A seed of life

It gives me incredible solace and a sense of contentment to realise that I’m finally at that phase where I am seeing and living through evidence of changes that I have so far only desired and dreamed of bringing into my life. It has been a long and winding journey, and for probably the very first time, I am at a point where I can really see all that has changed, how much of what is, was not to be just a few weeks and months ago.

It is thrilling to experience this transformation as it happens, and it gives me goosebumps on a daily basis, of late. This is the stuff that was mere dreams — that frankly felt impossible — some years ago.

There is a sense of one phase ending, and being on the cusp of something, once again. I am feeling a palpable sprightliness and upbeat energy that comes from the freshness of birth and beginning.

On the one hand there is the undeniable energy of oneness and coming together, of loops closing, of open ends finding a logical settling, of the chaotic ebb and flow having found a natural rhythm, now gathering some steam and churn. Of a slow emergence, as it were.

And of course that also comes with a sense of an ending. The subtle ache of time finally catching up. Of finally, really having to let go of so much that was, so much that has been a comfortable way of being. Everything that has brought me this far. And so, I also carry a little listlessness. A downward energy that makes me want to slowdown even more, sit, mope a bit. Revisit again and again all that I am slowly handing over and moving on from. All that I used to be, and all that I am leaving behind.

Physically — within me — as well as in the things happening in my life I feel a sense of endings and beginnings playing out simultaneously. On the one hand I feel a churn of some impending change that will spark off its own set of movement. And on the other, this deep desire to stop, not move.

This is a slow process, and today I realised that maybe this is just it — this is my process and it takes time. I have only just become aware of this — what I have always passed off as too slow, time-consuming and belaboured set of events and done my best to avoid — is actually the process, the work, at work. To be born again means to take space anew, after all. It means that which once took up all the space, must scoot over to allow for the new to emerge. For the new to become. And there is no way for this to happen fast, or on autopilot.

It’s the strangest dichotomy. And to live it and feel it in my body the way I have been — in a swinging push-an-pull sort of way — has been so fascinating to witness.

One year ago: Turning 32 and the salt water theory
Three years ago: Acts like summer and walks like rain

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35

This has been a pretty significant year for me. But quite unlike significant times in the past that have had an unmistakeable flourish, this has been a quiet sort of significant year, with flecks of change, the tiniest shifts and movements flowing in, unnoticed. The sort of change that mostly only I and the people I am closest to know about or will likely notice.

For far too long I’ve been very shy about admitting how much I love my birthday. But the honest truth is that I love having a day dedicated to me, to look back on how far I’ve come, to give myself a good pat on the back, and to take stock and feel optimistic and really hopeful about the future. I’ve been fortunate to have this happen every single birthday thus far. So, even though I haven’t really admitted it in as many words, my folks, my sister and my husband already know how only too well, how much I love this day. To the rest of the world, I’ve always played the omg-it’s-just-another-day-it-doesn’t-matter act pretty damn well.

So, today is that day again, and I’m off to the beach to celebrate how grateful I am for the gift of another birthday, another year to travel around the sun.

I’m grateful for all that this past year has been — for the lessons it brought, for making me see that growing up sometimes requires looking back, accepting transgressions, grief, hurt, difficulties, but absolutely looking ahead and making amends gently, slowly.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to temporarily disengage from the forced cohabiting arrangement of marriage, and for all the realisations and insights that came out of this experience. It’s been quite the game-changer this past year, enabling me to stretch myself and come into my own. I’m so grateful for VC’s understanding, support and acceptance of this and all that came, and continues to come out of it. I really cherish and hold close his ability to accept me as I am, as much as the woman I am becoming (which I am sure sometimes feels like not at all the woman he married hahahaha), and the constant state of work-in-progress that is our lives at the moment.

I’m grateful for therapy that has so wonderfully tied together the various threads that currently bind my life and being, in a way that no amount of conversation with friends or family can, no amount of reading the best books has, and no amount of trying to figure this out on my own could ever have.

I’m grateful especially for my body. In the past year I have seen what happens to it when I deliberately, totally let go, allowing it to balloon and flourish in surprising ways. I began to notice age in some places — in the way the suppleness and flexibility I took for granted now resists when I push it, the way the skin on my face doesn’t spring back as easily as it used to, the way my digestion has visibly slowed, the tiger stripes that really stand out now, the way getting back to exercise was a bigger uphill task than I ever imagined it could ever be.

And yet, I’m grateful that with a little work, my body still does the things I want to do — whether it’s working my way up to a 5km run again, nailing push-ups again or doing a cartwheel on a whim. Yes, still got it.

I’m grateful for the awareness that all of these changes have come gently, slowly, with little to almost no panic for a change. There has been a very conscious awareness, yes, and it’s made me prioritise taking care of myself and my body in a way that feels very intentional. I’ve always had an eye for eating well, a penchant for fitness and staying fit and healthy, but somehow this feels very different from before when I held many fantastic (unrealistic) notions about my body.

I’m grateful that the rush has died down some. The rush to get somewhere, do this, be that, do more — that constant buzz in my head reminding me of time rushing by and there being so much left to do is dormant for the most part, and I’ve figured out how some tricks to shut it down, when it tends to get active from time to time.

This past year, I re-discovered deliberation. It’s brought a certain slowness and a calm, an ability to move with intention, that has really been another game-changer. It’s made me free-er in choosing which way I want to go, more open in accepting everything that has come my way, and just light and easy going in embracing it all.

A younger me might roll her eyes and scoff at me for turning soft. Maybe she’d balk at how little I hold on to anymore, and how fluid I’ve become. But it is what it is and it seems to work for me.

***

Just one birthday ago I wondered about whether I’ll ever really feel my age. For most of my life I haven’t felt exactly my age. I’ve always felt extremes — either too wise and old beyond my years sometimes, or just so young and naive for my age. This was mostly brought out in situations where I had other people my age to compare with. I’ve lived a large part of my life feeling like I never quite fit right.

This is changing, ever so slowly. I realised recently, that thanks to this newfound comfort I have begun to feel over the course of this past year, I have truly begun to feel my age. Not that I miraculously make myself fit, but that I am comfortable just the way I am, whether I fit or not. And so more often than not, it does feel like I fit.

Nothing feels out of sync, things don’t stick out and irk me as much, differences don’t hinder my experiences. I hold desires for doing more but the desperation to get there fast is slowly fading. I’m re-learning patience all the time. I’m comfortable in my skin, in my body, in the way I am, and the way I feel for the most part.

I don’t know if it’s a function of age or growing up, but I’m keenly aware that my time here is limited. So limited that I feel a strong need to make the most of it. Which is not so say I’ve drawn up a bucket list of impossible things like scuba diving and bungee jumping or visiting 10 countries in the next 10 years, I must tick off. I want to focus my time in spaces that matter to me, on things and people I love and am drawn to. I want to try and always say what I absolutely mean, be more honest, articulate and truthful in the relationships that matter, and try more and more to tell those people just how much they really mean to me.

I’m being constantly shown how often I need to redefine the many catch words that I hold on to — markers of things that are important to me — Peace. Success. Happiness. Care. Love. Strength. Joy. I’ve also learned that happiness and joy is not, and never needs to be, linked with perfection. Or success. Of any kind.

I am mostly bumbling along and stumbling over myself along this journey, but if there’s one thing I’m truly proud of, it’s how much I have been able tame that inner perfectionist in me. I’m grateful for having learned that it’s okay to change my mind. I’ve embraced softness as far as possible, in every area of my life that I can — softness with people, towards myself, with my body, with my dreams, with my emotions. I don’t see the need to be the kind of strong or hard that I once aspired to be.

This past year I relinquished control over the grand plans, a lot. Life has become so much about living the small everyday things, cheering myself on for the little wins, revelling in mundane daily happinesses and the utter smallness of it all. I’ve really been feeling this is where that joy — that I’ve so long believed lies in chasing the grand plans, the big picture, the distant future — is at. Right here. Now.

The nowness of life hits me on a daily basis, and it stays and lingers in a way that has made me feel very, very secure and steady. I put this down entirely to the course I did last year that altered my compass, pointed me closer to my true north. It’s made me see things so very differently, shifting my very perspective on everything, on life itself, 180 degrees. And there is just no unseeing it, no turning back. It has been like opening the curtains on a view I’ve known all along, but suddenly everything is brighter and beautiful.

Year 36, I’m so very ready for you.

Past birthdays: one year ago, three years ago, four years ago, five years ago, six years ago, seven years ago, eight years ago, nine years ago.

Acceptance

It’s been nearly a month since I made a sudden, unplanned departure and came to Goa. It has been an interesting, sometimes challenging month since, for VC and for the both of us. We’ve been mostly going about life, letting things unfold and pass in their own time. There have been some tremendous changes for me, during this time, and it has been interesting to see evidence of old patterns fall to the side, making way for new ways of being. As individuals, of course, but we’ve also seen how much that impacts what we bring to the table as a couple and how our relationship can change for the better. The biggest learning for me here, is how much work I have to do in taking him as he is, for the person he is, knowing where to let go, understanding what is not in my control, and that so often my love and adoration (no matter how well-meaning) for him cramps his style.

So this is yet another appreciation post. For VC. For many, many things — and I don’t want to go into listing them. But mostly for his mammoth levels of patience and acceptance of me, in taking me just the way I am. In all my ever-changing, ever-growing glory.

For as much as I chide him for being impatient, in a rush and for how he never gives anyone a proper chance in life in general, somehow, with me he is this gentle, patient being, with an immense capacity to just let me be, and watch from a distance while also always having my back.

Everything that I have been going through on my own has not all been easy for him, or on him. Not immediately and certainly not in the moments as they happen. So I like to take pauses like this, to pull back and to really acknowledge the goodness in him that makes so much of being me possible. If today I believe I have the space t be this version of me, it is because he has absolutely made space and accepted it. And for this, he has had to grow in slow and silent ways on his own too. I love you, VC. I don’t know how you do it, but time and time again, you do.

One year ago: Looking back, over my shoulder

Vulnerability and validation

As I find myself discovering how woefully limited and inadequate my understanding of words like authenticity and vulnerability have been, I’ve been having experiences of discovering newer, different meanings through recent experiences.

A massive penny-drop moment happened last week when I caught myself saying the other day, “I’m being pushed to be authentic in ways that I haven’t been…” and “I feel like life is giving me opportunities for vulnerability like never before…” and N gently nudged me to check Who’s pushing you? before making me see that this is merely life occurring as it always does, nothing special pushing me to do or be anything different, nor any divine plan or occurrence that is whipping up moments for me to show up in. Most importantly, N showed me that life is occurring as it always does, and I have stepped into a new way of being. And this really hit me like a ton of bricks, overwhelming me because I realise these are the moments of evidence, the lived experience of all that I have been seeking — vulnerability and authenticity.

The thing with growth and change is it very rarely occurs in sudden, singular mind-bending or life-changing moments. Most times, it is slow and steady, constant and so gradual I don’t notice it. Sometimes it is so mundane, it passes me by in moments when I’m not even looking. When N pointed out that this is the product of the work, the relentless focus and determination and asked me to really own that power and not pass it off on life, or destiny and fate, I was overwhelmed to the point of tears.

I realised my notion of what “power” is, and what “owning it” looks like is so largely defined by a very pop-culture addled and Internet-driven brain that unless it came with an aha moment that I could capture in a byte-sized, hashtaggable, YAASSSGIRL style, or something I can dissect and write an entire post about, I will probably miss it entirely.

Power is quiet. Asserting and owning it, even quieter still. And right in there, I discovered a new aspect of authenticity for myself, that I had neither known or experienced before.

Authenticity, vulnerability and a deeper honesty — all very quiet too.

***

It made me also realise how important that validation is for me. For us as humans. And very quickly I looped back to something I’ve been thinking about a lot since the start of the year. N has nudged me in strategic, timely fashion to question why I put out what I do, and the nature of what I choose to put out. I have seen my writing on here change as a result of it.

How much of writing this blog every single day, logging inane details about this journey, is for validation? I don’t have any definite answers. I know it isn’t for social-media style instant validation and gratification. I don’t have a like button active, I do not check statistics much, and I mostly no longer bother about the quality of what I am trying to say even.

There is also the fact that I am no longer an everyday life-blogger, dishing out details about the happenings in my life. I may talk about it here and there, but it is not the basis of my blog anymore. I simply don’t think my life is that interesting anymore. So many posts go live in utterly vague, airy-fary fashion, and make sense to nobody but me because I write them as a marker of something I want to remember, not necessarily communicate in detail to an audience. And even if I sometimes choose to be really honest, bare my soul and get really detailed about the actual happenings f my life rather than just talk about my feelings, am I really 100% honest, authentic and vulnerable on here?

So why this medium with an audience then? Why would I not go private? Or write this in a journal? Again, no clear answers, though I have increasingly been keeping a journal too.

I’ve been reading a lot about how globally the search for vulnerability and authenticity has peaked, and how confusing doing this in the age of social media has made it for our generation. I have many thoughts about a lot of what I have seen and read, but I’m boiling it down to two things that have stayed with me:

  1. If I’m seeking vulnerability in my real life, why do I need to measure it by how vulnerable I can be online?
  2. Have we somewhere forgotten what the word — vulnerability — really means? And are we mistaking it for sharing?

It’s a little sad to imagine that the extent of exposure to social media has changed and reshaped the very definitions of some words for us as a culture, to the point that I’ve had to un-learn and re-learn some meanings altogether. That sounds like a profoundly first-world problem to have.

If my recent experience is anything to go by, vulnerability doesn’t have a single catch-all definition. I’ve discovered vulnerability in newer ways that I hadn’t considered ever before. I’ve seen how wide and all encompassing the word is for such an array of experiences — experiences that I cannot even begin to detail on here. Experiences that are personal, that I don’t necessarily want to detail on here.

If I’ve realised the quiet power of authenticity, vulnerability and a deeper honesty, I cannot possibly be unpacking it here in detail, or screaming it from the rooftops for all to see and know, right?

I’m finding more power, and sense, in quietly holding, containing it.

The fact that I am still questioning what I am doing on this blog, only points to my own discomfort with a standard I am unconsciously holding myself to. Why does my search for the authentic and for a deeper vulnerability in my real life necessarily have to translate into vulnerability online (whatever that is — in the age of general over sharing the lines are blurred)? Why do I need to perform my vulnerability and stretch it on here?

I don’t.

***

On the weekend, S and I had a nice big chat studying some Instagram posts by someone who considers themselves to be posting with a high level of honesty, authenticity and vulnerability, and it has become exceedingly clear to me in recent time that it is near impossible to be vulnerable with an audience. Vulnerability just simply isn’t for the masses. It cannot be painted on and performed, on tap.

It’s something hard won, an evolving thing almost, that morphs over time and with deepening experience, and most of all can only be exercised or experienced with a select few. A chosen inner circle, who have earned the right to be privy to it.

So I wonder again, why does this audience matter? Superficially, I can say no it doesn’t. Considering I get almost no feedback for what I write here, it doesn’t. But I also have to say that as a creative person, a writer, the odd time that on the rare occasion that I do get a deeply insightful comment, or a heartfelt email from someone who could relate to something I wrote, my day is made. It warms my heart to think I touched someone.

There is obviously the aspect of human nature of us all having stories, and wanting so desperately to be heard. The goal for me now, is to first find ways to be heard in real life, to share my stories authentically with those who deserve it, and who will hear it, rather than turn to this blog as an escape (like it used to be).

When I got off social media, I was driven mainly by the growing chasm between life online and offline. I know this is a sentiment many people share. The efforts to correct that by focusing on getting real in real life will do. I don’t know why I’ve felt the need to make my focus reflecting or projecting my reality online, as a marker of true authenticity.

Where have we gone wrong?

I’m still figuring this out, and certain that my thoughts will change and evolve with time, but for now, here we are with only some clarity.

Am I seeking deeper vulnerability all the time? Yes.
Do I want validation for it? Sometimes, it’s nice, yes.
Do I really want to be that vulnerable online, like I am trying to be (and being) in real life? No.
Are the two linked? No.

Three years ago: Birthday weekend in progress

Unfurl

Summer has its own version of lush around here. I see it most glaringly in two things — mango trees that are vibrant and bearing over, crouched and groaning under the weight of the season’s load of mangoes, full of big bunches of bright, neon green freshly unfurled leaves; and bougainvillea that begins to excessively bloom in profusions — everywhere. Bougainvillea has this amazing tendency to show up, erupt almost, in the dustiest most barren spaces, and is there anything that says summer more than mangoes?

The highway outside my home is being constructed, its a dusty old mess and a serious eyesore, except you’re driving down this dreary stretch of nothingness an concrete and suddenly, at regular intervals your eyes find repose in eye-popping burst of bright pink, dusty orange, white, mango yellow and ashy bougainvillea that now punctuate the barren drive.

It is such a pleasing sight. And this sort of life being seen against all odds, making its presence felt in the most impossible places, screams summer in Goa, for me, like nothing else does.

My “garden” is abloom — and I mean that literally and metaphorically. Perhaps the two are linked. I begin my days with my plants, watching every new leaf unfurling slowly, tracking buds as they slowly open from one day to the next. And I’ve been quietly witnessing with a beating heart, how coming into life is such a delicate, tender process that needs so much attention and love, yet takes its own time. Everything in it’s moment in sunshine, not a day more or less.

It feels like my own experience of coming to (new)life, unfurling, stepping into a new season, growing, flowering seems is reflected in my plants too. The sense of a blossoming, supported by an essential grounded-ness, a standing up tall and seeing the light, facing the gusty evening breeze, feels as wonderful within me, as it does to watch in happen in the little pots that line my terrace.

Within and around me, I feel a visceral sense of a determined new life, claiming its time and bursting at the seams.

Despite the punishing afternoon heat, I got out yesterday to celebrate a milestone by having lunch by myself. I drove around a really pretty part of North Goa, almost transfixed by the verdant views all around. Have things been this lush for a while and am I only just noticing them, I wondered. Or has something changed?

It’s beginning to feel like a really wild celebration of love and life. Much like the celebration within me right now.

One year ago: Bad news never had good timing
Two years ago: In-stages
Three years ago: See Lanka

Routine

The heat has gone up a notch. But it still feels only contained in the afternoon hours between 12 and 5, when it is blindingly bright and searingly hot. To so much as look out makes my eyes hurt. So I have mostly stayed in. Ever since I told VC I don’t think all this staying in all by myself is doing me much good, he has been gently encouraging me to get out. Living much closer to the north now means it is actually much easier to access all the little cafes, bistros and restaurants that I used to lament were such a drive away when I lived in Panjim. But the heat has made it impossible.

After 6 though, things begin to change. Maybe it’s where we’re located, in a mini valley of sorts, halfway between the top and the bottom extremes. And maybe it’s something about a summer wind that passes between 6 and 7:30 everyday, transversing this area just so, so there’s a dramatic difference. The trees rustle wildly, and often I’ll hear things crashing in a home nearby. Today, in a perplexing occurrence, an unnamed towel has landed in my terrace. I look out from within my home and feel such a thrill to see all my plants dancing about, and holding on for dear life.

I have to resist the urge to step out and enjoy my terrace, the real attraction in my teeny-weeny home, to be honest. But, 6-7 pm is peak mosquito time. I imagine they all lie in waiting for the heat to subside, much like I do, and set out in full force to enjoy the wide open at 6 pm. So I cook during this time instead, slowly buzzing around my little kitchen, tending to slowly softening onions or lazily chopping a salad, hoping to be done by the time the mosquitoes are done. I open out the doors only at 7 and for a brief 25 or 30 minutes I sit outside on our low, falling-apart chairs, music on, either writing or browsing, or simply doing nothing.

The aromas of a just-cooked dinner tend to hang around in my home — the sizzle of tadka simmered in ghee that was poured over a hearty dal just minutes ago, or pungent onion vibes cutting through the air, the sweetness of a salad dressing that i whisked together and left lying on the counter. It’s just another small, simple, inconsequential part of my day. But in these three odd weeks here, it has already come to be an important part of the day. It’s become routine. It’s become another one of those markers of my days, pegs that make the day even. Full.

My therapist asked me how I’ve been feeling. It’s been a while since we last spoke. And so I told her it’s been up and down, honestly, with spurts of not really knowing what exactly I am feeling. But there has been a pervading feeling of fullness, of wideness and of grounded-ness over all. I’m discovering that the ups and downs are also a part of the routine, and that not every down needs dissection. That even in the downs, I do not have to float off or melt away or be snowed under. There are pegs to my day, to my being, they hold me down and keep me steady.

It has been up and down, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I’m really happy. I am in a good place, without having any one thing to pinpoint as a reason for it. Is this routine too?

***

I’ve learned that honesty can be very hard. But not impossible.
That it can be harsh, brutal even, but it need not be unkind.
It can be difficult to take, but is most often, essential. That it is impossible to be honest and expect it to always be received “well”. But none of this diminishes the value of honesty.

***

One year ago: Today I don’t feel like doing anything
Two years ago: I get by with a lot of help from my friends
Three years ago: Bits and bobs

Belonging

I’ve been thinking about belonging a whole lot these past few weeks, and how much it has everything to do with finding clarity about what you can and cannot live with, as much as it is about realising what you absolutely need in your life right now. As I sit in Goa, every day tossing about a new sense of comfort in this very space that has been a source of anxiety and has tested me for too long now, I actually have found more and more clarity about where I truly belong, and what makes me feel at home. Right now, that is Bangalore. Because in Bangalore, I have all the things I need at this present moment in my life, to feel safe, secure, worthy, happy and most of all…like I belong.

S and I have been directly and indirectly talking about this a whole lot. And just this morning I said to her, this idea that what I want is tied to a place has dictated my movements for so long now, and I am only now realising how limiting it has been to diminish this discovery to geography alone. Very soon after relocating from Goa to Bangalore two years ago, I realised what I was really in search of was absolutely not related to the city I was in or where I was going to. It had everything to do with me, what was going on with me, and how I would choose to respond to those inner cues. That shift in perspective has made all the difference and has been so enriching.

And so while I use Bangalore and Goa as markers to distinguish two very separate parts of my journey, the real journey has been with myself. I’ve said many times before, how every small step, every big milestone in the two years since, the little changes, the monumental shifts, all feel like taking one step closer to coming home to myself. And that’s what true belonging has come to mean to me. To know myself, to dig deeper into an authentic experience of being me, to find comfort in all that I hold within.

At this point, VC is on a similar path too, and it’s fascinating to watch what is emerging for him, and how it is so similar to my own journey from 3-4 years ago. As much as I have been talking about this — with VC, with S, with D — in direct and tangential ways, and as much as I have tossed thoughts about in my head on my own time, I realise this idea of belonging and all the acrobatics we do to understand it and get behind it has been a huge preoccupation for me in recent time.

In my own life, in my body, in my being, I have sensed a change too. And it is undoubtedly having a massive impact on the relationships in my life. Both, really close and immediate, and those that are on the fringes threatening to fall away. This is natural. This is a byproduct of knowing belonging in oneself. It is frighteningly isolating and empowering all at once. I have struggled to talk about this coherently, choosing to talk instead about everything from exercise and food, to plants and the beach.

So imagine my surprise, and relief, to wake up this morning to this beautiful piece of writing by N, that put into exact words just what I have been feeling viscerally these past few weeks. This has been the journey for as long as I remember, before I even gave it actual conscious meaning and an actual place in my life. This search for worthiness, for love, for purpose — has all been about finding a place to belong. And I have spent so long trying to look for it all over, in places, in cities, in people, in groups, when all along I was right here waiting to welcome myself. N recaps this journey — coming home to myself — succinctly, touching every emotion that I’ve felt, every milestone, and beautifully conveys how scary yet exciting the journey has been.

It has been like bursting forth to new life. Like blooming anew. Like shedding skin. Like finding new reserves of self and self-worth. Like growing.

Sharing her words here, with permission.

You’ve felt unworthy of love your whole life so you cling onto anything that will help you feel accepted, loved, and respected.

Anything.

Friends who don’t feel like friends but meet social requirements for friendship.

Careers that don’t fulfill the soul but look and feel shiny and successful on the outside.

Dysfunctional relationships with people who seem to dole out bite size portions of respect and love .. but  only when you meet their expectations.

Money, power, expertise, a beautiful face, a fit body, your work, toxic relationships, social circles hold you hostage. All because they make you feel like you will hear the magic words one day: I love you. You are worthy.

Well-meaning loved ones seem puzzled by your constant need to be right, to be praised and to get credit for anything and everything you do right.

Then one day you decide you’ve had enough.

You stop trying so hard. You begin to tune out the noise and look for worthiness within yourself. Turns out there was enough within you and you didn’t need to go out looking for it in all the wrong places.

You begin showing up as yourself in the world: self assured & confident yet vulnerable and authentic. Love and acceptance begin finding you from unexpected places.

A stranger sees the light in you minutes after meeting you.

New relationships come together out of thin air – they satisfy your every need and make you feel supported and held. Like you always hoped you would be held.

Some old relationships take on a new meaning and depth.

You begin finding what you’re passionate about and what makes your soul sing not sigh.

You hope your newfound wisdom will help you mend all your wounds from the past. But you find that the residual pain, the wounds, the scar tissue will take a long time to heal.

The loved ones, the society, the work fraternity, the workout buddies – your former source for scraps of love have moved on without you.

They could throw you a bone while you hustled for their love but now that you’ve given up on that game you don’t meet their expectations.

You’re surrounded by love but it’s hard to give up seeking approval from the same old places. The places where you know you won’t find your worthiness.

This hurts. You howl in pain. Your wounds awaken and torment you. “If only they loved me as much as I want them to” you tell yourself between sobs.

You’ve been through this before. Looking for love and worthiness in the wrong place.

But this time is different.

You’ve already found a well spring of love and acceptance  inside you. It would be wonderful to have it pour in from everywhere but the amount you need is right there in your heart.

No more no less.

Life and its players will continue to fail you with their expectations and conditions on love.

That’s their role in your life.

They are here to remind you that they are a poor substitute for that undying love you can feel for yourself.

One year ago: Just a stirring in my soul
Two years ago: More books and a mini Bangalore update

Three years ago: Mean things I want to say out loud but cant

Plant babies

It’s official. I have a new problem interest.

Monday began with a drive to drop VC off to work, because he was off to Bombay for the day. On the way back, I swung by the lovely nursery I’ve been going to almost every weekend since I’ve been here. I cannot help it. It is one of the nicest nurseries I’ve ever seen, is so large and well organised and just so calming just to walk through it. And it’s dangerously just five minutes away from home.

I came back with this loot, some more empty pots and couldn’t wait to get home and get my hands dirty again. I spent a couple of hours repotting the new babies I got, shifting some old plants into bigger, new pots and making a few adjustments.

An old, familiar excitement is back. The painfully testing but thrilling test of patience and the never-ending fascination with how plants grow is back. There is a quiet happiness in beginning my day with opening out the balcony and checking on my plants — seeing what as sprouted, observing tiny white tender shoots slowly creep up one milimeter at a time from the soil that holds the seeds so snug, seeing the gradual way in which buds become flowers, how dying withering leaves give way to bright green new ones, which plants are fighters and keep going even when the water runs out and the sun is beating down on them (bougainvillea, incase you’re wondering) and most of all how much just a little involvement and attention can make such a big difference.

The first batch of plants I’d set up when VC moved in were all but dead, with just the two bougainvillea and one tiny plant hanging on to dear life, when I arrived three weeks ago. Today, they’re all doing well again. And I promise, all it has taken is a little attention every day. I don’t claim I understand gardening or know what I’m doing even. This time around though, I am enjoying observing and figuring things out as I go. I guess that takes involvement and that involvement makes a difference?

Sooner or later, it will be time to go back to Bangalore, and I’m already feeling FOMO about looking after these new babies.

One year ago: You know it used to be mad love

Beachy things

Here’s all the times I have been out to the beach, had so much fun and told myself I need to do this “more often”. 2012, again in 2012, and again in 2012 — makes sense, because this was the year I quit full time work. Then it became a sort of ritual to do one big trip, go away for a weekend or more, in 2013, 2014, 2016 and again in 2016. And this is just counting the few posts I remember writing about more than a day being spent by the beach, it doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of the number of posts in the archives that I can’t remember, or the number of times I’ve been out for just the day, or the evening to chill by the sea, drink or book in hand, to just be — I had an almost-weekly routine of doing this and recall mostly taking either S or VC for company, when I didn’t choose to go by myself.

All this nostalgia and rewinding time to say this trip, I feel like I have been bitten by the beach bug good and proper. There was last weekend spent entirely by the beach in the water, which made me immensely happy to the very depths of my soul. I have not enjoyed the sea this much in a long, long time, such that I was unwilling to leave the water, sunburnt shoulders and nose be damned, until the sun had well set. If I count beginning the day at 6.30 am with a run with R, sometimes splashing through waves, it takes the average hours spent at the beach up a notch. All of this inspired the same old feels — a promise to get out and do this more often. (You can see VC’s recent pictures from these trips on his Instagram.)

What I didn’t think would happen so soon is yet another day spent at the beach. When D invited us to join her and the family (Olive too! And when I saw how happy she was on the beach, it made me miss Leo and Lego oh so much) at a beach in the South, I hesitated because we had planned a barbecue for 12 people that we had to prep for. But both VC and I decided in literally two minutes of discussion that we should go — that’s how much we’ve enjoyed the sea this season. So we rushed through preps the previous night and off we went the next morning.

Post full moon magic is real, you guys. The sea was magnificent. Giant rockers perfect for wave jumping and sea salt immersion, complimented with the gentlest bouncy bobbity waves perfect for just lolling about, with white froth and salty breeze in the air. I really soaked it in, coming out only to have a beer and eat batter-fried calamari and fries. We had landed up at the most random and uninviting shack, but were thoroughly surprised with how great the food was. A giant meal was had, and while we all balked at the quantities we had ordered at the start, I noticed we’d done a decent job of wiping most of it clean by the end.

BIG love <3

Again, we came home close to 4 pm burnt to toast and crashed for a whole hour, waking up only in time to do all the last minute things we needed to before folks began to arrive for dinner.

Yesterday evening, we went off to Chapora Fort. I hadn’t been back since 2014, and VC since 2012 or so. And boy, o boy, the place has changed. For the worse, I’m afraid. It’s got a Baga vibe, chockfull of tourists recreating their own Dil Chahta Hai moments — we saw a group of girls singing along to some DCH song and trying desperately to get it right and on video. They eventually did in what seemed like the 23rd attempt. To make things worse we didn’t realise it was Sunday so of course it was going to be packed. However, we found a spot to enjoy the seamless, vast views of the sea that remain, thankfully. It is still one of the best spots to catch the sunset.

Today, VC is in Mumbai for a meeting and I briefly entertained the idea of going to the beach in the morning, before giving it up in favour of gardening some. Phew. I’ll save it for the weekend.

The sea still remains one of the top things about Goa that I miss when I’m away. Sigh. It’s heartening, and I feel so very lucky for having had this luxury for so many years. I think of all the evenings, weekends and entire days spent under the influence of the sea and it truly makes me feel so grateful for this experience that I have really exploited. It’s undoubtedly one of the easiest ways to access healing, calming and humbling stimuli around here. Just walking on wet, solid sand watching the moisture stretch away under pressure beneath my feet, or having a wave completely submerge you, or getting that timing right down pat when I’m able to skim the surface of a giant wave and let it buoy me over than drag me under, it is just such a thrill.

Im approximately four shades darker from all of this — a colour I love, and haven’t had in many years now– and my shoulders have proceeded to peeling, painlessly this time thankfully. But on the inside, I feel so good.

One year ago: Doesn’t mean I’ll stop
Three years ago: Stop

Slow and steady

It’s been a rather flip-floppy week and I’ve floated along feeling unanchored for the most part. First the extended weekend and the extra day spent at the beach. It took me a whole day to recover from that and get out of the holiday blues and back to work. Just then I had the blow out with the client. I felt all loud and fierce in the moment when I stood my ground, but a couple of hours later I began to feel really sad about it. Not for what I said or did, because I was in the right, but just about yet another disappointment. Human beings are just so disappointing and it felt like a last straw.

So I turned to good old carbs for comfort. With a side of a Sri Lankan cinnamon and burnt star anise infused G&T at my new favourite pizza place. VC was only more than happy to take me out and so I binged on a meatballs on focaccia starter followed by a pepperoni pizza.

Today though, I woke up feeling quite rudderless because it dawned on me that suddenly a large chunk of my day is absolutely free and I didn’t know what to do with myself. Work does give my day structure and purpose and I’m back to the drawing board about where to go next. All of this is especially floaty in Goa where my days are long and lazy, and I’m technically in this limbo between holiday and regular life, not sure which way to go.

It could have been another floaty, aimless day but thankfully by now I have figured out my go to fixes that anchor me and bring steadiness to my days. I’ve dragged my feet with exercise this week, thanks to sleeping late so many nights in a row and all the indulgence in terms of food and drink. I’ve flaked and fudged a workout or two, even though I caught an hour long beach walk/run with R every morning that we were away.

Today I just knew I needed to not give myself any excuses. So I kicked myself to workout in the morning and forced myself to finish it strong, in a pool of my own sweat. I was finished, totally wiped, by the end of it but I felt so good. It’s like every single day, I forget how this is just starting trouble and that just seven or eight minutes in when I really break into a sweat and begin to feel the burn, is when the endorphins happen and I begin to thank myself for not allowing another miss.

I went to the nursery again this past weekend and got some new plants for the house. I’m afraid it might have become my new retail therapy, considering I’ve decided not to buy any clothes, shoes or accessories for at least another year.

After my workout I spent a good 20 mins tending to my plants. Don’t ask what I do and why it takes so long but I just enjoy pottering about, digging here clipping there, moving pots around. I don’t believe I’m very good at it but it is extremely satisfying and warms my heart.

I’ve also figured I don’t do well with just being cooped up all by myself for many days. I’ve been especially lonely after VC leaves for work this week, and the lethargy has made my enthusiasm to plummet. So today I got out and decided I should get out every few days, even if it’s just a supermarket run. I’m no longer the homebody I used to be when I lived here, going for days on end without stepping out at all. An hour outdoors was all it took, stocking up on groceries and stuff for a BBQ dinner VC has planned tomorrow, for me to feel steady and like I was back to being myself.

I came home, put things away listening to John Mayer and cooked myself a simple lunch. Dal, millets, a sabzi of sprouts and ate it with leftover kheema. Later, I watched Brene Browns new Netflix special and I ended up doing a couple of card readings for peeps.

This is pretty much all it takes to bring steadiness back to my life. A rhythm of utterly mundane tasks. Some days are just like this, steady and normal, as S said just as I was going about my day and she coincidentally texted me at the very same time telling me how she went about her plain and simple day and how it grounds her in ways nothing else does.

The benefits of having a routine are seriously underrated and I realise this is just what my parents talked about all along when I was growing up. I’m just living and experiencing the wonders as an adult.

Watching Gully Boy yet again in bed tonight and already looking forward to the beach tomorrow morning.

This is joy.

One year ago: The times, they are a-changing
Three years ago: Go far, they said

Loud

Today, I had what I thought was a perfectly normal, if slightly loud, conversation that one has with a client. It started off as a clarification of miscommunication from both sides, but very quickly turned into a shouting match that took an unnecessarily emotional turn. I used to be someone who would get very worked up by confrontation of this sort, but I now much prefer having things out in the interest of a better outcome (even if that outcome is that I lose a client). But today, somewhere in the midst of decibel levels rising and emotions flaring, I realised that what was playing out was a story, a script. Something I have been a part of before — conversations with clients/colleagues where there is an unmistakeable undertone of a power equation threatening to be toppled simple because one party decided to come clean and ask the tough questions.

I used to be afraid of this kind of confrontation, no matter which side of the argument I have been in. I am not a fan of ruffling feathers (and losing a good thing) nor have I been a fan of being at the receiving end of a confrontation. But today, I initiated it. I didn’t even realise how naturally this had come to me today, even as I was doing it. And suddenly, in that moment when I realised what was actually at play, I had the blinding clarity that I refuse to play a part in this repetitive script in my life again.

It was suddenly no longer about missed deadlines, miscommunication, ironing out wrinkles so we can work it out going forward. It was about reclaiming my power from a person who was hell bent on irrationally taking it away. I have never been surer of how right I am in an engagement with a client. And today, I really had it out.

The conversation was difficult. It touched a very raw nerve, gave me a headache and tested me emotionally so much, I burst into tears when I hung up, even as I was so relived to have ended that contract. Now that I think of it, I think they were also tears of relief. But when the call was done, my temples were pounding, I needed a tall drink of water and immediately took myself to my air conditioned bedroom to cool off.

There’s suddenly so much happening with me, in this area of power, space and boundaries. It comes in waves with such intensity and is revealing itself in little and big situations, inspiring a host of different actions and reactions on an everyday basis. It is making me do things every single day that surprise me, push me, elate me, exhaust me.

This situation, this conversation and this outcome (ending a contract on a telephone call) would be so very unlike me. Except it doesn’t feel unlike me anymore. The more these situations present themselves, the more I am pushed to see this side of me that also exists, that has been lying locked up, that needs to be seen, the more I am forced to see what I really am. I’m a mix of it all. I am as aggressive and can fight loud and aggressively for what’s right, as much as I can be compassionate and let you have your way on a day when I feel kinder.

Today I may have shaken myself up a bit. This probably the first time I really stood up to a client who was being a bully. It’s the first time I really made myself heard, without relenting in the moment and saving up all my pent up aggression for a politely worded email sent much later when enough deep breaths were taken.

This new side, I find aggressive, loud, shrill, even hostile sometimes. But, I realise how much of this is conditioning. Conditioning that makes me believe these qualities must be hushed up. That I must be coy and cooperative as far as possible. That I must sometimes relent in the interest of work, and money. But I am so much more than that.

I am sometimes angry. Fierce. Unreasonable. I am all of this too.

When did anger get such a bad rap? Why is it looked down upon so much? I see now that anger and rage, when expressed, are clues to dig deeper. And invariably, when I do, I am compelled to change something towards a better outcome. Anger maybe a trigger emotion, but it’s certainly a catalyst for change. So when and why have we become so comfortable with pushing it away?

I feel loud and large today. It is like stepping into a side of me that has been a long time coming. But on the flip side, I feel emotionally very vulnerable and fragile. And yet, kind of empowered. I feel new.

One year ago: All the small things
Three years ago: Essay aftermath

Separate, yet connected

The biggest takeaway, for me, from this past weekend has been the realisation that I suddenly know what it is to be separate, yet connected. To engage, to relate just enough and connect, without losing myself wholly, or disconnecting either.

Somewhere along the way, all these weeks and months of owning the words and turning them around and around in my head, I suppose the inevitable has happened and it has sunken in just a wee bit, into my being.

For a decade now, VC and I have consciously believed that we are not one of them, and unconsciously kept ourselves away from extended family on his side, as a whole. I suppose there is a time for everything, and this past weekend was as much about testing my renewed capacity for this kind of togetherness, as much as it was for me to create a space for myself, just the way I am. I have always feared doing this because of how different I am. But I realised this past weekend that I’ve reduced different to be a weakness. Unknowingly, that difference became my strength over the last three days.

I’ve only ever thought of belonging in this family, as requiring losing myself a whole lot, and so I’ve always kept myself at a safe distance. Something happened this past weekend that made me realise what it is to be almost wholly me, rather fearlessly, and still believe that I can be one of them. Surprisingly, I received nothing but love for it.

I feel I have a better sense of what it is to live and let live now. The two may be separate and very different indeed, but they needn’t be mutually exclusive. The two, they can coexist in the strangest, most bizarre and satisfying ways.

***

It’s a bright hot day outside, with an over-zealous wind in the air. I’ve picked up toppled pots several times, watched my curtains billowing violently almost like they’ll snap and fly away, and I’ve devised many methods to keep doors from slamming. I have work to get started on, but all I’ve managed to do in between all of this is lie down and doze off from time to time. It seems almost ridiculous, but between the emotional stirring from the weekend and the excessive time spent in the water and the harsh sun, I’m totally exhausted. After pondering about why I’m so tired for all of today, I suddenly realised what I am feeling is a deep vulnerability hangover.

One year ago: Where is the love?

Postcard from staycation – 2

It’s been an extended weekend staycation by the beach. This time around, I have realllly indulged and maximised the time in the sea and pool, spending an average of 6 hours everyday between both waterbodies.

I’ve returned exhausted, burnt to a crisp (so burnt my shoulders hurt) but feeling really (surprisingly) fulfilled. I was super sceptical, borderline worried about this trip and was on the brink of chickening to stay home on the eve of it. But it has surprised and satisfied me in ways I will have to slowly unpack for myself over the next few days.

The best part? When everyone else was leaving, lamenting the end of the holiday and the crash back to reality that flying into Bangalore will be, VC and I drove 1.5 hours back home, still feeling the holiday feels.

Hashtag blessed, I guess?

More tomorrow when I can put my thoughts down coherently.

One year ago: Remind yourself, nobody built like you

Postcard from staycation – 1

Salt water, sea spray and soothing sand therapy – that’s what the weekend was about.

We were meant to check out and bid the family farewell today. Because we were so sure a day was all we’d be able to take of this organised fun. But I suppose there’s space now for new surprises.

We’re staying a whole extra day. And I’m not even complaining.

We’re just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl, year after year.

***

Three years ago: Satisfaction

And thanks Goa

Every time that I’m at the beach, it’s a reminder to get out in Goa more often.

Three years ago: Imperfect timing