It’s been a long time coming

I got back to my daily walks pretty soon after we got home from Benaras. Summer is here, good and proper. So it’s ridiculously bright, warm and muggy at 7 am, not at all like the crisp mornings I enjoyed when I left for Goa.

I felt physically uncomfortable for days after we returned, feeling my body heat and dry up from the inside out. It was like my insides were revolting the drastic turn in climate. Would you believe Goa was cooler?

On the upside bright, early mornings have meant waking up super early to sunshine streaming through my curtains. The exact opposite of winter when it’s dark and grey, making it impossible to wake up and get going.

So, waking up has been easy. It’s been good but more than that, the feeling of getting going, of the wheels beginning to move and run from the get go, is such a summer feeling I love.

And then there’s splendour like this where I go for my walk/run. And it has made all the difference in helping me stay consistent.

Since the start of the year, I’ve listened as my body as asked for a little movement, and then some more and a little more. I started with walking on Sunday, then a few more times in the week, then I started running some of the time before eventually rejoining my yoga class. Slowly, I’ve been feeling my body come alive after a whole year of what felt like hibernation.

This week, I went back to a gym. My body has been screaming for some weights and so I listened. It’s been five days and such a viscerally felt thrill to be back on a treadmill, pounding the kms away, picking up a pair of dumbells even more so.

This sense of an awakening in my body has been slowly trickling in spurts. This week I really felt like I’d rekindled and revisited an old friend within me. And old self I’d loved and lost. And regained again. That meeting, that felt like a coming back home to myself once again.

It’s been just so, so, so good to be back.

One year ago: Love, let’s talk about love
Three years ago: On unlearning and relearning order

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Things that are shiny and new

right now. These events, these feelings are just so precious, I want to cradle them in my palms lined with baby blue cotton, so they’ll remain unbroken, yet fragile for long as I can help it.

So I don’t forget this little milestone:

  1. Vulnerability for precious vulnerability sake. Not as a tool for validation. Not even to measure my worth in my own eyes.
  2. Vulnerability with myself first — and how it is deeply linked with the most honest, authentic connection with my inner self.
  3. Laughing at myself and some of the rubbish narratives I’ve built and held for so long.
  4. Deeply honest conversations with VC, that are pushing the levels of empathy and understanding in me, showing me reserves that I didn’t know I had.
  5. Making a new kind of space for us, redefining our relationship.

One year ago: People say I should forget

The last of the despatches from Benaras

I took a lot of pictures in Benaras and I’ve rambled on for a week about this city and the short time we spent there. It was just 3.5 days, and I even while we were there and I was so clearly taken by the place, I didn’t expect it to have had such an impact on me. But this is the last of the pictures. At least the ones I want to share. So this post will sum it up, before I move on to regular programming.

As it might be clear by now, I couldn’t get enough of the boats.

VC usually has his research down pat: where we’ll stay, how close it is to his select few spots that he’s always aware of before hand, where to eat, how to get there, etc. This time, there was a free-flowing unplanned method to getting around. I had presumed VC had done his thing, but when we got there and I saw he was as much at sea as I was and was surprisingly open to figuring it out on the go, nor desperate for optimum productivity in terms of photography opportunities and to top it all, he was chill about not getting a single good picture from the trip, I really felt something major has changed for him.

As a result we had my kind of holiday, where things aren’t planned to the T, with lots of wandering, knowing not where we were going, taking chances — a turn here a turn there — winding through Benaras and having all the opportunity for surprises — good and bad.

VC takes upwards of an hour, sometimes nearly 2, taking pictures at sunrise and sunset. Sometimes, most times, all of it amounts to just one picture. It probably sounds tedious and painful, and it did to me too when I first realised this was his process. Now, either I’m very used to it, or I have figured out a method for myself too, but it has become the best part of travelling with VC. I get to do the favourite thing I like to do on holiday: plonk myself in one spot and just watch, watch, watch and watch some more as the world goes by.

In a time where travel takes on a very glossy, fetishised quality about it, thanks to all the incessant sharing (mine included), my own thoughts about travel as an activity have undergone change yet again. I’ve gone from calling it my purpose in life, my raison d’être, to rolling my eyes at that same admission a few years on, to wondering if travel was an escape and if so what am I escaping from, to wanting to cultivate a life I don’t have to take off from, to today wanting and craving travel all the time just for the pure experience of it.  The non-fanciness of this trip to Benaras only solidified my belief that travel to me isn’t about the fancy getaways or the swanky stays in gorgeous locales alone. While I love that, I love this kind of holiday too.

The unpredictable nature of our time in Benaras was refreshing. The zero-expectations that were over-delivered was the cherry on the top. This is the kind of holiday that unknowingly moves something in me, and this is the kind of experience I want more of from my travel.

For now, that’s it from this edition of despatches from Benaras.

One year ago: Where the world is impossibly still
Three years ago: Quiet

I let you go, in peace

Another advantage of being away, physically, from regular programming is this opportunity to pull back and view otherwise emotionally-charged occurrences in life from a distance. And a little dispassionately.

Since coming here, I’ve realised with resounding reaffirmation that I’m possibly most alone right now, as I’ve been in a very, very long time. This is As far as people goes. The palpable difference is a visibly significant decrease in discomfort as I acknowledge and say this out loud. The ease with which the realisation struck really shocked me.

Even with all the coming and going of people over the years, at every point I’ve always had a handful of people to lean on. That base number is currently at the absolute lowest it’s been. And if I discount VC from it, it goes even lower. I mean this entirely dispassionately, and to be able to say it as it is is all kinds of freeing. By alone, I mean for the first time in a long time, I feel an significant absence of people. And it feels okay.

For years now the aspect of people coming and going has been a constant, but this is a first: there have been very few new entries in the recent past. There’s been the deliberate culling in some part, a natural withdrawal from some others, there is a morphing of certain relationships. This is the first time I haven’t rushed to fill the empty space that has been created as a result.

I’ve always looked at people who have that quiet confidence about themselves that makes them the kind of people who can spend entire days, day after day, peacefully by themselves, doing the things they want to do anyway even if they’re alone, with a sense of awe and admiration. As I’m thinking about the kind of person I’m talking about, S comes to mind. He’s probably the epitome of self-assured for me, in this aspect. Cooking for himself with as much gusto and enthusiasm as he would if he were with someone else. Cooking, plating it, garnish and all, and instagramming the shit out of his meals-for-one. Traveling alone. Getting high alone. It isn’t so much the activities, but the solidity of having fun even alone. This has been a new realisation and craving for me.

Suddenly, when I’m feeling this absence of people, I’ve done more of those things alone than I would do waiting for company.

Going to the beach.

Dancing in my living room.

Getting a drink because I felt like it.

I felt like it has rarely been a good enough reason without the Let’s see who else does addendum.

And you know what? For the first time in my life, it actually feels natural and like it needs almost no effort at all.

***

Through it all, S has been there for me like a rock. I have leaned on her like crazy, crazy. Exchanging long, long messages and voice notes as I process this in my head. Bombarding her with my thoughts as they come, even on days when she is unable to respond. I really appreciate the space we have, mostly free of obligatory, cursory responses, but wide openness to bring anything to it.

It’s helped immensely with not stewing in my own head about much of it. It’s helped stop my unnecessarily negative narratives. It’s brought much clarity.

***

I’ve been wondering what happens when friendships are well and truly over. What is that exact moment when we actually progress from lingering, to moving on. Is it a point, or a spectrum?

Does it happen when the hurt finally ends (also: wtf is that??)? Or is it when you go a certain number of days without reliving the anger and extreme annoyance you do whenever they come to your mind? Or does it happen when you’re able to finally accept it isn’t your story at all? Or does it happen when you do something as mundane as deleting said person from your phone book and do the thing you never imagined possible — block them?

D had a super apt post about releasing such attachment from our beings and I felt a deep resonance with it. Many of those movements have naturally occurred for me in multiple relationships of my life over the last couple of weeks. I fully understand now why some endings are harder than others, even when the ending feels right — there is the matter of reclaiming power. I sometimes feel robbed of that opportunity, and of late I’ve been feeling that weight of wanting to say things I couldn’t say, explain and clarify misunderstandings lifting off of me.

Not just that, I also feel a cutting away and releasing of an older way of being — with people, in relationships, within myself — also falling to the side. There’s something very fulfilling about this, even though it is an emptying out, so to speak.

I feel tantalisingly close to a milestone, like I’m on to something. And it comes with that breathtaking excitement about a new development, a surprise possibility of an altered way to be as a human, a promise of some peace. I’m not quite where I want to be, but the wheels keep turning, I keep moving, I’ll get there sooner than later.

One year ago: And the living is easy
Three years ago: Flying solo

Home away from home kind of feeling

It’s been the strangest, nicest stay in Goa this time around. Unlike every one of my visits over last year, where I had an agenda and work to get done — whether we were on shoot, or I came down to help get the house in order and done up — this time around I had no plans. Nothing to occupy me except my own whim. I also got a lot of my own work done ahead of game this month, so I had plenty of time on my hands.

I imagined this would free me up to be out and about a lot, but on the contrary, I’ve spent a most of my time on my own. At home, and outside. But on my own. I’m once again in a very inward state of mind, and being free of external encumbrance has meant that I have been still a little more, staying more.

Consequently, I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone even when I did step out. I went to the beach alone, I haven’t done that in years. I caught up with C over breakfast and then a couple of hours sitting in the sunshine in the municipal garden. I spent entire days with A, something I have probably unconsciously shied away from these past few visits, I wandered around my neighbourhood, I drove to the airport and back to pick VC up, I spent a weekend with VCs college buddy and family mostly entertaining and being entertained by a 2-year old who was 100% more interesting than any of the adults.

At home, I’ve caught up on reading, I’ve watched way too many terrible Hindi movies (I’m embarrassed to say how many — some days I watched more than one a day) , I’ve cooked most meals at home (we’ve only eaten out twice since I got here!), I’ve managed to get more exercise than I usually do when I come here (though the last week was disappointing in this regard), and still I haven’t felt that restlessness I usually do when I come here. That restlessness to get shit done — to tick things off my wishlist, to go places, to meet people, to garden, to paint chairs, to fix shit or whatever else — has found some stillness.

I’ve just stayed put for a change. I didn’t plan this. It didn’t take deliberation. It has happened mostly because, for a change, I’ve listened to the cues and followed them, I think.

***

Staying always has incredible advantages. When the rumble of life comes to a slow whir, and my breathing normalises, when there is an almost-uncomfortable silence about me, is when some unshakeable realisations happen. These are moments when I least expect them to happen. I’m learning to welcome them, without having my world temporarily fall apart because of them.

There’s been a fair number of those.

Thoughts about Goa. About home.

Thoughts about friendship. Of letting go.

Thoughts about where to next?

Thoughts about change. And growth.

***

Gratitude, today, for the opportunity of this time. For the solitary state of mind Goa inspires in me. For all the forces that have worked at unearthing things within me that have brought me this far, to this milestone.

One year ago: I still remember, when we did not have the answers

As Goa as it gets

I have an internal map of Goa in my mind. And it is riddled with pins dropped in every nook and cranny of the state — places that dot the landscape of the entire memory I have of the place. Not just physical spaces, locations, but places that evoke feelings, feelings that bring back memories, memories that draw out faces of people I knew and know. And because I am sentimental, that map is alive and thriving, getting updates in real time. Even when a memory is sometimes somewhat hazy, it takes very little for it to jog itself back to the fore, brightening up like a bulb turned on suddenly. A mere mention of that fish thali, a faint passing recollection of that one monsoon 100 km cycle ride, an aching memory of the countless Sunday evening G&Ts at my favourite sunset spot, the joy of that urrak smuggled from the neighbourhood restaurant — and just so many other things — all come rushing back to life.

For the entire duration of the two years that I have been away, I haven’t been able to conclusively decide where I belong. If Goa was a home that I have left, or if Bangalore was always the home that I have returned to.

My life in Goa (and every single thing about my experience here) is so key to my sense of self and who I am, even after all that has happened and after two years of living away, that I sometimes feel I’m split in half. Rendered perpetually torn.

The real-time map in my head makes me feel like I know Goa like the back of my hand. And I do. It’s here where the streets are wide open, the coconut trees stretching over to meet, the salty breeze and muggy air that is so quintessentially special to here, that I’ve roamed around so much all by myself. Driving to faraway beaches, scoping out eateries in distant nooks, seeking out stories and interviews with people doing interesting things, visiting friends in places all the way down south, staying alone on assignment in strange and fascinating hotels, and so much more. I took most, almost all, of these trips alone. They’ve contributed to who I am. And the map is a reminder of all that I’ve been and felt in the years gone through.

There are the parts that signal the newness. A decade old bittersweet semi-excited, semi-shitting-bricks euphoria. My first home, the store right outside that refused to deliver milk to my door, the pao-bhatti that I frequented ever so often. There is the drive down Miramar to office to work. My first workplace in Goa that would be the longest I’ve ever been employed. The days of trying to walk back home in an attempt to get some exercise again. Stopping at our favourite bars on the way home and making last minute plans so everybody would congregate. Endless meals of greasy Chinese and too much consumption of alcohol and other narcotics.

There is the spot that marks fond memories of barbecues past. Of jumping into pools with my jeans on. Of gathering 65 bottles of beer when we were done.

There’s remnants of memories from that daily beach running that eventually wrecked my knees. Of finding a gym that made me fall in love with weights. Of discovering kick boxing and finding true love in my trainers there.

There’s the years spent writing and writing and writing. Blogging. Professionally. Reviewing restaurants. Food blogging. Home baking. Cake selling. Full-time freelancing. The whole nine yards.

There were three home changes. Each home giving me a set of special things to love. Th smallness of the first one matched perfectly with our cluelessness. The open green field view in the second. And priceless neighbours and a promise of the hidden recluse in me in the third.

There was the brush with learning to salsa, jive and bachata. There were innumerable different groups of acquaintances and some friends. Plenty more people I met and knew through work. And the inevitable clashing of all circles and the world closing in.

There was angst about the ex workplace. There was angst about knowing too many people. There was angst about running out of work. There was angst about inadequate internet speeds. There was angst about having to work too hard as a writer reporting in Goa. There was angst about being the lonely isolated writer in my den.

There were the silent noise parties in Palolem, the projector parties every monsoon, the rooftop movie marathons, the holidays bhaang parties and the office Diwali parties. There were the Friday morning visits to Mapusa market, the Sunday morning fish market jaunts, chasing the sunrise at Divar, cycling to save my life all over Goa.

There was so much. Each phase, each year, each stage a page in my Goan chronicles. And in so many ways I feel I’ve lived in so many different Goas. The map in my mind, is very real. It’s as Goa as it gets for me.

***

Today, I had a quintessentially Goa day. A thali for lunch with A, some aimless wandering in our old haunts, window-shopping for export rejects and fighting a nap because we had too much to talk about. An unexpectedly extended evening there also meant another round at the market. I always feel crippled by nostalgia there, seeing the fisherwomen with their baskets laden with fish lined along the streets. So wistfully I stepped towards one of them and pulled out my phone to snap a picture fully expecting her to smile. Except she rolled up the newspaper she was reading and swatted me on my shin, startling me completely. I nearly dropped my phone in shock and had to make a run for it.

Serves me right for making like an annoying tourist.

Even as I was startled, it was such an endearingly hostile move. It made me grin wide. That’s just such a Goa thing to happen! I thought. And it might have been the highlight of my very Goa day, if I hadn’t wound up at the carnival square where the red and white dance for the year was about to begin. It’s carnival week here in Goa and I didn’t anticipate I’d head to the thick of the action, eat beef croquettes, fish cutlets and drink Urak out of a Thailand-style bucket, all while listening to Maria Pitache.

Two urraks down, laced with slit green chillies, lots of lime and a good dash of salt, and a grilled beef wrap in me, I think this entire day, today, is as Goa as it gets.

That map just stretched itself a little bit more today, and wrapped itself around me.

One year ago: Hit the road, Jack 
Two years ago: Kitchen soup for the homesick soul
Three years ago: Why Facebook just feels like a lot of noise

Like coming home

It’s so nice to wake up before my alarm actually goes off and then will myself to stay in bed until the sun has come up enough for it to be light out.

I took myself for an hour-long walk/run around the island this morning. I already feel like it was the best thing I’ve done today. No map, no directions, no familiarity. Just out and about.

I am constantly overwhelmed by the beauty of divine timing and the ways in which everything happens in its own time. I have been feeling so very prepared for this workshop in a way that I know I wasn’t last year. This feels right. This feels like the time has come.

Been thinking a lot about my connection with Goa and how by unknown circumstances and by design, I find myself experiencing some of the really meaningful inflections in my life here. It feels like an old connection but a fresh one too.

***

P. L. A. Y.

F. E. E. L.

B. R. E. A. T. H. E.

One year ago: I hope you’re not lonely without me

Like seeing sunlight

I am so resourced.

I am stronger in ways I didn’t know.

***

S. T. A. Y.

H. E. A. L.

B. R. E. A. T. H. E.

One year ago: Stop this train, I want to get off and go home again

Born again, all grown up

I’ve been feeling overwhelmingly content. Like there’s just so much of this good life, I can’t get enough of it, I’m too small to take it all in, it’s abundance spilling over from all around me.

Everything is a bit superlative right now. All the words are excessive and extra. And even then the words to explain how new this all feels aren’t enough.

I feel young, tender, and wide open like a child. I also feel very confident, whole and empowered like an adult. All kinds of grown up.

I feel whole, like stepping into a new door with new agency. New energy.

This is new. This is mine. And I don’t have to fight for it anymore.

So much gratitude for where I am today. For how for the first time in probably my entire life I feel a sense of balance. Of everything being right just as it is. No unquenched yearning, no burning desire, no sense of longing or incompleteness for anything.

I have never known this before and I feel such immense gratitude for having arrived here.

One year ago: We’ve got to hold on to what we’ve got

To heal

There is no wisdom in a clenched up heart.
No solace or comfort, even, as I had imagined.

I shut my heart out, and I let my brain lead the way.
Somewhere along the way though, I realised I’ve led myself astray.

I hungered for all the answers,
I unpacked the layers, I dug deep
And I found a heart closed so tight,
it would not keep.

So now, I’ve dropped the weight of the questions.
There is no wisdom in a clenched up heart.
No answers or insights, even.

What a relief it is to let more things go,
to watch, observe and be a part of all that comes to be
As a bystander and a participant alike.

Some things just are
It is what it is
It is. As it is.

There is no wisdom in a clenched up heart.
No “right” meanings, even.

I hungered for all the answers,
To know it all, to process it
To do the deep work of fixing.
Only to realise I am magic, just as I am
Nothing is perfect, but nothing needs fixing.

So now, I’ve dropped the weight of the questions.
Because there is no wisdom in a clenched up heart.

And so, I’ve watched how, once closed like a bud
it now has the space to unfurl,
With gusts and bursts sometimes,
Sometimes, nudged on by a sweet breeze
Sometimes, encouraged by gossamer morning light.

Inside, I’ve found a soul of laughter
Held by bones thick with joy
Glued together with layer upon layer of memories.

I peek within, now and again
And suddenly, I am not afraid.

There is space to move
To grow, to breathe, to revel in the dark spaces
As much as to stretch in the sunshine

And every time that I stretch,
My soul expands a little
My bones crack, my skin is supple
My body, it is accommodating
Like a glove that longs to be used.

There is no wisdom in a clenched up heart
It was born to unfurl, to stretch, to grow,
To know that at the heart of it,
this is me.
To go through it all.
To hurt, to crack,
to be stabbed, to melt, and to heal.

Time and time again, to heal.

One years ago: Make me somewhere I can call a home

Renewal

It’s that time of year. Overnight, the streets are carpeted with leaves that were shed literally between one day and the next.

This morning as I began my run, I noticed the path ahead was strewn heavy in a thick layer of golden shedding. If this isn’t one giant metaphor for letting go and ushering in the new, I don’t know what is.

Last year too, I remember feeling like this was a time of transition and noticing it in the way the leaves had shed all around.

I’ve been feeling that same sense of a lot changing and moving ahead even as a calm core seems to be solidifying within me. It’s hard to explain how the two exist simultaneously. And yet it’s what it is, seemingly silent and calm, but growing within.

There’s been a very vivid sense of shedding skin, coming into my own again. Almost like a new birth and a new beginning. Perhaps this, much like a lot of things in nature — the full moon, the timely rain, the necessary autumns — are transitions that happen in their time. We are in sync. We just don’t notice it as much.

Today I felt a resonance with the shed leaves. There is a brimming newness, the fragrance of promise and best of all, the newest feeling of them all — an ease with a natural witnessing or this passage. As it comes, so it must leave too. I’m in agreement with these cycles.

One year ago: I must be the luckiest alive
Three years ago: Beach bum

Safe and sound

Life is suddenly very quiet. Things have quietened down. Within as much as around me. There is an expansiveness about this quiet. It stretches for miles around me, it slows down time, it fills me up and makes me feel safe.

This quiet has a very different quality from peace. And I feel it because much of the inner quiet is seeping into my outer world too, and I can sense how different it is from just being calm or feeling peaceful. It’s in the overwhelming safety in being a small speck in the wide wide-openness of it.

This feels different. And now that it’s here, I feel a sense of old, old familiarity and resonance. Like it is something I had unknowingly lost, and that I have been waiting for, for so long now. And there is the heart-crushing gratitude for it too.

This quiet. This sense of containment. And of steadiness.

One year ago: The heartache lives on inside
Two years ago: Commitment issues
Three years ago: Begin again

Stoking the friendship fire

Just marvelling at what a quiet, content, contained week I’ve had. Even as I had some difficulties with feelings about people, letting go and an overwhelming sense of loneliness again that came bubbling up, it’s been such a good week, now that I can pull back and look at it with some perspective.

I’m constantly amused, amazed and filled with humility about how much connection (something that I have been harping on and on about) has actually started finding its way to me. It’s coming in ways and means outside of what I am used to, and not always strictly through channels that I want it in. So I often miss it, but my God when I open my eyes and start noticing it, it fills me up in such an amazing way.

So it’s oddly nice to be ending this week feeling content, with this realisation, because I started the week feeling rather quiet and alone (the two seem to go hand in hand sometimes, no?)

My ideas of friendship, of empathy and of what I expect and want from people in my life is being tested literally every single day, of late. It’s like life forcing me to challenge what I have believed so far, and as always that process brings up so much sadness because it means I have to finally face up to many hurts that have been staring me in the face, and that I have avoided. It means I have to re-evaluate where I stand with the people who have caused me said hurt. And sometimes it means I have to just let go. Either of the feeling, or of the person. Sometimes, both. And that is never easy, even when I am fully aware it’s the best outcome possible.

When D and I spoke early this week, I realised how much I lean on her for support, even without really articulating it or even asking for it. Even with everything she has going on, she is somehow there for me. So many times the being there, isn’t literal. It’s a feeling. It’s an unspoken connection. A trust, a space I know I have. And I have been using it unconsciously, in more ways than one.

I said something similar to N too. We may not speak every single day, I know how much she is also processing at the moment and how much time and space that needs. Yet, I know she reads my blog and that is our way to connect right now. Because every now and then, she sends me a message with an insight — either a similar realisation she’s had, a common experience, something to read or a picture — that I feel an instant resonance with, or that will challenge me and give me a lot to think about. We don’t have to go into details about what we’re going through, but in the exchange of a few messages and conversation around it, I feel a sense of togetherness. That she is there for me. Miles away, but connected.

VC and I have been having unusually (for us) long conversations too. Time and time again, my relationship with him is testimony to the old adage about how we can go roaming the world looking for what is sometimes right under our noses. I have always cherished the connection I have with VC, but I feel like these days I cherish what it is slowly growing into, and I wait with eagerness to see where it will go to next.

And then there is S, who had a massive world of woes of her own to deal with. It was an entire shit-fest of massive proportions that made everything that I was dealing with pale in comparison. But with her, I have the capacity to bring even that little trouble up front, and know that it will be heard. In between stressful exchanges about unpaid fees and the anxiety in the pit of her stomach, I found the capacity to share my seemingly trivial worry, and she put her own worry aside for a minute to hear me out and be there for me. I latched on to it, shamelessly, as I realise is the liberty one can and should take with a precious few friends who will have it. We spent an entire day together, just staying in, mostly quiet and contemplative, talking about everything that we have had going on in our lives and our minds. Just reconnecting. It was a day I needed so much, I realised once I was back home.

Last week, while I was semi-moping about this hurt and letting go, I had an unexpectedly affirming conversation with a complete stranger. It was entertaining and refreshing in the moment. But in retrospect I realised it was an inflection point for me. My reaction, my behaviour in the instant was such a departure from what I have known to be me. It was a moment of realising something deeply fundamental has changed. My heart has opened in more ways than I am even aware of. And it’s exciting to witness this transformation in me.

Last week I also had a record number of comments and emails from readers of the blog. Affirming and filled with a sense of resonance and connection of its own.

***

There’s so much about connection that I am in the process of redefining. Clearly, this is the time to do it, given how much this deep longing for the presence of people has been coming up for me. Look at what it means and what is changing is essential to ensuring that I receive what is now coming my way, in the best way possible. I know for certain nothing about what is emerging, is coming from the backlog of what once was. This seems to be all new. It has a decidedly fresh energy and is emerging from a space of newness.

Connection isn’t about proximity or affinity, even. It isn’t about likeness, familiarity. Sometimes it isn’t even as much about vulnerability and empathy. Or about deep, intense conversations.

This last week alone, I connected with a stranger who launched straight into chatter about ZNMD, with as much intensity as I had a deep midday conversation with N about how friendship has changed for her. I feel closer and connected to VC and D in Goa, as much as I do to S who lives in my city but so far off that we don’t meet too often. So many of my conversations this past week affirmed the quietness of connection. So often that connection happens in literal silence, in the space where I hear and am being heard. No responses, no overtures of love and understanding, no sympathy needed. Just the space to be present to what is being felt, is enough.

That, precisely that, is what I have been missing and craving for so, so, so, so long. And it is what I have felt show up in a glimmer here and a shimmer there this past week.

These days, these are the moments that give me life.

One year ago: And so it is the shorter story
Three years ago: Time bubble

Digging to find the happy

I cancelled all of today out, and drove for nearly two hours to go spend the day with S at her home. Somewhere along the way, making my way through impossible traffic, I pondered over everything that’s been going through my mind these past few days. I was taken right back to 2015-16, where this part of my life/journey began. Suddenly, I recognised how far I’ve come from where I once was, where I once began. I felt immediately overwhelmed at the realisation of how much time it has been, how long I’ve been at this steadily (it’s longer than the longest job I’ve held down, if you need perspective), how fortunate I’ve been in finding the right sources for help every time that I have sought it, and most of all what a rock solid role VC has played in enabling this for me (and by extension, for us).

I teared up good and proper, thinking of the ride, some key milestones popping up in my mind, feeling so much gratitude for the ability to ask for help. And the unbelievable ways in which help has arrived promptly, every time that I have looked for it.

It’s easy to get caught up in the small, daily niggling issues. I often do. The seemingly minor annoyances growing into monsters of gargantuan proportions in my head, with ghastly effects ranging from self-flagellation to self-doubt and unnecessary closing-up. In all of this, I lose sight of the big picture. Often. But this morning, in that haze of tears and gratitude, I was able to really pull all the way back and see what a phenomenal time these past 3-4 years have been, and what they’ve done for me.

Nearly 90% of the person I am today, isn’t the person I was then. So much has changed. And yet, at the heart of it, so much endures. But what hit me the most, and hardest, was that my life and my being today, is a near-perfect version of the one that was but a desire and a dream in 2015. When I was beginning to hit rock bottom, when I was looking to slow down and didn’t know how, when I was flailing and in need of help and wondering where to look, when I wanted answers but all I had were questions.

This current reality, this life I am living, in this present moment — with regular therapy and growth and mindfulness front and centre of it, with a select few friends to hold my hands through it, with the way too many feelings, with the freedom and flexibility from work, with VC chasing the Goa life he wanted to test anew, with me in Bangalore, with the space, with the distance, with the brave and testing conversations we have, with an appetite for travel and new experiences and the means to make most of them happen, with the lightness and agility to go, to iron out every smallest detail of our lives the way we want to shape it, with a newfound ease with waiting and watching, with a new degree of peace and settlement within towards both my families, with a new sense of belonging that has nothing to do with where I live, with new roots and a new set of wings, with a capacity for joy — this is the life that felt so far away and out of my reach in 2015.

And yet, here I am. Living it.

It’s easy to get caught up in the small, daily niggling issues. To get so hyper-focused on feeling the lack, that I miss the true impact of time, generosity and flow that my life has actually seen. When I slide down that tunnel of overthinking, I lose sight of this larger picture. The story of how I got here to this place in my life.

I also lose touch with the inherent sense of gratitude and overwhelming gratefulness that I feel constantly. So today, I’m bringing that back and inviting it in and shining a spotlight on it again.

One year ago: The future is no place to place your better days

Mini thoughts make incremental change

New thoughts on vulnerability.

It involves taking a risk and pushing out my comfort zone.

But choosing the right people makes landing this risk easier.

Even so, sometimes it will not be met in a fashion I may expect or even deeply desire.

And there is always at least a 50% chance I will feel let down and meet disappointment from time to time.

But that is not enough reason to give up and close the lid on what has now been opened.

Because vulnerability is the only way to forge real connection.

One year ago: January
Three years ago: On creative happiness