On the could-haves and would-haves

A constant theme in the last few years, but one that I have been reliving very intensely lately: past loss and thinking about the good old grief of all the could-haves and would-haves of my life. The seemingly eternal sadness piled upon sadness of all that I have left behind. The liberation of choosing one thing, moving ahead with a sense of purpose, enjoying and cherishing it comes with the grief of the choice unmade.

Right?

This story always brings a hint of feeling like I wasn’t fast enough, good enough, smart enough. Hazy day-dreaming of a life I could have had, if I had stuck to a particular path. Feeling FOMO when I see my friends from certain phases in life that I have moved on from.

It’s hard to remember that nothing good gets away.

If it is right, it happens—The main thing is not to hurry. Nothing good gets away.

John Steinbeck wrote this in a letter to his 14-year-old son, talking about heartbreak. While this here, is about love here, this current bout of grief has me wondering if it is worth experimenting with this with everything else that I value, want or am working towards.

How can I cultivate a deep belief in divine timing. In the fact that there is a lot to go around — a lot of love, a lot of luck, a lot of prosperity. And that the inherent timing of a happening is something to lean into.

What if I questioned the notion of “running out of time” or accepted it for simply what it is, a construct that makes the people of this planet tick in “timely” fashion so we can be productive and “useful” in only a certain way.

What if I surrendered my judgement around the words “too slow” or “too fast” and in the end allowed whatever pace I want or have, to work for me.

What if I chose to believe in the non-linear way of life working out just as it is meant to, not a moment off-key?

Then if I put my head down and do the work, maybe I’ll be more likely to align my desires with my actions and reach places I want to be? And maybe the grief that I know won’t ever abate, will be sweet and liberating rather than bitter and constricting?

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.

Humanness

This time away, being still, quiet and uncomfortable has resulted in many a brain fart. I will be pouring it all out here. Just giving you fair warning.

If there is no light without the dark, no moving up without going down, no joy without sorrow, no rainbow without the rain, no good without some bad, no journeying within without knowing what’s around — then maybe there is no knowing wholeness without knowing what it is to be a bit broken?

I have reminded myself over and over of this one fact that I now know to be true, but forget so, so easily: the goal is not to feel good or relaxed or peaceful all the time. It is to be able to move through all experiences and emotions with relative ease, moving in and out of the entire spectrum of my humanness.

Sometimes it takes getting your heart broken, over and over, to understand this in a healthy way. To find a sense of self in the truth of what it means to be human. To find the capacity to love this innate humanness that makes me. To use grief and hurt and pain as goalposts to move through. To find a way to expand, rather than contract through it all.

I don’t know, I’m beginning to feel like 2020 has been a series of opportunities in meeting my own brokenness. And 10 months in I’m finally feeling the brunt of what a heavy year it has been. This past few weeks have felt endless, the last month has felt like a year, and this year has felt like a lifetime. This whole entire year has been a lesson in realllllly getting to know my humanness.

Brain noodles (the beach edition)

Some thoughts I’ve got running about my mind and body today:

  1. is it possible that staying is sometimes a necessary act in moving “forward”?
  2. can I move on without necessarily running down/shitting all over/devaluing where I currently am
  3. does moving on always require some dissatisfaction to be the fire that fuels action
  4. is shame/anger about some aspect of the present a necessary ingredient in choosing something in the future
  5. sometimes moving on means coming back too
  6. perhaps there will be some golden opportunities in life where I won’t have to choose at all, and I can have two/multiple options available to switch between

Bheja noodles

The last straw in the camels back of recent challenges in the shitfest that has been the last few weeks of my life, was my laptop dying on me a week ago. Second time in two months, at what is probably the worst time ever to put me in a space where I need to consider another expensive purchase.

I was distraught and annoyed of course. But mostly, after being wrung thru the grinder in similar fashion for weeks now, I found myself oddly calm and numb when it happened. It was like I’d forgotten what to feel. A switch inside my brain went off. And I decided to just give it up, stop trying to fix anything anymore and just give in to what’s being asked of me.

My work and my workout are pretty much the only two essential things I need my laptop for, both of which can be serviced on my phone. And so I just packed my laptop away and decided I’ll be without one. (hence the lack of posts)

Until a viable solution makes itself known, I decided I wasn’t not going to break my head or throw any more money at this. And I told VC to do the same. In the interim we’ve been to the beach three evenings (so far, I’m making good on this intention) in the last week. So of course I have had ample time to sit back and ponder. To churn up a cocktail of thoughts about this strange strange few weeks in what is anyway one of the strangest years of all time.

2020 is really giving 2016 (the last truly shitty year I had) some time stiff competition.

***

How is it that we want to succeed and reach great milestones, but we’re also afraid we’ll fail?

How is it that we crave intimacy and long for deeper connection, but we’re also afraid of being let down by people?

How is it that we seek heartful vulnerability and honesty, but we’re also guarding ourselves against shame and heartbreak?

Maybe the goal shouldn’t be to want to move from one to the other, in a way that casts away the old, but navigate the in-betweens and know that experiencing both (sometimes simultaneously) is 100% true for all of our lives.

***

A thing I’ve had to contend with lately, through the thick of these challenges: the notion that I have to “make it” on my own. The hardest part of it has been understanding that sometimes I need things that I can’t give myself, and I have the option to articulate my needs so that the people I depend on can show up and help me.

It begins with understanding the need. Beyond the physical, and digging a couple of layers below to see what situation from my past I am recreating, and how I can serve that in the present.

I have much work to do in this regard.

***

It does not strike me as a coincidence at all that in this most challenging month, I have had to in my my work with clients, keep reiterating the fact that growth involves coming apart, falling down, feeling undone, very often. Again and again.

It was clearly a message I needed to reopen force within must. It’s not an easy truth for anyone to embrace. And in the frequency with which I revisit this with clients, I found reaffirmation of the very nature of this process for myself. Timely reminders to handle myself with a little more allowance and kindness.

Over the years I’ve come to understand how much personal growth is non-linear, and I’m looking for a new word to replace Growth. One that doesn’t inherently imply upward/forward movement as a marker of success. One that doesn’t even infact look for a “marker” of “success”. One that is gentler and allows for flow in any direction. Because that is what the process has asked of me: gentleness, fluidity, and grace in picking myself up every time that I have fallen. All these years on, I am only just about learning this.

Brave

Every healing journey of self exploration will bring you to the ironic realisation that growing and moving towards a life most aligned with your inner calling actually requires you to do the exact opposite of all that you did to stay safe thus far.

The work isn’t so much in the outcome, but the processes that create an alternative safe space. One within, removed from external sources of validation, reassurance, love and acceptance.

A lot of this, and my work around and towards building it, has been brought to question this past week and I’m sitting with a slew of thoughts. Contradictions, conflict, an inner tussle between the enigmatic philosophies that (ironically) help me make sense of real life, and the hard realities of life itself that need culling, like picking wheat (the stuff of life) from the chaff (said enigmatic philosophies). I’m again trying to find middle ground. The space between being and doing. Between resting and moving. Between out and in. Between stillness and chaos. Between solitude and loneliness.

One year ago: Cold but happy
Two years ago: Wandering through life will love come home to you
Four years ago: Escape

Up and down and down again

I’ve spent a greater part of this week breathing deep.

In and out.

In and out.

It really brings me back to the now, holds me down and soothes me. I’ve needed that a lot this week. It’s been a challenging one. On many fronts. For the first time in many, many months — probably years — I felt helpless to the point of just utter despair.

It’s not that things aren’t “good” or that they’re down in the dumps. But it has been a while since I had a steady number of days that are uniformly harmonious and with things in sync. Which is not to say only goody-good, but rather where I haven’t felt caught in the undertow of something or another.

For months now, there is an emerging pattern of one/few good day/s, an upswing, and then a number of challenging days, then the light shines through again, I emerge on top of it all and go with it, but only very briefly, before something else comes at me.

This is stuff on the personal front of course, but it’s also a combination of many things that seem to be taking turns to go up in smoke. If its an internal challenge of some sort at one time then it’s followed up by a string of emotional ups and downs, when that just about settles there’s a physical or practical aspects of our life that needs our attention, something or the other just constantly is on the verge of bursting or going up in smoke. I feel like we’re (and I count VC in this too) being thrown one oddball after another, and I JUST WANT TO CATCH A BREAK.

All of this is of course 100% more aggravated in the environment of complete uncertainty and zero guarantees that seems to have become the norm now..

I’m just so exhausted from existing these days. Even the good days seem to be emotionally high for me, leaving me somewhat spent. I’m thinking back to phases in my life, even from just earlier this year, when feeling good and being well didn’t mean just for a day. And when there was certainty.

However, the universe works in such strange and complicated ways. I would say yesterday was probably one of the hardest days I’ve had since 2016 — which was the last time I felt this very apparent lack of steadiness in state of mind, when every day was a new emotional whirlwind that presented a new challenged. The worst day in one of the hardest weeks of recent time. That we’re in the midst of a pandemic ridden world is just the perfect context for it all hahaha.

But, I’ve had the best work week ever, since the start of this year. A sudden surge in interest greater than any upswing I’ve experienced since I started doing personal consultations. So good and filled with promise that I’ve done 15 sessions in just the last 5 days. And by the end of tomorrow, I would have done 18.

I wanted to do a mid week tarot reading to make up for the missed one on Monday. But I’ve directed all my energy work-wards. Honestly, this has been the bright spark in a week like this one. Because it is work that energises and me, makes me feel alive and gives me reason to keep going.

Striving, as VC called it today. As low and down and out as I felt for the last two days, I have found the energy to show up at sessions. And I’ve ended every one of them feeling a bit better than I did before.

One year ago: Come rain or shine
Two years ago: Try to remember the good times
Three years ago: What coming home feels like: revisiting old haunts II

Dreams

Been thinking today about how we have slowly, gradually, very slipped into a state of existence where we get to have severe, exacting expectations of women. We get to, on daily basis, demand of women their loyalty and worthiness to belong, by ay of meeting A Particular standard (that is slowly feeling stiflingly monolithic and featureless).

I’m getting so sick of how day in and out, in the public domain and in private, women’s character is questioned, and the proof of our “goodness” is demanded in many, many ways. Again and again, in innumerable ways we are shown and made to feel like our independent choices are not good enough. That our choices make us crazy, hysterical, excessive, difficult, emotional. That to be all of these things is somehow negative. Not good enough. Out of character.

It disturbs me that I see and her of examples of this on a daily basis.

I’m tired of the boxes we still have to fit and labels we have to carry. And I dream of a day when I can put this burden down. Fully.

When I can be me, wholeheartedly. Without my character being questioned, my appearance being reason to slot me in a box. Without my choices being scrutinised.

Sigh, a girl can dream.

One year ago: On alone time
Four years ago: Too many words, so here’s a cop out

Looking for typical

We’ve been back for more than a couple of days now, but the disorientation that came from being back in an atmosphere where fear and chaos are so high, compared to the relaxed, peaceful, positive environment we were in, has lasted longer than anticipated.

While away, not having access to a newspaper and not looking at my phone meant I missed the big, horrific news of last week entirely. It only really hit me when we returned to a small mountain of newspapers at our doorstep (because we forgot to tell the newspaper guy we were going away) with a leaf carrying a piece of horrific news lying face up on the very top of it. And then, I steadfastly avoided the news after. I just don’t have the emotional or mental or psychological bandwidth to deal with it at this point. Not without feeling like there is absolutely no iota of future left for us.

The strange thing is, even without the information onslaught, without the doom-scrolling, without even looking out for it, and in fact avoiding it, I feel clued in. I feel the horror. I feel the anger. Simmering. This is the energy of the collective at work, and I feel clued in to it.

So I came back feeling very disoriented. A vast dissonance between the borderline utopia I went away to, a bubble of safety and happiness, and the grotesque world I came back to. It took me four days of hemming and hawing, trying to drag myself back to some semblance of normalcy, feeling (and giving in to) the need to sleep more than normal, before I felt like myself again.

I complained to VC time and again about wanting to “get on with it” and somehow just being unable to. The mornings have been slow, and the saving grace has been joining R’s morning workout class. That gets me going in some manner. We did some chores. But mostly everything felt a bit alien for the last few days. We ordered in, my MIL sent over some food, and I didn’t cook a single thing. Until today.

This evening, as VC washed the dishes, cleaned the chicken, and I mopped up the kitchen and planned what to marinate the chicken in, I felt a shift in my body. A switch to a prior state of normalcy, within me at least. No matter that the world is full tilt going bonkers.

This is my reaction to chaos, I’ve realised. I go into slow-mo, the urge to hide, cower and hibernate is strong, my brain gets dull and it becomes difficult to function. And I look, desperately for any glimmer of normal, typical, standard, mundane even.

But that has been the hardest thing to come by this year, no? How much more will 2020 throw at us?

Anyone else feeling raw, open, unmasked, exposed? And not in a nice way?

One year ago: October
Two years ago: In the nick of time
Three years ago: What colour is your sky?

Be water, my friend

Clearly, there’s a theme emerging this week.

And I love it when this happens — all roads pointing to affirming one thing, one message. Reinforcing something new that has just found its way to me.

Two years ago: My heart is abloom
Three years ago: Joyful
Four years ago: Off the saddle

 

Wanderlost?

The promise of a getaway looms. And it got me thinking of the last time we traveled. It was at the end of last year, which honestly feels like it only just passed us by.

I think wistfully of the amount of travel I had the privilege of last year. Thinking of the ease with which I made umpteen, nearly monthly, visits to Goa, four mini holidays across the year three of which were in the last three months of 2019, I can’t help but feel what a distant reality that now seems like. Forget travel, even a trip to one of the city’s favourite bars to get a drink seems remote right now.

How and when will we go again? Move, travel, spread ourselves in corners of the world.

And what will become of the idea of travel itself?

Where will we go to quench our neverending desire to explore, photograph, exploit, destroy, flaunt the miles to which our restless feet and beings will take us?

How will the industries that stem from this need of ours transform, and how quickly? What will it mean for travellers like us?

I have a special dislike for what’s become of the word wanderlust. But today I think wanderlost, might be a modification I am willing to allow.

One year ago: Plain joy
Two years ago: Shine a little light on me

We’re going through changes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The tide is turning.

***

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

One year ago: Gratitude fix
Two years ago: August

The hidden life of trees

So, I decided to break my boredom with home workouts and desperate missing of the gym, by braving the outdoors and resuming running again.

It’s been three days and one whole day of severely sore legs, but I feel so good.

It’s more than what running does for my body, which in itself is a whole other story. But I’m also beginning to see why being outdoors in an enveloping tunnel of trees, that are overwhelmingly old and large, surrounded by eye-hurting green views, even as small and limited as they are in a city park, does for me.

It’s a reminder to keep growing. To keep going. Of how strong roots are the key to talk trees. Of age and wisdom. Of a silent judgement-free witnessing. Of the cradle of mother earth. Of the place that energy and the elements have in giving life. Of fertility even in times of destruction. Of survival and enduring.

On Sunday, practically my first real long run since March (because I’m not counting the two failed attempts in May and June), I had a mini cry behind my mask even as I had just entered the parking and started my run. I just felt overwhelmed to be outdoors, for one. But I was also just taken by these large, old trees. Just standing there, watching the world go by, as they have for years now. I also felt a surge of endorphins, and while they’re usually known to induce extreme highs interpreted as happiness I have noticed that they heighten whatever emotion I am allowing myself to feel. That day it was overwhelming gratitude and aliveness.

I have not appreciated trees enough in my life. And that day I realised I have probably not appreciated the trees in Bangalore enough in my life.

They’re becoming reminders for me. Of life and growth. Of swaying with lightness and tenderness, while being powerfully rooted. Of grounding. Of joy and life. Of air and breath.

In the inimitable words of Mary Oliver, who I have realised has woven beauty in words for every goddamn experience, it’s simple.

Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches.
And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,
“and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.”

Stay. Awhile.

One year ago: Brain noodles
Four years ago: Wandering, right here at home

Brain noodles, again

Random thoughts that have been gnawing at my brain slowly over the past few days, building up to something, I’m not sure what as yet.

  1. I don’t want to be special. I just want to be happy.
    I have mixed them up or conflated the two for a major part of my lfie thus far. The past few years I’ve realised and embraced slowly how average, regular and normal I am. And that it is enough. It makes me happy. I’m also not using “happy” lightly here, not indicating a state of mind or a necessarily chirpy/positive emotion, but a state of wellness and acceptance of whatever situation I may traverse in life.
  2. I don’t want to be woke. I just want to be me.
    I’m growing tired of having to choose the higher ground as dictated by popular culture, woke culture, social media culture, op-ed culture, and the self-defeating super-left group that I was aligned to. As I’m discovering my own politics in a deeper way, there is a quiet that has come about. A think-before-you-decide, listen-more-than-you-speak, kind of quiet that has made me realise that i) barring a few fundamental beliefs that may not change greatly, most other beliefs are going to be forever WIP, fluid and ever-changing because that is simply a function of evolution. I have looked down on this in the past as a sign of being flakey or having insubstantial beliefs. I know this is not true, and it was a stupid, naive way of looking at things ii) no matter how well-versed I am with any subject, there will always be many, many things I am yet to learn and I want to be always open to that. Which brings me to #3
  3. There is so much about so many things that I don’t know.
    The more I am training myself to get out of strictly binary ways of thinking, the more I am finding space for the middle ground. The space where there is no certainty or surety the poles/extremes offer. There is power in trying to understand both sides in an informed, unbiased way. It is super hard to do, and I have such a long way to go. But the more I do this, the more I realise how little I actually know and how much more there is to discover. I’m also learning, painfully, that the only way to truly widen my perspectives and allow for the middle ground to be fruitful is to listen to the opinions and experiences, of even the ones I loathe and despise, the ones that make me super uncomfortable. The lives experiences and beliefs of people who aren’t speaking from mere opinion or carefully gathered knowledge. And I am trying to shed the belief that giving “that side” a listening ear makes me flakey, or makes my beliefs wishy-washy.

One year ago: Tender mornings
Two years ago: Cake by the ocean

On pain

If you’ve been reading this blog frequently recently, you’d know I had something of a “growth spurt” lately. And like in the physical realm, this kind of a spurt comes with “growing pains”. Literal aches and discomfort from having to stretch in ways that are new and unfamiliar.

Even those of us who have been doing this for years now, continue to be stretched when crucial moments of spiritual growth present themselves. So I always find it a bit odd when people look surprised to see me in a “bad place” and ask some version of “But you should know better!” or “You’re familiar with this!

My self work has been mostly about meeting myself. And working on your emotional self is quite working out your physical body. You’ll address different parts on different days/phases. You’ll try out different styles and techniques that work for you. You’ll work out a pace that you’re comfortable with. And the goal is to always push your limits a little. Allow those muscles to flex, tear, repair, build back.

So in this pursuit of understanding myself in a deeper way, I’ve realised more and more that this cannot be about the self I believe I am, or the self I think I want to be, or the self that others think I am.

It has to be me, just as I am.

As simplistic as that may sound, let me assure you it is not. Forget the personas and masks we wear for the outside word, for a second. In all the years of exploring this, the most astounding discoveries have been the masks I have been wearing for myself. The ways in which I deftly hide parts of myself, from myself. The lies I so desperately want to believe about myself. The notions and aspirations I hold, against all odds, even knowing full well that they’re not coming from the truest space of who I am.

And so, this work of meeting myself continues to be challenging. I am in the thick of one such spurt. Where I am opening up a part of me that has been largely hidden away even from myself for the greater part of my adult life.

I am in the process of meeting that part again, acknowledging the pain it is bringing to the surface and understanding hat this is the very reason I have kept it hidden away — it’s too fucking painful to revisit.

Pain is scary. The fear of it has kept me away from going there. It has kept me away from growth. And away from myself.

However, there is a lot to be said about how years of healing does add up. I have known this, but am experiencing it first-hand now. The very same pain now feels manageable, even though it is no less intense. This is my work paying off.

This is like dreading doing push-ups for years, working through the pain of it, training in the smaller movements and building muscles that can assist the larger movement. And suddenly one day realising you can do a full push up. It’ll still painful, but you’ve trained yourself to take the pain as a part of the process.

I feel not just ready, but willing to do this. It feels not just necessary, but pressing to do this now. Because here’s the thing. Difficult experiences make us cold, and close up. Healing makes us thaw, and allows expansion. In my work, and in myself, I see how unhealed pain makes us choose resilience, at a cost. Healing that pain offers the valuable experience of tenderness. And tenderness has, in my experience, 100% proven to be the way to grow and find love.

So here I am. Having crossed the threshold of this very dark place, still hanging out at the door. The urge to turn around and bolt is strong everyday. But with a little help and some ground practices in my everyday life, I am able to stay.

The thing that prompted this, this time around, is the active need for a better tomorrow, not just for me, but the community around me, the kind of work I lend to it, and the way in which I live as a part of humanity. And something inside of me has been nudging on, telling me that hate and hardness, by itself, in a pure, misdirected way, is not going to be useful.

New beginnings require love. And that requires healing.

My therapeutic journey has so far been quite focused on “moving on”. That is also training, that tells me healing itself is an act of fixing something that’s broken. For nearly two years, as I was training to be a practitioner in Family Constellations, I have been familiar with the broader concept of meeting myself as I am, and coming into agreement with my life as it is. I have uttered these words with heartfelt intention at least a hundred times by now. But I feel pushed to embody them in a way that requires acknowledging certain truths of my own life now.

Coming to terms with myself just the way I am. Requires owning up to the painful experiences that have shaped me too.

This is no longer just about therapy or healing. It has become important to do this as a professional in the line of work I now operate in, but more urgently as a person in this world. So I can understand myself better, my traumas and my experiences, that shape my beliefs, my prejudices, my biases, my capacity to connect with other humans, and understand where they may be coming from. Even if they’re at the diametric opposite end of the spectrum from where I am.

So much of what we are taught is about “moving on” is focused on getting better, manning up, holding up. All of this inherently involves suppressing pain. And it makes us lose touch with the sides of ourselves that aren’t able to do these things so often.

As I realised last week in therapy, many times when we have been through a traumatic event, we don’t want to move on. In a single session I felt a lifetime of moments of wanting to grieve. Wanting to cry. Wanting to feel the pain of what had happened. But my training didn’t allow it. And a lifetime of not allowing that, and only looking at resilience as a measure of health, has meant not knowing the ways in which I am in fact still broken.

Being broken has never been favourable place to be. Fixed, is always the aspiration. But even healing requires being broken for some time.

In that single session I suddenly came into contact with the part of me that still hurts from all those experiences. Like a wound scratched open, still feeling a world of pain.

A person in pain, in touch with that pain, cannot man up, or move on. We may find ways to cope and function so that life doesn’t come to a halt, but how often do we revisit that pain and process it? How often do we go back and heal it, so it can move through us in a healthy way? So that it doesn’t fester and create dynamics within and around us, affecting how we are as human beings, how we relate to other human beings, and how it manifests in our beliefs and actions?

But more importantly, how can I heal a wound I am not willing to pull the bandaid off of, and let breathe? How can I heal unless I look at the wound and really feel all of the pain first? It’s taking a lot of empathy, compassion and caring for myself at the moment. Something I still struggle to extend to myself to the degree necessary in moments like this. But I am getting there.

The only way out of the pain, is through it.

One year ago: Shine
Two years ago: When you wake up in the evening and the day is shot