Good things

that have come from this stay-in. Just some things I’ve started to pay attention to, enjoy/care about more than I used to before this strange, strange time:

The value of housework. And by value I mean the actual worth. I am totally rethinking how much I’m paying my help enough. And I’m a muddle of thoughts about all the unpaid labour housewives put in and how much of themselves they are forced to forget in the bargain.

Folding the laundry, doing the dishes, mopping the floors down on my haunches. Thanking my stars for having a small (manageable) home. Finding the daily dose of happy by tending to my plants diligently again.

Cooking twice a day, every day. Managing efficiency with groceries. I’m frightfully aware of consumption and wastage lately. We’re becoming champs at repurposing leftovers all the time. Salad becomes raita. Dal goes into paratha dough. Bits and bobs in the veggie tray get roasted up and piled on toast, coffee grounds go into my plants. And it feels really good to be using up everything that’s in my fridge and kitchen to the max.

Cleaning methi leaves. Making dahi every single day. Remembering to soak nuts every night.

Video calls. I’m not much of a phone person. It’s only in recent time that I’ve started to enjoy telephone conversations with some people. Video calls were saved for work and readings. And suddenly now I’m doing it so often, so easily.

Working out alone. Working out at home. Treating the half hours of sweeping and mopping the floor as my full body cardio warm up hahaha. This has forced me to get really innovative with my exercise. Trying that new yoga class on Zoom.

Getting comfortable with finding pockets of routine in days that are really not uniform and where no two days are the same. Being okay with having no routine. I feel quite relaxed.

Not knowing what tomorrow will be like. Imperfection. Taking time out to make myself happy, either by cooking something I want to eat, or finding that window of time to paint, being flexible with exercise.

Holding grief and allowing for it when it comes. Learning to be okay with witnessing it and not making meaning.

Realising I’m in a space of retreat again. Not having much to say about it. Watching as it’s making my relationships change. Not doing a thing about it.

Waiting. Uncertainty. Pause. Going really slow.

Justin Bieber. That daily sugary evening adrak chai with a small unhealthy snack.

Who knew.

Monday Tarot Message: What are you willing to let crumble now more than ever?

The Tower emerges as an indication of a radical shift in perception of reality. Today it feels particularly potent, both in imagery and significance, given current circumstances. And it resonates with things that have been top of mind for me 1) How the pandemic has presented opportunity for rethinking my reality and 2) The literal ivory towers we inhabit. And here it is, in today’s card.

The Tower signals an intervention, interruption. A topsy-turvy time of pandemonium, chaos and severe upheaval. While discomfiting, this presents an opportunity to connect with one’s true self. An opportunity to see the truth fully, eyes open.

You see, the ego seeks and finds comfort in the unchanging, while the True Self always seeks growth through constant change. It requires enquiry, confronting the truth and letting go what no longer serves, and bravely reimagining the new.

Like all great transformation, this is not without a palpable loss of security, sensation of great instability in the ground beneath our feet, as everything that we have held to be absolute and true comes crumbling down. Much like it is in the world today.

It is not a comfortable place to be by any stretch of imagination, and yet it is crucial to be here and stay for as long as delving into the truth needs. We cannot rush this process and skip to the next stage for comfort sake, else we risk losing the essence of it. But even as we delve into the depths of despair and feeling utterly shitty, we also carry a knowing, a gut feeling, a hunch, of what will absolutely NOT do anymore. Whether in our own private lives, thanks to the time for introspection. Or in our immediate communities, from seeing our habits as human beings so closely. Or as a nation or political entity, while so many false promises and facades come crashing down as we see our leaders for what they are.

A great facade has lifted, the charade has dropped, and we are seeing very clearly the brutal truth for what it is. Maybe we have been players, maybe we have been played. No matter where we stand on the spectrum, we all carry a deep knowing that nothing will be the same again.

The message today is, let loose the grip on the desire for sameness, for positivity, for goodness alone. For continuity, uniformity and permanence. Because nothing true, breathing and living can ever exist in a state of sameness. Be willing to be thoroughly transformed by what is happening today. And for that, be willing to sit with the discomfort of what is happening, and face the atrocities and fractures it is throwing up.

Whichever way you look at it, this is a period of essential (and much delayed) cleansing and regeneration. And it is only when the rotten crumbles and falls away fully that new, stronger foundations can be laid.

How you move forward will depend on whether you choose the truth or go back to deception; whether you choose true compassion that favours equality or slip back to ways that continue inequity.

Take this time to relook at your foundations, your core beliefs. It could be personal or to do with the community.

What rot are you holding on to that is threatening to crumble?
What are you ready to let go of now more than ever?
How has three weeks of being locked in changed your life positively?

Take this time to also internalise what you’ve learned, and allow it to touch your life in a deeper way will. This will make the difference in whether you come out of this with positive change, or slip back to shaky ground.

Personally for me, this has shown how much more involved I want to be as a living entity in my environment. It has crushed what little faith I had in leaders to show the way. It’s on me, on us as individuals. I feel this desperately now. It has also triggered a very old and hitherto shut-down part of me that has absolutely no tolerance for injustice. I was absolutely not in touch with this side of me, until recently. And lately it feels like I just can’t unsee this. I’m done. I cannot go back to closing my eyes. All of this is having very real and palpable reactions in my outer life, and the ways in which I am being. It is grossly uncomfortable and at many times unpleasant. It makes all my relationships feel very tenuous and I am unsure which way I am going.

But I know deep down that I must let this play out fully, trust the process, continue to keep seeing the truth, no matter how discomfiting. And it will emerge, slowly.

I will rebuild. We will rebuild. We have a choice to make here. We must make sure to choose the truth, over comfort.

One year ago: Chance encounters
Two years ago: Where the cares of the day seem to slowly fade away
Four years ago: Maybe I’m finally making peace with being mediocre

Despair

It was a reasonably good week — mentally, speaking. Until 9 am this morning. I didn’t even tune in to catch the speech, but the idiocy of it reached me anyway. And almost immediately the despair I’ve been keeping at bay descended on me again.

I busied myself with things that need to be done, and pretty soon half the day was done. The despair? Intact. Just moving along with me, like a dark cloud looming large and heavy, directly above me.

Tell me, are any of you feeling this too?

Turned to one of my favourite David Whyte writings. On despair. And he says, shockingly accurately;

Despair takes us in when we have nowhere else to go; when we feel the heart cannot break anymore, when our world or our loved ones disappear, when we feel we cannot be loved or do not deserve to be loved, when our God disappoints, or when our body is carrying profound pain in a way that does not seem to go away.

Despair is a haven with its own temporary form of beauty and of self compassion, it is the invitation we accept when we want to remove ourselves from hurt. Despair, is a last protection.

It does feel like the last attempts at protection. From fear and not knowing what lunacy will be unleashed on us next.

Like I said yesterday about anger, the despair seems necessary. The next logical stage in whatever it is that we’re collectively grieving. It feels essential to acknowledge it, but I have struggled to do this in real life. Today, especially I feel like I am zipped up close and have to keep my despair to myself.

For fear of being judged. For overreacting. For being pessimistic. For being “biased”. My mind knows this is balderdash, and yet I have carried this like a rock on my chest all day long.

Despair is a necessary and seasonal state of repair, a temporary healing absence, an internal physiological and psychological winter when our previous forms of participation in the world take a rest; it is a loss of horizon, it is the place we go when we do not want to be found in the same way anymore. We give up hope when certain particular wishes are no longer able to come true and despair is the time in which we both endure and heal, even when we have not yet found the new form of hope.

In order to move ahead from here, I know I have to fully know this despair. It feels deep, old and almost too big to understand. And so I cannot rush through it. Maybe I will despair everyday for the rest of this crazy time we are in. Maybe it will ebb and flow. Maybe it will linger around beneath the surface. Whatever it is, I have to allow for it. And right now, by keeping it all to myself, I know I am not. I can feel it in how much I want to, even as I am writing this, apologise for how sad and angsty my posts have been lately.

Somehow, I cannot perform at this. Not now. I assume that those who don’t want to read this will have already checked out of the blog. But my stats tell me otherwise. Day after day, my own judgement about how I am feeling is proven wrong.

This also makes me acutely aware that much of the judgement I am witnessing, is possibly a projection of my own internal critic.

The antidote to despair is not to be found in the brave attempt to cheer ourselves up with happy abstracts, but in paying a profound and courageous attention to the body and the breath, independent of our imprisoning thoughts and stories, even strangely, in paying attention to despair itself, and the way we hold it, and which we realise, was never ours to own and to hold in the first place. To see and experience despair fully in our body is to begin to see it as a necessary, seasonal visitation, and the first step in letting it have its own life, neither holding it nor moving it on before its time.

I feel like new definitions of compassion, service and kindness — which I see are being called up on every single minute of every single day — cannot be found without feeling despair first. It’s almost like the heaviness of this situation needs to break us, before we return to normal. So we can be different. So we can be better.

One year ago: Same lessons, new me   
Two years ago: Out here without a shield

Feel good? Or feel really fucking shitty first?

In today’s edition of excessive-but-necessary domesticity, we made a batch of homemade peanut-butter.

But on to less sweet, feel-good things to talk about:

I’ve avoided ranting about the shit-show that this lockdown has been for millions in our country all of last week. Because 1) there is so much of it online anyway and I have been trying to curb how much I consume of it, while also not ignoring the truth 2) what else is there to say that isn’t already being said by so many angry people like me?

I’m currently conflicted about this. In trying to find a mid point between staying hopeful that this will pass, while honouring the fear and shame and guilt that rises to the surface when I see news of farmers committing suicide, wholesalers dumping thousands of kilos of produce and migrant labour walking unimaginable distances to get home (and sometimes dying before they do), and being grateful for what I have; and staying firmly grounded in acknolwedging the truth about our government being absolutely filthy, greedy and inhuman. I’ve been wondering how to do both. Because neither pole negates the other.

To have a ray of hope doesn’t mean I am blind to the atrocities being unleashed upon our poor by the hour, and yet being angry about the injustice and inhumanity of it all doesn’t mean I’m being pessimistic. I’ve had trouble accepting the advice I get to find reasons to hope, to choose the positive stories over the shitty ones. Because I feel, now more than ever, when the truth is finally out, in plain sight for all to see, to look away in search of comforting positivity is a disgrace and a grave injustice. Now is not the time for being neutral either. Let’s please try and look at the atrocity we have brought upon our people by bringing this group of demons to power. Let’s sit with the discomfort it causes us. Let’s feel the rage and anger and guilt and shame bubble up. Let’s take responsibility. Let’s feel it all fully, because we, the privileged lot can afford to. Nothing in our lives will change when this peaks, and when it blows over. So let’s stick our necks out and feel whatever we’re feeling right now. Let’s not turn to faux positivity to avoid the discomfort of this shitshow. Let’s do it so we can be driven to act differently when the time to choose leaders comes around again. Let’s feel this fully so we never forget.

I’m all for positivity and hope. And I feel it in glimmers now and then. When I see updates from Kerala. Sometimes from Maharashtra these days (who knew!). I feel it when I hear what an aunt of mine has done for a camp of construction labour in her neighbourhood who were left stranded. I feel it when I read some impeccable writing online. I feel it, and I am happy to hold it. But I am watchful about floating off into a bubble that removes me from the reality that this is far form over. That this government will. just. not. stop. before they make this somehow worse every passing day.

I mean, right now they’ve managed to paint a global pandemic in communal hues. It really doesn’t get lower than that. And no, don’t point fingers at Trump and America. Because at least he takes a daily presser, he stupidly bumbles and faces the hard questions he is asked for which he has no answers. Unlike our own who only believes in televised monologues at prime time for max eyeballs and great janata value.

The whole thing just makes me so goddamned angry. As a young, tax-paying citizen, it infuriates me that on the day the PM started a highly sketchy, dubious fund to support his debacle from sinking all the way, he also signed an 880 crore defence deal with Israel, and sent 90 tonnes of medical equipment overseas, while our own doctors go to battle without the right (or any gear at all) gear.

So it’s really fucking hard to stay hopeful against all odds during this time. Try as I might, this government rains all over my hope parade by giving me ample reason to be mistrustful, hopeless and angry, literally every single day. Sometimes more than once a day. So no, I’m not just being aimlessly pessimistic.

I have also come to understand that anger and rage are crucial (and valid) reactions to be having right now. I don’t want to, I cannot, slip into a faux positivity just because the discomfort of the overwhelming truth about what we have done, all that we have enabled by our silence and by backing away into the dark, is too unpleasant. I cannot turn away anymore. I’m big into feeling anger when it comes up lately. Into feeling it fully before I “get over it” or “choose something positive” or “let go and move on”.

I don’t want to rush into doing anything about it just yet. I just want to feel it. And being stuck at home feels like the perfect invitation.

It has been a lonely and isolating sort of anger too. Because I don’t have very many places I can express this. And I’ve been looking for validation for this anger. Anyone else who gets it and feels this way. And understands this thought process. So I can feel firmly again that anger is a catalyst for renewed hope and action. And I found it in Women Who Run With The Wolves, by Clarissa Pinkola Estés.

She says;

Rage corrodes our trust that anything good can occur. Something has happened to hope. And behind the loss of hope is usually anger; behind anger, pain; behind pain, usually torture of one sort or another, sometimes recent, but more often from long time ago.

It’s not unnatural to feel filled with rage, when you’ve lost all hope, apparently. And if you’ve been feeling helpless, hopeless and rage-y too, know that it is probably something very old, maybe even an experience of injustice from several generations ago, that is being triggered. If we allow it, and are tuned into it, every single woman will carry this in some measure.

So if you’re amongst those who are feeling it, and can hold it without wanting to immediately douse the pain in feel good things, or feel overwhelmed by it, allow for it. Make room. Feel the rage. Don’t stew in it, but find ways to express it. Find channels to let it move through you. I’ve turned to writing, painting and free-form movement post my daily workout, this past week and have seen surprising effects.

I’m not ashamed of my anger around the current state of politics of this country anymore. I’m not in a rush to feel better. I’m open to saying yes to it all for now. The rage and the hope. The hopelessness and the joy. Because I know so deeply that positivity without processing the anger will not make it go away. It will certainly not make a better tomorrow.

One year ago: Going the distance
Two years ago: March

At home

In today’s edition of excessive-but-necessary domesticity, we made a batch of homemade paneer by curdling 2 litres of milk. Because while milk has been in abundant (daily) supply where I live, paneer and cheese has not.

Yesterday, it was a whole wheat plum galette. Yeah, apparently I’m that person now. Because we had plums (only fruit available on the clean shelves in the supermarket) that tasted like nothing really and I didn’t want to bin them. This, in addition to house cleaning chores, unending dishes (because we are a house of three foodies who are taking our meals very seriously even in isolation), laundry (what with working out everyday) and cleaning the bathrooms, the actual cooking itself and what not.

So it’s no wonder that this week, I haven’t had it all chill and easy like the last few weeks. Suddenly I’m wondering where is that free time and hashtag-slowlife everyone has been talking about. It’s also mega amusing how I do the most basic, essential-for-life things that I otherwise outsource blindly for a few days and I cannot resist the urge to max it out and I do somewhere feel like I deserve a prize for it. It’s messed up, no?

I mean, this is life. This is normal. I’m not doing anything out of the ordinary — okay if you discount the baking and the extraaaa domesticity — it’s just cooking, cleaning, and focusing on being healthy and responsible, during this time. What’s the big deal, man? It kind of made me wonder how distant I am from these very normal functions of life, and it’s something I’m going to try and correct even after things normalise, to the extent possible.

Slowly beginning to see that not everything from my “normal”, old life may be worth returning to once things go back.

***

We had a beautiful, mellow, cotton candy sunset yesterday. And I rearranged my pots in the morning. The most unexpected plants are thriving — and I think it’s the clean air.

I’m not bored being home as yet, seeing as how I have had a lot going on. And even before that, the silence and stillness has been good. But today I said to VC and Niyu, I do want an Andhra meal. Or a coffee at Third Wave. Or a good wood fired pizza. Mostly, going out is about the food for me, I realise. Everything else I need is right here with me. Immense gratitude for that, given how impossibly devastating this has been for so many others. I struggle to make sense of the dissonance of it all. And I find no answers.

One year ago: Blank
Four years ago: Fullness

 

Transience

Been thinking about transience a lot lately, as so many everyday things that I take for granted are no longer within my reach and so many more are gradually slipping away. I carry this constant feeling that none of this is a temporary blip, and that none of it isn’t all going to miraculously swing back to “normal” the way it used to be, once this is over.

Something much bigger has been affected, uprooted. And the way forward, if we know what’s good for us, will be nothing like we have known it to be thus far.

I feel hyper-aware of systems crumbling. Of all the many big and small dysfunctions and gaping holes we have enabled. How perverse the inequities that we have created actually are, and how long we have just gone with it, turning away, snug in our comfortable positions of privilege we have occupied of no effort of our own.

I don’t know how we’ll un-see any of this. I know we shouldn’t. Because more than anything this experience has me seeing how transient everything is. How impermanent even the most solid things that we thought unchangeable actually are. How just because systems have existed in a certain way for centuries, doesn’t mean they work or that they don’t stand to be questioned. Or that they won’t crumble, entirely out of our control. How even the most powerful nations are rendered useless in the face of collapse of this nature.

Mostly, I feel if we don’t do the timely course correction, nature does. And by nature I just don’t mean the environment. I mean the nature of systems that always seek balance. They will swoop in, inevitably, bringing back order again. and it might not always be the order we want or would like.

Unlike the comforting, expected bursting forth of spring, that always signals change and temporariness, life and death to me, I realise that sometimes lessons in transience are violent and challenging. Not at all comforting, not at all expected, not what we are equipped to handle. Forcing us to think on our feet, challenge all that we have come to believe as absolute and unchanging.

It becomes easier to see the need for change, and to embrace it even when it comes this unexpectedly, if we have cultivated mental flexibility. To be fixed and cocksure about a way of being, even in the face of such inequity, is no longer an option. The only way we’ll be se to find new methods, is to remove ourselves from the fixed outcomes we covet and hold true, and embrace the new gifts that this churn has to offer. As individuals, as well as communities.

I don’t know that anything is ever going to be the same. And I wonder if we have it in us to really understand what this Transience means and is asking of us.

Two years ago: Slow change may pull us apart
Four years ago: Procrastination 

Monday Tarot Message: Tend to your masculine side

Apologies! I do my best to try and get this up in the morning, so it serves as guidance for the day, and sometimes the week ahead too. But it isn’t always possible. Today we ventured out early with our masks on, to try and scope some supplies. It’s not that things aren’t available but supplies are definitely lean where I live. It took a lot of waiting in queues in multiple stores, and then purchasing stuff from a couple of local kirana stores and a push cart, before I got home. And then the day got ahead of me. Ah well!

Here’s the message, though. And even though it is a message for the day, I feel like it is relevant for this time in general.

***

The consciousness comprises a feminine and a masculine pole — whether you are man or woman — bringing together the opposites to coexist in harmony. The Emperor represents the masculine, the does, the analyser, the go-getter, the controller, the ringleader, the taskmaster. And we all have a side of ourselves that is like this. It is highly active in some, moderately so in some others and probably nascent in many. This is also probably the side that is feeling challenged by the current dip in productivity and capacity to do, given this lockdown situation.

While your feminine side (again, in differing proportion for different people) maybe enjoying this time for rest, renewal, slowness and tenderness, The Emperor asks us to also make contact with the masculine. If you otherwise seek control and clarity in knowing at all times, how are you feeling with this uncertainty? Are you taking care of that side that is probably feeling neglected, unsettled, frustrated?

Use this time to connect with your masculine side. If it has been a challenge to slow down and stay indoors, soothe it, let yourself know that it is okay to soften up and learn to trust the universal balance of things. It’s okay to learn the necessity of rest and renewal as much as you have, the need for perseverance and doing. Sometimes even by force.

The Patriarchy, with its unnatural and unnecessary leaning towards all things male, creates this imbalance in the masculine. Whether male or female, the strong emergence and reliance on the masculine means we are all that much more mistrustful, value control and don’t believe in rest. In our effort to combat/balance that in our external worlds, we may sometimes devalue the need for rest, or even neglect the masculine aspect within ourselves. This card is a reminder that both aspects have a place and when in balance, are immensely useful to us — man or woman.

It’s hard not to look at life like it constantly needs solving — projects, productivity, compulsively helping people, moving from one thing to do to the next with efficiency — in this masculine-leaning world that values doing over just being. It’s hard to make room for slow tenderness, even if that is your inherent pace. This is also a byproduct of the patriarchy — this perverse pursuit of doing and domination.

Take this time to soothe your masculine side that may be struggling to relinquish control. Help heal it so you can move closer to the feminine within you, to integrate, rather than exist as opposing poles. Because both parts exist, both parts are valid, both are useful and have a place in your consciousness.

***

Even though I have been taking it easy, slow and really relishing this time where the world seems to suddenly be moving at my pace, this message, rather a reminder, to rest keeps coming up for me. I am taking this as permission, that it’s okay to slow down even more. I know that my personality needs it. So if that is the case for you, maybe just take this as permission to do and be just the way you are during this seriously surreal time.

One year ago: Looking within
Two years ago: Please press pause and try again
Four years ago: Seeing the sun rise

Are you tired of me talking about grief, yet?

Because here is yet another post about grief.

Right. So, I’m having a hard time with what’s going on. I just needed to say it.

It has felt doubly hard because I feel stupid about even thinking and saying this to myself. While most people began to take this seriously only two days ago, we have been largely indoors and not socialising since March 14th. And we have been fine, which in a perverse way, makes it doubly hard to accept that even with everything being okay, I am having a world of emotions swell up inside of me, and that it has been challenging to hold.

I have a roof over my head, a fridge full of food and enough stocked up to last me weeks. The luxury of staying at home and so many ways to keep myself engaged and happy. My very first world issues include wondering about when I will get this a very overdue haircut, and when can I go out to the park for a run. While millions have been rendered homeless and jobless overnight, and are having to walk back to their villages many, many miles away. While J and S tell me stories of how their work and teams in Europe are slowly imploding, and how some of them are having to justify their teams existence from one week to the next. What business do I have to say I am sometimes emotionally overwhelmed?

Except, I am. And the additional guilt isn’t helping. But hiding the truth isn’t making it go away either.

I’ve felt uninvited anger. Inexplicable sadness. Confusion. Exasperation. Downright rage and fury. Helplessness and hopelessness. Grief, anguish and deep sadness. Fear. And sometimes just blankness from it all. I have felt all these things in the past 2 weeks, sometimes too much for my heart-with-limited-capacity to hold.

Even words, my usual go to, have evaded me. And I have pushed the edge to which I can go without trying to make sense of what’s going on and what I am feeling in response. I may not have always been very successful with that.

Then, yesterday I read this HBR article that demystifies this “discomfort” as Grief. I realised this is what I have been feeling, through therapy yesterday. There’s a bit in the piece about the power of naming the feeling really struck home. Because I realised that the moments of upliftment these two weeks have been the moments where I have shared and stated what I am feeling.

At a time when words have been few and difficult to find for me, having S text “how are you today?” literally every morning, and getting on a video-call with her every other day to simply say what has not been easy, and what has, has helped. We invariably end up having a giggle fit. And that really helps!

In addition to frequent group video calls — a thing I have avoided like the plague until now — J, S and I have a continuous stream of sharing images of what we’re cooking and eating. This is literally the only whatsapp group I am active on, save the other one with my folks and sister. Talking to them is always equal parts keeping it real and making a big fat joke of everything. I have a bunch of images where we’re chuckling, and a couple where J gave us a guided tour of his plant family, complete with telling us their names. So there are colourful plants in the window where his face should be, and there’s S and I laughing our heads off in the other. Clearly we’re discussing the gravity of the situation, and our collective sads, in the picture below.

In all this, I’m so glad I’m not alone in my isolation. I have my sister and VC with me, and we spend a fair bit of time sharing the little things that are scary, annoying and confusing about these times. Minus the guilt. Plus we have been doing things together — cooking, exercising, eating, painting — that certainly help.

It helped to just say it as it is — I’m sad, angry, exasperated, confused, uncertain, while also feeling fiiiine — in all the different ways possible, for a full hour of therapy yesterday. We skyped and talked so little. Again, virtual therapy sessions are a luxury I have enjoyed all through last year when I spent extended periods of time in Goa. That is the extent to which my life, on paper, hasn’t changed.

And even then, this is me saying it: Ive struggled from time to time these past two weeks. If you have, have you tried naming it? It certainly helps emotions lose the grip that they sometimes have over us, holding us down.

There is something powerful about naming this as grief. It helps us feel what’s inside of us. When you name it, you feel it and it moves through you. Emotions need motion. It’s important we acknowledge what we go through. One unfortunate byproduct of the self-help movement is we’re the first generation to have feelings about our feelings. We tell ourselves things like, I feel sad, but I shouldn’t feel that; other people have it worse. We can — we should — stop at the first feeling.”

I guess what I’m saying is these are uncertain times for all of us, and if you’ve been feeling weird, overwhelmed, confused, foggy — it’s probably grief. We’re all experiencing this in our own ways.

Even when our lives are intact and largely unchanged. It might seem illogical to feel grief for something that hasn’t really touched you. But here’s where I differ from the BHR piece. Which there may be grief for the prevailing circumstances, I think what we’re all feeling is also the grief of uncertainty. The grief of many fundamental pillars of ur existence being challenged. Knowing that certain critical things are crumbling and making way for a new era that we know nothing of. There is grief in that letting go, fear in not knowing.

The guilt of having certain privileges may be keeping you from admitting to what you’re feeling, making you teeter around the edge of this discomfort for days on end. It might help to open the door, jump in, right into the depths of whatever you’re feeling. State it, name it, call it out, share it if you can and if you have the luxury.

One year ago: This new abyss
Two years ago: I get the strangest feeling you belong
Four years ago: Fam-jam

Making meaning

It’s not that I have been busy. I’m just as occupied as one can be in a situation like this. But I realised this morning in therapy, that I am sad. I am grieving. Many things. And as I processed some of it, I realised this is also why I have also been at a loss for words.

In all of this, I have been feeling a lack of space for expression of what I am feeling. I have been feeling alone, worried, anxious, confused, uncertain. And I have had very few places (nearly not enough) where I can express that. Words have not felt like they’re enough. And formulating them has been difficult. So much so that I haven’t tried very much. Couple that with wanting distance from the news and not turning on my laptop means there have been no posts. My head has felt blank a lot this week.

Even so, outwardly, my life goes on. I have been alright. Life has been going on okay as it does even when there is no full blown pandemic in the air. Up and down. Good days, okay days, not so good days. The way it rolls even otherwise.

So yesterday, as I struggled to find the words, we explored art instead in my therapy session. I scribbled in silence, crying some, on a Skype call. Quietly, but strangely mindfully. Not knowing at all what I was doing with the crayons on the paper. Not making meaning. Not even remotely trying.

I often mistake words as my only form of expression. And by extension, I see my need to make meaning in my expression, in everything I do. My deep need to understand and have certainty is fully exemplified in writing. Words are certain. They have form. They hold shape. They say very specific things. They make articulation possible. They communicate. They make me feel like I have control.

Whereas what is going on around us right now is from a different realm altogether. No certainty. No form. No pattern. No plan. No shape or size. No articulation.

NO CONTROL.

And it is this that I have been confronting everyday, at a very subtle level. So subtle that I had no idea until I had been through an hour plus of therapy where I — you guessed it — made meaning of it.

So post therapy, I sat with my sister and put paint to paper for about four hours. This is no big deal for my sister who spends hours very quietly, never needing words, not wanting to expend any energy in words, simply making her art. So her presence and company helped. There was music, there was me occasionally breaking the silence to chatter as I always do. There was chai, and there was banana bread. And I painted.

I have no idea what I made. I didn’t start with a plan, I didn’t set out with a picture in mind. I just went with it. I still don’t know what I’ve made. It holds no meaning.

But it was therapeutic. I might have to include this in my regular activities now.

One year ago: A good day to give thanks
Two years ago: Love dares you to change our way of caring about ourselves

Pictures for words

Until the words return, I might have to make do with pictures.

And something I made today.

One year ago: Finding flow again
Two years ago: Just go ahead, let your hair down

The birds

I know it’s been two days since I’ve posted. But I haven’t turned my laptop on in two days. Partly because I’ve been otherwise engaged. And partly because I have been trying to avoid the internet to feel better.

Quick post off my phone to say I haven’t heard the birds so resounding clearly in my neighbourhood since the 90s. These are such strange times.

More soon.

One year ago: Mostly nothing
Four years ago: Piece of peace

Lockdown things/thoughts/shenanigans

It’s been over a week of mostly staying in, except for the odd grocery run. In truth, and as I’ve said before, my life hasn’t changed or been disrupted at all, but I have been thinking (and feeling) a lot about what this is potentially doing for us as a community. That has caused a fair bit of mental disruption. I am feeling many feelings, to the point of wishing I could turn the feelings off.

There was a spot of joy right at the start of the week. This flower bloomed seemingly out of nowhere. After a full year of having this plant and not knowing what colour the flower would eventually be!

Some lockdown thoughts:

  • One thing’s for sure — I’ve really had to re-examine control, in every single aspect of my life. To relinquish the idea that I am in control. Or that we are as a people and a race. Control in every aspect — internal, external, outwardly exerted, self imposed, has been challenged these past few days. And with it I’ve had plenty thoughts about nature vs nurture. About doing vs being. About capitalism and what is the way forward. About finding new ways to exist and operate. About society and the place for empathy. About truth, and our inability to see it, and how far we will go to hide from it.

    About how we’ll go from here on. What is “normal”? Will we have to find a new normal? And what will we differently? And through it all there is also a voice in the back of my head, a constant low hum, telling me that it’s okay NOT TO KNOW. To take it one day, heck, one hour at a time, to trust that the new will emerge. Most times that is a process of unfurling, not a mere switched turning on on a new day and time. And we have so little control over any of it.

  • I’ve been super grateful for this mostly stay-at-home life that I’ve had for oh so many years now. This staying in has made me realise how good I have it and how much I take this existence for granted. So many people are struggling with being home, being around their families, not being able to run away from so much that we do on a daily basis. I’m mostly okay. I am not bored. I have gotten used to long periods of solitude that often feel like isolation. I am okay with the boredom if it comes. I also have had experience in not filling every free moment with some activity. In letting stillness come when it does, and enjoying it even. I have given stillness, solitude and staying-in a place in my life already, so this doesn’t really feel out of the ordinary. But I certainly do take it for granted, and don’t realise that this isn’t “normal” for so many people. I am glad I have learnt to love my own company, so this period isn’t feeling out of the ordinary or particularly testing.

  • It’s been equal parts overwhelming to see the outpouring of kindness online and around me, and disheartening to see how some very fundamental and core essence of our humanity has been slowly numbed. For every piece of ghastly news (much of it hidden away from mainstream media) I’ve seen instances of surprising compassion. For every display  of unbelievable selfishness that has come up, I have been humbled by several acts of unbelievable goodness. I feel overwhelmed to think that the two polarities co-exist, and in such close proximity sometimes.

    I know for sure that the way we go from here depends a lot on how quickly we understand that this is not just about our safety as individuals. Now and going forward. I hope it’s making us think beyond the pandemic and notice how much of our lives, our ways of existence, the systems we have come to accept unquestioningly have become insular, small, narrow, divisive and completely without heart. That, fundamentally, is being challenged, I think. And that, fundamentally, will have to go through a massive re-haul if we are to collectively overcome and heal from this experience.

  • Aside from that I’ve also wondered why we aren’t taught to cut our own hair and wax our own legs like we are taught to cook and clean toilets. Because by the end of this I’m going to be long-haired — in EVERY department. I was about two weeks overdue for a haircut even before we went into lockdown. My hairdresser was already stuck in Manipur back then, and now it looks like it’s easily going to be a month before I can even try and venture out. I am anyway quite lax about waxing my legs, so I’m not even equipped with backups like a razor — boohoo — but summer is here, and that kind of changes everything.
  • How much more extra can I be in the kitchen, I wonder. I have made a big, I mean BIG, batch of granola. I have baked a wholesome buckwheat flour chocolate cake, with icing. I made two batches of banana bread — one for me and one for my help’s kids since they’re all stuck at home too. And this morning I did the unthinkable. I churned about a month and a half’s worth of milk cream that I’d collected in the freezer. It’s a task I never do, because my help otherwise gets it done when I’m not looking. I wasn’t even sure if I could do it. But with text instructions from amma, I managed! And I churned a massive lump of butter that was made into a batch of ghee. And the buttermilk will either be lightly spiced and consumed, or turned into kadhi. Fully extra, no?

Four years ago: Fitter and stronger than before

Monday Tarot Message: On shame, hiding and relationships

Who are you when nobody is looking? What parts of yourself do you shy away from revealing even to your closest people? What are the casual white lies you tell to keep what’s hidden intact? Observe that today.

The need to lie about who we are comes from underlying shame, and shame, lying and hiding almost always comes from not being fully at peace with those aspects of and in ourselves. As long as they remain hidden, our work towards meeting our authentic selves remains incomplete. Because what we keep from the world, we also keep away from ourselves. Bridging that gap requires compassion so we may meet all that’s unpalatable, undesirable and sometimes downright loathsome, within us.

The thing is, each and every one of us comes with some inherent shame or self-loathing. Healing this requires compassion. Not to justify or allow continual inauthenticity, but to trust that what’s “shameful” needs acceptance, even integration, in order to ge healed. So we don’t have to be fragmented anymore.

The Seven of Swords asks to also look at your closest relationships. Who you are encouraged to be stealthy, cautious or surreptitious around? Who triggers your shame, making you most want to present a more “palatable” version of yourself?

We all have someone like this even in our closest circles. Sometimes it is our partners, our closest friends, or even our parents — with whom we may very well have great relationships. What version of yourself do you present to your closest people?

This happens because the ego is steadfastly committed to saying “yes” to relationships that help keep what you find shameful hidden. But this also means saying “yes” to avoiding the work of healing shame and meeting yourself wholly. And worse, it means saying “no” to your authentic self.

Most often, those of us with a history of deep shame are attracted to lovers and friends who appear to accept us completely, but around whom we unconscioulsy have to shrink, downplay, downsize ourselves. Think about that person/s in your life today. Look out for the ways in which you are stealthy around them. Choose well.

One year ago: Love filled
Two years ago: Everything is going to the beat
Four years ago: Flight

Life these days

In truth, my everyday life isn’t altered very much by social distancing. I do stay home for much of the time. And since VC moved back here, he does too — working out of his home office in our second bedroom. Life has fallen into a neat little rhythm. There is routine and I know it keeps me grounded to have this baseline of some method to the day. Even when I allow myself the odd day of freewheeling out-of-schedule meandering, and do wild things like or sleep in till noon and order-in a burger for lunch, I know that days like that are the exception not the norm. I take solace in some routine, and I have finally, after an entire lifetime of being a slave to routine, learned to acknowledge it’s place and purpose in my life, and make it fluid so I can move, rather than rigid so I feel caught.

Anyhow though, I’ve noticed that when things are spiralling around me, I take extra pleasure in taking my time to do the little things. Like making my bed every morning. This morning, as I folded up our blanket, stacked the pillows, stretched out and de-wrinkled the sheets, I realised I have really grown to like being at home again. Full circle.

The simplicity of this life suits me a lot. And I felt glad we have a life that hasn’t faced much disruption, where work can and has continued for the both of us, where the comforts of home with home cooked food are easily had. It makes a huge difference.

So, I’m listing down the simplest pleasures in my daily routine that I have enjoyed these past few weeks (and months) of uncertain and trying times, when what has been happening in the world has had an impact on me and my mind, and the one thing that has kept me sane has been my routine and the comfort of my home.

  1. A full nights restful sleep, waking up, turning off the alarm and going back to sleep
  2. A good home workout or a run in the park
  3. Slow, mindfully cooked lunch, most every single day
  4. Eating lunch at the dining table with VC, sharing that window of time together before we go back to our respective work/activities
  5. Sometimes catching a nap
  6. Being actively involved in doing the laundry, folding it when it’s dried and putting things away
  7. Thinking about what to make for dinner
  8. Making, or should out to VC to make us our evening tea or coffee
  9. Enjoying it in bed with a snack plate of sponge cake and sweet rusk (this has become something of a ritual in recent weeks, since we have found the ultimate source for both)
  10. Sitting in my living room at sunset, looking out the windows at my plants and beyond, it’s become my little window of absolute nothingness, where I do nothing, no phone, no laptop, no book
  11. Smelling the rain as it has threatened to come, watching glimmers of lightning in broad daylight
  12. Taking client readings and sessions (online and off), different times of day, it’s been an unexpectedly satisfying thrill
  13. Cooking up imagined recipes that have formulated from nowhere in my brain, and having them turn out well
  14. Eating fruit in bed before turning in
  15. Lying on my massage ball
  16. Regaining my lost sleep again

I have certainly been cooking with a lot more involvement than I usually do. And I have taken way more interest in home chores that I otherwise find quite tedious and just like ugh-this-needs-to-get-done. I suppose this is is the difference between staying in and having to stay in with nowhere to go, maybe? Because I know I have been doing all of this with a quiet, but furious energy like my life depends on it.

Maybe, deep down, it does.

One year ago: It’s been a long time coming   
Two years ago: Let’s talk about love   
Four years ago: On un-learning and relearning order

Uncertain

Balance has felt just within reach and like it slips away ever so quickly even when I touch it. And yet, I know it is what is being called for, the most. I find myself swinging between feeling calm and settled feelings that say This is a major blip, but you’re privileged, your life hasn’t changed even slightly in all this uncertainty, you will get through this, we will be okay, to suddenly, the very next instant feeling like Nothing is okay, and I get the strangest feeling that it may never be okay again.

Then I segue off into a mind-tunnel wondering What even is okay, in these times anyway?

I keep thinking this is a great time to do so many of those things I have been wanting to but never find the right time to begin. ALL those unfinished books from the last two years. That tarot course I want to do-over. The writing project that is sitting at the back of my mind. Listening to the endless list of podcasts I have bookmarked. Catching up on all the TV I can’t keep up with.

That would be very productive use of this time, I think.

And yet, there is an inertia to begin. What if it isn’t about productivity at all? It has felt like inertia for days, but today I wondered if it is just necessary pause. Pause to see what this uncertainty is actually making me feel. Can I stay with it for just a minute, an hour, a day, maybe? Before I fill the “empty” time with the next act of doing.

S said to me this morning, something deeper is at play, echoing what I have been feeling. I’m noticing how quickly and easily the airline industry and food and beverage industry seems to be down on their knees. I’m watching how rich, comfortably privileged people are panicking so easily.  And I’m sure this is just the beginning, the tip of the iceberg with very much worse to come.

The excesses aren’t just in our consumption and our external lives. There are excesses in the way we use our energy too. And I have felt the dissonance of this for a while now, as my own internal pace has been slowing down to a point where I wonder (and worry) how I will continue to be in a world that’s on the run all the time. The very forces of capitalism that have encouraged us to keep doing, more and more, hustle harder, ear more, buy more, just don’t sit still are so very vulnerable. And clearly crumbling today.

So I can’t help but feel it’s not time to fill this emptiness with more mindless doing. It’s okay to take a moment, to see what’s emerging and move accordingly. By all means read that book, watch that TV show, but let it be a touch mindful. At least that’s what I am trying to do.

Mostly to just sit with the uncertainty, and to accept that I know nothing about how to go on from here and to feel the fullness of that not knowing. To realise how little control I have. And to let the blankness of this time sweep over me.

I’ve felt out of sorts a lot this week. And every time that I have paused to ask myself what it is I’m actually feeling, the answer has been: Uncertain.

One year ago: Things that are shiny and new   
Two years ago: People say I should forget