The rain

Hi, from Goa, where I have arrived to not enough rain. But only just enough to inspire some Vada pav cravings as soon as I landed.

Right from the airport, I headed off to VCs office to catch up with him and head home together. Today was one of those ultra efficient days with everything operating ahead of time, from the moment I left home in Bangalore. So I got there much earlier than anticipated. In order to kl some time, I dragged my suitcase and two handbags down, two streets away, in the drizzle to Cafe Aram because the settings were just right.

The gentlest drizzle, a sniffle in my nose, a I peaceful journey, and lunch six hours ago. I ducked into the buzzing tea room. Fond memories of my last cuppa chai had there the day before welved from Goa wafting back to my mind.

The tables are snug, a little too snug for comfort. And of course one also sits where there’s place, sharing humble eating space with just about anybody. Often, this results in staring into other people’s plates as one waits for food to arrive, from no apparent reason except that, it’s there, so close.

Few things kindle nostalgia and fondness, a sense of home, as speedily as food. So as soon as my vada pav and chai had arrived and I took a bite of it, immediately I felt at home. Despite the fact that I looked visibly like an outsider. With just the way I look, and strolley in tow.

There is something about a tea room at 6 pm on the heart of Panjim. The vibe just brings you back to ground reality.

It was such a good way to begin. To come back home.

Outside, the rain began to fall harder and noisily.

One year ago: I choose to be happy
Two years ago: I need to sit with the quiet, I know that much

Three years ago: The rain, the rain

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Stillness

It’s so great to be in a learning environment again. While I’ve really enjoyed and felt the need for the time of processing in the months between level 1 ending and level 2 beginning, I have also missed staying in touch with the work and being in an environment that nurtures and makes me feel like a learner. Just two days of it and I’m thrilled, my heart brimming over with joy.

Last year, there was a decided pause I had made in my life to make space for this learning. This year it feels like I’m going with the flow. To be in a classroom again, without a plan, without a focused specific outcome and without any inkling where this learning is going to take me is like flirting with the unknown at another degree. To go with the flow even as I remind myself to go one step at a time, one day at a time is exciting. To lean in and make myself available to any way in which this journey may unfold and take me is feeling as much a part of the learning process as the course itself.

I’m glad to be able to give myself this opportunity and to be in this process minus the regular anxiety about performance and outcomes that I am known to experience, is refreshingly new. And it feels like a shift within me.

When I began this journey, this exploration of learning last year, it felt like a sabbatical. There was a concious putting off and away of all other preoccupations. It has been interesting to see how much more has peeled away in the months after, how much more continues to strip away even to this day, and how I am being guided to really focus on this without much effort on my part. Without a plan. Without any preconceived ideas. Without expectations.

My life looks nothing like it did one year ago. It looks nothing like I thought it would either. And I have been having Ong a strong feeling that I have to let go of the very idea of what “my life should look like”. Earlier this month when I had thoughts about work and which way to go, there were vestiges of a past life creeping in, which though I invited and explored, didn’t stay very long. So I’ve been feeling for a while now, with a growing sense of confidence every day, that perhaps this isn’t a sabbatical anymore, and just a new kind of life itself. The end of one way of living and making space for an entirely new one.

This exploratory, flowy way of living through my days has a special kind of slowness that now sits beneath my skin. I find myself reluctant to have days that are packed full of activity or that require me to run helter skelter. I am.unabke to function in that way. There is a slowness that has pervaded my very being, shifted and rewired some very fundamental building block in me.

It’s like an internal clock resetting, a rewiring of my system. And maybe I need to stop looking at this as a temporary set up, or a stop gap, but just a very new way of life itself.

One year ago: One day, we’ll be old and think of all the stories we could have told
Three years ago: Thoughts on a girly holiday

Decompress

A spot of alone time and unwinding before I head out to dinner. I really needed this to decompress all that has been held within me for the last 24 hours.

There was a death in VCs family and being around the family in these circumstances always triggers something very deep within me, bringing up differences and making me realise the full impact of the way in which I feel like a misfit.

I carried all the stirrings of this to therapy last evening. A mad dash after a day that was spent in a tizzy on the run. And what emerged attherapt crushed me like a ton of bricks and took me to a very deep, dark place.

I’m tempted to say I was not ready for it. That it came out of the blue. But if I were to be really honest, the signs have been there, the writings been on the wall, this has been coming a while. I had only to see it and have the right trigger unleash it all.

I realised yesterday what a sense of safety and guidance I feel with N. Something just clicks into place for me when we begin a session, giving me the unexpected confidence to bring out the things I do — the things that stay deep in dark places in my real life. But I’d be untrue to myself if I didn’t give myself credit where it’s due. If I didn’t acknowledge the work and focus it has taken in getting myself to where I am with my personal journey. The process of integrating, becoming hole, including all that has been separated, looking at the ways in which I am bound by my consciences — all of this has contributed to making me just that little bit more solid and whole from within. And it is only because of this newfound solidity that I am even able to tap into the depths of my shadow self, brave enough to go there and wrench out the more deeply held fears and anxieties like I did yesterday.

I have never felt so simultaneously fearful and brave. Afraid, yet ready. Empowered, and up for a challenge.

The difference now is just how much I feel like I am on my own side. How much I have my own back. And how much I feel committed to not abandoning myself.

So I sit here today, finally decompressing, and I realise since therapy yesterday I have subconsciously waited and anticipated a mild falling apart that I thought would follow.

The flux, it’s there. The distress and unsettlement, it’s there. The angst and butterflies in my stomach about what will be, it’s there. And yet I feel together.

The “breakdown” — it hasn’t come. And I’m wondering if it may have left the building entirely.

One year ago: Did we fly to the moon too soon?
Three years ago: Back to base. Almost.

Powerlessness of love

Last minute, rushed brushing-up texts from last year’s course, as I prep for class again this week, I stumbled on this stunning description of “primary emotions” that I don’t remember reading last year. Or maybe I read it, merely glossing over it, not taking it in the way it stumped me this time around, simply because this stuff has come to mean so much more in recent times.

The author describes primary emotions as being so intense that there is a powerlessness in the experience of them. He speaks specifically of love, and how it, like most pure, primary emotions have that quality of lightness, ease, and of loosening up something within us, to the extent that they render us powerless.

I realised this only in context of how when we move into the realm of secondary feelings, what drives us is actually the desire to subvert that which makes us feel powerless. It is our inherent human tendency to attempt to control, to actually exert power over anything that tends to take over us — as most primary emotions do. It is what we all do, in order to make sense, in order to navigate what we’re feeling and in order to sometime just “feel” through the emotion.

I’ve consciously and unconsciously done this believing fully that it is what is to be done with emotions. But I’ve recently realised this is futile. It is counterintuitive and that the only way to move through it is to do nothing at all. To surrender to it’s power. To really wholeheartedly experience primary emotions like love and joy, are to surrender to the full impact of their inherent powerlessness, and how they invoke the same powerlessness in me.

In other words, let it all go.

I’ve been trying to let go, let loose a little bit more than normal when I feel primary emotions wash over me of late, to really see what happens when I do, what am I so afraid of. And the observations have been interesting to say the very least.

Gratitude for love and people in my life, this week. For the numerous small, daily opportunities my life presents for me to connect and feel this love in so many different ways.

Meanwhile, and as I speak of love, under a week to go before I see this face and get to do this IRL, than with screens between us. Gratitude for VC and for everything that he is to me, and this strange, magical place we are in.

Gratitude for the opportunity to be in a classroom again starting tomorrow. To learn. For no other reason except to itch the scratch of curiosity about something that has drawn me in so fully. To learn for the sake of learning alone.

Gratitude for the epiphanies this work and the learning continues to bring. For the numerous daily aha moments that abound. For the slowwww way in which it unfolds, creating the gentlest ripples in my life. For the incessant lightbulbs that go off and on from time to time. For this experience of learning that feels vast, endless and like I will take it through to the rest of my life.

Gratitude for exercise once again, this week. I realise the days immediately after my period ends are when I am at my lightest, most agile best. And I don’t mean this in terms of weight at all, but more in terms of how nimble and springy and ready to get up and run, I feel. There is a literal spring in my step that makes me quicker, feels like it transforms me into this lithe, subtle being that can fly.

Yesterday, at the gym after a four day break, fully expecting to take it slow an easy as I ease back in, I surprised myself by bursting into a spontaneous quick run that was faster and took me farther than I have been in the recent past.

I’m slowly figuring out the key to making myself sustain anything in a healthy way. The ways in which this works for me are to focus on consistency and ditch all the numbers. And this isbfinally how I’ve become about the gym too. I started in March and all I have done is very mildly streamline my food inake and get diligent about getting a spot of exercise six days, every week. I haven’t measured or held myself to any numbers or measures of progression as yet. I didn’t stand on the scales either. Until yesterday. But in the way that I feel, in the way I can run, in the way that I have been lifting weights again, I can feel myself getting marginally better every week.

I stood on the scales for the first time in years today, and was shocked to see I am back to my pre-wedding weight. This has happened entirely when I wasn’t looking for it. So I felt mighty thrilled and I treated myself to a slice fo flourless chocolate cake.

Gratitude for little surprises that break the monotony of this city life. D said to look out for signs in the form of bright, unexpected yellow flowers today, and minutes after I read the post, I realised I’d stepped into the midst of these.

And as it happens, I had extreme flow, zero obstacles on a day when there could have been many, a delightfully happy day.

One year ago: It’s just this thing that seasons do

Warm

This time, in Wayanad, I had the privilege of meeting with so many people my father has befriended over the last two years that he has pretty much lived there. Through smatterings of Malayalam, conversing in animated gesticulations and a lot of telepathy, he has managed to make friends. It helps that the people of the village he lives in are just so warm, open and hospitable. Ive been hearing about this, about them, for months now, but nothing prepared me for just how warm they could be, until I saw it myself this past weekend.

In the way that my father was waving, stopping to say hello, exchanging nods of familiarity and warmth with just about everyone, wherever we roamed along the long stretch of road that the home sits on. In the way that so many of those people, when they realised my mother and I were visiting, absolutely jumped at suggesting the idea of having us over, many insisted, and a couple were successful in convincing us. What followed was an overwhelming hospitality that I have not seen in a while. Literal strangers with whom I can actually barely converse (We don’t speak the same language) but who have a strange affinity for my father, this man building an impossible/unbelievable looking home in their neighbourhood, opened their homes out to us, laid their dining tables out with the best home-cooked food and snacks and just had us, hook line and sinker.

So we met, ate and dined with, got taken on house tours of new and ancient houses alike, ate home-grown fruit, learned about ancient bonsai and home-grown plants, and even got sent home with doggie bags of giant home-grown papayas, bunches of bananas, and seriously the very best pazhampori I have eaten in a very, very long time.

So now you know what added to my heart-full feels. (Belly was very full too, teehee)

It got me thinking about how this warmth, this wearing my ones heart on ones sleeve, being un-fearful, outgoing and just so open to experience and connection can dramatically change the quality of an interaction. It has the capacity to cross barriers of language, culture, socio-economic strata and bring people together in a bond of pure love. It’s something we definitely lose in big cities, where the hustle to just get ahead, the insular nature of life, the pressure to make meaning and tangible value of all interactions takes away something very tender and soft about connecting with a human being for just that — connecting, alone. It also makes us fearful, competitive, cagey. And in the process we’re definitely poorer for it.

Some part of my mind was cracked open by this experience, this brush with strangers who felt nothing like it, this thought post interacting with them. And I hope it sinks deeper and cracks my heart open too.

One year ago: Take a minute, I’ve been sitting here, wondering
Two years ago: What coming home feels like: seeking solitude

Simple

To Wayanad and back home this evening. So, some more Wayanad things:

It rained, but not nearly as much as it should be, or as much as I’d have liked to have experienced.

My heart is full. And still.

The home is coming together beautifully. And my heart fills with: 1) joy to think of how painstakingly and lovingly and with how much grit and determination my father has worked tirelessly, uprooting his entire life in Bangalore, to make this happen. For him, and for us. 2) humility and overwhelming gratitude to think of the number of hands and brains of complete strangers, blood, sweat and tears that have gone into building this home.

Walking into the house for the first time on this trip, looking around, watching masons splashing on cement on a bare wall, I had a moment where I really, fully registered how a home, a building, no matter how big or small, is still a handmade thing. A piece of art. A building together and making a sheer figment of someone’s imagination come true. It kind of blew my mind to think of the scale at which, brick by brick, things come together. How today, three years on from when we went as a family to break the ground and begin work on this piece of land nobody thought could be useful for anything, there now stands this magnificent home. A home, I think is amongst, if not the best, my dad’s finest creative work.

It’s taken many hands, many heads, many weeks and months of tireless confluence of energies, lots of hiccups and pitfalls, but to finally see it in it’s near-finished form, made me very, very happy.

I’ve seen this piece of land so many times before, and we’ve obsessed over the view through all stages of the making of this home, again and again and again, we’ve imagined it, hyped it, dreamed of it, built it up in our heads — but this was the first time it took my breath away like it did. Maybe it was because it’s the first time I was in a room, surrounded by walls, a super high ceiling, with this view in front of me created a different sense of space — of belonging — that it hit me the way it did.

We stayed on site on site, this time around in the parts of the home that are complete. It was such a thrill to be totally out of network coverage, so I mostly forgot about my phone. Pitch black darkness and just the sound of crickets after sundown makes for a kind of desolate and off-the-grid like I don’t witness otherwise. Simple, home-cooked meals eaten so early we were all in bed by 8.30 pm on all nights, in utter silence and total darkness all around, was topped by waking up to the rain-dappled morning sunlight. Forest sounds, birdsong, watching turtles frolicking in a pond — it’s a bit surreal to think this is what morning is like in a corner of the peninsula not too far from home.

The kindle did its thing and I finished two books in two days. That’s what happens when the day expands, time stands still and the world is forgotten. It’s nice to think I now have access to a spot thats not a “holiday” spot and experience this degree of remote now.

It was also nice to be with amma and anna, away and in peace, just us. This hasn’t happened in years, and to think this sort of unplanned trip gave me this opportunity to just be, unconsciously cocooned, is heartwarming. I enjoyed it thoroughly, we shared a room, cooked and ate our meals together, drove all around the little village, listened to music and drove all the way back to Bangalore together today. Things were absurdly simple. And easy.

So yeah, my heart is full. And still.

One year ago: Nobody really likes us, except us
Two years ago: What coming home feels like: Bangalore sky-porn

Three years ago: Begin

Away

En route to Kerala for a bit, and I just realised I will be practically off the grid. YAYYY.

Happy for the opportunity to catch some good monsoon rain seeing as how Bangalore has disappointed sorely in this department. Except Bangalore is a promptly showing some promise of rain the next few days, starting today. Just as I’ve left town.

I’ve left my laptop behind and carried just my kindle in the hope that the reading habit may be…rekindled. Get it? Hahaha.

It’s not like I need a break seeing as how life itself has become a nice big holiday of late. Even so I’m glad for the break before I come back and head straight to class again.

See you on the other side.

One year ago: Soaked mornings
Three years ago: When autumn comes, it doesn’t ask

Rest

It’s been about a week of erratic sleep at nights. Before and after a full moon sometimes makes me an owl. But throw in one mistakenly consumed (OH SO PRETTY AND OH DO DELICIOUS — see above!) coffee one evening, a couple of nights out and heavy dinners, PMS-induced sugar (and carb) cravings that I gave in to systematically (I’m talking a Death By Chocolate cookie day before yesterday, a mixed fried rice followed by a hot chocolate fudge yesterday, and a beautifully satisfying carbs-in-carbs aloo-bun today) and it’s thrown my system a touch out of whack. So I’ve been having trouble getting my required hours of sleep at night. Even the nights I’ve managed to get in bed at a very decent time, I have found myself wide awake counting sheep uselessly till 2 am on two nights this past week. Despite that I’ve managed to get up at 6 and hit the gym every day (mild beast mode motivation levels have been hit). So I think today, it all just caught up with me and I had a slow, slow, slowwww day, spent mostly horizontal, except for making a little something for lunch, consuming said lunch and stepping out for errands in the evening.

I watched Casual, all day long, and in the afternoon did something I haven’t done in a long while — i crashed for two whole hours. It was deep, deep, dead-to-the-world sleep an I woke up with my mouth open and drooling.

Clearly, I needed it. And in keeping with the slow-ness of today, my brain has refused to wake up. Hence, no post. I have absolutely no thoughts to share, forget coherent ones.

I’ll try again tomorrow.

One year ago: Let me in, unlock the door
Three years ago: Things about VC that I never want to forget #17

Tender

Things have suddenly grown very quiet with me. Quiet. And contained. There are a lot of open ends in life right now, but for a change there is no desire to close or to make meaning of most things.

This is a pleasant change from always having my mind working overdrive to analyze, understand, get to the bottom of.

I am reading about the power of un-knowing. How sometimes, the desire to learn, gets in the way of the path of the soul and its movements, and it may be well worth my time to taste this un-knowingness. To approach every day without a knowing, or a plan. To be so utterly open, is scary and uncertain and vulnerable. All the things that still take “work” for me to turn on. But to enter into a state of un-knowing also takes surrender, relinquishing control — both which command a high level of courage that I feel I am only just building.

I feel tender, and exposed. However, I am just about feeling ready to embrace this opportunity — to hold, to stay still, and to wait, in this space of not knowing, from where anything can emerge.

One year ago: You live, you learn
Three years ago: I don’t feel sorry about posting pictures about my life

My own person

For a few weeks now, I have been feeling a deep sense of settledness, settlement, within. I waited to see if it was just a bout of peace as I’ve experienced before, or something deeper. And it seems to me, more and more, that this feels like a filling-up from within. A kind of sufficiency that I am unable to put a finger on or find words to explain. And it’s come with the profound, but very quiet, realisation that I am mostly okay on my own. These are S’s words. We were talking about this the other day, each of us articulating the same thing even given the very opposing circumstances of our lives, and we were delighting in the fact that we’re in similar places of understanding of what it really truly means to be on one’s own.

What then, does one do with the constant thread of loneliness, and the need for connection that also exists, on the very flipped side of that same coin? It is there, all the time, undeniably so. A constant reminder that even as I discover facets of myself on a daily basis, unearthing unknown resources and reserves of self-love, and seeing how it manifests as new connection and healthy boundaries in my outer world, and even as I skim th surface of  the well-spring of belonging within myself, and as I teach myself to dip in, drink of it and fill myself up, in the end I am all alone.

What do I do with this, I wondered.

The past three days especially, these thoughts have peaked, as I consciously and unconsciously made time to just be with and by myself. And I realised this is a new kind of loneliness. A kind of solitude I am happy to choose. It doesn’t come from feeling alone or abandoned. It doesn’t spring from messages unanswered, plans deferred or any such basic occurrence. It comes from a sufficiency that has been slowly welling up inside of me. A settledness, a feeling or oneness with who I am discovering myself to be. And an understanding and experience of space, around and inside of me. Even the words and thoughts I have been thinking as I feel my way through this has been different, from before.

Only after some thought, and careful processing did I realise that this loneliness, is different from before. And I shouldn’t mix them up and confuse myself. This is the loneliness of finding myself. This is the slow, but full sweeping understanding of what it means to be enough. And that in the end, even with all our connections, relationships, families and society at large, we are all alone. That it is possible to hold my space, connect and feel utterly lonely all at once. Minus the fear, minus the abandonment that was once so easily triggered, minus the panic, minus the desperate need to distract myself from it.

It took a while to notice that this is no longer cerebral, and somewhere when I wasn’t looking has found a place somewhere deeper. I only realised it when I noticed that in flashes, in many little moments, acts of putting myself first and looking out for myself, that something has changed in the way I am presenting myself to the world. There is this new person slowly emerging from the bed of fertile soil that I have been nurturing — feeding, nourishing, watering, wand waiting over — for the past so many months. This new person feels lonely, but I am able to be with it and let it flow through, without much any effort at all. It has less control over me, doesn’t grip me in angst or desperation to connect and find people or things to fill it up with. Instead, when it presents itself, it sometimes makes me feel settled, near-perfect. And that was a confusing feeling, until I figured out what has actually happening.

This person has been showing up more and more of late, and I can’t wait for her to find her whole self and emerge. The process thrills me, and makes me feel like this, right here, is me living my best life. It feels so darn good to have this be a conscious, deliberate part of my life. This is the healthiest, fittest, most happy and mentally fulfilled I have felt in many years.

One year ago: Home where my love lies waiting

This is now

The weather is doing weird things. It’s overcast/cloudy sometimes, but mostly warm during the day. The rain is playing hooky again. It’s been raining in pockets, but mostly not in these parts. So many days I have smelt the air, thick with rain, but it seems to have just passed us by. But the evening skies have been sooooo dramatic and downright show-offy. Like all dressed up with nowhere to go. I took this on Thursday evening as I walked back home from Third Wave. Something about the shimmery lake, golden tinged everything and sparkly greens made me feel like I was in a Bangalore of some long forgotten past.

***

The past three days have been near perfect. Balanced, quiet, in sync and in flow.

Friday and Saturday were spent entirely at home. I felt like staying in, which was strange given that I had an unusually high number of options and invitations to get out and do something, all of which I declined.

I stayed in and did some reading ahead of my course that begins next week, wrote that letter, I watched some Netflix. I absolutely crushed it at the gym, got a long, very good head massage with amma, and ate all our meals together.

Balance.

***

I might have easily done another day of that, closing the weekend un utter sloth and relaxation, but I agreed to catch up with S, R and the kids for a morning of drawing in the park on Sunday, which turned into some painting, some playing catch and lots of lounging. This was followed by a long and lazy lunch. I wound up coming back home closer to 4, just in time to catch a short snooze. D showed up at about 6, and somewhere between sipping chai and stuffing my face with a palya-bun, we he made an insane spontaneous spur of the moment decision to drive to the Muji store. In freaking Whitefield. On a Sunday evening. If it weren’t for the very compelling pitch that was bolstered by the fact that all of Bangalore was indoors watching the India-Pakistan match, creating a near perfect reason to get out and drive that far, I’d have politely declined and gone back to bed with Netflix. But I agreed, and it was the most efficient, productive trip to Whitefield I have ever made. Especially because I have been wanting to go to the Muji store ever since I moved here two years ago, and will probably never make the yatra all on my own ever again.

Win. Win.

***

Every so often, I have days like this that feel like perfection. When everything flows, there is ease (as in lightness and freedom) and just so much space for everything to find its place and stay. Days that surprise me, as much as they feel right and like they were planned all along. Days that show me time and again what balance without effort looks like. Days when I feel just so tuned-in.

It’s on days like this that I manage to grab at emptiness, and find meaning. It’s like enjoying the warmth of a sunny day, without feeling the discomfort of heat. When I can catch in my hands the meaning of what it is to be. Not do. To just be, now. When I can parse away the heady castles in the air about what should be, and I shed the weight of what once was, and all I am left with is this moment, in the present. The now. And I’m realising this is all there is to be done, really. To be present, and go with it. Everything else is imagined.

One year ago: Love on a weekend
Three years ago: Work things that make me chuckle

Within me

Feeling all kids of quiet and snug within myself today. Content, to use a dull and inadequate word.

Excellent sleep. Daily, intentional exercise. Finally, finally some balance in eating intuitively to nourish rather than punish my body and myself.

Expansiveness between therapy sessions. Mindful observation and reflection. A beautiful containment of everything, a slow and deliberate process and awareness of what really is my process.

Getting out of my head and into my body more. Digging deep to find the constant spring of space and solidity, alongside a red-hot, just kindled, young and feisty fire.

*This is an old picture from a spectacular day in Paris, in September 2018.

One year ago: After the tears have washed your eyes
Three years ago: Just keep swimming

These days

It’s been about 10 really good (and bustling) days — some reflections, writing, anticipation, exercise, good food, friends, great conversation — and as this week comes to a close, and I’m looking forward to staying in this weekend.

This happens to me every time I touch down in Bangalore. My calendar gets so full so quickly with catching up with people. This time, interestingly, I have been careful to filter out what I am not so keen to do (things I’d do out of politeness), sticking only to meeting people, going places and doing things that I am really interested in. And yet, after a burst of activity like this, I feel the need to just hit mute for a while and sit at home. Which is my plan for the coming weekend. Starting tomorrow, actually.

One year ago: Please stick to the rivers and the lakes that you’re used to
Three years ago: About yesterday

On boundaries: how they’ve changed my experience of friendship

Lately, I’ve been seeing some interesting shifts with the way in which I am experiencing friendship. For years I understood boundaries purely cerebrally, and struggled to find a way to really let the ideas sink deeper and peter into my life. The idea of a boundaries always drew up images of a solitary existence. While I embraced this as a kind of solitude at one time in my life, there came another time when I began to really crave connection, and I began to understand the importance and need for healthy, dependable relationships. Forging those has been a whole adventure of it’s own with so many hiccups and milestones alike.

I didn’t realise this before, but for the longest time I saw a boundaried existence and loneliness as by-products of each other. For the longest time, I didn’t see the middle ground that exists between setting healthy boundaries and simultaneously forging deep and wonderful connections.

I am slowly getting this now that I am experiencing a physical healthy distancing from people, even those I love and hold close. And I am doing my best not to mistake this for the old loneliness. This manifests more as a healthy space between me and the other, and it’s so fascinating to note that it’s the same space that acts as a protective boundary in some relationships, yet deepens my capacity to relate and to connect in others.

In just the last week alone, I experienced both in two separate instances. And both times, I experienced it as a safe, welcome distance between me and the other person. Being someone who usually knows no other way but to go all in, sometimes to the point of being completely enmeshed or losing myself totally to the relationship, and therefore experiencing constant lack from an imbalance in giving and taking, this has been a welcome change.

And what a relief it is. To be better with space between us, minus the throes of fear and peak abandonment that it once resulted in. To enjoy the poise and grace that comes with the space. To watch what happens in the many moments of pause that increase and grow, when there is this space in a relationship. To let go of the need to be seen as good, or well-meaning and kind at all times. To no longer mistake the desperate need and expectation of the other to change or deliver in ways differently from the way they can, as kindness and concern. To just let it go, entirely, as fulcrum on which the future of the relationship hinges. To be okay with people as they are (within healthy limits, of course). To be okay with the uncertainty that comes from not always being on the same page as the people I choose to surround myself with.

This has 100% happened because I am seeing the minutest ways in which I am getting better with a very conscious understanding of:

  • boundaries, how they won’t lead me to impossible loneliness and why they’re actually good for relationships
  • kindness and compassion and when I tend to allow them come into play
  • my tendencies to judge and how they have an impact on the quality of relationships
  • and of course, the overarching process that is meeting myself in a good way, feeling whole and at home with myself

There’s a lot of nuance involved in each of these, and I’m only recording this in brief to remember this feeling of ease and relief that I’ve experienced this past week. The sense of space, again, is really hitting the spot for me.

One year ago: Stop chasing shadows, just enjoy the ride
Three years ago: How blue

The written word

Well over a month since my birthday and I still haven’t written the letter to myself. Every time that I have decided to sit down and do it, I am overwhelmed by the thought of what parts of everything that is going on right now to include and what to exclude, so as to ensure that it’s not a never-ending letter, and a letter that precisely, not necessarily concisely, captures it all.

There’s a lot going on internally, and every day there are small shifts, changes, bodily movements, differences that I note. Many times these are little clues to something or another relevant to where I’m at internally, mentally, emotionally, and what changes I am experiencing in these areas. Some of it makes it to this blog, and so while it will always be (I think) a thing to go back to when I want to know what happened at this point in my life (and that is the idea behind logging everyday), writing these letters have been special. Every time that I have sat down to write one in the past year, something new has emerged from it. A different way of looking at the exact same thing I already knew I was going to write about. Sometimes, clarity that only comes when I put pen to paper. Most times, a deep sense of gratitude, empowerment and liberation. So I want to get down to this soon. Like today. What I did manage to finish was writing letters to some special folks who have been around and whose presence has  impacted me in some way this past year. 10 letters in total, I surprised myself. And today I went to the good ol’ post office to send some of the overseas letters off.

The exercise always shows me how some of these habits — things I was accustomed to even while growing up — are just near obliterated in our daily lives today. It’s only when I write letters that I realise I don’t know what value of stamps to use anymore. What’s the going base rate? What is an overseas letter going to cost? When I wrapped a letter in today, just snug, I wondered about how J might open it in Germany, without cutting through the letter itself. And then I remembered envelope cutters — every home used to have one. We did too. A blunt knife-like tool that would be stuck into a tiny opening in the envelope, to slide through to release the contents of the envelope. When was the last time you saw or used one? I can’t remember. Remember when everyone had personalised letter heads? And what about the entire operation that is a post office itself. When I entered the neighbourhood one today, complete with the grouchy, reluctant staff behind the counter, seated amidst piles of mail and paperwork, the smell of dusty, musty degenerating paper thick in the air, I felt a pang of nostalgia for the days when everything was analogue. And alive.

***

There’s something about letters and communication in the air for me, obviously, because as soon as I got back from Goa, I stumbled on an old letter from my grandfather that I had stashed away as a keepsake, but completely forgotten about.

Today, amma gave me another one (written in 2001) that she discovered some weeks ago. Back in the day, I used to regularly send printouts and handwritten copies of all my written work to my grandparents. Sometimes including essays I wrote in school that turned out well, and the odd book report or such too. In this letter, my grandfather congratulates me on winning 1st prize in a book and movie report competition in class 11. He had such a flair for picking the right words that always told me so much about his complete interest and involvement in reading whatever I used to send them. He didn’t just read my letters, he got a lot of what I’d write about, and he took great care to reflect/communicate his understanding back to me.

Reading the letter today made me think this is something else we’ve lost to rapid digital communication. The softness that is the essence of having someone’s full attention, knowing well that I am being heard. The human element of a heartfelt response. If writing letters is an act of vulnerability, reading and responding are too. Presenting, making oneself available fully to the mode of interaction at hand is most definitely an act of vulnerability. And I wonder if this is why I often feel like writing letters and do it so often. Even Especially to myself.

One year ago: Only happy when it rains