This little home of ours

Within the span of a single day, this little home of ours goes from being the haven that has kept me safe, to a cage that has me tied in.

It’s a home that I feel extremely grateful for, for holding and homing us through the entire duration of this pandemic, and also sometimes begrudge. It feels large and giving when I’m feeling the former, and boxy and insufficient when I’m feeling the latter.

The same space turns from being a harbour, a canvas for my every locked-in creative pursuit, whether it’s my plans or the art on the walls, or the curtains and sheets that change; to a lifeless shell of walls.

This is entirely new, this dichotomy. And to feel a whole gamut of these feelings within a single day, sometimes multiple times a day, has been all kinds of unsettling. The weight of this edition of being locked carries none of the novelty that it did last year, when despite the inherent uncertainty and isolation we swung into revelling in what honestly felt like a gift. Last year, being locked down was a privilege. This year, the sheen has worn off, the ennui has set in, and by the looks of it is here to stay for a long time to come.

In a span of a single day, these days, I love my home sometimes. And sometimes I fucking hate it.

One year ago: The fullness and ease of balance
Two years ago: Renewed relationships
Three years ago: April

Summertime sadness (covid edition)

I’ve hit that phase of the lockdown where listlessness is me. Everything is happening in slow motion and there is a constant feeling of impending doom lurking around.

This year, the devastation feels much more endless. It is so much more intense of course, but also has this definite sense of no end in sight. Last year, whether it was the lockdown or covid itself, I got through it because there was a date in sight. Even with all the extensions for when the lockdown would lift, and the underlying uncertainty of it all, it did not feel as unhinged as things are this year.

This year, patience is scarce. So much thinner, so very tenuous. About to snap at the slightest stretch.

This year, I find myself in energy conservation mode. Almsot like my insides know this time we’re in it for the long haul, and we need to brace for far worse that is yet to come.

Took today off, didn’t pull a card or post a monday message. It’s been a pretty full on week, last week, and weekend. Even with the recreational activities packed it, it’s been busy and when I woke up this morning I just had this strong urge to call it a day off. Spent the morning doing all my chores for the week, workouted out and then called it a day.

I’ve hit that phase of the lockdown where listlessness is me. Only this time, there’s no immediate solutions for how to move on from here.

One year ago: Never gets old
Two years ago: Summer
Three years ago: Simple things
Five years ago: Summer evenings

Mood

Listless. Everything feels tenuous. Quite tired of not knowing. Angry and fed up with having no information or answers. Helpless at being caught in the undertow and being at the mercy of powers that are not being powerful in the way that is most essential right now.

Today, a colleague asked if I would be willing to join them in facilitating a weekly grief circle. And for the first time in a long time, I just said no. I don’t feel that I have much additional capacity to do anything more than the bare minimum that I am to just survive, be safe, and be there for the people I already work with. There is guilt from realising this. That I have the choice to actively say no to something that I know is essential, but that I realise very deeply I cannot bring myself to participate in right now. I need holding myself, and I don’t feel like I have any extra resources to give to a grief circle.

There was immense and immediate guilt as soon as I articulated the no this morning. Questions of But isn’t this what your skills are good for? and If not now, then when? And I had to take a deep breath and separate that self talk from the truth because the two were really melting one into another there. It didn’t help that the colleague who asked is someone who seems to always be stretching themselves in ways that I am partially in awe of, but also sometimes judge. And of course it was that same judgement that I was also pointing inwards at myself.

And this is the truth I have been sitting with today. Accepting my privilege, and the fact that it comes with these choices. I’m trying to look at them without the filters of  good or bad, better or worse. Just choices that are useful for now, for where I am at right now.

One year ago: Fed up
Two years ago: Engineering bigness
Three years ago: Another day, just breathe
Five years ago: Retrograde rant 

Just alright

For the last few days, everytime someone has reached out to me to ask how I’m doing, I have found the capacity to say “Just alright” rather than the usual “I’m okay” or “I’m doing good”.

This time, it has not been peachy, hunky dory. We didn’t swing into gardening and cleaning and cooking and baking to save our lives and our sanity. Instead I got myself to turn to some of those things as a means to ground myself. But every step of the way I have been gritting my teeth, digging my heels in and wanting to just throw a tantrum and express mydispleasure, my discomfort, my irritation at being locked up again.

I know, I know it’s a small price to pay for my safety. And this struggle is literally nothing compared to the literal struggle for life out there. But still, for a moment, I want to acknowledge that this is how I also feel. Stuck. Trapped. Like life was moving, and suddenly someone dropped a massive boulder in my way.

One year ago: Irrfan
Two years ago: Flow
Three years ago: Stuck in the sunshine riptide
Five years ago: The urban poverty piece that has errrebody’s panties in a bunch

Just no

Having one of those days today. I just want to say NO. Three deaths for people in my immediate circle, in just the last 24 hours. And I know this is just normal for most now.

When will this end? And how much more will this country endure before it is over?

One year ago: Birthday gratitude
Two years ago: Gratitude
Three years ago: The beer I had for breakfast
Five years ago: At sea

When nothing makes sense anymore

Some days I manage to hit stop on the need to find answers. I don’t need to figure it out, make sense, feel the feelings, process everything that’s not making sense right now. Many days I let go of the need to be a better version of myself. There is no better. There is no version. There is only me. All of me. Now. As I am. In this crazy, broken world. And there is no way to have the right answers, make all the right sense and have the right reactions right now.

Some days it’s okay to hit stop and take a break. Catch the breeze. Stare out into nothingness. Drink too much of your favourite drink. And sleep it off.

One year ago: Monday Tarot Message: Healing can sometimes feel counterintuitive
Two years ago: Content
Three years ago: I’ve been saving this time
Five years ago: Inside-out 

Choose better

Doing my best not to look away and disconnect, but also to not lose myself to the hopelessness. Not really always succeeding.

This year, the devastation is hitting much harder, much closer home. It’s getting harder to look away in the name of self-preservation. And yet, that is exactly what I seem to need many days — a balance between knowing what’s happening such that I am not ensconsed in a bubble of privilege, but also not getting totally caught and dragged in the undertow of it all. Just being in contact and witnessing has felt important, but difficult at this time.

The thing I am finding most hard to do in this moment: separate my anger towards this current regime, that has quite honestly been building since 2014, and everything that they are doing to further worsen the situation on hand — the denial, the complete lack of empathy, the extremely twisted priorities, the pure evil in no longer even pretending to care — from the actual brokenness of the system. I think the system was always broken, and us rich folk were always protected by the brokenness that favours those who can afford care. It took a virus that doesn’t distinguish between the haves and the havenots to bring us all down to the same level, making essentials like life-giving air a scarce commodity, and suddenly our brains are broken from trying to comprehend how and why we got here.

We didn’t get here. We were always here, we just didn’t face it in the purely devastating way that each one of us is at the moment. This time around the virus has come so close to every one of us, that there is no acerting out attention. There is no opportunity to create a safe bubble just because it feels too much. This is business as usual, even pre-pamdemic for more than 70% of this country. But it did take about 7 years of being under a government with a brazen and continuous focus on everything other than governance to bring this to the fore.

What is hurting and boiling my blood on a daily basis, even now, is that this government still doesn’t want to act in any other way except ways that fuel their megalomania. I try and separate my anger about this with the other feelings I’m feeling at the widespread calamity, but some days I feel like this is an important step too. To call out the BS, to articulate where I stand and what values of mine are different. This feels like that stage in an abusive relationship where you move past the guessing and approximating at the abuse, gain so much startling clarity about the abuse, and calling it out is empowering. It feels scary and unsettling because the obvious question is, “If not this, then who/what next?”

I know the options are grim, and close to none. There is no opposition to speak of. For seven+ years they’ve been given opportunity after opportunity on a platter to rise up, mobilize, do something to get a leg up.

And so now, I’m at the point where I’m willing to take anyone that doesn’t have this much blood on their hands. Literally anyone, even incompetent, without this  demonstrable and proven trackrecord of genocide. And maybe we begin with calling out the BS, demanding some accountability in an atmosphere where there is none, and realising that in this situation, literally any other option is better.

Maybe then we’ll chose better next time.

One year ago: Contained
Two years ago: Acceptance
Three years ago: Looking back, over my shoulder

Supporting COVID frontline workers

Unlike last year at this time when a sudden opportunity to help those in need emerged right from the chaos, I have found no vent to channel my restless helplessness at watching the widespread devastation unfold. This year, things are infinitely worse than they were last year. And this year, we are even more locked up than we were last year. It’s become obvious yet again that we have been left in the lurch to fend for ourselves. Once again, it’s on us, regular citizens to make a difference in a way that the powers that be just will not. In these circumstances, being physically unable to throw myself into any sort of organised effort to pitch in has left me feeling doubly in knots.

I sat on this “what-can-I-do” feeling for days, and over the weekend I realised I could use what I spend most of my days doing — working — to contribute. It’s the one thing I am privileged to be able to continue, uninterrupted. And so it is the most obvious and useful way that I can help at this time.

So since the Sunday that just passed, through till the end of May, I will be donating 50% of all my earnings through tarot and family constellation sessions to this campaign that is supporting the mental health needs of frontline workers at the help of this disaster.

If you’ve been looking for an opportunity to get a personal reading, this could be a chance to do it and support my efforts to pay it forward. Please reach out to me to discuss this or any other way to help. I’m open to listening to any ideas you might have.

If you’d like to directly support the campaign yourself, this is where you can do it: https://www.ourdemocracy.in/Campaign/covid19mentalhealth

Here is also a live and constantly updated list of various campaigns and fundraisers that are supporting a wide variety of causes during this time: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1eiobgyrl8iz-R1Dz7c4R5pzzzkuZLBj99vaC7T_UeVo/edit

Please give in any way that you can. No effort is too small at this time.

One year ago: Monday Tarot Message: Working with fear
Three years ago: And love is all that I can give to you
Four years ago: Because wanting to leave is enough
Five years ago: This day, that year

What’s good?

Fully and completely escaping reality today. I haven’t wished we had a television more than I have today.

The news has just been too much this past week and I’ve started to well and truly tune out. Limited reading and updates via the news, feeling numb to the little I have seen and just no energy left to process anything with respect to the madness that is this second wave and the clusterfuck that is this fresh hell of what is nothing short of genocide at the hands of this government.

Over an out.

One year ago: Too much
Two years ago: Loud
Three years ago: All the small things
Five years ago: Essay aftermath

Cue the lockdown brain

So. Long before this round of “please stay home” began, I’ve been feeling a bit like my attention span is shrinking. It’s been on a downward trend since the fag end of last year of course, but I have hit an all new recently. My focus on the only thing that I could engage with for long periods of time — my laptop — is also now dwindling.

I was ready to get out and be untethered from my screen, in more ways than one. and this reigning myself back is proving very hard lately. I’m not taking it well. I know it’s the right thing to do, and I’m able to rationalise it exceptionally. My mind gets it, and I am acting the part. But inside, I am conflicted. I want out.

And so I’m turning once again to exercise and cooking something everyday, to ground me and bring some stability to my days. I didn’t plan this. Exercise has been steadily on for a while now, but the cooking has made a steadfast return.

At this point, I’ll take anything that helps me not doomscroll and have my eyes peeled at Instagram for an unhealthy number of hours at a stretch, when I’m not working.

One year ago: Tarot: Loss and betrayal
Two years ago: Postcard from staycation – 2
Three years ago: Remind yourself, nobody built like you

Moving through

Thoughts about continued injustice, unfairness, inequity, divisiveness, endless suffering across the board really gets to me from time to time. Some days I come up for a breath of air, and manage to stay afloat, aware and happy for many weeks. But there are phases where I’m just cowering under the effects of all this Bad News.

I’ve had to eke out space and time for feeling hopeful, to nurture a sense of optimism even when it’s all but missing. Those parts exist in all of us. Parts that can trust, without reason. Parts that can find joy in the midst of sorrow. Parts that can hope, stay alive and focused on optimism. Strangely, contrary to what I believed, these parts showed up not from trying to “stay positive” but by allowing myself to feel broken, hurt, hopeless and touched, and a bit altered by the pain.

I have a strange feeling a time of intense suffering may be the pathway to worlds where there is softness, more listening, and where gentle togetherness and kindness can lead the way. But we may just have to sit with the pain for a while longer before we move through to another world.

If the neighbourhood, the country, continent, the world at large are all macrocosms of each of us as individual units, then surely they do are made up of all the parts. The good and the bad. The glorious and the grotesque. The rich and the meagre. And if understanding myself, really knowing who I am authentically has meant including my rage, my fury, my ignorance and my shadow into the fold, then surely the monstrous proportion of evil that the world is displaying at large needs to be seen, sat with and honoured, so we can heal and find our higher selves as a collective too?

I don’t know. These are just thoughts I’m having on a random Friday afternoon, with a brain addled by muscle relaxant.

A question I ask myself almost on the daily: What do I need, to stay grounded in hope even as I feel pain and suffering all around me?

Some days I have the answer, everything fits in and I am at peace. Many other days the answer eludes me, guilt and rage bubble to the top, and I have no choice but to sit with it.

One year ago: Pictures for words
Two years ago: Finding flow again
Three years ago: This is the story of my body

Tarot: Judging our feelings

I’ve had a flat day. A long, exhausting day. On the heels of an evening yesterday, that was thick with feelings. Feelings I was judging myself for feeling. Which did me absolutely no good. So, here’s a card and a message that’s more a reminder for me than anyone else.

Intense feelings, difficult feelings, invariably invoke a judgement within us. A label, a measure, an evaluation of whether the feeling is good or bad, right or wrong, worthy or not. Our distress is compounded by judgement, and the erosion of stability, worth and identity that comes with difficult feelings.

Getting drawn into the judgement is a sure-shot way of missing out on the essence of the feeling — a valuable piece of information our bodies are giving us. At the heart of it, feeling feelings is an experience in receiving feedback.

Anger, shame, guilt, sadness, fear, rejection, abandonment, neglect, irritation — all these feelings are valid. Not good or bad, just valid. Because they tell us something about the experience we have had. Judging them makes us jump quickly to doing things to “feel better” (further implying what said feeling is not okay and requires improvement), and takes us further away from the underlying message, that is usually the only way forward.

Resist the urge to think about what you’re feeling, or what your feelings mean. Focus instead on feeling your feelings. And try to let the judgements around them go.

One year ago: Uncertain
Two years ago: Things that are shiny and new
Three years ago: People say I should forget

Hello, old friend

I’m going through a somewhat strange phase. One could say my old friend, loneliness, has been visiting. But one could also say that I’m getting better at entertaining him. Yes it’s a him. And by “entertaining,” I mean that I don’t lose my shit when he arrives, instead open the door, look at him and say, “oh, it’s you again (fuckme),” without the urge to shut the door on him. Except this time I’m also not wanting to throw my arms around him in a welcoming embrace, not wanting to roll out the red carpet and offer him snacks and drink and a comfortable spot to settle into. I just feel very, “meh, you again? Oh well.” And I go about my life. His hanging around is hard to ignore so there is a definite pall of gloom, but it’s just there and life goes on. Albeit shaded a slightly different hue or blue.

He comes bearing old reminders and new lessons. Old triggers. New perspectives. Old stories I’ve told myself. New reckoning of how much I’m not willing to tell myself those stories anymore.

He comes with a punch to the gut. As per usual. But I’ve been working on my core strength so it hurts. But it hits differently. It hurts less. I don’t fall down. I notice the pain. And sometimes I even smile. Because it reminds me of how far I’ve come.

Punch.

Does that hurt? YES.

Do I want to give up? NO.

Am I better with the pain? YES.

Am I “over it”? NO.

All the statements above are 100% true.

This time the trigger was different too. A visceral reminder of people who were once in my life, that couldn’t handle who I was, who I was becoming and what that made them feel. (Heh. Incredible how entitled people can feel about others having to manage the feelings they can’t handle themselves. Ridiculous how I mistook that for presence, empathy and friendship.)

One person, when they couldn’t handle my drawing a boundary and how I was changing, told me blatantly, “you haven’t changed, you do the same thing over and over again, this is who you are,” about my need to move on from people when they didn’t understand me. It only affirmed my belief that they indeed didn’t understand me. It was deeply painful, but I had to let it go.

Another one, whose fondness and intimacy I couldn’t reciprocate because they stifled me with their strangely aggressive display of love, told me the distance I needed “felt like a breakup.” That stifled me even more. I hadn’t signed up for a relationship that deep and I felt I was being manipulated into staying. And so I shut it down and bolted.

Recently, as recent as one year ago, I got told my brush with success made a friend jealous. That it was too much for them to take. That my doing well made them unhappy. I have worked through this one, but I am not over it. It still stings when I recall that conversation.

And there was the other one, who when we began to drift, said they would visit me and talk it out in person. That was over three years ago and the more they seemed incapable of walking the talk, the less I trusted them about how close they claimed they actually felt towards me This too, was prompted by an instance of me changing in a very fundamental way. In a way that made me behave a little differently. In a way that was too much for them to take I suppose.

I’m not waiting any longer. But it’s hard not to be triggered when there are reminders of that intimacy we once shared, and worse, reminders of how it couldn’t grow and change along with how we were changing as people.

But to even just see it as this, articulate it and sit with the pain rather than immediately say “I’m fine, I don’t need anyone” is a big deal, for me.

I miss these people. I feel heartbroken that I changed or grew in ways that they couldn’t stomach. It reminds me of how much I have played small and stayed small to keep relationships intact. And how once I began to not do that anymore, people began to drop off from my life like flies. Which brings me to where I’m at today.

A vast famine in terms of honest relationships of equals. The only person I truly have this with is my husband. And it hurts that I can’t free him from that burden of carrying the husband as well as best friend mantle. I’m grateful for him, and yet I wish there were another outlet.

I’m at that point though where feeling the hurt is about just that: just feeling the hurt. Not fixing it. Not moving on from it. Not letting it go. Just standing here and feeling it.

And when enough of the feeling is done, I always come out knowing I am better for it. Better for growing. Better for not shrinking. For learning who to trust. For wanting better.

For waiting. Even if it means standing in the desolate loneliness for a bit.

I still hurt. But these instances of seeing and feeling the hurt help to remind me that I will not be loved wholly by everyone alike. That truth lands different these days. It doesn’t cripple me. It hurts. But the pain sits happily side by side with the gooey part that is loving myself that is always ready these days, to take over and coat everything around it in that peaceful, quiet acceptance.

It sits side by side with the part of me that knows in a bone-deep way, that I am enough. I don’t need to play small. I don’t need to be polite to keep the status quo going. I don’t need to tolerate excessive niceness to stay in spaces that don’t feel right. My success isn’t too much. My happiness isn’t too much. My growth and love isn’t too much.

Loving myself is a powerful thing.

Sometimes I have these epiphanies on Whatsapp.

One year ago: Lightness
Two years ago: Not my country
Three years ago: Pretend like there’s no world outside

Seige

One year since my first big protest. This whole week I’ve been revisiting memories of that insane week, same time last year, when everything tipped over. I remember so clearly a conversation I had at home with my in-laws on 14 December, post which I rushed off to a protest. Partly because I intended to, but also very much fueled by the need to counter what I had endured in that conversation.

It set off a daily protest attendance habit in me for the week, for what felt like there was no end dat. I’d go off, spontyaneously as and when life allowed, making space, shuffling my schedule around to make my way to Townhall nearly every day. And then Jamia happened. 19 December was the unstoppable, big protest at Townhall. One that I remember viscerally. My body remembers the heady buss from shouting AZADI! rhythmically, the containment and safety of being ensconsed in a sea of citizens all on the same side of this fight, agitating calmly, doing the good work of sitting in protest, silently peacefully surrounded by cops in riot gear, chanting slogans with gusto, passing around bananas, drinking water, buttermilk. It’s all so fresh. I felt alive, like charged by a live wire.

This went on for nearly three times a week for me, every week till March when Covid shut us down and sent us home. Conveniently. And I remember feeling a heart-crushing disappointment in March this year. Sadness at seeing Shaheen Bagh being packed up and razed to the ground. This happened in the same week that I had tickets booked to visit, all on my own, all on a whim, a roundtrip single day trip to just witness the phenomenon.

It’s been a whole year since that day. A whole year since my politics erupted and stopped being something to hold in silence, politely in private. One full year of feeling every single day like events in our coutnry are bubbling and bubbling and leading up to a crescendo. One full year of a slow implosion. One full year of the full reveal on all the forces we are up against — a fascist government that thrives on hate and divisiveness, capitalism that has not had it’s fill, and a broken democracy that is still to be shattered some more. One full year of feeling like I don’t belong here at all. One full year of feeling like experiencing every.single.day (without the slightlest exaggeration) that this country is at seige with itsself, with forces that be, with it’s own fuckups.

And we fight on.

One year ago: Can you hear the roar?
Two years ago: We got soul food in the house
Four years ago: Old and mighty

Chill

Notes to myself that serve as reminders in this very strange period within this absolutely bizarre time. Reminders I still need, every so often.

  1. Take your time
  2. Find your rhythm
  3. Make space for play
  4. Get out more often
  5. B R E A T H E. And H Y D R A T E.

Most times in a crisis, until I figure out the big thing that is needed of me, it is the small thing that has taken me through from one moment to the next. Small things like taking a moment. Stepping back. Taking a long breath. Getting out if I have the space and opportunity. Drinking a tall glass of water. Lying down. Speaking softly, unhurriedly.

And yet, I forget the simplicity of it all. So very, very often.

Four years ago: Slow down clown