It’s been a long time coming

I got back to my daily walks pretty soon after we got home from Benaras. Summer is here, good and proper. So it’s ridiculously bright, warm and muggy at 7 am, not at all like the crisp mornings I enjoyed when I left for Goa.

I felt physically uncomfortable for days after we returned, feeling my body heat and dry up from the inside out. It was like my insides were revolting the drastic turn in climate. Would you believe Goa was cooler?

On the upside bright, early mornings have meant waking up super early to sunshine streaming through my curtains. The exact opposite of winter when it’s dark and grey, making it impossible to wake up and get going.

So, waking up has been easy. It’s been good but more than that, the feeling of getting going, of the wheels beginning to move and run from the get go, is such a summer feeling I love.

And then there’s splendour like this where I go for my walk/run. And it has made all the difference in helping me stay consistent.

Since the start of the year, I’ve listened as my body as asked for a little movement, and then some more and a little more. I started with walking on Sunday, then a few more times in the week, then I started running some of the time before eventually rejoining my yoga class. Slowly, I’ve been feeling my body come alive after a whole year of what felt like hibernation.

This week, I went back to a gym. My body has been screaming for some weights and so I listened. It’s been five days and such a viscerally felt thrill to be back on a treadmill, pounding the kms away, picking up a pair of dumbells even more so.

This sense of an awakening in my body has been slowly trickling in spurts. This week I really felt like I’d rekindled and revisited an old friend within me. And old self I’d loved and lost. And regained again. That meeting, that felt like a coming back home to myself once again.

It’s been just so, so, so good to be back.

One year ago: Love, let’s talk about love
Three years ago: On unlearning and relearning order

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Move, move, move

The urge to get moving again actually surfaced one fine evening on my last trip here in Goa. It’d been a year long time of hibernation, near nil movement until then, with all the classic signs of sloth that I have never really seen in myself in all my life. The inability to wake up in the morning, taking so long to surface, the idea of exercise or even just movement feeling like a drag. Coupled with this was an unquenchable appetite, that I now think was partly emotionally charged. I was eating large quantities of ALL THE THINGS.

Somewhere around November of last year, I began taking long walks with D on Sundays in Bangalore, and maybe that was the beginning of it. Even so, it took a lot of effort to push myself out of bed one day a week, and I couldn’t get myself to stretch that enthusiasm for even one more day.

Possibly the one good thing in all of this has been my complete refusal to push myself, and the acceptance of things as they were. Yes, deep down it did bother me that this sort of fundamental shift was in the works. I wondered if I will ever be the exercise buff that I used to be. Have I stopped caring completely? Will I ever have the morning energy like I used to again?

Just as I was settling into a deeper state of acceptance that maybe that phase was well and truly over and it’s time to usher in a slow, non-moving one, something stirred again. And I’ve just listened, gone with it and been at it ever since — yoga every other day, a walk or a run every other day, sometimes an short power extra walk or run in the evening additionally if my energy and time allows it, and that long walk on Sundays.

Almost naturally, my food intake has become more mindful too. I’m convinced the two go hand in hand now, because without much effort I find my portion sizes becoming more appropriate. I used to be a big breakfast eater, that’s changed. I’m easily satiated at lunch and dinner too. The only real effort I’ve put is in quitting sugar to a large extent. I skip it in my chai and coffee, I’ve been mostly off dessert, though I’m not being ultra strict about this either. I have allowed myself the odd hot chocolate or jalebi, when the opportunity strikes. But overall, I feel like I’ve found a rhythm about my body — of being tuned in and being able to listen. This is new too.

And so, in an effort not to break the healthy streak in Goa, I came prepared. With my sneakers, exercise clothes and yoga mat in tow. I hit the road this morning, and walked a speedy 6k in an hour, came home and did a few suryanamaskars and I FEEL SO GOOD.

I don’t have a very great locale to walk/run in, unfortunately. Not one that I have discovered as yet anyway. I’m located just off a highway that’s currently under construction, so it’s just miles and miles of dust and rubble. But I didn’t want to let that stop me. I plugged in my new Bonobo faves compilation and went for it.

The morning views around this home aren’t a patch on what I used to have earlier, but it’ll do. I feel like this time around I’m not going to give up so easily.

One year ago: There’s nothing here to run from
Three years ago: Major leaps, minor struggles

Waking thoughts

At yoga this morning, my teacher said something really simple, but that rang true with the resounding sound of ten bells in my head.

To bring awareness to a part of your body, is to breathe into it. To bring prana into it. To bring life itself to it.

And suddenly I realised, that’s exactly what the journey of awareness has been for me. Like in yoga, bringing awareness has brought life to my life. Without it would be to merely exist.

***

I’ve caught myself saying “I feel so used!” to myself so, so, so many times these past few weeks. So far it’s mostly been in response to things friends have said or done, which has had me sit up and look at the equation between us. But it peaked when my neighbour, who I barely know, just asked me if she could use my home to serve lunch to a bunch of wedding guests they cannot accommodate in their home. It’s been a testing time for my boundaries and the idea of my personal space and how I allow it to be encroached has been coming up a lot, lately. If this is not a sign to wake up and address it, I don’t know what is.

Three years ago: Orange is the new black

Sparks of joy

Just some things that sparked joy this past weekend.

The beginnings of the jacaranda blooms are here. And the city is bursting into clouds of pink that make my heart sing.

I may have developed a habit. A flowers for no reason habit. Oops.

Cooking.

And a few other things:

Being back in class for two days and understanding duality s little bit more.

All the experiences of being forced to slow down.

That stunning slice of chocolate mousse cake I had on Sunday night.

Yoga. Making it to a walk every other day.

Waking up and surfacing early again. Just like it used to be before I turned into a sleepy head.

Homemade strawberry jam.

New epiphanies and letting them sink in slowly.

A new skin.

Three years ago: So, is this a blogathon?

Little pieces of magic

In the early years when VC and I had just begun seeing each other, we weren’t too big on using the phone. We’d spend all day together at the same workplace, and inevitably a gang of us would head out after work for a bite or a drink (or both) and it was only the hours between sleep and the new work day that kept us apart. So we didn’t really need to talk too much in the after-hours.

In general, in life, VC isn’t big on communication. If something is pressingly urgent or needs to be immediately shared — these are the only two counts on which I usually expect a call. A barrage of messages, an entire conversation on SMS — this is an impossibility with him. The thing is, I am a big communicator. Not so much telephone calls (though I sense something changing here too), but I can have entire conversations on chat/messaging services. And I can make calls to VC for no reason at all.

Anyhow, with this long backstory out of the way, this is just to note that VC has suddenly taken to calling me for no reason. We’re suddenly the people who begin and end most days with a telephone call. Sometimes just to say hi, and bye. The thing I thought would never be possible: video calls. We make them now. Several times a week. And I have to say, I’m not the only one initiating them.

I am enjoying this shift in our lives. Where suddenly there seems to be a place for long, detailed, emotionally-charged chatting, baring our souls and sharing our biggest excitements and dejections of the day, conversations that go late into the night. This is the stuff we bypassed entirely in our relationship.

***

Sunday morning walk has become a marker of a good week. A thing to look forward to. I’ll admit the idli-vada is still the draw, but it does feel really good to be out in the crisp morning air when the sun has only just come out.

I nearly didn’t make it two weeks in a row and the joy of actually having made it, and having finished a walk amidst many, many giggles and all kinds of conversation with D, and that breakfast with a double dose of coffee at the end — it’s near perfection.

However, the thing that just laces it all beautifully for me, like a cherry on the top, is coming home and getting right back into bed. Under the quilt and all, to either read, watch some Netflix or just nap — it is just divine.

Last Sunday, I realised this is a small, seemingly insignificant pleasure, the joy of which I almost didn’t fully register. But it has become something of an important ritual for me, and it does lift my day, my week up in more ways than I realise. To acknowledge that this past Sunday shifted something.

***

I have also resumed yoga again. AND I FEEL SO GOOD. There is that sweet, stretchy pain of having used my body for something more than just sitting around, which has been my predominant state for the last 12 months. It’s been a little over a week and it’s hard to fight the constant thought of how woefully out of shape I am, of how the proportion of time it takes to gain strength, stamina and muscle versus the time it takes to lose it all is so goddamned skewed. But, I feel really, really good. I like the deep stretching, the twisty, bendy moves that turn my mind and body into knots, I love the peace in the pranayam, and I go through the entire class in anticipation of the deep relaxation and full-body scan of the last 7 minutes of shavasana.

I’ve had sore abs and hams and glutes pretty much after every class. And then I went and started getting out for a walk on the alternate days when I’m not at yoga. Plus there’s the Sunday walk. So yeah, I’m moving again.

Last year was obviously a year of sitting still, conserving energy. And while it has had its place in the whole process, I hadn’t realised just how much I love to be active, and how happy it actually makes me. On Thursday last week after a walk, I actually came home and burst into a hysterical fit of laughter and cried happy tears from the sheer surge of endorphins like I haven’t felt in forever.

As my next Goa trip approaches, I’m wondering about my options to keep the exercise going. And almost like on cue, my kickboxing trainer messaged me out fo the blue. We hadn’t interacted in upwards of 6 months, and he just checked in on me suddenly, just like that.

I feel like it was a sign.

***

L was down in Bangalore after what feels like forever. Actually, the last time she was down was when we met and hung out at M’s wedding six years ago. Six years isn’t very long, but it feels like an age simply because of how much has happened in the years between. We haven’t been inactive touch through this time. We pretty much fell out of touch entirely, and I only surfaced to get in touch with her last year when I visited Pondicherry and this year when I was in Auroville — to see if we could catch up. Both times she was travelling, and we went back to our regular lives.

So we met, and I realised only after we met that she had made the entire trip down to catch up with me, and another friend. I am so used to assuming nobody would ever do that for me, that I had just taken it for granted that she had some other business to deal with in Bangalore and was catching up with me on the side.

We had a lovely hang. It was meant to be a quick coffee at Koshy’s, but it ended up being a long, long, chatty time. And when we weren’t done even after our coffee was done, we walked up and down Church Street chatting some more. Then ducked into Blossoms and bought a bunch of books. Still no sign of calling it a night, we went back to Koshy’s for dinner.

It was just so affirming. Here’s someone I have just not been in touch with, we have lives that are wildly polar opposites of each other, and yet when we met we picked up effortlessly. The conversation wasn’t stilted, the connection was warm, genuine and lingering, refusing to end.

In all my years struggling to get a grip on the loop of friendship and loneliness in my life, I’ve focused on the lack so much. It only takes a day like this to turn it all around.

***

I also caught up with S and D — we hadn’t done this since the course ended. I came home just so grateful. Here are two people I only got to know about six months ago, we don’t have history. I don’t know too much about the intricacies of their lives, and vice versa. But we’ve connected on a foundation of authenticity and vulnerability, just by virtue of doing this course together and experiencing each other’s worst selves in a closed room. There’s something special about that kind of bond. There’s warmth in the hugs we give, there’s a glint in our eyes when we talk about what we’re dealing with, and there’s the incredibly rare and wonderful bit where we meet like this, over coffee, after 3 months and waste no time in pleasantries, jumping straight to OMG I’m struggling so much this month!

***

I’ve been practicing reading the Tarot for myself for months now. Ever since D got me started last year it’s been a regular feature/habit and gradually growing interest in my life. At the start of the year, I told myself I want to do this more — for myself and for others. This week, I did four readings for four different people. And each of then were an utterly enjoyable experience for me.

What I love most about reading the cards is how there’s almost always a message for me in every reading, how much it makes me tap into my intuition and how much freshness it brings to my life as a newfound interest.

***

This is gratitude for all that has shifted this week. Something about a cycle closing — I’ve been feeling this since the turn of the year and the last full moon that gave me a burst of energy seems to have also completed some kind of shedding that has been in process. I’ve been so wrapped up in thought and working on processing it through my head, that I’ve lost contact with my feelings and my body. I realised today in an instant that I have loosened up physically, as much as I have relaxed about certain tight corners in my life.

Maybe it’s new. Or maybe it’s been there and I hadn’t noticed it because I’ve been so busy looking for cognitive answers.

***

This is gratitude for the winter. For the walks. For the parks. For the morning air.

For the strawberries that I could make jam with.

For this blog and the fresh connections it has brought to my life.

For friends who’ve been there in ways I have been unable to see. For new friends. For new people who are there, just as people, and that’s okay.

For friends who have come, are in the process of leaving, and also those who have left. For teaching me not to hold on so tight. For finally showing me what I’ve been fighting and how futile it is.

For therapy and N and how hard she pushes me.

For the crayons I bought, for the pictures of myself that I dug out and the drawing and writing that came from it.

For the numerous times that I found myself at Airlines this past week. For the coffee.

For home. For amma and for how much time we got to spend together since I’ve been back.

For R, S and H and how they’ve taken me under their wing. Counting me in whenever they go out as a family. It’s incredibly heartening.

One year ago: Pretty lights
Two years ago: Because I want to remember
Three years ago: Saaru-anna

 

Day 328: Leaves are falling all around it’s time I was on my way

Maybe it was all the walking I did in Europe. Or perhaps the walks with the pupsters in Goa. Or maybe it was the seed of a new vice that was sowed way back at the start of the year when I walked the OXFAM Trailwalk. It’s possibly also a little bit of sheer necessity and the reality of being without a car. Also, after all the walking I did last weekend in Auroville, this feels like I have stepped through a new door. I’m not sure when it happened, but suddenly I’m choosing walking a whole lot over other modes of transport. Through the week, I walked to the supermarket and the bank. They’re close enough, no big deal really. Except for the fact that I’d never actually really walked there and back. Because I’d always have a car on hand, most times. If I didn’t, I’d wait till I got my hands on the car. (Yes, totally and completely spoilt, I know!) But, suddenly it’s like I’ve been bitten by this new bug. I’m walking everywhere. Today, when I got out of the salon at 6.30, without giving it so much as a second thought, walked 5.5 kms home. I was home just shy of an hour. Despite the noise and dust, I feel great. Maybe it’s also my exercise-deprived body just happy to be moving again. All that’s needed is to make sneakers my default choice of footwear and a set of headphones in my bag at all times and with good weather, I don’t see why this can’t happen more often.

I’ve been contemplating going back to yoga, despite the inevitable erratic schedule that promises to persist. I’ve also tossed up joining the nearest gym. My limbs are craving that kind of movement. Weighted lunges, pull-ups, a 30 minute run listening to my everyday wake-me-up track at 7 am everyday as I began jogging. Something. And now there’s this. It feels like a fitting beginning.

I’ve just come home a sweaty mess. And I’m superlatively happy. This kind of endorphin high hasn’t happened in forever. A small part of me is wondering what this means spiritually — this sudden, consistent urge to wander. And the thrill in this choosing of the meandering, long and winding, sweaty road home. Hmm.

Two years ago: Day 328: ‘ssupdates

Day 239: Cake by the ocean

One whole year since the life-changing 6-week diet and 8 whole months after I gave it up completely, I am finally fully feeling like myself again. I know I point out my hips a lot, but this has been the real indication. My pants no longer hang on me. They’d all gone shapeless, several sizes too large, and needed belts and all kinds of other fasteners to keep them up. Now they’re staying on their own now, and they feel snug.

My hips don’t lie. I’m back in them the way I used to be. Thick thighs, wide hips and everything in between.

I’ve been steadily moving on to the side of regular unabashed eating over the months, but nothing pushed me over the edge like the frequent travel this year did. I find that as long as I am at home, eating home food I am balanced, measured and satisfied with what I eat. And I feel good eating the way do. But starting with the Thailand trip, when I really cut back and ate ALL THE THINGS, I’ve been on a non-stop no holds barred eating trip. This continued with every trip to Goa after, normalising only a little when I come back home, only to fall off the balance again with the weekly visit to VCs. So somewhere in between, I just completely stopped thinking about it — carbs, sugar, alcohol, bread — like I said, all the things.

Something about being on holiday mode (even if only in my brain) makes me want to eat, eat, eat all the things. And I realise I have been happiest when I have allowed myself to eat. It has taken so much rewiring to really admit, without berating myself and calling myself a pig or shaming my genuine love for indulgence, that I really, really love to eat. And that I eat a lot more than the average woman my age. Yes, my skin might sometimes suffer because of it — sugar sends my acne out of control. Carbs and alcohol make me bloat, and I have to find balance and exercise moderation. But I have realised, I love food far more than I love the idea of flawless skin or a flat belly. For now.

For many years, the last decade, I was in love with the idea of being fit. It was great, it made me feel invincible, I was in the best shape and health. Even when I was on the diet, and for months after, I continued to feel good. In my body, about my body. Perhaps it was the turn my life was taking, and the necessary twist in my self-development journey, but it wasn’t long before I began to feel a strong dissonance between what my mind demanded — ease, softness, openness — and what I was doing to my body — abstinence, curtailing, starving it.

Life has this way of beating me down into submission, to see the truth that needs to be seen. And if it weren’t for the therapy and the work I was forced to put in, I could probably have taken a lot longer to see the mind-body connection, and how much what I was doing to my body was slowing my mind down. On one hand, my soul was raring to go on this journey, but my body was stopping to exercise portion control and self-flagellation.

I couldn’t keep it up. This is not to say indulgence is the way to go. I know that my periods of indulgence and binging are short and are always punctuated by adequate windows where everything gets balanced. Home food is good food, and what we eat on a regular basis is good and wholesome, even without all the eliminations. And that really keeps my system ticking. But it was important to let the reins go. To feel fully, to be me fully. To allow my being to sprout.

In Goa last week, I realised this love I have, to treat my body with good food of late, has been such a vital part of that process of sprouting. About accepting myself just the way I am — hips, thighs, abs, arms, face as they are. In the months between stopping the intense diet and working-out and now, there were periods of struggle when I’d look at fitness icons every now and then and momentarily slip back to wishing my butt were a different size, my waist were smaller and the like. I’d stress about how I’m undoing what I worked so hard to achieve. I was so hard on myself, and it routinely made me so unhappy. First the lack of eating what I wanted to eat, and second the fact that I was even putting myself through it.

It is only as recently as the last 2 weeks that I am experiencing a new level of freeing self love. And I knew it was freeing when I stopped counting what I was eating.

I’ve realised it’s possible that for many years, I was more in love with an idea of being painfully fit, more than I actually loved what it takes to be that fit.

In reality, being just a little bit fit will do.

Second, that idea of what fit is was woefully inadequate for the person I was becoming. It was limiting, restrictive and at a very fundamental (and unconscious) level, ate away at my joy. My sprouting quite literally needed nourishment, and there I was not allowing it.

I’m trying every day to redefine my idea of fit — to tone down the emphasis on how my body looks, and focus more on how I feel. In my heart, in my mind. Deeper down, in my soul.

I realise now that the only want any of these life habits can be sustainable is if I feel good practicing them. And I will only feel good practicing them, if I listen to what it is I need, and move accordingly. So it has taken constant nourishing, through good food, healthy thoughts, and it has taken constant reworking of limiting beliefs and it has taken the hugely painful and taxing work of including everything that I was too afraid, ashamed, proud to see and accept as mine — my faulty beliefs, my inaccurate definitions, my terribly harsh goals.

Try as I did for a while, this process simply didn’t allow for exclusions of any kind. Not of food groups, not of happy moments shared in the company of people who would call bullshit gently when I faltered, not of the opportunities to look deep within with honesty, not of the ability to change

I simply could not keep going with the pursuit of “strong” the way I believed it to be true to me, when deep down my being craved and needed softness, less rigidity, more vulnerability. And acceptance.

In this too, there has been a big lessons in loosening up, and allowing a little give. As much as I struggled to embrace the fact that I did in fact have a warped sense of body image, I have found that joy in embracing my whole self again.

It is enough. I am enough.

The truth is, I love a hearty meal. How else can I explain the glee in planning even the simplest dal-rice meals? This joy comes to me on a daily basis, day after day after day. It’s true what they say, abs are made in the kitchen, but I love dal-rice-and-potato meals way more than I love the idea of flat abs.

Accepting myself, and my body has meant being realistic about its capacity, it’s limitations. It has been about understanding that joy happens when my body works with my mind, and vice-versa, not against. It has meant accepting that the softness I needed in my emotions, needed to find a home in my body.

It has been about choosing kindness and allowance, over the many disallowances Id made mine. It has been about growing soft, letting those muscles really soften, as a blueprint for giving up the obsession to be strong, literally and figuratively. It has been about spreading myself out, taking up space and not shrinking to fit in. It has been about allowing myself vulnerability in my very being — not something I can simply talk about if I don’t bring it into my life, in every aspect possible. And that has meant letting go of the labels, the notions, the sense of self I had cultivated so strongly attached to fitness.

I had to break it down and let a newness grow out of it, to see what else I could be.

Could I be a new kind of fit?
Can I find happiness in a different form and shape?
Could this be an essential part of the journey?

It has not been about seeking comfort in telling myself I’m perfect and flawless. It has meant accepting that my body, me, is just what it is. Not perfect, not horrific. It’s big in parts, smaller in others, it has skin that leaves so much to be desired, a shape that’s sometimes hard to clothe.

It is just what it is. Some days I feel great in it, some days not so much. But it has meant learning to be okay and comfortable in this body, this skin, despite it all. It has been about wearing it with love and acceptance even on those days when I’d rather not. It has been about finding clothes that fit me, rather than fitting myself into clothes I believe I should. It has been about letting go of labels of strength and muscle, and embracing the softness and vulnerability my life so needed.

They say what you eat, is what you are. And I can’t help but believe it is so darned true. These days I feel full and whole. I feel no parts of me left behind, or out. I feel lovely and loved.

I feel intensely. Every emotion I witness fills me up, every encounter and experience, a reminder to dig in and enjoy myself fully. Every time that I am faced with a desire an inkling these days, I find myself choosing action over abstinence — whether a mug of hot chocolate or the idea of a journey or an assignment or a tattoo or a new experience. This agility and impulsiveness is so new for the over-thinker and over-planner that I was. And this has made such a massive difference to the quality of my life. Suddenly everything is wide open, and so full.

The day I came home from Goa and got into my night shorts after 10 days in other night clothes, I felt the elastic bite into my waist, a wee muffin top on either side. Back to normal, like I was last year, I said to VC. Immediately, his reaction was to remind me to relax and not get obsessed about losing it. He’s used to this dance — I complain about my body and he swiftly does his job of making me feel better.

That was who I was. I’d only ever notice and acknowledge my body when I wanted to point out its flaws.

That night thought, it was different. I grabbed my waist, ran my hand around the little hump it created on either side of the elastic waistband, and realised just how joyful this process of filling-out has been. I have enjoyed watching what happens when I let go, give myself permission to eat freely. I have loved fattening myself up.

I have enjoyed watching my body up close and making it mine.

I want to take today to remind myself that this process, the progress, is slow. It takes time, and I might falter. But as long as I continue to allow myself everything — the transgressions as much as the permission to be — I’m moving towards the best life. Time will pass on, and I will continue to grow. In all the many, ever-changing ways possible.

Two years ago: Day 239: Friyay

Day 229: You haven’t felt the fire

(And by you, I mean me, of course.)

One of the side effects of discovering a deeper sense of myself has been the frightening reality that I enjoy dressing up and feeling pretty. It has meant allowing myself the luxury of indulging in small things I never thought I could possibly want or love. Things I didn’t even know I could love, simply because I hadn’t considered the possibility long enough to try it. All because of a fixed sense of self that didn’t fully align with things like pink lipstick, red hair, the occasional selfie on a day when I feel good, or even just looking in the mirror and acknowledging that I look and feel really good. All because of a woefully inaccurate and incomplete sense of who I am, and certain other ideologies that I had hastily picked up and imbibed, for no other reason other than that some parts of them sounded nice and aspirational.

I am now having to slowly deconstruct my false beliefs, examine how distorted my sense of self has been so far, and put it all back together in a way that is most authentic to who I am right now. So much of this has meant letting go of beliefs about being a woman I have staunchly held so far. Beliefs that I have partly because of how I was raised, some because of living through my teens and 20s believing I wasn’t cool/pretty/popular enough to every be worthy of the self-indulgence of prettiness and moments of self-assured confidence and vanity, but mostly based on the ideas of feminism that I have exposed myself to.

And so it’s been a fun time of smashing my own shaky foundations, and rebuilding what feels like and is a more wholistic self.

First and foremost, I’ve realised once again (and had it reaffirmed so many times in so many different ways recently) that the very idea of beauty is a social construct. Mostly one created to pander to the tastes and likes of the gender that sits in viewing, in judgement of the other. For far too long, one half of our kind have decided what is deemed pretty, desirable, sexy and so much of that has come at the cost of our comfort and sanity. To be constantly craving being something one is inherently not, and therefore the constant need to reach an (unhealthy) standard of what is beautiful, is taxing as fuck. And yet we wholly owned that fight and make it a large part of what we do day after day after day.

Personally, I have realised that even with a moderate-to-healthy level of self-awareness and self-assuredness, the constant exposure to a range of media and pop culture that screams messages of what is “right” and desirable, has further reinforced a lot of those shaky beliefs. I may have escaped the desire for fair skin wholeheartedly, but I fell hook line and sinker for the strong-is-the-new-skinny aspiration. And it was so easy to believe that was a healthy, even empowering aspiration to have. For over a decade this has shaped the way I viewed everything about myself — my body, my attitude to health and fitness that was ironically downright unhealthy/obsessive, the way I dress, the way I carried myself, my body language and even my sexuality.

I’ve realised how something so seemingly harmless, couched in good intentions, the right messaging has therefore shaped my notion of beauty, my self-worth, ad my notions of my self. But it was only when I realised how may choices I was making/have made are not quite my own but rather a reflection of what I have internalised as attractive, aspirational, that the cracks have become visible.

This year will go down as the year with the least amount of exercise or attention to fitness. In another time, this would have sent me down a spiral. But I wasn’t prepared for how freeing and powerful it has been to let that shit to, and instead watch myself grow. To feel my hips widen, to enjoy watch the cuts and curves of my once muscular body give way to a more curvy body, to experience with fascination, how my body is changing. And to therefore allow for changes in my wardrobe and the choices in the clothes I want to wear. Suddenly, I have found comfort in clothes that fit me, rather than the other way around. There are small joys in pink lipstick and red hair, in bright prints as much as muted staples, in shopping itself (a luxury I eschewed for a minimalism that I now know is not entirely mine).

What an absolutely liberating joy it has been to rediscover a new sense of self that is beautiful. In filling myself up with the solidity of an inner knowing, rather than the wobbly and slippery slope that is external validation. I think I am only now discovering what it means to know a self worth that is rooted in a belief system that is entirely mine, aligned with notions and attitudes that work for (rather than against) me and the person I am growing into. The most beautiful discovery is how this translates into a confidence, a positive body language, a freeing energy about myself. And this has come from building myself ground-up, rooted in a deep knowing what fills me deep in my core.

It has been like meeting myself for the very first time. And what a beautiful meeting it has been.

Two years ago: Day 229: Into the blue

Day 221: I don’t know about my dreaming anymore

It’s not a random occurrence that there is so much talk of food and a more than normal preoccupation with eating well around here. Of late — all through this year actually — food (and my relationship with it) has emerged as a big piece in my story. The need to look at why I was compelled to eat a certain way, or not eat certain things to be more precise, was entirely spurred by a year of shedding so much weight and still feeling a sense of dissatisfaction and emptiness deep down, with regard to the way my body looked and felt. As much as I celebrated how much my body had coped with what I was putting it through, and marvelled at the body’s capacity to transform in such a dramatic way, I was also appalled at how unrealistic my ideals were and how harsh I was being towards my body.

Somewhere in there was also some guilt about even admitting to struggling with this. Because I have never been typically “fat”. And right there was proof. Of my selective blindness, of my denial of the truth, of these wholly unrealistic ideals I was holding myself up to, even as my fitness mantra was one of fitness and not slimness. And a wild discomfort that my newfound thinness had actually given me a license to own by body some. The selfies I was never able to take, were suddenly so easy. Sharing pictures of myself became comfortable. And let’s not even go into how my dressing changed.

I wondered, did it mean I had an inherent need to conform to an accepted standard of shape and size? Did I not feel as kindly towards my body anyway? It was a harsh reality check to wake up to my own double standards and the effect it had on me, my sense of worth and the truth about how how I really felt about my body.

Today, approximately eight months on from when I started to question and examine these aspects of what I hitherto assumed was just a “fitness obsession”, I find myself coming back to me. Regaining parts I’d ignored and shut away. Finding form where there was none. Regaining that sweet spot of a healthy balanced relationship other everything that I put in my mouth. Feeling whole again. Literally and figuratively. Yes my pants are much tighter than they were last year and yes I know how good getting off sugar and rice was — for my skin, for my energy levels more than anything else. But I will not terrorise my body to conform anymore. I have a long way to go, but today I felt like I was in my body again. Wholly, completely myself. No parts missing, no parts feeling heavy or like a burden, nothing I wanted to change. And I want to remember it. For good.

Two years ago: Day 221: On the road

Day 159: When the rainy days are dying

I had to get to a 6 am yoga class this morning, in order to be home in time to get ready and get to my course in time. But when I had informed my teacher that I’d be swapping my Friday yoga class for an earlier slot, for just this week and the next, my inner self had a hearty laugh. When I realised that Id have to wake up at 5.30 to make it, I too laughed at my optimism, given that waking up (period) has been challenging of late. Waking up early, much earlier than usual, out of the question.

You know where this is going, don’t you?

I made it to class. Both of them. On time and not dragging myself out half asleep.

It’s a small improvement, but a significant step one nonetheless. And because I know it is as much to do with the right thing at the right time, as it is a pleasant surprise, I want to acknowledge it.

The truth is I woke up at 5.15 am and after ten minutes of groggily pottering about at home, I decided that my body was just not up for it and actually went back to bed, blanket and all. But just as I was settling back into sleep mode, in an instant I decided I just didn’t want to skip the yoga session. I was drawn by the promise of how good it feels when I’m done.

I sprang out and took myself to class. And I’m just so glad that I did.

I had a blissful hour on a classic, cloudy 22 degree Bangalore morning, by the pool. Gentle gusts of wind occasionally challenging my balance, the woooshing trees begging me to gaze around, the pool splashing ever subtly, a sparsely populated class where I knew nobody, a little early morning stiffness and resistance, just that little willingness to push and find a little give.

And sure enough, I felt as good as new by the time I was done.

Gratitude for yoga today. Gratitude for my body for showing me the way — for demanding the rest when I needed it, and for pushing me out of bed today when I needed it. Gratitude for the monsoon and the beautiful mornings we’ve been having. Gratitude for the sense to just give in to this right now. Gratitude for the energy and the flow that goes into an hour of yoga feeling so fruitful. Gratitude for the pleasant surprise that was today, really.

Two years ago: Day 159: What I watched

Day 156: Serendipity, do you believe that this makes sense?

One way of looking at patience is the acceptance with utmost calm, that most times things happen in a pace, manner and an order quite different from the one I have in mind.

Beginning yoga (yet again) really affirmed this for me. That the right thing only makes perfect sense when it is the right time. At that right time, the outcome is sometimes entirely different from the one I might have imagined. And yet, it will fall into place and feel perfect, like a misplaced jigsaw piece that has surfaced unexpectedly and clicked into slot making everything shiny, whole and complete.

I’ve given yoga a shot many times before. Usually spurred by short bursts of enthusiasm to try something new, or when I have wanted to take a break but not go off movement completely. You see, I’ve always stupidly considered yoga to be too low-key for me. I know and acknowledge it’s power and place in the world of fitness and exercise, but personally, with my love for high intensity, cardio-based training and my experience with weightlifting, I just never felt that yoga would do it for me. It hadn’t really ever hit the spot like running or lifting weights or going to the gym or kickboxing did.

I’ve always deemed exercise “effective” when it has me breaking into a sweat, or it leaves me breathless, feeling sore the next day. My idea of progress too, was about pursuing that sweet pain that exercise usually gives. Bolstered adequately by messages that made me feel anything less than sweating bullets or having my heart race was not cutting it.

“If it isn’t hurting, it isn’t working,” “Your stomach should be on fire,” and “Always listen to your body, unless your body says don’t squat today. Stupid body!” and the like.

All very well and true. But because most things happen at a pace and manner quite opposite to what I usually have in mind, or the way in which I would imagine a spring back, it was no different with the downward spiral I took on the fitness front.

Several fits and starts in the first five months of this year made me realise I’m also utterly bored with a gym set up (even though I do enjoy some of the individual bits, like weight training, in isolation).

Even as I was allowing myself the time off, patiently waiting for the return to come in it’s own time, I always it would lead me straight back to the gym. I even contacted a couple of personal trainers, assuming that what I needed was a change of pace, some guidance and direction.

But, more often than I’d like to admit, things happen in a pace and manner quite unlike the way I imagine. And much like the attempt to hurry along change in my life, jump small steps to get to the bigger milestones faster, has proven futile, with exercise too, I realised that there is no fighting the natural order or energy of what my body has been telling me.

I’ve known my body hitting a plateau, but this was the first time my mind has.

It was no longer a matter of mere motivation alone, but one of actually tuning into the resistance, feeling it, noticing which part of my body it surfaces in, and just quietly listening. Without fighting it, without being in denial, and accepting that that too, has changed.

There was a time for a high-impact, sweat-it-out-and-get-breathless kind of exercise regimen. And boy it was glorious while it lasted. However, after nearly two decades of enjoying that, it would not be so wrong to accept that maybe that time is done. And I’m actually ready for something a little more low-key. Something a little gentler, less aggressive and up-tempo, more in keeping with the general slow-living kind of energy that has permeated the rest my life.

Which then made another lightbulb go off in my head: this is no longer just about fitness, but about the energy I am bringing to the rest of my life. If my life is a system, with several aspects and parts working in tandem, my goal these days has been to bring about as much synergy in getting these aspects to synchronise and flow. This has been about embracing and nurturing that synergy. And allowing the natural rhythm to take over, so all aspects of my life can be swept with that same Flow.

Life has been gently nudging me on to really lean in to the beauty in relaxing, in not being always wound up or rushing around, and I am only now beginning to see how that actually invites life to Flow — creatively, serendipitously, abundantly.

All I had to do was present myself and stop fighting it as it has engulfed me.

I’m almost too shy to admit that this has happened in the realm of fitness, as I least expected it. With how I suddenly decided it was going to be Yoga (after years of dismissing it as too low-key), how I actually woke up in time for class (after months of trying). And how I enjoyed last week’s lessons in a deeper, more internal sort of way, more than what it did for my body.

The messages I got, the same messages you’ll hear any yoga teacher say, hit a spot so deep inside me. Because clearly, it was all about much more than just my body.

Be gentle.

Go soft.

And then, there was the clincher yesterday, that had me nearly choke up and blink back tears, mid-Ardha-Chandra.

It’s not important to do everything all the way. Go only as far as you can. But it is important to find a safe way to get there.

In an older time, I casually used the term “Go with the Flow” and in my life that meant actively doing things keeping in the natural direction in which I am moving.

That too, has changed.

Now, going with the Flow has come to mean surrendering, doing little, but being patient and allowing life to unfold. Being open to being surprised, and allowing the mysterious, cosmic ways of the Flow to direct me, lift me up and keep me afloat in ways that I have accepted I cannot (and need not) fully understand, but feeling immense gratitude for how much I benefit from it.

So it’s no wonder that I have felt more spiritual in these weeks and months, than ever before. Words like surrender, patience, stillness have come to take new meaning — and they’ve become beacons guiding me along seeking more.

I’ve been talking about letting go, in so many different context, for yonks now. But only now, am I understanding what it means to let go of the urge to force life in the direction I want or imagine, based on my whims, my unquenchable ego and all it’s mind tricks. And instead develop an inner knowing, a trust that the universe has my back. To focus instead on getting my mental desires to meet my those within the depths of my heart, so that when they are completely in tune, that Flow happens effortlessly.

Title inspired by one of my favourite songs.

Day 144: We ain’t picture perfect but we worth the picture still

Postcard from Thailand 3.

Being around VCs family long enough invariably makes me feel like I’m on an entirely different planet as far as attitudes towards bodies in general go. My own, as well as every and any body around. We’re on an island, on a beach holiday, so obviously there’s a lot of those around in full view. A great variety and diversity in shape, size, form and colour, no less.

I’m super thankful for the confidence and appreciation I have for my body, as is. For the ability to wear what I want, sans any shame — my own or asserted on me. But not merely restricted to clothes alone, I’ve come to realise the agency that has been encouraged and inculcated in me for as long as I remember, is not the norm. Even amidst educated, otherwise liberated folks, as close in proximity as the family I’ve married into, this is absolutely missing. A deep-rooted shame about our skin, shape, body type and the default need to constantly cover up, and thereby the expectation that others must too, is the norm.

I’ve realised once again, that it comes down to values. And I’m grateful for having been taught early not to peg anything on appearances. And to own my body and my choice to carry it, wear it and do with it as I please, as the norm. Or I’d too be spending my holiday judging bodies left, right and centre.

Two years ago: Day 144: Monday, this week

Day 110: I was born this way

Two days ago, I stepped into LifeStyle after nearly a decade. And I needed to scarf down an entire donut when I stepped out, to rid myself of the horrible taste the entire visit had left in my mouth.

First, I didn’t find a single regular, well-fitting tee-shirt that 1) wasn’t trying hard to be clever with a stupid caption printed across the front 2) didn’t cost an arm and a leg for something as regular as a basic tee. Why is it so hard to find basic tees that fit well, are made in good quality cotton and that don’t have stupid slogans/captions/prints/embellishments splattered all over them? An no, there ought to be regular brands that make these without having to rush off to the sports/athleisure brands of the world.

Minor displeasures aside, the visit was a frightening reminder of just how boxy fashion trends are, no matter what the year or season. The level to which the fashion industry perpetuates truly regressive stereotypes and women and their bodies, even in this day and age, is shocking.

Sample this:

Is it just me or do each of those “fits” look nearly identical?

It didn’t help that I was there with my MIL and SIL, who are far more avid shoppers than I ever will be, and do more to keep abreast with fashion trends than I ever will. I used to think of them as my pathway to knowing what’s in and what’s not, even though I have never really dressed in keeping with a trend. But something has clearly snapped inside of me, in these weeks of re-looking at and re-examining the way I look at my body.

While my in-laws samples this and that, trying on and rejecting a pile of clothes because, too boyish, too dowdy, too transparent (“I’ll need a skin coloured bra”), shapeless, too short, too long, my husband won’t like this, I spent my time trying to will my eyeballs back from the place they were wedged in at the back of my skull, because of the constant eye-rolling.

And then I had an epiphany. That perhaps my subtle, but unconscious slip into pressuring myself to change my body in the last one year is a result of hanging around with this family. All said and done they’re deeply entrenched in patriarchal notions of what’s beautiful and attractive. There’s literally just one body type that they find acceptable or desirable, which means they’re always feeling flawed, insecure, ugly and inadequate about something or another.

I think some of it has subliminally rubbed-off on to me.

The beauty and fashion industry is always peddling a new thing every few months, and in the process instilling the idea that we are always somewhat flawed. The promise of the newest trend, product, attire to fix that flaw is strong. And more than enough women will believe what they are told and what they see in stores, in advertisements, in popular culture, movies, TV shows and drawing room conversation, without a second thought.

My discomfort with arbitrary body trends was always high, but it is fast bubbling over into a tremendous discomfort, unease and rage towards the fashion industry, and how much of it is about adhering to a certain type. So much of it perpetuates fixed, rigid ideas of gender. Tom-boy, androgynous, girly, boyfriend-this, girlfriend-that, so on and so forth.

Most bodies remain largely unchanged through the lifetime of a person. Sure, I may lose or gain a lot of weight, but my bone structure and body type underneath it all will remain the same — for good. I have a typically Indian wide-hipped body, for example. Even at my leanest, my hips were always the widest part of my body. So it would be really stupid to attempt to fit into straight-cut jeans or pants that don’t have enough room to accommodate my ample backside.

I cannot possibly aspire to make every new trend work for me, because it will mean requiring a new body every few months. I can either embrace my body as is, wear whatever I want that makes me feel comfortable and look nice, or I can believe a fashion trend and give up the idea of ever wearing an entire set of clothes that I’m told aren’t for “my body type”.

That’s one thing. Another aspect is how everything about the way we dress, and how we choose to look, is done keeping men and their desires in mind. The extent to which how we view ourselves is linked to how we think other people think of our looks/appearance is appalling when we stop to examine it. (This realisation was one of the first wake up calls in my own life. I was disgusted with why I was so interested in fitting into certain kinds of clothes because certain kinds of people would be seeing me, more than I was interested in being comfortable and myself.)

And so here’s the thing; not everything I do to my body, my face, my skin, not every piece of clothing I put on or take off, is done to be beautiful. Sometimes I just like a piece of clothing, or a fabric, or a style or cut. Sometimes it’s too hot for one thing, and perfect weather for another. Sometimes it’s practical to wear shorts, sometimes it just makes sense to be layered. Some days I feel like making the effort to look nice, some days I don’t really care. I really value the freedom I have to dress and carry myself the way I see fit, regardless of who is going to view me. My choice to wear shorts even with unwaxed legs, to not give a shit about my bra straps showing from beneath a sleeveless tank-top comes from the same place.

The flipside of this privilege is also that I don’t always think I’m pretty. And that’s okay. Some days of the month, my acne flares up and it doesn’t make me happy or feel gorgeous to see it. I have stretch marks that I live with, but don’t love or hate. My teeth aren’t perfectly aligned despite the ridiculously tedious orthodontic treatment I’ve been through. My jaw and smile is a bit lopsided some times, in some angles. I don’t necessarily find any of this to be pretty all of the time. Some days I live with it some days I think it makes no difference. Most days it’s just the part of the human being I am. I don’t have to always look and feel pretty in order to be worthy of going about a day in full view of people around me.

I feel the same way about clothes. Sure, it is important to want to look nice and presentable, wear all the clothes I wish to, yada yada. But it’s just clothes. I don’t need to be beautiful and presentable all of the time, in the way the world needs me to be, for me to feel worthy. Not every little detail about my appearance, whether physiological or sartorial, needs to adhere to an acceptable kind of prettiness suited to the male eye.

Far too much of how we dress is about making various factions of society feel safe and comfortable, and not enough of it is about how we feel and the choices we want to make. I’ve seen this happen — random uncles appreciating me in a saree, not because I just look nice but because “it’s nice to see you looking womanly”, well-meaning relatives telling me my short hair is taking away from “feminine face-cut”, enough members of my husband’s family who won’t think twice before telling me I’m “too thin” when they’re simultaneously commenting on all and sundry being “too fat”.

It’s on days like this that I wonder what it will take to really get more women to feel better about ourselves and our bodies. And how we can extend that to our clothes — sometimes the ability to wear whatever we want with confidence, sometimes to realise that there isn’t any one kind of “fashionable”, and most of all to be okay and as accepting of our bodies as with our means to clothe ourselves. Because, let’s be honest “fashion” doesn’t come cheap or easy to everyone alike.

We’ve got to take the focus off of appearances in general.

People are going to have opinions one way or another. Body trends will continue to be unhealthy and brutal to our mental health and general well-being. Fashion is going to always peddle a new normal to make us feel inadequate. But historically, and evolutionarily, human beings have been about diversity. We come in a massive range of shapes and sizes. Add to that our personal preferences, the sheer subjective nature of aesthetics, our genetic make up and predisposition, cultural backgrounds and what have you, and there’s literally a million ways in which we’ll want to dress or look.

How on earth can all of that be slotted into a handful of looks, trends, types for us to adhere to?

The mind boggles. Gimme that donut.

Two years ago: Day 110: Go far, they said

Day 106: Remind yourself: nobody built like you

For two weeks now, I’ve been back at the gym. I hesitate to say I’ve bounced back. Because, I haven’t. I’ve allowed myself to ease back into it. Pushing myself just enough to get going on most days, yet giving in to sleeping in or taking a rest day when I’m sore, lazy or just plain not up to it.

I’m making this attempt to take the focus off changing my body, and putting it instead on changing how I think and feel about it. So far, so good.

Reading Roxane Gay’s Hunger really hit very very close to home. The book couldn’t have come at a better time in my life. As a predominantly thin (and I cringe to even use these words anymore, so please take this as a mere descriptor and nothing else) person who has had the privilege of consistently pursuing an above-average fitness regimen for the greater part of the last fifteen years, reading the book made me realise how immensely superficial and ridiculous the rather unconscious shift in my focus has been this past year. I became acutely aware of my privilege, not just in what I am able to do to my body, but the sheer number of things I get away with because of my size and physical stature. It made me much more aware of what “big” people have to deal with, and how incredibly fortunate I am to have none of those issues. Consequently, it put all my fitness “concerns” into perspective, and really made most of them seem so ridiculous.

But all of this has got me thinking a lot about where the pursuit of feeling good about myself (as I am, as things stand) blurs into self-love. Doesn’t self-acceptance inherently come with a requisite amount of vanity? Doesn’t self-confidence dictate that I feel really happy, fulfilled and wonderful about myself more times than not?

I’m trying more and more to drop my disdain around vanity (mine or others’) and instead recognise where it is coming from. Because a healthy level of self-acceptance requires a healthy amount of vanity. A comfort with oneself, thinking and believing that I’m absolutely gorgeous just the way I am.

And so, if I was working desperately hard to alter parts of my physical self to meet some arbitrary standards (mostly self-created, but largely influenced by culture), under the pretext of loving my body and wanting to make it stronger, better, faster, how much of that love is real at all?

It has been interesting to admit how despite feeling the best I have physically (when I was on the food plan and working out harder than I have in years), my motivation was fuelled by a very distinct dissatisfaction. With my shape, my size, my ability. It’s like nothing I had achieved was enough. If I’d come this far, I must go farther, was the predominant motivation.

Unlike all the years before, when I have mostly felt gorgeous, beautiful, amazing, fit, fabulous, fine, and strong, despite being “larger” than the size I hit last year.

I see now, with utmost clarity and honesty that last year, I clearly traded all the self-love and self-acceptance I had garnered and nurtured, for a purely vanity-fuelled attempt at fitness.

And thankfully, I failed so miserably I had to wake up and bring myself back on track.

I could have gone on, not eating carbs, not touching sugar, and working hard at the gym. I probably would have even enjoyed the feeling of becoming fitter, faster and stronger. But since there’s no escaping how what’s on the inside dictates the changes on the outside, inevitably, I had to give in to my changing belief that being “strong” (literally and figuratively) was just overrated.

What I needed the most was to ditch the pursuit of being strong, and turn instead to learn to be soft. Vulnerable. It has meant allowing myself to accept my failures, recognise what I can, cannot and will not do. It has meant being a lot more truthful to myself, to tune in to my inner voice and listen more carefully, rather than shut it down and overpower it with an external message. It has meant aligning what is going on on the inside, with every single action on the outside.

Gradually, I’m coming closer to accepting that there needn’t be any kind of pursuit at all. I don’t want to lift more, feel stronger, do pull-ups or any of that. I don’t want to work towards any of it. I want to just work out because it keeps me active and feeling healthy.

I am okay.

And it is okay to be just okay. My body is worth celebrating most days. And there will be days when it disappoints me or triggers massive self-loathing. Some days I feel frustrated that a certain pair of pants will probably never fit. Some days I’ll delight in all the other kinds of clothes I confidently wear.

That is okay too.

Self love and vanity will co-exist. And hopefully they will bloom and grow into two well-grounded trees that will mingle, intertwine and co-exist.

A few years ago I loved my body hard enough to make it do things that challenged it. Now, I love it enough to just let it be.

I am okay.

This needn’t be a downward spiral or an uphill climb. Today, this is just a beautiful path, along this journey I am on.

Things have changed, it happens.

And I am okay now.

Two years ago: Day 106: Satisfaction

Day 85: Just go ahead, let your hair down

This is the story of my body

Last month, on a particularly sunny, lazy Sunday I took my FitBit off. And then, I never put it back on again.

I can’t believe I’m the kind of person who feels compelled to know how many footsteps I’ve walked, I thought.

It seemed like a small move, taking off my fitness band/watch/accessory without which my wrist had begun to feel a little incomplete. But, the penny had dropped.

This shift has been a long time coming. If you’ve been reading the blog since the start of the year, you probably already know I’ve acknowledged the damage getting on a food plan did to me, and more recently that I have been fairly troubled by my own unwillingness to hit the gym. I’ve watched myself slip off the bandwagon. Some days I’ve been tricked by my own devious mind into mistaking a sudden jolt of motivation to be the start of a swift slide back to the way things were, but no. This has not happened. My fitness habit, as I know it, has broken. And what I have watched with equal parts growing alarm, as well as a heart swelling with pride, my new found ability to let it go.

But the journey has not been smooth sailing, and not without its moments of doubt, shame, self-hate and deep sadness. It has taken me over two months to get down to writing about it.

You see, that in itself was my first clue – why is it suddenly so hard to write/talk about fitness? It’s one of my things. It’s what I do. I’m that person my friends call a human rubberband. I’m the one challenging members of my extended family to check out my flexed biceps. I once Instagrammed myself doing a handstand. I love lifting weights, watching my muscles grow and take shape. I love how powerful and strong that makes me feel. So why then, was I suddenly shy, ashamed and afraid to talk about what is going on with me?

I’ve realised only very recently that beyond the difficulty in trying to understand why I am no longer interested to bounce out of bed every morning and hit the gym, has been the difficulty in accepting that this very fundamental and crucial aspect of who I am is likely fading away.

I can’t believe I’m the kind of person who needs to see six green ticks per week on my FitBit workout calendar, to feel accomplished, I thought.

And yet, the struggle was real. Even as I denounced the obsession and promised to commit myself to a more relaxed, non-outcome oriented fitness practice, I have had moments of resisting my own good intentions.

This just can’t be. This is me, my body, and it jollywell do as I say. 

Of late though, I am find myself looking just a little bit deeper, at everything. Which is why a broken gym habit, couldn’t be just that. I had to look deeper to realise the roots of some body-shaming, some unhealthy obsession, and a whole lot of unrealistic expectations and standards that I was unconsciously holding myself to. One the one hand, it’s a crucial exercise in re-learning moderation habit formation and maintenance. But, within me, this has been yet another exercise of self-acceptance. Of acknowledging the shame and hate that I’ve inflicted on myself, under the garb of fitness and health.

The thing is, I’d come such a long way from the pursuit of slimness, to valuing strength, stamina and good health. But I realised, with a lot of disappointment and shame, that whatever it is I tried to do with the food plan I got on, had really undone all of it, and put me in a very vulnerable headspace. That’s really all it took to slip, to lose focus and go down a road that slowly ate away at a very crucial part of me — my sense of positivity and confidence with my body just the way it was.

Today, I look at my body as it slowly regains all that it has lost in the last six months, and I feel a rush of emotions — defeat and loathing amongst other unsavoury things. But when I stay with the discomfort, and I really force myself to look beyond my dimpled hips, the food baby in my lower belly, the slight floppiness that’s returned to my upper-arms, I see it for what it really is – an amazing machine of flesh, bones, cells and blood. I see a body that has done some really amazing things, from giving me a childhood filled with hyperactive play, the ability to enjoy fitness so early in life, discover and love kickboxing, attempt cartwheels once every year on my birthday, cycle like a monster, trek, hike, drive, deal with every stress I throw it’s way, quietly digest all the food I put into it, healed from countless illnesses, silently sewn back numerous wounds.

This is my body.

It contains who I am. And aside from being the amazing machine it is, it generates literally everything that I feel – whether it’s a gut feeling about a decision, the shivers when a song I love comes on, the crippling waves of nostalgia for an aching memory, the knot in my stomach when I’m scared, or the blooming overpowering love for my husband, reverence and admiration for my parents – you name it and there’s a feeling I can pin-point to a part of my body.

This is my body. The space that creates my energy, protects my soul and gently coaxes my spirit in the direction it needs to go.

This is that body. That holds my spirit so safely in its cocoon. And sometimes, when it’s time for spirit to grow, spread it’s arms out and reach out higher than it has ever been, it absolutely cannot be contained in 28” jeans. Or the idea that I must be a certain body-type: muscular and strong, and just the right amount of curvy. Or a mathematical calculation that dictates an optimum size.

Abundance needs space. Growth takes up space. And you know what else? It requires a helluva lot of energy and focus. So when I took the FitBit off, I was really just acknowledging that right now is not the time to focus on the numbers, to hold myself to a routine that has ceased to make sense, and to be fixed to an idea of myself that is clearly making way for something bigger.

More than anything, this has been a time of rest for my body. It was the break I needed, and never listened enough to provide. But, our bodies know and they have the beautiful ability to simultaneously keep up with our unrealistic motions and doings while also relentlessly pushing us to see the signs, over and over again.

Until we eventually do.

It’s been difficult coming to terms with this change, because like with any other transformation, it’s hard to fight the feeling that this is somehow just another way of letting myself down. Every morning, when I wake up on time and still choose to go back to sleep because the gym isn’t in the least bit inviting anymore, I do wonder if this is really who I am. It feels surreal, unfamiliar, unsettling. So distinctly uncharacteristic.

But that uncomfortable space is the blinding spot of change. It’s where little makes sense and no logic applies. It’s the frightening moment when pupa opens up and lets the light in. And the only thing to do is to be kinder and gentler, and just a little more welcoming of things to come.

At the start of the year, I thought had a body-image fight on my hands. But yesterday, I realised that this is about so much more than accepting the shape, size, colour and contours of my body. It’s about stepping out into the light, graciously accepting this invitation to a deeper understanding of who I am. It’s maddening, frightening, exciting and anxiety-giving all at once. But more and more, I find myself wondering what if I actually like it there?

What if?

***

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I realised that many of you have already subscribed, but don’t open newsletters — whats up with that, ya’ll? If for some reason the newsletter is landing in junk/spam, maybe just give it a check and direct it to your inbox — where you can open them?

Two years ago: Day 85: Piece of peace