My heart is a bloom

I’ve held myself back to keep my heart intact and safe from breaking.

But what if my heart needs no protection? And what if a broken heart is not something to be afraid of?

What if the entire purpose of being pushed to that point of fear and confrontation, to reckon with the possibility of loss and loneliness, and sometimes even the reality of it, is only to have my heart broken again, and again and again?

What if the entire purpose of having a beating heart full of life, and every emotion within, is to be given umpteen opportunities to crack it wide open?

What would happen if I were to live my life with love — through my heart first, and then my hands and at the very end, my head?

What if I’ve been afraid of the wrong thing all along? What if the thing that ought to petrify me is a a heart so protected, so safe it’s fortified and closed up?

And what if, what I don’t know at all is that there’s an immense strength in a heart that’s wide open? Exposed, vulnerable and out there for all to see?

What if I’ve got it wrong all along!

Closing my heart up has cost me deeply. It’s caused me distance — not just from people around me but from me and my own authentic self and my needs.

In keeping my heart so safe from being seen, I’ve kept myself and all that needs to be seen away from my own eyes.

Suddenly, I need to be seen. Most of all, with my own eyes and from my own heart.

When I live my life through my head first, I build an overly cognitive, cerebral and intellectualised version of my reality. A reality of verbiage that creates a buzz and chatter in my head and an increasing loss of contact with my heart.

What I want now, is to go deeper and begin with my heart. To ask myself the harder questions.

What are the things that most make my heart close up?

Why is Open such a fearful place to be?

What is it that I really want? What am I really afraid of?

What compels me to do the things I do?

Who am I truly upset at? What am I really hurting about?

When I operate from fear and hurt, am I making space to allow for the things I think I want?

How can I most help myself?

How can I be present to the truest version of my emotional reality?

Who am I, really? What makes my heart sing?

Ironically, asking these questions has in the past, cost me the very same love, support and presence of people that I am deathly afraid of losing to begin with. I was so quick to presume that asking these questions and showing my true self will be too much for them to take. That they may judge me, feel overwhelmed and unable to handle it. Or worse, that they may leave.

But the truth is, that may very well be the case.

And even so, it must be done anyway. But more and more, I’m finding the capacity to encounter fear, to believe in other possibilities. To take a chance. To throw caution to wind. To question the deeply ingrained notion that my heart needs walls and walls of protection. To resist the fear. And to ask, what if, in a wild twist of fate, they stay?

One year ago: We are children that need to be loved

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On duality

A lot happened while I was sitting by this window, several times last week. A difficult conversation, a deeply life-affirming conversation on the back of that difficult one, some uplifting realisations, that delicious chicken sandwich I had the good fortune of eating two days in a row, reading this incredible piece on the psychological benefits of isolation (in a week where I have contemplated being alone versus feeling lonely, SO MUCH), and finally an internal settling and reckoning with the inherent duality in much of this.

Yes, these have been emotionally challenging times, but the sum-total of my life isn’t challenging. There’s both. They co-exist.

I am often sad, emotional and feeling the void in terms of safe and dependable spaces in which to share all of this. But my life isn’t entirely lacking space. There are spaces and I’m only waking up to the fact that the space is but half of the equation. Making myself available, and discovering deeper vulnerability is the crucial other half. There’s space, and there’s the difficulty of making use of the space. There’s both. They co-exist.

Yes, I love, cherish and choose my time alone. But I am not an isolated introvert. I also crave connection and meaningful experiences with people. There’s both. They co-exist.

Yes, I’ve had a cycle of making, breaking, losing, walking away from and discovering new relationships. But that script does not define who I am. Much as I sometimes coax myself into believing that it must be something in me that makes it so I’ve realised this is a direct consequence of growth, evolution and a steadfast commitment to a deeply personal goal (happily, echoed by The Atlantic piece linked above). There’s the grief of losing people, and the joy in gaining them in unequal measure. There’s both. They co-exist.

Yes, it sucks to accept it. I have tried all my life to fight it, and I’ve lived that fight out by repeatedly reconnecting with relationships that are clearly over and whose purpose was long served; by trying to make amends where there is little hope for it; by looking for empathy and listening where there is none available; by giving my heart to people who don’t know what to do with it; and by using my energy and resources in salvaging relationships that don’t deserve it. And try as I might to fight accepting it, this is just the way it is. However, it does not make me the woman who pushes people away. I am just the person who is constantly searching for deeper, authentic relationships, and sometimes has to let go of those that don’t met the bar. So there is always that lack of “large numbers” of people and the deeply meaningful relationships with few. There’s both. They co-exist.

Yes, sometimes this means I have to have difficult conversations at difficult junctures in these relationships, but it also means I am better and stronger in my relationships for it. Yes, there is fear, but there is courage right on the other side of it, and together it makes a wholesome, healthy kind of relationship. The kind I have been dying to have in my life. There’s crippling fear. But there is also courage. There’s both. They co-exist.

Yes, currently, VC is the only person with whom I allow myself the vulnerability I strive for. The only place where I can stretch myself, push those boundaries and see what happens. It is simultaneously testing and liberating. It makes me simultaneously miss him, and also feel so grateful for this physical distance between us. There’s both. They co-exist.

So often, in the quest to love forward and shed the old, I accidentally reject crucial parts of myself, when really the process this time around has been about integrating it all in a healthier manner. Such a subtle but crucial difference in realising that I can simultaneously move forward and grow old parts of myself. I can do both. They can co-exist.

***

I’ve been in such a rush to get through this “challenging” time these past 6-8 weeks. My Type A side kicking in instantly, throwing all the wisdom of slowing down out the window. It was a good few weeks before I realised this was happening. That I had made a project and a mission out of it, working out a plan, making a set of to-dos to tackle this. When all I really needed to do was put my head down, keep at therapy and just let the rest go.

This past weekend in class, I became aware of the inherent duality of pretty much all the feelings I have juggled this week. There is the difficulty of facing all of this all of a sudden as it comes up in waves — challenges, sadness, grief, loss and loneliness — before the wave passes and I can come up for a big gulp of air again.

I see the sun, I feel the breeze, I feel alive again. These are precious moments of release, of light, of joy and of life.

In coming to terms with changing so rapidly, I have felt physically altered, if that’s even possible. Some altogether new things have happened — this surprising need t face fear and confrontation more often than not, for one — and some old facets have made a comeback — I’m waking up early and chirpy again, I’m enjoying exercising again.

So much about growth and change is embracing parts old and new. Some forgotten, some that have receded, some that are slowly coming back, and others that are all new.

I am old, filled with comforting bits of familiar, old selves. And I am all new, shiny, and unexpected. Not all that is old need be entirely lost or given away. And not all that is new may define me for good.

There’s both. They co-exist.

***

Not lost on me is the irony that the window at Koshy’s where I have always loved to sit has changed too. For one, Koshy’s is spanking new — shiny, white and scrubbed clean. The bamboo chicks have been taken off and the light streams through. It’s all new. But the quintessential slow and easy character remains.

There’s both. They co-exist.

One year ago: I’ve been reading books of old
Three years ago: Emptying my cup

Sparks of joy

Just some things that sparked joy this past weekend.

The beginnings of the jacaranda blooms are here. And the city is bursting into clouds of pink that make my heart sing.

I may have developed a habit. A flowers for no reason habit. Oops.

Cooking.

And a few other things:

Being back in class for two days and understanding duality s little bit more.

All the experiences of being forced to slow down.

That stunning slice of chocolate mousse cake I had on Sunday night.

Yoga. Making it to a walk every other day.

Waking up and surfacing early again. Just like it used to be before I turned into a sleepy head.

Homemade strawberry jam.

New epiphanies and letting them sink in slowly.

A new skin.

Three years ago: So, is this a blogathon?

This too, is Bangalore

Been feeling an overwhelming love for where I am at right now — and for once I don’t mean this energetically or metaphysically or emotionally, but logistically. An overwhelming love for this city, for the place it has in my life, for the space it provides.

Every time that I feel frustrated with some facets of it, I’d like to come back and see this post. Because this too, is Bangalore.

One year ago: You can taste the dishonesty
Three years ago: Pain

Full moon magic

I’m still so disoriented, she said to me over a text message.

And pat came my reply, It’s probably the massive full moon. Just go with it and let it pass without fighting it or forcing yourself to be settled and productive.

***

I find that the full moon is usually a good time to consciously release anything that is within that needs to find its way out. This time though, it has happened quite unconsciously. At a time I needed it the most, that which most needed to be seen and released, seems to have been acknowledged and dropped.

Suddenly, there is some space for something new.

I love a good bit of serendipity, like this. I feel renewed. I feel like I’ve shed and old skin. I feel like a new person.

***

This deepened love for the moon itself, for the cycles, observing the changes within me and how they tune-up with the moon, has taken me by surprise. The full moon usually brings with it a high energy momentum that kicks in days before and continues days after it. This time too was no different. I was buzzing with an energy I couldn’t explain away otherwise. This manifests in many ways typically bringing insomnia and restless sleep, and long days where I somehow manage to get so much done because the energy just doesn’t run out.

I had long days last week too, staying up watching Netflix or writing. It’s no coincidence that after a whole year of not being able to wake up early enough, I got back on the exercise bandwagon last week. Sunday last week began with a 4 am drive to the airport, post which a hyper-giggly Sunday walk and breakfast happened, a long lunch with VC’s family, a hang with D, only to come home at 6 pm and proceed make a big batch of jam, alongside dinner. It didn’t end there. I sat hunched over my table writing till about midnight, when I actually had to force myself to get to bed.

This time around, it also made my emotions on edge, making the highs super high. My brain was on overdrive and it caused a week of severe overthinking that overwhelmed and exhausted me before I realised or made the connection with the hyper energy being somewhat out of my control. It was two days to the first big full moon of the year, and somehow realising that made me ease up and let it go.

These are all known and expected events. What I didn’t see coming, least expected actually, was a strange sort of release. Like a whole bucketload of old feelings that I’d been carrying around was suddenly shed. Not with a gush and a flourish, but like a slow, silent tipping over of a vessel that’s that full to the brim, causing a peaceful slow trickle.

Something has emptied out of me and I didn’t realise it until a fresh kind of settledness crept in amidst the distraction of high-activity, and took it’s place.

Suddenly my soul seems to have stopped chasing — a process that’s so inconclusive, exhausting and depleting — and choosing what’s here for the taking instead.

The hankering for that elusive something more has been replaced with an appreciation for the natural course of things.

Because there is love. There is just so much love around me right now. It’s not enough, has made way for But this, here, will do for now. This, here, is so much more. This, here, is the way it’s meant to be.

One year ago: Love
Three years ago: Gravity is working against me

The changing face of loneliness

The full moon drives me crazy and energizes me in equal measure. But this time around there is undercurrent of peaceful settlement in the awareness of a shift in my response to a recurring situation in my life. There is a blinding awareness of letting people go not necessarily being The End, but merely an opportunity to shift gears, a natural progression of new roles that fit our new ever-changing beings, an opportunity to see how my true self is met.

A peaceful settling has followed.

That feeling of being stuck in the riptide has gently passed, and in its place is a calm, collected, centredness.

It came to my attention all of a sudden when I was in a situation that would usually have torn me up, caused a lot of FOMO and instant hurt. That hurt and the fear of losing out would typically have made me bend over backwards and turn my plans around to make myself available. To be seen, to make myself present, to be in the place of being chosen. But neither happened. The hurt didn’t come. It still hasn’t. And the plans haven’t budged.

Ever since the articulation of the thread of loneliness that grips my life has come to my attention, I’ve been watching myself closely. Observing all the things that loneliness makes me do and feel. All the things I do to avoid feeling it, and just how much I go out and beyond my true self to fight it. Consequently, I’ve been questioning my true motivation in making myself available for my friends is, and which of my friends seem to trigger this response more, and which of them I truly want to give this privilege to.

I’ve realised I live with a deep fear of people leaving me. Even as I have worked on accepting it, it’s a hard one to crack and the effects of it persist. These last 10 days have tested my beliefs in this regard, putting me repeatedly in situations that trigger this fear, and forcing me to rethink a lot of them. But it was only in the subtle shifts in my reactions and responses that I realised that I have moved from mere thought, to living a small change.

***

This situation was a clear signal of people moving away, of changing dynamics. In another time, it would have sent me into an internal tizzy. But I am only now realising what this natural movement of people away from each other means and feels like. And for the first time, the hurt reaction hasn’t rushed in because I have fully realised that people (me included) moving away isn’t a reflection on me or my worth.

In the absence of hurt, the fear has less of a grip on me too. It was only when I saw myself standing my ground, not even so much as considering changing my plans and making myself available that I realised this is what it means to be me, in full acceptance of that fear. Waiting to see what it does

It was also particularly liberating to see that this stand didn’t come from a place of hubris or rebellion, but rather just gently being nudged in the direction of the most obvious, natural progression, and being made to see that sometimes when I show my true self (something I am otherwise convinced will make people bolt), people will stay.

***

Yesterday, I got flaked on. Flaking and flakey people get to me like little else does. And I have been examining why that is — beyond the obvious, of course. Not only does it really enrage me, it also usually sends me down an unnecessarily harsh and self-critical loop of why-does-this-always-happen-to-me thoughts, where I wonder if it’s something in me that attracts the energy of compulsive ditchers and undependable people who can just never be there for me when I need it.

There is a sense of powerlessness in that line of thinking, that I have picked up on recently. I am constantly recreating situations in my life where I hand over the power to the other to be there for me.

Today though, after precisely 1.5 minutes of anger, I was able to pause and see why this situation bothered me, to step back into my own power and realise this too isn’t about me. This is about some people and their tendency to flake. It isn’t a reflection on me, or my worth. All I could do then is express my displeasure honestly and clearly, in the hope that it will not repeat. I didn’t feel so bad anymore once I’d done that.

There was little rage. There was absolutely no angst.

There was loneliness, though.
Just a smidgen of it. But it didn’t unsettle me.

For the first time, it didn’t tear me apart. It fit in, found a place in my heart and completed me, instead.

For what felt like the first time, I felt this its entirety. In my being and not just in my head.

Yes, I feel lonely when I get flaked on. This is just the way it is.

Then I took it with me for coffee by my lonesome. I wrote that letter I was to write to myself at the start of the year. I finished an assignment for today. I watched the traffic and felt a strange love for this city and this wonderful place I’m inand the opportunities it offers, to do this.

***

I realise my life can never swing fully to one side. There will always be bouts of loneliness, when I will want space and distance, when people will disappoint me, when friends will leave, when things will not go the way I imagine, when I will feel a deep lack of love and connection. But there will also always be, as I have rewired my brain enough to see and acknowledge everyday, other kinds of love and connection. I don’t need to be hung up on getting love and affirmation in only one form from a limited set of sources my mind imagines. If I’m willing to open my heart and look at the world with openness, there are opportunities for connection everywhere.

The difference I feel since last week, like the big release of an old way of thinking, is that I’ve loosened my grip. I’ve let it go just a bit. There is a little less hankering and that desperate hope that people remain the way they are, in the places they are in my life, no longer grips me. There is less grieving the space they occupied when they (or I) begin to move away.

What there is, is an exciting expansive sense of space for something new.

One year ago: How about me enjoying the moment for once

On crying

It takes a good cry, or several, to get your hand to touch your face. To explore its contours and to see what lies beneath the thin skin that stretches over your eyes.

Crying has shown me the shape of my face. The curves where tears stall, the nooks that let them escape, making a beeline straight for my mouth. I trace a finger down the salty dry, residue from where a tear once trailed. And I see the shape of longing, I touch the slopes of happiness, I feel in my hands, the fullness of overwhelming emotions.

When I’m done crying, there is a strange new glow. My eyes sparkle invitingly. Suddenly, I find I am looking at myself straight in my eyes, more.

This is new and liberating. Crying has that power. Of discovery. Of freshness. Of endings. Of new energy.

I’ve tasted my tears now. Searing saltiness, reminiscent of cured memories. Memories I’d tucked away in the hope I’d never have to look. But they’re ready now, pickled, and pure in a whole new way. Waiting to be unwrapped. Waiting to hurt and liberate in equal measure.

The tears envigorate. Prepare me for what is to come.

Crying has made my heart fluid again. Turned it into a shapeshifting mass of water, held together by its own inward magnetic pull. That same heart I’d wrapped in layer upon layer of wisdom. The heart I’d helped grow strong (and perhaps cold, too) is salt water and sea breeze now.

The heart that has grown up, wise and clear, wants to grow young and naiive again. And so the tears come from that place of young-ness. Of the baby I once was.

Eyes full, always ready to spill over. A tiny nudge and the overflow is on. At the slightest hint of sorrow showing up. Of a kindred spirit. Of stories so alike they frighten.

I’ve found sharp loathing and a piercing ache in the spot where tears flow from. I try to stop them. But it is not to be. Not now, anyway.

And so they flow and they flow. Long after the urge to cry has left my body, they continue to flow. In that moment I know I’m not crying for my grief, or from the big sorrows alone. This is grief for every small, little, everyday pain.

From everyday dejection, defeat, disinterest. From that unanswered message. From that plan that didn’t include me. From that dress that didn’t fit. From having to make a choice that was no choice at all.

From the unknown hands that jabbed inside my teeshirt on that crowded bus. From that perv in the shape of a doctor. From the relative I can never speak of.

From not having made it. From holding myself in. From not being good enough. From balancing it all.

From moving from Bangalore to Goa. From moving from Goa to Bangalore. From wanting to be the hostess-with-the-mostess. From wanting it all. From that copy that refused to be written. From the pitch that never took.

From the love that turned sour. From friendship that I’ve let go of. From being too much. From not being enough. From people who didn’t pick me. From people I picked who wouldn’t have me. From people who had me, but fell so short of what I wanted of them. From people who had me, and who I had, but only just for a short while.

From distance. From too much closeness. From boundaries that were never made. From boundaries that were transgressed. From boundaries that were in places they never should have been. From being too hard on myself. From letting myself go easy.

Crying has shown me the shape of my face. In the abyss of loneliness that lies still, within, just beneath my eyes, and in the turn of my chin, I’ve felt a softness I didn’t know I had. A softness to hold in my tender hands, old sadness. I’ve found there, the power to choose myself. I’ve found strength to be myself.

Salt water and sea breeze, sunshine and sand — crying has shown me the source. A single drop from where I emerged, and the shapeless all-encompassing vast beyond that I must eventually go to.

One year ago: Tell me what you really like

Little pieces of magic

In the early years when VC and I had just begun seeing each other, we weren’t too big on using the phone. We’d spend all day together at the same workplace, and inevitably a gang of us would head out after work for a bite or a drink (or both) and it was only the hours between sleep and the new work day that kept us apart. So we didn’t really need to talk too much in the after-hours.

In general, in life, VC isn’t big on communication. If something is pressingly urgent or needs to be immediately shared — these are the only two counts on which I usually expect a call. A barrage of messages, an entire conversation on SMS — this is an impossibility with him. The thing is, I am a big communicator. Not so much telephone calls (though I sense something changing here too), but I can have entire conversations on chat/messaging services. And I can make calls to VC for no reason at all.

Anyhow, with this long backstory out of the way, this is just to note that VC has suddenly taken to calling me for no reason. We’re suddenly the people who begin and end most days with a telephone call. Sometimes just to say hi, and bye. The thing I thought would never be possible: video calls. We make them now. Several times a week. And I have to say, I’m not the only one initiating them.

I am enjoying this shift in our lives. Where suddenly there seems to be a place for long, detailed, emotionally-charged chatting, baring our souls and sharing our biggest excitements and dejections of the day, conversations that go late into the night. This is the stuff we bypassed entirely in our relationship.

***

Sunday morning walk has become a marker of a good week. A thing to look forward to. I’ll admit the idli-vada is still the draw, but it does feel really good to be out in the crisp morning air when the sun has only just come out.

I nearly didn’t make it two weeks in a row and the joy of actually having made it, and having finished a walk amidst many, many giggles and all kinds of conversation with D, and that breakfast with a double dose of coffee at the end — it’s near perfection.

However, the thing that just laces it all beautifully for me, like a cherry on the top, is coming home and getting right back into bed. Under the quilt and all, to either read, watch some Netflix or just nap — it is just divine.

Last Sunday, I realised this is a small, seemingly insignificant pleasure, the joy of which I almost didn’t fully register. But it has become something of an important ritual for me, and it does lift my day, my week up in more ways than I realise. To acknowledge that this past Sunday shifted something.

***

I have also resumed yoga again. AND I FEEL SO GOOD. There is that sweet, stretchy pain of having used my body for something more than just sitting around, which has been my predominant state for the last 12 months. It’s been a little over a week and it’s hard to fight the constant thought of how woefully out of shape I am, of how the proportion of time it takes to gain strength, stamina and muscle versus the time it takes to lose it all is so goddamned skewed. But, I feel really, really good. I like the deep stretching, the twisty, bendy moves that turn my mind and body into knots, I love the peace in the pranayam, and I go through the entire class in anticipation of the deep relaxation and full-body scan of the last 7 minutes of shavasana.

I’ve had sore abs and hams and glutes pretty much after every class. And then I went and started getting out for a walk on the alternate days when I’m not at yoga. Plus there’s the Sunday walk. So yeah, I’m moving again.

Last year was obviously a year of sitting still, conserving energy. And while it has had its place in the whole process, I hadn’t realised just how much I love to be active, and how happy it actually makes me. On Thursday last week after a walk, I actually came home and burst into a hysterical fit of laughter and cried happy tears from the sheer surge of endorphins like I haven’t felt in forever.

As my next Goa trip approaches, I’m wondering about my options to keep the exercise going. And almost like on cue, my kickboxing trainer messaged me out fo the blue. We hadn’t interacted in upwards of 6 months, and he just checked in on me suddenly, just like that.

I feel like it was a sign.

***

L was down in Bangalore after what feels like forever. Actually, the last time she was down was when we met and hung out at M’s wedding six years ago. Six years isn’t very long, but it feels like an age simply because of how much has happened in the years between. We haven’t been inactive touch through this time. We pretty much fell out of touch entirely, and I only surfaced to get in touch with her last year when I visited Pondicherry and this year when I was in Auroville — to see if we could catch up. Both times she was travelling, and we went back to our regular lives.

So we met, and I realised only after we met that she had made the entire trip down to catch up with me, and another friend. I am so used to assuming nobody would ever do that for me, that I had just taken it for granted that she had some other business to deal with in Bangalore and was catching up with me on the side.

We had a lovely hang. It was meant to be a quick coffee at Koshy’s, but it ended up being a long, long, chatty time. And when we weren’t done even after our coffee was done, we walked up and down Church Street chatting some more. Then ducked into Blossoms and bought a bunch of books. Still no sign of calling it a night, we went back to Koshy’s for dinner.

It was just so affirming. Here’s someone I have just not been in touch with, we have lives that are wildly polar opposites of each other, and yet when we met we picked up effortlessly. The conversation wasn’t stilted, the connection was warm, genuine and lingering, refusing to end.

In all my years struggling to get a grip on the loop of friendship and loneliness in my life, I’ve focused on the lack so much. It only takes a day like this to turn it all around.

***

I also caught up with S and D — we hadn’t done this since the course ended. I came home just so grateful. Here are two people I only got to know about six months ago, we don’t have history. I don’t know too much about the intricacies of their lives, and vice versa. But we’ve connected on a foundation of authenticity and vulnerability, just by virtue of doing this course together and experiencing each other’s worst selves in a closed room. There’s something special about that kind of bond. There’s warmth in the hugs we give, there’s a glint in our eyes when we talk about what we’re dealing with, and there’s the incredibly rare and wonderful bit where we meet like this, over coffee, after 3 months and waste no time in pleasantries, jumping straight to OMG I’m struggling so much this month!

***

I’ve been practicing reading the Tarot for myself for months now. Ever since D got me started last year it’s been a regular feature/habit and gradually growing interest in my life. At the start of the year, I told myself I want to do this more — for myself and for others. This week, I did four readings for four different people. And each of then were an utterly enjoyable experience for me.

What I love most about reading the cards is how there’s almost always a message for me in every reading, how much it makes me tap into my intuition and how much freshness it brings to my life as a newfound interest.

***

This is gratitude for all that has shifted this week. Something about a cycle closing — I’ve been feeling this since the turn of the year and the last full moon that gave me a burst of energy seems to have also completed some kind of shedding that has been in process. I’ve been so wrapped up in thought and working on processing it through my head, that I’ve lost contact with my feelings and my body. I realised today in an instant that I have loosened up physically, as much as I have relaxed about certain tight corners in my life.

Maybe it’s new. Or maybe it’s been there and I hadn’t noticed it because I’ve been so busy looking for cognitive answers.

***

This is gratitude for the winter. For the walks. For the parks. For the morning air.

For the strawberries that I could make jam with.

For this blog and the fresh connections it has brought to my life.

For friends who’ve been there in ways I have been unable to see. For new friends. For new people who are there, just as people, and that’s okay.

For friends who have come, are in the process of leaving, and also those who have left. For teaching me not to hold on so tight. For finally showing me what I’ve been fighting and how futile it is.

For therapy and N and how hard she pushes me.

For the crayons I bought, for the pictures of myself that I dug out and the drawing and writing that came from it.

For the numerous times that I found myself at Airlines this past week. For the coffee.

For home. For amma and for how much time we got to spend together since I’ve been back.

For R, S and H and how they’ve taken me under their wing. Counting me in whenever they go out as a family. It’s incredibly heartening.

One year ago: Pretty lights
Two years ago: Because I want to remember
Three years ago: Saaru-anna

 

An inalienable joy of meeting grief

That post from last week — about old selves — received an alarming number of responses. On the blog and off. And they were all mostly of concern for my well-being and state of mind. But I have to say — that wasn’t a post that came from a place of sadness or dejection.

The responses got me to thinking about what it is we deem as “sad” and what makes us so uncomfortable. Conversely, what is it about difficult, unsavoury emotions invoking the default response of avoidance, that makes us meet vulnerability with the default response of sympathy?

I’ve been writing about my state of mind and this journey of personal work I’ve been on for a few years now, and yet I have never received an outpouring of concern like I did for this post. I’m also not grudging the sympathy, the good wishes and concern I received. I’m touched and deeply appreciative. I’m just intrigued by the sequence of events.

Here’s the truth: I’ve had a contemplative few weeks since resuming therapy, with way too many thoughts than necessary, frankly. This is a natural outcome of any sort of reflective work, if done with a basic degree of honesty, willingness and allowance. And it is not an easy journey to be on because it throws up a lot of discomfiting, unpleasant, unexpected truths that reside within us. But that is precisely the purpose of therapy — to push oneself to face exactly that which we are unwilling to see in our daily lives. To go to the most uncomfortable places in our minds and see what it feels like.

So, it’s been mighty difficult, in that sense. It has been overwhelming, emotional and I’ve cried more this past month than I have all year.

And yet, that wasn’t a sad post. It came from a place of deep, internal (not merely cognitive) recognition and resonance with an underlying grief within me. Grief of not having fully processed emotions and reactions to events in my life. Grief from years of accumulated holding back. Grief of situations that have occurred as much as of grief of impending loss as a crucial and integral part of the process of evolution. Grief of having to let go of so much — so much that is comforting, comfortable, familiar to me — in order to move into a life of new possibilities. Grief of simultaneously knowing what I want to leave behind, and also being shit scared to find a new version of myself.

I’ve been welcoming the overwhelming feelings with joy and celebration, because I know without a shadow of doubt now, that to live in constant avoidance of difficult emotions and in the pursuit of happiness alone is to tread on thin ice.

So I consider that post a major milestone. If my heart is my home, this is me opening the door and letting the light in.

Despite Because of the overwhelming feelings, I had a really good week. And tomorrow I’ll write about all that made it memorable.

Two years ago: 2017 book beginnings
Three years ago: Bengloor-life banter

Learning to let go

I held myself back because I thought that’s the only way to meet heartbreak.

I held myself back because it helped me cope and (feel like I can) move on from the pain.

I held myself back because it made me (feel) big, strong, capable. And grown up.

I held myself back because was honestly just easier to close my heart up and withdraw.

I held myself back because I thought it would help digest and dissolve all the difficult feelings within myself.

I held myself back because I thought I’d be too much for people around me.

And now I’m trying to learn to let this, too, go.

What makes you hold yourself back?

***

Had a severe oh-ffffff moment hearing that Mary Oliver has passed on. And immediately remembered her through one of my favourites. Which, ironically, sums up what all of last week was like for me.

I did think, let’s go about this slowly.

This is important. This should take
some really deep thought. We should take
small thoughtful steps.

But, bless us, we didn’t.

— Mary Oliver

One year ago: Sorry seems to be the hardest word
Two years ago: Work. But also life.
Three years ago: Hope

Old selves

I’ve been experiencing a whole lot of grief in accepting the part of change where I have to physically let go of so much that I used to be in order to become the person I am growing into. It’s not the cloud it was a few weeks ago, but more like a tap that tends to be left open sometimes. Running dry before it stops.

I’ve been thinking about changing, shedding layers, growing. New selves. And what must happen to old selves when we move into new places, embracing various aspects of ourselves.

In therapy, whenever we get to talking about heartbreak and times in my life when difficult emotions made themselves shown, I somehow land at my teens. It’s like I don’t have conscious memories of unpleasant emotions from a time before that. Either they’re largely absent and/or so deep in my subconscious, or I have pushed them away. But we’ve been pressing on, to go deeper down in time and deeper into my body and heart. To go beyond the obvious, logical point my head keeps taking me to.

And so, I went on a hunt for old pictures of myself today to help aid the remembering. Again, I found it so hard to find pictures of a very young me. There are pictures, they’re just not showing up when I look. Instead I have a ton of pictures from my teens — capturing a whole host of moods and events.

I have the same eyes, I realised. And even in my smile, I feel like I can see through to the hurt I carried within. I can see it in those eyes.

But I also stumbled on this picture. And I got fixated on it for a bit.

This was a picture taken during the peak of heartbreak and sadness during that time in my life. But there was also this distinct memory — a girl who can kickback, literally throw her head back overcome by giddy spells of happiness, holding her belly because of the overwhelming joy that bursts through. A girl who loves the sea and takes off to go there every chance she gets.

There is also this girl.

What a girl she used to be. What a girl she can be. What a girl she is.

One year ago: Afterglow
Three years ago: End of day

Winter joys

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

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

JOY!

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

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

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

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

Sharp, long sunny winter morning shadows

Shawls, stoles and sweaters in the day

Socks in bed at night

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

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

Lohri, 2019

One year ago: You’ve been on my mind

The morning after

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

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

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

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

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

One year ago: Video killed the radio star

New light

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

Title inspiration:

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

Breathing space

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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