Day 151: The week ends, the week begins

It’s been a summer holiday like month. Relaxed, very unhurried, travel, mangoes, afternoons spent guzzling books, plenty naps that have shot my sleep cycle to bits. Summer vibes and May feels all round. Some things I’ve loved about this oh-so-strange and up and down month:

  • Another birthday! Another beginning.
  • A whole week in Goa, for the time out, for the realisations that came from it. For the opportunity to do another workshop. For the shifts that came from that. For the dogs. For the week spend with D, and the hangs with Niyu and K and the unexpected girly fun I had.
  • A whole week in Thailand, for obvious reasons — the beach, the food, the holiday. For the opportunity to hang out with R, S and H in a way that I won’t have in Bangalore. For the scuba diving. For the taste of reality, and affirmation of some truths I have known. For getting the family trip done so the pressure won’t surface for a while now. And mostly, for showing myself that I can bend a little, relax a little, let go of my aversions a little, and do things I don’t always like to do but sometimes need to do, and still have fun while I’m at it.
  • A true and complete taste of both VC and I being funemployed, together: ever since VC joined me in my state of funemployment, he’s been the disciplined one taking himself to his co-working space everyday. He’s the man with a plan, even when there’s nothing to be done. But we took May off from normal programming, owing to all the travel and conveniently being between projects. I always imagined we’d be the sort of couple who cannot live under one roof all the time, because we’d get in each others hair (and maybe in another time, we would have did) but things have obviously changed. And I was pleasantly surprised to find myself telling him today that I have really enjoyed having him around. We’ve been sleeping in, waking up late, running off for breakfasts out, catching morning movie shows on Mondays, having impromptu work talk and meetings right in the comfort of our living room, we’ve cooked together, eaten more meals together this month than probably all this year, and somehow managed to enjoy the togetherness as much as give each other space to potter about as we please. This is a first, and I’m glad we had the chance to try it out, and be surprised, before he begins a new phase of work in the new week and new month on Monday.
  • All the time I ended up spending at home. I managed to do some long, long pending spring cleaning, sorting and disposing of stuff I’ve needlessly carried around for decades. Cupboards were cleared and space was made. But it was also remarkably cathartic, in a way that really reinstated how much I’m ready to move on.
  • The unplanned amounts of sleep I’ve got. It’s confused the shit out of me, and left me feeling very lethargic and lazy, but I suppose at this point it is what was needed and I’m glad it was a month free from all else, so I could just give in and rest.
  • The unexpected income.
  • The little bursts of clarity, that have shone through much of the haze. This will be a month to remember, no matter what I say or think about it right now. I just know it’s going to be a month I will look back on, maybe, 6-8 months from now and think oh yes, that’s what it was all about, and that’s where it all started.

One year ago: Changing seasons
Two years ago: Day 151: Waiting (the film)

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Day 150: Days when I couldn’t live my life without you

I began blogging in May, twelve whole years ago. And on this day seven years ago, I moved to WordPress. I’ve said it before: for all the inconsistencies in my life, the inability to stay with anything long enough, this blog and how consistently I’ve kept at it, how it has been the constant through so much in my life, counts for a lot.

The blog itself has morphed a lot from where it started. And it’s morphed many times over. But I look at the move to WordPress as quite the milestone, where my writing really significantly changed and moved from mere journaling of daily occurences to a more reflective sort of writing about things I was thinking and feeling.

Two years ago I wrote a post about what the blog has seen me though and how it stands testimony to so much I have experienced. It chronicles journeys taken, and records so many details that don’t always remain in my mind.

This year though, the blog has changed yet again. I’m woefully aware that this stint, the form the blog is in today, is the least interesting one for an audience. But I cannot overstate the joy it brings me everyday to have a space to turn to every single day, where I can ramble on unencumbered, where I have no expectations (of me or of this activity). There is no agenda or point to any of this really. At this point, it is merely a journal to recount the things I am going through.

I’m so glad to have made a habit of it because it’s been such a handy tool in noting the changes, the fluxes and the inflection points. The small victories, the setbacks and the in betweens alike.

I’ll go back yet again to my favourite quote from my favourite book on writing. Because it still sums up so accurately how I feel about writing, and why I continue to do it, even when it apparently has no bigger purpose:

Writing is magic, as much as the water of life as any other creative art. The water is free. So drink. Drink and be filled up.

Writing this blog, more than many other kinds of writing I’ve dirtied my hands with, fills me up in ways I cannot even explain. And sometimes when I think about it, it feels like such a luxury to have the ability to express myself. In words. In sentences. In rambling stories. Here on this blog. Because more than anything it allows me to come back and drink up, yet again. Even years later.

And that’s a mighty empowering, freeing feeling.

Two years ago: Day 150: Ten

Day 149: It don’t look like I’ll ever stop my wandering

I’m feeling a bit blank this week. I thought it was the post-holiday fatigue, and a touch of jetlag. But it’s been two days and with the sleepiness and lethargy showing no signs of abating, I’m beginning to wonder if there’s something more to it. As such this entire month has had me repeating my refrain: I’m feeling unsettled. Save for the two trips away, that has been the general feeling I’ve carried around.

Travel always unanchors just a bit. Something about letting go of the regular routine and relaxing means I tend to take a while to slip back to normalcy. But this is my third consecutive time going away and returning, to realise that I still don’t feel that I’m-coming-home feeling when I return to Bangalore. That feeling usually aids the return to normalcy. I feel it only once I’m within the safe space of my home or my parents home. But landing at the airport still leaves me feeling like I’m in transit, and like I have to hop on to a flight to get to Goa or someplace else.

Bangalore still feels like a pitstop. This really bothers me. I’ve been trying to do an assortment of little things to help settle in. Part of it is because I feel I owe it to myself — so much has gone into moving lock, stock and barrel, I feel let down to think that 365 days later, I’m still not quite…well, at home in that truest, deep-down sort of way.

But today, when I woke up in a funk and forced myself to try and potter about the house, settle things, cook a little (it’s domestic stuff that usually helps me find my ground again), that I had a small realisation. It’s when I beat myself up over trying to feel at home, that I end up feeling unsettled.

I thought I was dealing with this transition better than ever before. I am, but just not quite as well as I imagined, perhaps. I’m allowed an off-day in this respect too, I suppose. Maybe I need to stop fighting the unsettledness. Let it be. Let it pass.

It’s funny, when I lived in Goa I had a distinct feeling of belonging there. Despite my bouts of homesickness. I had come to a place of feeling at home in two places, of feeling at home as a state of mind. And  everything, I placed so much of this feeling of home on the places I lived in, on the things that make up the idea of home in my head.

Now, that I am back in the original home city, one year on and still pretty rootless, and increasingly feeling less inclined to settle, I’m questioning the idea of home itself. When I think about where home might be as a place, I draw a blank.

Metaphorically, though, I have been feeling plenty at home in my own space, in my body, in my mind and within myself. And maybe this is where the two ideas collide. I’m trying to fit myself into the idea of home as a place, and settle in the old way I knew how. When in reality an alternate kind of homeliness is brewing.

Maybe what I should do is let it go, and count on the beginnings of that new idea of feeling at home. Allow it to blossom. Really lean in to the idea of being that nomad I’ve been feeling like all month, fully dream the dreams (and realise some of them) of vagabondage and see what happens.

***

Contrary to what any of us expected the hugsband didn’t take a single video on our holiday. Something happened and he decided to focus on the photography for a change. He has been taking some smashing photographs instead, a whole load of them. Determinedly waking up at 5 am to catch the sunrise, and scouting all day for the best vantage points for the sunset, he has had such a full and satisfying holiday. It helped that the first island we were on faced west and the second faced east, and every sunrise and sunset was a completely different colour, like Goa playing with paint. Head over to his Instagram to see a whole host of holiday postcards.

Day 148: I’ll take a quiet life

Postcards from Thailand 8.

Bittersweet goodbyes like these, set against mad skies that are just showing off, bidding adieu to another much needed holiday, while I sit with the jitters about being at the cusp of change, closing this week and walking into a new one, without a clue about what’s in store, yet knowing in my heart that I am ready.

Thank you Thailand. You have my heart, all over again.

Two years ago: Day 148: Odd days like today

Day 147: Now the beach is deserted

Postcards from Thailand 7.

Who would believe a sunset so magical, it changed from this:

to this:

And eventually this, in the span of about 15 minutes?

Between the uber flavourful food, the insane subsets and all the coral I’ve seen this past week, I’ve experienced a proper sensory overload.

Day 147: For you will still be here, but your dreams may not

Postcards from Thailand 6.

Holiday wisdom in nondescript corners of unexpected places. Sometimes when I’m not even really looking.

Synchronicity and serendipity excites me almost as much as beach holidays do.

Sit and wonder.

Okay, yes.

Two years ago: Day 147: On the calmness of being at home

Day 146: There’s still time for another

Postcard from Thailand 5.

This is my third time visiting this always interesting, surprising, thoroughly lovable country and it just doesn’t get old. Or boring.

This is my second visit to the same island. Many islands in the area offer simar experiences. Even so, coming back to this sort of contained nowhere-to-go seaside experience always gives me a breath of fresh air, a new lease of life. This time too, I feel invigorated. Especially after the unsettledness of the last few weeks.

I’ve had three straight days of being in my swimsuit dipping in and out of the sea for the most part of the ay, punctuating it with reading, eating or drinking. I feel really good. That probably has everything to do with the salt water dips. And yet, it isn’t just the salty air and beach vibes talking. This has been a little bit of a milestone as far as holidays with go. Probably because there’s been a significant letting go and genuine relaxation, deep down.

Things I’ve done on this holiday that I have enjoyed (and surprised myself with):

  1. Unabashedly consumed beer through the day, without worrying about the calories or the loss of appetite
  2. Eaten my body weight in Thai and other Asian food, without worrying about whether I had the real estate for it in my tummy and the resultant calories
  3. Managed to get a fair bit of alone/down time by myself despite being with the family, and managed my sanity for pretty much the entire duration of this trip so far
  4. Found my sweet spot with the famfam
  5. Gave scuba diving a shot. After years of wanting to, but putting it on the back burner because it was either too expensive, I was not mentally prepared, or I was just too damn chicken, I finally decided to shut my eyes and dive in. And I am so very glad I did
  6. Let go of a few small niggling control issues with regard to holidaying

Two years ago: Day 146: Back to base

Day 145: High by the beach

Postcard from Thailand 4.

Beach day. All day, erryydayyy.

Come hell or high water. As it did yesterday, thanks to a storm that lasted all dang day.

But, in Thailand (as in life), it’s always good to be open to surprises and the day turned and ended with my first scuba dive and a rather unreal double rainbow.

Sunrise.

Afternoon.

Sunset.

Two years ago: Day 145: Rumination without a title

Day 144: We ain’t picture perfect but we worth the picture still

Postcard from Thailand 3.

Being around VCs family long enough invariably makes me feel like I’m on an entirely different planet as far as attitudes towards bodies in general go. My own, as well as every and any body around. We’re on an island, on a beach holiday, so obviously there’s a lot of those around in full view. A great variety and diversity in shape, size, form and colour, no less.

I’m super thankful for the confidence and appreciation I have for my body, as is. For the ability to wear what I want, sans any shame — my own or asserted on me. But not merely restricted to clothes alone, I’ve come to realise the agency that has been encouraged and inculcated in me for as long as I remember, is not the norm. Even amidst educated, otherwise liberated folks, as close in proximity as the family I’ve married into, this is absolutely missing. A deep-rooted shame about our skin, shape, body type and the default need to constantly cover up, and thereby the expectation that others must too, is the norm.

I’ve realised once again, that it comes down to values. And I’m grateful for having been taught early not to peg anything on appearances. And to own my body and my choice to carry it, wear it and do with it as I please, as the norm. Or I’d too be spending my holiday judging bodies left, right and centre.

Two years ago: Day 144: Monday, this week

Day 143: How fragile we are

Postcard from Thailand 2.

Last evening’s sunset made me feel like we really don’t deserve the glory that is this planet. And nothing establishes our completely undeserved privilege than travel to some of the remotest, untouched parts of the world.

Gratitude for the planet, nature and the abundance I’m getting to witness around.

Day 141: We keep this love in a photograph

Things about VC that I never want to forget #18
VC gets full credit for really showing me what unconditional love looks like

There are times in my life, when smack right in between being surrounded by people, having so much activity going on, loving the highs and silently tiding through the lows, putting on a big smile on my face — I feel incredibly lonely.

Sometimes I’m lonely because of the beliefs I hold. The beliefs that are getting deeper, well-formed and articulate, with every experience I have. My opinion on the world. My socio-political stance. The resulting choices I make on an every day level — from choosing lesser plastic to taking a shared cab to feeling — are a reflection of the values I have and the beliefs they have birthed. And the thing with having my beliefs grow louder in my head is also realising which of your people have similar beliefs, and why. And feeling warm and fuzzy in that sense of togetherness and a shared conviction. It also means sometimes realising the beliefs of people on the polar opposite end of the spectrum, which is a far less happy-making feeling. And when it comes down to political views about our country today, add to it the feeling of being in the minority of people who feel deeply about many things the large majority couldn’t give a rat’s ass about and that despair and loneliness, a palpable helpless and worry that we’re all just fucked at the hands (and unthinking brains) of a bunch of low IQ savages rises very, very quickly to the surface.

This is the price I have to pay for having a firm set of my own beliefs.

Many time the loneliness is because the journey of self-awareness is by nature a very personal one. And not a lot of it makes for easy sharing or cheery conversation. Much of it is in fact best done silently, in private. That isolation invariably draws lines where none existed before. Lines separating me from people I once held close, between me and the places I love, things I indulged in. Lines that rein it in and draw me inward. None of this comes from a place of really wanting to be a touch-me-not in isolation, but simply that the full benefit of the journey is best experiences in private.

That too, is the price I have to pay for being so highly invested in my self-development.

Some days I become so acutely aware of how lonely and quiet it gets now that I am offline so much. Absolutely no social network, 10 hours off whatsapp every night, lesser and lesser time spent online during the day — my world and the world around seem to be constantly moving inwards and out in waves. The means to access and stay in touch with everything is fleeting. Some days I manage it better than others. But many days I don’t even really try.

Dealing with this strange kind of loneliness — suspended in a web of togetherness — is the price I pay for getting off the grid and seeking human interaction more than any other form of interaction.

There’s a lot of other ways in which this loneliness, the price I pay for being irrevocably committed to being my own person, rises to the surface. But, I have realised that every single time that I find myself cut away from the various groups and factions I dip in and out of, every time that I find myself despairing about being alone in the way I feel, the choices I make and the things I go on and on about (that often feels like nobody gets it), I have a place to come home to. And that sense of home and belonging, that instantly dispels the loneliness, giving me a safety and security, the space to be me in all my imperfection, is VC.

VC is my person. My home. My end-point, no matter how far or away I may stray.

This past weekend particularly, I realised that VC is the only person (aside from my parents — they deserve a salutation and a whole post to themselves) who really takes me as I am. A motley mess of still-developing beliefs, weird and inconsistent patterns, a constant work in progress, a far-from-perfect person.

VC loves me, just the way I am, at any point of time. He has loved me at my worst, as much as he has loved me at my best. He has loved me through the sweeping changes in between. He has loved me because of who I am, and he loves me despite it all. He loves. And he loves and he loves.

With VC, when I pay attention and allow the inner voices in my head to shut up, I always feel like I am enough, just the way I am. With all my unfinished business, the jagged edges, the yet-to-be-smoothed patches, the contradictions and the unexpected flare-ups.

This past weekend I realised that much of the progress I have made these past few years in getting closer to myself, knowing myself and being my own person, is because no matter what happens — how much I rock the boat, how far I wander, or how much I stir the hornet’s nest, I can always come home. To him.

It is a lot to be thankful for, this solid rock to fall back on. And it is such a powerful feeling to know, and really know in the way that I have felt it this past weekend, a good ten years into our marriage, that I am loved. And I am soooo enough. Just the way I am, inside and out. To understand suddenly what it means to never really be alone.

And so today, I just want to give thanks and really feel the gratitude I am, for the crazy-ass twist-and-turn life that brought us together, and the ways in which we have grown these last ten years. And for the place we are in today.

That is all.

Two years ago: Day 141: Malleswaram market things

For more Things About VC I Never Want To Forget, there’s more where this came from.

Day 138: Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day

On staying present in my emotional reality*

I’m sitting here pondering about time again. How it has this uncanny, tricky, devious way of slowing down just so, just when I need it, and picking up pace, just as is needed. Never really in my control, but always making me conscious and aware of that delicate way in which it passes, just skimming by, barely touching.

This month is panning out with a seesaw of days that rush by, leaving me breathless, my mind whizzing, but with a fair number of days that have begun with something strange and new for me — sloth, and an inability to get up and get going. This is completely new ground for me. And entirely alien feeling, this one, of not being a morning person. I’m a bit flummoxed at what is at play here.

Part of it could be residual effects of the workshop in Goa — something major has shifted, though I’m not exactly sure what!) and some changes are afoot, bubbling beneath the surface. I can feel it, and it’s giving me the butterflies in my stomach in anticipation, except I know not for what I wait, or what is to come.

Outwardly, it is playing out a bit like ennui, only on the days time hangs, when the slowness of it all becomes obvious. Meanwhile the churn continues just below the surface, out of sight. But it isn’t quite ennui in that there is no dissatisfaction at the heart of it. In fact there is that anticipation growing under cover, like a pupa sheltering what’s inside it from the world. It feels like what will emerge will be entirely new, unexpected, bright and exciting, in a way that the present state (pupa!) refuses to reveal.

Inwardly, there is a feeling of unsettledness. Something is astir. Call it a silent churn, the gentlest movement that is causing no major upheaval. Yet, is apparent in that slow whirring, low-hum, shape-shifting sort of way.

I’m taking it one day at a time. Observing the little changes — noticing which ones make me smile, which ones leave me a bit off-centre and grappling with finding my space again. I’ve been having broken sleep, which has also contributed to waking up not feeling entirely rested. There has also been a lot of thoughts buzzing, resulting in conversations and reading. But my mind refuses to be held by much. Not much work has happened, or much reading. I’m being awfully forgetful and scattered on some days. And all of it is feeling like this isn not quite me. Much of this has surfaced post-Goa. So, I am just letting it pass.

I think I am dealing with these times of transition much better than ever before. I am learning to have the patience, to dial in to the subtle shifts that happen in quiet moments that usually go unnoticed. I feel more persistent about tiding the low, as much as I do about riding the highs. And I feel overall more excited about what is to come, even as these moments of being present sometimes leave me exhausted.

More and more I’m finding not just the benefit, to use a staid, dull and clinical word, in staying, but also the joy in the process of staying.

Stay until the end, and there will inevitably be a beginning. Stay to begin a new, and lead myself to the inevitable end. Rinse, repeat. It is becoming the only way for me to be in the present, for as many moments as possible. How else can I know, watch, see, and feel? How else can I live through this?

“One never notices what has been done; one can only see what remains to be done…” She was always asking, “what’s next?” [laughs]  But as soon as we’re expecting the next moment to give us what this one is missing, life becomes this game of next, and what’s the final destination? It’s death.*

This is where the dance of time comes in to play. In every little moment throbbing to life right before my eyes. Time, grabbing my hand and taking me along some times, dulling me into a lull some times, caressing me gently as it brushes by, or turning things into a tizzy as it rushes by.

I stay. Because I’ve learned that everything reveals itself much better, much clearer and much fuller, when I stay.

*If you’re interested, Maria Popova has some incredibly touching, thought-provoking thoughts on staying present and grounded “in one’s emotional reality”, that have spoken to me in times when the loud and often harsh voices that dictate the shoulds and musts often out-shout the far quieter voice that struggles to make itself heard. And in times like this, when my capacity to stay is being stretched to the max.

Two years ago: Day 138: Flame of the forest

Day 136: Waiting here to find the sign, that I should take it slow

One of the expected side effects of growing self-awareness is how clear my own bullshit becomes, and despite a struggle how much quicker I am to call bullshit on some of my behaviour, patterns and tendencies.

But nobody told me it was going to also become easier to notice other peoples’ bullshit just as easily too. It often lands me in a quandary, especially with friends whom I feel I owe honesty. Do I speak up? How much should I say? And how do I say this without sounding self-important and risking trivialising the issue?

I am also realising that mostly, this self-awareness is a privilege and a gift. One that I must handle with care. I’m learning every day, to separate noticing bullshit from spilling over into judge-y tendencies that tend to go into building entire stories in my head. I slip up sometimes, but I’m getting better at noticing it when it happens, and nipping it in the bud.

On the flip side, it doesn’t make the awareness go away. For eg: when a good friend is being a jerk, or being silly, or maybe just floundering in a way that you can help fix, it’s hard not to notice. And so often, I find myself having witness a peculiar behaviour, and sometime siting with the knowledge of where it may be coming from. But more and more, I keep myself from jumping to provide an opinion or solution. I’m trying to exercise restraint more often than not, because every body has their own journey of self-realisation to make.

In a seemingly insignificant conversation this week, I noticed two things:

  • My absolute refusal to get dragged into drama that is fundamentally not mine, or drama where none is needed, has peaked.
  • Instead of flapping out polite, rational, “correct” responses, I actively take some time out to think about what is happening and how it is making me feel, before I respond.
  • Consequently, my responses are clearer. Firm, but articulate. Calling bullshit, but kindly.

I patted myself on my back for my proportionate and precise responses that keep the drama at bay, and the conversation short. N said something yesterday that really resonated with me: it’s a step up to be able to talk about things that I’d otherwise just stew about in private, allowing it to cripple and cramp me along the way. It’s nice to keep working out the kinks. And sometimes seeing proof that whatever’s at work, is working.