I’m ready

Today is my last day in Goa. This has been like a proper summer vacation of yore — when regular programming was interrupted, annually, to make space for a total and complete state of relaxation. That’s what the last two months have been like. Waking up easy, getting my workout in, pottering about the terrace garden, settling in to stress my eyeballs out with excessive screen time, napping whenever necessary, chilling all day basically, rising only to cook dinner, eating early and turning in by 8.30 pm on most nights and getting back to TV — most days in a nutshell.

Ever since I fired this client, I’ve been out of steady retainer-based work. Being here in Goa already in a holiday state of mind I decided not to begin hustling for other/new work immediately. I have instead watched copious, and I mean some seriously colossal, amounts of all kinds of TV. Netflix and the works, TV shows, movies, and a shit ton of YouTube — binging on entire channels and playlists mostly in the food, fitness and gardening departments. It’s been so excessive, I haven’t ever abused my eyes this bad, so bad that I’m going to go get my eyes tested as soon as I’m back because, let’s just say I’m beginning to feel the effects of it. Some days I may have done some writing, very little reading, but mostly I’ve done nothing of real consequence aside from the bare minimum. Spending a majority of this time all alone has also meant something to me. Once VC gets home in the evening, we chill, chat, eat and retire.

Serendipitously discovered these pictures undoubtedly taken during summer vacations, just as I was packing today.

It’s been just right in the most simplistic sort of way. We managed to eat at all my favourite places that I had shortlisted to a pithy bunch. But I’m actually happy about how much we ate at home, how willing and enthu I’ve felt about cooking, and how often VC managed to take leftovers to work the next day.

Those were home days, which was a bulk of the trip. I also spent many days with D, and we did a bunch of things that really brightened up my stay here. The pups of course, they bring so much joy. And I feel hanging out with them always does me so much good. So there was that. I hung out with A several times, eating meals with her and the family, and we had D and UT home for dinner one night and VC’s work folks home or a barbecue night, but aside from that there has been little socialising.

What there has been is solid days — and entire weekends — at the beach, but the highlight of my stay is all the time we got to spend at home, with each other. The quiet, deliberately mundane life that isn’t numbing or distracting from anything with a hectic busyness. We’ve had a lot of conversation and discussions this time around, a development for VC haha!

This is life, externally, though. Mosrly a time of stillness and near-nothingness. Internally though, a lot has happened and this trip has given me so much to be grateful for, so much to ponder, so much to hold close. If you’ve been reading this blog for the last two months, you might have an idea.

Sometime last week though the bliss of all this relaxation turned to sloth and really got to me. I haven’t had this sort of an extended time of doing absolutely nothing, probably ever. There is only that much not doing anything a girl can take, and since I am not so interested in random wandering around to places to eat and drink at the moment I haven’t really entertained myself around here like I might otherwise have. So I was bored and I began counting the days down to returning to Bangalore — a first for me!

Perfectly timed like a summer vacation, I’m headed back tomorrow like I used to in the days of yore. Pre-June days in a coastal place, when the heat is wilting and the promise of rain lingers in the air. There’s a slight dullness about fun-times ending, but a gentle excitement bubbling under about new beginnings. Like a new term at school, a pair of fresh shoes waiting to be polished, crisp new notebooks waiting to be cracked open.

It’s been a good time to reboot, hit refresh. It might seem odd to say I’ve gained a lot from this seemingly mundane routine of nothing really, and I’m leaving feeling fuller and richer from it, somehow. I can’t put it in words really, to explain how emptiness can feel fulfilling, but that’s just what this summer has been like.

Yesterday I realised I was in Thailand at this time last year, and felt mildly soppy that we didn’t get a summer holiday this year, until I realised very quickly that a summer holiday is exactly what I got. Right here at home.

June in Bangalore has some schoolish new beginnings for me — level 2 of the course I did last year commences. I am delighted to be going back to my other home and I’m looking forward to so many things including an extended wardrobe that is more than shorts and tees, full meals a la amma, South Indian food, running and my gym, hanging out with S and A, Sunday walking ritual with D, hanging out with my family. Okay I could just go on and on and on. I didn’t think a day when I’d be excited to return from Goa to Bangalore would ever happen, but here we are and the odds stack up nice and high, it seems.

I’m ready!

One year ago: How fragile we are
Three years ago: Monday this week

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On compassion, connection and belonging

I’m at a point in this journey where the path to self awareness and the search for belonging have merged. They are no longer seemingly divergent pursuits, but a journey to the the same destination, asking the very same things of me. That is, the courage to accept that this journey is not all peaches and glory, or one that miraculously turns unpleasant events into happy ones, or even one that is steadily ascending or gets increasingly positive. It is in fact up and down all the time, one step forward and three back sometimes.

There’s been a spate of news of broken/breaking relationships reaching me of late, and as I think of my own journey — as an individual and a partner — and how much my relationship with VC has evolved along the way I find strength and solace in knowing that things are where they are today, only because we chose to deepen our connections with ourselves as individuals first. We may have woken up to this much later in our lives together, VC and I, and we have our different ways of coming at this. But time and time again, as we move through live together, I realise that if things feel solid between us today, it is because they are solid within each of us as individuals. I am now beginning to see this percolate into other relationships — with family and friends too.

To belong to one another, to have deeper connections, kinder and more compassionate relationships is only, only, only possible when I begin to belong to myself wholly first. And to do that I must accept everything that I am. That is the ongoing, life-long journey, not one that I can arrive at or achieve or master. It means to confront and meet everything I am, as I am. With all the inherent contradictions, complications, duality. The beautiful bits with the messy ones. The happiness and the fear. The love and the joy, alongside the hurt and grief. The light that shines through and the shadows that I keep hidden, the lightness of being and the heaviness alike. All the differences, evolving sides and ever-changing bits. It’s all there, and with every step that I take towards discovering and owning it all, just as it is, the better I am at accepting this about other people. And the better my relationships seem to be becoming.

This has be my spirituality. The stuff that nourishes my spirit — this habitual holding up a mirror to see what remains to be seen, to integrate it all, to sit with the contradictions and the discomfort and myriad feelings they may bring. To just be with it for a while, without rushing to numb it, ignore it, iron it or fix it. To just stay with it first.

Last week in a conversation with Niyu, I realised that this is probably also the keen difference I see between mainstream religion as I have witnessed growing up and  around me today, in an increasingly polarised and bigoted world. The brand of religion that comes replete with rituals and acts of put-on solemnity that we believe is a path to a higher plane has always seemed a very disconnected practice to me. Very little of it, in the way that I see it practiced around me brings us back to reality and the heart of what we struggle with on an everyday basis.

What good is meditation as an antidote to anger, for example, if it doesn’t bring you closer to the root of your anger to face it, and instead takes you floating above it, escaping it altogether, to an illusion of peace. Until the next blow-out.

What good are words like acceptance, forgiveness and peace if we don’t begin doing all of those things with ourselves first? And how to be begin to accept and forgive ourselves and find peace unless we own ourselves fully?

What use is religion if it fosters exclusion and hatred? I see so many adults around me who are sleep walking through their days, being very religious while also holding the most bigoted, regressive, sexist beliefs and living by them. How can one begin to integrate, be whole, when outwardly one holds so much exclusion, divisiveness and hate?

If there’s one thing that’s abundantly clear it is that we were born for connection and belonging. In my own experience, I have seen my desire for this burst out from within, ever since I  have been working on myself. And the first step towards building connection and true belonging is with compassion that begins right at home, with myself. If I can be compassionate to myself and all the uncomfortable things about me, I can maybe begin to do that with people around me. My story and all the narratives I spin about it is probably never going away, but I can change the hold it has on me with a little kindness. I can own it and integrate it, instead of allowing it to own me, and forever holding it at a distance.

I have experienced in brief, fleeting instances, that when I extend this kindness towards myself, I am able to do it with others too. I can only belong with others, if I belong with myself wholly first. And what an impact it has on the quality of my connections, my relationships, and my experience of a fuller, wholesome life.

This willingness towards this path has brought about a degree of softness in me that I didn’t know possible. That I didn’t know I needed. That I didn’t know would take up so much space in my life and satisfy me in such a deep way.

Which brings me back to where I started, I’m at a point in this journey where the path to self awareness and the search for belonging have become one. They are no longer separate agenda points, or issues that I want to address. Instead, they’re beginning to feel like a practice in spirituality, where a little work everyday adds up. And every day that I am given this chance to know myself a little more makes me feel just that little bit more whole.

One year ago: Ground control to Major Tom

An opportunity and a gift

Yesterday, I had an opportunity — a gift, a mirror held up right in my face — to reflect on my tendency to judge people too quickly.

Both ways — when I formulate a hasty negative opinion or perception, and positively when I just accept someone as a wholesome package without applying my own discernment — there is scope for slowing down and taking my time to decide how I feel about people. This time will give me the chance to remember that everyone has a story, everyone comes with their share of baggage and idiosyncrasies or they’re just dealing with stuff that makes them sometimes behave a certain way. This time will give me the opportunity to really discern for myself which side the scales stack up and how I truly feel about someone, outside of what the right way or popular way to feel is.

In general I’ve been feeling that the measures for a good person can’t be absolute. Goodness or kindness is not a state that we can attain and arrive and and remain in forever. Goodness is a scale, there can be innumerable parameters and we fare differently on each one of them, at different times, depending on the circumstances.

Being good is not a fixed, set in stone state. Far too often, I am quick to accept that if someone is good to me, they’re probably never going to disappoint me. And far too often, I am proven wrong. The opposite happens too. When someone who I have judged as intolerable and had an averse reaction to, suddenly surprises me with an act of goodness that touches me.

What happened yesterday was an invitation to re-examine my definitions and to allow for some play in the blurred lines between “good and bad”. There is an inherent duality in all of us. Nothing is so water-tight and absolute and more and more I feel I must trust my individual intuition before over the popular opinion about people, and go with what I feel rather than what I think. More and more I feel I need to move away from the limiting understanding that being a good person is a a fixed, unchangeable characteristic and move into seeing being good as a practice. A way of life that is is exhibited more times than not.

I’d be best to view being good as a work in progress, an ongoing practice. And the key elements of this practice to me are, acts that display an active engaging with honesty, consistency in vulnerability and transparency and an openness for compassion towards each of our inherent imperfections. This seems like a good base form which to operate from, for now. This gives me so much scope to grow, to understand and see myself a little deeper everyday, even as I am engaging and learning from interactions around me. Because really, if I have accepted that I am a constant work in progress that allows me to slip up and learn from it, surely it can’t be too hard to grant others the same benefit too?

In all of this, I can’t help but notice that increasingly, I am leaning on my own individual sensibilities, rather than going with the crowd (even if the crowd is just 1 other person). That used to be my pattern, and it said so much about my attitudes and tendencies towards belonging. This, on the other hand feels grounded, yet weightless (in a free-from-the-weight-of-expectation kind of way) and I’m taking note as to what this might mean about my evolving sense of belonging in and to myself first, this quiet but strong side that’s emerging, and the promise of a start of something new.

One year ago: We keep this love in a photograph

Happy bytes

The instructor on my workout video has this refrain whenever the workout hits a particularly tough or burn-inducing spot. Right when I’m wincing at that last rep, about to give up, he’ll go Just go to your happy place! and two months ago when I began using this channel, I’d chuckle, roll my eyes and have a giggle at his morbid sense of humor.

This morning though, right in the middle of all that burn, something like 45 burpees in, when he said Just go to your happy place! I suddenly got it. Even in that eye-popping, muscle-stretching moment, while I was melting nose-first, when I could have been seeing white spots in front of my eyes, I had such an endorphin rush I burst out laughing. In a truly happy, full-body guffaw of sorts.

I’m so happy that I’m back in this old familiar zone, even though I feel like a whole new me this time around. Where the exercise isn’t a pain or a chore (like it had become through 2017-18), and is in fact a joy-inducing, happy-making activity I am willing to put other things aside for, dedicating myself mind, body and soul.

***

Speaking of happy places, it’s been five years since P and I made the Goa Happy video, our little contribution to the literally thousands of local spin-offs to the Pharrell Williams song that took the internet by storm in 2014. So I revisited it!

If you watch closely you might even spot me hahahaha.

***

I spent the weekend with D, because VC went away on a bike trip with work buddies to Gokarna. I think after food, therapy and tarot, the thing we’ve started to discuss the most is plants and gardening, and as usual (as always — I realised I’ve always left her home with plants or cuttings or both, on this trip) I came home with so many new things to pot.

I came away earlier than I usually would have. Ostensibly to catch a Sunday nap, wake up in my own home so I have the mojo to cook and settle back in, rather than be washed out by Sunday evening blues as it tends to happen to me.

What followed though made me want to stop and think, What Sunday blues?! because I woke up from my nap and went straight out into the terrace. I planted a whole bunch of fresh cuttings of plants I wanted that she’d painstakingly made for me, I repotted some plants that have grown too big for their pots over these few weeks, and I did sundry round of tending to everything, picking out dead leaves, watering, loosening soil and the works. All this while listening to Coke Studio that has made a timely pre-monsoon comeback in my life, right on cue.

The evening light was beautiful, and we’ve had a warmer couple of days so there was the residual heat of the day, as the sun is getting the full effect of the last of it’s rays in. My terrace was strewn with picked weeds, dry leaves, piles and trails of soil from all the dirty work, pools of water, muddy footprints. The sun set in a glorious pink yesterday, and when I looked up I was a sweaty, muddy mess. Such a joy. Such bliss. I didn’t realise I had kept going long after the sun had set, until VC walked in and laughed at how engrossed I had been.

***

Last weekend I cooked pork ribs for the very first time on my own. Following no recipe, winging it as I went along, throwing things in intuitively. And it turned out beyond delicious, if I can say so myself.

This has been happening a lot of late. The draw to go experiment, without too much planning, going in and going all the way. Some days are for the simply comforting givens like khichdi, and some days we pull out all stops and go the whole hog.

Either way, the kitchen has been a huge source of comfort for me these past few weeks. I’ve said so much about the peace and quiet and solitude staying in Goa offers me. And as much as I have enjoyed it, last week I realised I am ready for the hustle of my Bangalore life again. But this kitchen joy, the steadiness and joy that it brings to me, is something I want to try and keep going in Bangalore. Even if I am cooking in Amma’s kitchen, or even if I’m cooking for just myself at home.

Today, I’ve just cooked a marinara sauce, fortified with minced carrots and smashed stove-top charred red and yellow peppers, with smoky cumin and coriander and lots of red chilli flakes. I tossed up some frozen meatballs in some olive oil, and I will put them together right before we eat, mopping it up with millets and a salad.

***

After the bursts of those quintessential curly edged long green leaved mango trees, delicate frangipani and bougainvillea, we’re at that time of year where the gulmohar trees have come alive in all their glory. Literally everywhere, there are these clouds of fiery red, leaf-less trees, curvy and orb like when seen from a distance, eye-hurting flaming red when seen up close.

***

I’m all set to go back to Bangalore. I feel like this time of rest has been amazing, and well-timed and I am so refreshed and ready to get back to regular programming. I’m excited at the blank canvas sense I have for the next few weeks, and I feel certain I need to be in Bangalore as it unfurls.

Looking back, I’m so happy for the unexpected twist that brought me to Goa earlier than time, and kind of set a very different tone to the way the last two months have gone. It was unpleasant and challenging at the time and induced a fair bit of anger, frustration and resistance within me at the time, but as usual, as always, I can only connect the dots looking back.

It’s abundantly clear to me that there was no escaping this time, or the gifts it has brought, foremost amongst which has been the quality of the time VC and I have had together this trip. It’s been different. There was a quiet, reassuring and steady quality to it that hasn’t been there for a while — probably ever since we moved to Bangalore two years ago — that I didn’t know was missing until we somehow have regained it while not even looking for it. And so while I am looking forward to going back to Bangalore, this time around I am already feeling the pangs of missing him that I am anticipating will follow.

This is new. I have been so busy and involved with myself for the last six months, there hasn’t been a lot of room to sit and miss him really. I’ve been having a really good time in Bangalore, too much to let the usual longing dampen it. So this is going to be interesting.

Three years ago: Malleswaram market things

Taking a moment

New learning: It’s okay, sometimes better in fact, to take a moment (or several) to respond to a request, suggestion or new idea that has been put forth to me.

As someone who was (and sometimes still is — this is constant WIP) so wired to respond with urgency to give, to agree, go with it, I have been largely unaware of the how much that has meant putting my truest desires or even just basic feelings aside. And this is done in an effort to be adjusting, accommodating, to be a sport, to be always willing, hassle-free, and easy.

But it always comes at a price of discounting my true feelings or responses. The urgency to respond soon, and always be willing for fear that I’ll keep the other waiting or come across as complicated, is just another way to make myself more palatable. Likeable.

It can be in the smallest things from picking a place to meet a friend for coffee, to choosing a city with VC to live in, or agreeing to help a friend with something they’ve asked of me, being present in a place I’m unsure of. Constantly putting myself out there for the other, before myself, means to constantly minimize my needs, and over time can become an insidious habit that adds to the disconnection and dissonance (between what I want to what actually happens) that I have experienced as an adult.

It’s easy to assume that the opposite of “self-involved, self-obsessed, selfish”, and it’s easy to brand all these things as “bad” for us. But a a ripe old freshly-turned-35 adult, I’m learning that it’s okay to take time. Time to check in with myself. To figure out what I really feel. What I really want. Before always responding in a rush, with an affirmative. And if that comes across as selfish sometimes, that’s okay too. To hide that would be to hide the truth, to be inauthentic.

Checking in with myself to at least acknowledge what I really feel about anything (even if I choose not to go with them) before I let a hurried cursory, apt response roll of my tongue, has also been a crucial key in connecting to my authentic self, and therefor finding authenticity in some relationships.

I grew up in a family where a lot of us, especially us women, have the ability to fake always being fine, willing, energetic, ever-ready troopers down to the T. This has meant growing up imbibing the idea that this is required of us, of us women. All the women in my family, my role models and women I have looked up to, I have seen as doers, always ready, picking up and getting shit done. And I’ve wondered how they’re always so willing. I know now that many times they’re faking it without even realising it.

We’re all committed to playing this role that is expected of us, in various degrees. The flip-side of this, of constantly roleplaying at what is expected means to very often not say what we truly need or feel. Whether it’s needing help, admitting to feeling in over our heads, facing disquiet or disappointment, inviting grief or sadness even. To do it means to show it, and I have grown up worried that showing it will be too much, too different or too upsetting for the other to take.

For so long, I have been so uncomfortable with keeping people waiting while I thought about a decision. I have hated disappointing people (with the truth). I really worried that I was too much for too many people. Can I get back to you? was something I couldn’t say enough, because I feared it communicated that maybe I didn’t want what the other was expecting of me. It communicated the truth, mostly. And what’s wrong with that, I wonder now.

Realising and learning this new possibility is step one. Inculcating this as habit is work that remains to be done.

***

A little throwback here, because I realised it’s been exactly five years since I wrote this the day He Who Shall Not Be Named was sworn in as prime minister. I called the post Black Friday, and I remember how dark the day actually felt. At that point I didn’t think things could sink any lower. Five years on things are so much scarier in my mind. We’re back at the same point, with an opportunity to face the politics of hate-mongering, religious fascism and bigotry yet again. To kick this normalised everyday violence and hate that we’ve gotten so used to seeing and feeling so powerless about, out the window. And somehow, I feel even more hopeless and powerless this year than I did back then or ever before.

One year ago: And the stars look very different today
Three years ago: Flame of the forest

Better

Some days are heavy. Especially after particularly investigative therapy sessions that come like a bolt out of the blue, squashing my optimism about maybe finally being able to go longer without a session, reminding me how much I need to heal still.

Monday was that kind of day and it took till yesterday evening to lift. When it did, in that instant, I knew something had flipped internally. I woke up from lying in bed yesterday afternoon, and from the moment my feet landed on the ground and the way I stood up, I felt something had changed. The cloud had flown by, the heaviness had done it’s time and left the building.

A lot happens in that time of heaviness. A time I have now learned to just let be. I don’t fight it as much these days. I am quick to recognise it to begin with, no longer mistaking it for random blues or anything else. And I give in and go with the flow. Allowing myself slow days if that’s what I feel is the need of the hour. Actually allowing myself whatever else is needed in that time. On Monday night it as chocolate chunk cookies, eaten without sharing, in bed while watching Mission Impossible.

It’s been six weeks of slow days for me here in Goa. And yesterday I began to feel the time for that too has passed. It has played it’s part, served a much needed purpose and yesterday as the cloud lifted, I felt a distinct feeling that it is time to move. What felt serendipitous and right for the most part, and gave me so much needed time (and boredom, even) now feels done.

In the sprightly energy I suddenly felt there was just one thing I wanted and needed to do. Cook myself a hearty, wholesome meal. Not eliminating the carbs, not eliminating the dairy, not eliminating the fried crispies.

So khichdi it was. This was my heavy days ending. Right here in a single bowl. Eaten all alone, fresh out of the cooker at 6.30 pm even before the sun had set.

Some days are heavy. Then there are some days that feel like simple perfection. And the difference between the two is sometimes just a bowl of humble khichdi.

One year ago: Waiting here to find the sign that I should take it slow
Three years ago: Who do I think I am?

Growing friendship

Yesterday, I clipped off the tops of the Thai basil growing in a little pot in my balcony to add to a Thai curry that was simmering away on the stove. For something that came from a wee little seedling, smaller than my thumb when it arrived, it’s grown at an astonishing pace and is now flourishing, green and bright. It’s taller than the length of my palm, and threatening to grow even taller, which is why D advised me to snip the tops off to encourage it to grow laterally.

I’ve grown herbs and greens in my balcony before, but I’d forgotten the thrill that this ease and access brings. I’ve forgotten the satisfaction of chopping and using something that I watched grow, inch by little green inch, right here in my home.

I cannot overstate the joy plants have brought me over this visit. I think it is particularly the act of using my hands and spending time at something as satisfyingly slow as growing plants that has done the trick. I came here to mostly dying plants, but over the last six weeks we’ve revived some, grown some from scratch, potted and repotted some, and added so many more plants. So many that the terrace now looks a bit full and inviting. So many that a few pots have extended over into a second balcony that gets some dappled morning light that’s great for them.

Every day begins with me inspecting every pot closely, touching new leaves, excitedly examining the microscopic growth (that I swear I can see!) growth and all the possibilities that lie in every nook and node.

Last week, I spent three days with D when VC went off on a work trip. We spent a significant time over two mornings, planting things. Fresh seeds little paper cups that we labeled, saplings in pots, and I learned a thing or two about how to prune some plants, and possibly grow some from cuttings. Olive watched over us, occasionally stretching out right in the path before us to sun herself.

This trip, D and I have spent a fair bit of time doing things with our hands — painting wooden stools (more her than I, but the one day I spent doing this was immensely satisfying), gardening and obsessing over growing plants, cooking and mixing salad (we did a lot of this hahaha!) and card readings of course. I realised I really enjoy having friends to do things with. And this is something I have missed in recent times. Of course the chats and laughter, the eating and drinking, the gabbing, the going out is great, but I think for me personally, to have a shared interest, or the opportunity to learn something new is a huge draw. To really participate and collaborate at doing something together is such an added bonus.

Something grows between people, when we do this.

One year ago: I’ve been keeping all the letters that I wrote to you

Renewed relationships

It’s easy to get that comfortable in a relationship that we feel we have each other all figured out. And maybe we do, to a large extent.

If there’s one thing spending these past 6 weeks in Goa with VC has shown me, it is how refreshing it to also allow for growth, evolution and surprises from your significant other. I’ve been so consumed in my own growth, so much so that I had to physically remove myself from our partnered life and live separately, that I may have forgotten that the space and time apart could have done him wonders too.

In our eleventh year of being married, and almost thirteenth of being together, I’m surprised, humbled and so grateful that there is room for freshness, still. For surprises, for new developments, for renewed excitement, and the possibility of uncharted territory opening up once again.

I did not see this coming. But somehow, here we are.

There’s a lot of surprises that came from this trip. All totally unexpected, some very wild, but I think this has been my favourite surprise of them all.

One year ago: April

Quiet

Feeling all kinds of quiet today. It’s been that kind of day. Quiet. Listless. And a bit heavy. I have opened and closed this window three times over the course of the day. Wanting to write, because there is much that can be said, probably needs to find a way out too; but also wanting to listen to the moment, which right now is protesting writing, to remain listless, bored, even.

I want instead to just be. Be quiet. And let this feeling stew.

Leaning on David Whyte for post completion here, because this is how I feel today. I had a long and heavy therapy session today, and ended it with a sense of having arrived, which brings with it a heaviness of relief mixed with thankfulness and sheer collapse.

The Well, David Whyte

Be thankful now for having arrived,
for the sense of
having drunk
from a well,
for remembering the long drought that preceded your arrival
and the years walking in a desert landscape of surfaces looking for a spring hidden from you for so long that even wanting to find it now had gone from your mind
until you only
remembered the hard pilgrimage that brought you here,
the thirst that caught in your throat; the taste of a world just-missed
and the dry throat that came from a love you remembered but had never fully wanted for yourself, until finally, after years making the long trek to get here it was as if your whole achievement had become nothing but thirst itself.

But the miracle had come simply from allowing yourself to know that you had found it,
that this time
someone walking out into the clear air from far inside you
had decided not to walk past it anymore;
the miracle had come at the roadside in the kneeling to drink
and the prayer you said,
and the tears you shed
and the memory
you held
and the realization
that in this silence
you no longer had to keep your eyes and ears averted from the
place that
could save you,
that you had been given
the strength to let go
of the thirsty dust laden
pilgrim-self
that brought you here,
walking with her
bent back, her bowed head and her careful explanations.

No, the miracle had already happened
when you stood up,
shook off the dust
and walked along the road from the well,
out of the desert toward the mountain,
as if already home again, as if you
deserved what you loved all along,
as if just remembering the taste of that clear cool spring could lift up your face
and set you free.

One year ago: Please don’t go
Three years ago: Things about VC that I never want to forget #16

Summer

This year, the first in many many years now, doesn’t feel like it is zipping by me while I clamber to catch up with it. I’m aware May may have felt like it came too soon, wasn’t it just December last week, but this year I feel like I have experienced  what a slowly ripening mango waiting in my fruit bowl. Sturdy, bright, ripe, and yet gently giving in to age and time. There is life in that passing, and it shows in how it lives even as it passes.

Of late, life has the quality of that of light suspended through the gap in my curtains on a bight summer afternoon. It’s laid back, it’s still, and it is full of life.

This morning, I realised that perhaps this is a function of age too? And of this extremely fortuitous place in life that I am in, where nothing is too fast or too slow. Things just are, and they’re passing. I’m aware of it, but it is without the manufactured urgency and/or FOMO that has come to be synonymous with time itself. I’m grateful for the slow, empty, pensive weeks I’ve had since getting to Goa, which have undoubtedly contributed to this internal slowing within.

One year ago: Simple things
Three yeas ago: Summer evenings

I feel you

Amazed, and happy to see how feelings have gone from being a source of overwhelm, triggering my perfectionist need to solve everything and get to the bottom of it all, to just things that happen, occur and give me cues to deeper emotions that lie below the surface. It’s pretty darn fascinating how the human mind can train itself to deny an entire set of feelings, because:

  • one assumes it will be difficult/too much for others to take
  • one grew up with a negative value attached to said feeling
  • one was made to feel ashamed for feeling a certain way

But the good news is the human mind is easy to train, and all of these patterns can be re-jigged. Doing this has made me realise that not only does listening in to my feelings give me useful cues to my emotional state and what needs to be seen there, enhancing my healing process, but also greatly improves my capacity for empathy and connection with others.

I’ve noticed that the emotions I find most difficult to see (or tend to judge) in others, are usually the ones I have most discomfort with in myself. So really, the only way to begin to connect better, is to built my capacity for empathy. Starting with myself and towards my own emotions. When I am able to accept in the best possible way, the difficult feelings I find in myself, I am able to see and acknowledge, maybe even accept them in others.

In my experience, this has impacted the quality of my relationships for the better. People tend to trust and open up more about what they feel, when I, the listener, come from a softer, less judgemental space. When I am able to say me too or I hear you with honesty. When I am not in a huge rush to label these feelings as issues that need fixing. Or treat them like an unpleasantness that needs to end soon.

It’s difficult to do when so many of us have grown up being told to be happy, positive, strong and other variations of these. Somewhere along the way, it makes us believe our worth is not only attached to cultivating a veneer of constant happiness (at the cost of negating all the times we feel sad, helpless, angry, lost, etc) but that it is also attached to ensuring that others feel that way too.

It’s taken me a long time to realise that it isn’t helpful to others, especially those I care about, if in my efforts to “help” them I am contributing to negating them altogether. Sitting with these feelings, just really feeling them first, rather than dissecting and analysing them, fixing, solving or moving ahead in a rush, is a good place to start. This is such a fundamental building block to vulnerability, and true connection.

One year ago: What are they talking about, on the weekend?
Three years ago: April

All the hearts

I’m in fine company today. Fully receptive, attentive and all eyes on me (and my food).

Funny how I was in their fine company same time last year too.

One year ago: Sweet dreams are made of these

Engineering bigness

Mulling over yesterday’s post still, which came from a game I played on Sunday with a group of complete strangers, and I’m sitting with a lot of stillness and a very real, almost tangible understanding of the absurd duality that comes from seeking vulnerability of and from myself.

It’s taken me on a path that’s unearthed my deepest fears and insecurities, things I’ve hidden from myself and the world for so long, things that when they surface would otherwise make me shrink and hide, but now come with a sudden comfort and power, of wanting to show up as I am (fear, insecurities and all), seeking connection, seeking the warmth of people, desperately wanting conversation and camaraderie.

It’s a path that has hurled me into the depths of a kind of loneliness I have not experienced until now, but also brought the strangest, most unexpected and delightful connections my way. Connections that have redefined my understanding of friendship, of relationship and of empathy.

It is a path that has made abundantly clear how important, joy, love and intimacy actually are to me, and how little of it I have been settling for so far. It’s a path that has also made me see that the path to joy, love and intimacy does not side step fear, insecurity, self-loathing and judgement.

I recently watched and enjoyed Brene Brown’s Netflix special The Call to Courage which was all about embracing the most human desire — belonging — and how it is impossible to experience that without facing how much we are held back by shame, fear (of criticism) amongst other things. What she said particularly about how fear and shame makes us compromise our authentic selves so much, making us believe we need to change who we truly are in order to belong, really hit me. She gave it a lovely phrase — engineering smallness — that really hit me like a ton of bricks.

As the idea of taking up (more) space has been the centre of much of my explorations through therapy and in life, I’ve had a series of realisations about how much I have been used to playing small. Whether under the garb of adjusting to something or someone, making my emotions and myself more palatable to the other, in believing this will allow more of everything in my life — there has been a thread of be small, be quiet, be less that has held my life together so far.

Part of working through this and re-engineering bigness, allowing myself to step into the power of my authentic adult self, has been in accepting and understanding that the work doesn’t lie so much in fixing anything about myself, but merely accepting all the duality that I hold within. The loneliness alongside the desire for companionship. The old, old fears alongside the newfound confidence. The loud joy alongside the sombre stillness. The new, voracious appetite for a new tribe and community alongside the familiar comfort of solitude.

I have spent so much of my life forcing myself to choose one or the other, shrinking myself down, limiting myself to horribly polarised labels, and ultimately dimming my light. Owning my power, realising my potency, has been an enriching and revelatory process of realising that I am so much more than I have hitherto believed I am or can be. And when I embrace, own and hold it all in a good way, in a deliberate and true way, I feel big. I feel like an adult. And absurd as it sounds to be admitting this on the back of my 35th birthday, this is the first time in my adult life that I have witnessed what being an adult is like. And the more I find myself operating from this space, the more satisfying my engagements, relationships and intimacy with people I love are becoming.

One year ago: Another day, just breathe
Three years ago: Retrograde rant

Flow

Yeah, what does it say to me about my community? And where do I go from here?

Yesterday, I was overwhelmed how this message spoke directly to something I spend so much time thinking about — community, connection, friendship, belonging — especially in the context of freshness and newness that I now desire in my life.

It seems like a fitting question to ask myself, and as I see it, it is an invitation to look at things in a new light and possible push myself out of a comfort zone in this regard. Great fodder for thought at a time when I feel I am moving from one phase, one way of being, into another.

One year ago: Stuck in the sunshine riptide
Three years ago: That urban poverty piece that has everybody’s panties in a bunch

Gratitude

I didn’t really plan on “birthday week” per se, but as it happened, the entire week of my birthday was a blissful happy time and it makes me really thankful for so much.

I watched Endgame, twice — on opening day and the day after. I am still not a hardcore MCU fiend by any stretch of imagination, but last year I really got into it and bothered to try and watch some of the better films of the lot, in order to get a handle on the overall plot. I did, to some extent, but watching Endgame made me realise there is so much I am suddenly curious about. So I also spent some parts of the weekend watching older movies. Dr Strange, for one, which I think is so far the best movie in this series for me.

We finally ticked off the other thing on my wish list on the weekend too. And. It. Surpassed. All. Expectations. The burger was huge, juicy, spectacularly flavoured, with a side of homemade potato chips, not fries, and aioli. MMMMMMM. The burger was in fact so big and filling, and my appetite has shrunk so much, both VC and I packed half a burger away to have for dinner. Which worked out just great for us.

Having my birthday on a national holiday has meant that there is always someone to celebrate with, and this time was no different. When I was growing up, it was always summer holidays and I’d mostly be in Bombay with my handful of chuddy buddies, and everyone was available because everyone was on holiday. As an adult, Labour Day has ensured that I’ve always had the day off and spent it with friends. VC had a holiday too, and we planned to go to the beach. But I got my period that morning, bummer, and was in no mood to swim anymore. So we made a detour and I got me another tattoo I’ve been thinking about for quite a while now. Even though it’s been in the works in my head for a while, I think the timing was perfect, and the tattoo suddenly means so much more to me, personally.

We then went out to dinner to my favourite Italian restaurant because earlier in the week I went down a rabbit hole watching endless videos of pasta in the making, that had triggered a serious, massive spaghetti bolognese craving. I went totally crazy and ate dessert too — a luscious, flowery fragrant creme brulee. Memorable.

It’s time to write my annual birthday letter to myself, and I got down to it this past week. Last year, I decided to write two letters a year to myself and ended up actually writing three — just so many thoughts and feels to share I suppose hahahaha. This year, in addition I’m writing letters to some folks I feel like letting know how much they’ve contributed to my life this past year. So there’s going to be a fair bit of letter writing in the coming days.

This is probably the only “work” I did. With fasting diligently on weekdays at home, I’m pretty much down to one meal a day. And that means I only need to cook dinner. So I spend a large part of the day, really just chilling. This extended chilling, with literally nothing demanding my attention or asking for my time has been timely, and hasn’t happened ever before. I’m learning to go with it, and doing my best to shut the guilty person in my head down.

Meals have been really good. Something kicks in in the evenings when I decide to get up and cook dinner. They’ve been simple meals, but low-to-no-carbs and unlike ever before, I’ve been feeling inspired to create something fun and hearty even with those limitations. VC has joined in and this entire week we managed to eat well, stay on top of the fitness goals by exercising every day, which always sets me up for a good state of mind.

On Friday, I went to my happy place this side of Goa — the Friday market at Mapusa and bought the freshest veggies, mangoes, and generally revelled in wandering about the crowded place. I love, love, love this place and going there just makes me so happy. To take in the sights and smells and to jostle about with the locals, watching the hustle does something for me. I came home with these insane flowery plants that I’m going to put in my terrace too.

I ended the week with watching Endgame yet again hahaha — third time’s a charm. Because I watched some of the older movies, and now I actually get — at a deeper level — what some of the little details mean. This past week I’ve been very taken by the cultural phenomenon that this entire comic book universe has been, almost like the Star Wars of our generation. So I got all academic and geeky and did a lot of reading to fill in the blanks for myself. And that really changed the experience for me. I’ve now decided to slowly go through the entire lot of movies in sequential order. While I think I should watch them in the chronological order of the sequence of events that unravel in the movies, VC believes I should go in the (mis)ordered way that they were made because that back and forth has a place and a logic, apparently. My sequence-obsessed mind is having trouble accepting that.

For various reasons, it’s taken me a while to get into the mangoes this season. Also, the best has only just begun in Goa, in my honest opinion. I’m firmly in favour of Goan mangoes over even the best Alphonsos which I honestly find super overrated. So I also got back some of my favourite mangoes from the Friday market, and I have to say there is quite nothing like breaking a 16-17 hour fast with mangoes. And for that, I am utterly, utterly grateful.

Every day this past week I’ve woken up to mildly overcast skies, with that sticky pre-monsoon stillness of heavy humidity hanging in the air. It’s given me wild hopes that I get to witness at least a shower or two before I leave for Bangalore again.

One year ago: The beer I had for breakfast
Three years ago: At sea