Take the time

I took the time not to run today. To walk, slower than usual. To not ace the targets I’m always unconsciously building up in my mind.

To savour the milestones I’ve reached for longer, before I set myself up for the next one.

To be in the present more. To meander. To stop. To laze. To feel.

I took the time to be average at the gym today.

No need to hurry. No need to sparkle. No need to be anybody but oneself.   

— Virginia Woolf

Pretty much sums up the current point at which I am in my tussle with inner demons. If only it were as easy as VW makes it sound — simple, flat, within reach, like a few uncomplicated words strung together. But I do know that like with all things lately, small, incremental, seemingly insignificant movements do stack up and amount to something significant. Over time.

I am going to take my time.

One year ago: Snap back to reality, oh there goes gravity

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Wander

It’s been many, many days of the good homebound life. Lots of home-based things, so much so that even the odd urge to go out midday hasn’t seen itself to fruition. In a week, it’ll be a month of this. I am quite loving it. Falling into a good routine of exercise, cooking, and going the extra mile in the kitchen on many days, nesting and resting, basically, has been very timely and very good for me this past month.

You can tell things have been so slow, and so good, when you find the time to make slow-rise pesto rolls. Of two kinds.

But that’s about to change. Four days to see this face.

And eight days to go off on vacation. We haven’t taken one in a while now. Benaras feels like it was yonks ago. And since it was a quick getaway, not the kind of leisurely holiday we try and have at least a couple of times a year, I’m not even counting it as a “vacation”.

Our last one was exactly at this time last year, in Europe. I was reading through the entire set of posts from them a couple of nights ago and even though I had a longing for that time and place and the friendship and camaraderie, I realised that over the course of this year, I have frankly not felt the need for a holiday like this.

What with the umpteen trips to Goa which, even though like going back home, have been like multiple excellent holidays. They really satisfied what little itch to roam that I have had.

These two fools video called me completely by surprise last weekend, totally turning my otherwise mellow day around, making me so very happy. They reminded me of the plans we’d made last year, sitting around S’s dinette on our last day in Paris. Vague plans to meet again this summer, in a new country with some talk of me staying on in Paris for a month after. But when summer came, I didn’t move on those plans at all. For an assortment of logistical and practical reasons, but mostly because more than anything else , life has been so challenging and satisfying that I’ve been feeling so full. It has minimised the need for escape, the need for more discovery and excitement from it.

If anything, I have felt the need to stay a while, and contain it. Things have been so slow, and so good.

VC is probably the one that needed the holiday this year, but somehow between everything that was going on and just trying to keep it together — him at work, and me with life — the year has just passed us by.

But, this time last year after that whirlwind of a holiday in Europe, we embarked on a whirlwind of a time in October, which ended with VC moving cities and beginning a new life in November. Serendipitously, we’re going to be going through the same motions this year too. Going from vacation to a busy October — wrapping up his life in Goa and moving back to Bangalore — and beginning yet another chapter in November. Full circle and all that.

However, there is a decided and noticeable difference in my being and in the way I am feeling, with the prospect of another relocation (with zero planning so far) looming large. This slowness has changed my internal rhythm and pace to such a great degree. There seems to be little rush, and utmost confidence and peace in taking things slow and one day at a time.

If this is what slowing down to grow up is, I’ll take it, thankyouverymuch. And I’m pretty sure it’s going to trickle into how we wander and travel too. I can’t wait to see what lies ahead.

Three years ago: For every down, there is an up

Fries before guys

This past week I ended up wandering around my neighbourhood a fair bit. A rare evening walk on the only day the rain let up. That emergency run to the wine store two streets away. Stopping by the florist on return to buy just two stalks of lilies. Going personally to buy veggies at the hole in the wall store we’ve been going to for years, but that I’ve forgotten about since bigbasket took over. But this past week I felt the urge of going out myself, picking veggies with my hands, pressing them to assess tenderness, sniffing them to check for freshness, and the like. The guy remembered me of course — it hasn’t been that long. But to me, it definitely felt like a return after aeons. A return from blindly clicking on unimaginatively flattened images of all the things I need, and really stepping in to a store that tickles more than a couple senses at one go. Maybe it’s all the increased motivation for all things domestic.

This is not to be mistaken as virtue signalling. I still will continue to use bigbasket and the like, but when my routine allows it and I have the urge, I do like to get out myself.

I stopped by the local “hot chips” store on my way back. And it was again a moment of rushing back in time. The “technology” has gotten mildly sophisticated to facilitate faster churning out of bigger crisper batches — a semi-mechanised mandolin-like thingamjig to slice potatoes paper thin and directly send them flying into a scalding wok, so all the dude has to do is gently splosh them about in the hot oil till ready — but the smells of boiling oil and all the familiar spices threatening to set off a sneeze fit, the sights the shelves stacked high with an assortment of fried goodies and the block-like cases sporting brightly coloured differently spiced deep-fried goodness — from potatoes to tapioca to jackfruit to karela and bananas and so much more. The heating contraption to melt and seal bags of chips, that old school weighing scale with the hexagonal iron weights. The open bowls of samplers on the counter top. And the lady with a big smile welcoming you to her haven of fried everything.

There are some things that just spell Bangalore. Fried eye-timms are definitely on top of that list for me. Hot Chips stores are a close second.

I came home with two kilos of chips that day. A kilo and a half to take to Niyu’s birthday party along with the massive batch of hung curd dip I made. And half a kilo just for me. To eat with everything. It’s true love, this.

One year ago: Say, say, say, hey, hey now baby (Amsterdam. Day 3.)
Three years ago: I had to talk about Coke Studio, just a little bit

Finding flow

I had a deeply moving and powerful experience practicing with S yesterday. It was stormy out, and we almost didn’t make it. Until we actually did, and after cups of chai and much quiet talking, when we finally got down to it, something came over me.

I’m noticing how different I am in the presence of people with whom I have a level of comfort that uplifts and energises me. I see how my pace and flow changes and how my demeanour is different. I have a feel of what it is to tune in, but let go. To be present, but not control that in any manner. To hold space, to facilitate the healing.

And that was a powerful experience for me. I felt moved just doing the work with and for S.

The session left me thinking so much about how the burdens and traumas of the past, of past generations, of women who came before and laid down the path for us, is still so present in us. This, even as we are the generation that is significantly challenging so much of the old, and so determined to figure out an all new way. We’re the ones really pushing the boundaries, even while we have so much of us so steeped and conditioned by what we’ve grown up with.

I see this in how I am exploring redefining what work, ambition and success is to me. I’m finding I need to find a new measure and means to what excellence is to me. VC and I are constantly, sometimes unconsciously, re-evaluating the shifting equations in our marriage. I am still steadfastly convinced about going childfree.

S called us the twilight generation. An apt term, I thought, for us lot with one foot in deeply held by all the conditioning we’ve come from, so aware of how it has helped us get this far, but also simultaneously ready to question the status quo, push back at tradition, find new balance and meaning in a way that seems fit for where we are now and what we want from the world the way it is today.

I slept like a log last night. So sound and deep, unbroken, that I almost missed gym today. But I pushed through and came out at the other side better for it. Deep sleep seems to be my reaction to any kind of intensity these days. I seem to be processing things in a much quieter, restful way than the active, restless way that I used to not too long ago. And I woke up hyper aware of my privilege. To be in a place and have the kind of life that is facilitating this. To have the opportunity to allow for this deep rest when I need it.

I thought back to the practice session, and realised how much of it was me at work, and how much of it was something more, something beyond. That inexplicable flow that comes from an inner connectedness that is fleeting and completely not in my control at the moment. When all the right things align, for a brief time I experience the flow and that complete syncing of inner and outer worlds. It is blissful and so powerful. And then it is gone.

I was at a screening of an excellent documentary made by Premjit Ramachandran along with his architect brother Bijoy Ramachandran, on the life and philosophies of Architect BV Doshi, last week. And there was a brief presentation at the start of it, which featured this handwritten letter Doshi once wrote to Bijoy.

It speaks of flow. It speaks of that something beyond that takes over when there is flow. And it spoke to me again of how we are mere vessels, and our job is to find connection — with ourselves first — and the through, out in the world. No matter what the nature of our work, this is the only way to find meaning.

He talks of architecture and the act of designing a building, but it spoke to me like it could very well have been about the work of life itself. In fact, it spoke to me of grace and divinity, and their place in our lives.

The building itself is as integrated as a human being or an animal or an insect or a plant etc

What one needs to do is to understand the flow

To know the flow, you have to be in contact with YOURSELF and the material which is used as a medium

I have days when I wonder why I ever embarked on this totally consuming journey. I wonder if I have lost balance. Then there are days like the day I watched this film, or like yesterday when I had that impactful experience practicing with S. And there are flashes where the lightbulbs come on, when fleetingly, I have a moment of clarity about what this deep and burning need to get to know myself is fuelled by.

One year ago: Walk with me for a while (Amsterdam. Day 2.)
Two years ago: On letting go of what is meant-to-be, and enjoying what-is
Three years ago: I am eager

Free

Every now and then there’s a day that’s so good, it takes me by surprise. I began yesterday with a run in the park — my first real, proper outdoor run. And by that I mean, not a walk-run-walk-run run but a legit long-distance run. And by long distance I mean 5+ kms. Truth be told, I didn’t know what it would be like. I was pretty sure I’d walk more than run because I know how running on a treadmill is a bit of a hack because it sets a steady pace and you have to just keep up. Not to undermine the effort and stamina that takes — I have seen how little by little I have gotten better and steadier at running on the treadmill and pushing the kms a little everyday. But, I always believed outdoor running is a whole other ball game. I have also never had the sort of endurance that I do now.

And yet. Yesterday was such a revelation. First of all, it was a cracker of a morning. Many hours of rain the previous night meant there was a crisp nip in the air. Not bitingly cold, but just perfectly cool enough. The sun was beginning to peek out ever so subtly. The park on a weekday is 100% better than the park on the weekend. I began with a slow and steady jog, picked it up to a comfortable pace and then kept waiting to go out of breath and feel the need to walk/stop. But that moment never came. Pretty much until the end of my 45 minute stint, by which time I had inadvertently clocked nearly 5 and a half kilometres.

I was beyond stoked. Not just by the numbers, but the sheer thrill of being outdoors and seeing actual results for something I have been silently working at. Something about the lungs expanding the way they do in the midst of greenery, having my heart race and breaking a proper heavy sweat even when the weather is chill, and winding my way through a green, green park, slowly but steadily, feeling so, so, so tuned in and focused.

It’s taken me a long time to consider a mid-week run in the park. It’s taken me longer still to get out and do it alone, even without company. But it was so good, I maybe considering doing it more often.

In the evening, Niyu and I took ourselves out for an early dinner to Koshy’s. We ended up having breakfast for dinner — omelettes, chicken sandwiches and a plate of smileys — between ourselves, with a large rum and very iced tea as a mixer. Then we ducked into Hard Rock Cafe to catch a Thermal and a Quarter tribute gig to celebrate 17 years of their very first album.

It was the kind of evening that was like going back in time. A real life throwback Thursday, if you will. Not just because I got to hear TAAQ again after so many, many years, but because they performed in the OG set up with Rudy stepping in for a few numbers, the groupies and crew returning to reunite in celebration, and also something about rock and Bangalore churns up the somethings-will-never-change feels for me. It was really like stepping back in time. The vibe, the people, the excitement. It may as well have been 2003 in Zero G which was my first time hearing them live. I was all of 19, and there at the behest of Niyu, but also lured by the idea of watching a boy who had semi heart-eyes for me perform. It was a time before mobile phones, let alone camera phones. And so we didn’t document anything back in the day. But I have vivid memories of having such a good time, and drinking way too much more than I could handle. It was a simpler time when we managed to get home safe, even over-inebriated, no cabs, no cell phones. Good times.

And so I relived it all last night. As an adult. And it made all the difference. There is a new self-assuredness and awareness of myself and the space I occupy at social gatherings that I am suddenly very aware of. That little bit of self-consciousness that always kept me one step back from the thick of it seems to be slowly peeling away. I feel much more at ease and comfortable in my skin, I have loosened up in ways I didn’t even know I could or needed to, and I am able to step in and have a good time with little thought.

Yesterday was such a freeing day.

One year ago: One night to speed up the truth (Amsterdam. Day 1.)
Three years ago: Control issues, part 2

Mediocre

I’ve been sitting with thoughts of what it might be like to be average, mediocre even, at being a practitioner of this work since some new developments earlier this week. N brought it up, gently suggesting What might it be like to just let it go and be mediocre and as we discussed it and I processed it in some manner, I feel something has eased up within. It’s given me permission for some space and distance, some allowance for embracing my own pace in how I engage and assimilate this learning.

It’s become severely apparent to me that even as I set off no this learning this year, with no outcomes in mind, feeling the full flush of learning for learning sake, something about my group, the structure and the way in which I have engaged with it all has triggered the deeply help beliefs of perfectionism, performance and excellence. I realise I have always shied away from overt excellence. When things come easy, I have taken it, but when I have to work hard towards something, I can’t seem to do it with ease, without the pressure of a positive outcome.

Sub-consiously speaking, being average has never been an option. Internally I’ve always been wired to strive to always do exceedingly well. Go all in, all the performance pressure and all (and I’ve silently suffered for it many times right through various stages of my life) or back away completely. Black and white. Fight or flight. It’s the same story.

As I’m now learning, these hardwired responses are invariably trauma responses. And I am absolutely flummoxed as to where they may have come from. I didn’t grow up with the pressures many children in my generation did — pressure to perform, be academically excellent, be engineers/doctors, etc. In fact, I had an upbringing where we were encouraged to just be. So I have absolutely no answers, but I hope to unpack this and understand better over time.

It’s amazing what a mere conversation can sometimes do, because that conversation earlier this week, and a startlingly illuminating conversation with S this morning, triggered by some thoughts post our practice session on the weekend, settled some of these truths in me today.

I feel a deeper dropping into myself, a peeling off of yet another layer I didn’t know existed. And I feel ready to re-embrace the idea that there is no deadline, prescribed timeline, and most importantly of all — no desired outcome of me. This was so crucial because I have been struggling with how the pace and stretch of the learning has been sometimes at cross-purposes with my own slowing down. The two have collided more than once, leaving me confused, sometimes guilty for not doing enough, and fearful about a possible consequence.

Today’s conversation was important in reinforcing the idea that I am in this for me. For however and whatever I choose to make of and do with this learning. That I can breathe and take it slow. And so if that means there’s a possible fall out in terms of not meeting a deadline, a “stellar” outcome or a level of excellence, I finally feel ready to see what that might be like.

I know I’ve talked a lot about being mediocre, but I realised this week I don’t know jack about being mediocre. I simply like the idea of it, from a distance. As I get closer to actually practicing it, it is terrifying as fuck. But the good news is I am more willing to give it a try than ever before.

***

I am continuously amazed and thrilled by how never-ending and loopy self-development is. A deeply personal journey that has so many points of resonance with the world I engage with. A constantly unravelling scroll, revealing newer nuance and deeper detail as we go along. This process of dropping deeper within, discovering myself in such an intimate way. It has been so, so, so enjoyable. I’ve reached a place where therapy is now exactly that — an enjoyable path of discovery. Sure, it’s pock marked with many downright frightening discoveries, lots of tears and snot, opportunities to dive into the deep end. But it has never been so exciting.

Earlier this week after therapy, when I was marvelling at the beauty of this constantly deepening journey with so many wins and milestones and success, but no apparent end, I was reminded of this Cheryl Strayed quote from an essay in Tiny Beautiful Things (that essay is also where this powerful sentence that’s impacted me so deeply came from):

Your life will be a great and continuous unfolding. It’s good you’ve worked hard to resolve childhood issues while in your twenties, but understand that what you resolve will need to be resolved again. And again. You will come to know things that can only be known with the wisdom of age and the grace of years. Most of those things will have to do with forgiveness.

And to that last sentence, I want to add, of yourself first.

One year ago: Take a deep breath (Bruges. Day 3.)
Three years ago: Control issues

Morning joy

This is what I woke up to this morning. Later than usual, groggier than usual, feeling more lethargic than usual — thanks to the rice-heavy full meals I had later than usual, last night.

I was *that* close to skipping my workout and just calling it a rest day, but something compelled me to go. A little voice that said it’s too good a morning to spend in bed, and that nothing will kick the lethargy out of me like a quick run. And so I went, and it turned out to me an hour long Chemical Brothers retrospective. Thanks to D, who brought back this cracker like a blast from the past, when we met on the weekend.

Again, I don’t know if it’s the music that gives me this burst of energy, or if it’s the goodness of slowing down and going at my own pace, or I’m just unconsciously genuinely getting my legs to work better and faster, but guess what?

That next milestone I said I wanted to work towards, on Friday? I surpassed it today.

One year ago: Warm shadow, won’t you cast yourself on me (Bruges. Day 2.)

Special

So, I had a craving over the weekend. Quite late, long after I’d finished my dinner and settled into bed.

It melted in the time it took to get to me. But it was still so effing good. Is there anything better than a night-time craving to complement that binge-watch, that arrives at your doorstep without so much as your lifting a finger, all so you can eat it in bed?

I think not.

***

I spent all of yesterday with S. It took me over an hour to get there, and over an hour to get back. And over the course of the day, the weather went from bright and sunny (but not hot) enough to need sunglasses, to dark and gloomy with torrential rain. I missed the post-rain traffic mayhem though, and was home just long enough for it to settle, before my dad and I took a family friend out to eat an Andhra meal all the way in town again.

To be able to zip around, back and forth, even when the city is chaotic — these are not luxuries I take for granted.

Over dinner, the friend asked me if I prefer to live in Bangalore or Goa. In the past I’ve firmly said Goa without so much as a thought. Then there was a phase where I said both, and expressed joy at having the option to shuttle. Yesterday though, I caught myself saying “Bangalore, for now” without batting an eyelid.

There is something special about this truth and how deeply it has settled within me, lately.

I’m truly grateful for this life and all that it affords for me, for now.

One year ago: Fickle and changeable (Bruges. Day 1.)

True

This past week, and weekend, I’ve been so taken by an emerging spontaneity that is slowly but surely creeping out of me.

It’s fresh and zesty and so unlike anything I have ever experienced before. There is a lightness about me, the way in which I am connecting with people and events and the implicit way in which no reaction seems unfit.

Everything seems to fit suddenly. And I’m noticing it all from a distance, but feeling it all intensely.

I am so enjoying this coming to life. This breaking down of some parts of a lifelong persona. Every small highlight or glimmer of the authentic self beneath it all showing up and gaining shape, size and strength.

Some highlights of spontaneity:

Attending the Bangalore efforts towards the Global Climate Strike and feeling overwhelmed, charged and like I belong. To be in the midst of almost a 1000 people united for a single cause was all kinds of empowering.

An overwhelmingly beautiful pink sunset that I caught while zipping across town to make it to a movie screening I randomly decided to attend. My father joined me too and we made an evening of it.

An unplanned pre-birthday dinner with my father and my sister and sharing a table, food and many laughs.

A new black dress, a belt cinched at the waist in most uncharacteristic fashion (for me), new pink shoes and the willingness and energy to go from one party to another in one night, only to get home close to 2.30 am.

 

Going with the flow and allowing myself the space and permission to honour my pace, my needs and my state of mind on Sunday morning, over what needed to be done. Choosing to sit that round out, despite the discomfort of being critiqued for it.

***

I realised this morning that I’ve been unintentionally, unconsciously brave a lot lately. And when I say brave, I mean this newfound energy that’s allowing my real self to be seen more often than not. Without realising it, I’ve been looking out for myself in a deeply personal way, like I haven’t known before. Those are mostly the moments where my true self shows up. But I don’t always realise it or give those moments, or myself, their due. But, I think this is what being comfortable in one’s own skin feels like. What an absolutely exciting place to be, this is!

One year ago: You’re still young and that’s your fault (Paris. Day 4.)
Two years ago: Joyful
Three years ago: Moarrrr books

Small victories

I’m always motivated about getting to the gym first thing in the morning, as I’m drifting off to sleep. I sometimes visualise what my workout is going to be, and most times I feel pumped and ready to hit it out the park the next morning.

Sometimes though, I wake up and discover that everything has changed. Between going to bed motivated, and waking up eight hours later, somehow the enthusiasm for endorphins has morphed into the enthusiasm for layers and snuggling.

It happens. I have a day like this every 8-10 days, and I’m learning not to let these days throw me off. My usual tendency used to be to fight it and berate myself for it, such that whether I ended up dragging my ass to the gym or not, I felt a bit shitty. Nowadays I have become easier on myself, with allowing the odd day off when I get to bunk and stay in spontaneously. Just because I woke up feeling like it. But something else is changing too. I also had this need to quickly cancel the gym outing altogether just because I didn’t make it out the door in that sweet spot between 6.45 and 7 am (so I can hit the treadmill by 7.15 am so everything works in perfect clockwork). Of late though if I’m late to rise and feeling the need to slowly ease into a workout state of mind rather than jump right out of bed and get going, I give myself that time. And I leave things open, to decide later on.

Today was one of those days. I stayed in bed. And I stayed and I stayed, for a whole hour past my usual time and at 8 am, I decided I was ready to go. My habit-driven, routine-bound mind and body usually gets very thrown by such shifts, and I have the idea in my head that my workout will not be good. Of course this is the unnecessary perfectionist in me at work, rearing her head again and again, trying hard to regain the control she’s fast losing.

I don’t give in to her as easily anymore.

I made it to the gym, in what I thought wasn’t the best mood or energy. But to my surprise, I did my fastest 5k today. I’ve been wanting to switch things around with running too, try something more and push myself just a bit. I upped things a teeny notch today, adding a mere minute to each of my sprints, unsure if I’d be able to sustain it till the end. And here’s the bit I forget: the way that I have been running with regularity, it adds up. And even the tiniest sliver of pushing, every little minute adds up.

I’m beginning to feel this way about progress in general. All upward movement, every little change, growth itself. I’m learning to appreciate the small wins that take time, are slow to come, but when they show up, feel immense. Not in quantity or in value, but in sheer progression.

I am savouring the small victories. Because they add up. They matter.

My quickest run yet. Just sooooo close to meeting the 5.5 km mark in 35 minutes. That’s going to be next milestone to work towards, I guess.

It was one of those one-small-step-in-the-running-universe-one-giant-leap-for-Rere kind of mornings for me. And I’m not just talking about the running here.

One year ago: We can hit the road and we can go (Paris. Day 1.)
Three years ago: Perch

Simply, satisfactorily

It’s been a super slow, but productive home-bound day.

I’ve been slowly, progressively organizing and clearing up corners of the home. It’s a very minimal home this one, and so when corners begin to look ignored and in need of tending, it always alarms me how the speed at which things pile up is so high, even though the apparent stuff we have that can pile up is really so low. Reorganising this time around has also made me realise just how tuned off I have been from the home front for longer than I may have thought.

I cooked a fuller than normal lunch for my sister and her friend who were over for a bit. And I spent the morning doing reading some course material. I watched a bit of Rubaru Roshni, which is a chilling documentary, but just hit all the right spots for me. And then I had a short round of practice with one of my buddies from class. It was good to get out of my comfort zone and invite someone new over, and practice with them without the presence of my safety net.

Things are changing. Slowly but surely, they are.

Dinner required me to make a chutney, and then I sorted out my fridge that suddenly has such an active role to play. Then I spent some time doing some research for a proposed holiday we’re taking next month. (And I realise, serendipitously, it’s on this same day last year that we set off for Europe.)

I meant to step out at some point today, but I didn’t even realise how the day just got ahead of me. Satisfactorily.

One year ago: We’re speeding up, not slowing down.
Three years ago: All you need is less — projects

Step up

I’ve been discovering how much of my modus operandi when faced with a challenge swings between extreme energy and force to move forward and fight, and retreating silently — and all variations of these two extreme states.

Recent experiences that have felt like the universe sending me invitations to explore this area (which for all of us, goes back to how we’ve faced even the smallest trauma in our childhood) in the form of situations ranging from the overwhelmingly demanding kind like facing a bully insistent on raining on my parade, the very interesting difficulty of meeting an authority figure from a place of my own power, to the very simple like demanding peanuts on my noodles that were supposed to come with peanuts rather than meekly making do with none).

It has been a journey of slowly owning my own power, stepping into the very exciting and overwhelming area of knowing my full potency. I realised recently that I am at an interesting crossroads in my journey of self exploration and moving forward is going to be impossible unless I own my own power fully, and for that I absolutely must step into my potency. This requires the simultaneous growing of a healthy, resourced part of myself that I have felt pulsating and slowly coming to life, and consistently leaning on her as I meet old traumas. It means knowing and owning the safe, compassionate and strong haven of vulnerability I carry within myself. And the more I do this work, the deeper I walk into these murky waters, the more I find the willingness to stay with difficulty and distress. As I am. Where I am.

The more I do this, the more I see the old modus operandi of fight and flight slowly fading away (but not without a fight). The more I feel that old urge to run right after I have been very vulnerable and naked, slowly lose a grip on me.

It has taken going to places of extreme vulnerability. At many levels, in front of audiences, in spaces I consider impossible to be vulnerable in. And when I expected these experiences to make me shut down, what has emerged is the urge is to stay and not lose what I have come for.

I have tasted a tiny nibble, a drop, a touch of what “strength in vulnerability” is and I see how crucial it is for me to deepen this experience. I feel willing and capable of doing this, as I see clearly the difference in how I am now operating from a place of resource and strength rather than the unconscious triggering of old trauma.

I am still caught off gaurd by moments of doubt and fear, but the difference is immense. Even as I feel fear and doubt, I also feel a readiness to go forth, to explore and find a way to move, not shrink away as has always been my pattern. It has never come naturally, of course. Flight has always been my preferred alternative. But no more.

Every day, as I wake up and breathe, I feel a strong invitation to step up and in. In every single way.

One year ago: Some things will never change
Two years ago: Back to base

Satisfaction

Today was such a satisfying day. After ages, I’m ending a day feeling really full.

It began with my weekly animal flow class that I am really, really enjoying. It’s been the perfect answer to all my my-body-needs-something-more-but-I-don’t-know-what feelings. A good combination of being sufficiently challenging physically, while also being a tad mind-bending so I have to also exercise my brain to get the mind-body coordination right, and at the same time focuses on both strength in terms of how demanding it is, and aesthetics in getting form and lines right. I am really loving how it mixes things up for me on any given week.

As of yesterday, since I am almost fully back to normal health-wise, I have returned to my bare minimum food intake. Two days is all it takes to feel squeaky clean and light again and I love that feeling.

I binge-watched Working Moms over the weekend, and I wrapped it up this afternoon. It was a good watch, and I have many thoughts on diversity and inclusion, since watching it.

I had a marathon 4-hour study session with D and S today, which was so good for me. It’s only been 2 weeks since my last module but time has expanded and slowed down so much since that it feels like a distant event and I was beginning to feel rusty. But I was glad to know that’s my imagination. We had meandering discussions, revisions of old concepts, just the kind of intellectual stretch and a bit of sparring, challenging and  and going at each other that I am so lucky to have with them. It’s a combination of feeling safe enough to do it with them, but also know that it will be met with an adequate and able push back that will be useful.

D made us these utterly sinful chewy chocolate chunk cookies. And I came home to a pack of Andhra biryani that Niyu brought back for me.

I’m so satisfied right now. Sigh.

One year ago: I don’t know if it’s even in your mind at all

It was all yellow

Even though VC made a trip to Bangalore to be with me on our anniversary, it was the most mundane, regular day we could have had.

My favourite kind of day, really. The kind I am sorely missing having more of with him, and the kind I am desperately looking forward to having more of when he returns for good.

There were yellow flowers. Of course. (Like so, and so, and so, and so.) We began the day super early, for a Sunday, at Cubbon Park. D and I, for the customary walk, and VC roaming around with his camera and pocket tripod, taking pictures. This was followed by breakfast at Airlines, post which we got back home and back into bed. to stay there for the rest of the day. I’m not even kidding, slightly.

We lazed around, chatting, watching Netflix, doing our own thing, I may have even doxed off a couple of times. We only got out of bed to fix ourselves some lunch, and eventually only at 7 pm, when we couldn’t push showering and leaving the house any later. We had dinner reservations at a hip new Chinese bar house in town that I have been dying to try. I couldn’t decide if lure was Chinese food or the cocktail menu. Maybe it was both.

Yellow seemed to be the colour of the day, really. And it gave me a lot of joy to wear a newly made blouse, in a really old saree of amma’s to dinner.

Dinner itself was a strange 50-50 combination of amazing and underwhelming. The cocktails we had were outstanding (I had a plum G&T which was OMG), one appetiser and the noodles we got were exceptionally good, but two things — one main and the dessert — were strictly meh. We giggled about how that was even possible. But I want to go back for a second shot, to assess things better. And have some more cocktails. They were to die for.

Aside from stepping out with VC and having more beer than I normally do on any given week, the rest of last week — Tuesday onwards — went by in a blur of mostly trying to fight the bug and only succeeding in keeping it beneath the surface till it fully took over on Thursday. So I cancelled the rest of the week fully, in favour of staying in bed.

On Sunday morning, I took myself out to a talk on What next for Kashmir. I feel a greater sense of keenness in understanding my world and what is shaping it, a desire to listen to more narratives than the mostly unidimensional ones of my very privileged world, and a greater responsibility in how I engage with my world. It was a tremendous talk that has stayed with me and left me with thoughts circling my brain even today.

Since I was feeling almost 80% better, and since the talk was all the way in town, I carried a book along with a plan to take myself out for a solo lunch somewhere, while I read. I had no plan or specific place in mind. But I bumped into S at the talk and was so happy to spontaneously have company over lunch. As usual we ate well, a shrimp roll for me and a pulled pork sandwich for her, as usual we yakked nine to the dozen, and as always I came home charged, energised and inspired.

There’s something about getting out to play, at play in my life. Slowly the pieces are coming together and things I have been making meek, small attempts at for months finally seem to be finding some direction and purpose.

I feel a greater sense of allowance, for and of myself. Quite unknowingly, I am giving myself permission to do things, to move in certain ways, to make choices, to present myself in a certain way, to allow space for expansion, in ways that I hesitated to, or didn’t think I was worth, or believed I wasn’t ready for, or waited for “good reason” for until now. Whether by way of indulging in a good meal, several mid-week beer, an extra kilometre on the treadmill, that new book spontaneously bought, a tailored dress, or whether it is to listen to my body when it’s asking for rest, spending three full days in bed if necessary without fretting, doing nothing for no apparent reason, pursuing the smallest things simply because I feel like. This is very new for me.

I genuinely feel my life blossoming because of it. This past weekend I realised this in full measure. My body hasn’t taken ill in this way in over a year, but in giving it rest as soon as it needed it and not resenting the illness like it was something to fix, I watched how I bounced back miraculously, and in record time. There is without a doubt a certain fullness I am feeling in my life, a genuine expansion and a blooming in full measure. There is so much to live and give and my cup, it runneth over. Over and over again.

One year ago: One breath leads to another
Two years ago: Grow
Three years ago: Empty

Running updates

It’s crazy how in June, when I returned from an unexpected two month break in Goa, clocking a mere 5k on the treadmill everyday felt like a herculean ask. Huffing and puffing to just get to the end of those 35 minutes, I’d keep going everyday, not knowing what I need to do to better my time.

I have never trained at running, like I have in the past with strength and conditioning or kickboxing or weight training. Running has never been my go-to, so I’ve never invested time into building strength and getting technique right. So I’m extremely clueless about how one progresses realistically and how I can get from one level to the next. I’ve been going at it intuitively, but somewhere in August I felt like I needed to begin somewhere. I had this urge, but no idea where to begin. The internet is filled with confusing resources, so I let that idea simmer for a bit and just kept at what I was doing, intuitively. Side by side, I continued my HIIT and weight training. The only little shift I made was to try and better my time just a little bit, once every week. Even if it was a teeny 0.2 or 0.3 km increment. It felt like I had hit a plateau for the longest time, but suddenly one day at the end of August, all those little incremental steps added up to a 6km run, randomly one morning when I wasn’t even looking.

There I was just running like I do everyday, nearing the last 7 minutes of my run, when I felt a push to go harder and faster. And so I listened and pushed on. Amped up the speed and went for it and boom — that 6km just…happened.

I was so elated, especially because I wasn’t spent or tired and felt like I had a burst of energy to finish the rest of my workout too.

Then, a week later on a very good energy day, I decided to push myself a little harder and see how far I could go. The treadmill times-out automatically after 35 minutes and that’s usually my cue to move on to the next thing. But that day, instead of turning it off, I took a minutes breather and turned it back on and began to run again. For nearly 2km more, breezily, easily, without panting, I just kept going. Music on and loud, my heart pounding, my feet on the machine, I felt totally in flow. And I hit that 7km mark…seemingly effortlessly. Again, it just happened. I actually hadn’t even realised when I had moved past the 6km mark, 6.5km and smoothly past the 7km mark.

The human body and mind continues to fascinate me. How easy it actually is to stretch and reach higher and beyond. And how much it is willing to take, resilient and adaptable. How far it can actually go. I am really enjoying this phase of training, where intuition and an internal rhythm is guiding me on. I would love to train systematically, and it’s on my goals for next year, but for now this has been such fun. I love going by my own moods and what I am feeling like on any given day, and to see it’s actually taking me farther every week.

As I’m witnessing my body change this time around, I’m in tune with what it’s asking for (whether up-tempo or down-tempo), I’m watching keenly as it’s stretching and responding to the changes I introduce, I’m feeling something build from within, and I see it take shape in the tiniest ways in which it shows externally. In my posture, in the way I’ve been carrying myself, in the way that I sit, stand or take space, and most of all in the way I am feeling strong, full and grounded.

This week, I haven’t been to the gym at all. I went to my animal flow class on Tuesday, but that’s it. And it feels alright. I know come Monday, I’ll be back.

One year ago: Walking high on the wire
Two years ago: What coming home feels like: making friends edition
Three years ago: Down and up again