Day 309: The rest is up to you, you make the call

The #metoo updates have been consistently triggering for me. Much as I have tried to measure how much information I am taking in, I find myself drawn by the seething rage and the collective bubbling over of the resistance to silence with mind-boggling numbers of women continuing to bravely speak up. The last month has felt like the unclogging of a long-blocked pipe, and there is just no stopping it now. I’m enraged, yes, at the sheer extent of the extreme atrocities, violence and exploitation women have put up with for decades and decades. But I am also flummoxed, watching from the sidelines, at the uniform confidence and entitlement male predators possess. Across the board. I’ve watched as so many communities that I have belonged to or engaged with at some point — advertising, journalism, tech companies, the dance and music fraternity — have had so many of their star men and heroes fall. I have felt deep empathy and connection for every single story from every single woman, and a growing sense of blinding rage at how much we are all in this together. Every story (and there have been oh, so many!) that sounds eerily similar to a experience I have had has driven home the truth about how the casual and brazen this violence and exploitation is. How much this  tendency to take advantage of women has been normalised. For us, and by us. And just how much of it has continued to grow and be strengthened by our silence.

But it was this clever little comic that hit closest home for me, bringing back a flood of memories from the time when my trainer came on to me in a way that violated my personal space and consent, left me confused about what I might have done to bring it on, wondering whether he was really being inappropriate or just doing his job as my trainer, and most of all gripped me with worry and fear about whether speaking up would mean having to stay away from and essentially give up what was actually the best form of exercise I had ever experienced.

This was too powerful, nuanced, familiar and clever not to share. I hope you’ll pass it along, far and wide.

One year ago: Hotel hangover
Two years ago: Day 309: Invitation

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Day 272: Say, say, say, hey, hey now baby

Amsterdam. Day 3.

It’s been ten whole days since we left India and finally I’m craving a good hot frothy sugarless filter coffee. Even though the frothy hot chocolate I’ve been having everyday (sometimes twice!) Has been excellent. I could also do with some veggies that are not lettuce and tomatoes. The food has been stupendous on this trip. We’ve had everything from local favourites wherever we stayed to fancy Italian and picnics in the park, overstuffed cheese platters, Lebanese, Asian and even so much dessert! I can’t think of a single meal that disappointed me, honestly. And that’s not just my easily-satisfied side speaking. Even so, it’s time for some veggies, I think. And some cold home-set dahi. Those are the basics. And I guess I’m that person who will in cliche fashion want those basics after ten days in a continent that loves white flour.

***

Im most surprised at not getting any reading done. I knew this was going to be a high activity, lots of getting out kind of trip. Even with all the walking, I’d assumed there’d be lots of lazy spaces and pockets of time — a day in the park, some hours ago a coffee shop, an evening by the sidewalk — where I could read. You see, that’s typically what I do on holiday. But this one has been so dramatically different. And in such a refreshingly new way — to be out and about in three different countries in such a short time — I’ve observed, internalised and learned so much just from watching. And like I said before, I’ve been so full with the experiences that I haven’t felt the urge to reach out or need a change of pace.

***

We have walked so, so much. That was a given when we planned this trip. Even so, the amount of traversing we finally have done has been overwhelming. We bought day passes for the trains, buses and trams everywhere and virtually took no cabs. This is a first for us.

The other thing I’ve watched with amazement is how we’ve so easily skipped one me everyday. Either breakfast or lunch depending on how we’ve felt at the start of the day. This was done for no other reason than that all things edible here come in such generous portions, the meals we have eaten have been large and sumptuous. Even with all the walking about we’ve eaten two big meals a day and felt completely fine.

***

This trip has really rekindled the explorer variety of travel that I thought I was done with. I was definitely in a space where all holidays were about winding down and relaxing, but this time I outside my own expectations of myself by exploring every place we went to. Doing it on foot probably added to the experience, because there’s something about getting a grasp of the place on foot that’s unparalleled.

This has also meant a lot of wistful longing for my 20s. Seeing my friends in Europe, with the life and opportunity for so much we can never dream of in India made me really think about how I might do my 20s over if I had the chance. Seeing them reminded me of dreams I’ve let go of and just pass me by as inaccessible because of the way life has come to me.

I have a deep longing to fulfill some of those forgotten dreams of travel and living. But on the other hand, getting out like this without a plan and seeing how easy it has been to navigate the place On my own has also infused me with a new excitement that maybe I will make up for lost time in my 30s.

This is movement for me. And it really made me warm and fuzzy with new eye and virgin excitement, like the world is my oyster right now. The months ahead literally have so many options open. VC has been throwing very tempting life plans at me, planting multiple seeds of possibility and I’m stunned at how longing for lost time quickly becomes excitement for the time I have. This is definitely a movement towards a healthier space.

Two years ago: Day 272: I am eager

Day 269: Take a deep breath

Bruges. Day 3.

What does it really mean to pause, when presented with the opportunity, unexpectedly, out of line?

The process of becoming has so much more silent staying than moving. The becoming happens almost in micro-mini movements. It can only be felt and known in the pauses.

This holiday, in the most unexpected way, is testing my capacity to let go of the need to get out and get moving and forcing me to choose staying in spaces I thought I couldn’t.

I’m trying to trust the uncertainty. The tentative, slow steps. Quite often it is when things are uncertain, that anything is possible. And I have not been too good at waiting to give that a chance.

Hold on to your dreams.

Day 262: We’re speeding up not slowing

En route. Day 0.

No matter how many times I do this, no matter how many borders and miles I cross, the idea that we can jet across entire timezones and mammoth continents in a metal capsule hurtling through the sky, never ceases to blow my mind.

Day 255: I want the truth to be said

I have a long post chock full of my thoughts and experiences post quitting social media, that has been in the works since almost the start of the year. I haven’t posted it because I don’t feels like I’m done. Because every now and then a new insight happens, thoughts follow and inevitably I see how it has panned out, continues to pan out, in my life. And I update the note. I revisited it last week after the recent, brief brush with Instagram, and I realised I will probably not post it after all. Maybe it’s one of those things that will remain in the realm of the really personal.

However, today, with the week-long hit of Instagram still fresh and buzzing in my veins, I’m going to put down a few fresh thoughts I’ve had about what I know for sure quitting Instagram (specifically) did for me. And conversely, what good has come from staying off of it. It reinforced the fact that just pruning my feed or curtailing the time I spent on the app would certainly not have done me as much good as removing myself from it entirely has. It made a very good case for not returning too soon.

I didn’t know it with this much surety then, but I do now. The obvious downsides of social media aside — like the playing on my specific insecurities and vulnerabilities, the steady cultivation of an attitude that preyed on feedback and validation, the unquestionable sinkhole of productivity and time — the single most important reason I needed to get away was that what I was choosing to see, the imagery and thoughts I was exposing myself to, and thereby the way in which they were being reinforced, was influencing the way I thought and lived. And not in a nice way. It had begun to get in the way of my self-improvement. My habits and patterns online — which were clear numbing patterns — were at loggerheads with the habits and patterns I was trying to cultivate offline. In real life.

One of the two had to change in order for me to move forward.

It goes without saying that I was, like all of us, choosing to see a very curated feed. One that suited my leanings and interests. It made for great viewing, but what it also did, rather insidiously, was make me unwilling to see other points of view. And over time, I’d become very rigid and cocksure about my beliefs and attitudes. Even the ones that needed to change so I could move into a healthier headspace. All of this was an  unconscious and rather slow process that crept up on me when I wasn’t looking.

Social media was great for the constant feedback loops — what with a willing audience that consistently clapped for me, liked everything I posted and thereby reinforced how right I was in what I saw, believed, shared and put out there — and the selective way in which I could expose myself to only a very stilted feed that reflected those very same beliefs and attitudes back at me further digging my heels in deeper, making it so hard for me to realise where I might have been wrong, where I could stand to review and reassess my views. And so hard to course correct.

Polarised and fixed views also allowed little to no scope for middle ground, flexibility, or even the idea that other people maybe coming from very different spaces worth considering. So sure and unshakeable have I been about myself that I now recall several instances of having taken a high ground when it wasn’t required, or even my place to. That high ground, build on a rather shaky foundation of opinions that were not fully formed, not even entirely my own, was bound to come crumbling down.

Opinions are great, but the finality of a social media declaration, backed by the external validation and further reinforced by the audiences repeated positive feedback solidified much of me in a very unshakeable way.

That was disastrous for growth.

So many of my half-baked and problematic (for me) views were being reinforced on a daily basis. Even on days when I didn’t post and was in the audience. And so many of them have gotten in the way of my movement and evolution.

Over the years, I lost sight of the basic truth that we are all evolving. That the very nature of growth and growing up is that we can be completely wrong about many things. Also, that everyone else is evolving too. That what holds true at one time may or may not continue to hold true at another.

Today, practically everything that I knew to be true and held as unshakeable truths, has crumbled and re-formed in the period of about 18 months. The only thing I know for certain is that absolutely nothing is certain, and everything changes.

Much of who I am today and the dramatic changes I have experienced, and the way that I have seen life surge ahead, is a consequence of allowing myself to change my mind. Without a doubt, this process was hastened because I just cut social media out of my life.

A lack of social media has:

  1. Shown me what feeling unsure is
  2. Opened me up to being wrong
  3. Encouraged me to look beyond the obvious, and see where people might be coming from
  4. Softened my need to have a fixed opinion about everything

I’m enjoying this space of being undecided and unclear about many things I had rather staunch opinions about. I’m enjoying figuring it out as I go. I’m reaching out for experiences much more willingly, I’m trying new things. Most of all, I’m getting better and better at asking for help, and find that I am able to receive it with a little more grace than before.

I’m finding unexpected outcomes all the time, and the process has really softened me in a way that has made life fuller and richer.

One year ago: Finding life again

Day 254: Not yet lost all our graces

For a bunch of reasons, some self-made some circumstantial, I’ve been so busy since the start of the month. Work has picked up suddenly, and I’m trying to get it done before I take off on holiday again for the last ten days of this month.

On the home front too, things have caught up with me. Rather, I’ve caught up with the home by sheer dint of being around. Since my mum and dad left, and with no sister in close proximity to go to (boohoo!) I’ve been having a regular life again. Waking up in my home, cooking myself proper, full meals, planning my work around things that need to be done, having a routine that includes some chores and some delegation and overseeing too.

And I’m trying to stay on top of it without losing out on having a life too. So in between all of this there have been outings to catch up with friends, working at coffeeshops, an anniversary dinner and watching Hamlet The Clown Prince.

Things have peaked, and despite the overwhelming busyness of it all, it has been such a good time. But, it’s been six days since I picked up my kindle, I realised. Instead, the pockets of time I’d otherwise dedicate to reading have been spent staying on my phone for inordinately longer than usual, and watching a lot of Netflix*. I have genuinely not had much time for TV this year, sticking to only my absolute must watches, like OITNB and waiting for This Is Us. I did watch the odd thing like Wild Wild Country, She’s Gotta Have It and Nanette, when the hype around it made it impossible to miss. But for the most part I’ve missed out on a lot of TV.

My whatsapp DND time has also gone out of whack with all the travelling, when I go easy on the self-imposed time out. I haven’t been strict enough with myself to enforce it again once we returned. More recently though, with my mum in the states, I find it easier to just stay available during the hours she’s awake.

This has meant a lot more screen time than I’ve been used to these past 10 months. So, it was natural and only a matter of time before I noticed that it was not a mere coincidence that a natural spike in my busyness saw a spike in screen time.

This is probably my pattern. When my brain is over-stretched, few things help me numb it out than mindless screen time. And no matter what the nature of what I am watching, or how scintillating the conversation on whatsapp is, I know that I turn to screens mostly to shut my brain out.

Here’s the thing though, it feels like a numbing mechanism, but it is anything but. If anything, it activates my already spread-too-thin brain some more. And instead of stripping down the number of thoughts, adds to them, thereby contributing to an overall restless feeling. Which is all very well for a weekend or a few days here and there, I suppose. I like a good mindless binge-watch every now and then, but last weekend, I suddenly realised I was missing the quiet in my head. The silence that that made it possible to put my phone down and actually forget all about it for hours on end because the book I was reading had me rapt. The silence that encourages me to read, even when I am tired because it soothes. I realised this when even though I had finished my tasks for the day, sent out my work, met my deadlines, my mind wouldn’t stop racing. I didn’t have anything else left to do, I could have picked up my kindle, but instead time after time, I turned to my phone. Or laptop.

Shit hit the fan when VC took this picture of me on our anniversary. I’m not one for big, outlandish celebrations, but I would certainly have liked to keep my face our a screen. And I’d have liked to spend the entire day, and not just the evening, really together, minus laptops and phones.

In a flash, it reminded me so much of my years spent in long hours at work. TV was mostly the only thing I could manage to do to unwind then. The idea that my brain had been occupied for 10 hours a day at work, almost warranted the binge-watch before bed, to just stop my brain from thinking thoughts.

I’ve come a long, long, long way from there, so to slip back momentarily and have those same feelings of restlessness and chatter in the brain surface was a bit unsettling.

The other non-coincidence was that the week of extreme phone usage happened to be the week I re-entered Instagram after nine whole months. I went in to retrieve some images and writing from last year that are locked away on the app. But the cheeky little thing that Instagram is, it wont let you deactivate immediately anymore. One needs to now wait a week between deactivations. It’s a tactic to make you stay and lure you in, I’m sure. And let me tell you, it works, for the most part. I didn’t get lured back in, but in the knowledge that I had a weeks worth of access, and once the literal anxiety and breathlessness I felt to see the feed (and how much it has changed, in form and content) had passed on day 1, I was back watching and watching and watching and watching. Till I could watch no more.

I’ll say it again, it’s not the app. It is entire me. Us. And the way we allow the apps to draw us in, but there is an undeniable link between the quality of the way I spend my time, the state of peace and calm in my head, and being on or off social media (Instagram and Whatsapp, in my case).

It was eye-opening to notice the difference. But it also makes it easier to acknowledge a pattern and reconcile with slowly slipping back to normalcy. I’m trying to wrap up my work at a sane hour rather than let it slip into the evening and night, just because I have the luxury to do that. This is another interesting space to test boundaries and reclaim space for myself, and so I’m trying it out.

Reflecting on the whole experience the other day, wondering about what drew me in, even though I know and have lived a whole, full life and realised that I’m absolutely not missing even the good stuff I thought was keeping on Instagram, outside of it. It’s the very nature of the application. And in some way, maybe it is  in fact a reflection of the nature of the world itself. Aptly described in this quote from Matt Haig’s Reasons to Stay Alive that I read earlier this year.

THE WORLD IS increasingly designed to depress us. Happiness isn’t very good for the economy. If we were happy with what we had, why would we need more? How do you sell an anti-ageing moisturiser? You make someone worry about ageing. How do you get people to vote for a political party? You make them worry about immigration. How do you get them to buy insurance? By making them worry about everything. How do you get them to have plastic surgery? By highlighting their physical flaws. How do you get them to watch a TV show? By making them worry about missing out. How do you get them to buy a new smartphone? By making them feel like they are being left behind. To be calm becomes a kind of revolutionary act. To be happy with your own non-upgraded existence. To be comfortable with our messy, human selves, would not be good for business.

*What I watched:

  1. To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before (Netflix): it was so sweet and light and lovely. Perfect for a Friday night.
  2. Bareilly ki Barfi (Netflix): was really, surprisingly good. I’m a blind supporter and fan of all of Rajkumar Rao’s work, and even though he isn’t the central protagonist here, he steals the show. Ably supported by excellent work by Ayushmann Khurana and Kirti Sanon who I had hitherto dismissed as just a pretty face.
  3. PadMan (Netflix): was terrible. Lazy, convenient, disastrous way to tell an important story about a real man, and turn it into an outrageous story that doesn’t even so much as acknowledge the man whose life inspired the movie. Again, maybe I’m not the audience, but the way in which everything was dumbed down I wonder if it even did the trick for the audience it was aimed at. Also made me wonder when Sonam Kapoor will figure she cant act and that she should probably try production or something.
  4. Sierra Burgess Is a Loser (Netflix): light, simple kiddie rom-com, worth a watch even though it was problematic in parts and gave me a lot of thoughtssss.

Day 230: What good is it to live with nothing left to give

Two weekends of class/workshopping and two study meets have brought home one message loud and clear.

It sits front and centre of my entire life right now and I am so ready to finally embrace it in its wholeness.

Family is important. Even those parts that I have not seen or lived. Especially those parts that I have not seen or lived.

We are connected in more ways than I know or realise.

I am so much more than the sum total of my body, mind and soul. I carry my family with me in ways I am incapable of fully understanding.

In belonging and connecting with this family, I need not lose any part of myself.

I can be connected, even as I grow and move my separate way.

Starting a ritual to acknowledge this and remember it every single day has been on my mind and today I realised it is something I want to do immediately.

I’m not fully sure how or what I want to do as yet. But I’m going to figure something out pronto.

This is gratitude for my family. For generations before and after. For all that we bring and carry with us. For all that people have held so we can move on and ahead. For life, love and this sense of connection.

Two years ago: Day 230: How many days

Day 215: And you were an island to discover

Yesterday I began the day with a head that was burdened and heavy with thoughts. A combination of little grief at bitter new realisations, the frightening reality of new possibilities and sorrow for time gone by spent being a certain way feeling a single emotion, forgetting the rainbow of emotions that surround it. My heart was heavy, my being felt raw and vulnerable.

During the day there were a couple of powerful aha moments, some tears, a lot of giggles. A switch snapped in my head and a whole new world in front of me.

By the end of the day, my heart had opened up. A lightness puffed up in my chest. My head felt bright and clear. Energetically, it was the diametric opposite of the way I felt just eight hours before. And that, is the beauty and gift of this therapy I’m learning.

As I walked back I realised how wonderful it has been to experience this work at this juncture in my life. I almost feel like this has been the purpose of being in Bangalore. The serendipity of it overwhelms me. There is something to be said about readiness, and about wanting something desperately, so the universe moves mountains to take you to it. The means, they always exist. The path unfurls moment to moment, when the time is right. I only need to be open and flow with it.

Two years ago: Day 215: Moving on

Day 186: You’ll be a good listener, you’ll be honest, you’ll be brave

I’ve been thinking a fair bit about how much of our existence is conditioned to focus on doing stuff and nearly not enough on being who we truly are. Or at least on the crucial need to get closer to it. I’ve come to believe that the former is actually a by-product of the latter, but our entire lives, for generations together, have been firmly taught to believe otherwise.

It’s becoming increasingly apparent to me (now that I steadfastly resist the urge to blindly do things in pursuit of outcomes and instead question them desired outcomes before I actually set out) that the answer to finding contentment in whatever experience I might find myself in or choose to put myself in, is to let the being guide the doing. Once I have that in place, a quiet, comforting sense of acceptance flows. The most suitable actions required of us, show up. The unlikeliest avenues open up.The doing just happens rather effortlessly. And all I have to do is just show up and be present.

I’ve also been wondering a lot about shame and self-loathing/self-hate. Where it comes from, how we respond to it, how we tread the blurry lines and how we sometimes come through on the other side. Natural by product of getting down and dirty in the dregs of who-am-I, really.

So much of it, stems from the avoidance of a state of discomfort. Much of it, whether it is about the way we look, the things we ought to be doing, the right ways to live our lives, stems from what we’ve been told we need to do (to avoid said discomfort), rather than being told to just be. Be, in a way that is true to the inner-most, deepest sense of self. It’s no wonder then that a majority of our adult lives is spent pursuing things that actually take us further away from it, even as we’re peddled the notion that as long as we’re successful, we’ll be happy. So seek, chase, keep doing things, get comfortable.

Then, I watched Nanette. And all the issues she throws up stood right in front of me like an army of knives waiting to attack. Most of all about identity and a sense of self — what must it be like to strip down all the bullshit one cultivates consciously and unconsciously while growing up on a steady diet of doing? What must it feel like to tear down the layers slowly, and get to the heart of one’s being? And to realise what’s in there looks nothing like what the world around considers “normal” is? What must it take to then accept that inner core of being nonetheless, and go out there and make art about it?

What then, does self-worth look like? And does acceptance and contentment have a ole to play in it? What can one do to cultivate it, embrace it, make it one’s own, apart from just letting it be?

So the show, I fucking loved it. But not in a typically gushy way. It made me super uncomfortable, and even though I took a while to get into it and only really got into it somewhere at the halfway mark when she turns it around on it’s head and it stops being funny, by the end of it I was totally cut open, completely worked up and crying uncontrollably.

Yeah, I loved it.

Aside from the way in which Hannah Gadsby subverts the very genre she has chosen as her art form, a how she turns a stand-up comedy show right on it’s head to a powerful piece of work that riveting because it is just not funny, I loved Nanette because it cut through and reached out and touched me deeply. Not in an obvious #relatable sense of the word, because Hannah speaks entirely from the margins, from a space so gray, you and I will struggle to sit with it. And yet, it is a space we can no longer afford to ignore.

It’s been a time of a lot of thinking about that inner sense of self, personally. And I’ve had to really examine a lot of things I just took for granted and fell into line with. The roles I play, my identity in each of them, even my sexuality and sense of self that comes from it. I’ve been quietly questioning what it is really, to be me. And of course not every answer is a hunky dory, peachy perfect one. It’s brought with it a fair bit of uncomfortable truths, some surprising revelations and yet, a lot of relief in just getting to the truth of this being. So, in that sense, Nanette really touched me in a way that most sharp, piercingly honest truths do.

The thing with discomfort though, all the gritty truths (ours as well as others) that make us uncomfortable, is that it is a crucial part of resettling. Of acceptance. And of contentment. Of being.

One year ago: What coming home feels like: light and life
Two years ago: Day 186: Werk,werk,werk,werk

Day 171: Let me in, unlock the door

To learning more, and yet doing less.

To ditching the glorification of a unidimensional kind of strong, and embracing softness instead.

To allowing for the hiccups, the stumbles, the loud crashes, instead of walking on eggshells in fear.

To finding comfort in vulnerability and companionship, over keeping my shit together all alone.

To be decidedly soft, in the face of all harshness.

To stay still when it’s needed, and to move, but at my own pace when thats needed.

How’s your Wednesday going?

Two years ago: Day 171: I don’t feel sorry about posting pictures of my life

Day 164: Please stick to the rivers and the lakes that you’re used to

Another day. Another breakfast. Another conversation about going back to our roots. To a simpler, pared-down, more gut-driven, mindful way of life. A message (in its various forms and interpretations) that seems to be coming at me from every direction — in things I read, in conversations I’m having, in the choices that are coming up for me, in the things that impact my choosing, in the ways that I am indulging in the choosing — in every single aspect of my life, whether exercise or food or travel or the way in which I am one half of a coupling or the way I feel like my home should run to the way in which I want to be.

Today, once again, a conversation with A reminded me how much the intellectualised narratives we expose ourselves (and unconsciously, unquestioningly internalise and make our own) to can add to the chatter in our minds and the muddled sense of right and wrong vis a vis what is right and wrong for us, per se. And how much nonsense gets in the way of just humbly following that sense.

I feel grateful for the ways in which this simple reminder keeps coming at me. And Im so utterly thankful to be in a space where I have the capacity to listen, and really act accordingly.

Two years ago: Day 164: How blue?

Day 152: May

Call it magic, call it true

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

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

But, it never came.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

Birthday month!

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

Postcards from Goa:

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

Elusive spots of truth that sometimes made it through

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

Postcards from Thailand:

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

And of course, there’s always the gratitude:

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

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

Two years ago: Day 152: Skies that lie

Day 147: For you will still be here, but your dreams may not

Postcards from Thailand 6.

Holiday wisdom in nondescript corners of unexpected places. Sometimes when I’m not even really looking.

Synchronicity and serendipity excites me almost as much as beach holidays do.

Sit and wonder.

Okay, yes.

Two years ago: Day 147: On the calmness of being at home

Day 136: Waiting here to find the sign, that I should take it slow

One of the expected side effects of growing self-awareness is how clear my own bullshit becomes, and despite a struggle how much quicker I am to call bullshit on some of my behaviour, patterns and tendencies.

But nobody told me it was going to also become easier to notice other peoples’ bullshit just as easily too. It often lands me in a quandary, especially with friends whom I feel I owe honesty. Do I speak up? How much should I say? And how do I say this without sounding self-important and risking trivialising the issue?

I am also realising that mostly, this self-awareness is a privilege and a gift. One that I must handle with care. I’m learning every day, to separate noticing bullshit from spilling over into judge-y tendencies that tend to go into building entire stories in my head. I slip up sometimes, but I’m getting better at noticing it when it happens, and nipping it in the bud.

On the flip side, it doesn’t make the awareness go away. For eg: when a good friend is being a jerk, or being silly, or maybe just floundering in a way that you can help fix, it’s hard not to notice. And so often, I find myself having witness a peculiar behaviour, and sometime siting with the knowledge of where it may be coming from. But more and more, I keep myself from jumping to provide an opinion or solution. I’m trying to exercise restraint more often than not, because every body has their own journey of self-realisation to make.

In a seemingly insignificant conversation this week, I noticed two things:

  • My absolute refusal to get dragged into drama that is fundamentally not mine, or drama where none is needed, has peaked.
  • Instead of flapping out polite, rational, “correct” responses, I actively take some time out to think about what is happening and how it is making me feel, before I respond.
  • Consequently, my responses are clearer. Firm, but articulate. Calling bullshit, but kindly.

I patted myself on my back for my proportionate and precise responses that keep the drama at bay, and the conversation short. N said something yesterday that really resonated with me: it’s a step up to be able to talk about things that I’d otherwise just stew about in private, allowing it to cripple and cramp me along the way. It’s nice to keep working out the kinks. And sometimes seeing proof that whatever’s at work, is working.

Day 134: April

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

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

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

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

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

Last month, in severe contemplation:

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

Last month, in what happened:

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

Last month, in indecision:

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

Last month, in gratitude:

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

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

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