightful week by the end of it. Because of the small things. Like a fully-stocked fridge that gave me options! That hasn’t happened in a while. And because I didn’t wake up and have anywhere to run off to, and had to actually fend for myself, I ended up cooking all meals at home, lunch and dinner. It was oddly settling, and I realised maybe it is time to find my own rhythm about my own home again. Maybe that’s what has been unsettling on the domestic front.

This week, VC worked from home almost entirely, save for one day. This is so new for him, and it warms my heart to see him less restless, less fidgety when not at work, more relaxed and allowing himself the time to decompress for no reason at all, smack in the middle of a work week. I believe this luxury of being self-employed is something he hasn’t allowed himself to exploit, and by extension I have missed taking these liberties with him too. So it was utterly lovely to spend the entire week together. We’ve been waking up later than usual, having a slow and easy pace to the day. Once ready for the day, we’ve been dragging out dining table to the centre of the living room where we sit and work together, separately chugging away at our respective assignments. As we inch towards a time when we’re going to live apart very, very soon, I find myself really enjoying and making the most of the quietness of being together.

I often chide VC about not having done this sooner, and not nearly enough. But better late than never, I guess. It was so nice to have him around and be homebodies together. This is the kind of cohabiting I have missed. This week was all it

There was also the day spent entirely in bed, binge-watching youtube, which was perfect and couldn’t have come at a more necessary time. I’m glad I just stopped reasoning and took that break.

I took myself to Third Wave more times than I am willing to admit. It’s a nice sufficiently quiet coffee shop with outstanding coffee, charming service and I love that they don’t care if I hang around reading or working for hours on end. I’m really making the most of this luxury of having places so close to home where I can go away without a reason, spend a few hours with myself and return.

The self-reflective assignments I had due for class? I also finished them. And you know what? When I eventually got down to writing them 12 hours before the end of submission day, I got so engrossed, so drawn in. I had such a blast chipping away at them, I had a moment where I seriously kicked myself for pushing it to the very end.

I’m ending the week content. And I find myself going back to the little things that have made it so. Simple food. Quiet togetherness. Self-reflection. Deadlines met. Work done.

This was a good week. This was a goooood week.

Two years ago: Day 250: Finding my people

Day 249: I wanna see you be brave

I have had such a fantastic week. And today was such a stupendous day. I had a post all written out about it. But I have shelved it for tomorrow. Because today, I want to give this day to the people it belong to, and celebrate it wholeheartedly.

Pic courtesy: Sandhya

This was the highpoint of today. I spent a good hour madly refreshing the news on the minute. I shocked myself with how emotional I felt, when the news the verdict eventually came in. For the first time in nearly 5 years I felt a sense of belonging with this country, spurred entirely by a mild feeling of hope that truth will prevail and the fascists will not have it all their way.

What a powerful statement. What a resounding, thumping win for reason and humanity, and above all else, love. What an absolute slap in the face of the current government this has been. I feel incredible to be alive to witness this.

As I read the statements that rolled in, I choked and teared up a little, imagining what a struggle and an uphill and constant battle this has been. And over something so utterly basic? I’ve been thinking about what Arun Shourie said in the video I linked up yesterday, about how we have been slowly accustomed to a new normal. Like frogs tricked into a slow death, in a slowly boiling pot of water, we’ve lost the will to react and jump out and back to our senses. I realised today that the bar is set so damn low, that a victory for something as basic as the right to love, has come as such a massive victory. This should have been basic. It should have been a non negotiable.

But here we are. Love is love.

What a day.

One year ago: Brain noodles
Two years ago: Day 249: Ferry days

Day 248: You shoot the moon, and miss completely

The panic has subsided. I woke up calm and composed today. Almost zen, despite having written off yesterday to period cramps that rendered the entire day spent in bed, binge-watching youtube videos* (everything from political interviews to ScoopWhoop townhalls and F1 recap videos for the year), instead of getting started on that really long list of deliverables I have to work my way through.

I’ll just wake up and begin, I told myself at midnight when I eventually turned my laptop off.

And I did. I have worked through today. Quite systematically. Ably aided by Apple Music. After lunch, I took myself to a newly opened Third Wave Coffee Roasters near home (the nearness of which is causing me serious heartache about moving away from Bangalore!), from where I told myself I would not leave until I have worked through the 6 essays I have to submit for my course. Tonight.

At the start of the course I knew I’d have to write these. I was prematurely excited about it. I’ve been rather disciplined about chronicling the year-long developments and my journey in a journal as we’ve been asked to. This was meant to make the writing easy. My study buddies and I have met three times in the last month to discuss said assignments. Each meeting had me excitedly bursting with things to say, discuss. I’ve been so clear about what I have to share for a while now.

And yet, here I am. Waiting for the nth hour. Waiting for last minute panic to strike.

(It hasn’t as yet, in case you’re wondering.)

I spent three hours at Third Wave. Three very productive hours spent writing non stop. The only glitch is I’ve been writing work things, not my essays. A large chunk of work things that are in no pressing rush to be addressed. Work things I have to submit across the month.

Does this happen to anyone else? A critical deadline looming large, and all you want to do is literally everything else? So you go about it all with alacrity and urgency, full of purpose and efficiency that could be directed to the most imminent deadline instead?

It’s the equivalent of sitting down to put on a face before running out of a house on fire.

I had a hot coffee. A cold coffee. And I stress ate a pain au chocolat. In anticipation of last-minute panic.

It hasn’t arrived as yet.

Somewhere in between nervously nibbling at my pain au chocolat and typing away furiously (at those things that aren’t due for a long while) I made an accidental glance at the calendar on my laptop. And I realised in a moment of fright and joy that my mental calendar is running 24 hours ahead of time.

Which means I have a whole day — twenty four full hours — left before my submission day ends.

MY ESSAYS ARE DUE TOMORROW.

I could cry with relief and joy right now.

Because it means I can shut my laptop down for now and begin this afresh tomorrow.
Because all the work I’ve done ahead of time today means I can peacefully focus on nothing else but my essays tomorrow.
Because my efficiency and productivity won’t be in vain.
Because I can go eat anther croissant or something to celebrate.
Because finally, I know why lat minute panic hasn’t struck as yet.

***

*Recommendations from yesterdays binge-watch:

  1. Trevor Noah’s entire goddamn Behind The Scenes playlist. If there’s anything funnier than his actual show, it is this. It had me laughing out so loud, VC had to come check in on me a couple of times during the day.
  2. Kunal Kamra’s chat with Kavita Krishnan gave me new love for Kunal Kamra, and a very welcome perspective on Left Politics which I have never given a thought to.
  3. Karan Thapar’s interview with Arun Shourie is a scathing, brutally honest, logical, extremely articulate review of the current political regime and state of affairs in the country. I’m petrified for 2019, but watching this gave me a few clues on what I can do as a worried citizen.
  4. Radhika Apte has all my love anyway, but this interview sealed the deal.

Day 247: Not invited but I’m glad I made it

August was such a whirlwind of a month. Even though it was busy in a good way, so much happened, much fun was had, the last week or so, I’ve been feeling tired and like I’m running to keep up. More than the actual state of being busy than usual itself, I feel overwhelmed by the dread of slipping back to an old pattern where I would bite off much more than I could chew and then struggle to keep pace.

Today, just four days into this month, one day into this week, I woke up with a huge sense of lethargy. At the back of my mind a to-do list was unfolding, on loop.

It took a minute of stepping back, a cup of tea and a chat with VC, some cards he picked for me, some I did for me, some for him. And I had an adequate reminder to focus, but slow down.

I don’t know why having a lot to do automatically makes me think I have to do it all fast. I so easily forget this basic little truth. It’s not the growing to-do list I should fear (because times like this will come often) but reminding myself that slow and steady has always worked better for me. The pattern I fear isn’t in the quantum of things to be done, but in how I approach the quality of the getting it done. It’s the sense of flow and mindful every day living that I want to conserve and protect.

At times like this, I’m grateful for this flexible, freelance life. I often joke about how I don’t just freelance with work, but I freelance at life itself. I enjoy, and take advantage of, the ability to straddle work and play, so, so much. I have indulged this so often, for myself. But today, when our morning tea extended into an hour-long conversation and the luxury of pulling cards and chatting about them, that VC decided to stay home from work, I felt grateful that VC has had this opportunity too. I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again: it’s the little, seemingly insignificant things like this that have made a huge impact on our lives and the quality of our relationship this past year.

I say seemingly insignificant because when we chose this life, made the decision to go solo and move to Bangalore, the luxury of working from home was not at all a top priority or a deciding criteria. But it has been a happy by-product. And it’s always the by-products that make me realise how even conscious decision-making, unconsciously brings the best life forward.

***

And because I just re-discovered this on carpool karaoke (what a fabulous episode this was!), today, I’m also happily suffering this ear-worm. Also where the title for this post comes from.

Day 246: August

Being still and silent and broken is its own kind of religion.

If I had just one word to pick to describe what August has been like, it would be reflective. Perhaps because I kicked the month off with the third module of the course, and it was by far the best it set things in motion down this very contemplative, perspective-altering, pondering sort of path and through all the shenanigans that went down, that mood has remained. This particular module was a needle-pushing one for me, I had a massive breakthrough that is, I realise now, changing how I feel about every major aspect of my life and slowly pushing me ahead in a very different way.

Have you ever had an emotional breakthrough that feels like after months of trying to tear down and and push through a door that refuses to open, it suddenly gives and comes clamouring down? Where suddenly the only thing blocking you (usually yourself) comes apart, letting you through? It’s exhilarating, because you’re eagerly waiting to be shown the next step, a foot in the door. And finally you’re there, but to your surprise, what’s ahead often isn’t a clear road to freedom, but…a free fall. Into nothingness.

And you have to just leap.

It’s exciting as fuck. But also terrifying. And brings with it this ginormous knot in my stomach, like OMG HOW is that even possible, how I am to begin all over again, where do I take myself from here?

So I was particularly humbled when I read these words in the letter in this Ask Polly edition last month, echoing much the same feelings, even though our situations, context and journey is entirely different:

…feels like I’m standing at a fork in the road, where one path leads to a pit of snakes and the other to a jagged cliff.

How do I begin? Where do I begin?

And these absolute gems, in the answer:

So this is where I would start: Ground yourself in reality.

Because that is just what my pursuit has been these past few months, years. To find reality. Over and over again. Seeking authenticity, truth and real comfort, within and around myself.

I realise this is really the crux of any journey of self-discovery, of coming into one’s own. And the deeper I go, the more I seem to let go of, and the more comfortable I find I am with myself. Exactly the way I am.

Once you ground yourself in reality…then you can finally approach the world as you are. You don’t need to be entertaining or sexy or clever or useful to be lovable. You don’t have to prove your value in order to be valuable. You can simply be what you are.

August especially, has been a time of cutting myself down to size. More shedding, more culling of the unnecessary, more pruning of an incorrect sense of self. But most unexpectedly, accepting uncomfortable and far from desirable facets of myself that exist, that I was oblivious to. Even after all these months of work, it was gutting to realise that there are parts of me that make me a difficult person to be with, to connect with, to understand.

So begins a new chapter. Fresh work commences. And it all begins with that leap of faith, that free fall into what seems like nothingness.

And here’s where the work done so far holds me in good stead. I can stay, I don’t need to run. I can be myself, imperfections and all, without having to hide.

Being still and silent and broken is its own kind of religion.

Because, it matters. It’s where a new me can bloom.

Being what you are looks like this: You enter every room as a calm, neutral observer. You are average. You don’t have an agenda. Your only job is to listen and observe and offer your support. Your only job is to watch and learn and allow room for yourself, even when you don’t say a word, even when you don’t look that good, even when you seem useless. There you are, giving yourself the right to be without running or hiding or dancing. That is grace. It matters.

***

All the healing, and some change
When the burden of the breakthrough hung heavy.
The absolute thrill of taking that leap, left me high on life for many, many days after.
And sometimes when I look back, take stock of what has changed and how much, I see how far I’ve come.
On the privilege of flying back into the nest, enjoying this fleeting time in Bangalore and readying myself to fly out once again.

Probably consequent to all of these shifts, my relationship with my body (that has been another big piece in this journey) saw yet another inflection point. And things have turned in a way that nothing will ever be the same again.
Reclaiming parts I’ve rejected, and finally seeing a glimmer of feeling whole again.
On finding confidence, self-love and how it feels like meeting myself for the first time. Every single day.
I think I may have finally let go of the fitness aficionado tag that formed such a huge part of my identity, and I’m ready to move on to new things.

I’ve had a on-again-off-again pattern going with all things domestic, of late. And several times in the recent past I’ve found it really has me in a rut. As much as a huge part of me wants to break away from the trappings of mindless routine and make time for all the things that I am seeking to explore, there is a sense of grounding that routine and doing homely things with my hands gives me, and I have been trying to find a healthy balance between the two.
I wrote about the how lucky I feel about being in Bangalore because it has given me just the space and time in this respect.
And every time I slip, I have to remind myself not to beat myself up about it, so I can move up and on quicker.

Bangalore love
August is also the month VC and I have decided to move on from Bangalore. And so predictably, I had a lot of feels for Bangalore. Through all the annoyances that I don’t stop myself form acknowledging, the sum total of my time in Bangalore has been nothing short of amazing. I have thoroughly enjoyed it for everything it has offered.
Of rain, and missing Goa.
Of rain, and traffic jams that lead to epiphanies.
Of clear skies that turn to rain.

As always, there is gratitude
Nine months in to keeping this habit, I know without a shadow of doubt how much it has impacted my mental health and contributed to moving forward and counting on abundance rather than being stuck in stories and beliefs that are grounded in a sense of lack. This past month, owing to all the feels, there was a lot of gratitude.
For life and how it flows.
For having this opportunity to take make a life of being, and not so much doing.
For opportunities that I could have only had in Bangalore. And the privilege of traveling to Goa again.
For family. Known and unknown, close and extended.
For Bangalore, and the rain.

Rumination
This year of writing everyday, I’ve taken extra pride in not ever missing a day or resorting to back posts as much as I did in 2016. Back then, I also resorted to writing Haiku when I was all dried up and the thoughts wouldn’t come. This year there have been very few days when I didn’t know what to write, and I have actually enjoyed writing every single day. August however, saw a lot of random thought bubbles and pictures, probably owing to days where I was just so overwhelmed with my own inner monologue.
Hot chocolate days.
Pause for a moment.
Driving to Goa. Again.
I read two more books.
Goa postcards. Here. Here. And here.

One month ago: Day 219: July
Two months ago: Day 184: June

Three months ago: Day 152: May
Four months ago: Day 134: April
Five months ago: Day 92: March
Six months ago: Day 60: February
Seven months ago: Day 32: January

Two years ago: Day 246: Wandering, right here at home