Day 305: October

Find another day, with all the changing seasons of my life

I’m writing this from the balcony of our home in Goa, that VC and I are setting up yet again. It’s been a week of intense flashbacks thanks to being back here, not on holiday. I’m mega excited about having one foot in Goa and the other in Bangalore, with VC living here and me heading back home. I am raring to get ahead into an unknown and honestly blank future. I don’t know what lies in waiting for me, but for the first time ever, that uncertainty is sweet and promising.

It is a fitting time to be here, watching as parts of my being are being rekindled, flames of old memories gently fanned to life again every time that I see or do something that triggers a flash from the past. A past from that life I once lived here.  I say it like it was aeons ago, but in truth it was not so far gone. It’s just been a touch under two years. And yet in so many ways, given the transformations that I have experienced, it feels like an absolute lifetime ago. I almost do not recognise that version of myself, and I’m finding it hard to connect to the memory of who I was when I lived here.

Driving down the same streets, revisiting bits of my routine, my haunts have all brought back memories hauntingly close to my mind. And from where I am now, that feels like a sweet, innocent, soft time from the past. Every step of the way, I find myself revisiting how far I’ve come since this journey of healing and spiritual discovery began exactly 2 years ago, right here. Through therapy, making breaking and remaking friendship, umpteen conversations and lots of reading, some self-help and a whole lot of help from around me, active restructuring of my life work marriage and everything in between, it’s been two consistent years of seeking to find my centre again. A centre and a solidity that comes from within, that isn’t attached to any of the trappings I lean on to around me — not my friends, not my family, not my spouse, not my work, and not even to a city. And so it is even more fitting, this state of limbo, of floating between worlds not knowing where or how I am supposed to move ahead, because it is testimony to this very journey. Of finding a centre so deep, of filling it myself up to the brim, of feeling enough, of knowing it is enough.

Of realising that not every one of life’s puzzles needs immediate solving. That there is space for the unanswered questions, for answers that are slow to come. And to make space for the unknown, and to be willing to find comfort in sitting with the questions alone.

***

I spent most of October (and September, for that matter) in a mad dash. October was meant to be about recovery and recouping. We returned from our vacation at the end of September looking forward to some peaceful regrouping as we pack up parts of our lives and set off to begin again on new shores. But as things turned out October was anything but what we’d set ourselves up for. It’s been the most hectic month of the year this far.

It was so busy. I was so busy and when I wasn’t busy, I was preoccupied about being busy. I was running through lists and lists in my head — work lists, packing lists, purchase lists. And that’s just how the entire month seems to have gone by, without so much as a whisker of catching my breath. It wasn’t the ideal way we’d have liked to send VC off, but I cannot complain because I found help in unexpected quarters, empathy and acceptance from near and far, togetherness with both my families, visits from dear friends, a superlative culmination of my course that added a flourish of a finishing touch before we jetted off on our drive to Goa — me by car, VC by bike.

***

In a few days I will head back to Bangalore alone. It is the beginning of a new chapter in my life, and in my life together with VC. It certainly has all the makings of a shiny new adventure, but at this point from where I am right now, I’m sitting snug in the comforts of a chapter about to close.

Since being back in Goa, I’ve ended every single day with a heart filled with gratitude for how help has come my way in these last two months, right up to here in Goa when our lives are in a flux with all the balls up in the air. For family and friendship. For this inexplicable fullness of life. For a future that’s wide open and up for the taking.

It is nice to finally be in a space where I am not fighting life, or vice versa. Things are in a gentle flow. There is peace when I go to bed at night, knowing just how much I am looked after. There is comfort in knowing I maybe walking this journey on my own, but I am far from alone. And there is an immense joy and a deep sense of contentment with knowing I am exactly where I need to be.

***

It has been a month of low, weak writing given how impossibly preoccupied my brain has been. So I’m not attempting to make much sense of my posts this time around.

That post-holiday snap back to reality that was the only day of repose we had. My sister fell violently ill and while it thrust me into action-mode that didn’t wane for the rest of the month, it also threw up moments of pondering about surrender, family and togetherness.

There were many days when I was so filled with thoughts, overcome with emotion and dying to let some of it drip over onto a page, but I just couldn’t find the words. Then the #metoo storm hit, and everything was grey for a bit. We lost Leo and that hit me harder than I expected.

Mid-month we began to consider this move, planning for it and I got a felt a bit overwhelmed at what it means for me, to consciously live apart from VC. To be living this dream of being in two cities at once. There were interesting turn of events with an unusual calm even in the face of this frenzy, a clear indication of change in the works, a glimmer of hope with small victories sparked by brave women speaking up.

The unusual calm seems to be here to stay, and feels like it means more. And finally, just when I allowed myself a mini breather, I unravelled and fell ill. But there was work to be done, goodbyes to be said. And a rather special journey together to Goa was embarked upon. Leaving one home, to come to another home. Our own home is WIP, and I’m gradually feeling equal parts envy that VC gets to have the new home, and excitement at returning to my old home for a newish life.

As always, there is gratitude. For ordinary, everyday miracles. For the abundance friendship has brought to my life these past 2 months. For the unseen gifts even in the hardest moments of my life. And for the incredible, generous offering that is a future into the wild unknown.

***

One month ago: Day 284: September
Two month ago: Day 246: August
Three months ago: Day 219: July
Four months ago: Day 184: June

Five months ago: Day 152: May
Six months ago: Day 134: April
Seven months ago: Day 92: March
Eight months ago: Day 60: February
Nine months ago: Day 32: January

Two years ago: Day 305: Light and life

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Day 299: Kind of morning that lasts all afternoon

We’re home. More on the journey and other miscellaneous thoughts, soon.

See pictures of this same spot taken on previous journeys, here and here.

One year ago: More Goa postcards: blue
Two years ago: Day 299: Book quandary

Day 297: We’re never done

Distracting ourselves from this unsettled limbo like feeling that’s gripped me all day.

You could call this a Bangalore-style goodbye of sorts, I suppose.

One year ago: On going solo

Day 292: Come if it feels right, now is the time to be

The past few weeks gave been an odd combination of active and passive states. Active in the sheer energy and happenings in flow about me, yet passive in how I have been able to just surrender to the situation and how it has consumed me.

I had returned from Europe with grand plans. There was a blog reboot project mushrooming in my head, that I was going to launch into. I was all set to dive right back into work, I wanted to get back to yoga or some sort of exercise (that has dropped to a deathly silent nil in the last few months) and I wanted to spend the last few weeks I can share with VC here doing things around town — eating out, taking walks (our time in Europe made VC and I realise how little we indulge in walking as a standalone activity beyond just getting from one place, at home) revisiting favourite spots in the city and generally giving Bangalore a fitting goodbye (even though I’m not the one leaving just yet, I can’t help but feel a part of me is). But none of that was to be.

There is a lot happening, but none of it earth shattering. And for the first time in a while, I realise this is stasis. Things moving at their place, slowly. No real high peaks or low troughs. Just chugging along. This has been a year of so much activity and movement, mostly in my head. The giant leaps I have felt myself take, the long strides I am always forcing myself to take. I feel I have moved huge distances even as I have tried to sit still. And after almost a whole year of actively seeking that, things are suddenly at a very comfortable plateau. This feels like a time for sitting, sinking, marinading in the work that has been done. A time to sit back, let things unfold as they need to, and enjoy the gifts of my labour.

I’ve been so used to always pushing myself to do better, be better, seek better, seek more — whether in my experiences in Bangalore (because I’ve always felt like my time in this city has been finite, like I’m on a deadline), or my personal self-work. I have been in constant seeking mode for so long now, and the more I have sought and reached out, the more I have received. The more I have received, the more I have filled up, and filled myself of. Finally, things have come to a head. I felt this quite literally last weekend at the closing workshop, when I said my goodbyes and felt physically filled-up. I didn’t sign up for the following workshop. I felt full.

I have sought so much, received so abundantly, and taken in all in so hungrily, now I want to slowly digest it all.  This feels like a time for a resettling. And as much as I have acknowledged that I haven’t done all that I wanted to, I haven’t written as much or as well as I have felt things, I haven’t done any reading, I haven’t been out, it hasn’t been with regret or a longing or a feeling of lack. I feel content with things as they are, even though they haven’t worked out to plan.

I realise even more now that this is stasis. It feels delightfully okay. This is such a new kind of contentment for me.

Things are okay. Nothing overly positive to report, nothing alarmingly negative dragging me down either. The time for striving and achieving more seems to have passed. I want to settle and be still. And it feels just about right.

One year ago: Postcards from Goa
Two years ago:
 Day 292: Love, loss and what we ate

Day 290: Some would say I was a lost man in a lost world

Today, I slowed down. I didn’t cook. I didn’t work. I napped. Twice. I drank multiple cups of tea. I nu see my itchy throat. I had long, enjoyable freewheeling conversations. With Niyu and VC. I had take out Chinese for dinner. I slowed down. Like the flutter of the dragonflys wings when it’s time is done and it’s setting off on a new u charted territory in an renewed shape and form.

Something is abrew. And I am waiting.

Day 289: I been moving calm, don’t start no trouble with me

I can’t believe we’re just over two months away from the neat year. Two thousand and freaking nineteen, for fucks sake. What? Wasn’t it just January some time ago? I feel like we only just returned from our New Years weekend at Coonoor. And yet, I can’t believe it’s going to be a month since we left for Europe. It’s been over two weeks since we’ve been back, and the reason time has zipped by like this is because it has been one thing or another, non-stop, for us since we got back. Between the illness, hospital visits, finishing up my course, attending the last workshop, and keeping the people at home fed at regular intervals (which meant having a kitchen up and functioning more than it has in all the months I’ve used it), I’ve been packed up to my gills with activity.

Time does this funny thing where it shrinks and expands unannounced. Both, when the days are packed to the hilt and I don’t know if I’m going or coming. Like it has been the past few weeks. I feel it in my brain, with the lack of words to share.

When the frenetic up and down from the hospital died down, we all breathed a sigh of relief. It has meant lazy days together, afternoon naps sometimes, meals eaten leisurely and all of that. But even so, I realised today that I haven’t given myself much time to unwind. I have missed catching up with friends. I haven’t had my weekly breakfast out in about a month now. And I have missed doing little things with myself. I didn’t read much on holiday and swore I’d get back and right into my kindle again, but I haven’t so much as touched it.

This is a strange turn of events for me. I haven’t been this busy in forever. The upside is the house is functioning on clockwork — something I’ve longed to put in action only for like everrr now. I’ve found hidden reserves of mojo to cook meal after meal and not tire or feel bored of it. As yet. And in between it all I’ve managed to get some work done, albeit a little past my deadlines. And we’re juggling planning the move of about half our home back to Goa next week.

Today, I suddenly felt overwhelmed by it all. Next week we’ll drive down to Goa again. This time with half our life packed in boxes trailing along. I will then set up house with VC, where he will reside, spend about 2-3 weeks there over Diwali and beyond, and return alone.

I’m overwhelmed. And excited. And unlike before, neither of the two seem to be bubbling over. Today, I realised despite the stress, the sheer overwhelm from everything that has to be done, the finality of VC moving, the lack of space and pause, the complete absence of stillness, I have quite unconsciously and easily kept myself together. This is new. This is different. This is totally unexpected.

This time around, I know what has changed.

Day 283: Wandering through life will love come home to you

Lessons on becoming come at me from all sides. Sometimes loud and crashing, toppling carefully curated beliefs, forcing in freshness. Sometimes gently, softly, like comforting words whispered in confidence.

As I contemplate a time of solitude, with a deliberate focus on my becoming — that little bit that’s begging to turn that will only turn when I am alone — I find solace in the ways in which these messages show up at me. I realised earlier this month, that it was in September 2016, when I first sought therapy for what felt like a spiral into a depressive state, that I began this journey. I didn’t know it then, but I know it now. And since then, it has been a slow and steady process of peeling back the layers, cutting the fluff, removing all excesses, shedding all that no longer serves me, in order to move closer and closer to what lies beneath. An inner sense of knowing, intuition, a soul’s calling — whatever you may choose to call it.

This year especially, there has been something very steadying about finding my centre again — a centre that’s not attached to work, to my spouse, to my family, to a city, etc. And yet, I am still seeking a little something more. I can’t really explain it, but I feel that little bit that I am still seeking, I can only find in solitude.

I’m fortunate to finally be in a place in my life and in my marriage where this is a viable option. It has taken time and effort to get to a place in our marriage and relationship where VC and I feel safe and secure to deliberately stay apart. Not because of logistics, but out of the need to exercise the choice of wanting to stay alone for sometime. He deserves it as much as I do — to live our own selves into being. It has taken considerable shedding fear and uncertainty. But here we are. I’m so excited to watch this unfold and see where it takes us.

Day 278: It’s just another ordinary miracle

Surrender. Quietude. Knowing my body. These have been the three major recurring themes of my life these last couple of years, and more so over the course of this past year. And today, I realised it is exactly these very things that have come together serendipitously, beautifully over the last three days, the very last module of my course.

Ever so grateful for that serendipity and those connections.

Two years ago: Day 278: September

Day 277: It doesn’t matter, put the phone away

Reigning my mind back to class today, when actually it is at home with Niyu, where my dad is suddenly in charge and holding fort. Forever amazed and humbled by the ways in which the universe conspires to push the only real outcome from any circumstance.

Every morning the last three days I’ve contemplated skipping this module, and something within me pushed me to say no, I mustn’t. My dad has been silently lurking around, but very much been there and on top of things. And it’s given me the solace to put my phone down and go to class. This is an interesting and appropriate turn of events.

One year ago: Just do the next right thing, one thing at a time. That’ll take you all the way home.
Two years ago: Day 277: 109 kms done

Day 274: Snap back to reality, oh there goes gravity

Reporting from the comforts of my home. With over twelve hours of sleep under my belt, three cups of filter coffee, an entire meal with dal and veggies included cooked by me, two loads of laundry done and the extreme luxury of a bum-spray in the loo. I am truly home now.

It was a whirlwind of a trip, to be honest. Not our usual laid-back, unwind kind of beach holiday. We’ve clocked some crazy kilometres on our feet, seen every sunrise and sunset, and used every mode of public transport available in these cities (ferries included!) over these past 12 days. Such a far, far cry from our usual beach holidays. It wasn’t just the walking that I’ve mentioned so many times before. There was something very different about the energy on this holiday — the keenness to get out and explore, to see things, to push ourselves rather than settle for the usual wind down, find a spot on the beach/on an island and not move till the end of the holiday.

It’s also the holiday we pushed ourselves out of our comfort zones. Took buses instead of flights. Chose hostels instead of hotels. Did things I thought I was done doing — sharing a room and loo with complete strangers. But it all worked out, and I’m a bit chuffed at how it did. This has clearly been a time for discovering unexpected things about ourselves. Yet again.

As a result, it’s also been a bit emotional. I’ve had a world of feelings surface. From overwhelming excitement, incredible wonder at little things I observed about city life and people in Europe, to touch of regret about how little of it we see back home, a realisation that I have quite a bit of harboured shame about being Indian, and a rekindled urge to live overseas. Some more regret about not having chased that dream sooner too. And a heart burst open with the realisation that it’s not too late to do it over now.

However, the overarching emotion has been a lot of love and gratitude. And nothing sealed this more for me, than coming home after a 12 hours (with over 24 hours of no sleep), when I could have been very crabby and cranky, but I returned happy and content. Not all holidays end this way, you know.

There’s always the usual blues I feel even just coming back from Goa. But to have a full heart and to actually look forward to being home again, said a lot about how fulfilling the holiday has been. I feel like I had the best time I could have possibly had. I got a lot from this holiday — expected and unexpected. And it was just so satisfying.

We ended up staying with S in Paris for one night. It wasn’t even remotely part of our plan. And then J flew in from Hamburg to surprise us. And suddenly our time in Paris changed dramatically, unexpectedly becoming a reunion that stoked a warm fire of forgotten memories as we conversed endlessly, laughed and gossiped. There was also so much wandering wherever our feet wanted to take us, picnicking in parks, lounging on street corners, eating wherever and whenever we pleased, some pub hopping and LOTS of wine.

I had a moment when I realised that I’ve known these boys for almost a decade now. There are few people I think of reconnecting with the way I do with these fellows. In the years since they left Goa, and we did too, we’ve all gone wildly different ways. They’re not people I actively stay in touch with. No social media means I have to make the effort, and I haven’t been very good at all with that these past few years. I might send the occasional text, J relentlessly sends me postcards from his travels, but that’s about it. We’re not clued in on the little ins and outs of each other’s lives anymore like we used to be. But it always happily surprises me when time and time again we manage to snatch chances to catch up. It’s nearly not as frequent as we’d like it to be. But we do manage it, and when we do, time rolls back and slips effortlessly right back to the way things used to be. Distances diminish, boundaries collapse, timezones melt down and we’re the same four bodies drinking and eating and listening to good music and having a laugh all over again. In fact, this was the fourth continent that I have caught up with S in. Over our third bottle of wine and an elaborate snack plate at S’s on our last evening there, I actually told them this — there’s not a lot of people I have the liberty and good fortune of doing this with, but with them I know it will always go back to being easy like we know it, and that’s what makes me want to do it again and again.

I ponder over friendship a lot. I have a lot of different kinds of it in my life at the moment — a whole varied assortment of friends — but even so I am a bit raw about recent experiences in this respect. And this realisation — of what we have with J and S — was soothing like balm. That afternoon, I might have healed a long sore wound and filled up a little emptiness in me.

VC is easily my best travel mate for a range of reasons, but mostly because of his keen sense of curiosity and ability to go all out to get what he wants. It means if he sets his mind on something — a spot for his evening shot, or a particular cuisine we feel like eating, or finding the most uncommercial things to do — he will go all out to make it happen. This compliments my low-key, go-with-the-flow attitude completely.

The rest of the trip had VC going a bit batshit with the photography. You can see his pictures from the trip on his Instagram page. All the aimless wandering certainly helped, and if it weren’t for him and his obsessive commitment to getting all the good pictures, I might not have explored these cities the way I did with him. Ever so grateful for that. Ticking off museums and sights wasn’t on our agenda, so we just took every day as it came, deciding in the morning what we felt like doing, which direction we wanted to wander in, with no real fixed agenda.

It was my second time in Brugges too, so things felt a bit familiar up until them. Amsterdam, on the other hand, was a whole other story. A massive cultural onslaught that smacked me in the face. I thoroughly enjoyed, for obvious reasons bahaha, even though it felt like an odd mix of Bombay and Goa at times which disoriented me in the beginning.

Of course, I’ve left a piece of my heart each in Paris, Brugges and Amsterdam. But I am also feeling so content. I’m so full of love for the experiences, gratitude for how everything worked out despite minimal planning, and I am most thankful for how much the holiday has triggered in my mind, pushing me to get out of my head, and the amount of fodder it’s given me to move ahead from here on.

Two years ago: Day 274: For every down, there is an up

Day 269: Take a deep breath

Bruges. Day 3.

What does it really mean to pause, when presented with the opportunity, unexpectedly, out of line?

The process of becoming has so much more silent staying than moving. The becoming happens almost in micro-mini movements. It can only be felt and known in the pauses.

This holiday, in the most unexpected way, is testing my capacity to let go of the need to get out and get moving and forcing me to choose staying in spaces I thought I couldn’t.

I’m trying to trust the uncertainty. The tentative, slow steps. Quite often it is when things are uncertain, that anything is possible. And I have not been too good at waiting to give that a chance.

Hold on to your dreams.

Day 266: You’re still young, that’s your fault

Paris. Day 4.

There’s just so much to say, about this city, about how not having a plan when we travel worked out for us, about intersecting with friends in parts of the world and about just how incredibly overwhelming beautiful this has been.

We’ve been so lucky with the weather this week, even with the spots of rain, we had J fly down from Hamburg to surprise us and S who anyway lives here now, which dramatically changed the way these four days have been.

Mostly, I’m grateful for life’s little surprises and how things always work out. I came without a plan, just a vague idea of what I would do, and it didn’t involve a single museum. I had no idea it would turn out that I’d spend my time the way I did, but somehow it has been exactly what I wanted.

My brain has been shutting down from the sheer sensory party that this place is. I can’t seem to string one sentence straight even though they’re all there in my head. Try as I might to invoke them, all I get is a bunch of superlatives that still fall short.

I’ll have to try once again in a few days after I’ve had a chance to process it all.

Paris has my heart. Good and proper.

Day 263: We can hit the road and we can go

Paris. Day 1.

Back in Paris after 15 years and the last thing I expected to feel as we stood in the airport queue to enter the country, was anxious. As much as I love being in big cities that take me completely out of my comfort zone, I realised that in the last decade I’ve only travelled east, which feels neighbourly and therefore has a sense of familiarity.

Being in the West, amongst so many white people on the other hand feels overwhelmingly new. I was surprised at how anxious I felt facing the newness, walking the streets and trying to find our way around. It made me think back to 19 year old me, who was obviously much more open to negotiating a new experience. I felt an overwhelming sense of kindness and respect for the person I once was who thought nothing to pick up and go to a new country all by herself. There’s a sense of heart-wide-openness that I remember from then, which made it possible to wander the city with nothing more than a backpack and a map. It was long before smartphones, and I feel that lack of feeling tentative and to go all in made it a special trip.

Wandering around this city yesterday, I had a deep longing for that kind of uncertain wandering. Of eagerness with no plans. And I felt a renewed sense of what I want to work towards next. Here’s to growing up and staying young and to bringing back that unfiltered curiosity and softness in my heart.

Two years ago: Day 263: All you need is less — projects

Day 255: I want the truth to be said

I have a long post chock full of my thoughts and experiences post quitting social media, that has been in the works since almost the start of the year. I haven’t posted it because I don’t feels like I’m done. Because every now and then a new insight happens, thoughts follow and inevitably I see how it has panned out, continues to pan out, in my life. And I update the note. I revisited it last week after the recent, brief brush with Instagram, and I realised I will probably not post it after all. Maybe it’s one of those things that will remain in the realm of the really personal.

However, today, with the week-long hit of Instagram still fresh and buzzing in my veins, I’m going to put down a few fresh thoughts I’ve had about what I know for sure quitting Instagram (specifically) did for me. And conversely, what good has come from staying off of it. It reinforced the fact that just pruning my feed or curtailing the time I spent on the app would certainly not have done me as much good as removing myself from it entirely has. It made a very good case for not returning too soon.

I didn’t know it with this much surety then, but I do now. The obvious downsides of social media aside — like the playing on my specific insecurities and vulnerabilities, the steady cultivation of an attitude that preyed on feedback and validation, the unquestionable sinkhole of productivity and time — the single most important reason I needed to get away was that what I was choosing to see, the imagery and thoughts I was exposing myself to, and thereby the way in which they were being reinforced, was influencing the way I thought and lived. And not in a nice way. It had begun to get in the way of my self-improvement. My habits and patterns online — which were clear numbing patterns — were at loggerheads with the habits and patterns I was trying to cultivate offline. In real life.

One of the two had to change in order for me to move forward.

It goes without saying that I was, like all of us, choosing to see a very curated feed. One that suited my leanings and interests. It made for great viewing, but what it also did, rather insidiously, was make me unwilling to see other points of view. And over time, I’d become very rigid and cocksure about my beliefs and attitudes. Even the ones that needed to change so I could move into a healthier headspace. All of this was an  unconscious and rather slow process that crept up on me when I wasn’t looking.

Social media was great for the constant feedback loops — what with a willing audience that consistently clapped for me, liked everything I posted and thereby reinforced how right I was in what I saw, believed, shared and put out there — and the selective way in which I could expose myself to only a very stilted feed that reflected those very same beliefs and attitudes back at me further digging my heels in deeper, making it so hard for me to realise where I might have been wrong, where I could stand to review and reassess my views. And so hard to course correct.

Polarised and fixed views also allowed little to no scope for middle ground, flexibility, or even the idea that other people maybe coming from very different spaces worth considering. So sure and unshakeable have I been about myself that I now recall several instances of having taken a high ground when it wasn’t required, or even my place to. That high ground, build on a rather shaky foundation of opinions that were not fully formed, not even entirely my own, was bound to come crumbling down.

Opinions are great, but the finality of a social media declaration, backed by the external validation and further reinforced by the audiences repeated positive feedback solidified much of me in a very unshakeable way.

That was disastrous for growth.

So many of my half-baked and problematic (for me) views were being reinforced on a daily basis. Even on days when I didn’t post and was in the audience. And so many of them have gotten in the way of my movement and evolution.

Over the years, I lost sight of the basic truth that we are all evolving. That the very nature of growth and growing up is that we can be completely wrong about many things. Also, that everyone else is evolving too. That what holds true at one time may or may not continue to hold true at another.

Today, practically everything that I knew to be true and held as unshakeable truths, has crumbled and re-formed in the period of about 18 months. The only thing I know for certain is that absolutely nothing is certain, and everything changes.

Much of who I am today and the dramatic changes I have experienced, and the way that I have seen life surge ahead, is a consequence of allowing myself to change my mind. Without a doubt, this process was hastened because I just cut social media out of my life.

A lack of social media has:

  1. Shown me what feeling unsure is
  2. Opened me up to being wrong
  3. Encouraged me to look beyond the obvious, and see where people might be coming from
  4. Softened my need to have a fixed opinion about everything

I’m enjoying this space of being undecided and unclear about many things I had rather staunch opinions about. I’m enjoying figuring it out as I go. I’m reaching out for experiences much more willingly, I’m trying new things. Most of all, I’m getting better and better at asking for help, and find that I am able to receive it with a little more grace than before.

I’m finding unexpected outcomes all the time, and the process has really softened me in a way that has made life fuller and richer.

One year ago: Finding life again

Day 254: Not yet lost all our graces

For a bunch of reasons, some self-made some circumstantial, I’ve been so busy since the start of the month. Work has picked up suddenly, and I’m trying to get it done before I take off on holiday again for the last ten days of this month.

On the home front too, things have caught up with me. Rather, I’ve caught up with the home by sheer dint of being around. Since my mum and dad left, and with no sister in close proximity to go to (boohoo!) I’ve been having a regular life again. Waking up in my home, cooking myself proper, full meals, planning my work around things that need to be done, having a routine that includes some chores and some delegation and overseeing too.

And I’m trying to stay on top of it without losing out on having a life too. So in between all of this there have been outings to catch up with friends, working at coffeeshops, an anniversary dinner and watching Hamlet The Clown Prince.

Things have peaked, and despite the overwhelming busyness of it all, it has been such a good time. But, it’s been six days since I picked up my kindle, I realised. Instead, the pockets of time I’d otherwise dedicate to reading have been spent staying on my phone for inordinately longer than usual, and watching a lot of Netflix*. I have genuinely not had much time for TV this year, sticking to only my absolute must watches, like OITNB and waiting for This Is Us. I did watch the odd thing like Wild Wild Country, She’s Gotta Have It and Nanette, when the hype around it made it impossible to miss. But for the most part I’ve missed out on a lot of TV.

My whatsapp DND time has also gone out of whack with all the travelling, when I go easy on the self-imposed time out. I haven’t been strict enough with myself to enforce it again once we returned. More recently though, with my mum in the states, I find it easier to just stay available during the hours she’s awake.

This has meant a lot more screen time than I’ve been used to these past 10 months. So, it was natural and only a matter of time before I noticed that it was not a mere coincidence that a natural spike in my busyness saw a spike in screen time.

This is probably my pattern. When my brain is over-stretched, few things help me numb it out than mindless screen time. And no matter what the nature of what I am watching, or how scintillating the conversation on whatsapp is, I know that I turn to screens mostly to shut my brain out.

Here’s the thing though, it feels like a numbing mechanism, but it is anything but. If anything, it activates my already spread-too-thin brain some more. And instead of stripping down the number of thoughts, adds to them, thereby contributing to an overall restless feeling. Which is all very well for a weekend or a few days here and there, I suppose. I like a good mindless binge-watch every now and then, but last weekend, I suddenly realised I was missing the quiet in my head. The silence that that made it possible to put my phone down and actually forget all about it for hours on end because the book I was reading had me rapt. The silence that encourages me to read, even when I am tired because it soothes. I realised this when even though I had finished my tasks for the day, sent out my work, met my deadlines, my mind wouldn’t stop racing. I didn’t have anything else left to do, I could have picked up my kindle, but instead time after time, I turned to my phone. Or laptop.

Shit hit the fan when VC took this picture of me on our anniversary. I’m not one for big, outlandish celebrations, but I would certainly have liked to keep my face our a screen. And I’d have liked to spend the entire day, and not just the evening, really together, minus laptops and phones.

In a flash, it reminded me so much of my years spent in long hours at work. TV was mostly the only thing I could manage to do to unwind then. The idea that my brain had been occupied for 10 hours a day at work, almost warranted the binge-watch before bed, to just stop my brain from thinking thoughts.

I’ve come a long, long, long way from there, so to slip back momentarily and have those same feelings of restlessness and chatter in the brain surface was a bit unsettling.

The other non-coincidence was that the week of extreme phone usage happened to be the week I re-entered Instagram after nine whole months. I went in to retrieve some images and writing from last year that are locked away on the app. But the cheeky little thing that Instagram is, it wont let you deactivate immediately anymore. One needs to now wait a week between deactivations. It’s a tactic to make you stay and lure you in, I’m sure. And let me tell you, it works, for the most part. I didn’t get lured back in, but in the knowledge that I had a weeks worth of access, and once the literal anxiety and breathlessness I felt to see the feed (and how much it has changed, in form and content) had passed on day 1, I was back watching and watching and watching and watching. Till I could watch no more.

I’ll say it again, it’s not the app. It is entire me. Us. And the way we allow the apps to draw us in, but there is an undeniable link between the quality of the way I spend my time, the state of peace and calm in my head, and being on or off social media (Instagram and Whatsapp, in my case).

It was eye-opening to notice the difference. But it also makes it easier to acknowledge a pattern and reconcile with slowly slipping back to normalcy. I’m trying to wrap up my work at a sane hour rather than let it slip into the evening and night, just because I have the luxury to do that. This is another interesting space to test boundaries and reclaim space for myself, and so I’m trying it out.

Reflecting on the whole experience the other day, wondering about what drew me in, even though I know and have lived a whole, full life and realised that I’m absolutely not missing even the good stuff I thought was keeping on Instagram, outside of it. It’s the very nature of the application. And in some way, maybe it is  in fact a reflection of the nature of the world itself. Aptly described in this quote from Matt Haig’s Reasons to Stay Alive that I read earlier this year.

THE WORLD IS increasingly designed to depress us. Happiness isn’t very good for the economy. If we were happy with what we had, why would we need more? How do you sell an anti-ageing moisturiser? You make someone worry about ageing. How do you get people to vote for a political party? You make them worry about immigration. How do you get them to buy insurance? By making them worry about everything. How do you get them to have plastic surgery? By highlighting their physical flaws. How do you get them to watch a TV show? By making them worry about missing out. How do you get them to buy a new smartphone? By making them feel like they are being left behind. To be calm becomes a kind of revolutionary act. To be happy with your own non-upgraded existence. To be comfortable with our messy, human selves, would not be good for business.

*What I watched:

  1. To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before (Netflix): it was so sweet and light and lovely. Perfect for a Friday night.
  2. Bareilly ki Barfi (Netflix): was really, surprisingly good. I’m a blind supporter and fan of all of Rajkumar Rao’s work, and even though he isn’t the central protagonist here, he steals the show. Ably supported by excellent work by Ayushmann Khurana and Kirti Sanon who I had hitherto dismissed as just a pretty face.
  3. PadMan (Netflix): was terrible. Lazy, convenient, disastrous way to tell an important story about a real man, and turn it into an outrageous story that doesn’t even so much as acknowledge the man whose life inspired the movie. Again, maybe I’m not the audience, but the way in which everything was dumbed down I wonder if it even did the trick for the audience it was aimed at. Also made me wonder when Sonam Kapoor will figure she cant act and that she should probably try production or something.
  4. Sierra Burgess Is a Loser (Netflix): light, simple kiddie rom-com, worth a watch even though it was problematic in parts and gave me a lot of thoughtssss.