Missing

Do you sometimes miss (parts of) versions of yourself from long ago? Even when you’re happy and content with how far youveoved and grown?

Like missing fragments of a time that came before. A view from a phase, a kind of day from a season long gone? A street you once roamed? A city or home you once lived?

Specific days and moments? Events you would do over a hundred times again if you could?

Goa brings this longing back in me like little else has in recent times. I sometimes miss the carefree girl that I was in 2010 who threw all caution to wind and wrapped up my city life to move here. No prior experience living alone or outside of Bamgalore. Not a soul known in Goa. And how wide eyed and curious I was to figure it out.

I miss how easy and spontaneous life was. How fully and hungrily I went at that new life and all it threw at me — the joys and pains alike.

***

Some parts of September and all of October have been brutal. I use the word very consciously because I’ve been slowly but surely reaching the end of my tether with the general ups and downs of thispandemic year. I’ve been feeling worn out from the constant grief cycles and feeling all the feels. My personal work has taken me to the darkest depths that I have stayed away from. Cumulatively, it has been hard. It has been a lot. And yet I have had my periods of ebbs and flows and mostly I have gotten by. But lately I have been feeling like I can’t do this much longer.

The uncertainty has made me feel frail. The despair and darkness has made me afraid. I feel deep loneliness even just thinking about a life “after” because in my head every single person in my life from before has moved on. And there has been crippling aloneness, inwardness and wordlessness.

VC and I have had consistent life challenges throughout this year, but along came the last six odd weeks, throwing a jackpot of woes at us. Too fast and too thick for us to even keep up with. I’ve spent way too many days during this time feeling completely untethered and unmoored. Bringing to question many of the crucial changes that I have embraced lately. I’ve felt tested and stretched in many ways and much of it has been unpleasant to experience.

It was hard to kick back and enjoy the first few days of being in Goa too. Much as I wanted the break, getting here to terribly stormy weather while a whole other storm was raging in my was not fun.

But then that familiar longing came along. Thinking back to times past was good perspective on where I am and how far I’ve come.

There’s other fragments like that that stick out from all the years done and dusted. And I enjoy the experience of looking back with this semi-yearning-semi-content space where I’m not missing much else.

I realise the upgrades to my inner systems have worked out well. The ways in which I’ve strengthened my framework has stood the test of time and the growth plan I opted for has kept me moving ahead, through many a challenge. perhaps not exactly quite as I’d imagined, but definitely exactly as I have needed.

This is the bittersweet way of life I suppose. This constant up and down movement. A test of grace and delicacy, demanding softness even when facing the the most jagged edges.

***

The longing for parts of older versions of me from my life in Goa definitely feels regret for not going to the beach more often. This time, I’ll do better. And I’ll do justice to living closer to the beach now.

Going within

I’m in what seems to be an enduring phase of inwardness, aloneness, quiet and solitude. I want to say it’s another phase, yet again. But the truth, as I have been coming to terms with it, is that this is what I have been for the greater part of this year. I almost feel unable to be with people at this point. I find myself retreating even when I feel a covert urge not to.

One year ago: Surprises
Two years ago: I been moving calm, don’t start no trouble with me

Out and about

It’s been a whole year since we left Goa last. This wasn’t the plan. The plan was to visit every couple of months. But then 2020 happened. And here we are a whole year later.

Strangely though, it doesn’t feel like such a long gap. Probably because it was pouring down even then, like it is now.

We came with plans for this trip. A lot of random odd and ends of pending paperwork to be closed, the house to be sorted one way or another, a visit (or three) to the beach and meeting our friends and THEIR DOGS.

But the rain has other plans, and we’re being forced to go with the flow. Much like it happened last year at around the same time, when we came with an agenda and ended up staying for nearly a month just waiting for things to clear up so we could get to work. Last yer we were stuck indoors because of the crazy rain. This year it’s the crazy rain layered over a pandemic. But I’m at that point where I feel my paranoia and my willpower both fading. I realise it’s a gamble, but life needs to now open up and get going. I’m also fully fed up of this limbo, it is making me all kinds of disoriented.

So today, I treated myself to my first solo lunch out at one of my favourite restaurants. Because it was the only place that met the two criteria I was looking for: safe and open. It was good to take my mask off and have that un-rushed feni cocktail, roast pork, and they even let me use their wifi on a day like today when my cell network went bust at 8 am, and they played the Buena Vista Social Club the whole time that I sat there.

I realised how much I have missed having time to myself. All to myself. All alone. Solo. As much as it has been lovely to be stuck at home with company I love, there is something about solo time, unencumbered and easy, when I’m not answerable to anyone, that I have missed. Without realising how much.

My fish thali joint will probably be out of bounds this time around, but I do hope we at least make it to the beach. For a sunset or two, if not a swim. And I hope that our list of to-dos gets knocked off.

This trip feels different from trips before. For one, neither of us lives here anymore. But so much has also changed in Goa in the year gone by. Some good, some not so good. I feel a strange sense of homeliness, but a whole lot of distance and like I’m a visitor again. I haven’t felt this since 2009, when I was last here on holiday.

One year ago: Milestone
Two years ago: All along this love was right in front of me

Time out, in service of moving ahead

The end of something usually means it’s the beginning of something else. No? In this year of massive endings, death, loss and grief, I’ve held on to this simple thought just to get through the days. Days that were mostly filed under “I-don’t-have-a-fucking-clue-what’s-going-on-anywhere-anymore.”

Like much of the world, I have spent a greater part of this year in a state of Not Knowing. A stage that has felt decidedly like an incubation for What Comes Next. Nothing like the stage before, yet not fully inhabiting what lies ahead.

Like an em dash between all that I have experienced and learned and everything that is yet to bloom from it.

It’s been a stage that’s asked of silence, solitude and stillness of me. Retreat, reflection and rejuvenation, for a slow marination of a new sense of my world, my place in it and a desire to bring forth new expressions of my voice.

It also felt like a culmination of the last few years that I have steadily, relentlessly shifted the focus from Doing to Being, in an effort to move my axis, find a new centre of gravity to anchor my life.

This transition now though, has gently slipped an invitation to bring in a some Doing again. A crystallisation of the work I feel drawn to. More aligned to a new sense of myself.

I’m taking a short break from Monday Tarot Messages on here and on Instagram, to rest and to reflect, in an unencumbered way. But mainly to soak, in some of the ideas for Doing that have been brewing. The need for integrity to myself is high and I feel a great desire to bake in it.

I realise in retrospect that accidentally skipping the reading last week was not entirely an accident. It came from a need that I have felt grow during this week.

It seems that this topsy turvy time is potent or personal work. Providing tarot and family constellations sessions has not only kept me grounded and going, but also been the guiding light through it all.

I plan to resume weekly readings in November. I will continue to consult and take private sessions though. If you’re curious about or would like to book a tarot or family constellations session, please reach out to me.

One year ago: Mornings
Two years ago: They’ll be making sure you stay amused
Three years ago: Things change
Four years ago: When the going is crazy

Screen-less

Between the wordlessness, the bliss, being just too damn happily busy doing things I love and continued, conscious efforts to put my phone down more resulted in a 54% drop in my overall screen-time.

It took me 5 days of watching The Social Dilemma in jagged bursts, because I have been sleeping so well and feeling so easily rested that I kept falling asleep, before I could finish watching it. I have so much TV (OTT and youtube) to catch up on because of how little I ave used my laptop. I intended to take my Kindle along, but I conveniently (serendipitously?) forgot. And the phone lay mostly forgotten, except when I wanted to take a picture, and some Instagram stories, when network allowed it.

Since limiting Instagram use to less than 30 minutes per day, and choosing not to look at my phone for at least the first hour after waking up, there’s been a steady drop in screen-time. But this past week took it to levels I didn’t expect.

This wasn’t planned but I ended up using the phone for under 1.5 hours per day for the last ten days.

I’d be lying if I said this had no effect on my general contented, together, state of mind. It all ties in, it comes together, it adds up.

One year ago: Wander
Four years ago: For every down, there is an up

Returning

My sleep cycle is totally and fully back to normal. I have hesitated to accept this sooner, because I was so sure it was just another blip in this up and down year, and that it wasn’t going to last. But it has been about 7 weeks now, of having a more or less consistent (but loose) daily routine that involves sleeping at a decent time (read: pre-midnight haha) and waking up at a time that allows me to get in a morning workout of some kind, and still have time to tend to chores and have a full day, if I so choose to.

Some return to “normal” since everything went upside down in March. And it feels good. For many of us, daily habits and routines are essential keepers of rhythm for life. Making sure there are enough nourishing elements to every day has always been important for me, but when I began to approach this with a consciousness that was previously missing, I have gone full circle from being a slave to routine, to breaking it completely, going very very off-track, and coming back to some normalcy, but with balance.

You know habits have changed in a deeper way when they remain, without much effort, even when you’re on a break.

One year ago: True
Two years ago: You’re still young and that’s your fault
Four years ago: Moarrrr books

Domestic

Kitchen things, home things, domestic things have consumed me a lot lately. I think back to a time in life where I loved it, but also felt like indulging it was somehow robbing me of time I could invest elsewhere. And I think about how that was the right stance for that time in my life. It’s how I stretched myself to the limits I could, exploring a career in freelance feature writing. I went at it like it was a full-time job and it was immensely satisfying. I can’t imagine that would have been possible if I were busy with changing sheets, keeping tabs on stocking up the fridge and cooking every meal.

But this is a different phase and time in my life. And it’s a different time in the world. Things have slowed down so much, within and around me, that I have the luxury to choose alternate ideas for productivity and ambition. At the moment my daily productivity only goes as far as doing two solid tasks in a day. Whether I take all day to do them, or finish them in a couple of hours, it’s all I find I am able to do. And I use the rest of what ever is left of the day to do as I please. Which in the last five months has become finding a steady rhythm in the tedium of keeping a home.

All the mundane things I curled my nose at in the before life, I have now found to be anchors. Like doing the dishes. Like taking down and washing curtains. Like dusting the fans. Like cleaning out the fridge. Like the endless loop of laundry — doing it, drying it, folding it, putting it away — lather, rinse, repeat.

The weightage between activities of work and activities of the rest of life now hang in equal balance. The repetitive nature of homely rituals, the beats of a domestic life, the monotony of that routine lends a backdrop of comfort and predictability to my life. Work just falls into it, in the gaps, around and in between the domestic stuff. There is an all new value and respect for this aspect of work. I understand so much more keenly why it is called unpaid labour, and probably how much more I ought to pay for it when I decide to re-hire domestic help again.

Prepping and planning for meals. Updating that constant grocery list in my kitchen. Tackling one forgotten corner of the home every week. Washing our face masks. Cleaning out the snack cupboard. All the cooking. Fluffing pillows and folding blankets every day. Bringing out fresh towels. Washing the dustbin every other day. Pruning the plants. Taking the indoor ones out for some sun every week. Sneaking in a special, indulgent meal every now and then. Making that daily 4 pm cup of chai (that I have absofuckinglutely perfected to my taste, thanks to the lockdown) and savouring it all alone in my chair in the living room. Watching the plants change and grow. Finding just bloomed flowers in the morning.

It’s the little things that stack up. And I see that in my changing relationship with domesticity, I now have built a home. A home that holds and supports me. Not just our literal home, but a sense of home and having somewhere to flop, collapse, be held, be supported. The routine and the rhythm of the tasks beat like a steady din of drumbeat that I have given-in to, lending shore to my need to just be, to unravel, to laze, to revel, to rest, to rejoice, to rediscover and to rejuvenate.

I could argue that in these strange times that I often struggle to make sense of, it is being at home, and in being steeped in domesticity that I’ve found an intensely personal quality to my every day life that was a bit diluted before.

Life feels lived-in this way.

Four years ago: Inside-outside

Rudimentary thoughts on Instagram

In the silent moments of the last few days, I’ve been introspecting about what I really get from social media. After having been completely off all forms, and a pretty strictly enforced daily 12-hour Whatsapp downtime for three years, this year I returned to Instagram. Purely for the sake of work. And it has been a useful and good way to step out into the world again. However, covid times, the lockdown and consequent see-sawing of my mental health has inevitably landed me back to the place where I spend an inordinate amount of time on Instagram. It is still within my daily 1 hour limit, but the fact that it feels like a lot and definitely adds a lot of unnecessary chatter in my mind has made me want to step back and question it a little bit

Some changes are necessary and in order, I think.

And once again it has brought me back to the realisation I had in 2017. That what social media inherently demands and draws us into — certain primal needs and patterns of wanting to be seen, heard and patted on the back — is totally at loggerheads with what I am trying to attain in my personal, emotional, inner exploration.

On the one hand, my therapeutic journey takes me closer and closer to placed where I have to examine the ways in which I curate my identity, how I make facets of myself palatable for the world, and what that costs me. Then, I have to work bloody hard to confront and undo them. And on the other hand, on a daily basis, my existence on Instagram needs me to “build an image”. A certain kind of image, whether unidimensional or not, serves to make myself palatable.

The two states are diametric and opposing ends of the spectrum. One requires me to make a habit of taking myself less seriously, be open to seeing the ways in which I can mess up, open up to the dark sides within me, the problematic shitty parts and get intimate with them, even. And the other requires me to keep those very sides hidden, projecting an image of being a sorted, mature, together person.

These days, as I contend more and more with the many ways in which I can be problematic, with notions and opinions that I sometimes find unbearable myself, I feel more ready to allow a softening to accept how much I am yet to understand, as well as the fact that none of my opinions should probably ever really be cast in stone. Because that is a fine way to kill potential for change and growth.

My politics have changed drastically over the years that I spent off social media. And the biggest gift of those years was that I didn’t feel the need to cling to any one side on anything. Being offline really taught me that I didn’t need to immediately (or ever) have a strong opinion on anything. That there were many things I didn’t even have to lend my voice to. That there were many things I was better off learning quietly, observing, reading, imbibing and not necessarily offering up proof of that anywhere.

I discovered the beautiful middle ground that gave me so much room for exploration and constant growth and WIP. Ascension. Of understanding that there is no singular truth, that everybody has their version of it and everyone has their right to believe wholeheartedly in it.

There is simply no space for this on Instagram, the way I see it. I find it impossible to inhabit that middle ground I feel within myself, online. Or at least I have not found a way to. I find most things I see on Instagram are either too shrill, fixed, polarised, and just way too sure, or I find a rather dilute idea of vulnerability that is in itself a performance towards building an image.

I am seeking a soft space where I can combine the self-assured comfort of vulnerability I feel within myself, but also find in myself sufficient self-consciousness to also put that out into the world, even as a part of the work I do.

Many things about the platform have changed since I quit in 2017, but fundamentally many things remain. I am honestly confused about the place it has in my life. I knew this day would come soon. And here I am.

I know what I enjoy about it, and I see what purpose it serves. But I also sense that I need to course correct my usage to suit my current headspace. I will continue to share weekly readings, words of inspiration and direction, and try and abstain from the rest that was spilling over into my stories. This is the draw. The lure of having to constantly show (not internalise, not imbibe, not quietly do the work) of how much I know, where I stand on issues, and how I feel about everything at large.

In my inner world I have been working hard to get closer and closer to knowing myself in a quiet, unshakeable way. A process that comes with nearly zero adulation. I was getting very comfortable with that necessary work and doing it anyway. And in the last few months of rampant Instagram use during the lockdown, I have felt it slowly slip away.

I find that in offering little bits of my soul, in this way, up for strangers to make assessments of me, I get slowly drawn into the cycle of forgetting who you am and waiting to hear and feel what others think I am.

I want to slowly move back to a place where I know and love myself just the way I am, in whatever condition I am. Falling apart or put together. I want to focus once again on what’s happening within, than the noise without. I want to return to honesty in the way that I was, before I got lured into this dance of making an image to make the numbers count.

Many more thoughts about Instagram, the Internet, and our personal stories are thrashing around in my head and I will unpack them slowly over the coming days.

Two years ago: Stay and stay a while
Four years ago: Into the blue

More growth thoughts

It should come as no surprise that I have revelled in growing things, with quite the vengeance since the start of the year. A pre-existing interest peaked and kind of ballooned into not just an obsession but a necessity and a source of solace and grounding during the last five months.

It’s been kind of poetic growing all kinds of different plants. The process of tending to them and watching them respond, understanding what works for one plant and doesn’t for another and tweaking things a little here and there as I go has been fun, but also enriching.

Sure it’s given me something satisfying to dig my hands into during this dreary time, but it has also been enriching. Making room for error, watching natural lifecycles and destruction, and learning as much about the plants as myself somehow, along the way.

Something about allowing for age and change to unfurl in just its own time, noticing the delicacy in how life blooms forth as gracefully but with determination, and slowly, unabashedly as it fades out has moved me several times over.

I am touched every day by something or the other that I see in my little balcony garden(s) that have grown significantly thanks to Covid. (Oh the irony.)

What I see in my plants, many times I also see in myself. And observing life in this way has helped me make space for imperfection, taking time, and enjoying moments of bounty when they come. Knowing full well that no magic worth its salt will last forever. Is meant to be fleeting, yet devoured when it presents itself.

My garden has taught me that growth involves putting in the work and just patiently waiting and watching for the most part, having little to no idea how it is going to flourish and show up.

In my plants I’ve noticed beauty in erratic edges and non-uniform results. It has shown me how much growth is about making space for opportunities and outcomes of change and stretch in whatever way they may emerge.

Growth work is a dance between understanding and acting with intention, upon what is, and surrendering to what absolutely isn’t in your control. No two seasons are the same, predictability is for machines and growth takes its own sweet time.

And then there is the role of death. Without the act of dismantling, crumbling, decaying, pruning, peeling, culling away and letting go, without the presence of the old leaving, growth is not encouraged to continue. That is the cycle. The energy of this turning gyre. The way in life life itself endures.

One year ago: I can laugh
Two years ago: They paved paradise

Spiritually productive COVID times – contd.

[Yeah — “contd.” Please bear with the word vomit, if you’re back here to see that I still have more words to share about this dichotomy I’ve been living with.]

When the energy spikes, and the good days strike, I get thinking about the hows of continuing in the world, the changes I want the most. But if I’m being honest, it’s nearly impossible to do this with any degree of specificity. Practically speaking, everything is so hazy. Because I’m not just talking about habits and lifestyle and actionable things. I am thinking a lot about how to build empathy, the place of love and hate, how to build bridges with people I know are in camps at the diametric opposite end from where I am. These are very nebulous ideas, complex issues and I’m in very nascent stages so this is very much a WIP. I have such a long, long, long way to go.

Mostly thoughts exists in a cloud, with clarity that sparkles just for brief moments now and then, in my head. It feels enough for now, because it gives me a lot to chew on and work off of.

Again, this is not something I’d have stumbled on if I didn’t have the opportunity to dig deep into this fertile time. I couldn’t have anticipated this turn in my spiritual growth, if it hasn’t been for this strange season of our times.

I’m hopelessly aware that the opportunity to have this time be spiritually “useful” is an incredible luxury and a privilege. It has taken me a great deal of effort to move from just feeling guilty about it to actually confronting that guilt and allowing for the pain that came when I accepted it.

This is the truth. I am immensely privileged. And not accepting it doesn’t make it any less true. Neither does staying paralysed with guilt. This shift came about when I began to feel frustrated with the passivity that came along with my guilt. It just didn’t feel useful to stay stuck. And merely acknowledging the guilt, speaking or it, expressing it just stopped being enough.

I realised that not moving forward was beginning to feel inauthentic. I feel grief stricken still, especially in context to the shit fest that is COVID-hit India is at the moment, and continues to be with no end in sight. But acknowledging the fact that my personal, inner experience has not always uniformly mirrored the miseries of the outside world has been medicinal.

It was soothing to give myself permission to stay close to my inner experience, which has been divine and enriching a lot of the time. Acknowledging that truth, of what has been peaceful and beautiful for me, doesn’t negate the horrors of the outside (and vice versa), or how I feel about it. Again, the two states can absolutely coexist. I had to liberate myself from the belief that feeling enriched, blissful and like honey on toast even while worrying intensely about the world being ripped to shreds doesn’t make me a fraud.

Displaying solidarity by staying in a state of guilt-induced misery all the time, not acknowledging the full delight of what has been simultaneously happening with me, just doesn’t cut it for me anymore.

I’ll also be totally honest and say I have often stumbled on the odd social media handle and seen what I judgementally call ” people in a bubble” where they’re continuing their influencer life to the hilt, dressing up, posing, doing full photo shoots with jewellery and make up in their homes, or constantly living in #TBT mode, with nary a mention of the mildest undulation in their mental states, let alone the havoc the pandemic is causing in the world. I have had conversations with friends who don’t seem as perturbed by things as me and some of my other friends are, and this too has disturbed me.

But this has also made me acutely aware that I hold a judgement around this. That somehow, I’m also holding myself up to the belief that there is only a limited number of “right” kind of reactions to have. And in the process, I am shrinking away from the opportunity I was being offered, to deepen and really sink into the urgency of what I feel called to.

When I confronted my guilt, and really questioned if it was useful or helping me move towards this after world that I am being called to, a future I am dreaming of, it didn’t take long to realise that it isn’t.

What good has really come from the guilt-struck misery? From shrinking away and not allowing myself the joyful imaginations of a world after, that I am most definitely feeling brewing within me? Why do I believe that I can cancel my privilege and guilt by playing at always being a deep, brooding, feeling person, deeply engaged with the problems of the world? And is it possible to be that person, without the embargo on joyful dreaming, expansion, deepening happiness that has only come from leaning in to my (spiritual) privilege?

I had to swallow in huge gulps the fact that I have a judgement about privilege. And the thing about judgement is, what you judge in the world outside, you almost always judge within yourself.

And so I began to think of  what could be possible alternatives to feeling guilty? What are my options? Because the thing is, this invitation to question How To Continue begins with the individual. Systems and structures only change when individuals do. And true, constructive change that can have an impact on shaping a future reality can only happen when you account for the bright positives, as much as the murky dark sides of ourselves.

Even as I rage and froth at inequity pervading the structures that bind and govern us, I’ve become so frustrated with my own passivity and futility in expecting change to come from outside of me. All this, while knowing that the curve to moving from passivity to activity is long. Longer than anyone will have you believe. And how the state of action takes shape is different for everyone. We can’t all be one kind of SJW. But we can do what we can by staying true to ourselves, and leaning in, close to the values we feel deeply about.

I feel keenly that the only way to explore or find possibilities for a better different way of continuing in the world, is to start with exploring our inner worlds. As individuals. Our own dark sides.

It’s the only way to awaken into a life that is lived openly and fully. To cultivate curiosity and a questioning temper. To master intentionality and find alignment with our values. So when we meet suffering and pain, fear and grief, we also have the capacity to dig in and fill ourselves of surrender, love, wisdom and balance that we have cultivated within.

This feels urgent. This feels specific. Far more than practical answers to how life will move on post Covid. I have seen how bringing intentionality into my life has changed the way I meet suffering or challenges. It has made me deeply aware of the resources within me. And it’s only thanks to the last few months that this process has been brought alive.

Having nowhere to go, no way to escape myself via a busy life, I’ve had to confront my fault lines, as much as discover my very own wisdom, love, instinct and capacity to heal.

So when I imagine a world after Covid, I find it hard to think of a world that will slip back to “normal”. I hope that many things will be changed forever. I hope that we live in some fear of what we have caused, and that which is absolutely not in ur control to be overpowered.

I hope we really internalise and remember for a long time to come, that the old way of living simply isn’t good enough. That thinking about furthering only some parts of humanity will come at a huge price. I hope we’ll remember the contemplative grief that many of us felt at the way in which destruction split us open and showed us the dark shadows of our culture that we have kept under wraps.

Which brings me back to where I started. I don’t know if I’d have realised this in such a wholesome way, if it weren’t for the experience of this distraction-free intense period of loss, grieving and simultaneous exponential spiritual growth.

Would I be here without this privilege? No.

It is from meeting pain — not just in the world, but also the pain of seeing the darkness within me — that the creative resources that give shape to ideas and habits of the new world can emerge. The two coexist. I can straddle grief and hope all at once. And I feel new things a-brew because of it.

Edited to add: I write this post in a fit overthe weekend and scheduled it in two parts. But today, I came across this post that articulates so simply and impactfully, one part of what Ive gone around in circles trying to grasp at.

Particularly touched by the use of the word “dream” here because that’s what I’ve been feeling so viscerally. And urgent dreaming up of worlds currently out of reach.

One year ago: Step up
Two years ago: Heavy mottled love

Spiritually productive COVID times

Aside from all that Iw as going through personally last week, it was hard to ignore the news. Last week, as we celebrated the beginnings of a temple and laid the foundations for a future that will be built over what can only be termed carnage and bloody violence, I noticed that when I am feeling tumultuous within, I do turn to the world around for solace. And God forbid, the world is not in a place to give me solace, as it hasn’t been for months now, I spiral into a tunnel of utter despair.

It is not easy getting through the days in that sort of a state, where I want to just leave everything and call it a day. And when you’re absorbing whats happening around you as much as being present to what’s happening within, the suffering and grief swells beyond any manageable proportion. It becomes hard to separate what’s mine and what’s not.

In the midst of this, I feel so unsure about how to approach (not even answer, because I have no answers at this point) discussions about “when this is over and we’ve put this miserable year behind us” or “when things go back to normal.” Hope is faint, fleeting and I have to really dig in to find it. When it shows up, I grab at it and make the most of it. I mark the days by writing about it here in aplomb. I do that knowing full well that it will slip away again. This cyclical nature of feeling hopeful and tapping into hopelessness has been life the last few months.

I feel like I might have written about this before, but apparently I haven’t. It’s weird because I have a distinct memory of quoting this article that puts it in the most apt way that I have found so far.

Everyone wants to know when this will end. That’s not the right question. The right question is: How do we continue?

(And yet, I can’t for the life of me, find the post. Am I losing my mind finally?)

I’ve been consumed with thoughts about how to continue. What parts of my changed life to retain at all costs, what new things I’ve experienced and discovered that I want to grow, what parts of my old life I don’t want to return to, what hidden desires have surfaced during this forced stop/quiet/repose that I want to tend to with curiosity and nurturance, what new worlds I want to step into bravely. And how to do it all with a sense of responsibility for the world beyond me. Because that feels urgent and imperative.

How I want to be a citizen in the world, basically. A small, but big seed that has wedged itself into my heart at some point during this maddening time has well and truly taken root. Moving towards the new how-tos seems not only urgent, but imperative. It’s upon me without much trying.

These thoughts have made me see what a productive time these months have been in this respect. When I push aside the challenges annoyance of being physically restricted, I find that this has been such a valuable few months for me.

Something special, magical happens when we cannot escape ourselves. I have begun to witness myself in ways I have never had to in the the days before. Something about being distraction-free has necessitated and allowed that. I have discovered space to see myself in a way that I didn’t know before. And it has lent a rich, delicious, velvety texture to the vast unexplored expanses of my inner world, beckoning me to explore some more.

Especially after the impossible lows of last week, I find myself thinking about this Covid period and the strange, strange gift of all this alone time, and I have wondered:

  1. If there is one thing I discovered about myself now, that has truly surprised me
  2. About the one thing I already (pre-Covid) knew about myself, but that I took for granted, or didn’t give enough credit to, until this lock-in period

Whichever way I look at it, I see that this time of quiet Since March has irrevocably altered something within me. It has made many suppositions or half-truths about myself that I circled, never fully believing or owning, take root in me. All up in my face, demanding I integrate and value them. Own up to myself, be all that I really am — light and shadow, bright and dark, sweet and dank.

If you’ve been reading this blog and the rambling ways in which I have scaled great heights and dropped to severe lows with equal gusto. I have gone fully, passionately into everything that has come up for me — be it rage or hopelessness, loneliness and extreme sadness, indulgent Sunday brunches and an isolation birthday party, as well as throwing myself into feeding migrants on their way home.

These realisations, this seeing of myself this fully, accepting difficult corners of myself — the judgemental, the cynical, the hopeless, the raging parts — has been slippery, easy-to-dismiss, when life was rushing on. Slowing down has offered the gift of meeting myself in a new way. I’ve seen so many new pointy edges that still need softening, and some already soft edges that need tender holding.

There’s been a fullness to the way in which I have experienced, and enjoyed, myself these past few months. Even through the misery around as well as what it stirred up in me, I’d be lying if I didn’t acknowledge what a spiritually productive time it has been.

It is truly the oddest, strangest admission to be making. It feels like a big deal because so far this admission, of how wonderful I have felt even as I’ve felt atrocious, has only been made in therapy, or to VC.

I have judged myself for having it good, I have worn my privilege like a yolk around my neck, and in that way kept the deliciousness of this experience at arm’s length. Not wanting to own it, for fear that it might make me feel like the kind of snowflake I judge for not having intense feelings about the pandemic and all that it has raked up.

But I had to see this pointlessly judgemental side of myself first I guess. And I feel okay to admit this now. It is what it is.

A new kind of seeing, has birthed a new kind of being.

One year ago: Up and about
Four years ago: Ele day

Home is where the heart is

2020

This cosy little nook of ours has really filled out. Enveloping and dragging us into a comforting hug. I don’t think I’d have made it through lockdown and corona times in a home in which I didn’t feel like I could be myself.

And I don’t mean that lightly or superficially. This is the home I’ll always remember as the space that housed me through these important years. And in the corners and crannies of the home, I see transitions, changes and improvement that shadows and echoes the changes I, and we, have gone through as we lived here.

From living a bare bones, minimal this-much-will-do life, to growing into allowing ourselves indulgences, believing we are worth the spoils of a full, lush, lived-in home that gives expression to who we are as people, has been such a trip.

There is so much life in so many more ways now, in this home, than when we first moved. The plants, the colours, the walls, the refrigerator, the transformation of entire rooms.

It’s home, but is home really ever just a home of walls and windows and doors? I have lived in several homes now. This is my seventh, in fact. This one is special.

And I see why they say it’s where the heart is.

2017

Crazy trip seeing this picture from 2017, taken in week one of moving into this apartment. I posted it and wrote about setting up home (and other things) here.

Three years ago: What coming home feels like: finding new comfort in old places
Four years ago: Wayanad things

That’s how growth is

One reason I love tracking my daily posts back to one year, two years, three years ago and so on and so forth is that sometimes I make little discoveries that only I can revel in. Discoveries that would otherwise just slip away, pass me by. And I like making these discoveries, because in their small, subtleness there is sometimes a colossal shift to be found. I say found, but of course I mean experienced, in a way that only I can.

That’s how growth is. I’m back in the classroom again — the final, final leg of it all and it’s brought to the fore all sorts of bittersweet feelings about endings and new beginnings and just how immense this entire journey of tow years has been for me. Someone put it beautifully in class today:

I may look the same on the outside today, as I did last year, but on the inside I feel completely new.

And that’s how it has been for me.

So when I stumbled on this post from one year ago — frightfully, down to the day — on a day when I was going through all those same emotions and conundrums, albeit a whole year later, I got to witness exactly HOW MUCH I HAVE CHANGED. Sorry, I didn’t mean to shout there, it’s just THAT potent.

To see how I held being in that same space of tension differently, and how I managed myself, is heartwarming. The clarity and clear sense of personhood I feel as a result, liberating.

One year ago: Move
Two years ago: Day 212: I eat the city as I leave the scene

On the cost of domesticity

Pulling out this post I wrote in mid-April, but never finished. It is so interesting for me to see that even between April and now, how much has changed in not just my thoughts around productivity, but the way my life is moving in an alternative way to make space for sloth, rest, repose and rejuvenation.

This is just a disclaimer to say the content still holds, but the feelings are not current.

***

One of the scripts in my family is high worth attached to high productivity, efficiency, being a woman who is a go-getter and always on top of everything. It’s a great motivator, but also a subtle killer in the long run, I’ve discovered. Productivity across the board — from applauding efficient women who run their homes and hold down jobs, hailing devoted mothers who put their families needs above their own as “good”, to admiring outward focused woman committed to “serving” others (even at great personal cost) who have the ability to just give give and give, and take on some more, even when their plates are full — is greatly admired, coveted and covertly sold as the benchmark to aspire for. These are traits that are held up as hallmarks of being good women worth emulating, worth noticing, worth embracing. So obviously, women committed to themselves aren’t looked upon very kindly.

The last few weeks have felt like an infinite loop of housework, cooking, cleaning, planning, and managing work in the pockets I can find, while also culling out some downtime right before bed. It’s made me think a lot about how first of all so much of this is assumed to be the woman’s department. Even while VC has taken over the dishes, helps by dusting while I clean, gets into the cooking, does laundry, and waters the plants etc, I find myself instinctively still reaching over and above and trying to either assist him, or offering to do his share too. He’s tired of telling me that his attempts to help me are futile if I help him back.

I stopped myself in my tracks the other — wondering why this is so hardcoded in me? And I know part of it this early and deep lesson in equating my worth with my productivity, makes it very hard, almost impossible, to gracefully and thankfully take help. And over time it has made living up to my own ridiculous standards hard enough, but also terribly run down every effort and willingness on VC’s part towards being an equal part of this home.

I only woke up to this harsh realisation sometime last year, that this is not only a sorry state of affairs, but a huge disrespect to him. So even as I have been reworking my beliefs around not equating my worth does to how useful, productive or desirable I am, it is extremely hard to stay on track.

In the constant cycle of domesticity that has consumed us these past few weeks, I see how much of a struggle it has been to cull away time for myself. Even if it is to just lie back and stare at the ceiling. There always seems to be something more urgent that needs my attention. I’ve not had as much time as I’d like to sit down and write my blog posts in peace, for example. Writing time is pushed further every day and sometimes I write out a rushed post just before bedtime. I’ve been reading and important book about money with S, convening over video calls to discuss, but after a good beginning we haven’t made any progress in the last 10 days. I usually spend a significant amount of time thinking about my Monday tarot posts, but since the lockdown they’ve been all but hurried posts banged out in the nick of time. There’s a book for my course that I need to finish, and I haven’t even gotten around to starting it. This is the stuff that creatively nourishes me. The stuff I’d happily be doing when I have outsourced the house work.

It got me to thinking about how my mother did it all. How much she put aside to tend to us kids, keep our homes and family afloat and happy. And my mother was extraaaaa. We’ve had a full childhood with a lot of hands-on family time, picnics and holidays and activities and time spent together. Very focused, dedicated, active, deliberate togetherness, that must have taken a lot of emotional and physical energy to keep at. My sister and I were challenging in our own ways, and I know we kept our parents, but more my mother, on our toes at various phases of our growing up years. I don’t actually remember a single phase where my mother wasn’t quick to respond though. To get on her problem solving, troubleshooting, go-getter hat on to fix whatever it is that needed fixing, or soothe us, feed us, cuddle us, and do whatever it took.

And it got me to thinking about what the colossal creative cost of that might have been. Especially for a professional vocalist like her.

I wondered about how much talent, creativity and potential we’ve quietly snuffed over generations by channeling energy towards chores, family and the like. For generations before that didn’t have the luxury and privilege of outsourcing as much of it as I do, it must have ben 100x worse. Sure, it made women be creative about their domesticity, and many have rocked playing that role to the T. But I think of my own mother who was clear she wanted to focus on her family, and put her career as a musician and vocalist aside till we were old enough to go off on our own. I wonder what the emotional cost of that has been. If she was frustrated from it back then, she never let it show. Or I was too young to know. And now, as an adult woman navigating the age by which she had two children to care for, I can no longer deny that cost.

But from a few weeks of having to fight for my time, sometimes feeling resentful that there seems to be so little of it these days, I’ve been asking myself, how many more would women be able to dig into themselves and the depths of their spirits and creativity, if they didn’t have homes and families to tend to? How many more successful artists would we have?

And of course, it all comes back to this oft-asked and long-unanswered question: can creative lives thrive and flourish around the central axis of families that need feeding and children that need caring and homes that need looking after? Sure, they can co-exist. I am a product of such an environment. But can they thrive? I can’t help but wonder how much more art and music and poetry and writing and cooking and whatever else we might have had access to, if women weren’t taught early not to hinge their worth and likability with domestic productivity. I cant hep but wonder how much easier it would be for girls and women thereon to then go find themselves, scratch all their passions and be their whole selves minus the angst of having waited a minimum 30 years to get to the realisation that there was something more to life that they’re missing out on.

I believe that one of the common traits successful women artists have is the ability to shake off criticism around caring for themselves. And maybe at some level it is giving up the urge to be liked in the way that society, their families, the world at large would like them to be. Maybe it is about knowing so deeply what they are made of and what is important, life-giving, and non-negotiable for them to survive, that they would not give it up for the world.

That notion of what’s likeable, it’s beyond old and tired now. I realised many days into cleaning up that the thrill of being efficient, having a schedule, having things so much cleaner than before, doing it all was so old and so boring. And when the day came when I was feeling depleted and quite drained from not having done a satisfying amount of anything nourishing for myself, I felt a smidgen of that cost I keep talking about. The price women pay. The cost of doing it all.

And I don’t know if it’s worth it. I realised that I was actually quite okay to have a slightly dusty home for two days in a row if it meant I can catch up on reading. It quickly became okay to eat Maggi for dinner, and let some veggies go to waste now and then to just not enter the kitchen for a day. I didn’t feel bad for VC for having to do the dishes on top of everything else he has to do, because er, it’s no different for me.

***

That was April. This is now, and too much has changed to even enumerate it. But reading this post in the drafts made me happy because I see how much has. We are now down to sweeping and dusting at best twice a week, mopping once a week. Maggi has become a staple like sugar and atta and rice in our shopping lists. Take out induces nearly zero guilt, compared to before. And I have enjoyed many, many, many days of lying on my back and staring at the ceiling. In fact, I was just telling a friend the other day that I think I spent much of June horizontal — and I don’t even mean that metaphorically.

I might complain about the banes of being locked in and everything that it has changed in my life a lot, but I cannot lie — it has been an extremely powerful time of change for me. And for us, as a family and a home. In claiming something very essential for myself I see what has been freed up, what has come alive, what has become visible.

I’ve been pursuing slowing down for years, but it took the world around me also slowing down, coming to a halt, to receive the much needed impetus to do the same. When I did, so much changed, so deeply and so quickly. So if I may for a moment fully own and acknowledge the immense privilege of it all: the last four months have been an extremely valuable time.

And maybe sometime soon, I will write about all the ways in which this domesticity has actually taught me to value the work itself, the invaluable contribution of people I have casually outsourced it to all these years, and why I’m trying to do without it for some time to come.

One year ago: All my worries seem so far away
Two years ago: My moves are slow but soon they’ll know

The unbearable pain and joy of being oneself

I’ve spoken so much about loneliness, and some (perhaps a little unintelligibly, for a reader to grasp) more about the changing face of loneliness as I have moved through discovering myself. What was once an acute loneliness for people, a tribe, bodies, a sense of being one among many, has shifted to a different kind of loneliness that is frankly a lot less worrying than it used to be.

The old loneliness used to get me so down, because I felt so helpless and not in control of the situations and circumstances I faced with people that led me to feeling that way. I didn’t know what I was doing wrong or how to prevent it from happening again. The new loneliness is very private, inward. And it is a loneliness for something else. Much less tangible than people, a crowd or a sense of wanting to be in the company of other human beings.

What’s different in recent times is a sort of distance I feel between myself that feels the loneliness, and the part of me that witnesses it. I no longer feel like I am being put through the wringer when loneliness comes. I see it, I feel it, I let it wash over me.

I don’t quite have a full grasp of what it is I am lonely for, and I am not in a rush to figure it out. I know it is taking shape slowly. This ease in letting it be, do it’s thing, is new. And liberating.

But what I do know for certain is what has changed. And that is a solid inner attitude and certainty about no longer abandoning myself. I’ve spent a lot of my life letting myself down, choosing everything else over myself, pleasing people to the greatest degree and practicing so many other such forms of abandoning myself. Routinely and continuously. It has taken a lot of introspection, slowly letting those old ways down, opening up to the consequent feeling of being exposed, and feeling lonely  yet again — just in an all new way — to get here.

I feel like the loneliness may never fully go away. It feels existential, treading a nebulous zone, while knowing in the pit of my stomach that in the end we’re all alone. So I am on the right path.

That I can have connection, intimacy, love, belonging and respect. That it cannot come at the expense of myself. And that this is the unbearable joy and pain of feeling truly and completely at one with myself.

One year ago: Second chances
Two years ago: Don’t worry about, don’t speak of doubt