Day 117: And love is all that I can give to you

There’s a lot I want to write about. A lot of fodder for long, verbose posts is crammed in my brain at the moment. And maybe I should have gotten to it sooner in the day. A morning of meetings and driving back home left me a bit winded, and I spent the rest of the day chilling.

But come evening, I’m feeling very listless and melancholy. A friend’s husband has an unexplained illness that is taking forever to get to the bottom of. I’m worried. Another friend has just lost a very. very dear relative. My heart clenched up reading the news and even though I never knew the person who has passed, I felt choked up. This made me so very sad and contemplative. Another friend I spoke with a while ago, is dealing with a very complicated domestic issue that I can’t imagine how one can get out of. I feel helpless just talking to her.

There is a lot to say and maybe I will get to it on Monday. Because, today is definitely not the day to wax on about my life and idle thoughts.

Sending love, healing and positive thoughts to my friends today.

One year ago: Because wanting to leave is enough
Two years ago: Day 117: See Lanka

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Day 116: Bad news never had good timing

I suppose it’s safe to say my honeymoon period in Bangalore is done. At least as far as tolerating (turning a blind eye) the shit show that the city is, goes. On the one hand, being closer home has been all kinds of beneficial. Satisfying, happy-making, revelatory, even.

It was such an exciting challenge to be back in a city, so close to home. And the challenges and newness of it all occupied my focus. Coming back to Bangalore made me face a lot of the things I didn’t even know I had run away from, and that has been a whole other journey in itself. I’ve had my fair share of closing the loop on many things, lots of recognising unfinished business and acknowledging it if not beginning to finish it, lots of owning up to many of my demons in hiding. And best of all, entering into a phase that has seen me making peace and feeling the happiest I have ever been.

For our desires to give our business a shot too, this was a crucial move. To be out here in a competitive space, where standards are so far from the ones we had and knew in Goa. It’s been both eye-opening as well as reassuring to know where we stand.

As far as family goes, moving away happened so fast at a time when I was so very young, naive and otherwise occupied with keeping my sanity in a new marriage living with my in laws, that I never really processed the subconscious push and pull that possibly really drove me away from Bangalore. On the surface it was about work and the like, but really, it was so much more. So much more that I am only coming to understand now. In the process I’ve had to recognise and re-integrate facets of myself that I had ignored, denied myself of and just never allowed to shine through.

I have a new found love and adoration for my family. My own, as well as the one I am married into. I’m finding new levels of acceptance I didn’t know I am capable of. It’s been an essential learning of resilience, empathy and gratitude. And I’m convinced it is the kind of learning that wouldn’t not have happened in theory, over a distance.

There is no better place than here, and no better time than now for me to be working these things out for myself.  All in all this was a very necessary and timely move for us. I know this now, one year down.

And what a honeymoon it has been. Months of easing myself into everything slowly, taking time off from work like I haven’t ever done before, making and breaking and remaking friendship, revelling in the togetherness of being in such close proximity to my mother father and sister — all of this has created for me the best time and space to focus on my self-improvement. It has consumed my focus was for most of the last twelve months.

That has ensured that I was mostly distracted from the shitty mess that this city is, because I also made mad attempts to stay focused on the good, on the reason why we’re here, and the good things that have come out of it.

Now, with enough time having flown by, the creaky everyday mundanities are in full-swing, and the rhythm of life set, I’m slowly beginning to feel the opening scratchy strains of a strange kind of melancholy about my surroundings.

Now that I’ve been back long enough, a yellow-y mouldy jadedness has well and truly caught up with me. It started with waking up one day and suddenly realising just how extremely noisy my neighbourhood always is. It seems like this city is always in massive states of construction. Drilling, tile cutting, wall breaking, carpentry — on any given day I hear at least 3 of these noises for a good length of time. This, in addition to the burgeoning traffic just outside my home. My folks have lived on this street for upwards of 30 years now, and so we have watched the neighbourhood morph from a quiet by-lane of old-time Bangalore to the monstrosity it is today with larger-than-necessary buses zipping down, horns blaring, two wheelers snaking through dangerously, the constant loud chatter of people.

Slowly, the traffic is getting to me. Not just the volume and the unruliness, but the brazen way in which all laws seem to be null and void. I resent and feel physically helpless that a large part of driving in this city is about constantly taking chances — chances at a signal, chances at every turning, chances with getting past pedestrians.

That’s not all — the air quality is significantly worse. My allergies have flared up ten fold since I’ve been back. And I’ve been on three antibiotic courses in the last year, with a sore throat and cold attacking me on the dot once every four months. This is four times more than the average illnesses I’ve had in Goa.

OH, oh, oh, most of all I marvel at how so much of the shittiness I talk about has been this shitty since I left nearly ten years ago. It’s almost like absolutely no improvement is to be seen, and things have only gotten progressively worse. How can Silk Board still be a nightmare, for example? How is the quality of power still so terrible? One gust of wind before a summer shower is still enough to knock the power out for a couple of hours — this happened multiple times every day, for the last five days in our home.

Bangalore is a glorified, overgrown village, at best, masquerading as a city, with large swathes of people deeply in denial.

When I was tiring of the village life in Goa, I imagined that being in a big city would have certain definite advantages. It does, I wont lie — I LOVE that I don’t have to step out of my home for most things. A lot of my requirements come to my doorstep. Most everything is accessible online. And for everything else, there is Dunzo. But, I cannot help but feel the workings of all of this is still so small-town. Nothing is 100% efficient. Nothing is 100% dependable. This big-small difference between not having access to these facilities in Goa and having them here in Bangalore is that in Goa I’d just get out and get shit done myself. In Bangalore, when systems fail (and they do, a fair bit) the option of getting out is SO daunting because one has to think about traffic, parking, and invest at least an hour for the smallest chores. It doesn’t feel like this is a big city at all some times.

Slowly, I’m realising that something or the other is beginning to nag me. The people. The sheer number of people gets to me some days. Some days I long for the open spaces. I think back wistfully to my street in Goa where I’d drive out and immediately hit third and fourth gear in my car. I don’t get to do that very often in Bangalore. I get out of my gate and hit a speed hump.

Slowly, I’m realising that not a single day goes by when at least one or two things make me very vehemently think FUCK WHAT HAVE WE DONE, WHY DID WE COME BACK TO THIS, loudly, in my head.

It takes a lot of effort to constantly remind myself of the real reasons, focus on the good and bubble wrap and protect my brain from the shit here — whether it’s the environmental damage, the insane traffic, the widespread construction, the completely apathetic citizens — Bangalore is really, really falling apart and there’s no denying that. Realising all of this and being a citizen here makes me feel so extremely helpless.

I take solace in knowing that we never meant for this to be a destination in itself. It was always meant to be merely a stepping stone to a future we’re yet to discover. But if I’ve learned anything at all from the uncertainties of the last three years of my life if is to try and not cast anything in stone, not even my aversions or dissatisfaction.

I’m waiting for a day when I feel like this to materialise. Meanwhile, I’m going with the flow.

One year ago: In-stages
Two years ago: Day 116: Bits and bobs

Day 54: All my sweat, my blood runs weak

What coming home feels like: Sometimes, like a giant cauldron of regret

Yesterday was a super frustrating day. And it came on the back of a rather tiresome few weeks. Work has been testing our limits, our patience, resilience and everything in between. It’s the kind of situation where we’re having to work really, really hard (not just at the work-work itself, but the driving around town, the hustling to schedule meetings, the constant pimping, the follow-ups to get people to fucking respond that adds to the work) for the smallest wins. At this point, I’ll take it. And I’m grateful for every little bit of movement. But, on some days like today, it takes a toll.

Yesterday was one of those days where I fully and completely regretted moving to Bangalore. The reality of it hit me when we were out to run a single, really simple errand, not too far away from home. But after wading through impossible traffic for over two hours, we had to return home errand unfinished. This completely unnecessary wild goose chase included obstacles such as one HDFC ATM with a dead server, three HDFC ATMs in the vicinity that only existed on Google Maps, but not in reality, and a mindbogglingly circuitous route home. There are few things worse than having to brave evening traffic in Bangalore when you’re all set to get shit done, and you have to inevitable return without accomplishing the only thing you set out to do.

This, at the end of a hard few weeks where I’ve kept my head down and patiently tolerated everything this city has thrown my way, broke me a little. This month, I’ve seen the worst of Bangalore’s traffic, road rage, Metro construction, white topping, the beginnings of flyovers and steel bridges we know won’t do jack, road rage, traffic jams, aggression and road rage. Did I say road rage already? I’ve been to Whitefield (twice!), Jayanagar, Koramangala (thrice!), Hosur Road, Kengeri. And I’m pretty sure I’m leaving something out.

These past three weeks, I’ve witnessed the extent to which this city has exploded physically, at very close quarters. I’ve seen how the semblance of order that is not visible in the CBD area, fades as one move outwards, and is non existent in the external, ever-expanding limits of the city. Basically, Bangalore feels like one gigantic construction site, with no sense of logic or planning in sight.

From the moment I entered Whitefield, we were in gnarling traffic jams of the worst, worst kind, and for the most part, we were squeezed into single lane traffic. The temperatures are definitely a few degrees higher there than everywhere else, owning to the rampant and thoughtless construction. Clouds of dust, people zipping around either angrily, or with vacant expressions, zombified and totally sapped of energy. It was nothing short of a dystopic image. For a newcomer, it feels like Whitefield has no more space to give. No more space, no semblance of order, no peace, no air, no energy. I kept asking VC, who would want to live in a place like this? The energy was just reeking of negativity. Also, where’s the space? But the irony of it all was we were headed to a meeting with a property developer at a property fair in Whitefield. Evidently the big Bangalore property dream is still alive and kicking. The idea that you can build yourself a fancy home, high up in the skies, walled in to a self-contained layout, is a great way to keep the festering shitfest of a city out. It doesn’t matter that the minute one leaves ones multiple-crore home in said fancy self-contained enclave, you hit areas with no roads to speak of.

How is this appealing? Are people sleep-walking through their life here? How is this the “quality” of life is being sold to hapless citizens of this city? And how are they buying into it? When will it stop?

But that’s not all. I also had a deep, deep sense of regret because it was the kind of day that makes it seem like nothing is really working in my favour. The kind of day where you feel responsible for making it all work, yet want to just throw your hands up and resign. The kind of day where you want a shoulder to cry on, but the only shoulder you have wants none of it. The kind of day where you want to poke holes in your castles in the air, and let those demons out, but your cohabitant wants none of it.

By far the worst feeling of it all, was to realise that my life is once again down to this — getting around this maddening city, trying to do work that doesn’t want to get done easily, and feeling very, very tired every single day. I’m so frustrated that I get so little done, and yet I’m busy all the time, and it just makes me so very, very tired, with nothing to show for it. It’s not that content, satisfied kind of fatigue, but the exhausted, empty sort of tiredness.

This, in a nutshell, was why I left Bangalore in 2010. And somehow, I’ve signed up for it all over again.

Yesterday, I felt trapped, backed into a corner, with no options or way out.

Yesterday, my frustration with Bangalore peaked, and I longed for the simplicity that was life in Goa.

Yesterday, I realised once again, what I am and am not wired for.

I know this too will pass, and I’ll go back to focusing on the silver linings, with the surety and confidence that I came with, that has currently left the building. But until then, let it be known that February has been rather brutal, and it is taking it all out of me to try and focus on the good bits.

Meanwhile, the trees on my street have shed their leaves overnight.

I woke up one morning to find the streets laden with brown, dead leaves. It’s a sign of new beginnings. Of summer. Of the end of a cycle. And I hope some of that freshness translates into my life too.

One year ago: Ten reasons why I love the girls I’m in long distance relationships with
Two years ago: Day 54: Working better

Day 19: Sorry seems to be the hardest word

Ever since the Aziz Ansari story broke out, I’ve found myself torn up once again. While there is little doubt in my mind that the details in the account definitely count as harassment, I have been torn up about reconciling the fact that yet another good guy, someone I really wanted to root for is, disappointingly, just another potential asshole. I’ve been torn up about the grey area I’ve talked about so often. The grey area that continues to linger over women like me who are not innately vociferous or aggressive across all situations. The grey area that surrounds experiences that don’t always have the quintessential signs of harassment, but somehow do leave us feeling harassed, uncomfortable and sometimes violated. That violation isn’t always physical. Sometimes it’s a violation of personal space, sometimes a kind gesture is taken for granted, sometimes it’s an abuse of our politeness, and sometimes it’s the abuse of the lack of an explicit no.

But here’s the thing. As we navigate this vast and ambiguous grey area, and as the debate around consent, aggression and harassment intensifies, it is near impossible to hope for clarity without getting graphic, granular and very, very nuanced. Which is to say, the shades of grey need to be looked at individually. For example, it is no longer enough to accept that no is no. Even absence of a clear yes, is and must be taken as a no.

Three specific, and separate things to say. 1: It is impossible to attempt to gain clarity about the nuances of harassment, without really undoing and unwrapping the various elements that make up the monolith we call “aggression”. And looking at it means taking into account the subtle and not so subtle strains of power play, of the dynamics between men and women when they share intimate spaces that lie in the twilight zone between work and play, the tendency for men to persist and push with utmost confidence even when the signs and cues they receive are all pointing otherwise. It means calling out all of this behaviour that sometimes leads to us feeling violated or harassed. Even if it sometimes takes upwards of six months to realise that what we experienced was in fact harassment, and that the experience left a bad taste in our mouths. So, while it may be a little premature to lump Ansari in the same category as the Wiensteins of the world, it is unnecessary to take his side and bemoan the humiliation that this story has brought him. Because to do so is to ignore and pull a sheet over the very obvious signs of aggression, unnecessary persistence on his part, and a complete disregard for the feelings of the woman he was with.

It is impossible to begin to discuss the entire gamut of harassment unless we take into account, and take seriously, all of the instances that fall in the grey area, outside of the purview of rape and physical assault, that we typically call harassment. And to do this means to talk about the way experiences make us feel. To tell our stories, continually and unabashedly.

2: While I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that I am completely on the woman’s side, and I believe that the experience she had and how it made her feel, I cannot ignore the fact that original report, the Babe story, left me feeling very uncomfortable. Journalistically speaking. And the more I think about it, I realise it is not only important to tell our stories, but to ensure that when we seek support, we pick allies who will re-tell them or stand by us in strong and solid ways. In ways that leave enough room for debate, because debate is essential, but little room for blame. Blame for wanting to date a man, for wanting to wear whatever we wish to, for wanting help in booking an Uber, for taking our time to process and fully understand our experiences, for acknowledging how they make us feel, and for choosing when to speak up about it. This is the only way that we can ensure that the focus of all discussions, and the point of speaking up, remains on building stronger boundaries towards prevention, rather than devolving into what can just be casually passed off as witch hunts or attempts to publicly humiliate and bring shame to men in seats of power. Also, I want to take a moment to note that I can’t remember the last time that actually happened (even if it were the intention *rolls eyes*).

3: Just how hard is it to say sorry? Granted, there was an apology in the text message Ansari sent in response to the woman. But have you seen his “statement”? A politically correct, clever selection of words strung together, nowhere cleanly claiming responsibility and just saying sorry. One could argue that he got that over with in person, directly addressing his apology in an SMS to the woman herself. But why not take a stand in public, when you are after all a public figure?

In all of this, the greyness of what constitutes harassment keeps coming back to me. Perhaps he didn’t feel it was necessary to aplogise again because at the time he mis-read the signs and didn’t feel what was happening between them was not okay. He didn’t think he was being assertive or harassing the woman. Of course, he didn’t. Knowing what it is like to be harassed is a lived experience. One that only someone who has known and felt can bring to light. And so I keep going back to the need to tell these stories. To call out harassment when it happens. To help others identify, relate and sometimes even recollect, if they’ve been through similar experiences.

It isn’t always an act of violent rape. But there’s a whole range of things that happen to women all the time, at the hands of assertive, aggressive men, sometimes compounded by their power-addled brains, or just the desperate need to reach out and connect with a woman. Even when she doesn’t want to reciprocate, or engage, or react in a similar way.

Every time that I read a story of this kind, it takes me back to at least one similar experience I’ve had in my own life. Reading the Ansari story was no different. And I  know I can speak for most, if not all, women, when I say I’m sure it is the same for all of them. In navigating the ambiguous greyness of what constitutes harassment, our only measure is what it feels like. And when it doesn’t feel right, we must speak up. Because stories give shape to subtleties that otherwise remain in the purview of the nebulous grey.

One might argue that this is a widespread and somewhat baseless panic. one might wonder why so many women are suddenly speaking up now? Are we fining strength in numbers? Hell, yes. Are we slowly learning that it’s okay, and important, to speak up? Also, yes. But it is also that reading each others stories brings clarity to each and every one of us. It makes us think back to experiences we have had, that we may have dismissed as shitty dates. As bad behaviour. As the odd and uncalled for assertion. As the inability to understand real implied and stated cues that say no. Behaviour that we second guess, knowing all the time that it doesn’t feel right, but that we choose to ignore and not react to — with an explicit no, or a clear boundary, or a firm request to step back — because we want to be absolutely sure that we’re not imagining it. Because maybe, what we were subjected to, lay squarely in the nebulous, hazy purview of what we call the grey area. Behaviour that we know for sure makes us feel uncomfortable, violated, harassed. Behaviour that we’re too polite to call out for what it is. Harassment.

One year ago: Work. But also life.
Two years ago: Day 19: Hope

Pointless post

Today feels like a I.can.not.able.to.do kind of day.

In under an hour I’ve gone from feeling what I think are flashes of maternal feelings for the puppies we just got sterilised and released back in their home ground, to raging over tech difficulties updating my LinkedIn.

Is there a more unintuitive, non-user-friendly, lets-get-people-to-hate-us-completely platform that LinedIn? I think not.

Yesterday I was all wise and zen in talking A out of a panic attack where she thought she was the shittiest writer and really stupid for thinking she can do this freelancer gig thing. Today, I am in A’s place.

Can.not.able.to.do.

I had a massive breakthrough yesterday. A result of a nap I allowed myself to take, despite crazy amounts of work that were keeping me from succumbing to it for a full two hours before I actually gave in, and a conversation with R. I live for aha-moments of clarity like these.

I started writing out what I felt, in my notebook, as opposed to here. Half way through I stopped and wondered why. I don’t have an answer.

I’m headed to Bombay this weekend. It’s going to be a hectic trip, I just know it. I’m feeling travel inertia like nothing I’ve felt before. The thought of packing and taking a flight and everything else is making me want to just call the whole thing off. But I cant. And the only thought keeping me going is that I get to meet Niyuuuuuuu. And my folks.

Okay. Time to go fight the worst case of Imposter Syndrome I have had in a long, long time, before it paralyses me completely. Because this week is not the week for me to buckle under the pressure. I do not have the luxury of taking it easy or taking a break.

If you’re still reading, your morning is probably currently as pointless as mine.

Thank you for listening. Go work now, k? Bye.

Same time, last year: Day 46: Morning views

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 342: Mini breakthrough

Deep down, I knew this uncontrollable swinging from elation to utterly lost, confused and in a daze, was not me. Yes, there have been challenges, and I’ve pushed myself into a corner more often than not, this year. But that’s because I’ve allowed issues to surface, after they came knocking time and again. And rather than shut them out, I’m trying to face them. This, inevitably, has brought more lows than highs. I was prepared and in many way’s even resigned to feeling out of it more often than not. But nothing prepared me for the physically debilitating manifestations that has come with it. I have spent more days stuck, stiff in bed, listless and unable to function, think, or even figure what is making me feel so low. Truth be told, nothing about what I am going through, or my life, or anything in my environment is so catastrophic that it warrants the kind of utter sadness I have felt.

I’ve often confused this plummeting mood with PMS and/or fatigue. On way too many occasions, I’ve given in to the haze in my head, and gone with it. Often, it’s felt like I should just give up and let myself float. Or drown. But most times I’ve chosen the third option. I’ve beaten myself and struggled to stay afloat, at the very least.

The hardest thing has been with putting a finger on a potential cause. My sadness is exacerbated by the fact that I do not have clarity on that one thing that is causing it. Somewhere deep down, however, I have known that this is not normal. It’s not just the situation. It’s not just the transition. It’s not just this kind of self discovery that can cause the blues.

Nothing I am going through warrants the extreme lows in energy, the chronic need to nap, negative levels of motivation and enthusiasm to do anything at all, the intense dislike of social situations and company. This week I reached an impasse. Utterly frustrated with the see-saw between the lows and highs; the transient moments of steadiness and the fleeting clarity that just will not stay. So, I had some blood work done. Some basic blood counts, TSH panel, and essential vitamin levels that are crucial to optimum levels of happiness. While most of it is normal and the numbers are as they should be, it turns out I have severely low levels of vitamin b12. I am not entirely shocked because I have had a hunch (not strong enough to act on) for some time now, I was definitely a little surprised to see just how low it’s dropped. And surprise, surprise, a lack of vitamin b12 has a profound effect on brain function, is known to adversely affect moods and cause moderate-severe depression.

It’s a bit weird how the brain works because the lack of energy and motivation has attacked every facet of my life except exercise. And it is exercise that has been my saving grace. Perhaps deep down, I also knew that endorphins would keep me afloat, would give me the massive daily dose of energy I needed to get from one day to the next. Because, deep down, I knew this was not normal. That it wasn’t just brought on by situations. The intense lack of control I have felt in trying to understand where this abject sadness is stemming from, when nothing in my life or situations I am in can be called a legitimate cause, has doubly affected me.

The test results depressed me a wee bit :P Because it means potentially facing another fear – needles. And it means embracing the other thing I don’t particularly love – raw food. But I was also immensely relieved to know that I’m not fighting a lost battle. That the cause for the cloud over my head is partly physiological, and just knowing that it has a specific course of treatment, and can be corrected is reassuring. This feeling of all matters coming to a head, much of the clouds of confusion parting to make way for clarity, and the road ahead looking cleaner than ever before is playing out with uncanny accuracy. As the year comes to a close, a lot of the loose ends I’ve been untangling for so long now, are coming together neatly. I’d ask for nothing more than to begin the new year on an energetic, healthy and happy vibe.

Day 330: One number mini rant about Instagram

Duuudes, have you noticed a sudden spike in the number of pictures on instagram that are to do with clothes and fashion? I’m not talking about fashion blogging and the world of sponsored fashion for social influencers. I’m talking about regular people like you and me, who are evidently not as regular as I presume, because they go to some serious lengths to curate what they wear on a daily basis. And then they document it. Day upon day upon day after day after day. And I say curate because clothes are no longer just worn. They’re put together, paired, thrown together. Jewellery isn’t just worn, it’s taken out for a spin it seems. Shoes aren’t just made for walking, they’re made for matching, and for purposes of photogenic documentation. And all this is done with a deliberate, casual air that I might have believed if not for the awful lot of effort that goes into what is evidently just daily wear. Okay, that’s just boring old, uninterested-in-fashion-me talking . The first question that always springs to mind when I see these pictures: wow, where is he/she going all dressed up? Because to my untrained, extremely unrefined sartorial sensibility, everyone in these posts always looked overdressed. Or like they’re dressed to go someplace important. But it seems people are dressing up like this all the time, everyday, even if it is only to go to the front of the mirror and drag an unsuspecting piece of furniture into the frame, on which to drape themselves in order to take an adequately descriptive picture.

Has wearing clothes you love and enjoy, and taking pictures of yourself because you look good and you’re cool and confident enough to admit it, passe? What is this new fangled effort to couch good old vanity in fashion blogging a la instagram? Everybody is a fashion blogger these days. Even those who don’t call themselves that, and don’t use the right hashtags and don’t even bother to tag the right brands. Because what’s in a label or a hashtag? Except many don’t even have fashion blogs. Just a lot of vanity, time on their hands and an instagram account. Also, there needs to be a hashtag in there somewhere. I’m not sure where exactly.

Taking pictures of your clothes, the accessories and footwear you’re going to pair it with is the new wedding photography. Or foodblogging. Everybody wants in, and everybody is mediocre. Brand names and elaborate backstories are essential. Without that said fashion (non)blogging (or shall we say instablogging?) is totally worthless. Also critical is an elaborate backstory that has enough nuance and detail about how well-versed person is with the origins of the garment, the exact nature of the warp and weft, every little groove on the block that printed it, and how far it travelled to reach him/her. Stories of friendship, camaraderie, love, family, joy, sadness, hunger, poverty, insanity, that may somehow be force-fit and worked into it are a bonus. How much or how little he/she gives a fuck about the environment can be ascertained by how much or how little they managed to up-cycle or recycle elements of the ensemble. Captions, hashtags, so much coolth dripping from these elaborate descriptions of why the chosen attire made it into an instagram picture is evidently essential.

It’s simply not okay to just say “I think I look lovely today” or “I love this dress” or “I was gifted this saree” or “New shoes, baby!” Instead we are subjected to the misery that is reading these painfully tedious posts that really just come across as unnecessarily roundabout means to enjoy a moment of vanity, or show off their wardrobe. Actually, I lie. I’m not subjected to any such misery. I have the option to unfollow folks I follow who have suddenly taken to serially posting endless pictures of themselves and their clothes, and I’ve taken to using it liberally. But hey, I love instagram and Im not about to let this ruin it for me. So, since I’m also a champ at pruning my social media feeds to suit my ever changing whims and fancies, I’ve also figured instagram out! If you’re tired of the constant stream of this incredibly futile effort at contrived humblebragging, click the three little dots on the top right of every post and select “show fewer posts like this.” You’re welcome.

</rant>

Day 286: When the going is crazy

This is what I’ve felt like going at pretty much everything the last many weeks.

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(Most excellent gif that depicts my sense of purpose, but just will not play. Which, strangely, also depicts the state of things in my life right now.)

This is what I feel like, when I have recovered from ^^

And this is what it is really like around here. Once I’m done with the meltdown for the day, adding a fresh new angle to the level of crazy I’ve brought into our lives these past few weeks. After I’ve given VC a complete download of all the frustrating and exciting things I’ve been up to in excruciating detail. When I’ve made fresh promises to myself and managed to thrill and scare myself simultaneously. When I cannot handle any of it on my own. He stays, patiently listening, probably chuckling inwardly and reconsidering his decision to marry me every single day this month. But still, becomes this picture of calm that eventually rubs off on me.

 

 

Day 281: A picture

If I’d found this picture earlier this week, I’d have bunged it into my September post. Because this frame, right here, taken at the end of August was uncannily a sign of the month ahead of me. 


But. The good news is that from where I ended up at the close of the month, the only way out, is up.

I’m on it. 

Day 278: September

Alternate headline options:

  1. Shitty, shitty September.
  2. Wake me up when September ends.
  3. Good riddance to bad rubbish

Pretty much all of September was eclipsed by Mercury going into retrograde. And I really felt the effects of it completely this time around. Right from a breakdown of communication and misunderstandings in relationships at the start of the month, the inability to think in a calm manner and plan ahead that stayed right through the month, the sluggish energy on the work front with nothing new materialising, a technological emergency that couldn’t be fixed, down to significant sleep deprivation which then has a ripple effect leading to confusion, irritability and overall impatience. Additionally, there were the effects specific to this retrograde: being overly self-critical, especially when outcomes were less than perfect, way too much energy spent in over analysing the changes I want to bring, when really nothing was likely to move ahead until the entire phase had passed. That pretty much summed up my September.

If I’d read any of this before September began, I’d have put it down to knowing too much too soon and being paranoid. But I only found out a lot of this stuff yesterday. It is sometimes is a little ironic, but mostly uncanny when things play out entirely to a plan outside of us and our brains, that we have not too much control over, regardless of how we feel about that lack of power. And that in itself is something I felt resound in my head over and over again last month.

It was such a meh month, that I don’t even want to go over it. But as always, it’s only in retrospect that I am able to connect the dots. And I see now how every little insignificant, seemingly disjointed, shitty event was actually linked, building up to the way things peaked on 30th September. It bubbled over and on 1st October, I made a decision that has been the first step forward, outside of the confusion I’ve been feeling.

Overly emotional and thankful for my friends.

Disjointed thoughts that I gave up on.

So much up and down, and up and down again.

Morning moods. And ruminations.

Just emptiness.

When the self-doubt hit hard, I had thoughts about work, that were more a means to reassure myself than anyone else.

My very own control issues were explored. In not just one, but two parts.

Before I depress myself anymore, there was some good stuff too:

Our eighth anniversary, was the only bright spark all month, I think.

Books. And more books.

This assignment that was a staycation in disguise.

Music and good internet reading here, Coke Studio season 9 best picks here.

In which I also decided to stop being confused, and decided to start working it out.

Decision about doing a 100km cycle ride was taken, and it turned out to be the best decision ever.

OH, AND. I started a newsletter. Which you can sign up for by adding in your email id here.

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Here take, customary happy photo.

Bas, that’s all. Off with your head, September. Be gone, now!

Day 270: Control issues

An unexpected setback on Friday has thrown up several hurdles in my mind that I am busy working out. Smack in the middle of a busy day of knocking off some mini goals, my laptop died on me. Out of the blue, no warning, no signs. One moment I was banging out a story, and the next my screen was blank, and my laptop unresponsive. For a full five minutes after that I felt like my world had caved in, broke into a sweat and frantically tried a whole bunch of thing to elicit some reaction. But nada, the damn machine was dead as roadkill.  It’s not the kind of thing anyone is prepared to deal with at 2 pm on a working day, especially not the kind of day when for a change the demands were miraculously met with adequate motivation levels too.

And yet there I was. Rendered helpless by a damned machine that was working perfectly fine just the instant before it decided to die.

What followed was 2.5 days of complete restlessness. The computer fixit people figured it was a fried logic board which costs about as much as the laptop itself to fix. So I’m not going to be doing that. I managed to have all my data recovered so I guess I must thank my stars for small mercies. But my flow was broken, hacked, severed and killed. And it has caused all kinds of unexpected demons to rear their heads.

I had two deadlines to meet today, and my day began driving to Mapusa to lug back the dead computer and all my data. I couldn’t wait to get home and get working again. Thankfully, I have a back up system, a desktop at home that was lying largely unused, that meant I could pick up my work exactly where I left off.

The hurdle, though crossed almost as instantly as it cropped up, has left me questioning a lot of things. So many questions about how I’m using my time, my preoccupation with being busy, working harder and earning a living. Some where, at some point when I wasn’t looking these things have gone from being things to do, to things I am and it has caused a fair bit of restlessness. I realised it only in the absence of it. Somewhere in all of this, a lot of latent frustration about the compromises I’m making with my work have also surfaced. Things I have either overlooked or pushed aside to a corner of my mind have made their way to front and centre of my mind and I was no longer able to ignore it this weekend.

In a rather unbelievable turn of events (for the homebody that is me) I spent a major part of the weekend gallivanting outdoors, unable to make my way home to just sit still and be. Ordinarily weekends see me ignoring my laptop completely. So many times it doesn’t even come on. I have been using my weekends as deliberate down-time, and yet the fortuitous events leading to the absence of a laptop suddenly saw me itching to use the laptop only, and nothing else. My mind refused to tune off from the woes of whether my data would be recovered or how much the repairs would cost me. I suddenly wanted to listen to music, watch Greys Anatomy, catch up on work (*eye rolllll*), send out another newsletter and what not.

Amongst other plans for Friday, I wanted to send out my next newsletter and chalk out the next 3-4 issues, but that was not to be. I realised yet again the less control I have, and the more I try to regain it, even if I’m only clutching at straws, the more it runs away from me.

The more I try and stake my claim, take control, the more things seem to slip away. Yet again, I was reminded how little is really in my control. And how much I cannot ignore some fundamental thought processes buried deep in my mind. Every time I do, they raise their heads, forcing me to listen, pay attention and address them. Once again, I have been forced me to take a step back again, and re-evaluate something I set off to do at the start of the year, that I have somewhat steered away from. Once again I have been taught I need to learn to let my unrealistic levels of perfection go, that I must relinquish control because it was never mine to begin with.

Day 218: Stack overflow

July was one trying, tiring month, and I’m already thinking up what I’m going to do differently so August doesn’t see a repeat performance. A little introspection made me realise that ever since I gave up the cooking at home, I’ve been gripped by this irrational need to fill every one of those hours freed up with work. I don’t know if it’s my middle-class upbringing but I don’t know where this excessive and unreasonable sense of frugality has suddenly hit me. I realised after giving it some thought that I was unconsciously working harder in order to justify taking time off from cooking, and outsourcing it. Silly, really because this is the whole point of growing and moving on to bigger things. So you can let go of that which no longer interests you, holds your attention, or you cannot make time for. And in my case that doesn’t necessarily mean filling each of the hours freed up from domesticity, with work. I had somehow forgotten about taking advantage of a free hour to read. Or catch coffee with a friend. Or go for a drive. Or hit the beach. These are things I did not so long ago. When I remembered to get my ass off my work chair, and away from my desk.

I realise the ups and downs in my productivity are fairly predictable, perhaps I must just make my peace with it, and give up the perennial quest to balance it out. Maybe spikes and dips are the way to go, but I do want to even out those extreme highs and lows, so I don’t have to swing violently, as I do, between the extremes. The vast in between lies untouched, and it’s where I’d like to be. That is always a challenge. In some part, I’ve already accepted that this swinging between extremes is perhaps the workstyle that comes most naturally to me, and yet some part of me still wishes for less upheaval every time there is a low. Only too often, I find myself pushing myself so hard to one extreme that the only way out of there is down, so I come crashing down. And then, the way up again is usually a hard stop, before I pick myself up again.

Thankfully, most times an opportunity for a forced break presents itself – even if it is a surprise day off to turn my laptop off and spend the day quietly. But this time, I’m off to Bangalore tomorrow, en route to Kerala for a break with my family. Well timed. Much needed. So I’m taking this very timely intervention to cut back. After a very long time, it’s going to be just us – my folks, my sister and I – on holiday. And I’m looking forward to the famjam. Going away to the hills, out of range means I am going to be inaccessible. Which also means this is a great time for me to wipe that metaphoric board clean, recharge batteries and come back set to do things a little differently.

In a wonderful twist of events (again so timely), I managed to buy myself a Kindle this week. The order said it would take a week or ten days at best. But it has arrived, right in time to be loaded up for a week of vegging out.

Alvida.

Day 207: Gym rant

At the gym every morning, I’m the equivalent of the annoying student who we’d call a chomu in school. For those not in the know, a chomu is that overeager beaver, always aiming to over-achieve and please everyone by doing everything right, all the time. I’m that person at the gym. Which is to say I’m always asking for more. More reps, higher weights, more rounds of the circuit, more kickboxing, more time. And I very rarely slack off (if I do, then my trainer knows its time to be worried), or whine and complain loudly, or try and get out of finishing something I’ve started. I’m always striving for perfection, it’s a serious disease and I’m a self confessed endorphin junkie. Three times over, in fact. I rarely miss a class, bunking without reason is unheard of, so you understand why I’m comparing myself to that special breed of enthu cutlet we all love to hate.

Predictably, everyone around me hates this. Because it means they have to suffer the elf-inflicted pain of keeping up. It’s either that, or they have to feel inadequate. Neither is a favourable state to be in, so they take the easy way out and mock me for being the enthu cutlet that I am. Silent sniggers behind my back to loud giggles in my face, to snide comments about how everyone is made to suffer because of me – I’ve seen it all. None of it affects me. I don’t feel bad, mostly because I am unapologetic about how I want to spend my time at the gym. However, when it goes so far as to take the focus off form what I am there to do, and it eats into my productive time, then I get a little peeved.

Tough luck, I just happen to be someone who is serious about the time I spend at the gym. Sure I may be a little extreme with my enthusiasm, but at least I only inflict that on myself. I have a single-minded focus on making that one hour count, completely for myself.

The truth is, I don’t fully understand why people would want it any other way. It’s just that one hour in the day. And it’s one hour that I’m inclined to believe they’ve chosen to spend at the gym. Out of their conscious volition. I can’t think of too many people who find themselves at a gym because someone forced them into it and dragged them out there at 8 am everyday. So I don’t understand why some of the folks I work out with feel the need to come to the gym day after day and then complain about having to 1) work out 2) challenge their bodies 3) sweat it out.

It’s like they weren’t expecting it. And I can’t understand it at all! As a result I don’t have any sympathy either. So there’s only so much I can react to or participate in the inane comments and conversation that invariably occurs. Coupled with my general lack of interest and deliberate attempts to stay aloof, I’m hyper aware that I come of looking like a complete snob. I may have got the act of physically zoning this stuff out down to an art, because there are days when I just plain refuse to react even when I’m being spoken to.

Part of me feels I’d rather be thought of as a snob, than try and be polite and compromise on the 60 minutes that I get at the gym. But mostly I just don’t know how to react to some of the things I hear. Sample this, it’s just a selection from today alone.

“Oh god, I’m sweating so much!”

“This is really hard haan? Especially on a Monday” (at which point my trainer helpfully offered, “It’s hard everyday”)

“You mean I have to lift this?”

“How many more rounds? Can I skip this one?”

“Put your butt out” *giggle giggle giggle*

When asked to stay with the time and not stop before – “I’m not good at staying”  *giggle giggle giggle*

“Only my butt is getting bigger, I want other things to get bigger” (at this point my eyes rolled into the parallel universe and back)

“Why do we have to do this stretch?”

“Please have mercy, don’t you love us?”

I’m very curious why they even bother dragging themselves to the gym at all. The extra hour of sleep might actually do them more good than the half-assed attempt at working out can. What’s even funnier is the slightly backhanded appreciation I sometimes get. Semi-fake, mildly phoney admiration for the fact that I can lift more, stretch more, punch more.

I suppose the part where I work hard at it is lost on them. That might be an opportune time to suggest that the energy and effort expended in trying so hard to dodge their way out of every damned exercise could actually maybe, used to like, work out, you know? Lift those weights, sweat it out, get better at it, feel fitter. Maybe? 

No? Okay, no. Maybe not.

Rant over.

Day 200: Barely moving

The world is well and truly imploding. Literally every single day, something horrific happens. Five instances of terror in the last month alone. Kashmir. Alton Sterling. Qandeel Baloch. The FIR against Aklaq’s family. And closer home, LED bulbs being handed out in the run up to our next election (as if that’s all it takes to buy loyalty, they conveniently forgot about the power to light those bulbs up). The death trap of a main road. Some part of me is definitely turning numb. I see it in the reactions I have. Much of this, I process silently and it leaves me sometimes tormented, sometimes numb. But always deeply distressed. And restless. I suppress the feeling, as well as the way it always makes me feel little, pointless, shitty and helpless.

And then I move on. Deliberately keeping my social media timelines free of news. Steering away from politically fueled conversations with people I know I cannot engage with. Mostly using my own thoughts and words to fight these battles in my head, in private. To make sense of everything that seems to be fast escaping the realm sense, purpose and meaningfulness.

And then I move on.

I’m still down and out, and no, it hasn’t passed. Day 5 in bed today, with a persistent fever that abated only 24 hours ago. I guess I should be happy that I’m in a situation where I’ve been forced to stay in bed for five days now. But it’s no good when haven’t been able to do much with all that time. Reading a book or watching TV was out of the question due to severely blocked sinuses that made keeping my head up and focusing on anything near impossible.

Still despite all that, somewhere between then and now, a lot of has happened. I may or may not have used the words “a pain in my ass” to describe to a client the situation we’ve gotten ourselves in. I may or may not have cried copious amounts of tears that at one point I was afraid they just wouldn’t stop. I may or may not have told VC that I want to be a housewife because I am good for nothing. I can’t be sure.

What I can be sure of is that I had a persistent temperature that remained in the shadows of 99-100 degrees for two days straight and was beginning to worry me. Then when it spiked to 102 and VC had to resort to a cold compress on my forehead, I realised it was time to worry. That hasn’t happened since I was a child. A blood test was ordered, and that hasn’t happened in over 6 years now. A half-mile long list of medicines have been consumed with more regularity than I fancy, and it’s turned my stomach raw and my taste buds perpetually coated with a metallic taste. I honestly can’t remember the last time I was ill so bad that I couldn’t leave my bed for five days. VC was like a hawk and a chowkidar hovering over me all weekend, not letting me leave for anything. He brought me all my meals, endless cups of hot tea, and my medicines. He may have snuck in a packet of Nutties and a Snicker bar too. When he began to question me every time he saw me out of bed, even if I was merely going to the loo, I revolted.

So I’ve spent a lot of the last few days just moping and feeling more miserable than I actually am. It’s definitely added to the general state of ill-health. While it may have started with an itchy throat and a touch of fever, I had a work situation that caused something to snap in my head last week. It sent me on a downward spiral like I haven’t ever before been in a long, long time now. It’s not like me to break down over work issues, to cut communication and disappear into myself. But that’s just what happened. I didn’t want to talk to anyone, be around anyone. I just turned inwards and moped. Until VC shook me out of it partially on Friday night, when I began to see the light a little bit. Whether being physically ill aggravated my work stress or vice-versa, I’ll never know. But I feel like some part of this is my body telling my mind to chill the eff out. Or vice versa. But I need to examine it and fix it. Find that balance that I had regained temporarily, and have now lost again.

I opened facebook today after three whole days, to find something my friend V wrote and posted, right up top on my feed. V doesn’t post too often anymore, but when she does it always smacks the nail on the head. As it did just now too, bang on point, neatly summarising the inner turmoil I’ve been going through for the last 5 days now.

The two difficult forgivenesses:
1. Your gut, for not being loud enough.
2. Yourself, for not listening well.

Let that simmer a while longer. For now, I’m barely moving.