Day 338: November

Changes are shifting outside the words

It’s December. Inside of me, I feel full and potent, about to let loose and lunge forth like the pre-monsoon sea in Goa. Ripe, bright brown and churning up, ready to burst in welcoming the gush of the first rainfall. It’s how I feel about the turn of the year. 2019 is full of promise, and I’m only making the most of the last four weeks before the curtain falls. Inside, things shake and mix, bulge and wane, noisily. Outside is where it’s oddly calm, everything lying in waiting as the energy builds up to a precarious crescendo.

As always, it is when silence takes over, that everything unfelt, or that which I have been unable to make space for, creeps in to make its presence felt. It feels fitting for the last month, of the year, to sit with all that I have not had the time or presence of mind for until now.

I have recently realised that the fear of loss and scarcity has been a huge influence in shaping my attitude to life, and while I may have made significant breakthroughs in overcoming some of it in terms of work, monetary abundance, an idea of prosperity and success, it is still very much apparent, alive and kicking, and rears its head in other spheres of my life. And when that happens, it makes me slip back into living from a place of fear. Which keeps me from living my life in an open, healthy and soft way.

The world seems hell bent on making us believe that life is not lived if it isn’t filled with hardship and struggle, but this is a lie. My experience has taught me that it is a fallacy that keeps various wheels of the establishment turning. Whether the economics of the capitalist world, or societal mores, fear is a great thing to put your money behind. Building walls, being strong, caging emotions in are part and parcel of the struggle. The struggle that leaves no room for falling apart. And this costs us the lightness of our hearts and eats away at our souls.

The belief that I must fight the lack that’s perpetually chasing me pushes me on to believe that I must work harder at everything — from a life of writing to relationships with heart. The same thing that causes me to disallow emotions to come in and be felt. But if recent experience is anything to go by, I know for sure that there is always the possibility of a life of ease, where life flows, relationships are easy, judgement fades and decision making moves to the beat of my heart. But it requires that deliberate softness, a decided focus on getting closer to authenticity, making vulnerability a habit.

It requires courage. Not in the typical sense of bravery or in big, bold acts, but simply to live life with utmost honesty and sincerity, even when engaging with the minutest, most simple and insignificant daily acts. To not attempt this is to commit to a life of fear.

Last month, I held the words of David Whyte, on Courage, close to me. And I believe it has pushed me a step ahead from the place of waiting that I have been in for so many months now.

Courage is the measure of our heartfelt participation with life, with another, with a community, a work; a future. To be courageous is not necessarily to go anywhere or do anything except to make conscious those things we already feel deeply and then to live through the unending vulnerabilities of those consequences. To be courageous is to seat our feelings deeply in the body and in the world: to live up to and into the necessities of relationships that often already exist, with things we find we already care deeply about: with a person, a future, a possibility in society, or with an unknown that begs us on and always has begged us on. To be courageous is to stay close to the way we are made.

And so in this last month of 2018, I’ve been sitting with that which I already know I feel, but inviting it in rather than keeping it at the threshold of my heart. I am attempting to allow it to seep in fully and deeply. To unfurl a new kind of vulnerability, to flirt with feelings very different from the kind that I’ve become used to. To turn some of my I’m-not-sures and I-don’t-knows to I-think-I-cans.

To drop the unfounded resistance and lean in to the unknown that begs me on and to cleave to the bits of me that I am slowly discovering are closest to the way I was originally made. As I near the end of the year, I’m longing for some (more) courage, to make space for all that I am unwilling to or unable to see as yet. To sit with the discomfort as much as I welcome the comforts. To cry with as much ease as I laugh. To welcome chaos once more. To walk into the light. And I wish the same for you too.

***

I spent the end of October running into November in Goa and it was the sort of open-ended trip that could extend or shorten itself depending on how things went. I drove down with VC, and didn’t have a return ticket because if you’re familiar with life in Goa, you’ll know that setting up a home there is by no means a short, quick or easy task. And so it was the kind of trip where I took every day as it came, not knowing how much longer it could go on that way. As it happened, I stayed over three weeks, feeling chuffed that somewhere when I wasn’t even looking, the ability to really go with the flow has seeped into my life.

One year ago, a trip like this wold have shred me to bits with anxiety and unnecessary stress. And yet somehow, this trip was a wonderful mixed bag with its fair share of moments of joy at where life has brought us, gratitude for the help that has come along the way, but not without a healthy dose of fear and wonder about the future.

Time always slows down when I’m in Goa. I feel this physically, my breathing grows calm and my being is more relaxed and spontaneous. We’re extremely lucky to have friends like D and UT whose home has been a second home of sorts in Goa all these months, and it made for a perfect base this time around too. From our conversations, the meals we love and share, the comfortable silence and the proximity to our own home — this time around was no different, except for the added excitement of babysitting their puppies which hugely contributed to us feeling at home and at peace, even in their absence. It was also the perfect antidote to the wildly frustrating exercise that is setting up home in Goa.

Being back in Goa also stirred up so much nostalgia, and surprisingly fear and anxiety, had me reminiscing so much about the way things used to be. There is still such a definite resistance to letting the comfort of that go, even with the knowledge of how miserable it used to be. Even when I am actively moving towards a future that has no space for the narratives and stories that ruled the old. Realising and accepting this felt like a blow to my mostly zen current state of mind and put me in a very contemplative headspace. Some days, there were no words. in which to be around the ever-present, ever-willing, I’ll-take-you-as-you-are energy that puppies bring, was a new and soothing experience for me.

There was much contemplation: about the #metoo movement and this fantastic comic. Of fresh beginnings for VC and me in two separate cities and homes, of this exciting new ground that I find myself in, of a yet another revised definition of home and a new love for poetry, of the joy and privilege of a pause before the next big change. There was also ample time to spend reading, and so I caught up on the books I’ve been ignoring.

Even as I grieved the sense of loss I felt was triggered in Goa, there were two bright sparks of friendship and belonging: a day spent with N, and a weekend in Auroville with A, that both reminded me of how much more valuable the here and now always is.

That weekend in particular brought a shift in the rushed, hyper energy that I have been carrying around for two months. Between eating healthy, earthy meals and walking for hours in the dust and heat of Auroville, I felt dragged back to reality with a sense of healing and settledness. On our last evening sitting on thr warm sand, watching the waves come and go, I was taken back to a favourite essay on the need to cultivate “Negative Capability“. The peace and quiet and time to myself meant I could empty my mind and prepare to begin again.

I came back to some great, great Bangalore winter weather that I have been enjoying in small doses. Crisp sunshiney days with a nip in the air that make it perfect for lots of walking around town, outings alone to finish work and drink lots of chai, dinners of soup and toast, enjoying jackets and stoles and shawls again. I’ve been out a lot, but I also feel like I’ve been indoors so much — my days feel longer, somehow. So much more gets done, and that means more scope for bad days and slow days. I also came home to the happy surprise of being published in an anthology of stories and essays on menstruation. A real, proper book, you guys! And all the walking  has felt like finding my feet and the love for walking my walk again.

As always, through it all, there is gratitude. For the extreme luxury that is a home away from home, for the unfettered love that dogs have shown me, and for everything that my life currently allows me to indulge in.

***

One month ago: Day 305: October
Two months ago: Day 284: September
Three months ago: Day 246: August
Four months ago: Day 219: July
Five months ago: Day 184: June

Six months ago: Day 152: May
Seven months ago: Day 134: April
Eight months ago: Day 92: March
Nine months ago: Day 60: February
Ten months ago: Day 32: January

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Day 305: October

Find another day, with all the changing seasons of my life

I’m writing this from the balcony of our home in Goa, that VC and I are setting up yet again. It’s been a week of intense flashbacks thanks to being back here, not on holiday. I’m mega excited about having one foot in Goa and the other in Bangalore, with VC living here and me heading back home. I am raring to get ahead into an unknown and honestly blank future. I don’t know what lies in waiting for me, but for the first time ever, that uncertainty is sweet and promising.

It is a fitting time to be here, watching as parts of my being are being rekindled, flames of old memories gently fanned to life again every time that I see or do something that triggers a flash from the past. A past from that life I once lived here.  I say it like it was aeons ago, but in truth it was not so far gone. It’s just been a touch under two years. And yet in so many ways, given the transformations that I have experienced, it feels like an absolute lifetime ago. I almost do not recognise that version of myself, and I’m finding it hard to connect to the memory of who I was when I lived here.

Driving down the same streets, revisiting bits of my routine, my haunts have all brought back memories hauntingly close to my mind. And from where I am now, that feels like a sweet, innocent, soft time from the past. Every step of the way, I find myself revisiting how far I’ve come since this journey of healing and spiritual discovery began exactly 2 years ago, right here. Through therapy, making breaking and remaking friendship, umpteen conversations and lots of reading, some self-help and a whole lot of help from around me, active restructuring of my life work marriage and everything in between, it’s been two consistent years of seeking to find my centre again. A centre and a solidity that comes from within, that isn’t attached to any of the trappings I lean on to around me — not my friends, not my family, not my spouse, not my work, and not even to a city. And so it is even more fitting, this state of limbo, of floating between worlds not knowing where or how I am supposed to move ahead, because it is testimony to this very journey. Of finding a centre so deep, of filling it myself up to the brim, of feeling enough, of knowing it is enough.

Of realising that not every one of life’s puzzles needs immediate solving. That there is space for the unanswered questions, for answers that are slow to come. And to make space for the unknown, and to be willing to find comfort in sitting with the questions alone.

***

I spent most of October (and September, for that matter) in a mad dash. October was meant to be about recovery and recouping. We returned from our vacation at the end of September looking forward to some peaceful regrouping as we pack up parts of our lives and set off to begin again on new shores. But as things turned out October was anything but what we’d set ourselves up for. It’s been the most hectic month of the year this far.

It was so busy. I was so busy and when I wasn’t busy, I was preoccupied about being busy. I was running through lists and lists in my head — work lists, packing lists, purchase lists. And that’s just how the entire month seems to have gone by, without so much as a whisker of catching my breath. It wasn’t the ideal way we’d have liked to send VC off, but I cannot complain because I found help in unexpected quarters, empathy and acceptance from near and far, togetherness with both my families, visits from dear friends, a superlative culmination of my course that added a flourish of a finishing touch before we jetted off on our drive to Goa — me by car, VC by bike.

***

In a few days I will head back to Bangalore alone. It is the beginning of a new chapter in my life, and in my life together with VC. It certainly has all the makings of a shiny new adventure, but at this point from where I am right now, I’m sitting snug in the comforts of a chapter about to close.

Since being back in Goa, I’ve ended every single day with a heart filled with gratitude for how help has come my way in these last two months, right up to here in Goa when our lives are in a flux with all the balls up in the air. For family and friendship. For this inexplicable fullness of life. For a future that’s wide open and up for the taking.

It is nice to finally be in a space where I am not fighting life, or vice versa. Things are in a gentle flow. There is peace when I go to bed at night, knowing just how much I am looked after. There is comfort in knowing I maybe walking this journey on my own, but I am far from alone. And there is an immense joy and a deep sense of contentment with knowing I am exactly where I need to be.

***

It has been a month of low, weak writing given how impossibly preoccupied my brain has been. So I’m not attempting to make much sense of my posts this time around.

That post-holiday snap back to reality that was the only day of repose we had. My sister fell violently ill and while it thrust me into action-mode that didn’t wane for the rest of the month, it also threw up moments of pondering about surrender, family and togetherness.

There were many days when I was so filled with thoughts, overcome with emotion and dying to let some of it drip over onto a page, but I just couldn’t find the words. Then the #metoo storm hit, and everything was grey for a bit. We lost Leo and that hit me harder than I expected.

Mid-month we began to consider this move, planning for it and I got a felt a bit overwhelmed at what it means for me, to consciously live apart from VC. To be living this dream of being in two cities at once. There were interesting turn of events with an unusual calm even in the face of this frenzy, a clear indication of change in the works, a glimmer of hope with small victories sparked by brave women speaking up.

The unusual calm seems to be here to stay, and feels like it means more. And finally, just when I allowed myself a mini breather, I unravelled and fell ill. But there was work to be done, goodbyes to be said. And a rather special journey together to Goa was embarked upon. Leaving one home, to come to another home. Our own home is WIP, and I’m gradually feeling equal parts envy that VC gets to have the new home, and excitement at returning to my old home for a newish life.

As always, there is gratitude. For ordinary, everyday miracles. For the abundance friendship has brought to my life these past 2 months. For the unseen gifts even in the hardest moments of my life. And for the incredible, generous offering that is a future into the wild unknown.

***

One month ago: Day 284: September
Two month ago: Day 246: August
Three months ago: Day 219: July
Four months ago: Day 184: June

Five months ago: Day 152: May
Six months ago: Day 134: April
Seven months ago: Day 92: March
Eight months ago: Day 60: February
Nine months ago: Day 32: January

Two years ago: Day 305: Light and life

Day 284: September

Heaven, let your light shine down

I’ve thought long and hard about how I can sum up September. I’ve written, re-written and written again, this post collating all that happened in the month, and yet the right way to put it together has eluded me. Continues to elude me. It’s odd because so much happened in September. I was busy, the days were long, I was out and about, and then I went away on what can easily be called one of the best holidays of the last decade for me. Somehow, I’ve been lost for words.

This morning, I realised that perhaps it’s okay. That perhaps I must post this anyway, without neatly tying everything up with a bow. September was over-stimulating. September was snappy and brisk. And yet, September has left me silent. September has made me sit down and be still again.

For far too long now I have been seeking this stillness within. The sort of stillness that steadies me even in the midst of bustling action. Suddenly I realise, September was all about that kind of stillness deep within. Stillness that anchors, steadiness that fills a space. Somewhere, unbeknownst to me, that steadiness has crept in making space for a quiet assuredness that makes it possible to rest without my fingers fidgeting to hold something, to flow from one thing to the next without always knowing how or what or why, to be busy on the outside and calm within all at once, and to let go of the answers knowing that I can sit still with the questions swimming within.

Uncertainty, quietude, surrender, unsettling — there has never been a time in my life that I have enjoyed any of this. And somehow, here I am today doing exactly that. So here goes.

***

I had a shit ton of work last month, and the added pressure of finishing it all before I went away. And in classic fashion, I procrastinated a helluva lot before I eventually got it done.

Despite that, there’s been that stillness I mentioned. Peaceful, easy days with emotions running high, thoughts astir.
I feel a deep sense of contentment for where I am right now and all that life has brought for me, especially this past year.
I pondered about inclusion and what it means to evolve and think back wistfully, to older versions of myself.
On distraction and my relationship with screens.
Thoughts on social media, as a result of unrestricted screen-time I had.
Writing every single day this year has been not just exceedingly joyful, but also beneficial.
I’ve also found a new dimension of friendship that fuels me.

HAPPY days of love in September included the Supreme Court decriminalizing homosexuality in India. And our tenth wedding anniversary.

I spent a large chunk of the month in Europe and I posted every single day. Sometimes with words, sometimes without.
Enroute: Day 0
Paris: Day 1: Hello Paris, day 2: walking about, day 3: more aimless wandering, day 4: in love with the city of love
Brugges: Day 5: rainy welcome, day 6: all is forgiven, day 7: lessons in uncertainty
Amsterdam: Day 8: sensory overload, day 9: catching sunrise and sunset, day 10: last day reflections

Gratitude, as always.
For choosing the slow, flexible life that supports my inner being.
For the abundance that has come my way in recent times.
For love: in strong friendship that has grown unexpectedly, for family that comes through against all odds.
For friendship across continents, timezones and life spaces.

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***

One month ago: Day 246: August
Two months ago: Day 219: July
Three months ago: Day 184: June

Four months ago: Day 152: May
Five months ago: Day 134: April
Six months ago: Day 92: March
Seven months ago: Day 60: February
Eight months ago: Day 32: January

One year ago: Things change
Two years ago: Day 284: Escape

Day 246: August

Being still and silent and broken is its own kind of religion.

If I had just one word to pick to describe what August has been like, it would be reflective. Perhaps because I kicked the month off with the third module of the course, and it was by far the best it set things in motion down this very contemplative, perspective-altering, pondering sort of path and through all the shenanigans that went down, that mood has remained. This particular module was a needle-pushing one for me, I had a massive breakthrough that is, I realise now, changing how I feel about every major aspect of my life and slowly pushing me ahead in a very different way.

Have you ever had an emotional breakthrough that feels like after months of trying to tear down and and push through a door that refuses to open, it suddenly gives and comes clamouring down? Where suddenly the only thing blocking you (usually yourself) comes apart, letting you through? It’s exhilarating, because you’re eagerly waiting to be shown the next step, a foot in the door. And finally you’re there, but to your surprise, what’s ahead often isn’t a clear road to freedom, but…a free fall. Into nothingness.

And you have to just leap.

It’s exciting as fuck. But also terrifying. And brings with it this ginormous knot in my stomach, like OMG HOW is that even possible, how I am to begin all over again, where do I take myself from here?

So I was particularly humbled when I read these words in the letter in this Ask Polly edition last month, echoing much the same feelings, even though our situations, context and journey is entirely different:

…feels like I’m standing at a fork in the road, where one path leads to a pit of snakes and the other to a jagged cliff.

How do I begin? Where do I begin?

And these absolute gems, in the answer:

So this is where I would start: Ground yourself in reality.

Because that is just what my pursuit has been these past few months, years. To find reality. Over and over again. Seeking authenticity, truth and real comfort, within and around myself.

I realise this is really the crux of any journey of self-discovery, of coming into one’s own. And the deeper I go, the more I seem to let go of, and the more comfortable I find I am with myself. Exactly the way I am.

Once you ground yourself in reality…then you can finally approach the world as you are. You don’t need to be entertaining or sexy or clever or useful to be lovable. You don’t have to prove your value in order to be valuable. You can simply be what you are.

August especially, has been a time of cutting myself down to size. More shedding, more culling of the unnecessary, more pruning of an incorrect sense of self. But most unexpectedly, accepting uncomfortable and far from desirable facets of myself that exist, that I was oblivious to. Even after all these months of work, it was gutting to realise that there are parts of me that make me a difficult person to be with, to connect with, to understand.

So begins a new chapter. Fresh work commences. And it all begins with that leap of faith, that free fall into what seems like nothingness.

And here’s where the work done so far holds me in good stead. I can stay, I don’t need to run. I can be myself, imperfections and all, without having to hide.

Being still and silent and broken is its own kind of religion.

Because, it matters. It’s where a new me can bloom.

Being what you are looks like this: You enter every room as a calm, neutral observer. You are average. You don’t have an agenda. Your only job is to listen and observe and offer your support. Your only job is to watch and learn and allow room for yourself, even when you don’t say a word, even when you don’t look that good, even when you seem useless. There you are, giving yourself the right to be without running or hiding or dancing. That is grace. It matters.

***

All the healing, and some change
When the burden of the breakthrough hung heavy.
The absolute thrill of taking that leap, left me high on life for many, many days after.
And sometimes when I look back, take stock of what has changed and how much, I see how far I’ve come.
On the privilege of flying back into the nest, enjoying this fleeting time in Bangalore and readying myself to fly out once again.

Probably consequent to all of these shifts, my relationship with my body (that has been another big piece in this journey) saw yet another inflection point. And things have turned in a way that nothing will ever be the same again.
Reclaiming parts I’ve rejected, and finally seeing a glimmer of feeling whole again.
On finding confidence, self-love and how it feels like meeting myself for the first time. Every single day.
I think I may have finally let go of the fitness aficionado tag that formed such a huge part of my identity, and I’m ready to move on to new things.

I’ve had a on-again-off-again pattern going with all things domestic, of late. And several times in the recent past I’ve found it really has me in a rut. As much as a huge part of me wants to break away from the trappings of mindless routine and make time for all the things that I am seeking to explore, there is a sense of grounding that routine and doing homely things with my hands gives me, and I have been trying to find a healthy balance between the two.
I wrote about the how lucky I feel about being in Bangalore because it has given me just the space and time in this respect.
And every time I slip, I have to remind myself not to beat myself up about it, so I can move up and on quicker.

Bangalore love
August is also the month VC and I have decided to move on from Bangalore. And so predictably, I had a lot of feels for Bangalore. Through all the annoyances that I don’t stop myself form acknowledging, the sum total of my time in Bangalore has been nothing short of amazing. I have thoroughly enjoyed it for everything it has offered.
Of rain, and missing Goa.
Of rain, and traffic jams that lead to epiphanies.
Of clear skies that turn to rain.

As always, there is gratitude
Nine months in to keeping this habit, I know without a shadow of doubt how much it has impacted my mental health and contributed to moving forward and counting on abundance rather than being stuck in stories and beliefs that are grounded in a sense of lack. This past month, owing to all the feels, there was a lot of gratitude.
For life and how it flows.
For having this opportunity to take make a life of being, and not so much doing.
For opportunities that I could have only had in Bangalore. And the privilege of traveling to Goa again.
For family. Known and unknown, close and extended.
For Bangalore, and the rain.

Rumination
This year of writing everyday, I’ve taken extra pride in not ever missing a day or resorting to back posts as much as I did in 2016. Back then, I also resorted to writing Haiku when I was all dried up and the thoughts wouldn’t come. This year there have been very few days when I didn’t know what to write, and I have actually enjoyed writing every single day. August however, saw a lot of random thought bubbles and pictures, probably owing to days where I was just so overwhelmed with my own inner monologue.
Hot chocolate days.
Pause for a moment.
Driving to Goa. Again.
I read two more books.
Goa postcards. Here. Here. And here.

One month ago: Day 219: July
Two months ago: Day 184: June

Three months ago: Day 152: May
Four months ago: Day 134: April
Five months ago: Day 92: March
Six months ago: Day 60: February
Seven months ago: Day 32: January

Two years ago: Day 246: Wandering, right here at home

Day 219: July

Wherever you go, there you are.

A couple of weeks ago, I came under the axe of judgement passed by an ex-employer. And when I got wind of the statements, the unintelligent assumptions/presumptions, the uninformed conclusions they made, I was riled up way more than I imagined I could be.

Purposeless. Directionless. Unfocused. Seeking therapy. Just some of the descriptors used about me. It’s been on my mind ever since. I’m not offended or riled up anymore, but I have been wondering how and why someone who barely knows the insides of my life, especially what I’ve been upto the last 2-3 years, gets off assuming I’m purposeless. And I can only conclude it is because I don’t have any of the obvious markers of “having arrived”. I don’t hold a job. I flit from one thing to the next, whatever takes my fancy. I don’t have the burdens of a family of my own to tend to.

And yet, I’m happy and satisfied.

It doesn’t compute to the average mind, I suppose. The average mind stuck on the hamster wheel of working hard and having a single purpose as the only means to find contentment in life. Even if it comes at the cost of one’s honour, substance and emotional health. We’re a culture chronically obsessed with that kind of measurable achievement as the only tracker of success or happiness, it really saddens me.

My truth is that my only purpose is to enjoy whatever it is I do. Even if it is an entirely new thing everyday. My purpose is to be happy. Healthy. Stable. And I’ll do whatever it takes to get me there. What the average mind stuck on the hamster wheel doesn’t understand is that this too requires commitment, showing up day after day, an unwavering dedication. Even lesser known is the fact that it requires a far higher level of emotional honesty and vulnerability. And to do it without any form of glory or recognition at the end of the line, confuses and befuddles most people.

More and more I’m finding joy in this path, in this manner. Without the obvious gains I used to look for at one time. It’s erratic, it’s unpredictable, it’s downright difficult sometimes. But it has also given me immeasurable joy — the kind no job or form of employment ever has.

The awareness that this is it has been liberating and humbling. And the awareness that this is enough has been so empowering.

In other words, and to borrow from Seth Godin:

Wherever you go, there you are. You’re never going to arrive because you’re already there.

Since May, things have been astir in our lives. Not in an obvious, tangible way. But I’ve carried around a buzzing ball of movement within me, like I’m on the brink of some change, for weeks now. I’ve been edgy with excitement and anticipation because things were beginning to settle in June, showing some sign of what direction they may move in. But it was in July that everything peaked, and suddenly my life has made an unexpected turn again. We’re looking at yet another move.

And yet, looking back now, I can trace a pattern in the events. It makes sense, in retrospect, of course. Not so much when we were in the midst of it, getting from one day to the next. I will always remember July for being the month of a peaceful churn that has gently nudged us towards the next milestone in our journey, while also throwing ample opportunities to rest, travel, enjoy Bangalore and bond with my friends — building a strong foundation of love and comfort that is so needed in the months to come.

And so, we journey on. Throwing ourselves from one experience to the next, borrowing from SG again:

There’s no division between the painful going and the joyous arriving. If we let it, the going can be the joyful part.

More and more I’m finding joy in this path, in this manner. Shifting focus off the elusive goal/destination, and enjoying the ride instead. If this makes me seem purposeless and unfocused to the uninitiated and woefully unaware, so be it.

***

Rest and Recreation
There were naps. So many naps.
But I made the most of rainy Bangalore days with brunch
Before I ran off to Kerala
Returning to rainy days spent in coffee shops
Before I jetted off to Goa pretty much soon after
Where I worked for a few days and then resumed the R&R

Rumination
On gender, discomfort and self-hate
On the 5 books I read
On returning back to normalcy after a whole lot of fun
On friendship and happiness in Bangalore

Travel
Kerala is so frikking greeeeen in the monsoon!
It was also incredibly wet
But the silence was impeccable
Goa was green. And wet too.
And invariably gives me reasons to breathe and flow
And overwhelms me with the good energy and contentment
There were dog pics. Lots of them.
Because they’re serious distractions
A good trip is one that makes you feel like you’re back in your skin again
And leaves a happy afterglow

Gratitude
For family, friendship and for food
From journeying with my father
For Goa, for friendship, for dogs and where my life is today

One month ago: Day 184: June
Two month ago: Day 152: May
Three months ago: Day 134: April

Four months ago: Day 92: March
Five months ago: Day 60: February
Six months ago: Day 32: January

One year ago: What coming home feels like: kinship, quietude and becoming

Day 184: June

Have the courage to change your mind

This past weekend, I found myself at a hip and happening party spot in the city. This is not something that happens often at all in my life. The music was loud and pounding so hard, I could hear it all the way in the basement parking, as I drove in well past 10 pm. I was immediately taken by how Bangalore’s general style statement has changed over the years. Party clothes are definitely more striking, bold and out there. As I waded through the flurry of shiny, shimmying young ones, in my torn jeans and full-sleeved tee (what?! – it was a rainy night and I’m easily cold), making my way to the open air restaurant area, I thought to myself, Wow Bangalore has changed sooo much. Until I stepped into the quadrangle, within mere metres of what is obviously an exceedingly popular weekend spot to dance the night away, and I had to halt that thought right in it’s tracks. Because loud and thumping music, with the crowds interjecting at appropriate spots, I heard the lyrics: HEY Mambo, Mambo Italiano! GO, GO, GO! Because it was nothing like had changed at all. And I was back in Urban Edge in 2001.

Nothing has changed — it’s a recurring thought I have as I go through life in Bangalore.

Sure, the clothes have gotten shinier, the kids are more out and about, the curfews have been extended, we have cabs so hopefully less drunken driving. But aside from that it was like being sucked into a bad time warp, sliding back to a dark and dingy night club 15 years, where two extremely fun boys convinced me to smoke a cigar that I pretended to enjoy.

I felt so confused, simultaneously cool (because I knew the entire playlist because it was from when I was in high-school) and uncool, and suddenly so aware of my age. Because I was curling my nose up at it and avoiding the crowded noisy spots, going in search of ice cream instead.

Some things have changed, though.

Thank god for that.

***

I’ve been thinking about ageing. Growing up. Evolving. Moving on. And I suddenly realised mid-conversation the other day, that most of the disdain and angst about time running out has faded. I told P the other day that this decade — the 30s — are proving to be far, far more enjoyable than the last.

It wasn’t always the case. I still often wish for some of the simplicity that was my early 20s (everything was really straight forward, and I had far less fucks to give than I did in my late 20s) where I just went after most things without a second thought, high on a misguided cocky confidence. It had its advantages and disadvantages. But, this, here now — to be in this wonderful twilight zone between knowing what I want and having a quiet confidence that I feel from within, and feeling far less apologetic about chasing each one of those goals without justifying them — is far, far more enjoyable.

In my 20s, I had a very rigid sense of self. I was far too certain of too many things. Today though, my sense of self is far more fluid. Far more forgiving and open to figuring it out along the way. Even as I have eaten all the words from my twenties, and come to a point of realising that virtually nothing that I held to be true and absolute, holds good anymore. And that has been one of the most freeing realisations of recent time.

Suddenly, there is so much more space to let go of all the barriers I have created in my mind. There is far less self-doubt. There is also a lot more faith in myself, and a sense of surety about letting older parts of myself go without feeling like I am disappointing myself somehow. This has been a defining aspect of the last four years of my life — allowing myself the permission to soften up, loosen the grip and grow out.

I have enjoyed trading in my cocksureness for this far more confusing and uncertain process of bumbling along and taking everything one step at a time. I am slowly getting better at being okay with not knowing it all, being open to learning all the time.

Most of all, I think the thing that has changed my attitude to life is understanding that I need to have the courage and space to change my mind as I go along. And this courage doesn’t have to be fierce, loud or in-your-face, or even proclaimed and shared. It has a soft, graceful and very gentle feel to it. All qualities I never thought I would embrace.

So yeah, things are changing. All the damn time for me these days. And May and June have really shown me what is possible when I open myself up to all the possibilities that are waiting to turn my inner world upside down.

If May was all about unsettling everything and throwing all the balls up in the air, June was about making space for things to settle again. Not actively settling them myself, but allowing them to settle in, in their own time and pace.

June has been all about the resettling. And it came with a massive amount of thoughts because resettling has it’s own energy. It’s not an instant state that gets flicked on at the push of a button. It has been equal parts slow in it’s unfolding as it is energetic in what it is throwing up.

I am psyched for what the next half of the year holds, and if the last two months are anything to go by, it’s going to be interesting to say the very least.

Let’s reflect!

Rumination
The more life persists, the more rumination it brings. I’m just glad I have the time and space to allow it to find its way out, because it makes for very useful reading when I look back. (I’m sure I can’t say the same for you, though!)

  1. A whole month too late, but I finally wrote that letter to myself, that I had promised I would
  2. Serendipitously, I found yoga, once again
  3. Self-care and emotional literacy; and how it isn’t a fancy, unnecessary and expensive proposition
  4. Acknowledging moments of guilt and grief is crucial
  5. Weekend blues, chance conversations and surprising moments of friendship

Happy days
Looking back on the month I realised it was a mostly happy month, because without realising it, I have chronicled a lot of very small, everyday little happy occurrences.

  1. Little happy things that stuck with me on week 1
  2. Happy days of very little work and endless nothingness
  3. The happy occurrence of making it to a 6 am yoga class
  4. Happy breakfast conversations that work as timely reminders
  5. Happy with the Bangalore rain
  6. Happy meets contentment meets fullness
  7. Days spend doing nothing but reading make me oh sooo happy
  8. Home days that make me happy
  9. Brain-worms that trigger more happy thoughts
  10. Happy (temporary) reconciliations with Bangalore
  11. Proof of change also makes me happy
  12. Choosing a happy day

Gratitude, as usual
Because I will get nowhere without this.

  1. A serious kind of something new
  2. Come on, keep me where the light is
  3. Nobody really likes us, except us
  4. Did we fly to the moon too soon?

Books!
I wrote a lone book post (featuring 1 book I LOVED, and 3 I didn’t) because things have been slow on that front. My brain has been otherwise occupied. And I’ve decided that’s okay.

One month ago: Day 152: May
Two months ago: Day 134: April

Three months ago: Day 92: March
Four months ago: Day 60: February
Five months ago: Day 32: January

Day 152: May

Call it magic, call it true

I’m tired of repeating (even to myself) how utterly odd I’ve been feeling this month. Even as the days zip, the in betweens have stretched and made the four+ weeks seem inordinately stretched. I almost can’t believe it’s June today, and we’re at the edge of the halfway mark through this year.

All month long I waited for inspiration to strike, so I could write that one spectacularly articulate post that would sum up all the epiphanies, moments of clarity, positivity and inner strength that have kept me afloat and sometimes thrust me forward, even through the cloudiness that has shrouded the past few weeks.

But, it never came.

Admittedly, this hasn’t been the best month, as far as clarity goes. And it’s shown all over my blog. I’ve stayed with writing everyday, never missing a chance or putting it off, resorting to pictures 90% of the time. Sometimes hoping they’d do the talking, and sometimes not even that.

Despite all of that, it has been a significant and special time for me. For one, it was birthday month, and that always puts a shiny, brand-new-again spin on everything. And it was also a month of frenetic activity. Because there were two holidays — one to Goa and another to Thailand. And in between it all there was family visiting and lots of outings and get togethers. Somewhere in the midst of all that was also my inner self bobbing up and down, nudging me, constantly reminding me of the unsettled, unanchored way that I was feeling in my core. Like something is astir and change is in the works, yet again. It was a month of many of life’s firsts, each one remarkable and memorable in it’s own way.

One would think this would leave me with much to write about. And so I waited, all month long, for that perfect opportunity — where inspiration would strike and set the words in motion, just at the right time out from all that was going on around me.

But, it never came. And somewhere in the midst of the waiting, while also making do with the little juice I had going, I realised there was a little lesson to learn. To really just keep swimming. Even when the waters may not be perfect. Even when my arms are flailing uncoordinated. Even when I’m tired. Sometimes even when I don’t really want to swim too much.

This shift — recognising that not everything has to be perfect, or excellent, or enjoyable, or remarkable and that sometimes it just has to be, happen, exist, move on — has been the theme of the month.

Like Austin Kleon says about shitty, imperfect first drafts, whose entire purpose is to just get the juices flowing, the writing muscles loosened up, and the mind ticking, I’ll take this as practice to just get through the plateaus that hold promise of change at the edge of the horizon, to build the patience to make that journey to the edge without feeling like a leaf thrown in a storm, to hold my place and hang on to the small everyday joys even when all about me is a circus in full tilt.

It’s possible. Essential, even. To know and experience the meh as much as I crave and aspire for the woohoos in life.

I’m beginning to think of May as the first draft of the rest of this year, because I’ve just felt the immensity of how much this applies to life as it does to art like a flash of bright, bright light.

It doesn’t matter if it’s good right now, it just needs to exist.

***

Right, so if you’re interested in seeing what seemed like a picture album of the month gone by, let’s get on with it:

Birthday month!

I turned 34. And I feel convinced I may never really feel my actual age. I had a love-filled birthday that was somewhat perspective-altering.

Postcards from Goa:

  1. On sliding into what is, rather than getting caught up in what could have been
  2. I consumed more beer than I’ve allowed myself to in a long, long time. And I found a new favourite
  3. There was so much doggie-love, and warmth and a heart-tugging kind of comfort in their presence
  4. There was some work-related perks
  5. And a lot of relaxing down-time with friends
  6. Some roots dropped and new beginnings of sorts made
  7. And of course lots of pictures and home-sickness

Elusive spots of truth that sometimes made it through

  1. More lessons in boundaries
  2. On staying present in my emotional reality
  3. Leaning in to my wish to being a nomad
  4. Happy moments this month

Postcards from Thailand:

  1. Beach days, all day, erryydayyy
  2. Spectacular sunsets that made me feel overwhelmed, small and insignificant
  3. Affirmations
  4. Pleasant surprises
  5. Some more clarity (holiday edition)
  6. A little basic wisdom (holiday edition)

And of course, there’s always the gratitude:

  1. For food: Like happiness is the truth
  2. For Goa: I’ve been keeping all the letters that I wrote to you
  3. For VC and his selfless love: We keep this love in a photograph
  4. For Thailand and the privilege to travel: I’ll take a quiet life
  5. For this blog and finishing 12 years of writing it: Days when I couldn’t live my life without you

One month ago: Day 134: April
Two months ago: Day 92: March
Three months ago: Day 60: February
Four months ago: Day 32: January

Two years ago: Day 152: Skies that lie

Day 134: April

Last month in worries-vanish-within-my-dream

April came and went in an absolute flash, perfectly blending a few busy days where I had no time to do much else but keep swimming, a whole lot of time with family, and a very liberal dose of Goa-tinged nostalgia. It is almost like my subconscious steers me in the direction I need to move, without my ever realising or noticing it. In March I felt a bit run down and tired from not having enough time to myself. And almost in response, April gave me a lot of that.

April had so much family time — mostly down time spent at home, with them, or reading and catching up on TV. My grandmother came down for her annual summer trip and this year, more than ever before I got to spend time with her. This year, more than ever before we have actually engaged, chit-chatting as she spirals down her rabbit hole of memories.

I marvel at what it must be like to be in her 80s, in 2018, having experienced the sea change the world has seen in just one lifetime. Changes not only in the world around, but closer home, amongst her family, her children and grand children. Life today, is nothing like it used to be when she was younger. It isn’t even bear a remote sliver of likeness to what it must have been like when she was younger — having witnessed the Independence movement, the onset of liberalisation and the boom that followed. If I live to be 80 or more, I wish for at least half the agility, quiet calm and wisdom she has to watch peacefully as things change.

Time spent chatting with her also spiralled a lot of contemplation for me. And I’m thankful for the little break from hectic work and assignments to allow the churn to throw things up like it did.

Last month, in severe contemplation:

  1. I realised it is impossible to seek happiness alone, without a host of other feelings.
  2. Priorities, and the busy-trap
  3. Musing about punctuality (or the lack of it), passive aggression online, and cats
  4. On the necessary autumns of our lives
  5. Some more thoughts about my body and how it has changed as much as how I feel about it has changed
  6. A visit to LifeStyle and more thoughts about accepting our different bodies happened
  7. Self-improvement is usually two steps forward and one step back
  8. Self-improvement, change and how it sometimes affects relationships
  9. On the meaning of ambition, success, productivity and finding myself outside of it

Last month, in what happened:

  1. I read two books about marriage
  2. Unexpected catching-up with long-lost friends
  3. I finished 100 days of posting this year, on exactly the same day that I moved to Bangalore last year
  4. Some overt self-love lets itself shine through
  5. Work took over our home for a week

Last month, in indecision:

  1. I realised my Bangalore honeymoon is officially over, and this city is getting to me
  2. Consequently, I spent a whole week home-sick for Goa, and contemplated thoughts on living well and how much the city around matters

Last month, in gratitude:

  1. Because everything is never as it seems
  2. Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow
  3. I got mad, mad love
  4. All the small things
  5. Just a stirring in my soul

One month ago: Day 92: March
Two months ago: Day 60: February
Three months ago: Day 32: January

Two years ago: Day 134: Things about VC I never want to forget #16

Day 92: March

Last month in everyday-is-a-winding-road:

If I had only two words to describe what March was all about, they’d be family and work. And not necessarily gracefully balancing the two as near well as I’d have liked. But such is life, eh? We get along, we get better, and we get by.

March really was dominated by all things work, and when we weren’t at work, it was with family. Sending an inordinately huge amount of time at VCs, me spending time with my mum with the house left to our devices, Niyu’s illness that brought us all together, and squeezing in work in between it all — I feel like it’s just been one thing after another.

We had an uber-productive month as far as the business goes. Satisfying, creatively as well as monetarily. We even travelled out of Bangalore on assignment. And I can’t help but notice how when the going gets good, it’s really effing good. And yet, it hasn’t been the most orderly month. But that in itself has been revelatory. Yet again, pushing me to let go of the rails and the impossible urge to tame, control, curb and bring order to an energy that at the moment just won’t have any of it. I have to pat myself on the back and say I’m getting better at this. And for that, March has been really, really good.

I’m really not prepared for the dry, punishing heat that the summer has brought. But, there is the promise of fruit. A visit to our home in Goa, and a holiday in Thailand (again!), so we’ll get along, we’ll get better, and we’ll get by.

Last month, in things I published:
In India, fighting menstruation taboos that silence women

Last month, in what happened:

  1. On the heels of VC’s granny passing on, we rushed off on a work trip
  2. The entire days and all that time spent with VC’s family during the 13-day time of grieving gave me a lot of fodder to mull on. Not just about VC’s family, but about the ways of the patriarchy and maybe, just maybe, I even made some sense, some peace of it
  3. VC is getting awfully good at reading Oracle cards. I can no longer call these chance coincidences. Here’s a card he picked for me, that reflected my current reality perfectly
  4. I indulged in a little bit of TV and of course I had opinions, of course I did
  5. There was some rumination and music-related nostalgia, thanks to an unexpected Apple music trip
  6. Some more TV and movie-watching
  7. And when I finally got sick of being off the bandwagon, I squeezed in some quick reading, and managed to finish up some fun books

Last month, in Therapy and Healing:

  1. On turning down my aversions and being open to change
  2. On patience
  3. On re-learning boundaries
  4. On how empowering self-acceptance can be
  5. The story of my body as things stand right now

Last month, in New Beginnings:

  1. I’m making baby steps and learning something new
  2. New-found gratitude for a peaceful agreement with where I am

Last month, in Gratitude:

  1. Let’s get one thing straight now
  2. The real, deep-down you is the whole universe.
  3. Love, let’s talk about love
  4. I get the strangest feeling you belong

Two months ago: Day 32: January
One month ago: Day 60: February

Two years ago: Day 92: Fullness

Day 60: February

Last month, in a life less ordinary:
I realised, time and time again, that I am actually easily pleased with engaging my whole self in simple, unadorned, ordinary things. I want to go deeper in my commitment to a more basic, but wholesome routine for myself. Because I realised what doing little things, mindfully, wholeheartedly, and for myself, does me a world of good. It has a way of grounding me, feeding that very primal urge to create and engage in the most simplistic form, without any fuss, frills or fanciness that goes a long way in creating a kind of contentment that I have somehow just not found through the bigger more fanciful prospects of life. I’m still juggling the simple, everyday existence with the very real needs to keep life moving ahead, ie: work and other such obligations. But I believe finding a balance between the two, and making a way for the two to converge rather than be at cross purposes is not only key, but also very achievable. The hard part is that it requires an unrelenting focus on staying with the memory of that simple joy, every time that it is created. The good news is that every time that I reach a moment of truth in this regard, it points me right back to the basics. Time and time again.

Last month, in things I published:
The thing that drew me to social media, also led me to quit it.

Last month, in Things I Talked About:

  1. I attempted to walk 100kms with a team of friends. And it was all kinds of painful, and thrilling. Eventually, I recovered and felt all kinds of happiness.
  2. I watched a couple of movies.
  3. I read a fair bit. Okay, I read a lot.
  4. I re-started my newsletter. Because apparently even writing a post every single day, I still have things I want to say!

Last month, in Therapy and Healing:

  1. On why I’m no longer on any social media platforms.
  2. On coming back home, to my body.
  3. On making “empowered choices”.
  4. On why I write, and why this blog is a took to track versions of myself. Every single step of the way.

Last month, in Frustrations:

  1. I ranted about some aspects of work (even as I gave thanks for some others)
  2. I ranted about this city.

Last month, in Gratitude:

  1. The future is no place to place your better days.
  2. You guys, I must be the luckiest alive.
  3. Let it blow through you, don’t let it move you.
  4. I’m glad that I’m alive.

One month ago: Day 32: January
Two years ago: Day 60: February

Day 32: January

Right, so I guess it’s safe to say now I’m going to be blogging through this year, much like I did right through 2016. I wanted to gather enough steam and continuity before I confirmed it even to myself – hahaha.

No it isn’t a blogathon, it is just me making yet another attempt to find one thing that I can sit my ass down and do every single day. The last time I did this, my life was very different. I lived in Goa, I was quite fed up with the comfortable plateau it had brought me to, and an inexplicable restlessness pervaded through my entire being. It was the year I began to contemplate a different kind of life, and that required me to examine a lot of things about myself, my personality, my attitudes to many things and also my demons and fears. It was the year I worked harder and more than I had ever before (or after). It was the year I started therapy. It was the year that set of a lot of the changes I came to face in 2017. All of this gave me a lot of very concrete, tangible things to write about.

Through the erratic, tumultuous time that 2016 was, keeping this diary of sorts played my constant leveller. It gave me sense of sanity and regularity, when around me things were anything but normal. No matter what happened (and a LOT happened!) I found it useful, reflective, meditative and just productive to record it here.

This time around, I find myself not so preoccupied with what is going on around me, but within me. I’m aware this doesn’t make for very glamorous reading. I also am aware it isn’t very unique or refreshing. No longer being in Goa has reduced a lot of the novelty in my blog. But that alone, was never the purpose of my writing, this blog, or taking to write a post a day. I write because it makes sense to me, primarily. Everything else is secondary.

Without Facebook and Instagram, where I’d usually post about my blog and announce updates and garner readers, I sense the silence around here. The numbers of visitors are far fewer, the comments non existent. The emails though, they still keep coming. And it is oddly satisfying, reassuring in a way that statistics will never be. Because it tells me, time and time again, that no matter what I may be going through, it is not new or special. There’s always someone feeling the same way, experiencing the same things. It creates a bond, a special connection, and it is simultaneously humbling.

Despite the silence, in the absence of promoted posts, social media numbers and shares, to still find a space for my voice and to know that I am heard, is all kinds of satisfying. Perhaps, this then, is why I write.

***

I’m going to also continue to reflect on every month gone by, and that makes me balk that January has passed me by in a flash. Consequent to what I’ve rambled on above, I guess these recaps will be far from exciting. But I’ll do it anyway.

Here’s what occupied my mind right through the month:

Reflections:
Growth, change and healing — Right from day one I’ve been determined to move ahead and it showed in my rumination on:
Friendship — A lot of churn in the last month of 2017 in this area of my life meant reflection, altered beliefs and a lot of reassurance.
Gratitude — One thing I know for certain, the more I acknowledge the goodness in my life, the more goodness finds it way to me. And so there is going to be a lot of giving thanks, like so. And also a weekly habit of looking back and giving thanks, overover and over.
Fitness and body-positivity — Last year, I went on a six week food plan. At the time I thought I knew what I was after. It did me a lot of good, in some ways, but six months down, with the benefit of retrospect (and some much needed honesty with myself) I realised it also damaged me in far worse ways than I realised. It’s been an ongoing struggle this month, but I finally feel like Im coming back to myself.

Reading:
Looking back on all that I read through 2017 probably helped me set off to a good start with some fabulous fiction this year.

Tales of travel:
I recapped our December holidays — a cycling trip to Wayanad and a quiet getaway to Coonoor.

Other rambles:
I’ve revelled in the extended winter, talked about what I’ve been watching, felt got a bit consumed by love.

I had an opinion on the Aziz Ansari debacle, conflicting feelings about Uber in Bangalore and even a brief cynicism on patriotism.

Two years ago: Day 32: On creative happiness

2016

So it’s done. What I’ve called the most forgettable, shitty year, time and time again, is over. It’s true that last year I had more than a fair share of lows. But it’s also true that in bouncing from one low to the next, only keeping my head above water, occasionally remembering to thwack my limbs and move towards the closest object for support, I’ve often needed to remind myself that I’m still alive and breathing. Which is a convoluted way of saying, a lot happened in between the lows that really wasn’t bad at all. But I have been so occupied with just barely staying afloat that it’s felt like I’ve been mostly stuck in a downward spiral of negativity. The bad has a way of eclipsing the good, and painting a picture so dismal, you wonder why this is your life. Which is why I’m thankful for forced stops in the infinite loop of time. We put a date to the end of the year, we decide it’s a time to reflect, and I’m glad we have this opportunity to lay out all the cards, pick which ones to fold over and put away, and which ones to take ahead.

There is such a difference in looking back cursorily, because all I can see is large spans of time spent lying in bed, unable to move, just staring out the window, and looking back one day and month at a time. Broadly, I feel like I spent way too much time wondering why this is happening to me. This, being the thick and heavy fog that consumed me. But, it’s only when I combed through my archive that I realised I was diffident, cynical, exhausted from the get go. I entered the year in a terrible headspace. Maybe it set the tone for the year? Maybe I was a fool not to see how things were hurtling towards an inevitable crash right through 2015? Maybe this was all just a necessary intervention in the making? I don’t know.

What followed was a lot of indecision and confusion that really chipped away at my confidence and left me on very shaky ground. Pretty much the entire year after has been spent trying to regain that solid ground beneath my feet. Whether it was putting my confidence in myself and my work back together and resuming in a direction that made sense to me, but scared the shit out of me, or opening myself up to honesty of a different kind, running all my relationships through a sieve and keeping only the most important ones close, learning to distinguish between an inner and outer circle, basically redefining the very notion of love and friendship, or regaining some bit of pride and a sense of self and identity that I’d lost sight of — everything about 2016 was an effort towards building something in me that 2015 had broken.

I couldn’t have picked a better year to write a post a day, because looking back has helped me see that while 2016 was far from fantastic, it sure was eventful. It was shitty in many parts, challenging in ways I have not previously known but omg, you gaiiis, so much happened!

Mostly, 2016 has been a year of rediscovering honesty. Of coming to terms with many things I was either not seeing right, or turning a blind eye to. It all started with the decision to take some time off. To regroup and clear my head out. I had a breakdown at the end of 2015, that made me realise I was overworked, confused about my priorities and sorely needed some time out. My inability to be honest with myself was pushing me into a cycle of repeated losses that had left me very, very tired.

So, I planned to spend 5-6 weeks unwinding and doing the things that gave me joy, in the hope that it would make room for some clarity. I read and wrote. And that’s not counting my work. There was some drawing, some haiku, and an exercise regimen, all in the interest of building a routine that enriched rather than depleted me. With all the mind space to introspect, it wasn’t long before the truth, or rather the lack of honesty emerged strong and loud.

I don’t mean honesty in the sense of truth-telling. I mean honesty in so many different ways — the inability to break through my denial, my stubbornness in not admitting to seeing things as they were, the fact that far too many people in my life had more to take than give me, the false belief that the work-life pattern I had unconsciously fallen into was necessary for success, my misplaced conviction that it was what I liked and wanted, when the truth couldn’t have been farther from it.

I’d begun to realise a need for a deeper honesty in my friendships. As it happened several of my closest friends found themselves in a bad patch at the start of the year. It involved unravelling, together, and being there for each other and made me realise just how much I valued openness and vulnerability, even in or maybe especially in hard times, as a measure of authenticity of any relationship. I suddenly saw how I was surrounded by relationships lacking in it, even though I considered them to be the solid, long-term ones. I backed away from many that seemed to exist in a perpetual state of hiding behind convenient veils of passive aggression, demanding more from me than I could give, or they could ever give back to me.

This has meant being alone a lot more, staying with solitude and embracing this part of me wholeheartedly. This will always be the year I made peace with my introvert tendencies. After a hectic 2015 chock full of socialising, putting myself out there and pursuing things I never imagined I would have, giving the hedonistic life a shot I realised my place. It’s indoors, with myself, away from the mindless din of connections and networking. I much prefer the loud camaraderie of a few I call my tribe, even if we choose to exist in absolute silence.

This too, required honesty. In laying the tussle between the virtually-social and actually-solitary, to rest. On the one hand, I live what many call a “social” life, especially thanks to frequent and frantic social media posting. And on the other hand, I was trying to teach myself boundaries, to say no, to protect my personal space and energy. This tug-o-war between sharing my life has given many observers a sense of false camaraderie that often oversteps the virtual lines that separate me and them. I began to see through social media veneers, and was disappointed by people on more than one occasion. I found myself wanting to dig deeper and find within myself the strength to accept the differences that these are just virtual interactions, while saving my energy for the solid core of authentic interactions I have in real life. Even when it meant accepting the truth that was far from pleasant, realising that seemingly normal people sometimes display unacceptable behaviour, or that I myself had untowardly let some folks far deeper into my life than was needed.

The need for this honesty came with a price. For one, I let go of the steady promise of work that I had in hand to make room for the work I wanted to pursue. Second, I had to consciously let go of a couple of friendships that I had assumed were easy-going and probably for life.

What I gained, though, was immeasurable. Because the time and energy freed up from it, was channeled into all that I wanted to put my mind to, but had failed to in the years before. I will always remember this to be the year I moved closer to finding myself, and my voice, professionally. The decision to quit a steady, decently-paying gig with scope for growth, to dive fully into the erratic, unpredictable world of full-time freelancing was a pivotal one. A lot of it happened because I had to own up to the fact that clinging to a safety rails was only going to get me that far. Yes, I’d have a salary in the bank at the end of the month, but the hours spent earning that salary was definitely keeping me from expanding my repertoire, aiming higher and going wide and deep into the kind of writing I want dip into. If I were to be honest with myself, and I was, I needed to be brave. Or at least pretend like I was. It was not without its moments of extreme imposter syndrome, but I know I am better for it.

There were moments of immense frustration. A steep learning curve that I didn’t particularly enjoy at all times because let’s face it I wasn’t feeling positive and upbeat for a large part. The long waiting periods, systemic inefficiencies, blatant unprofessionalism made me cynical and under-confident. Incidentally, it was the year with the most number of unsavoury professional experiences. But while navigating the doubt and incertitude with heaps of scepticism, I did manage to get a whole lot of work done. It’s funny how the haze of unpleasant experiences has clouded this reality that. Ironic that the shittiest year is the year I had several work wins that I am proud of. Like this, this, this and this and this and this. I never imagined I’d write essays worthy of being tweeted by the UN Women’s handle. I didn’t think I’d see myself published in The Telegraph. I certainly didn’t imagine I’d find myself in a publication dedicated to science and technology.

I even managed to throw together a website and a portfolio that I should have done a long, long time ago. Much of this had to do with trying very, very hard to unlearn my obsession with perfection. Of quitting the terrible habit of waiting for the ducks to get in an absolutely straight line before making a move. In accepting that well begun is half done, I may have taught myself a thing or two about what is possible when you accept what works for you and hold yourself to slightly more realistic goals and ideals.

One of the best things I did was write and write and write every single day. Whether it was the for the stories I worked on, daily posts on here, scribbles, ideas for stories, half written posts — I made sure I did a little writing every single day and this is a habit I don’t want to lose. I am a little astounded at myself for seeing the daily post habit through to the end of the year, even though I fell off the wagon and frantically caught up again, sometime. Even with all that writing, I have so much more to express and share. So I started a newsletter. Admittedly, it’s taken a break so soon after it was launched but I hope to be back this year. 2016 marked the completion of 10 years since I started blogging. I wrote 318 posts this year having blogged every week, which feels like a fitting way to mark a decade of rambles.

On Day 1, I decided it was going to be a year to move more. In addition to upping the ante with training by joining, pursuing and loving kickboxing, I let the husband get me a cycle. It transformed the middle parts of this year in ways I can’t explain. Unfettered joy and immense satisfaction have been had from the hours spent pedalling through Goa. Cycling changed the way I experienced what could potentially be my last monsoon here. I even finished my first ever 100 km ride.

Part of the reason I caught the cycling bug was the undeniable urge to get out and get out. In the open. To travel. It’s something I’ve denied myself the pleasure of indulging in, for various reasons in the past few years. I travelled back home more than I ever have since I have moved out. Cleartrip sent me an email calling me a Happy Tripper today, for the 18 flights I’ve taken. There was a trip to Chettinadu, KeralaThailand and Coonoor. There were a few mini vacations right here at home too. I turned 32 in the company of these lovelies who came down to celebrate over a weekend of beach time, with me. And it reaffirmed my faith in certain inalienable truths about why some relationships endure and others don’t. It’s the one year VC and I haven’t taken a holiday or travelled anywhere together. And no, we’re not complaining.

The other big change I made this year was I kicking myself back into the reading habit by getting myself a Kindle. It has made all the difference and  finished the year with 29 books read, a high for me. While I’m looking at numbers, it seems a good time to look back at this post where I detailed the few things I want to see myself doing through 2016.

  1. Read a little everyday – check, post-August
  2. Write a little everyday – check, check, CHECK
  3. Give in to the urge to draw/doodle as much as possible, don’t put it off for “later” – check, for as long as the inspiration and urge lasted
  4. Avoid multi-tasking at all costs – yes and no
  5. Wear a saree at least once a week (any more is a bonus!), and don’t wait for the “right” occasion – ditched
  6. Call ammamma more often – check
  7. Meditate every morning, consciously remember to slow down – check for the first half of the year, then abandoned
  8. Go to the beach more often, even if it is for a stroll or to catch the sunset – check, check, check (run a search for “beach” to see how)
  9. Actively avoid clicking random links that lead to news on social media – CHECK!
  10. Whenever posting something on facebook, ask myself if the post would annoy me if I were looking at it posted by someone else – check, followed this for the most part, but slipped a lot, now correcting it by slowly deleting all fb activity from all of time
  11. Generally, avoid oversharing on fb – not every thought needs to be telecast to the world on fb, do it here instead, in longer form – check
  12. Keep phone away from bed and sleep-time – failllll!
  13. Sneak some more kisses – CHECK!
  14. Choose things, make decisions with purpose – CHECK
  15. Make the most of Goa, get out, breathe, watch, listen, do – CHECKCHECKCHECKCHECK, cyclecyclecycle
  16. Reclaim stillness whenever it happens, and when it doesn’t, create it – this is WIP
  17. Fuck perfection – this is WIP

Speaking of WIP, one of the best things I did for myself in 2016, was take myself to therapy. When the cycle of breaking down, finding my footing, stabilising, coasting and only to slip again recurred three times in a span of 8 months, I knew I was in over my head. Again, it called for a kind of honesty I didn’t have, but so desperately needed to find. To accept that I cannot navigate this alone, that I need a fresh pair of eyes to see things differently and help me work my way through, rather than away from this. It has been the best, because it brought to the surface things I wouldn’t have noticed on my own. It made me reclaim myself, discover and strengthen crucial aspects of my identity that were slipping away form me. Much of my newfound peace, focus and positivity is a result of this, and I know that every day I am making progress in facing up to and loving my imperfect self.

It hasn’t been an easy year to live with me. Every break down has brought with it several emotional outbursts, thoughtless spewing of anger and frustration, violent mood swings, long periods of demotivation. But through it, VC has been my constant. Constant everything. Punching bag, sounding board, friend, foe, confidant, co-homemaker, support, voice of reason, strength and solace. We celebrated our eighth anniversary. Ironically, it was a year that made me fully understand how relationships that nurture are the ones that help you growing together, separately, rather than collapse and grow into one entity, and completely turned my beliefs about marriage around, that somehow also brought us much closer.

I find myself feeling a little sheepish about how much I have bashed 2016. It had so many sore points, so many weeks and months I wanted to just wish away. So many events and incidents I wish I didn’t have to go through. It all felt so damned shitty. And yet, when it all stacks up and I look at it in retrospect, it was rather eventful. Memorable, even. But most of all, transformative. They say things sometimes need to get really bad before they can begin to get better. Maybe my bad bits were peppered right through 2016. But right there, in between the bad events, things were already beginning to get better.

This year I just want to build from here. Make some goals, shut up about them, work hard, live big, laugh loud, love hard, breathe deep and smash them to the sky.

*****

Quick guide to posts in 2016
Monthly recaps: APostADay
Bheja fry, since this year had so much of it
Work and writing
Books and reading in 2016
Travel and photographs
Cycling and exercise
Music

Same time, last year: Day 5: In-bloom

Day 366: December

It doesn’t take a genius to read between the lines of the impossible levels of drivel I posted at the start of the month, and tell that I’ve been in a slump. My brain has been impossibly foggy for many weeks now, my motivation levels plummeted to lows I didn’t know possible, and it showed in all aspects of my life. If blogging through this year has been a study in the ups and downs of my state of mind, I hit an all new low at the start of December. This kind of unexplained, debilitating, chronic blues has hit hard, several times this year, but last month when I returned from Thailand, I felt myself slip a notch lower. As an otherwise naturally happy, easy going person, it has been particularly difficult to deal with this. For one, I haven’t known this level of dejection and disinterest that seems to have crept into everything. Second, the inability to put a finger on it has meant I’m slow to recover. Third, my usual recovery time to snap out of a lull is a few days, a week, at best. So this one has completely thrown things out of whack.

Finally, I was prompted to dig deeper, and follow through on a hunch that perhaps there was more to this – a physiological reason – than meets the (mind’s)eye. Turns out I was right, and taking this blood test was one of the best things I did this year, making me kick myself for not listening to my gut sooner. Which is not to say the things I’ve felt and gone through this past year were unwarranted or without other reasons. This has been one of the most trying years in recent time, a time of transition, the sort that only makes sense when you look at things in reverse. When you realise that every sucker-punch moment was a set up for what is to come. I’ve felt for a while that all this confusion, unsettledness and restlessness is not without purpose. That it is leading up to something. You may not recall, but I said it at the end of this post too. It really felt like November was a culmination of one phase. Like December was going to be a time of moving into a better, brighter, positive space. I had an inkling about some sense of a transition at the start of 2016, but I didn’t anticipate it would last all year long and make its presence felt as much as it did. But, the reason I reiterate this is because December felt like I was finally over the hurdle. The same one I have been painfully eyeing and struggling to get over all year.

I’m putting a lot of it down to the multivitamins kicking in and altering the chemicals in my body which have put my fatigue to rest, given me sounder sleep than I have had all year, and generally brought the spring back to my step. My motivation levels have shot up, which is to say, they’re back to normal. I feel upbeat, positive and happy. My moods are more evenly tempered and for the first time in a long, long time, I feel like myself again. All the layers of sadness, nostalgia, PMS, PTS, and dejection have lifted and I feel like the aliens have returned me to my place on this planet, just the way I used to be. (Inside joke: I’m beginning to think I was abducted for the most part of 2016 because I couldn’t recognise the person I had become. Yep, this might be your cue to unfollow this crazy lady.) I’ve dropped the oscillations from extreme highs to debilitating lows. And clarity, sweet, sweet clarity that has eluded me, is coming back to life.

Some part of this sudden upward swing was kicked into motion when I was suddenly jolted out of my misery seeing updates from some writers on a group I’m a part of. Nothing like a look back at the year gone by to really put things in perspective, no? It’s so easy to slip into a loop of negativity when you’re feeling shitty because it’s the most convenient thing to do. It’s easy, and getting up and out is unthinkable. But I was forced out of my lethargy and I had a pleasant and rather exhilarating realisation that despite it all, somehow I’ve had a good work year. From where I stand, looking back, I see so many gaps in my work style. I took so many unwanted breaks that put my progress back significantly, I was slowed down by rapidly dipping motivation levels, I was plagued by self doubt and had my confidence crushed by plenty unsavoury experiences. I ended the year knowing fully well that I hadn’t achieved exactly what I had set out to do at the start of the year. Yet, it wasn’t all bad, it seems. And that came as a very, very welcome silver lining.

A mildly altered morning schedule saw me waking up at 6 am every day this month, which while I dreaded, turned out to be a bit of a Godsend. Because it gave me a solid hour everyday to be by myself, at peace, reading. And I was able to really pick up the pace and finish up so many more books because of it.

Somewhere in between, a long-awaited and very special essay — another one about Indian women who have chosen to remain childfree — went live on The Establishment. It was the byproduct of a lot of data I had gathered for another essay, but was unable to use. So tada, I turned it into a whole different essay. Win.

There were more travels of course, the last of it to close the year. I ran away to Bangalore, and then to Coonoor with S, a trip that came about in the most spontaneous and speedy fashion. Four days in the hills, and a road trip up there and back to Bangalore was really the icing on the cake. I spent four days soaking in the mountain sun filtering through the mist, and questioned my love for the seaside. I saw mighty trees that made me feel oh so very small. And I saw a giddying variety of flowers, trees, fruit and vegetation of the kind that only mountain air can bear, and it made my head spin.

It’s been a year of tremendous travel. I may not have gone very far, but with every trip I snatched some lovely cherished moments and experiences, and have found something that my life was missing the past many years: camaraderie with just the right mix of closeness and space all in one. I came home with my heart feeling very full. It put a whole different spin on thoughts of distance, longing to be with friends I love, and the expanses of time between us. I returned to the news of George Michael’s passing, and it put me in a nostalgic, reflective mood.

But I also returned to renewed enthusiasm and a very refreshed, positive outlook. It feels like I’m over the bump. I was able to write so much in the second half of the month, spruce up the home that I have ignored for a better part of the year, stock up the house and I even spent four days getting prepped for the work weak ahead. I had some time to even reflect on what a surprisingly good year of reading it has been.

December marked the end of a shitfest of a year of course, but I’ll remember it as the month my vitamins kicked in and my body and mind began to behave like I owned it again. It’s the month I closed the door on 2016 in more ways than just the passing of 12 long months. I’m so ready for 2017.

Day 337: November

It’s December.

That escalated really quickly. And even within this year that seems to be in such a rush to slip through my fingers, while I’m still trying to get a grip, November was the fastest month of them all. It really, well and truly went by in a flash. And like I just said the other day, that only ever happens when you’re either having way too much fun, or you just have way too much happening in general. And the past month was a bit of both for me. Practically half the month went by in a holiday blur, and the other half went by in recovery, a little skulking around trying hard to normalise again, and a week with my sister. And poof, the month was done.

I have to pinch myself to check if this is really happening. How are we already in November? Wasn’t I just here, dealing with way too much at once, and feeling completely at sea?

But November was a month of contrasts. If the first half was spent zipping around, wheels on my heels, the second was spent being a homebody. Where the first half had be getting out and about, the second half had me avoiding everyone. For the first two weeks of the month I felt so upbeat and confident and with it, and the second half saw me nosediving a bit, trying to get it together again.

It all started with Diwali, which was actually the most non-Diwali-like Diwali of all time. It was a combination of many things — pre-holiday excitement mixed with a complete lack of enthusiasm for anything even remotely social — that led to having a meh festival. But I don’t mean to complain. It was a good day, and what was telling was the completely effortless way in which not doing anything after all these years felt normal.

I was wrapping up a lot of loose ends at work and barely had any time to really post in the first week of November. So there was the recap of October, some reading I shared, and before I knew it I was off on my long-winding trip across multiple cities, continents and modes of transport.

VC and I had planned separate holidays over the same period. This was a first for us, and I realised this is the first year we haven’t taken a single holiday together, but on the other hand we’ve traveled so much, separately. While I landed in Bangkok and was able to post from a quaint little cafe with wifi, VC was in the boonies of Goa where he had cycled to. I’ll admit, despite being en route to my very own exotic location, I was a tad envious.

But it was silly being envious, because I can (and we’re already planning this) always repeat the cycling trip in Goa. Thailand on the other hand was special. I can’t say epic or fantastic in the way that one might imagine girlie-trips in Thailand could be. This was special, most of all for the sunsets, quiet company, the epiphanies, the books, and the chance to go home again.

That’s the short version. For the longer version with excruciating detail, read this post about day one in Bangkok, the almost-week on an island, and the slightly bizarre and insanely fun return to Bangkok.

After that, and the bonus of spending time at home with the parentals, something strange happened. For the very first time ever, I had a serious case of blues to be back in Goa. Again, this was very telling. With every passing day I feel the curtains closing on my time here. And in small and big ways, in moments that take me by surprise, I realise I must accept this sooner rather than later. My usual unpacked-and-back-to-normal routine was shot to bits this time. I was lethargic, sluggish and sad for a whole week during which I got very little constructive work done, aside from tending to emails, doing the bare minimum amount of work, and reading. And then my sister arrived! Which called for interruptions in programming again.

Aside from the restful holiday, the other bright part of November was coming back to an abundance of published work that had either been sitting on the bench or waiting for a publishing date. What followed was a sudden tidal wave of payments, of course. But in a surprising turn of events, this month I also had a shockingly high number of inquiries for work. Thank you, universe.

Somewhere in between, I also watched and ranted about Dear Zindagi. And about a new Instagram disease called fashionblogging.

I’m in a strange headspace. On the one hand things are moving swimmingly. On paper, I have a fantastic life. But inside, it constantly feels like a gentle storm is brewing. I have bouts of lethargy alternating with restlessness. I realise a lot of this is a by product of on-going therapy, which is also a reason why I’m acutely aware of every damned little thing I feel. Nothing passes me by as just a mood anymore, and sometimes that gets tiring.

2016 has been a lot of things. But most of all it has been tumultuous. We (I speak for VC too hear because everything that happens to me, affects him too) have struggled through some parts, over a lot of different things, questioned our motives and looked for answers and alternatives. And it’s beginning to feel like this time of guessing is shutting shop. In my gut, I feel like the end of the year is going to be the end of the transition. November certainly felt like a fitting culmination of everything that is going on. A build up to crescendo, as we reach the pinnacle of the year, before we turn the lights out on the year with a bang. The hope is that the storm settles, the mind finds a uniform swing in the step, and life mellows out a little.

Everything looks better in retrospect of course. When the heat of the moment has passed, the burning angst has settled momentarily, and the day ends with a gorgeous sunset, is when you’re able to sit back and inspect the trail you’ve left behind. Oddly, everything makes sense.

img_7519

But enough of this. To the forces dishing out juju for net year, listen up. I’d like 2017 to be well done.

Day 307: October

If September was the month of all things shitty coming to a head, October was the month of patiently sifting through the mess. I had a distinct from-this-point-on-it-can-only-get-better moment.

It was an oddly mellow month. A time of repose, for the most part, that really felt like the calm after the storm. Strange, considering the high of finishing my first 100k cycle ride, right at the beginning. It was such a high point for me. But, after that, many many long days of feeling quiet happened. It kind of turned into a month of quietude, of doing my best to break fixed patterns, old thought processes, unnecessary expectations. Of slowing down and letting go. And maybe that’s why I felt a tremendous lack of words. Again, not for the lack of things to talk about, but just the lack of motivation to talk about it all. It was a quiet time. In real life too.

I’ve talked about slow days before. Of appreciating solitude. Of savouring the time between the big moments. But nothing, no prior experience of it has been like some of the days I had in October. And that was so crucial to crossing over into the bright, blinding life again. I physically felt like I was returning to myself. Like things were moving, changing.

The universe conspires in strange and magical ways. Almost as if to echo the slowing down inside of me, I was forced to create an atmosphere of slowness around me. VC travelled for a greater part of the month – more days and a longer span than he has been away in a long, long, long time. That inevitably makes me slow down and slip into my own routine, undoing the ways in which we function as a unit. I retreated into myself, escaped on assignment, sank into my very own un-routine. I read a fair bit. This book, and some more. But mostly it was a time of being forced to sit with myself. To truly examine what is happening within, up close. I didn’t have a routine, responsibilities or work to busy myself with, or use as an excuse to ignore it this time. And honestly, I couldn’t have asked for a better time or coming together of events that eventually forced me to do just what my therapist asked me to: empty my mind. I realise that is perhaps why so much of what I have been talking about has been so cryptic, nebulous. I’ve been so non committal about putting any of it in words that really make sense or tell you exactly what is going on. But that is just the way it is. Part of me cannot find the words, part of me doesn’t want to try. It wasn’t all easy, but it was so essential, so needed. And as with all transformational change, it takes time. It’s never like the turning of a switch, but more like the slow unraveling of a sock. Eventually, you reach a point where you  begin to see the light. And if you’re anything like me, you feel immensely overwhelmed and thankful for all that helped in taking you there. Somewhere in between, I hit the 300 post mark, despite it being a low month in terms of blogging. And sent out a newsletter.

It was a slow month. And it had it’s moments of difficulty. But it was such a good month. The benefits of going solo are seriously underrated. But very often, it is the link between wallowing in a mess and coming out of it. And now, I just want this week to be over so I can fly off on my holiday.

molly