Lockdown love

We had such a peak 2020 celebration for our anniversary last night. I cannot get over how accurately a couple of hours one evening, succinctly mirrored the general progression of this year.

It began well. With promise, even, despite being locked down. VC got me yellow roses, as he did last year. As he always does. As he always has since the start of us knowing each other (see here, here and here).

We went from having no plans to deciding to treat ourselves to a good evening right here at home. I drag VC’s ass to take a nice picture of us every anniversary. Over the years his enthusiasm has gone from somewhat willing to very, very reluctant to complete disinterest, to now slightly more willing because rather than take a hurried self-timer shot on the phone, he gets to set up his camera. Last night we even got “dressed”. And by that I mean got out of our standard evening attire of pajamas and into decent clothes, I put on kajal and earrings, and we took some lovely photographs.

That lasted all of half an hour, before we relapsed back into our PJs, waiting for dinner to arrive. We even splurged a little and ordered a fantastic meal of dimsum and stirfry and flat noodles and what not. We had a few drinks, and I actually indulged and had more than my standard single micro-mini whiskey.

At some point in the midst of all of this we got into a conversation that started as just that — a conversation — but very quickly escalated into a very heated conversation and finally into a full blown debate. Both of us very steadily slipping into a spiral of incoherence, leaving the original premise of the argument far behind, veering off kilter so terribly that neither of us knew what the other was saying. And eventually we didn’t even know what we were saying anymore.

I have to say, though, that my ability to remain calm even in impassioned discussions has greatly increased and anger/rage was nowhere to be seen. I was almost waiting for it to arrive and make a loud entrance, but nope. No luck. Until the very end, when emotions were SO high and emboldened, that VC said something to me that was mostly untrue, but rather hurtful. And it jabbed me in a way that I wasn’t anticipating, thanks to the surprisingly even-flow nature of the conversation thus far.

Filled with hurt, half in disbelief and half in shock, I snapped back at him;

Happy anniversary to you too, as he slipped away to bed. And I stayed up in the living room, watching Netflix till my emotions simmered down.

***

I find that the amount of emotional labour I am willing to expend on soothing VC’s trauma, at the cost of triggering my own, has greatly diminished. I am all for building a supportive relationship, but I see how my definitions of that are so different now. Some years ago, I might have taken it upon myself to not only get my point across but also ensure that VC was feeling better by the end of it. And yes, I would have virtuously taken this on singlehandedly, despite nobody (least of all VC) asking me to.

These actions, that I thought were coming from a place of empathy, compassion and love, were absolutely not. Now, being compassionate has come to mean letting emotions flow if they must. Even if they are burning the room up around us.

My capacity to remain in that godawful uncomfortable space of stewing in a mixed-bag of very volatile emotions — and watch VC do that too, in his own way — has improved a smidgen. It doesn’t mean the disagreements are less painful. If anything, they’re worse and horribly more painful because the truth now has the permission to pounce out with no filters slapped on. Nobody is mincing words anymore. But it does mean that when the hurt comes, I am able to stand by my own side first, soothing myself, before jumping to rescue anyone else.

It’s taken twelve years of being married to finally realise that rescuing my husband is not a KRA I need to keep. Many times he doesn’t need rescuing. Many times he can rescue himself.

***

This morning though, we were back to doing the dishes together, and him sharing with me that he didn’t remember too many specific details of where the conversation veered after a point. Possibly that point of no return, which should also be the point at which one should end such conversations, or know that nothing after that is to be taken seriously, or as the truth.

In the past, painful conversations like this would have a distasteful energy that lingered for hours, sometimes days, after. But something different happened yesterday.

Ah well. Lockdown anniversary marking twelve years of marriage. I guess we had to have something different to remember this one.

One year ago: Monday funday
Two years ago: Every inch of sky’s got a star
Four years ago: Disjointed, incomplete thoughts

Twelve

Happy 12th, to the boy who doesn’t hesitate one bit to tell me how much he loves making a life and sharing a home with me. Reminding me so often, that it’s the little things that make a life.

What would I do without your unabashed, childlike, honesty?

Past anniversaries: eleven, tennineeightsevensixfivefourthreetwoone.

We’re going through changes

So it’s not just me. The Economist has this amazing piece on how Covid has changed lifestyles significantly. It’s safe to say this is not a mere passing trend, but change from within that is here to stay for a while longer than just the next fad. It was very comforting to read how the world over, we have turned to cooking, cleaning, DIY and home-making, craft and arts, gardening, pottery, baking, embroidery and knitting and the like to find some semblance of peace amidst the chaos, and our centres in the face of being thrown off kilter completely.

I realise that this too is global. Not just the destruction and chaos of the pandemic, but also the troubling churn that is also an opportunity for transformation that it is offered us all.

This impetus to find different ways to be has been triggered within us all partly from realising how undependable the current ways of the world are. How fragile and illusionary they are, how little support they offer. And most importantly, the gaping holes of inequity that have been exposed.

We were never meant to slave away like cogs in a relentless capitalist wheel in the way that we do. Running on the hamster wheel endlessly, chasing after one milestone after another, like mirages in a vast, desolate desert. But we were willing to cash in on whatever it offered, in the belief that it will somehow remain forever. This was the road to happiness. But how quickly all of that went to shit. And how quickly the discomfort struck each and every one of us, in some manner or another.

I wonder if the changes I am seeing — and I truly am seeing them in folks around me — are in a small manner coming from an awakening. A slow, slow return to the certain primal ways we were meant to exist in. Working with our hands, nourishing ourselves, finding pockets of rest, looking for joy in things other than making a living, doing the things that matter to our lives first, before feeding corporations became the only means to making a living.

Thinking about living and life first, and allowing the means to organically emerge from there. Rather than retrofitting the means to a living, to the kind of life we are then saddled with.

In my own space, I know that the slow down that this has caused has permeated more than just the pace at which I function. I have been more observant, more aware, I feel more in-tune with the world around me, I feel fiercely about certain tenets I now want to live my life by, I see the ways in which my internal and external worlds echo and mirror each other, and therefore the need to find balance, moderation and sustainability.

This didn’t just come out of nowhere. It came from getting down to the basics again. From literally getting down on my hands and knees to clean my home, chop veggies, grow plants, dig the soil, water fresh blooms, wash my loos, clean the dustbin, mindfully stock and store groceries amongst other things.

It made it impossible not to observing keenly what it takes to live life, and what (and how much!) I lost from dissociating from the acts of basic living completely. In outsourcing, I severed that connection to the very hands-on acts of living life. Putting food on the table, keeping a hygienic home, being curious about how much I consume.

Somehow, this made me aware of the plurality of life around me. The diversity in resources. And the pressing need to bring back balance to our relationship with it all. Watching nature, whether in my little balcony garden, or at the vegetable and fruit vendor, or in the millions of thought bombs I have read about these things (because everybody is talking about it now more than ever), has really made me realise the need to pause. Pause before I act.

Now that I am back to running outdoors, I catch myself literally watching, observing, looking up at the trees more, noticing blooms, catching unlight speckling through the leaves, smiling to see flocks of parakeets rushing from tree to tree, finding joy in withered, yellowed trees as much as lush, verdant ones. Watching, seeing keenly has shown me what natural resilience looks like.

Isn’t it amazing how it is the trees, birds, water, animals and insects that are thriving in the middle of a pandemic, while we are perishing faster than we can keep track of. We’re cowering into the corners of our homes, shrouded in masks and scarves to keep safe, while something else, something outdoor, stronger and more resilient than us is enduring.

There are lessons in survival in natural cycles. In balance and organic timing. In patience and timely growth.

The more I notice and become aware of these things, in the quiet moments when I am catching chai on the balcony, or running in the park, or simply watering my plants for the day, the more it percolates in some way into my life, my actions, my habits, my beliefs.

I cant unsee the glaring evidence that balance fuels survival, harmony breeds joy, equity births prosperity. So, in my own little way, working with my hands and doing the work has been an attempt at bringing balance back into our lives. A practice in adopting a more benevolent attitude, a slower rhythm that runs in respectful pace alongside my world, not trying to always get ahead.

And it is also impossible to ignore the joy that has come from it. You’ll know by now how much being involved in gardening has been the mirror I held up to my own internal processes. The clarity in thought, the ability to hold the murky days, keeping my head up even when inside I am going under, finding space to hold the sadness and pain that has come from all of this, working with a focus on what I want to do and why the work is important to me — I believe it is a function of returning to who I am. All thanks to stripping down to the bare necessities, and surprisingly finding inexplicable satisfaction in doing mundane chores.

The tide is turning.

***

Post title lifted from old favourite song that has an apt sounding line, but in totality has absolutely nothing to do with this post.

One year ago: Gratitude fix
Two years ago: August

Domestic

Kitchen things, home things, domestic things have consumed me a lot lately. I think back to a time in life where I loved it, but also felt like indulging it was somehow robbing me of time I could invest elsewhere. And I think about how that was the right stance for that time in my life. It’s how I stretched myself to the limits I could, exploring a career in freelance feature writing. I went at it like it was a full-time job and it was immensely satisfying. I can’t imagine that would have been possible if I were busy with changing sheets, keeping tabs on stocking up the fridge and cooking every meal.

But this is a different phase and time in my life. And it’s a different time in the world. Things have slowed down so much, within and around me, that I have the luxury to choose alternate ideas for productivity and ambition. At the moment my daily productivity only goes as far as doing two solid tasks in a day. Whether I take all day to do them, or finish them in a couple of hours, it’s all I find I am able to do. And I use the rest of what ever is left of the day to do as I please. Which in the last five months has become finding a steady rhythm in the tedium of keeping a home.

All the mundane things I curled my nose at in the before life, I have now found to be anchors. Like doing the dishes. Like taking down and washing curtains. Like dusting the fans. Like cleaning out the fridge. Like the endless loop of laundry — doing it, drying it, folding it, putting it away — lather, rinse, repeat.

The weightage between activities of work and activities of the rest of life now hang in equal balance. The repetitive nature of homely rituals, the beats of a domestic life, the monotony of that routine lends a backdrop of comfort and predictability to my life. Work just falls into it, in the gaps, around and in between the domestic stuff. There is an all new value and respect for this aspect of work. I understand so much more keenly why it is called unpaid labour, and probably how much more I ought to pay for it when I decide to re-hire domestic help again.

Prepping and planning for meals. Updating that constant grocery list in my kitchen. Tackling one forgotten corner of the home every week. Washing our face masks. Cleaning out the snack cupboard. All the cooking. Fluffing pillows and folding blankets every day. Bringing out fresh towels. Washing the dustbin every other day. Pruning the plants. Taking the indoor ones out for some sun every week. Sneaking in a special, indulgent meal every now and then. Making that daily 4 pm cup of chai (that I have absofuckinglutely perfected to my taste, thanks to the lockdown) and savouring it all alone in my chair in the living room. Watching the plants change and grow. Finding just bloomed flowers in the morning.

It’s the little things that stack up. And I see that in my changing relationship with domesticity, I now have built a home. A home that holds and supports me. Not just our literal home, but a sense of home and having somewhere to flop, collapse, be held, be supported. The routine and the rhythm of the tasks beat like a steady din of drumbeat that I have given-in to, lending shore to my need to just be, to unravel, to laze, to revel, to rest, to rejoice, to rediscover and to rejuvenate.

I could argue that in these strange times that I often struggle to make sense of, it is being at home, and in being steeped in domesticity that I’ve found an intensely personal quality to my every day life that was a bit diluted before.

Life feels lived-in this way.

Four years ago: Inside-outside

Life around here

Today, I had a full-on domestic day. I mean full-on, from the moment I woke up. Gloating about or feeling like the domesticity is special is so passé because, well it’s been too long now. We decided to do without domestic/household help and we have been at it on our own since April. We have found a rhythm, and we workaround energy ups and downs, lazy spurts and there is division of labour and a method to our madness. Mostly great things have come from this change, and huge realisations of what we actually need to survive, and everything else that is a luxury has made it much easier to cut back on the latter and lean in to the former.

Today’s spurt of full-day domesticity was thanks to a much-delayed pest control treatment. I first realised we needed it in April. But of course there was no pest control to speak of then, and somehow we forgot and pushed it, until it became unbearable. Probably several generations of them had spawned by then and the colonies were obviously overcrowded because the buggers had started venturing out looking like they’re in the midst of an existential crisis, in broad daylight.

Anyhow, so we had to empty out our entire kitchen the night before. The contents of which lay neatly strewn all over my dining table and chairs. The actual treatment involved deep-spraying the kitchen first, then a surface treatment, and spraying some parts of the rest of the home. It’s the worst because the creatures begin to crawl out and die slowly. There’s also chemical residue all over the house, most of all in the kitchen and I didn’t want to put anything back in order in a rush until the house had been ventilated and the stuff had had it’s time to blow off.

Also, VC was out all day in meetings, and I wasn’t going to do this all on my own. So I quarantined myself in my bedroom. And we managed with take out for a full day, eating meals in bed. It felt like the day we had just moved in when there were boxes all around the home, and only our bedroom was liveable.

So today, we had to reset and chores included sweeping up about 300 cockroach carcasses, literally scrubbing the kitchen down with a brush and soap and Dettol water, then wiping it down once again, resetting all my utensils and appliances, and throwing away a shit ton of junk in the process. And then doing the dishes, and getting to the rest of the home that also needed to be sanitised.

We were at it from 8-12. VC did his bit and went on to take some calls and get some work done, while I kept at it, taking the opportunity to spring clean and declutter some stuff that had piled up since our last such overhaul in May. It’s crazy how quickly junk piles up.

So yeah, cleaning and domesticity is really not special anymore. We’re both just found an auto pilot state of mind that helps get things done, around the other stuff we have going on in life, pitching in for each other when one of us is having a flat/busy day. I thank my stars that this has happened at a time when we’re both anyway at home, a lot less interested in being madly busy as we once used to be, and so we have the space and inclination to make this choice. I plan to keep at it until something changes and maybe other interesting things might have our fancy instead.

I even think about too much on a daily basis. Except when I realise that somehow even with being cleaned a lot less than when I had daily house help, the home is cleaner, more organised and feels more lived in. This added domesticity has been a safe haven for me, I’ve said before. And I have frequently turned to the rhythms of keeping a home, cooking our meals, gardening and sprucing things up around the house as a means to stay grounded and in touch.

The gift in all of this has been realising just how much of a homebody I naturally am. I really do thrive in keeping a home. And I mean all the allied parts of keeping a home, not just the part where the home is lovely and nice, but everything that goes into making it so. I have denied this part of myself for a very long time, even when I’ve had phases where I have dipped in and out of it many times over.

Today was that kind of day. Come down from the skies, land your feet on the ground, remember where you are kind of days. I have been floating off in an overly emotional space for several weeks now, processing many things, and generally having my mind and body a bit hijacked by it all. A full day of domesticity always gets the old gears moving back how they used to.

Somehow, the big reset moments in my mind, when I return from having gone full circle, moments that feel like inflection points of transformation, like washing out the interiors of my brain in anticipation of something new — these phases are always marked by a day or two of real-life cleaning around me. My nesting tendencies peak, I get very eager to throw out junk, strip down our lives and minimize the clutter, make our living spaces warm and comforting. It’s all very metaphoric for the inner process too, and I don’t ever take that coincidence for granted.

There have been some important and big shifts happening for me internally. But for the last couple of weeks, I was in some sort of limbo. Like I said yesterday, at a threshold of pain — having walked through the door but not yet fulling moving in, rather still tempted to bolt back out the door. But that is slowly changing. Slowly. And days like this are balm for that state of mind.

Earlier in the week I did a good load of garden sprucing up too. Watching how the old is making way for the new there too. Schefflera doesn’t sprout new leaves on a regular cycle like say, my syngonium or monstera. And I haven’t quite figured out the cycles on the schefflera as yet. But that morning, I realised somehow it’s time. The old is on its way out, the new is blooming and beaming out, making itself seen.

It’s hard not to see the parallels and feel very reaffirmed and assured by it all. Like seeing 11:11 again and again — something that never happens or happened to me.

Until this week. When it happened three times.

So yeah. Things are stirring.

***

Post title inspired shamelessly lifter from one of my favourite James Blake tracks, in collaboration with one of my favourite rappers — Chance.

Here, have a listen.

One year ago: Love actually
Two years ago: I want to thank you for giving me the best days of my life

Home is where the heart is

2020

This cosy little nook of ours has really filled out. Enveloping and dragging us into a comforting hug. I don’t think I’d have made it through lockdown and corona times in a home in which I didn’t feel like I could be myself.

And I don’t mean that lightly or superficially. This is the home I’ll always remember as the space that housed me through these important years. And in the corners and crannies of the home, I see transitions, changes and improvement that shadows and echoes the changes I, and we, have gone through as we lived here.

From living a bare bones, minimal this-much-will-do life, to growing into allowing ourselves indulgences, believing we are worth the spoils of a full, lush, lived-in home that gives expression to who we are as people, has been such a trip.

There is so much life in so many more ways now, in this home, than when we first moved. The plants, the colours, the walls, the refrigerator, the transformation of entire rooms.

It’s home, but is home really ever just a home of walls and windows and doors? I have lived in several homes now. This is my seventh, in fact. This one is special.

And I see why they say it’s where the heart is.

2017

Crazy trip seeing this picture from 2017, taken in week one of moving into this apartment. I posted it and wrote about setting up home (and other things) here.

Three years ago: What coming home feels like: finding new comfort in old places
Four years ago: Wayanad things

On the cost of domesticity

Pulling out this post I wrote in mid-April, but never finished. It is so interesting for me to see that even between April and now, how much has changed in not just my thoughts around productivity, but the way my life is moving in an alternative way to make space for sloth, rest, repose and rejuvenation.

This is just a disclaimer to say the content still holds, but the feelings are not current.

***

One of the scripts in my family is high worth attached to high productivity, efficiency, being a woman who is a go-getter and always on top of everything. It’s a great motivator, but also a subtle killer in the long run, I’ve discovered. Productivity across the board — from applauding efficient women who run their homes and hold down jobs, hailing devoted mothers who put their families needs above their own as “good”, to admiring outward focused woman committed to “serving” others (even at great personal cost) who have the ability to just give give and give, and take on some more, even when their plates are full — is greatly admired, coveted and covertly sold as the benchmark to aspire for. These are traits that are held up as hallmarks of being good women worth emulating, worth noticing, worth embracing. So obviously, women committed to themselves aren’t looked upon very kindly.

The last few weeks have felt like an infinite loop of housework, cooking, cleaning, planning, and managing work in the pockets I can find, while also culling out some downtime right before bed. It’s made me think a lot about how first of all so much of this is assumed to be the woman’s department. Even while VC has taken over the dishes, helps by dusting while I clean, gets into the cooking, does laundry, and waters the plants etc, I find myself instinctively still reaching over and above and trying to either assist him, or offering to do his share too. He’s tired of telling me that his attempts to help me are futile if I help him back.

I stopped myself in my tracks the other — wondering why this is so hardcoded in me? And I know part of it this early and deep lesson in equating my worth with my productivity, makes it very hard, almost impossible, to gracefully and thankfully take help. And over time it has made living up to my own ridiculous standards hard enough, but also terribly run down every effort and willingness on VC’s part towards being an equal part of this home.

I only woke up to this harsh realisation sometime last year, that this is not only a sorry state of affairs, but a huge disrespect to him. So even as I have been reworking my beliefs around not equating my worth does to how useful, productive or desirable I am, it is extremely hard to stay on track.

In the constant cycle of domesticity that has consumed us these past few weeks, I see how much of a struggle it has been to cull away time for myself. Even if it is to just lie back and stare at the ceiling. There always seems to be something more urgent that needs my attention. I’ve not had as much time as I’d like to sit down and write my blog posts in peace, for example. Writing time is pushed further every day and sometimes I write out a rushed post just before bedtime. I’ve been reading and important book about money with S, convening over video calls to discuss, but after a good beginning we haven’t made any progress in the last 10 days. I usually spend a significant amount of time thinking about my Monday tarot posts, but since the lockdown they’ve been all but hurried posts banged out in the nick of time. There’s a book for my course that I need to finish, and I haven’t even gotten around to starting it. This is the stuff that creatively nourishes me. The stuff I’d happily be doing when I have outsourced the house work.

It got me to thinking about how my mother did it all. How much she put aside to tend to us kids, keep our homes and family afloat and happy. And my mother was extraaaaa. We’ve had a full childhood with a lot of hands-on family time, picnics and holidays and activities and time spent together. Very focused, dedicated, active, deliberate togetherness, that must have taken a lot of emotional and physical energy to keep at. My sister and I were challenging in our own ways, and I know we kept our parents, but more my mother, on our toes at various phases of our growing up years. I don’t actually remember a single phase where my mother wasn’t quick to respond though. To get on her problem solving, troubleshooting, go-getter hat on to fix whatever it is that needed fixing, or soothe us, feed us, cuddle us, and do whatever it took.

And it got me to thinking about what the colossal creative cost of that might have been. Especially for a professional vocalist like her.

I wondered about how much talent, creativity and potential we’ve quietly snuffed over generations by channeling energy towards chores, family and the like. For generations before that didn’t have the luxury and privilege of outsourcing as much of it as I do, it must have ben 100x worse. Sure, it made women be creative about their domesticity, and many have rocked playing that role to the T. But I think of my own mother who was clear she wanted to focus on her family, and put her career as a musician and vocalist aside till we were old enough to go off on our own. I wonder what the emotional cost of that has been. If she was frustrated from it back then, she never let it show. Or I was too young to know. And now, as an adult woman navigating the age by which she had two children to care for, I can no longer deny that cost.

But from a few weeks of having to fight for my time, sometimes feeling resentful that there seems to be so little of it these days, I’ve been asking myself, how many more would women be able to dig into themselves and the depths of their spirits and creativity, if they didn’t have homes and families to tend to? How many more successful artists would we have?

And of course, it all comes back to this oft-asked and long-unanswered question: can creative lives thrive and flourish around the central axis of families that need feeding and children that need caring and homes that need looking after? Sure, they can co-exist. I am a product of such an environment. But can they thrive? I can’t help but wonder how much more art and music and poetry and writing and cooking and whatever else we might have had access to, if women weren’t taught early not to hinge their worth and likability with domestic productivity. I cant hep but wonder how much easier it would be for girls and women thereon to then go find themselves, scratch all their passions and be their whole selves minus the angst of having waited a minimum 30 years to get to the realisation that there was something more to life that they’re missing out on.

I believe that one of the common traits successful women artists have is the ability to shake off criticism around caring for themselves. And maybe at some level it is giving up the urge to be liked in the way that society, their families, the world at large would like them to be. Maybe it is about knowing so deeply what they are made of and what is important, life-giving, and non-negotiable for them to survive, that they would not give it up for the world.

That notion of what’s likeable, it’s beyond old and tired now. I realised many days into cleaning up that the thrill of being efficient, having a schedule, having things so much cleaner than before, doing it all was so old and so boring. And when the day came when I was feeling depleted and quite drained from not having done a satisfying amount of anything nourishing for myself, I felt a smidgen of that cost I keep talking about. The price women pay. The cost of doing it all.

And I don’t know if it’s worth it. I realised that I was actually quite okay to have a slightly dusty home for two days in a row if it meant I can catch up on reading. It quickly became okay to eat Maggi for dinner, and let some veggies go to waste now and then to just not enter the kitchen for a day. I didn’t feel bad for VC for having to do the dishes on top of everything else he has to do, because er, it’s no different for me.

***

That was April. This is now, and too much has changed to even enumerate it. But reading this post in the drafts made me happy because I see how much has. We are now down to sweeping and dusting at best twice a week, mopping once a week. Maggi has become a staple like sugar and atta and rice in our shopping lists. Take out induces nearly zero guilt, compared to before. And I have enjoyed many, many, many days of lying on my back and staring at the ceiling. In fact, I was just telling a friend the other day that I think I spent much of June horizontal — and I don’t even mean that metaphorically.

I might complain about the banes of being locked in and everything that it has changed in my life a lot, but I cannot lie — it has been an extremely powerful time of change for me. And for us, as a family and a home. In claiming something very essential for myself I see what has been freed up, what has come alive, what has become visible.

I’ve been pursuing slowing down for years, but it took the world around me also slowing down, coming to a halt, to receive the much needed impetus to do the same. When I did, so much changed, so deeply and so quickly. So if I may for a moment fully own and acknowledge the immense privilege of it all: the last four months have been an extremely valuable time.

And maybe sometime soon, I will write about all the ways in which this domesticity has actually taught me to value the work itself, the invaluable contribution of people I have casually outsourced it to all these years, and why I’m trying to do without it for some time to come.

One year ago: All my worries seem so far away
Two years ago: My moves are slow but soon they’ll know

The fullness of ease and balance

Going through another phase of really enjoying this stay-in business. Cooking, gardening, exercising, cleaning, pottering, tending to forgotten corners of the house, napping, bingeing on TV, staying up late, spring cleaning, hanging out with VC, chatting with Niyu, video-calling S. There seems to be time for it all. All the things I usually put off for “later” is here in the now.

There’s also no rush about any of it. I wake up and go with the way I’m feeling on any given morning. Energetic, sprightly? Great! A little lazy and wanting to sleep in? Let’s do that, let’s exercise later and get about the day accordingly, not doing all that I might ave planned to. Feeling downright lazy? Cancel the day.

This morning I had one of those slow days. I nearly skipped exercising altogether, because there were chores to be done and that usual toss-up played out: workout and skip chores or skip chores and workout? Except a third choice is emerging these days. One that only comes up when I’m not time-bound. So I worked out, slowly, because that’s the kind of day it was. No high-intensity jumping about. And then we got to the chores, VC doing his bit, me doing mine. And I took twice the amount of time I usually do. Going about it probably “inefficiently” — but it was okay. At lunch time VC made grilled cheeses toasts for me, and Maggi for him, while I cut up a plate of mangoes. And we called it lunch.

This is new for us. Certainly very new for me. This level of relaxation, the ease, the ability to just go with the way the day is unfolding and the way my body feels. An older me might have fretted about the slow start, the sloth in my body, and tried to whip myself to be productive and efficient. I might have felt terrible about wasting an entire morning to chores. I might have felt really guilty about VC having to make me “lunch” and a lunch of bread cheese, processed noodles and mangoes just wouldn’t cut it.

But somehow, it’s okay. There have been many days like this, and they’ve all been okay.

I have had phases of easing up like this before, and every time it has come from being very tuned in to what I am feeling. This is no different, I want to say. Except there is a difference. No previous phase has lasted this long, and been so enjoyable. Something has changed, the energy around this ease is different this time around.

It has come with a deeper connection, a newfound ability to fill out time, take space and take place, and really lean into intentionality a little bit more. Every little mundane thing that I do, feels very intentional. And I have a tiny inkling that is what has made the difference.

Our home feels more lived in, because I feel more present to every corner. Dusting, tending, prettying — because I now have to do it all and I have discovered I have the time, the patience and I enjoy it. The garden is abloom because we’re much more involved than we have been. I feel the fittest and leanest I have in a long while, because there’s so much more movement and exercise happening even outside of the scheduled workouts. We’re hanging out and conversing and enjoying things together — games, movies, silence.

Last week was a tumultuous one. For me, but consequently for VC too. I felt volatile and I erupted more than once. It was emotionally challenging. I felt and expressed anxiety that what we have had and enjoyed will not last forever, that it will be ruined. I felt torn up about that, horrible that I had no control in doing what one needs to to just make it stay. Until I realised; of course it’s going to change. Of course it’s not going to last forever. Of course it’s not in my control. 

And then things eased up again. Differently, this time. I know something very elemental has changed for us during this period of lockdown. I know things have shifted for VC, and I know they certainly have for me. Even though the physical reality of our life isn’t very different from before, something is different. Especially now than when the lockdown began.

It feels like a return. A return to connection, return to love, return to beauty and a return to ease and balance. And this feeling has really filled me up most days this past week.

The biggest difference by far though, is that I am not hanging on to it. I am not filled with thoughts of wanting to bottle it up for the future. I am just here, experiencing the balance, within and without. Witnessing the ease and flow that has made a remarkably different entry. Savouring this fullness now. As it is.

One year ago: Renewed relationships
Two years ago: April

At home

In today’s edition of excessive-but-necessary domesticity, we made a batch of homemade paneer by curdling 2 litres of milk. Because while milk has been in abundant (daily) supply where I live, paneer and cheese has not.

Yesterday, it was a whole wheat plum galette. Yeah, apparently I’m that person now. Because we had plums (only fruit available on the clean shelves in the supermarket) that tasted like nothing really and I didn’t want to bin them. This, in addition to house cleaning chores, unending dishes (because we are a house of three foodies who are taking our meals very seriously even in isolation), laundry (what with working out everyday) and cleaning the bathrooms, the actual cooking itself and what not.

So it’s no wonder that this week, I haven’t had it all chill and easy like the last few weeks. Suddenly I’m wondering where is that free time and hashtag-slowlife everyone has been talking about. It’s also mega amusing how I do the most basic, essential-for-life things that I otherwise outsource blindly for a few days and I cannot resist the urge to max it out and I do somewhere feel like I deserve a prize for it. It’s messed up, no?

I mean, this is life. This is normal. I’m not doing anything out of the ordinary — okay if you discount the baking and the extraaaa domesticity — it’s just cooking, cleaning, and focusing on being healthy and responsible, during this time. What’s the big deal, man? It kind of made me wonder how distant I am from these very normal functions of life, and it’s something I’m going to try and correct even after things normalise, to the extent possible.

Slowly beginning to see that not everything from my “normal”, old life may be worth returning to once things go back.

***

We had a beautiful, mellow, cotton candy sunset yesterday. And I rearranged my pots in the morning. The most unexpected plants are thriving — and I think it’s the clean air.

I’m not bored being home as yet, seeing as how I have had a lot going on. And even before that, the silence and stillness has been good. But today I said to VC and Niyu, I do want an Andhra meal. Or a coffee at Third Wave. Or a good wood fired pizza. Mostly, going out is about the food for me, I realise. Everything else I need is right here with me. Immense gratitude for that, given how impossibly devastating this has been for so many others. I struggle to make sense of the dissonance of it all. And I find no answers.

One year ago: Blank
Four years ago: Fullness

 

Here’s to getting old

Another revolution around the sun, VC.

Another milestone. Another year on walking this planet.

Another year obsessing about all the things that you do. Another year living in that fully committed single-mindedly focused way that you do.

Another year of simultaneously infuriating me with our polar opposites and softening me with our fundamental likeness.

Another year of inconveniencing me with unnecessarily heavy luggage all for another year of stunning pictures and memories from our travels.

And yet, I suspect this year will be a touch different. So as you step into the new, I wish for you a year of just enough surprise of magic and just enough comforting familiarity. A balance of enough challenges and the right amount of easy wins, too. A year of flow and ease, peppered with opportunities to stretch yourself. I wish for solidity and harmony as you continue to take life by the horns and grow from strength to strength like you have this past year.

Something tells me you have only just begun.

Happy birthday, old man :D

One year ago: Would you rewind it all the time
Three years ago: Redemption reading

<3

It has been a good, good week. And the highlight, quite easily, is having VC back home. We’ve been like stuck records repeating to each other, umpteen times, over the last week: This last year, living apart, was the best thing we could have done. Because from time to time, we realise the little things that have changed about us, within us, and the way in which we’re being different around and with each other.

Just a week since we’ve returned, VC has already flown off to Bombay today for a bunch of meetings, and I suddenly found myself with a day to myself.  It sparked so many thoughts.

On how living apart unconsciously made us experience individuating in this relationship too. How that has somehow brought us closer. How I think this might be a good thing to do every few years, if the need arises. But I’ll save that for another day. But for now, just gratitude for this here. For going full circle. For love.

One year ago: One day in Bangkok (or day one in Bangkok)
Two years ago: Acceptance is a small, quiet room
Three years ago: Guess I’ll have to leave some stuff behind

Where love and wonder meet

Grateful for the (travel)partner I have in VC. As interested in the world as I am, but in a wholly different way, with a very different outlook and eye with which he sees things. Eager but rooted, curious and childlike, he is the steady to my floaty and the sense to my whimsy.

It’s only in recent times that I’ve discovered the need and place for both and the deeper need to find a balance. And I’m only just learning to make space for the two to coexist.

In VC, and in being and journeying with VC I have learned where (and how) love and wonder can meet. I have learned of the spaces between us, the give and take, the push and pull. And how love ebbs and flows inbetween, not in the evenness and the plateaus. This is a feeling I have sensed and known for many years now but have resisted, holding on tightly to my very limited knowledge and sense of self that sought comfort in sameness.

It’s only now, as I have loosened my grip on myself, and I’m learning to live a little, am I able to see the unbound joys of flowing where life and love take me. And I’ve only just found the words to articulate this old, old feeling that has always bubbled just beneath the surface, guiding me on silently, even when I wasn’t ready to pay it any heed.

Three year ago: Silver linings

Eleven

There was a moment some time ago, in a conversation (with someone whose opinion I hold very close) about the wonders of living apart from one’s significant other, when I was asked if the need for space and distance meant that maybe I’d left my marriage in some manner during this past year of living apart.

The question really stumped me, hitting me like a misguided pellet right between my eyes.

The thing is, I have been generally so absorbed with discovering myself and been so involved in all my own personal pursuits, that the thought hadn’t occurred to me. The decision not to uproot my life here and follow VC to Goa last year had come very naturally. At a time when I had come to realise that this part of my journey was important for me, it was also increasingly clear I needed the space and solitude I could only get in a somewhat “unpartnered” state. So when the opportunity to live apart found its way to us, we’d both said yes.

So to be asked if maybe this had caused me to leave actually made me stop in my tracks. I had to really think hard if that was true. Even in some measure.

I pondered about whether there is such a thing as too much space. Whether growth in such separate (and immensely impactful) ways might have each of us blindly hurtling towards an inevitable future apart rather than together? I pondered the difference between growing together and growing apart and which of the two I have witnessed. Was it one over the other? If so, which one?

It’s hard to pick, honestly. Because it has been a little bit of both. At different times. The time apart has enforced in equal parts some essential separations as well as some important intimacy.

I thought about whether this steadfast individual focus on myself, with minimal obligations to my marriage had possibly triggered a solitary life that there’s no coming back from. It took me a few days of quiet discomfort and much silence to accept that a lot of all of this is true, in varying measures, at various points of time this past year. And yet, in some very fundamental way, it isn’t entirely true.

So much of getting to know myself has been about digging out a pure sense of self by peeling back the layers and making space for the authentic self that lies deep within. And it has been impossible to do this without looking at myself in the context of every one of my relationships. This has brought with it a fair bit of push and pull, changing dynamics, uncertainty, loss and disappointment. Many relationships haven’t weathered this turbulent time, and yet some others have. Many haven’t lasted the test of seeing the whole, true me as I am discovering myself and learning to step forward in a that new way.

Except, for VC. Who has consistently been the only one standing by me. When the fog has lifted after a particularly uncertain phase, when I’ve been slowly walking through the nebulous parts, and come forth in all my unsettled glory, I have always found him right there. Seeing me just as I am.

This past year, the journey to knowing my true self has been a lot about really seeing who I am, and allowing that version of myself to be seen too. I have only very recently realised that this is an impossible space to navigate unless one has a sense of safety, kindness and compassion. Both from within as well as from the most important relationships one holds.

And in that sense, I have time and time again come to realise that this is my safe space. More than enabling the physical reality of this life, my relationship with VC has held emotional space for me to journey on. To take chances, to flirt with uncertainty, to push boundaries, to make new ones. Even when things have been somewhat fluid and shaky ground, I have always felt confident that there’ll be a way for us to find togetherness. Despite everything that emerged for me and for him. All the changes that we have been pushed into, and pushed ourselves into, and all that it has demanded of our relationship.

I only realised recently that this is a sense of safety and of coming home.
Of acceptance, of peace.

Of having the unfettered support of someone sees me, with an open heart.

Of being seen with complete kindness and love.

Like feeling deep in my bones, this belief:

I see who you are today,⁣
I cannot wait to see who⁣
you become tomorrow.

And so today, eleven years since we got married, nearly thirteen years of knowing him, I feel a renewed sense of love and gratitude for what I have with VC.

Eleven years ago, on this day, we took a pretty naive leap of faith into the wide open uncertainty of a future together. From where I sit today, I feel a sense of tenderness and love for the young people we were. So in love, so happy, so confident at the prospect of a life together, without having even the slightest inkling about what life would bring or how it would mould us, separately and together. And what an exciting, challenging, fun ride it would be. Or if we would weather all the change that would come our way as a result of it.

It’s the kind of leap of faith only the very young can take, I think. Because all I really felt in that moment at that time, was blind faith and a deep gut feeling. Faith that whatever life would bring, it would be better to do it together.

And it’s exactly that same feeling I rediscovered this past year. The space to face anything, safe in the knowledge that whatever life brings, it will be better to do it together.

It’s what has allowed me the wings and the springboard to fly from cradle, knowing fully well that when I return, I will land right back into the lap of safety, peace and complete acceptance.

***

So at the ripe old age of eleven I’m going to make a sickly sweet public display of affection usually only characteristic of young love.

To appreciate all that my marriage has brought to my life this past year. I’m grateful that when the need for space arose, we were both able to see it and take a chance quite effortlessly. To have two homes, in two such varied places, offering me the best of both the coupled and uncoupled life to shuttle between, to find a new normal, is a privilege I am present to, and grateful for, every single day.

The ways in which it has shaped we have moved, grown and evolved individually, and how we have re-shaped ourselves as a unit, has been special.

Mostly I want to to appreciate the gentle, kind and loving man that VC is. He gives me much to aspire for in this regard, and I’m only now getting to a place where I can see him for who he is. As he is, without that desperate burning desire for more, for something different.

The way in which he sees me. The way in which I felt seen this past year.

It’s taken a long time, but this year, I want to remember that I have learnt this from him — the ability to be grateful for and to wholeheartedly love what I have, as it is, exactly as it is.

So to answer the question I began with; no, the choice to live apart hasn’t been a leaving of my marriage in any manner. It has been instead, a stepping stone to coming home again.

One year ago: It’s just the nearness of you (ten)
Two years ago: Nine
Three years ago: Eight

***

Past anniversaries: ten, nineeightsevensixfivefourthreetwoone.

Love actually

When you know, you just know. Ever so slowly, with just as much intensity creeping up on me as it did when I realised I needed to live on my own, I have realised that this time is done. Everything that it could have served at this point in my life, has been nearly done. And I am so ready to go back to living with VC. I am ready to share space and togetherness again.

I guess you could say the realisation crept up on me when I began to miss him more intensely than normal. It began about a month ago when I returned from Goa. The number of calls I make on any given day have outnumbered the number of calls he makes to me (and the fact that he had taken to calling me more than twice a day was in itself a pleasant shocker). But I think the real clincher that something fundamental had changed was when I started nesting again. It’s almost like the dead impulse to do anything remotely domestic has been kindled again, and I am homing. Like a bloody pigeon. Readying this home once again to the familiar, warm and life-filled place it was before VC moved.

For no apparent reason, I took down curtains to launder, cleaned out storage spaces and carried out a massive deep cleaning operation of my fridge and kitchen a few weeks ago. In the process, I realised how disconnected I have been from all things domestic around here. Partly because living on my own has required less involvement on the home front. Things have functioned on auto pilot, with just me taking care of me. Amma and I eat most of our meals together, prepared by her so my kitchen has been barely functional the last 3-4 months. Things have been proper and in shape, but with a perceivable lack of life. The sort of thing that fills homes as an outcome of when people being connected, bringing energy and breathing life into mere spaces. This takes active living, and since I was mostly just coming home to sleep for the greater part of the last many months, there’s been a growing sense of lifelessness about my home.

Suddenly something turned. I’m spending more and more time here, feeling homely and cosy. Imagining meals I want to cook, dreaming of all the places my plants will go when they’re transported from Goa. And there’s groceries in my kitchen, vegetables and curd and bread and eggs in my fridge. The curtains are clean, the cupboards slowly being made dust-free. A whole lot of old clothes and shoes have been discarded/donated. You know, mundanities.

I’ve even spent some mornings cooking elaborate meals that I felt inspired to make. I braved the daunting 6-hour recipe making ulavacharu out of half a kilo of horsegram because all this staying in, in this weather demands all things zesty and earthy in my plate. I also made half a kilo of popped makhanas to snack on. I mean healthy snack preps? Is there a bigger sign that I’m well and truly home?

The home is functioning again, basically. And then this morning, I emptied out VC’s cupboard that I had appropriated and spilled myself and my belongings over into last year when he moved to Goa. So I suppose, it’s official now. I’m done living alone.

The distance has been especially painful this week, since he left early Monday morning, and I am already counting days to our next trip already. The good thing is, I managed to convince him to make two trips to visit me here in Bangalore during this time I cannot leave the city. He was convinced, very easily. And he acted on proposed plans, very quickly.  Last weekend was one of those trips and it was a joyful, quiet, contained weekend for me.

Even with the excessive (by my new standards) being outdoors, it was a weekend spent just being. Whether out or at home (and we did consciously spend a fair bit of much-needed time by ourselves at home) it really brought home the fact that this is something we sorely missed doing in the initial months when we moved here from Goa, over two years ago.

I realise now, in retrospect, that 2017 Revati and the headspace she was in when we moved — initially out of desperation and then driven by a compulsion to make it work — swiftly slipped into get-it-done mode. This made me completely inward-looking and disconnected from all else. What parts of me remained were drawn and invested in being with my family. Which left VC to deal with his family as best as he could, or be alone. Even when we were together, I see now how disconnected we were. Emotionally, more than anything else.

I’ve been feeling those gaps closing in the past many months. But something about his trip here really hit home. There was a visible comfort in being here — in this city — that was missing in 2017. An ease and presence. A deliberate relaxation from not trying hard to make it work, and the consequent lack of guilt from sometimes failing at that. A comfort and acceptance of things, and just going with the flow.

This past weekend, we did things we haven’t done here in a long time. Chose to be home. Ate home cooked meals, making rotis and chopping onions together. Also ordered our favourite desserts to eat in bed while we Netflixed, separately. You know, life as it used to be. We also took ourselves out on a proper date — drinks at HRC followed by Kunal Kamra who made us laugh so hard our faces hurt and we came home buzzed and unable to sleep.

I got a special kick in showing VC all the things I newly love about the city. We walked a lot, took the metro into town on the night of Kunal’s show, walking some more to get places. It felt like I was taking a tourist about town and we giggled at the idea. We hit some of our favourite spots in the city, and I realised this is such a pleasant change — VC willing to get out and about and do things in the city. We spent time talking about what the next few months hold for us — me urging him to take things slow, for a change, and him egging me on to push myself, for a change. And I couldn’t help but think, how far we’ve come.

I’d be lying if I downplayed the fact that I am severely excited about VC’s return. In some odd ways it feels like we’ve hit reboot on our relationship. Without knowing it needed work, it somehow got worked on. And the results are only visible now in the palpable freshness that’s in place of the comfortable staidness that I suppose kicks in after you’ve been married for ten years. As I count down the days to living together again, I feel excited like I used to be 12 years ago when we’d plan to hang out and I’d count down the hours to when we’d meet, and he’d show up with the childlike enthusiasm, but the kind of grown-up love he was never too afraid to show. I sense that old VC returning, and this feels like a homecoming in more ways than one.

When it’s time, it’s time. And when you know, you just know.

One year ago: I want to thank you for giving me the best days of my life

AWOL

Talk about distortion of time! I have gone about today assuming its Saturday, which is why I missed posting. I’m also preoccupied with a visiting VC, with whom there is much to catch up on. This is VC’s first casual visit, since he moved, without any specific reason. And as is usually the case, we get totally engrossed spending time with family. I’ve already skipped going to the gym today, our meals have been excessive and late, and in just 48 hours it feels like my regular routine is completely out of whack.

So I guess this missed post is in line with that scheme of things. We have the weekend to ourselves, though. Watching Kunal Kamra (again! woohoo!) is on the agenda, amongst other things. So, when I emerge again I’ll have to give this a shot on Monday, I suppose. OOPS.

One year ago: Stay and stay a while
Three years ago: Into the blue