New light

Adversity has that strange capacity of bringing out aspects of us that we didn’t know existed, that we didn’t know we needed, even. In this past week, I have seen family rally around and show up in ways that while essential and maybe even expected, but with a quality of togetherness that has caused role reversal, and brought out vulnerability and tenderness in the most unexpected places.

When I decided to fly back to Bangalore on Friday, I was responding to an inexplicable push from within that was nudging me to do the same — to show up and be present in a way that I have shied away from for years now. In that moment I realised that it isn’t about the the doing, but just the single act of being. Of showing up. Of being there. All my thoughts about being the odd one out, and all the difference I held between them and me, that had actually unconsciously kept me away, suddenly made way for clarity about the single and only way in which I suddenly wanted to connect, which was to be there. These emotions surpass the stories in my head, the narratives I want to cling to and all the various things that allow my mind to keep me staying in a place I am adamant to be in. But many times, like I said the other day, the heart and soul is ready to move on. To transcend barriers, to find a new way of being, to make way for growth — and I’m only just, very, very slowly, learning to be easy with that, in a way that doesn’t feel like a compromise to myself.

This past weekend, I have watched myself be present for VC’s family, in a way that I haven’t before. In a way that I have maybe even held myself back from being before. It’s been special to see that this happened even though I didn’t have the active presence of VC for support, as well as to hide behind, which is my usual MO. He came down with the flu the day I landed, which meant he had to stay away from the hospital entirely, and I still felt compelled to be there anyway. It’s been special to acknowledge that am now in a place to be able to do this with confidence rather than diffidence, calmly without slipping into panic and most of all without feeling the distress about the possible cost to my being.

It’s like discovering new light, in an otherwise dark time.

It is not lost on me that is yet another positive manifestation of how relationships with others, with the world at large, are changing, as the deepest most private parts of my relationship with myself are also changing. It brings the promise of new ways of blossoming.

The impending crisis has settled, for now. I return to Goa, in a couple of days, and life will likely resume. Even though everything about this back and forth seems familiar and old, at some very fundamental level I feel like nothing will ever be the same again.

One year ago: Oh my life is changing everyday
Three years ago: That’s all

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Taking myself to new places my mind doesn’t know are good for me

I had two weeks to write out my assignment. And yet, from the moment I found out that we had to write this essay, to the point of finishing it up (only just finished an hour ago — it’s due today) I have been gripped by an underlying, quiet panic. During this time, I did no real writing. And as a result, only began working at the very last minute.

I have become aware that there is a latent “paranoid student” inside of me. In fact, it was over the course of the three days of class last month, that I became aware that this side almost triggered by the rigour of a classroom setting with just the slightest intensity and demands of learning that I am experiencing with Level 2. This side that immediately cues my brain to perform, outperform and excel, when met with an atmosphere of competitiveness – something that has always made me very uncomfortable – is the side of me that also knows only one way to react. That is to shy away from doing anything at all. It brings on a higher-than-normal level of fear, crippling parts of me that are actually perfectly good to perform, rendering me almost paralysed.

I have felt this in the last couple of days before sitting down to write that essay – my brain knows what I want to say, but the overwhelm of having to say it all, the self-made pressure to do that exceedingly well, and the panic of whether I will get it right has made me immobile for the last few days. Until, I just made space for it, and broke down my expectations of myself.

This side of me has been hidden for so many years since I have made protecting it a default way of being. That it surfaced so quickly and easily in class made me see that it’s time for it to be witnessed and given a place. In the past I have made many easy, conveniently less-demanding choices in my profession, to protect this side that feels pressured or fearful of being in the spotlight that comes from performance and evaluation of it. Even though I have learned and loved Indian classical music and dance for over a fifteen years when I was growing up, it was the fear (absolute terror!) of performance that made me move away from it, and eventually give it up altogether. At my very last job, before I quit full time work completely 7 years ago, to choose working from home (which I now see, among other things, as an act of protecting myself from the competitive demands of my professional space) to avoid getting out of my comfort zone and doing things like making presentations and meeting clients. I was happier being the worker bee, and very willing to slog many hours in the background, while someone else took the lead.

In some ways, I have been feeling for a while, that the call and the draw to pursue Level 2, despite the underlying fear of what it will require of me, has also been a call from within to see what emerges and what is possible for me, when I stretch myself out of this protective, comfort zone.

Safe as it has been, the same space has started to feel limiting for some time now. It’s a strange thing to explain – even as I feel drawn to come out, there are traces of resistance that urge me to pull back and stay within. I feel both energies, simultaneously, yet pushing through seems to take less effort these days.

It’s like the need to stay safe, is making way for the side of me that wants to be seen, and wants to claim a new place.

It’s interesting to me that I am suddenly seeing it in this way – as something that is emerging that needs a place, without judgement or adding value, without having to run away from it, or lock it away. It feels like an outcome of the many months of personal therapy that is making me just that little bit more comfortable with all aspects of myself — those that are loud and visible on the outside, as well as the softer, hidden sides — with every passing day.

I understand very slightly now what it is to move from the level of the personality to get in touch with one’s soul. It’s probably in an experience like this — when I decided to pursue Level 2 — that felt like a call from within that pushed through all the signals of fear and need for protection that my mind was throwing at me.

Sometimes my mind gets stuck in a place, based on previous (sometimes traumatic) experiences that brought out fear or panic, for example, but I’m becoming aware of how the rest of me — my soul, specifically — is ready to move on from there. I realised today, that the slow, and honestly never-ending, work of meeting myself has brought me just that much closer to my soul and I have in some fleeting moments felt a sense of willingness to listen and the capacity to move to where it is taking me.

It is sometimes to places my mind doesn’t know can be refreshingly new and good for me.

One year ago: You ain’t been blue, till you had that mood indigo
Three years ago: Pedalling again

Breaking the silence

Today is better, only marginally so, but entirely because I stepped out of the house and came over to spend the day with D. And that always puts me in a good mood. I don’t mean just the laughs and the good times, but just the space and comfort it affords, even outside of the acts of friendship. I’m seeing this as a blessing, the universe looking out for me today, a day that began with me responding to a long-pending call for honesty, a breaking of silence, with a relationship in my life that I have been struggling to make sense of.

There is an imminent sense of relief, the kind of relief I didn’t know I was missing, that I only fully realise when the burden is suddenly lifted, but there has been an undercurrent of deep grief too, all through today. Strangely, not just grief for yet another friendship irrevocably altered (perhaps ended?) but for myself, and the way in which I have unconsciously allowed myself to be taken for granted, in this and other relationships, for how misunderstood I have been by people I have counted as my closest friends, for how some of these friends I held close to thought it was better to read my blog and make wild assumptions about me and what I needed than straight up ask me if there was a way they could be available for me, for how imbalanced the nature of giving and receiving has been between us, for how used I have felt and still sometimes feel when I think about specific instances, for how angry it all makes me, for how my vulnerability was so often met by a complete unavailability.

There is grief, and a sense of feeling sorry for the person that I was, that I have been so many times in friendships past, who felt the need to connect in a certain way, that so obviously came at a cost to the person I am underneath it all. There is grief, for how simply innocent I was in the way that I so quickly went all in, blindly trusting of words of loyalty accompanied by the sweetest smiles. There is grief for how much I have allowed myself to be hurt. There is grief for how mistaken I was in thinking I was understood by people who clearly did not, and did not even care to try.

So on a day like today, when I am feeling forced to revisit all this hurt in my head, it’s a true boon to have the safe haven of a friendship like this one with D, where I can exercise and put into practice the very things — the silence, the honesty, the empathy — I know friendships past lacked. On a day like today, S has been an absolute rock listening to my unending rambles, re-hashing and revisiting it all with her. Careful to reaffirm what I know to be true, but also gently, kindly flagging off potential for more hurt, where I may be unconsciously slipping into my old ways. Despite her own current crisis, S been there for me in ways that I find hard to put words to, but that make me choke up because it shows me how we’ve grown and how far we’ve come from the fearful, insecure nature in which we once were friends, to being the open, heartfelt, unafraid women we are towards each other today.

The heartening part about today for me, is that I was able to dig deep and find the courage (that frankly, I didn’t know I had) to be as honest as I was; that I resisted the urge to get into a circular you-said-i-said conversation and stuck to just me, what I have done, and what I can do to be better in future; that I resisted the even bigger urge to place some part of the blame where it perhaps belong, and instead accepted blame for my side of things leaving the consequences of the rest to the other; that I truly suspended hope and expectations of any kind of response, appropriate or not; and that I was able to choose integrity, truth and my own vulnerability, over the moral high ground and silence, time and time again today.

This, is especially heartening because I have been disturbed by the palpable silence that I was met with this past week. Silence that is perhaps a place of moral high ground, a coping mechanism to deal with the hurt, for some. But a silence that only screams cowardice to me. It is that very same silence, that I chose to break with my truth today.

One year ago: Follow me down, to the valley below

Pause

Yesterday was a fairly sunny day with just bursts of downpour intermittently punctuated by bursts of bright sunshine but as I drove to Inox in the evening, it began to come down. It made me severely nostalgic for the days when J, S, R, VC and I would make impromptu movie plans to entertain ourselves in the monsoon when everything else would be shut and inaccessible. We’ve watched a shit ton of terrible movies as a last resort, invariably thinking of it with just under ten minutes to show time, as a last ditch attempt to entertain ourselves in dreary days that felt like they were slipping away. I thought about the countless times we’ve rushed to Inox, ten minutes away, running from the parking lot to the multiplex huddled under shared umbrellas and entering the movie hall slightly damp, but spirits sprightly and excited.

There was something really sweet in the simplicity and utter basic truth about having just one multiplex to go to and wondering on rainy days if there’d actually even be a minimum of five people for the show to actually run. Sometimes we’d gather ourselves in groups of five or more just to make sure we hit the target. I felt nostalgic for that simple, unadorned Goa that I had the privilege of knowing so intimately.

Anyhow, as I watched the rain come down and we fished our umbrellas out to get to Inox, I felt my plans to catch the Friday Market at Mapusa wash away. Also Article 15 while an important film about an important issue, stopped just short of really working for me because of some inherent (inescapably Desi) flaws, premier amongst which was length. It ran just too long for my liking, which meant it was well past midnight when I got home.

All this to say, my morning today was not as smooth as I’d have liked. I woke up late, and that set my schedule off. I mostly spend my days doing nothing of grave importance but my morning routine has come to be kind of sacrosanct and unexpected changes potentially throw my day off. I no longer like to just casually skip my workout, and I like to get it done as early as possible. This usually gets first priority. Today there was also some omelette sandwiches to be made for VC to take to work, and getting ready in time to leave with VC to get him to work so I can take the car to the Friday market added to the mix. It already felt like a gargantuan ask even before I’d begun.

I wrestled with it for five minutes in my head, there’s an undercurrent of the lets-do-it-all energy just waiting for an outlet to surface, any time she can. But I’m better in curbing this type A side of me now so it wasn’t long before I decided I to prioritise my workout and make VCs lunch. I ditched the plan to go out and instead VC went off to work on his own.

Today was looking like a day to stay in. The weather agreed, vehemently and it has been pissing down with a vengeance pretty much all day. There is not a single cloud to be seen. The sky a vast mass of grey streaked with darker shades of more grey which shifted and changed as they passed, like a watercolour on blotted paper, waiting to take form.

It has since been a day of silence with nothing but the rain for company. I did some reading (not the reading for learning I need to, but reading for fun), I realised I had two episodes of Big Little Lies to catch up on, so there was that. A nap that was interrupted by the early return or VC with Niyu in tow. VC who went for a meeting and didn’t think it was fun to drive back to work and back home again in the pouring rain, and Niyu who also incidentally cancelled her evening class today.

I seem to be having a string of days like this. Even when I try and make plans to get out and “be productive” things happen that make me change plans, or halt and defer them altogether. Many times it makes me contend with the parts of me that still attach value and self worth to productivity of a certain kind.

Today is what I’d really call a clear and present wash out day. Necessary autumns of our lives, times for essential pause, whether we know and acknowledge or are present to it or not. I’ve had many thoughts about productivity, success, a life well-lived and the like in the last few weeks, some of which may make it to a post in the coming future.

It’s grey out, still. We’ve just had cups of tea and Iyengar bakery biscuits I brought from Bangalore. And I pulled out the stops and indulged in my other Goa staple — peanut butter toast, with a drizzle of honey today. We’ve got our noses in our respective laptops, each doing things that need to be done. It’s a picture of silent companionship, of pause itself.

As soon as this post is done I’m going to cook us dinner, Thai Curry which has become a Goa staple for me now.

Tomorrow will be a new day.

One year ago: You’ll be a good listener, you’ll be honest, you’ll be brave
Two years ago: What coming home feels like: light and life

Three years ago: June

Stillness

It’s so great to be in a learning environment again. While I’ve really enjoyed and felt the need for the time of processing in the months between level 1 ending and level 2 beginning, I have also missed staying in touch with the work and being in an environment that nurtures and makes me feel like a learner. Just two days of it and I’m thrilled, my heart brimming over with joy.

Last year, there was a decided pause I had made in my life to make space for this learning. This year it feels like I’m going with the flow. To be in a classroom again, without a plan, without a focused specific outcome and without any inkling where this learning is going to take me is like flirting with the unknown at another degree. To go with the flow even as I remind myself to go one step at a time, one day at a time is exciting. To lean in and make myself available to any way in which this journey may unfold and take me is feeling as much a part of the learning process as the course itself.

I’m glad to be able to give myself this opportunity and to be in this process minus the regular anxiety about performance and outcomes that I am known to experience, is refreshingly new. And it feels like a shift within me.

When I began this journey, this exploration of learning last year, it felt like a sabbatical. There was a concious putting off and away of all other preoccupations. It has been interesting to see how much more has peeled away in the months after, how much more continues to strip away even to this day, and how I am being guided to really focus on this without much effort on my part. Without a plan. Without any preconceived ideas. Without expectations.

My life looks nothing like it did one year ago. It looks nothing like I thought it would either. And I have been having Ong a strong feeling that I have to let go of the very idea of what “my life should look like”. Earlier this month when I had thoughts about work and which way to go, there were vestiges of a past life creeping in, which though I invited and explored, didn’t stay very long. So I’ve been feeling for a while now, with a growing sense of confidence every day, that perhaps this isn’t a sabbatical anymore, and just a new kind of life itself. The end of one way of living and making space for an entirely new one.

This exploratory, flowy way of living through my days has a special kind of slowness that now sits beneath my skin. I find myself reluctant to have days that are packed full of activity or that require me to run helter skelter. I am.unabke to function in that way. There is a slowness that has pervaded my very being, shifted and rewired some very fundamental building block in me.

It’s like an internal clock resetting, a rewiring of my system. And maybe I need to stop looking at this as a temporary set up, or a stop gap, but just a very new way of life itself.

One year ago: One day, we’ll be old and think of all the stories we could have told
Three years ago: Thoughts on a girly holiday

Decompress

A spot of alone time and unwinding before I head out to dinner. I really needed this to decompress all that has been held within me for the last 24 hours.

There was a death in VCs family and being around the family in these circumstances always triggers something very deep within me, bringing up differences and making me realise the full impact of the way in which I feel like a misfit.

I carried all the stirrings of this to therapy last evening. A mad dash after a day that was spent in a tizzy on the run. And what emerged attherapt crushed me like a ton of bricks and took me to a very deep, dark place.

I’m tempted to say I was not ready for it. That it came out of the blue. But if I were to be really honest, the signs have been there, the writings been on the wall, this has been coming a while. I had only to see it and have the right trigger unleash it all.

I realised yesterday what a sense of safety and guidance I feel with N. Something just clicks into place for me when we begin a session, giving me the unexpected confidence to bring out the things I do — the things that stay deep in dark places in my real life. But I’d be untrue to myself if I didn’t give myself credit where it’s due. If I didn’t acknowledge the work and focus it has taken in getting myself to where I am with my personal journey. The process of integrating, becoming hole, including all that has been separated, looking at the ways in which I am bound by my consciences — all of this has contributed to making me just that little bit more solid and whole from within. And it is only because of this newfound solidity that I am even able to tap into the depths of my shadow self, brave enough to go there and wrench out the more deeply held fears and anxieties like I did yesterday.

I have never felt so simultaneously fearful and brave. Afraid, yet ready. Empowered, and up for a challenge.

The difference now is just how much I feel like I am on my own side. How much I have my own back. And how much I feel committed to not abandoning myself.

So I sit here today, finally decompressing, and I realise since therapy yesterday I have subconsciously waited and anticipated a mild falling apart that I thought would follow.

The flux, it’s there. The distress and unsettlement, it’s there. The angst and butterflies in my stomach about what will be, it’s there. And yet I feel together.

The “breakdown” — it hasn’t come. And I’m wondering if it may have left the building entirely.

One year ago: Did we fly to the moon too soon?
Three years ago: Back to base. Almost.

Tender

Things have suddenly grown very quiet with me. Quiet. And contained. There are a lot of open ends in life right now, but for a change there is no desire to close or to make meaning of most things.

This is a pleasant change from always having my mind working overdrive to analyze, understand, get to the bottom of.

I am reading about the power of un-knowing. How sometimes, the desire to learn, gets in the way of the path of the soul and its movements, and it may be well worth my time to taste this un-knowingness. To approach every day without a knowing, or a plan. To be so utterly open, is scary and uncertain and vulnerable. All the things that still take “work” for me to turn on. But to enter into a state of un-knowing also takes surrender, relinquishing control — both which command a high level of courage that I feel I am only just building.

I feel tender, and exposed. However, I am just about feeling ready to embrace this opportunity — to hold, to stay still, and to wait, in this space of not knowing, from where anything can emerge.

One year ago: You live, you learn
Three years ago: I don’t feel sorry about posting pictures about my life

My own person

For a few weeks now, I have been feeling a deep sense of settledness, settlement, within. I waited to see if it was just a bout of peace as I’ve experienced before, or something deeper. And it seems to me, more and more, that this feels like a filling-up from within. A kind of sufficiency that I am unable to put a finger on or find words to explain. And it’s come with the profound, but very quiet, realisation that I am mostly okay on my own. These are S’s words. We were talking about this the other day, each of us articulating the same thing even given the very opposing circumstances of our lives, and we were delighting in the fact that we’re in similar places of understanding of what it really truly means to be on one’s own.

What then, does one do with the constant thread of loneliness, and the need for connection that also exists, on the very flipped side of that same coin? It is there, all the time, undeniably so. A constant reminder that even as I discover facets of myself on a daily basis, unearthing unknown resources and reserves of self-love, and seeing how it manifests as new connection and healthy boundaries in my outer world, and even as I skim th surface of  the well-spring of belonging within myself, and as I teach myself to dip in, drink of it and fill myself up, in the end I am all alone.

What do I do with this, I wondered.

The past three days especially, these thoughts have peaked, as I consciously and unconsciously made time to just be with and by myself. And I realised this is a new kind of loneliness. A kind of solitude I am happy to choose. It doesn’t come from feeling alone or abandoned. It doesn’t spring from messages unanswered, plans deferred or any such basic occurrence. It comes from a sufficiency that has been slowly welling up inside of me. A settledness, a feeling or oneness with who I am discovering myself to be. And an understanding and experience of space, around and inside of me. Even the words and thoughts I have been thinking as I feel my way through this has been different, from before.

Only after some thought, and careful processing did I realise that this loneliness, is different from before. And I shouldn’t mix them up and confuse myself. This is the loneliness of finding myself. This is the slow, but full sweeping understanding of what it means to be enough. And that in the end, even with all our connections, relationships, families and society at large, we are all alone. That it is possible to hold my space, connect and feel utterly lonely all at once. Minus the fear, minus the abandonment that was once so easily triggered, minus the panic, minus the desperate need to distract myself from it.

It took a while to notice that this is no longer cerebral, and somewhere when I wasn’t looking has found a place somewhere deeper. I only realised it when I noticed that in flashes, in many little moments, acts of putting myself first and looking out for myself, that something has changed in the way I am presenting myself to the world. There is this new person slowly emerging from the bed of fertile soil that I have been nurturing — feeding, nourishing, watering, wand waiting over — for the past so many months. This new person feels lonely, but I am able to be with it and let it flow through, without much any effort at all. It has less control over me, doesn’t grip me in angst or desperation to connect and find people or things to fill it up with. Instead, when it presents itself, it sometimes makes me feel settled, near-perfect. And that was a confusing feeling, until I figured out what has actually happening.

This person has been showing up more and more of late, and I can’t wait for her to find her whole self and emerge. The process thrills me, and makes me feel like this, right here, is me living my best life. It feels so darn good to have this be a conscious, deliberate part of my life. This is the healthiest, fittest, most happy and mentally fulfilled I have felt in many years.

One year ago: Home where my love lies waiting

Within me

Feeling all kids of quiet and snug within myself today. Content, to use a dull and inadequate word.

Excellent sleep. Daily, intentional exercise. Finally, finally some balance in eating intuitively to nourish rather than punish my body and myself.

Expansiveness between therapy sessions. Mindful observation and reflection. A beautiful containment of everything, a slow and deliberate process and awareness of what really is my process.

Getting out of my head and into my body more. Digging deep to find the constant spring of space and solidity, alongside a red-hot, just kindled, young and feisty fire.

*This is an old picture from a spectacular day in Paris, in September 2018.

One year ago: After the tears have washed your eyes
Three years ago: Just keep swimming

On boundaries: how they’ve changed my experience of friendship

Lately, I’ve been seeing some interesting shifts with the way in which I am experiencing friendship. For years I understood boundaries purely cerebrally, and struggled to find a way to really let the ideas sink deeper and peter into my life. The idea of a boundaries always drew up images of a solitary existence. While I embraced this as a kind of solitude at one time in my life, there came another time when I began to really crave connection, and I began to understand the importance and need for healthy, dependable relationships. Forging those has been a whole adventure of it’s own with so many hiccups and milestones alike.

I didn’t realise this before, but for the longest time I saw a boundaried existence and loneliness as by-products of each other. For the longest time, I didn’t see the middle ground that exists between setting healthy boundaries and simultaneously forging deep and wonderful connections.

I am slowly getting this now that I am experiencing a physical healthy distancing from people, even those I love and hold close. And I am doing my best not to mistake this for the old loneliness. This manifests more as a healthy space between me and the other, and it’s so fascinating to note that it’s the same space that acts as a protective boundary in some relationships, yet deepens my capacity to relate and to connect in others.

In just the last week alone, I experienced both in two separate instances. And both times, I experienced it as a safe, welcome distance between me and the other person. Being someone who usually knows no other way but to go all in, sometimes to the point of being completely enmeshed or losing myself totally to the relationship, and therefore experiencing constant lack from an imbalance in giving and taking, this has been a welcome change.

And what a relief it is. To be better with space between us, minus the throes of fear and peak abandonment that it once resulted in. To enjoy the poise and grace that comes with the space. To watch what happens in the many moments of pause that increase and grow, when there is this space in a relationship. To let go of the need to be seen as good, or well-meaning and kind at all times. To no longer mistake the desperate need and expectation of the other to change or deliver in ways differently from the way they can, as kindness and concern. To just let it go, entirely, as fulcrum on which the future of the relationship hinges. To be okay with people as they are (within healthy limits, of course). To be okay with the uncertainty that comes from not always being on the same page as the people I choose to surround myself with.

This has 100% happened because I am seeing the minutest ways in which I am getting better with a very conscious understanding of:

  • boundaries, how they won’t lead me to impossible loneliness and why they’re actually good for relationships
  • kindness and compassion and when I tend to allow them come into play
  • my tendencies to judge and how they have an impact on the quality of relationships
  • and of course, the overarching process that is meeting myself in a good way, feeling whole and at home with myself

There’s a lot of nuance involved in each of these, and I’m only recording this in brief to remember this feeling of ease and relief that I’ve experienced this past week. The sense of space, again, is really hitting the spot for me.

One year ago: Stop chasing shadows, just enjoy the ride
Three years ago: How blue

Spaces in-between

This morning I felt immense gratitude as I was driving to the gym. Waking up and heading straight to the gym has been the routine for the last 10 days, and it hit me this morning how easily fulfilled this desire to get disciplined about working out has been. A gym close to home, my mothers car for me to use every single day, unencumbered mornings to spend at the gym without anyone or anything to rush home to. I am a very easy creature of habit, I realise. Especially with things I love and want to do everything to sustain. So to be able to chase this, so easily with literally nothing in my way, felt overwhelmingly special.

It’s a little thing, I know. But in the end it’s the little things that have the most impact, no?

In the moment I felt free. And I felt gratitude for all that enables this deep sense of freedom. In the moment it felt like gratitude for being in Bangalore which gives me access to so much that I need right now. But I immediately realised it’s not limited to the city, to geography alone. It’s those little things. The very things I’ve needed for so long, that are somehow being fulfilled here, at this point in time in my life, formidably aided by the options and opportunities this city has to offer.

***

Bangalore leaves a lot to be desired. I am routinely enraged, frustrated and bicker about the traffic, the apathy, the garbage and what not. I feel helpless and very agitated by the slow nosedive we’re making to utter destruction. I have to think twice about what I want to wear before I step out. In many ways I feel limited and held back. But even so, on a daily basis I feel a sense of freedom and openness — from within — that overarches everything else.

I didn’t know it then, but I left Goa because I needed space. Space to grow, space to stretch, space to explore and widen my inner life. And somehow, physically as well as emotionally and perhaps metaphysically too, Goa with all its wide open green spaces, overlapping social circles and limited options, had begun to feel so very small. Claustrophobic. Crunched up.

It’s the strangest thing, and I know it sounds odd even as I describe it awkwardly as I am. But this is the truth: this is the free-est, most wide-open I’ve felt. Open to change, open to uncertainty, open to love, open to discovery, open to surprises. Just open. And free. In a way that settles something within me. Gives me space, and a deep sense of openness, freedom to run, to be. A very palpable widening of myself.

***

Long after I left Goa and moved to Bangalore, I found myself constantly tossing up the pros and cons of both places to live. This is typical nature, isn’t it? The need to validate and justify our choices completely. Especially the difficult ones. And to keep trying and trying till we’re sufficiently convinced we’ve done the right thing. I constantly craved and looked for the big things, larger than life events, overwhelming circumstances that would feel like valid reason enough to have done the unthinkable and moved back from Goa to Bangalore — a city I’d run away from and sworn never to return to only 8 years ago. I found solace in some small things, but they were always just that — small consolations — and a larger part of my heart tugged with confusion and a mixed-up longing for…I-dont-know-what exactly for many, many months.

I knew with growing clarity that my time in Goa was done, that wanting to leave was reason enough, but in the years I was away Bangalore has exploded into a slowly self-destructing monster of sorts and the transition from quiet, green, expansive Goa to this gave me bouts of severe cognitive dissonance. The gentle, welcoming, unhurried Bangalore of the 80s and 90s that I knew, has been totally engulfed by this busy, chaotic, always-on-the-run city that I couldn’t quite make sense of. Even though, in pockets, I found comfort in nostalgia, familiarity and many little things (again, it’s the little things that made a difference) that felt like a throwback form my years growing up here, at a macro level, something didn’t quite fit.

That “fit” — that snug clink of pieces falling into place, of things making sense (in whatever way that they do) — is what I’m suddenly feeling I have found. A foothold, a grounding, a series of satisfying little moments on a daily basis that make me grateful for being here. In this city. Here in this moment of time.

It’s nothing tangible of course. It’s a state of mind, maybe? But I have it now. Today, it was the drive to the gym and way in which I lost track of time only to realise it had been 90 minutes since I began working out, that made me register that same feeling. That fit.

It isn’t the desire for fitness alone, though. There is also the desire for people. For family, and for friends. There is the urge to be out in public spaces — parks, cafes, bookstores, restaurants — anywhere but sitting at home all day long, basically, or avoiding public spaces for fear of bumping into someone I knew and didn’t want to meet. There is the need to move freely, the ability to get around freely, on my own. For dependable public transport.

This morning, I felt gratitude for how much all of this is so easily being fulfilled in my life right now. Access to space, all kinds of it, the means to get to places, to people, and to the in-betweens of it all.

***

Last week was chock-full with so many quintessentially Bangalore highlights, it really affirmed how much (and why) I am enjoying being where I am — in this monstrous city. To be walking distance from N and to be able to meet her once every week is a treasure. To hit the gym 6 out of 7 days. To be next door to amma and have so much time to spend there, doing nothing, or everything with them, cooking, chilling, working, lazing, whatever it may be.

There was brunch with A at Koshys one day with the option to amble into Blossoms bookstore, hanging out with S at Bharatiya Jalpaan another day and not feeling satisfied so prolonging our chatter over lemon chai after. On Friday Niyu and I took the parents for a pizza lunch all the way across town, and later that night I ended up (without prior planning) partying at a brewery surrounded by the sounds and smells of people way too young for my own good and bumping into the ex, and then a bookstore/cafe opening on the weekend where I got to listen to Mahesh Rao (who I have loved for so many years, and missed for so long now because, no social media) and Arshia Sattar talk about how they became readers and eventually writers, which was followed up by a chance almost-unplanned dinner with D at Koshys again, and Sunday brunch with S over too many Mango-Chilli Caprioskas and the allowance to indulge in berry pulao.

I know this sounds like an ode to Bangalore, maybe? But the thing that clicked into place in my head this morning was that this was never about choosing one city or another, it was yet another act of making space, and doing it in a place that allows me that luxury, in the way that I need it now.

There is space in my life right now. So much space, so much of it. And the freedom to meander and navigate it just as I please.

I was so done being cooped up in the way that my life in Goa had begun to feel. It is wonderful to now be out and about in more ways than one. I am so grateful for this time and all the things that have gone into bringing me here, all that it takes to keep me afloat and allows me the privilege to enjoy it.

One year ago: When the rainy days are dying
Three years ago: New tricks

All heart and all soul

Today, I stumbled on an email S sent me in January 2016. An email urging me to do many things that I didn’t know then would shake my very core, crumble the foundations of who I am an ask of me to rebuild from there. To drop all assumptions, compulsions, expectations of myself — to let it all go and see what remains. I didn’t know what any of this meant then, and I had no idea what to even do about it.

Some part unconsciously, some part by deliberate design, I set off on a path back then. One thing led to another and here I am. And it is only now, I would think as recently as early this year that I have just about found a somewhat deepened experience of what S had urged me to do in that email. What a long and fascinating trip it has been.

Of course I can only connect the dots backwards and so reading the email today, filled my heart with so much love and joy. For friendship that can shape my life. For friendship that has my back. For friendship that endures. For friendship that’s real and all heart.

It’s a good day for this simple reminder, which is also the crux of the email.

One year ago: With your hand in my hand and a pocket full of soul
Three years ago: What I watched

Here you are

It may not always be apparent on the outside — the silent, slowly shifting way in which the soul moves. Every little expansion, stretching my skin, elongating my bones and making me porous and light, open and free. Only I know the work that it has taken and continues to take — the quiet, private work of meeting myself in a way that I have never known before. The energy it consumes and the emotions it brings to the surface. To make space for it all even as I hold it within is a process — almost dance-like — that I am only just getting familiar with.

It may not always immediately make sense. Especially to my rational, habituated mind that still slips back into old ways. And even more so, it may make absolutely no sense to the outside world.

The ask of this ever growing soul, constantly morphing, WIP being, is to stay tuned-in, as far as possible. To the voice that is emerging, growing from strength to strength, as well as the opposing voices also within me that are constantly trying to drown the other out. My job is to give both space so they may meet, converse, mingle and come to a new kind of settled alignment. To make space for this process, to slow down if I must, rather than fill myself with the next activity to numb, deny, ignore or avoid everything that is emerging at this time, or to rush ahead and lose sight of the subtleties that are gentle and small when they show up.

This is the slow and sometimes painful, also hopelessly lonely, grief inducing, and simultaneously exhilarating and invigorating process of being in-bloom.

This is where I am.

One year ago: I wrote a letter to my love
Three years ago: May

Boundaries

I used to think boundary setting was hard — almost impossible — when I first realised what an unboundaried existence I had. This was when I mistakenly conflated avoidance and distance with boundaries. I’ve now learned that boundaries have nothing to do with avoidance, or distance even. Also, like with everything, a little consistency and practice has helped me get better at what I once thought was impossible. I have experienced what healthy boundaries can do in the closest relationships in my life. And like everything else, getting to one level of progress invariably opens up the road ahead, and gives me a view on how much more there is to be done. Allied aspects of setting boundaries have revealed themselves, my understanding of it has deepened. For example, I have realised how much I still would like to control outcomes. How badly I sometimes want “good” endings. How much I wish and try to mould them. How high my need to be seen as “good” is. All this, even as I am firm about boundaries.

The hard part has been realising that setting healthy boundaries comes with the added practice in learning to let go of the outcomes. And that includes being okay with imperfect, abrupt endings. Being okay with people not liking the boundary. Being okay with me not being liked for setting it. I’ve seen this to be especially true during phases when I’ve experienced rapid, constant, visible change. There have invariably been people who have been jarred by it, some people who suddenly no longer fit, some people with whom I feel the need for new boundaries, some with whom I have want to change up the boundaries. All of this is not going to uniformly go down well across the board, with everyone alike.

I’m learning that part of being better with healthy boundaries is to also get better at letting go of the need to please, and to that extent control the way the other feels about my boundaries. To be accountable only for my actions and emotions, and leave the outcome, the responsibility of the reactions and responses to the other. And I’m trying to be unhurried about learning this.

One year ago: The week ends, the week begins
Two years ago: Changing seasons
Three years ago: Skies that lie

We back

Today, I was so happy to see I’m almost exactly at the same running pace I was at when I left two months ago. Finished an easy 4.8kms in 35 minutes today, and really felt a world of improvement in my strength and conditioning lifting weights today, compared to two months ago. Was so good to feel my legs work better than they did then. That I haven’t shaved off too much stamina and endurance even though I’ve only been working out at home while I was away gave me a real kick. In fact, if anything I’m doing better, because I finished today’s run with ease and zero cramps or huffing and puffing. I think all the clean eating and the consistent HIIT focus has helped fast twitch muscles considerably. I’ll go the distance and get there in time, my goal for now is to finish 5k in sub-30 minutes.

There’s quite nothing like tracking progress of this sort, when I’ve had a break and returned to an old activity, expecting to be a little rusty but I find the difference is pleasant, and so visible.

I’ve missed the gym so much. I’ve missed the treadmill, the weights, my new sneakers that I left behind in favour of an old worn-in pair to take to Goa. I’m so ready to begin lifting heavy again, because that’s what’s calling out to me now.

One year ago: Days when I couldn’t live my life without you
Three years ago: Waiting (the film)