On anger

I have been confronting ideas of anger, lately. Anger that’s held in my body. Anger as a mere idea, and how my family has felt about it over the generations. Anger as something I have not been very much in touch with at all, growing up. Anger that I only mistook for rage. Anger and shame. Anger and guilt. Anger and permission.

Anger as a woman.

Anger towards the injustices we’re facing as a country. Anger at basic, everyday disappointments and rejections. Anger at the personal level, as well as the level of the collective.

It’s also been up in the air, around me.

Personally too, at therapy over the last many months, I have visited that place of anger, really opening the door, laying out a red carpet and allowing it to enter my mindspace in its full potency. Airing it, fanning the flames and sometimes letting it billow into a huge all-consuming fire. Sometimes watching it erupt, but fizzle out quickly, leaving a spot of singed skin. Raw, asking for the comfort of cool breath.

In the process I’ve had to examine my relationship with anger, and how much the ideas of anger, and the beliefs the adults around me held about anger, have shaped my own. How much that has made me either turn away from my anger, or bury it the moment it has raised its head. And consequently how much that has caused repressed, festering wounds that would just be gone if only I was in touch with my anger.

And now, with frequent entry-points into my anger, I have learned to go back to points in my life where anger came up but didn’t find a way out, and tell myself that that then, was the experience of a child who didn’t know better. A child who had to choose between being herself in the full flow of the emotion she was feeling, versus being accepted and loved.

I have had to reconcile with the fact that I have grown up believing that my anger is bad. Sometimes, the unsaid message has been that anger, in women specifically, is difficult. Other times it was that my anger makes me too much for people around me to take. That my anger has been a huge burden.

As I have processed much of this, and in turn built a safe container in my adult self to give room to that anger to find it’s way out, I am now, slowly, seeing a mellowing down in my current relationship with anger. I am angry, but I don’t act out as often. I am angry, but not rage-y or vengeful in that misguided, out-of-control way that I used to be. I respond, more than I react.

I am angry, but with purpose. I am angry, with energy.

And it is entirely because I have tapped into my anger as a life-force. Anger, that actually warned me when I felt unsafe. Anger that actually cued me to claim my place. Anger that made me realise when I was let down, disappointed and dejected. Anger that signalled something I was deeply passionate about.

Anger that kept me safe.

Anger that should have had a significant, life-giving place. Anger that didn’t find a way out.

And when I numbed that anger, I also numbed joy, passion, energy and purpose too. I numbed life itself.

Historically too, women have been taught to keep anger under wraps. It’s a centuries-old tactic to keep women in check. To keep our emotions locked away, to keep our power diminished. However, the greatest revolutions and steps forward that women have made, have been born out of moments of blinding anger and often destruction. Even culturally, essential female archetypes of death and destruction such as Shakti, specifically Kali, embody anger, red hot power and strength.

She embodies that heart of anger that is the umbilical cord to out full power, and our emotions. She is life, as much as death. Birth and fertility as much as rebirth. Her demand of us, is to be vivaciously alive, passionate and deeply committed to truth.

We know this all very, very intimately. And yet, we continue to give anger the bad rap it doesn’t deserve. I know this because I am suddenly so, hyper-aware of the great levels of discomfort around anger (especially in women) in my own family. I also understand that some of it is well-intentioned and modelled around wanting to be better human beings — more gentle, loving, forgiving, kind, empathic and peaceful.

What I know now, is that the only real way to be all of those things, is through feeling anger if and when it comes up, and not side-stepping it. Through realising that anger is a life-sustaining energy, primal force, that it comes up to signal danger, cueing preservation and safety. It is impossible to make those choices and move forward, without fully accessing anger.

For generations, women have had to bypass their anger in the effort to be more pleasing. Palatable. The kinder, fairer sex. For generations, even those of us who have talked of anger through our myths and legends and religious archetypes, have simultaneously managed to never feel it ourselves.

So is it a wonder that expressions of anger are then seen as the horrible, ugly things that they’re made out to be?

***

Here’s another thing I’m working hard to rewire: my relationship with anger. By accessing it fully when it comes up, freeing myself from beliefs and reactions coded in my childhood, and navigating through it in safe, adult ways.

And so, it is no surprise at all that I am having anger come up in so any different conversations around me. Speaking with VC two days ago, I told him I have been feeling deeply angry on his behalf, because I noticed and paid attention to something that is brewing in me. To notice it, allow it, acknowledge it and let it play out its natural course without judgement or panic that the world is somehow going to implode because of it, is a huge step for me.

Yesterday, my mother mistook my emphatically and emotionally voiced opinions to be an angry lash-out. It absolutely wasn’t and not too long ago, the mere mention of anger might have triggered off a fit of rage. However, I surprised myself by a spontaneous chuckle that escaped from my chest, and the surety with which I was able to say I am not angry.

This post in fact, is an outcome of many meandering thoughts that have been swimming in my head for months now, but that somehow found bright crystallisation this morning, in a chat with my aunt.

Later in the afternoon, my sister shared with me an insight about how she has noticed how she holds anger in her body and wonders how to process it as an adult.

Anger. It’s in the air. All around me. In so many forms. Asking to be seen, to be held and examined closely.

This kind of synchronicity, when things repeat and show up again and again, are my markers. Deep affirmation that what I’m on to is really important for me.

***

I’m learning to love my anger. To touch it when it shows up. To see what it has come to teach me, before I bypass it in a rush to feel better.

But anger rarely comes alone. It often brings along its friends fear, judgement, guilt and loneliness. But as I am also learning to sit with all of that, simply as it is, it has been a revolutionary idea: to love my anger. To drop the weight around it. To allow the adult in me to redefine what anger means to me now.

Fear not the pain. Let its weight fall back
into the earth;
for heavy are the mountains, heavy the seas.
The trees you planted in childhood have grown
too heavy. You cannot bring them along.
Give yourselves to the air, to what you cannot hold.

Rainer Maria Rilke

One year ago: New light
Two years ago: Block rockin’ beats (Wayanad, 2017)
Four years ago: Come undone

On emptiness

Committing to a life of getting to know myself a little more intimately has meant consistently peeling back layers and layers of protective fluff that we as humans tend to gather around our hearts. As I told someone in a reading today, this is human nature — the need to protect and keep the heart safe at all costs. Even from seeing the truth that needs to be seen, before we move forward. This process also takes us further away from the core of our humanity as well. Creating layers between our outer and inner worlds, keeping us away from our own  selves.

So then, to commit to a life of getting closer  human to try and confront whatever it is we are seeking protection from. To do it in a gentle and compassionate way, that facilitates integration and forward movement in life, is super important. The goal then has been to be more touch with that which makes me human. What lies at th core of my spirit, when all the layers have been shed.

I have been thinking a lot about this — about the very core of humanity, and what it is that makes us the way we are. And the process of getting there through constant cutting of fat, peeling of layers, letting go of all that doesn’t serve me, processing all that does, often requires culling away and gracefully shedding many things. People, emotions, beliefs, ways of being and living, even. And very, very often, staring at the emptiness that remains.

It has taken me to the depths of understanding the heartbreaking, but liberating, price of living in a way that deeply honours the needs of what lies at the core of my spirit.

I have been witnessing emptiness in my life so often, in so many places and forms, these past couple of years. But the simultaneous process of filling myself up in a healthy way, of finding inner solidity of and from myself, has made all the difference.

This mornings edition of the daily aha moment while on my run was this: that I have discovered the difference of looking at emptiness from a place of emptiness, versus now looking at emptiness from a place of being quite filled up.

It means I am less compelled to be uncomfortable as I once was, by that emptiness. Less troubled, less thrown, less inadequate because of it. And I am less drawn to immediately fill it up with something else. Less inclined to do anything at all, actually. I have somehow found the ability to just see it and acknowledge it for what it is — emptiness. Necessary emptiness. And I am able to hold it as it is, more often than not. And the discovery thrilled me no end this morning.

One year ago: Solo Saturday night
Two years ago: Obscured by clouds (Coonoor, 2017)
Three years ago: Inconsequential posts you really don’t need to read
Four years ago: Lessons in letting go

Full moon, moon shine

Full moons are already times of release, of purging the old and making intentional space for the new. With a lunar eclipse added to the mix, it makes for a really potent time to let go of the past, remove self-imposed blocks and barriers, and re-evaluate and release beliefs we’ve held (with good reason) but that perhaps no longer hold good or serve a meaningful purpose.

This first week of the new year has already been such a sharp and steep contrast to not just the last year but the last many years, for me. It has been like going from sleeping to standing up tall and taking strides ahead.

I keep saying it has been sudden, that I woke up in January and suddenly everything had changed. But this is untrue. It is also doing myself and the work I have slowly and steadily done over the past many years a huge disservice. The truth is that the last couple of years have been a time for germination. Of slowly chipping away at myself, getting to the core and seeing how I can nurture and nourish what makes itself seen there.

And like with all germination, it happens slowly and in a hidden way. Beneath the surface. It’s hard to tell from above the ground what is at work or how things actually change. And then “suddenly” after many days of nothing, and staring at plain crumbly brown ground, there is a tender shoot that pokes thru.

I am that shoot today. January saw the beginning of that waking up and emerging into the world. And I can’t help but feel the sacredness of all that is already so new and different from before. I am heading in ways that are drastically opposite to what I have thought good for me in the past. And to be moving thru steadily, slowly chipping away, with a quiet confidence and clarity every step of the way is proof. Change takes time. A heck of a lot more time than we are usually willing to give or notice. But this process of letting go of the old and welcoming the new. It is such a special journey. Sacred. Important. Life giving. And I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

One year ago: And so it’s done
Two years ago: A hazy shade of winter
Three years ago: Happier: perpetual WIP

Rework

Had what was probably my first, full, real and intense experience of strength in vulnerability today. I say first, full, real, even though it is something I have known (and had a knowing of) for so long now, what happened today was a circumstance abd solid proof of what it is to be in touch with a fault line that deep. A vulnerability otherwise kept under wraps and away from the world. And how being in touch with that, actually foster’s deeper connection.

It is true what they say. Vulnerability is strength. We’ve got it all wrong and I’m happy to be putting in the work to rewire this notion in my mind.

One year ago: This being human is a guest house
Two years ago: The hardest part

Clear

Just taking a moment to acknowledge how much clarity has emerged so quickly and suddenly from seeming nothingness. To know what I want to do and have the avenues emerge and show up, and have the sudden confidence to walk the path — this is a big one for me considering where I was even just six months ago.

Every day, in at least two different ways, I kind of surprise myself at how I am conducting myself in conversations, relationships and how certain dynamics in my immediate world are changing because of it.

It is a bit astounding. And sometimes frightening. But I realise that’s my old brain always ready to kick in, bringing back the fear and diffidence. I am quicker to check myself lately and listen to the old voice that rears its head every so often, but also confident in firmly but gently telling it to bugger off.

This has been a refreshing change.

One year ago: I am the universe
Four years ago: Shiny new guiding lights

Ways of seeing

The relation between what we see and what we know is never settled. Each evening we see the sun set. We’re know that the earth is turning away from it. Yet there knowledge, the explanation, never quite fits the sight.

— John Berger, Ways of Seeing

I’m really enjoying the newness of this ease in the not knowing, in seeing and noticing the relation between what is and what I know, and that which may never be “settled” in the way my mind might desire.

I don’t quite have the words for what has altered, but something has shifted within me yet again. Altering the way I am seeing things around me, just a wee bit again.

Ending the first week of the new year in yet another home away from home, in such deep levels of peace, has been everything.

One year ago: Boombox updates
Two years ago: Going by the book (and all that I read in 2017)
Four years ago: Love letters

In with the new

I moved into the new year very quietly last night. In my sleep, to be very specific. Hahaha.

VC, my father and I had a day and evening no different from the ones we’ve been having since we got here. A long walk, coming home in time to cook dinner, while VC and my father potter about around me doing their thing, a drink (or three if you’re VC or my dad *eye roll*), some conversation and laughs, music, and a quiet meal together.

And we were in bed by 10.30 pm. Happy new year to me.

Quiet. It’s something I have been sitting with since I came here to my father’s new home. The literal quiet around here has been profound. It’s making me hear sounds I wouldn’t otherwise. The umpteen birds playing raucously, leaves rustling, wind howling, water sploshing, cows mooing. There’s also been a quiet within me. A peaceful settling. And then there’s the quiet way in which I’ve been directing energy and focus to what I want to the new year.

I’m stepping into the new year, the new decade, with something new. And I seem to be wanting to do it quietly too.

So here it is. I’m delighted to share my new and updated website:

https://revatiupadhya.com

Same look, new me, I suppose? This is me quietly stepping into new shoes, a new journey and hopefully new avenues of work. The foundations for which I’ve been quietly building for two years now.

Sharing this here, especially for those of you who consistently write in to ask me what I’ve been doing for my self-development, what happens at therapy and how I’ve “changed”. If you’d like to know more, please reach out to me.

Also! To mark new beginnings, and to step forward in the spirit of the work I am setting off to do, I’m opening out a new year offer:

A short tarot card reading for guidance to begin the new year with clarity.

This could be either in the form of a question/s (I’ll take up to three questions per reading, for this one), or just seeking guidance/a message for an aspect of your life as you step into the new year.

We can do this over a phone call or whatsapp, as we’ll need to chat very briefly, and then we can go straight into the reading. This will typically last 15-20 minutes. And as a first step into this, I’m offering this for just Rs. 400.

So, if this is something you’d like to explore, please get in touch with me via my contact page. I am keeping this offer open for the next five days, post which I will begin to do readings.

I’m SO excited!

One year ago: Taking it slow
Two years ago: Day 1: Onwards and upwards
Four years ago: Day 1: Move more

Sunset

I had my last session of therapy for the year today and it was such a good culmination of the work I have done since I resumed again just over a year ago.

Today, as we talked about where I’m at — the cusp of a new unfolding in possibly every different space in my life — I had a moment of almost disbelief at the way in which I was even holding myself and articulating the things that I was.

Today, I reiterated and reaffirmed to myself the uniqueness of my own journey, the need to honour my pace and place, without judgement or measuring it up against anything or anyone else.

Today, I felt like I turned yet another corner in my becoming.

***

The fundamental building blocks of doing things to please others (and in that way make myself agreeable to them) because of the firmly held belief that doing things to please me will inevitably and always be “too much” for them to take, or might make them upset, or unhappy, or confused, or hurt, are shifting. This has been an unsaid code and way of being in my family. Especially for generation after generation of women.

In moving out from that space, that way of being, I have had to slowly let the foundations — those very fundamental building blocks that decide how I will be in the world — slowly crumble and fall away. There is no rebuilding new and healthier foundations without undoing the unhealthy, unsafe and unstable ones that have held me so far.

There is tremendous power in doing this. The proverbial endpoint seems promising,  liberating and great. And it is. But the journey to there is seldom uniformly great. It is downright painful, difficult, isolating and harrowing even. Milestones and in fact many important pivotal moments along the way are often the ones that have left me shaken up to my core and like I have lost the very ground beneath my feet.

But one of the most powerful experiences I have had this year is of letting myself crash and drop so low, allowing myself the ability to dive and sink to depths so low, and meet vulnerabilities so raw and deep that the only way from there has been up.

And the person I am today, as the year draws to a close, definitely feels like a transformed version of the person I was at the start of this year. I am ending the year feeling solid from within. Truer to myself, more in touch with my body and emotions, and very, very unafraid of seeing and holding my vulnerabilities

It’s true what they say. True strength only comes from being intimately and ruthlessly honestly in touch with those deepest fault-lines that exist in all of us. If only I learned earlier that there is no glory in that outward facade of strength and powering-through facade that comes at the cost of bypassing real pain that is asking to be seen and heard.

Today, I felt extra gratitude for all those whose help and support I have sought and leaned on during this time. Fellow truth-seekers, truth-tellers, some professionals whose work it is to help shine a light in spaces we are unable to journey alone, some friends and confidants who have offered everything from a kindred spirit, silent holding of space when I’ve been in the lows and cheered me on through my highs. All the people who have joined me on and off along the way, sometimes holding my hand, sometimes leading, sometimes being led by me, sometimes holding up a mirror or a light, sometimes stopping momentarily and letting me go on so I can journey those necessary parts on my own.

Meeting myself has been equal parts thrilling and terrifying, but I hold close those moments that I have been in touch with recently, the real fruit of all these years of an inward journey — moments where I have felt in love with myself. It has been life-giving like drinking sweet, sweet nectar. And somehow it makes all the heaving difficulty, the bouts of pain and loneliness so worth it.

What a ride.

One year ago: Be kind to the growing mind
Three years ago: Rewind

Through the years

The sadness of a really good time, of the sort that uplifts and nourishes and fills you up, coming to an end hasn’t hit me in literally years. The last memory of such a deep post-good-time of this degree sadness is from when I was a young child and my favourite aunt and uncle would visit us once a year, leading to endless bunked days of school and just too much fun all round. So much fun that when it was time to leave, even as young as 9, 10, 11, 12 years old, I remember feeling abject sadness and finding it difficult to slip back to normalcy and function as usual once again. It always took a few days to get back to the regular rhythm of life.

And that’s the degree of sadness that hit me yesterday once S had left. Thankfully, I had a meeting with S in the evening to soften the blow of the hard knock it could have been. And today, I met S for drinks and brunch at mid day which is always uplifting, and certainly helped fight the gloom that I would have inevitably felt if I was left to my own devices.

Talking to S this afternoon, about friendships as we always do, I realised for all my complains and cribs about disappointments and dissatisfactions about people, especially in a year like this one that has seen the most upheaval and shaking of the ground beneath my feet, I have also received the best and mellowest gifts of love, affection and friendship. I am not very quick to notice it for what it is, and that is something I am trying to change.

The last week spent with S and VC was life-affirming in that sense. And I want to acknowledge the many ways in which it was so good for me.

It gave strength and validation to my deeply held belief that friendships that are based in simple truths and genuine connection don’t take work. They work beyond distance, infrequent meetings and all else. And they have that wonderful ability to rejoin and pick up exactly where we may have left off, even when either party has undergone massive transformation in the time spent apart.

I realised S and J are amongst the handful of people (that I can count on one hand) that I have this absolute and utter privilege with. They honour me with a kind of friendship that some of the relationships closer home that I have struggled to keep going haven’t. That ability to cut through the fat and come straight to the heart of the matter. A high degree of respect and space for vulnerability, even as we hold space for the silliness and laughter. A genuine warmth and being excited for the best in the other.

These are folks I talk to maybe 3 times a year. It’s only in the last six odd months since we started a whatsapp group between us (yes, it took us that long) that there is some form of frequent banter. But otherwise it’s restricted to the timely wishes and brief catch ups on each others birthdays and new year, at best. And yet, somehow, by hook or by crook, we seek each other out at least once a year. Making plans to meet somewhere or the other, dedicated time to spend catching up and reliving the old days. This, is not something I have with literally anyone else in my life. The effort and the follow-through on this, year after year. And today, I realised I really love that we do it.

This past week, I laughed harder than I have in a long while. VC admitted he enjoyed our company more than just being the third wheel he usually makes himself feel like. And I came away feeling like we are grown up versions of ourselves from 2012-2014, with something at the heart of it all, intact. To have each been through some seriously diverse experiences, some transformative times, and still find it’s possible to connect. And connect long and well, and enjoy every moment of it, is special.

So, when I got home in the evening I dug out pictures that pock-mark the many years of our friendship. There are folks who have lifelong friends. I haven’t had that luck as yet. But here, I see solid potential of being stuck with each other for life. OOPSIE – hahahaha.

I realised I have a picture for nearly every year since we split ways, and that we’ve met in six cities and four countries in the years gone by. Again, not something I see myself going out of my way to do with too many people.

From 2013, when we did routinely took off for a staycation when we all lived in Goa.

This was taken on this summer trip that I documented, but several day trips and wanderings — way way too many to count because we’d go out literally every weekend — that probably went undocumented. When we weren’t out and about, we lived out of each others homes. We shared way too many common loves — for movies, music, art, travel — that made us converge on more things than not.

In fact, I cannot separate my association with monsoon listening of Coke Studio from S and J at all. I write about it here. I shared my most impactful professional year, the one that had more far-reaching consequences that I knew, working with S. We’ve cooked way too many meals together and shared way more beers for our own good.

S left Goa in the end of 2013 and moved to Bombay. He visited us in Goa again in 2014, but apparently we took more pictures of the food we ate and absolutely none of ourselves at all.

In 2015, we visited S in Singapore.

In 2016, S flew in from Singapore to Bangkok to catch up with me. Many shenanigans ensued, and ended with this very drunken picture that was taken at 2 am in a bustling street market.

Somehow, we missed meeting in 2017, as S reiterated today with a “WHAT HAPPENED IN 2017??” when I shared these pictures with him. I was caught in the landslide that was moving to Bangalore and the year zipped by without any big travel.

In 2018, we made it to Paris where S now lives. And he and J plotted to surprise us, with J flying in from Hamburg.

Again, way too many shenanigans ensued. And I’ve written about the ways in which I felt so filled up from it all here and here.

Last December, we caught up in Goa, just months after we had returned from Europe.

And then, a whole year later we connected in Bangalore, making a trip to Coorg together. I have a new picture to add to this collection — the first one in the post.

I want to say this is fate or destiny or some such, but I think it isn’t just that. It’s also a lot of deliberate intention, and sincere keeping up of our word and following through on the things we plan to do. That is a deeply cherished aspect of friendship I have coveted for years now.

It’s not too late to acknowledge that for all the knocks and falls I’ve had in the last few years, and especially this past year, as far as people and friendship goes, I am still one lucky girl, for all the love and connection that has stayed and found it’s way to me, despite it all.

One year ago: Take me to your heart
Two years ago: Shut up and drive
Three years ago: Time

Friendship fires

 

Two nights of feeding a fire to keep it going long enough for us to stay snug and warm, talking intimately and candidly huddled around it, listening to the best music is what it took to end a year of massive friendship lessons on a positive and love-filled note.

There was warmth in the silences. Life in the conversation. Fuel in the feelings shared. I am mildly changed by the three days I have spent away in the company of VC and S.

Something fundamental has shifted as far as my perspectives on adult friendships go. And after months of not knowing what, this trip away illuminated that something for me.

I’m just sitting in the afterglow of it.

I’ll say this again. I’m grateful for those who left, almost as much as I am grateful for those who remained.

One year ago: Lay down all your thoughts
Two years ago: Morning song

Better than yesterday, ready for tomorrow

I went to the protest yesterday and I was immensely moved. It was a relatively small gathering, unfortunately. But large in spirit, in voice and in intention. And it happened: I felt something welling up inside of me. In no time at all, my efforts to push back tears were futile. So I stood with the not-so-large crowd of women and men gathered at Town Hall on a Sunday morning, wiping away tears, looking and feeling quite foolish, really. But also feeling my body billowing with a mixture of helpless rage and frustration, mixed with a wild, unbridled wave of inspiration from some of the amazing women who had organised the protest and came forward to speak and share stories of their work with women, with children, and with disadvantaged sections of our society, on ground.

I was particularly enraged not to see a single social media influencer/celebrity with any reach or influence present on the day. That post Manu Chandra post about Bangalore mourning for Monkey Bar, that I spoke about the other day? That enraged me just as much. None of the many, many thousands in this city who are otherwise so quick to take to woke catch-phrases and news pieces, to carefully curate their words and build an image that plays nice and is sufficiently activist-ish and sufficiently pleasant, somehow didn’t find it in them to make it and show solidarity. Many, many regular city women showed up though. In their regular clothes and no photo opportunities. With placards, slogans and heartfelt intention and presence. And once again, the tears welled up.

I am feeling sick to the stomach and peoples duplicity in a world where a woke social media image is becoming everything. This has been a long time coming. Waking up to my own privilege has been a difficult, slow and often painful process. And for many years, I have had the luxury of turning away. While I figured out where I stand, while I allowed my politics to shift and grow, while I took care of my sanity. I had the privilege to turn away. Slowly, but surely though, now I have been feeling compelled to push through. Push through my fence-sitting, my incomplete opinions, my sometimes dilute politics, my apathy, my helplessness, my privilege to just turn a blind eye when things get uncomfortable. And I have been questioning my place in the larger landscape of our society, this country and what is happening around me. And in this context, I have been looking at people around me with new eyes. People whose minds I once admired, some of whom I called friends, people whose politics I aspired to. Many of them are unbearable today. I cannot bear the armchair activism anymore. It began with a disgust at my own, and a kick up my own backside about time running out.

I know, I am not a foot-soldier out there doing the work. Just listening to the women speaking yesterday reaffirmed that. I am not even a person of influence. And yet, there are little things I can do. I am feeling more and more that the time for aimless despair is done. It is time to walk the talk or forever hold ones peace. I do know that my heart and my body are pushing me to be different, to be better — that’s what this welling up and bubbling over of tears, time and time again, is. And I can no longer turn away.

My personal politics have been shifting for a while. I am not the person I was even one year ago, let alone 4-5-6 years ago. I don’t ascribe to many of the views I held then. I look back on posts I’ve written and feel a deep sense of what has changed, and what has remained. Lately, I’ve been feeling immensely disappointed in some of the severely liberal talk online, at the hands of folks who seem to only talk and not do much more than that. In them, I see where I once was. In them, I see an absolute stubbornness and a dangerous change-averse stand. In them I see the terrifying arrogance of believing their politics are all figured out, superior to everyone else’s and somehow an immovable, unchangeable thing. In them I see the dangerous idea that personal politics are cast in stone, need no examination, growth and evolution. I’m ashamed to say, I see this in some of my friends too, and I watch and listen quite confused many times, about which way to go, and what this means for our personal relationship, sometimes. It’s something I discuss a lot with S, seeing as how again, it is not something I can bring up with just about anybody. And so waking up this morning to see S on absolute fire (instagram stories, if you’re interested) it hit me: I am slowly moving away from safety in numbers, for the sake of safety in numbers. I want lesser and lesser to do with people who cling to echo chambers and folks who play niceties so hard they want nothing else but to be surrounded by people who only prop them up and never call out their inherent hypocrisies. This is essentially saying they are opposed to growth.

I find that exceedingly frightening. And I can no longer relate to it even for politeness sake.

***

Later last night, before I shut down my laptop for the day, I happened to check the news and picked up on Delhi burning. Once again I felt the tears rise up, and so I cried to myself, a mixture of confusion and anger, and just a heavy sense of hopelessness weighing down on me.

So is this what it’s come down to? Is this what those who voted this government in wanted in the name of Acche Din? Blood, hate, violence? The brazenness of it all, so blinding. The news continued to come in today, even though I haven’t looked it up and my laptop has stayed shut until now, when I reached out to begin writing this.

For over five years we’ve patiently, silently watched this government perpetuate atrocity after atrocity. One fuck up after another. We’ve stood by watching dodge criticism, silence dissent and opposition and continuously shift the goalposts. We’ve witnessed a slow brewing fascism take shape right in front of our eyes, and last night things may have gone just a bit too far. I have a deep gut feeling what has erupted is just the beginning. I am filled with pain and pride somehow.

This evening, S came over to talk shop and work, and of course we talked about the news. Once again the tears came up. It’s like on-tap these days. And I am a bit flummoxed at how much and how easily it is coming up. In certain spaces, with safe people, I am feeling pushed to a degree of deep vulnerability, it hurts. I feel thankful for friends like S, with whom I now have the language and the means to process nebulous, unnamed feelings like this. And so we did.

It was no coincidence that everything we talked about work and plans and what is to come, after that, was centred around giving this new for of work that I have stepped into, a place in the world.

And so we mind-mapped and vision-boarded the heck out of it, until I felt uplifted and like I could breathe again. It is time to walk the talk.

In the face of a country’s shared trauma, with violent atrocities being committed day in and out, with questions of who belongs and who doesn’t, what is justice and how can it be met, I feel more and more certain deep in my heart that I want to go beyond “doing the work” and making money. Beyond making this yet another professional choice. I want the work I now do to have context and depth, meaning and purpose and it has to shape the way that I bring this work to my world around me. And that thought gives me some much needed solace.

One year ago: Wait, can you turn around?
Two years ago: Clarity
Three years ago: Misty mountain hop

There is a new voice

Thinking of Mary Oliver, on The Journey, today. This past week has been ike coming out from underwater, taking big chest-fulls of air, filling my heart with a soft light and breathing normally again. I’m on an upswing and around me even though nothing is different, everything has changed.

This is what moving through and forward – through the joys and pain alike — is like, I suppose.

But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do–
determined to save
the only life you could save.

Unlearning lifelong patterns and choosing to honour oneself over everything else is a deep, slow, long and often painful process. It requires being a little selfish, which has been easier said than done for me. Because in the doing, it has meant confronting the hardcoded people-pleaser in me, shocking the side of me that believed I was always my own person, and now contending with the possibility that I will be seen as selfish, unkind and self-serving.

As I move through this, without willing or wishing it away, and accepting this part of the journey in its entirety, I am deeply aware of how people close to me may at times feel hurt, shunned, abandoned or rejected.

I can see how relationships are shifting from one day to the next, how some have ended altogether, and others are having to find new ground — not always swiftly and easily.

There is a shit ton of grief and sadness, guilt and fear at all this changing, at letting go at a lifelong comfortable way of being. Of being okay with letting people go. Of facing temporary bouts of despair and loneliness. Of having to grow a new skin, and feeling utterly vulnerable until that new skin appears fully.

There have also been moments of doubt, when all of this has been sometimes too much to take. Moments of questioning if this was worth it? Moments when it all do terrible, I wonder when it will feel right again. Moments that make me want to stop feeling at all.

I’ve wanted to turn this around many times over. Shut all of this that I have unraveled over the past two years, back into a box where it came from. Lock it up and throw away the key.

I’ve been here many times before, and I realise that I will come back to this same place again and again. That’s just the way the cycle goes.

Each time I will question if this was worth it. And each time, that voice inside — of the soul I am nourishing and the life I am serving — will whisper yes, very, very softly.

There is a new voice.

One year ago: Yes we all need a room of our own
Two years ago: I shake off all that no longer serves me
Three years ago: The last of the books for 2016

A little care

What will you do to take care of yourself?

 A daunting question when I think about it. Even more so when I see this list of answers I narrated to D after much thought, and she jotted them down for me, as part of an exercise in an Inner Child healing workshop we did together at the start of the year. I see the answers and I see the sweet earnestness with which I had written them. I meant every one of them.

End of the year, end of the decade, end of my 35th year feels are all up on me and almost as if to answer my where-am-I-going and what-have-done angst, I found this list in my notebook quite by surprise.

I’m so thrilled to see I’ve done all of the things on this list a fair bit. Some more intently than others, some with a few fits and starts,. It I’ve given each of these things a fair and heartfelt shot. And that makes me happy.

This has been a quiet but big and important year for me. It’s been the year I gave myself, amongst many other subtle things, the permission to take care of myself.

One year ago: Trying to get high enough to cut the clouds
Three years ago: Happy high

Better

This morning, I woke up with the thought that there’s no more fighting the fact that I’ve been feeling some pretty high highs and low lows, and it has all been a little too intense for me. More intense than anything else this year, more intense than I am used to handling. That kind of intense up and down always drains me. This morning, feeling a little low-er than I have in a long, long time, I wondered if the advantage of hyper-awareness and knowing I can manage and regulate myself through this might also carry the disadvantage that that very self-regulation may actually keep me from getting help if and when I need it.

I woke up with strains of memory of my 2016 self, when I was at probably at the worst of my discomfort, disillusionment and dealing with a directionless life. I am pretty sure now that I was borderline depressive then, and this morning I worried just a wee bit that what I was feeling, felt like it did back in 2016.

I have not felt this way — this intensely low — in literal years. It has been an intense ten days (all this emptiness/displacement I’ve been talking about), there’s no denying it. And while I have been moving through it quite alright, underneath it all, I’ve been wanting and trying to just feel better. Even while I do nothing but simply observe and move through the feels, I’ve been trying to feel better.

This need to switch out of uncomfortable feelings, the disconnect, to run, to do something, is so, so, so deeply ingrained in me. I am now having to very, very slowly unlearn the default reaction to get up, move on, cheer up and instead invite the difficult emotions in, give them my presence and ask difficult questions like What are you here to show me, this time?

This morning, I suddenly realised what I needed to see once again was that I don’t need to keep trying. I don’t need to feel better, if I have woken up a touch out of sorts. What is better, anyway? And who decides what the exact level of goodness it is?

C, in class last week, asked us to invite nervousness in, if that’s what we had entered the room with. To give it a place. To welcome it, and see how it could be an ally in what we were feeling about what we were about to embark on — the “exam”. What a wildly revolutionary thought that was. To embrace a negative, otherwise uncomfortable feeling. To give it a place.

So, I found some relief just by inviting the intense lows, the listlessness, the disinterest in. I embraced it, accepted that I’m not feeling quite my best. And that it was perfectly alright, even if it lasts a day, or two or five. That gave me the energy to get on with my day. Without having to lie about how I felt, even to myself. Without having to get over it. Without having to pretend about how I was feeling.

I have to say, it was a good day. An invigorating chat about future work plans with S this morning, lunch with A, shopping for organic produce, chai at an old Bangalore home tuned cafe, painless metro rides to and back, an evening of writing by myself, a delightful chat with D, and a simple, quick dinner and getting into bed and under my blanket by 8 pm.

And you know what? I feel better, without even trying.

One year ago: November

Life goes easy

Somehow, spontaneous Monday lunch has become an unplanned thing. Yesterday, when VC and I realised that Vidyarthi Bhavan is just a 17 minute direct metro ride away from us we decided to go there for lunch. Spontaneously. They have such odd timings, so this was also a great tactic to beat the crowds — reaching there at 2 pm which is opening time.

It’s supposedly the Mecca of doseys in Bangalore and I was going back after over a decade. The place looks exactly like I remember it from my last visit which was so far back I don’t know when it was. It’s just spruced up and cleaner, I think. The doseys, on the other hand, were a bit underwhelming. I know I could spark off a potential South versus North Bangalore war, but really, I think CTR wins this round for me. And it will probably stay at the top of my dosey list as a clear winner for a very long time to come, by the looks of it. I was happy for the outing though. For the metro ride. For the spontaneity.

***

I’m revelling in my home again, like I said yesterday. However today, I realised I need to also get out and find a space of my own from where to get work done. It’s becoming exceedingly difficult to do it from home. Especially since VCs return, the new adjustment and excitement of having him home all day long, and the added element of having to now adjust my space around his. He did something in one week that I hadn’t done in the two years since we moved here — turned the extra bedroom into an office/work space. I’m glad he did because finally that room is being used, and not feeling like that ghosty isolated, pointless room that it used to. The house feels filled out and lived in. And yet it’s left me feeling a bit displaced. Sitting at the dining table is not working for me. Lying in bed, impossible.

I feel the need to not only separate my workspace from his, but also my own workspace from life-space. Nothing confirmed it more than what happened earlier today. After procrastinating on an important task all week, simply because I haven’t had the mind-space to work from feeling so displaced, I sat at Koshys for half an hour today and banged it out like it was waiting to come out of me. A cup of hot tea, music in my ears and a desk of my own is all it took.

I realised I need a space of my own. A space that’s not at home. Even if it’s not a fixed space, I need to take myself out of what is essentially a domestic area now, and get going with all these things I’ve been brewing up inside of me.

***

Meanwhile, the waves of grief continue to come. I’ve almost got it down pat now. The cues, the coming of the wave, I ride it and it and it ebbs and flows, and leaves. I wonder how much more there is to feel so much about. I know everything I changing and I feel so deeply unsettled already. In addition I can also already see how my reactions to so many things are changing. So now, in addition to lamenting the changes itself, I also feel a pang for the fact that my stock responses are changing too. It’s like letting go of parts that I have held close to me, parts that I have known to be me. And in their place there is, once again, emptiness. A new emptiness waiting to take life again. But that is a slow process of its own making. I cannot rush it.

I feel naked like a baby. And it’s a very vulnerable and exposed state to be in. I feel sensitive and touchy and just a lot of wanting to be on my own. It’s not going down well with folks around me hahaha. Oh well, c’est la vie.

One year ago: Anyway, I should be doing alright