Day 9: The hardest part

is admitting that you were wrong. But once you’re over that hurdle, it’s like walking into the light, or unlocking the next level of a mystery you’re desperately trying to solve.

For someone so convinced I was an out and out introvert just over a year ago, the past year has seen a big change. The developments of recent time, specially the last six odd weeks have only confirmed what I have known to be true for a while now: I have changed, in ways I know, but more so in ways I am only getting to know slowly.

The more willing I am to sit still and observe, question and think about the changes I see, the more I know this to be true. And that willingness is the hard part. Because it means accepting that it may be time to let go of some rigid truths, or that I might need to soften up on some of my staunch aversions, or it means letting go of the safety of labels that I use to define me. It means instead, to look at the very real circumstances that are shaping me in entirely different ways.

It means finding new connections.

It means sometimes standing alone.

Daunting as it sounds, and is in some part, it is also incredibly energising. Nobody talks about how refreshing and life-giving the process can be. It is not without tedium, and there’s really no escaping the bitter realities that you’ll have to stare in the face, but once you’re over that hurdle, it is like a breath of fresh air. Light, rejuvenating, and puts the spring right back in your step.

Perhaps it is the mistaken ideas of adulthood and becoming-who-you-are that we have inculcated, that makes this journey seem one way. The pursuit of prescribed ideals, boxed definitions and perfection itself makes looking back, revisiting old versions of yourself and admitting less than ideal facets of yourself impossible, and a waste of time. Shame, envy, inadequacy, confusion become bad words we don’t want to believe are parts of us.

But the truth is, growing up involves going back and forth all the time. It is acknowledging these unsavoury parts of ourselves that unlocks the potential to plummet ahead. Never before have I valued retrospection so much. For it has helped revisit so much, only this time with a softer eye. Less self-loathing. Less judgement. More acceptance.

With every passing week, I realise I’m not the introvert I was in the months before I left Goa. It was circumstances that made me withdraw and seek my own company, closed in from the world. But I didn’t understand why or how it was happening. It was simply the playing out of what N articulated perfectly — Everyone can’t go with you everywhere — a truth (and several others) I’m only realising this now. And I’m changing, because of it.

Even until weeks mere ago, it was hard to say if it was a change brought on by changing circumstances, or if the shifts brewing within me in turn were reflected in my circumstances. Mostly this has been a revelation about how wrong I was.

I noticed around the middle of last year how suddenly I was much more willing to go out, be with people, socialise and do things outside of the four walls of the introvert cocoon I’d settled into. The frequency with which I’d surprise myself by volunteering to do something I thought was uncharacteristic began to rise, till I realised it was too frequent to pass it off as “exceptions to the rule”. It was, in fact, the new normal. Try out a new restaurant, I’m in. Want to come to xyz, with abs, def, (who you don’t know), sure! Want to try out a reading club where we’ll read a book on self-esteem, why not? Poetry reading, yes. Movie with the family, yes. Dinner with extended family, okay to that too. Cooking for fifteen people over two days, count me in.

Slowly I found myself feeling a lot more energetic and willing to to put myself out there, in situations I’d told myself were never for me. The clincher was willingly joining VC in his new business, and taking on a client-facing role.

Conversely, I don’t fancy spending as much time all by myself at home. It helps that amma’s home is in the next building, so I always have a cocoon of comfort to jump into when things get overly solitary around here.

This is a big change for someone who in Goa barely ever left home, and loved being alone. The most joyous moment on any ordinary day then, would be when VC left for work and the help finished for the day. I would savour the solitude slowly over the course of the day, wearing my space and isolation like a comfortable skin.

It’s true what they say, the company you keep really does reflect your state of mind. And maybe this, in some measure also explains the dissonance and distance I’ve felt with those I’d most easily turn to for daily kinship. I’ve carried this feeling, that something has changed, but I’m not quite sure what to do with it, around uncomfortably for a few weeks. Eventually, the truth dawned on me: in the face of all this drastic change, I feel less and less inclined to stick to fixed anythings. My faith in the rock bed of certainties has shaken, so I’m finding it very counter-productive to stick in places I am feeling restless. Whether that is a pattern of friendship, the habits I think I need to have, or fearing breaking them because it means being alone.

The last few weeks saw me do both. And surprisingly, it got easier. The fear subsided and I felt charged with an energy I didn’t know possible.

Do you know what it is like to watch yourself move from being a somewhat passive, this-is-who-I-am-and-I’ll-just-stay-here-until-the-right-stuation-happens to a let’s-go-out-there-and-find-a-way-to-make-this-work state of mind? It has been like dipping into a secret reserve of self-worth I have suddenly discovered.

We really underestimate how much we are capable of growth. How much we are in fact changing all the time. Drastic growth brings with it such significant shifts in the mind and body that inevitably, it leads you to the reality of leaving things behind. By definition, it is what movement entails.

So whether it’s a time (it’s futile being torn up about moving on from the perks of full time employment, for example, because it doesn’t have a place in my life or in my current reality), place (similarly, so meaningless to wistfully long for my life in Goa when this is where I am now and it is what I know is most necessary), or even company (If I am changing all the time, surely every body else is too. So what then am I hanging on to so tight?), the need to loosen the grip and ease up on expecting a pre-defined kind of certainty has slipped under my skin.

Much like hanging on to older ideas of a version of myself did nothing but delay the movement that was waiting to happen in my life, I’m realising that hanging on to a fixed, rigid idea of the kind of friendship I am made for, or what I am capable of in relatonships, has made it hard for me to find deeper, authentic connections suited to where I am now.

 

One of the things that has become utterly clear to me in the recent past is that my life has little meaning without connection. I’m craving it all the time. In people, in activities, in experiences, in spaces, in habits. I’m only now learning how believing so hard in the fallacy that I am a complete introvert, has held me back in this respect.

It was hard to acknowledge that my introvertism was a temporary shield I donned, while I waded through emotions I didn’t want to face. I mistook a streak of introvertism to be a personality-defining thing, when actually it was just me seeking safety in numbers, in memes that scream relatable truths that made me feel like I belonged. Because I wanted to belong anywhere, but to the real self that was desperately running away from feeling all the feels.

Until, I was ready to break out and do all of that — face those scary feels, be as vulnerable as I possibly could, acknowledge how wrong I was, look at new and intimidating ways of being that my situation now required.

Now, I’m less afraid to make connections.

Similarly, I am less afraid to stand alone.

This shift in my attitude has already brought tremendous positive change — I see it in the most significant things like the way I was able to accept moving to Bangalore to the smallest, seemingly insignificant things like suddenly embracing hot pink lipstick with a casual comfort that was alien to me.

I see it in the way I am suddenly more outgoing. Accepting invitations to meet new people, pushing myself out to events, trying out new restaurants, making plans to beat traffic and increasingly seeking new experiences, over the comfort of mundanities, when it comes to people. I’m reluctant to keep going over the same motions out of habit. I have little to share in terms of mundanities, and the lack of conversational sharing does mean I’ve fallen out of the loop. But I’m dealing with that, and even with its difficulties, I feel it’s better than the hollow, exhausting efforts of continually trying to flog a habit I’m clearly not in the space to hang on to.

I am so not that person anymore.

Accepting that was the hardest part.

This business of looking back at the trail we’ve traversed now seems like an essential healthy practice, one that I should probably do more often. To see where we were, how far we’ve come, to ask crucial questions about where we’re headed, why, and if we’ll actually be happy once we get there requires so much reworking of of our old selves, to take what’s best for us and to let go of all that no longer serve a purpose.

But I won’t lie, that is the hardest part.

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Day 5: Here I go again (on my own)

It’s that time of year where I set off once again, resolve firm in place, willing myself on the path to fitness again. It’s January after all. This is the way things go even if it sometimes takes three odd weeks between intention and action fully kicking in.

Truth be told, 2017 was excellent as far as health, fitness and body positivity go. I started the year on a high. I felt fit, my vitamin D and B12 levels were back on track and I fell ill all of three times. I know without a shadow of doubt, that exercising played a major role in dragging me out of the funk that was 2016. As far as kickboxing goes, I was getting better, stronger and enjoying it more than I had since I started. Things were really peaking for me.

And then I moved cities. Losing access to my kickboxing teachers was easily one of the biggest losses of this year. Eight months in, I’m convinced I will never find a replacement or any fitness activity that will top the high kickboxing with them gave me.

The weeks in the transition to Bangalore saw erratic schedules, and in an attempt to bring some sanity and regularity, some grounding to a life that was otherwise up in the air, I signed up at a gym even before I signed a lease on a house to live in. As long as I have it my way, it’s not often that I slack off on the exercise front. I’m known to go to great lengths to juggle my schedule around in order to fit workouts in, even in the busiest of times.

Then, in August a serious fitness bug bit me. I put it down to the sudden proliferation of fitness gurus and trainers on Instagram posting relentlessly about their workouts, their diets and lifestyle. I was coasting along, nobody would even say I’m fat. I didn’t feel unhealthy. I was lifting heavier weights than I ever have. But suddenly I wanted to commit myself to a goal.

So far, I’d only ever focused on the bare minimum, which was to get in enough movement and burn excess energy and calories. I love food too much to consider dieting. It has never been on my mind. But I was also aware that coasting along would only get me that far. I suddenly wanted to see what was possible if I were to push myself. You know what they say, right? 70% of the fitness game happens in the kitchen, not at the gym. I knew that if I had to push myself and see real results (more muscle, better definition and power) I would need to look at what I was eating.

So I signed up for a six week training program with a trainer I followed on Instagram. I won’t go into details, but for the first time ever in my life I decided to watch what I eat. And it quite literally changed my life. First, the results were insane. The plan involved some major alterations in my daily intake. I wouldn’t call it a diet because the basics were very similar to my regular intake, just minus white rice and sugar completely, and a few other tweaks, putting the focus back on wholesome, home cooked, balanced food. That, combined with a daily workout plan. I saw myself shred fat I didn’t even know I had, I felt super energetic all the time, and I realised how eating right can really fuel my body to achieve impossible things. This was the difference I was curious to see. I was lifting harder, running father (I haven’t attempted long-distance running in five years now) and I felt incredibly light, I was sleeping better and my routine had fallen into a lovely rhythm.

In addition, I lost 5 kilos and 4% body fat in those 6 weeks. I touched my pre-wedding weight, a number I’d given up on. I dropped nearly two sizes, and fit into 28″ jeans — something that hasn’t happened since I was 18 or so.

And then I hit a major travelling spurt.

The thing with working with food restrictions is you can only manage it when you have full control over your meals. Which makes sticking to it outside of home nearly impossible. For the six weeks I was on the program I was extremely dedicated to making my own meals, planning outings such that I would eat before I left, and avoiding any sort of potential temptation. But that’s very hard to do when you’re travelling, especially on shoot, where we tend to eat what we get when we can get our hands on it, and when you’re staying with friends you don’t want to impose these rules on.

What’s more, I was on the road for nearly three weeks, and that’s when I hit the low. I guess after the high I was on — looking and feeling the leanest I have ever been — it had to happen at least once before the year ends. It started with all the travel in September and October. Skipped workouts, holiday feels and three weeks of living in hotels and subsisting on hotel food meant eating a crap ton of all that I’d successfully trimmed from my daily intake.

The other bitter truth about any fitness effort is that it takes barely any time to undo weeks and months of effort. The math is all lopsided. And so, I found myself at the beginning of December, staring at signs of swinging right back to where I was before I made all this phenomenal change.

Exasperation met frustration when winter hit and waking up in the morning to get to the gym became a Herculean task. Of course, I turned to emotional eating. Dessert every other day, sugary tea, alcohol more often than I cared for, lots of unhealthy carbs and erratic meal timings, with lots of frequent missed work outs.

cake

It’s all related, in my case. The worse my eating gets the harder going to the gym gets. The worse I’m feeling in my head, the harder it is to get myself back to any sort of routine. Conversely, getting back to routine, and fitting in a strict fitness regimen is a sure-shot way for me to normalise and feel grounded again. The absence of it shows on everything from my skin to the way my pants fit to my energy levels and moods through the day.

And then there’s the second life-changing part of this experience. At the start of last year, I had touched an all time high as far as body positivity goes too. I never used to talk numbers or weight to begin with. My focus has always been health, strength and looking as fitness an exercise as a key tool in maintaining overall well being. I even remember telling P that something had switched in my head and I had entirely stopped worrying or thinking about that nagging belly roll that I was so desperate to get rid of. It was like suddenly I was more okay with me just the way I was, enjoying exercising for the energy it brought to my life, and eating healthy just the way I was. So, I’m not sure what triggered this sudden need for a goal, a number to hit. Didn’t help that the phenomenal and very, very obvious results (I’m talking pants dropping off my waist in mere weeks of changing my eating) really pushed me to keep going. When I fell off the bandwagon, I noticed that my exasperation was more with the way I looked and how my clothes fit, rather than just hitting the gym because it’s good for me, again.

This is really problematic for me. Because it took a lot of work to ditch the pursuit of slimness in favour of the pursuit of strength.

Not to discount any of the amazing health benefits eating better has given me — I’ve never looked at and consciously understood what my body can deal with, or bothered to eat in a way that facilitates what I want my body to do — but somewhere the pursuit of a random goal, pushed me over the edge and made me a bit size and shape obsessed.

I was quick to acknowledge it, and to realise what parts of this don’t fit with my personal goals or my personality (realistically acknowledging what I am and am not inherently not capable of). In an attempt to let it pass without being too hard on myself, I let it go and went a little easy. I went back to regular eating and just stuck to exercising everyday again. That’s really all it took to regain the rhythm. I found my stride in no time at all, and I was happy again, without having to worry about what I was putting in my mouth.

And then the holidays were upon us again. As of today, it’s been two weeks since I hit the gym because I’ve been away for nine out of fifteen days. Nine days of eating and drinking, no holds barred.

The plan was to resume some manageable, more realistic form of the fitness plan in January. But there is some part of this tussle I am still working through. I feel myself torn and not yet at peace with where I am. I’m questioning why some part of me chased after a number and got so drawn and consumed in the chase. If I wasn’t “big” to begin with, why did shrinking feel so good? What is big anyway? I’m asking myself what I am really after.

The difficult conclusion I’ve come to is that while I gained a tremendous amount of awareness about food science and eating right, the six week plan definitely put me way back as far as body positivity goes. This is not sitting well with me right now. I want to find a balance that satisfies my mind and body as much as it does my need to be fit — and I’m reworking what this fitness means to me. I want to be in a place where fitness doesn’t come at the cost of feeling positive and good about my body.

So, it’s meant asking myself what really am I after? Why is it this important? Is there something more to this than I care to admit or even be aware of?

I wasn’t kidding when I said this has been a year of incredible shedding. I shed a lot of kilos and body fat — duh — but I also shed a lot more. My preconceived notions I had about how I’d never be able to give up rice or sugar, for one. My ability to forget everything and eat what I want, when I want, convinced I’d burn it off when I hit the gym again. But I’ve also shed some of the comfort I had developed with my body, and the focus on making it work and respecting it for all it does for me, that I had so carefully inculcated in the last couple of years.

This year, I want to go back a bit and regain some balance. And that’s no piece of cake.

One year ago: 2016
Two years ago: Day 5: In-Bloom

Crossing over

It’s looking-back time, I know. But I find myself only filled with wishes for the year ahead. I ended 2016 with a strong burning need to find my place — physically speaking — as I dealt with the growing certainty that it was not Goa. but I had no idea how that search had little to do with location or city or anyplace. And everything to do with looking within.

I moved cities, back to Bangalore, a move I didn’t imagine possible even ten to fifteen days before we took the decision. And it was merely the start of a series of unexpected, but so necessary, changes that would surprise and challenge me in equal measure.

2017 has been one heck of a year and the thread unifying it all would have to be one of transition and transformation. It’s been a time of letting go of the reins in order to figure out a new way ahead. In a strange space of being back on familiar ground, yet recognising so little of the city I once called home, I found fertile testing ground to stretch my ability to allow change, move with it and realise I actually enjoy it. Physically, it took wrenching myself out of the comfort zone to find myself again.

How odd that it took cutting the roots off to find belonging. It’s been a year of discovering that belonging and my place. In family, in work, in friends and camaraderie, in connections, in extended family, in my marriage, and most of all, within myself. It’s been a year of peeling back a few more layers and getting closer to what’s at the core. A year of understanding, with extreme clarity, how necessary it is to be so wholly comfortable in my place and in my skin, in order to belong to each of the systems that I do, need and want.

This will always be the year that I realised with astounding certainty how much I need and love my family. I’m closing the year rich with memories and experiences of time spent deeply engaged with my parents, amazing times with my sister (who fortuitously moved back home around the same time that I did), VC — my truth-teller and fellow braver-of-change, and a handful of friends who have walked along with me as I navigated the shortest. I feel so much gratitude for the gift that was 2017. Even with all its oddballs and challenges it was a gift to realise and claim a whole new set of values to go from here on.

For all my life I have craved stability, consistency and the safety of roots. This year I let that need go and turned my life around in the most significant way possible. The truth is, I have seen how different the entire year turned out to be, as a result of it. I took a wild chance, shut my eyes and jumped with little idea of what was waiting for me. I’m happy with how taking this chance has turned out. Because it turned out that at the bottom of that jump, I had an army of support waiting to hold and bolster me. Giving me a huge step up even as. Picked myself up with okay feet and wobbly knees. It’s been an incredible year of vulnerability that tested my resilience, but gave me surprising revelations and staggering opportunity for personal growth. And it wouldn’t have been possible if I hadn’t changed certain fundamental truths and values I held to be mine.

I’ve seen as much loss as I have, gain, this year. People have come and gone. Work has transformed. My sense of home currently lies in shambles (and it’s okay). Like I said before, it’s been an incredible year of shedding. But all the room created by it has only opened me up that much more for what’s to come.

I’ve already signed myself up for another year along this path. To discovering more. To talking less and doing more. To belonging more and more to myself.

Same time, last year: Day 366: December

I shake off all that no longer serves me

I started to write this post on the 1st of this month, and wanted to add in a fitting song because I realised all of 2017 has passed without a single music track/link being posted on this blog. That is utterly unthinkable. But guess what, the silence and an inexplicable energy-saving mode of sorts has crept in so deep, I didn’t get down to finishing the post and I have now forgotten what song I wanted to add in.

Pardon this jagged, rushed job of a post. Its long winded, repetitive and very roundabout. I’m aware because I haven’t even bothered to edit or prune it. It is an attempt to get going and have it out. Something, is better than nothing, I tell myself. Letting go of my obsession for perfection and finishing all business to the T has been constant work in progress and this too is an attempt to express, and write even when the words aren’t coming out the way I’d ideally like them to.

*****

It’s December, and funnily that expected panic and omg-how-is-it-December-already feeling hasn’t hit. I don’t think it will this year. Possibly because I’ve spend most of the year in a state of churn, and haven’t really felt settled in the real sense of the term. There’s been a fair bit of travel and moving around always makes me feel like I don’t have my feet firmly on the ground. I vascilate between the comforting mundanities that bind my daily routine, and the little surprises it throws in terms of things to do, travel out of Bangalore, meeting new people and trying out new things.

The rumbling workings of moving from one phase to another is what 2017 has been about. Even as I think back and feel like I don’t have much to pen, I know this has been a big year of shifts, change on multiple fronts. It feels so full and hectic, even as I realise I don’t really have much to show for it, in tangible, tactical terms.

And so I have written this entire year off to WIP, a state of transition, with no expectations of having done big stuff, ticked things off the proverbial list and the like. It was much needed because it meant letting go of control, the very notion of it, and the contents and parts I tend to try and have a hold over in my own life.

This year more than ever, I let go of patterns, fixed ideas and considering the relocation back to Bangalore, I had no choice but to make space for the physical change it brought. The only way to make sense of it and move through it with least angst was to go with the flow. Truly go with it was what I was aiming for. It took a lot of conscious effort, but for the first time ever, I may have succeeded in some part. In doing so, I got a taste of what it is to surrender to the what-will-be-will-be philosophy that so far only sounded too good to be true. I got a better sense of what is important to me — personally, professionally and otherwise — and began to focus on it. I am coming to terms with constantly allowing space for change, not only within and around myself, but also in people I associate with. It has meant accepting changes in relationships, allowing myself to feel disappointed and shaking it off quickly rather than brooding over it, and most importantly it’s brought people I had turned my back on for good back into my life in a pleasant, refreshing way.

I’ve realised this year, more than ever before, that my feelings towards people and the longing for kinship of a certain kind has always been fraught with angst caused by my own tendency to remain fixed to a pre-meditated and cookie cutter idea of the nature of relationships I want in my life. This year, I accepted differences, tonalities and diversity in people and I know I am all the better for it. Differences matter less, disagreements bother me lesser, and my life feel full of people, even as I’ve trimmed some folks out.

All in all, If I spent the last two years anxiously in wait for change (not knowing I was actually laying down the path to move ahead), this year I stomped ahead and claimed that path. So there really isn’t much to take stock of. On paper, I have little to show for what happened and what was accomplished this year.

Yet, so much has happened. Most of it has been internal, and even though I pontificate and ruminate over it in cyclic fashion on this blog, I’ve found it hard to bring it into conversations with people around me. Even those who have been a part of and shared much of this journey with me. I’ve found myself conserving energy, feeling silent and sitting with the shifts I am experiences, craving more and more of it, and consciously moving towards a place of intensifying growth and becoming better with every passing day and week.

This was the year I shed a lot of my fear of change, examined more aversions that I’d like to admit I had, and recognised how much I was getting in my own way and how much of this has been keeping myself from getting ahead. But that process in itself has been the journey, and there’s no easy, short-cut to get around it. It takes painfully long, and my days are often dotted with tedious introspection and reflection.

The funny this is, it slows down time and yet this has been the fastest, most brisk year to have zipped by, yet. I know I say this every year, but 2017 has really made me feel it. The general theme has been wait-and-watch, rush nothing, look before you leap, but let go and move with the flow.

While I’m cursorily looking back on the year, its clear as the first rays of morning sunshine, that this has been a year of a great amount of shedding. The first step to a lot of that has been to truthfully look at everything in my life — people, habits, attitudes, work, likes, dislikes — and accept where it is and what purpose it serves. Many times it has meant coming to a painful conclusion that something/someone I love, or who makes my life look and feel a certain way, isn’t actually serving me any good anymore. Some times it has meant letting go of a stupid idea I believe defines me, when actually it defined me two or five or ten years ago, when I have actually moved on and hanging on to it is actually keeping me away from a fresh experience. There has also been the odd yet very humbling instance of seeing my own harsh and judgemental outlook on so much around me, and trying every single day to consciously be gentler with myself and with people around me, with the words that pass through my brain and the lot that carelessly slip out, has opened up something for me.

It is constant work. At being present. At being conscious. At being mindful and watchful. At being gentle every chance that I can. At allowing space for change all the time. At moving closer to a deeper, more granular level of honesty. At choosing kindness. And all the while reminding myself that nothing, not even all of this, is forever or permanently written in stone. What works today, may not have a few years ago. And may not serve me well in the years to come. Understanding this, is what has required the work, the mindfulness and the repeated need to quieten down and tune inwards.

I shake off all that no longer serves me. Again. And again. And again.

Same time, last year: Day 348: The last of the books for 2016

What coming home feels like: The sweet, sweet taste of acceptance

Some days I wonder at how I felt so compelled to uproot my near perfect life in Goa and swap it for this one here. Given how change-averse I am I used to be, it sometimes makes me want to pinch myself and go over the sequence of events in my head. On paper this shift makes no sense. Sometimes even I don’t have the words to explain the whys and hows of it articulately. Most times I do a lousy job of spelling it out, which is why every time that I’ve been asked, I’m met with expressions that tell me I’m really unconvincing.

It got me to thinking why I even need to explain myself. Aside from answering a question, what is this need for me to justify this?

Am I really just answering a question? Or am I trying to process the new normal myself?

I bumped into an acquaintance the other day, someone I first met in Goa, as I was walking down MG Road the other day. Of course the first thing he had to say was, “what are you doing here?!”

Maybe he expected me to say I was visiting.

“I live here now,” I said, instead.

“How come?!” began the volley of utterly predictable questions. It’s happened too many times. And I suppose it is to be expected. It is the most predictable train of thought.

But I’ve reached a point where I can’t help that my answers are so dead-pan and straight. There is no big twist in the story. I wanted a change, and so I moved. We started a business, and so we moved. I wanted to be around family and friends, and so we moved.

“You left Goa to come to this?”

It is unconvincing I suppose. Illogical too. And I don’t expect anyone to really understand or make sense of it. Which is why I’m getting used to the next reaction that follows, as it did with this specimen too:

Standing there, under the groaning weight of the concrete monster that is the Metro Line that has changed the face of what was one of Bangalore’s most iconic views, surrounded by the din of honking vehicles, hawkers shouting each other out to get our attention, the “left Goa” and “this” in that statement weighed me down.

There couldn’t have been a starker picture to illustrate how different my life and surroundings now are, compared to the where I used to be.

And yet my answer was a simple “yes”.

It was the first time I realised I didn’t need to explain myself.

***

This past weekend it dawned on me that I’ve finally found my place, after many months of coming to terms with the transition. Even just looking at the posts I wrote at when I just moved, I can trace the process. Part of it was explaining, over explaining, and making sense of it all myself. And it has been a process, not a mere turning of a switch. I see today, how crucial it was to take that time. Because it wasn’t just about adjusting to a new city and a new routine. Along the way, there have been lessons in making peace with the unlikeliness, opening myself up to uncertainty. In slowing down, letting that shit go. In being vulnerable and sit with the quiet, no matter how disconcerting. In allowing myself to unravel, come undone because how else can one grow out again, differently. In loosening up, expecting less and allow myself to be surprised. And shocked.

I was the most change-averse person I knew. But even that has changed. I find the more I let go of the rigid ideas I have about myself, the more I am in harmony with what is to come and the way things are panning out. The more I am willing to let things in, sit with them a little before I decide how I feel about them, the better I am able to deal with everything — the good and the bad. All this is not to say the transition has been smooth sailing. It has been anything but. There has been much getting used to, physically, emotionally and psychologically. This has taken a toll on both VC and I. We’ve both taken our time in dealing with this our individual ways. We’ve had arguments galore — disagreed and fought more this year than we have in a decade of being together.

But conflict always preceded great change, didn’t it? We’ve fought, differed, challenged each other, and I know deep in my bones we’ve grown as a result of it.

***

Last week, I met an ex colleague and friend from Goa, who is also back in Bangalore. This time, I was asked “so how are things?”

Again, there is no straight, simple answer. Honestly, I said “they’re so-so.”

Because that is the truth. I have learned to appreciate and respect and enjoy that which I know I am here for. Some new and enjoyable have presented themselves as a result, and it certainly sweetens the deal for me. But, I do miss Goa. I suppose that can never change, and I cannot expect it to go away.

“You’re never going to be happy, are you?” he grinned, almost as if to suggest coming to Bangalore was the silver bullet to every inadequacy I was feeling in Goa.

I don’t see it as not being happy, to be honest. I’m really happy. In fact I’m the happiest I’ve ever been, if you can even believe that. I know, I didn’t. But being happy isn’t a constant, one time state that I can turn on. I’m happy to let things go and come. And that is just the beauty of this shift. This new found flexibility. This give, the relaxation in the rigidity in my being. The openness to the possibility that I can love both places at once. And I can focus on the good, here and now. It has made space for so much change, and so much good has come from it.

I’m far more social than I have allowed myself to be.

I’m not the cagey introvert I was convinced I was.

I’ve reconnected with people I didn’t think I ever would.

the few people I thought my life would depend on, I barely meet. And it hasn’t turned my life upside down.

I’m loving the winter, and the wonderful choices I have when it comes to restaurants and food (since it is mostly all Bangalore likes to do).

I have embraced public transport and I barely drive anymore.

I’ve let go of the idea that being a writer defines me completely.

I’m open to working out new ways of earning money.

I find myself rediscovering the kitchen once again, after a bout of never wanting to look stove-wards again.

Things change. As long I’m willing to let them. And this fact in itself has been such a big learning to have come from moving base. If nothing else, I am grateful for this.

So no, I’m not peachy perfect and happy. I don’t believe I ever will be. Because it’s that rumble of unsettledness, that yearning for what’s next that keeps me going.

***

This past weekend it dawned on me that I’ve finally found my place, after many months of coming to terms with the transition. In a flash, I realised with utmost clarity, the many, many good things that have come from getting my change-averse self to uproot my near-perfect Goa life and swap it for the mad crawl of this city.

It doesn’t always make sense to people out there, but in my heart and in my bones, I know it’s what I most needed.

And I took a moment to savour the realisation that I somehow always find my way to where I most need to be. 

Same time, last year: Day 319: Homeward bound

On going solo

On Sunday morning, I read a quote (by Rainbow Rowell, from Attachments) on The Artidote’s instagram post, and it resonated so deeply with me:

So, what if, instead of thinking about solving you whole life, you just think about adding additional good things. One at a time. Just let your pile of good things grow.

I got to Pondicherry late on Sunday afternoon. I will be here for the next weekish, wandering about by myself. And here’s the reason it really spoke to me. This is one of those happy(making) things I have been wanting to do for a while this year: to take a trip, no matter how long or short, no matter where, near or far, by myself.

The last time I truly travelled solo, all by myself, I was 19. And I think back to the time that is clearly tinged with absurdity. I was at an age that comes with a lot of natural casual, carefree naiveté, of course. But my parents too, had only but supported and encouraged my going. Fuelled the pick-up-and-go energy that was ever present. Undeterred by the fact that this was my first long solo journey lasting 8 weeks. No matter that it also happened to be the very first time I’d be travelling outside the country.

I think back to that infectious impulsiveness, that ability to respond to an idea with little reason, because I know it’s what gets watered down with time. And with growing up.

Back then, I don’t remember once stopping to rationalise or reconsider or double-think anything. Literally nothing stopped me. No good reason. The opportunity presented itself, my parents supported me, and I got down to making the trip happen. I’m painfully aware of having lost that essential spontaneity and impulsiveness in recent time. Far too often I find myself thinking and over thinking even my littlest dreams and desires. And often, I brush them aside if I can’t think of a bigger reason than “doing this would make me happy”.

This is something I’ve woken up to recently. There are so many little, doable, realistic, essential things for the doing. For the taking. And I stop myself because better reason gets in the way. I don’t know when being happy has become an insufficient reason. But it’s something I want to try and change.

Combined with the fact that the desire to head out solo has been bubbling up for a while now, I grabbed this opportunity with both hands when it came my way. I didn’t think too much, even when the voice of reason and logic tried to get in the way and raise some potentially crucial points to consider.

I’ll figure it out, I’m sure.

For someone who has done a lot of other solo stuff, and for whom solitude has been such an important piece in recent time, it was alarming to realise I hadn’t travelled alone for over a decade. To be fair, the thought or the desire hasn’t even occurred to me. I’ll put that down to the phase in life that didn’t demand it. I got so much alone time and was on a semi holiday for the most part of my life the past eight years, I didn’t feel the need to get away.

But the thought has raised it’s head multiple times this year. And it’s something I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about, acknowledging it rather than brushing it aside as something I don’t need or desire. So when the opportunity came out of the blue, in what seemed like unlikely circumstances, I was mildly overwhelmed that all my thinking had probably created it.

Anyhow, this post is to acknowledge this change. And to acknowledge the gratitude I feel to be in the incredibly privileged position that allows me to tune in and listen to these seemingly unnecessary desires. To be able to indulge most of them. To have the choice and the ability to build this life wholly on on the belief that it’s worth it. To allow myself the spontaneity. Even if the reason for it is is nothing more than to add another thing to my pile of happy.

***

So much of growing into myself again this year, has been about acknowledging and honouring myself and my individual needs and dreams, outside of who I am in the many roles I play. To shed the fear, the guilt, the embarrassment and sheepishness that sometimes accompanies owning up to that truth. To free myself from previously held notions of who I am, and allowing myself the flexibility of changing again. Perhaps this too is another piece in the puzzle.

Just the idea of being presented with a chance to take off, with most things worked out, felt so freeing. In the run up to my travel to Pondi, I felt all kinds of excitement and empowerment.

Except, I’m a strong, independent woman. Who is sometimes afraid of the dark.

In my excitement to be travelling alone again, I forgot that I am sometimes quite the scaredy-cat.

My third night here, I found myself in a room with tall wall-to-ceiling glass panes on two sides of the room. The kind that are usually used in boardrooms and conference rooms in offices. Heavy glass doors without frames, that take an arm workout to open and close. Which means they don’t shut nimbly or speedily. Anyhow, I didn’t think too much about it, until after sunset when I had to draw all the drapes, and realised I was in what felt like a tent of heavy drapes. There was an added catch, the room had a bathroom attached, with the shower area open to sky, and a giant window with a ledge right in front of the pot, which had no bars or shutter or anything. It overlooked an indoor courtyard of sorts that nobody was ever likely to go into, beyond which a tallish wall enclosed the loo to allow just enough privacy.

Once the sun had fully set, the nighttime creatures began to make their presence felt through an orchestra of croaks and buzzing sounds, I began to convince myself that someone was going to scale the courtyard wall and very easily make their way into my room. I was convinced that in the face of an intrusion even screaming for help wouldn’t d much because my cottage was tucked away in the corner of the sprawling property.

I had the strangest night, sleeping with the lights and TV on. And when I say sleeping, I mean dozing in and out of sleep from time to time.

A restless eight hours later, I was just so happy when it turned 7 am and I could get out of bed where I was pretending to be asleep, hit the breakfast buffet and get on with my day. Everything seems better and safer in the light of day!

***

I remember that first trip I took to Europe when I was only 19, figuring out the Metro in Paris all by myself. I remember fumbling through, not knowing the language and being stuck on more than one occasion when I couldn’t figure out a map or a sign on the street or a station. I remember taking the last train back at 3 am one morning, and rushing through the underground station, dodging the homeless man who was drunk, singing out loudly who turned and came after me. I remember exiting the city limits my metro card allowed me to and sneaking in thanks to some careful thoroughfare. I remember being on top of the Arc de Triomphe enjoying the view where I was suddenly cornered by two incredibly good looking Algerian men who absolutely insisted I join them for a drink. It was a good ten minutes of conversation before reality and reason dawned on me and I realised I should probably not indulge them. I remember travelling through Brussels, Amsterdam and Brugge all by myself, taking trains at odd hours, walking through strange new towns where I was a stranger. I remember sitting on that pebble beach in Greece towards the end of my trip, when I finally realised I had overstayed my Visa and that I needed a quick plan of action to get home.

Yet, through all of it, I don’t remember too many moments of fear. Yes, there was shock, panic or an adrenalin rush. But never debilitating fear of the sort the stupid open-air bathroom caused last night.

I guess it’s going to take a lot more getting out alone because it’s been so long, I seem to have forgotten that going solo means also bracing myself for the odd situation where I am sometimes afraid. To get rid of some of those fears and remind myself that I am enough.

Same time, last year: Day 298: Weekend snippets

On being present 

I’ve gone from being a complete sceptic to a firm believer in creating the change you want to see in your life, by affirming and living it every single day. It sounds very woowoo, I’m aware. But here’s the thing: it is.

I’ve learned that for the most part of my life, especially in times of flux and indecision, I’ve let fear take over so much and take me so far away from the goal, that I am my biggest obstacle. Nothing else gets in the way more than me and my very own thinking.

It’s taken a lot of effort, unlearning, softening, and believing to remind myself that it’s so important to keep that focus. On the goal. On where I want to be. To believe in it so damn hard that it’s like Im already there. Even when it feels like the timing is off or the situation isnt perfectly conducive or the ducks aren’t in a row.

This was once the only way I used to live. In freer, less fearful times. Call it naiveté or delusional optimism, but I was that eternal optimist. I knew no other way of living other than to dive in headlong, without waiting for perfection and correctness. It’s what helped make the most of the wildly messy spurts as much as enjoying the ride when the going is good.

And maybe I’m just going back to the way I used to be.

Same time, last year: Day 292: Love loss and what we ate