Making space

Some recent developments in a couple of relationships in my life have had me react in a way that is very new for me. Where there was once a need to immediately let go (read: discard) when things were on rocky turf, I have observed that I am now able to let things go (read: let them be). And wait and watch a bit, patiently.

There’s been a lot of talk about reclaiming space for myself. And I have been feeling this palpably in everything I do. Today I realised that this too, is a manifestation of claiming space, making my space, drawing a boundary and having a very clear idea of what I am and am not willing to do any more.

Something has changed, yet again. I have changed, yet again. And I feel it in the difference between the way in which some old relationships were severed with every effort made to discard them, versus just letting things be now, without assigning a definite label, without making unnecessary meaning of every action or mission action, and without forcing a conclusion as to where these relationships now stand.

I feel a little bit more graceful in the way I am with people. It isn’t so much about putting my own needs first as it is about just acknowledging that sometimes more often than not I have a need too. And that sometimes, it is quite the opposite to what I end up feeling compelled to say/do.

I have been sensing the end is nigh with a few relationships in my life. But the refreshing difference this time around is how this impending loss, while heartbreaking, doesn’t grip me with fear. I see it in how I am no longer rushing, throwing myself into a dramatic tizzy of exchange of words to have a definite conclusion. I feel a patience and grace about letting things be.

Today, I realised this is what normal people call holding space. I’m merely holding my space, for a change. It is essential space to let people do the work they want or don’t want to do, depending on whether the feel the need to do it or not.

I’m also seeing how this holding of space is playing out differently in different relationships in my life. It’s so telling to note the relationships where I take the liberty to push and pull the boundaries of space, where it comes naturally and comfortably, and where I feel absolutely no inclination to. So many clues all the time about where I stand with some people vis a vis others.

I had a sobering, settling session of therapy today where I was quiet a lot, for a change. This, and many more new developments came to light. It’s been a while since I felt like I am at a milestone, where I had a clear sense of progress or movement into a more authentic, whole sense of self. This is a largely lonely, self-motivated journey. There are no markers of progress, no cheerleaders, no incentives to keep going even. No paycheck at the end of the month. No encouraging pats on the back. There is no right or wrong way, everything goes. Most of all it is a deeply solitary journey that will not let me forget that I have nothing to prove to anybody. Not even myself.

So to have a glimmer, just a tiny hint, of something small beginning to change is like holding a world of promise carefully in my hands. It stirred the same excitement and satisfaction that gardening did the other day. Much like with waiting for the seedlings to sprout to new life, breaking ground and reaching out for the wide open, now begins ultimate test of patience, compassion and kindness with letting myself unfurl and see which way I want to go next.

One year ago: Forever in-between
Two years ago: Serendipity
Three years ago: Mondays like this

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Chance encounters

One of my big fears about coming back to Goa used to be facing some of the people I left behind when I moved. I say left behind because it’s what I did. My moving cities coincided with a gradual moving away from certain people. It was an inevitable, gradual shift in my mind, but I can see now how and why it must have seemed to them like an abrupt kind of abandoning. And so every time that I am here, I wonder about what it might be like to meet them again. Goa is a small place, and thanks to my workplace, my freelance work, the gym I went to my circles were all very mixed and I was in a social space where everybody knew everybody (that in itself was too much for me, and a big reason why I just wanted out). On past trips here, I’ve been unusually stressed about possible encounters, getting riled up at hearing about things they’ve said about me post my leaving, and such. But I underestimate myself, and the capacity of enough time having passed and the wonders it can do for growth.

It is my tendency to protect myself when I feel vulnerable and my insecurities are exposed, and so in the past I may have done things like measured and calculated my wandering within Goa in the hope that I do not encounter someone I do not want to meet. I didn’t realise when this phase had passed, because on day 1 here, I didn’t even think twice about walking to VC’s office and waiting at the entrance for him. This was unthinkable last year. I was engrossed in an email when a friend from back in the day approached me with a tap on the shoulder. I turned, and when I saw it was her, I instantly expected a wave of panic and rage to come over me.

But it didn’t come.

We chatted, exchanging mundane pleasantries. And then she said those dreaded words.

Let’s catch up sometime.

Again, I waited for the polite response to make its way out with extra faked gusto: Sure!

But it didn’t come.

In its place was a measured, polite It’s alright.

And maybe I was saying that more to myself than her? It’s alright to be me. It’s alright to be honest. It’s alright not to put myself in a place I know will not make me feel good. It’s alright not to want the company of people I have chosen to move away from. It’s alright.

I’m grateful for whatever it is that’s happening with me that has suddenly brought forth this ability to put myself first. Even if in little, seemingly minor ways. I’m enjoying cutting away a lot of the unnecessary politeness, that stemmed from wanting to be seen and known in a certain light, fall away. I am grateful for the openness to discover this confidence to be seen as I am.

Sometimes distant. Sometimes impolite. Sometimes aloof. I am all these things sometimes, and it’s been freeing to let these sides be seen too.

***

With VC, I feel like I’ve come home to a whole new-old person. Does that make sense? Do you know what it’s like to know someone, deep in your bones and be so familiar and used to it that when a big change strikes it sweeps you over and knocks you down just like the charm you felt the very first time you met them? Maybe he’s changed as much as I have and I needed to be here to really see it. Maybe I’ve changed and I had to be here to see how it all plays out and what possibilities it now opens up for us? Maybe this is the beginning of something new and there was no way to unlock it than to come here. I’m grateful for the visible changes. I’m grateful for VC. I’m glad I came.

***

The very next day after I got to Goa, I visited A who has suddenly taken very ill. Last week, I sat in Bangalore, worried sick, helplessly wondering what I could do to make a difference. Distance is such a bitch at times like this. I’ll be there in two weeks. I’d said to JC then, feebly, feeling so inadequate and hopeless for not being able to be around when they’re dealing with so much on their own.

I guess it was just meant to be because here I am two weeks ahead of plan, and A got out of the ICU and came back home the same night that I landed. Which meant, I could see her immediately.

I know I went there for her. To be present, to offer support, to check in on her. But it was oddly fulfilling for me. There is an openness and welcoming nature she has that always, always makes me feel so warm and happy. I think even if 20 years go by and we meet again, I will feel this again. As I often worry about friends in Goa and having to start over in a pool that is already small, made smaller still by my very efficient first round of selection, I’m grateful for people like A who make me time and time again feel that it will be okay.

***

Of course I also went to visit D, Olive and Lego on day 1. The pups greeted me with exuberant jumping and many licks, hyper sniffing and loud demands for biscuits. All of this lasted much longer than usual. I am tempted to say it was the doggy bag of tandoori chicken that was parcelled in my bag, but I also want to say maybe it’s just that they remember me. And they are always so unabashed in showing that they remember, and welcome me back home. As per the norm, D and I chatted on and on and as per the norm, I caused her to miss her siesta again.

I like that we can pick up from wherever, whenever. Despite being emotionally all over the place in our own respective ways of late, I like that the prolonged silences do not get in the way. I’m truly grateful that I don’t have to pretend, or make extra overtures to bridge them. I can be what I am, the way I am and we still have a world of things to talk about, or sit in silence together, equally.

***

I know why I resisted coming here sooner than planned so much. It’s because the circumstances brought out these latent fears full force, and I was just not ready to face them. But today I think maybe I needed this. As much as VC did. Because it’s been just a few days and, I felt it the very next morning. I felt like something very fundamental that I was missing in the last few weeks has suddenly been found.

In many ways I feel like I have come full circle, and I feel today, like I did one day two years ago when I finally made some sense (and peace) with moving to Bangalore.

I just had a strangely serendipitous conversation with VC about how sometimes one has to really go the distance to learn something very basic. It seems like an unnecessary journey, and sometimes the upheaval seems disproportionate to the truth learned, but it is how it is.

One year ago: A life of stranger things
Three years ago: Busy bee day

Happy spots

I watched Daniel Fernandes perform Shadows tonight. I’ve been thinking I haven’t really explored comedy, despite having access to so many live shows here in Bangalore so last week it was past midnight and I was having trouble so I was browsing a booking app (yeah, this is what happens when you have no social media) when I saw he was performing in town. I didn’t bother to check where, just went ahead and bought myself a ticket.

This morning, when figuring out how to get to this venue I’d never heard of, I realised it was a club all the way across town — I’m talking 50 minute drive even early on a Sunday evening. Not an auditorium like I’d imagined, or like the place I watched Abhishek Upmanyu. Suddenly, momentarily, I was a little apprehensive, wondering what it might be like going to a club alone. Would it be worth the long drive, going alone? Where would I sit, who would I sit with, what would I do, what would it look like? But I went anyway, I wanted to watch him live.

To my surprise and absolute delight, I was seated at a table with five other girls who had come alone too. Initial awkwardness and some stolen glances trying to figure out if any of them were going to be joined by friends later, when the last girl to arrive filled the only remaining seat at the table, we all let out a collective guffaw of relief simultaneously realising we were all on our own.

This was the highpoint of the evening for me. It was liberating to be alone (and I hope I do more of this), and yet I felt a sense of communion to be seated at the table with these girls who were all there because they wanted to watch Daniel live, and couldn’t wait to find company. I checked, I asked each of them.

I’m someone who spent the entire duration of my 20s partnered, and nursing a such a strong yearning for a tribe that I often settled for whatever form that it came my way. I’ve been in a motley assortment of groups and cliques, and when I look back on these experiences I do feel I missed out a lot on the essence of me. Maybe I’d have done a lot more things differently, a lot of things on my own if I had half the sense of self worth I have today.

That evening I felt like I lived a little bit of an experience I knew I had missed, but that I didn’t know I could have now.

Solitary comedy shows. Solitary beers. Solitary long drives back home. And it’s own kind of contentment.

***

The special itself? Shadows — it was quite good. I went without expectations, to be honest. I’ve really liked some of Daniel’s work in the past, but I’ve also sometimes squirmed at some of the things he has said and done. I had no context about what he’s been up to in recent time. Because, no social media. So I literally went in blind.

Shadows wasn’t a ribticklingly funny stand up special. It was the brand of comedy that’s real, honest, a bit dark and intense in parts. Heavily autobiographical, it draws on experiences he’s had over the last 7 years of his life since turning to comedy as a career. From quitting a safe job, being broke, dabbling in comedy, navigating the scene, fighting the expectations and norms of family and society, realising he’s a square peg in a world of round pegs, and learning to be okay with it — the show had a lot of bits that resonated with me as it would with everyone who watches it I’m pretty sure. It was the kind of show that had more awkward silences, emotional pauses and squeamish stifled laughs, rather than loud raucous laughter because it was just that real.

I think what I enjoyed the most was the overarching theme of journeying towards an authentic self, even when realising what you’re discovering it isn’t as pretty a picture as you imagine. And being okay with that.

To embark on this journey needs courage, to talk about it even more so, but to turn it to art and perform it, knowing it may or may not be received the way one expects — the reactions may range from extreme validation to hate — and to do it anyway requires a whole different level of vulnerability. And that’s the bit that touched me the most.

***

Last week, I caught up with V after what felt like 10+ years even though we briefly hung-out over a very hurried meal in Goa some 5 years ago. In the years between then and now he’s gotten married and is now a father to a 2.5 year old baby boy. In the years between, we have also completely lost touch. Not even exchanging the occasional message. So when we decided to meet, I went armed with a book, fully anticipating our lunch would be a quick affair, and I’d make use of the journey into town, hanging out and reading some place quiet.

BUT, we ended up catching up in such intense detail. Discussing everything from politics to marriage, children and pets, future careers and whatnot. And we didn’t leave. For. SIX. HOURS. Over way more beer than I have consumed in a single sitting in about as many years as it has been since I used to know him.

It was fun, yes. But it was also heartwarming that it was possible. It was heartwarming to be surprised. I don’t know if this will happen again, or it even means anything significant for our friendship, but I will cherish that day and that meeting for a while.

***

There was also a stunning lunch at SodaBottleOpenerWala and a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon with D that will be unforgettable for entirely different reasons that I cannot disclose here, and cannot even recollect without laughing so hard, I tear up. But I’m putting it down here so I will never forget.

***

One year ago: Flowers in the window
Three years ago: Moved to tears

I let you go, in peace

Another advantage of being away, physically, from regular programming is this opportunity to pull back and view otherwise emotionally-charged occurrences in life from a distance. And a little dispassionately.

Since coming here, I’ve realised with resounding reaffirmation that I’m possibly most alone right now, as I’ve been in a very, very long time. This is As far as people goes. The palpable difference is a visibly significant decrease in discomfort as I acknowledge and say this out loud. The ease with which the realisation struck really shocked me.

Even with all the coming and going of people over the years, at every point I’ve always had a handful of people to lean on. That base number is currently at the absolute lowest it’s been. And if I discount VC from it, it goes even lower. I mean this entirely dispassionately, and to be able to say it as it is is all kinds of freeing. By alone, I mean for the first time in a long time, I feel an significant absence of people. And it feels okay.

For years now the aspect of people coming and going has been a constant, but this is a first: there have been very few new entries in the recent past. There’s been the deliberate culling in some part, a natural withdrawal from some others, there is a morphing of certain relationships. This is the first time I haven’t rushed to fill the empty space that has been created as a result.

I’ve always looked at people who have that quiet confidence about themselves that makes them the kind of people who can spend entire days, day after day, peacefully by themselves, doing the things they want to do anyway even if they’re alone, with a sense of awe and admiration. As I’m thinking about the kind of person I’m talking about, S comes to mind. He’s probably the epitome of self-assured for me, in this aspect. Cooking for himself with as much gusto and enthusiasm as he would if he were with someone else. Cooking, plating it, garnish and all, and instagramming the shit out of his meals-for-one. Traveling alone. Getting high alone. It isn’t so much the activities, but the solidity of having fun even alone. This has been a new realisation and craving for me.

Suddenly, when I’m feeling this absence of people, I’ve done more of those things alone than I would do waiting for company.

Going to the beach.

Dancing in my living room.

Getting a drink because I felt like it.

I felt like it has rarely been a good enough reason without the Let’s see who else does addendum.

And you know what? For the first time in my life, it actually feels natural and like it needs almost no effort at all.

***

Through it all, S has been there for me like a rock. I have leaned on her like crazy, crazy. Exchanging long, long messages and voice notes as I process this in my head. Bombarding her with my thoughts as they come, even on days when she is unable to respond. I really appreciate the space we have, mostly free of obligatory, cursory responses, but wide openness to bring anything to it.

It’s helped immensely with not stewing in my own head about much of it. It’s helped stop my unnecessarily negative narratives. It’s brought much clarity.

***

I’ve been wondering what happens when friendships are well and truly over. What is that exact moment when we actually progress from lingering, to moving on. Is it a point, or a spectrum?

Does it happen when the hurt finally ends (also: wtf is that??)? Or is it when you go a certain number of days without reliving the anger and extreme annoyance you do whenever they come to your mind? Or does it happen when you’re able to finally accept it isn’t your story at all? Or does it happen when you do something as mundane as deleting said person from your phone book and do the thing you never imagined possible — block them?

D had a super apt post about releasing such attachment from our beings and I felt a deep resonance with it. Many of those movements have naturally occurred for me in multiple relationships of my life over the last couple of weeks. I fully understand now why some endings are harder than others, even when the ending feels right — there is the matter of reclaiming power. I sometimes feel robbed of that opportunity, and of late I’ve been feeling that weight of wanting to say things I couldn’t say, explain and clarify misunderstandings lifting off of me.

Not just that, I also feel a cutting away and releasing of an older way of being — with people, in relationships, within myself — also falling to the side. There’s something very fulfilling about this, even though it is an emptying out, so to speak.

I feel tantalisingly close to a milestone, like I’m on to something. And it comes with that breathtaking excitement about a new development, a surprise possibility of an altered way to be as a human, a promise of some peace. I’m not quite where I want to be, but the wheels keep turning, I keep moving, I’ll get there sooner than later.

One year ago: And the living is easy
Three years ago: Flying solo

Stoking the friendship fire

Just marvelling at what a quiet, content, contained week I’ve had. Even as I had some difficulties with feelings about people, letting go and an overwhelming sense of loneliness again that came bubbling up, it’s been such a good week, now that I can pull back and look at it with some perspective.

I’m constantly amused, amazed and filled with humility about how much connection (something that I have been harping on and on about) has actually started finding its way to me. It’s coming in ways and means outside of what I am used to, and not always strictly through channels that I want it in. So I often miss it, but my God when I open my eyes and start noticing it, it fills me up in such an amazing way.

So it’s oddly nice to be ending this week feeling content, with this realisation, because I started the week feeling rather quiet and alone (the two seem to go hand in hand sometimes, no?)

My ideas of friendship, of empathy and of what I expect and want from people in my life is being tested literally every single day, of late. It’s like life forcing me to challenge what I have believed so far, and as always that process brings up so much sadness because it means I have to finally face up to many hurts that have been staring me in the face, and that I have avoided. It means I have to re-evaluate where I stand with the people who have caused me said hurt. And sometimes it means I have to just let go. Either of the feeling, or of the person. Sometimes, both. And that is never easy, even when I am fully aware it’s the best outcome possible.

When D and I spoke early this week, I realised how much I lean on her for support, even without really articulating it or even asking for it. Even with everything she has going on, she is somehow there for me. So many times the being there, isn’t literal. It’s a feeling. It’s an unspoken connection. A trust, a space I know I have. And I have been using it unconsciously, in more ways than one.

I said something similar to N too. We may not speak every single day, I know how much she is also processing at the moment and how much time and space that needs. Yet, I know she reads my blog and that is our way to connect right now. Because every now and then, she sends me a message with an insight — either a similar realisation she’s had, a common experience, something to read or a picture — that I feel an instant resonance with, or that will challenge me and give me a lot to think about. We don’t have to go into details about what we’re going through, but in the exchange of a few messages and conversation around it, I feel a sense of togetherness. That she is there for me. Miles away, but connected.

VC and I have been having unusually (for us) long conversations too. Time and time again, my relationship with him is testimony to the old adage about how we can go roaming the world looking for what is sometimes right under our noses. I have always cherished the connection I have with VC, but I feel like these days I cherish what it is slowly growing into, and I wait with eagerness to see where it will go to next.

And then there is S, who had a massive world of woes of her own to deal with. It was an entire shit-fest of massive proportions that made everything that I was dealing with pale in comparison. But with her, I have the capacity to bring even that little trouble up front, and know that it will be heard. In between stressful exchanges about unpaid fees and the anxiety in the pit of her stomach, I found the capacity to share my seemingly trivial worry, and she put her own worry aside for a minute to hear me out and be there for me. I latched on to it, shamelessly, as I realise is the liberty one can and should take with a precious few friends who will have it. We spent an entire day together, just staying in, mostly quiet and contemplative, talking about everything that we have had going on in our lives and our minds. Just reconnecting. It was a day I needed so much, I realised once I was back home.

Last week, while I was semi-moping about this hurt and letting go, I had an unexpectedly affirming conversation with a complete stranger. It was entertaining and refreshing in the moment. But in retrospect I realised it was an inflection point for me. My reaction, my behaviour in the instant was such a departure from what I have known to be me. It was a moment of realising something deeply fundamental has changed. My heart has opened in more ways than I am even aware of. And it’s exciting to witness this transformation in me.

Last week I also had a record number of comments and emails from readers of the blog. Affirming and filled with a sense of resonance and connection of its own.

***

There’s so much about connection that I am in the process of redefining. Clearly, this is the time to do it, given how much this deep longing for the presence of people has been coming up for me. Look at what it means and what is changing is essential to ensuring that I receive what is now coming my way, in the best way possible. I know for certain nothing about what is emerging, is coming from the backlog of what once was. This seems to be all new. It has a decidedly fresh energy and is emerging from a space of newness.

Connection isn’t about proximity or affinity, even. It isn’t about likeness, familiarity. Sometimes it isn’t even as much about vulnerability and empathy. Or about deep, intense conversations.

This last week alone, I connected with a stranger who launched straight into chatter about ZNMD, with as much intensity as I had a deep midday conversation with N about how friendship has changed for her. I feel closer and connected to VC and D in Goa, as much as I do to S who lives in my city but so far off that we don’t meet too often. So many of my conversations this past week affirmed the quietness of connection. So often that connection happens in literal silence, in the space where I hear and am being heard. No responses, no overtures of love and understanding, no sympathy needed. Just the space to be present to what is being felt, is enough.

That, precisely that, is what I have been missing and craving for so, so, so, so long. And it is what I have felt show up in a glimmer here and a shimmer there this past week.

These days, these are the moments that give me life.

One year ago: And so it is the shorter story
Three years ago: Time bubble

Weekend highs and lows

After a very long time, I had a weekend all to myself. A weekend that I spent almost entirely at home, just being a cooped up chicken. Just the way I like it sometimes. I cancelled all possibility of plans that could have materialised. I went for walks in the morning. I cooked full meals for myself. I had a massive Netflix binge. I read a book I’ve been attempting to begin since the beginning of January. I had long and winding conversations with VC.

On Saturday I felt extra pleased when I had finished dinner by 7 pm and was right back in bed and Netflixing immediately after. At 9.30 though, R and S called and dragged me out of bed for “a drive”. How bad could it be, I thought. I can get out for this, I told myself, as I got out of my night clothes, into a bra and presentable clothes again.

The “drive” ended at the airport. And what followed was a big binge, only to get home closer to 1 am.

On Sunday, after spending all day in bed, I showered at 3 pm and took myself out to work for a couple of hours. That was the extent of my venturing out.

I was telling VC last night how I am enjoying this time of cocooning and spending time with myself — I crave it and enjoy every last bit of it — as much as I am loving being in Bangalore where the world outside is just within reach whenever I want to venture out. I am really enjoying this access and ease.

***

Sunday evenings are the devil. They bring out a strange melancholy in me that takes me right back to the age of aching weekend endings. When white shoes needed to be washed and polished in time for Mass PT. When uniforms needed ironing. When books needed pre-packing. These were the rituals of the years when Sunday evenings ached. And they have pretty much set the code for all Sunday evenings of my life. No matter that my life today looks nothing like it did then, and has none of the trappings that life did then.

Even with nothing earth-shattering to wake up to on Monday, even with the luxury of starting the week with an easy 7.45 am yoga class (and really, this is easily the best way I have allowed myself to begin any week, in recent time) Sunday evenings bring that dull ache back, almost every week. With immaculate regularity.

And yet, every Sunday, when the gloom descends I forget to discount it as that specific kind of meaningless Sunday evening gloom. Week after week, month after month, endless Sunday evenings pass with this restlessness gripping me bang on cue. Invariably, it takes VC pointing out that it’s Sunday evening, midway through my whining and complaining, for me to realise it and let it go.

Sunday evening gloom is the new PMS in my life.

***

This Sunday evening I had a big mood, though. An incredible disappointment in all people, in what is left of most relationships in my life at this present moment. Several events leading up to Sunday have left me feeling excessively depleted, like I just have nothing more to give, and yet the ask and want from various quarters persists. Unabashed and singleminded asking, of me. With no regard or thought for the balance or what I might get in return.

After a long, long time I reached a point where I felt disillusioned and a touch of self-pity for the oddly familiar place I am in, that somehow still feels all new and shitty at times too. How did it get this way?

On the one hand, I have this longing for people, for connection, like I haven’t had ever before. All pretence of introversion has lifted. I want to be out there, meeting, talking to people, not just for the the heavy and intense bits but the light and fun bits too. And yet, of the mere handful of people that exist, there is just disappointment and a consequent lack of inclination to reach out. It makes me close up. Makes me want to be the lone ranger I have the habit of being. Makes me confirm the In the end we’re all alone anyway thought.

By late Sunday evening this mood had bloomed into a full blown rage. Complete with a big urge to just burn away all ties. To shut this blog down. To go under. And I expressed it to VC as a deep, deep desire to go away someplace completely new, where nobody knows me — not the old me, not the new me — to start over from scratch.

Monday came along, and some of it passed. But it wasn’t until after a solid afternoon nap and a long chat + reading with D that I felt some of the heaviness lift. Later last night, I had dinner with Amma who had just returned from Bombay. A dinner I had cooked and taken over, with a side of conversation and some laughs. And I felt infinitely better after it.

Maybe this is just it? Maybe I need to stop looking so hard and trying to catch this nebulous notion of connection that seems to be festering within all the time? Maybe I just need to let it go, put an intention out and let what will be, be. And give thanks for the little bits of connection I do receive, in whatever form they come my way.

***

Here’s a ragey tune fit for all Sunday evenings.

***

On the other hand, I am also acutely aware that all these feelings are a part of the process. This unsettling may be long-drawn and painful, and will bring with it a fair share of shedding. I am still partly afraid, even as I brave the daily reminders of everything in the people department in my life that is hanging by a weak tether. Deeply unsettling of all is not knowing which way I am going. The confusion, the not knowing too, is a part of the process.

I have known this all along.

This morning, I came across this tweet that reaffirmed my knowing of how wide open the choices out there are right now, for me. The fear is still in letting the reins go, in letting the old go.

One year ago: May your feet always be swift
Three years ago: Blush

On duality

A lot happened while I was sitting by this window, several times last week. A difficult conversation, a deeply life-affirming conversation on the back of that difficult one, some uplifting realisations, that delicious chicken sandwich I had the good fortune of eating two days in a row, reading this incredible piece on the psychological benefits of isolation (in a week where I have contemplated being alone versus feeling lonely, SO MUCH), and finally an internal settling and reckoning with the inherent duality in much of this.

Yes, these have been emotionally challenging times, but the sum-total of my life isn’t challenging. There’s both. They co-exist.

I am often sad, emotional and feeling the void in terms of safe and dependable spaces in which to share all of this. But my life isn’t entirely lacking space. There are spaces and I’m only waking up to the fact that the space is but half of the equation. Making myself available, and discovering deeper vulnerability is the crucial other half. There’s space, and there’s the difficulty of making use of the space. There’s both. They co-exist.

Yes, I love, cherish and choose my time alone. But I am not an isolated introvert. I also crave connection and meaningful experiences with people. There’s both. They co-exist.

Yes, I’ve had a cycle of making, breaking, losing, walking away from and discovering new relationships. But that script does not define who I am. Much as I sometimes coax myself into believing that it must be something in me that makes it so I’ve realised this is a direct consequence of growth, evolution and a steadfast commitment to a deeply personal goal (happily, echoed by The Atlantic piece linked above). There’s the grief of losing people, and the joy in gaining them in unequal measure. There’s both. They co-exist.

Yes, it sucks to accept it. I have tried all my life to fight it, and I’ve lived that fight out by repeatedly reconnecting with relationships that are clearly over and whose purpose was long served; by trying to make amends where there is little hope for it; by looking for empathy and listening where there is none available; by giving my heart to people who don’t know what to do with it; and by using my energy and resources in salvaging relationships that don’t deserve it. And try as I might to fight accepting it, this is just the way it is. However, it does not make me the woman who pushes people away. I am just the person who is constantly searching for deeper, authentic relationships, and sometimes has to let go of those that don’t met the bar. So there is always that lack of “large numbers” of people and the deeply meaningful relationships with few. There’s both. They co-exist.

Yes, sometimes this means I have to have difficult conversations at difficult junctures in these relationships, but it also means I am better and stronger in my relationships for it. Yes, there is fear, but there is courage right on the other side of it, and together it makes a wholesome, healthy kind of relationship. The kind I have been dying to have in my life. There’s crippling fear. But there is also courage. There’s both. They co-exist.

Yes, currently, VC is the only person with whom I allow myself the vulnerability I strive for. The only place where I can stretch myself, push those boundaries and see what happens. It is simultaneously testing and liberating. It makes me simultaneously miss him, and also feel so grateful for this physical distance between us. There’s both. They co-exist.

So often, in the quest to love forward and shed the old, I accidentally reject crucial parts of myself, when really the process this time around has been about integrating it all in a healthier manner. Such a subtle but crucial difference in realising that I can simultaneously move forward and grow old parts of myself. I can do both. They can co-exist.

***

I’ve been in such a rush to get through this “challenging” time these past 6-8 weeks. My Type A side kicking in instantly, throwing all the wisdom of slowing down out the window. It was a good few weeks before I realised this was happening. That I had made a project and a mission out of it, working out a plan, making a set of to-dos to tackle this. When all I really needed to do was put my head down, keep at therapy and just let the rest go.

This past weekend in class, I became aware of the inherent duality of pretty much all the feelings I have juggled this week. There is the difficulty of facing all of this all of a sudden as it comes up in waves — challenges, sadness, grief, loss and loneliness — before the wave passes and I can come up for a big gulp of air again.

I see the sun, I feel the breeze, I feel alive again. These are precious moments of release, of light, of joy and of life.

In coming to terms with changing so rapidly, I have felt physically altered, if that’s even possible. Some altogether new things have happened — this surprising need t face fear and confrontation more often than not, for one — and some old facets have made a comeback — I’m waking up early and chirpy again, I’m enjoying exercising again.

So much about growth and change is embracing parts old and new. Some forgotten, some that have receded, some that are slowly coming back, and others that are all new.

I am old, filled with comforting bits of familiar, old selves. And I am all new, shiny, and unexpected. Not all that is old need be entirely lost or given away. And not all that is new may define me for good.

There’s both. They co-exist.

***

Not lost on me is the irony that the window at Koshy’s where I have always loved to sit has changed too. For one, Koshy’s is spanking new — shiny, white and scrubbed clean. The bamboo chicks have been taken off and the light streams through. It’s all new. But the quintessential slow and easy character remains.

There’s both. They co-exist.

One year ago: I’ve been reading books of old
Three years ago: Emptying my cup

The changing face of loneliness

The full moon drives me crazy and energizes me in equal measure. But this time around there is undercurrent of peaceful settlement in the awareness of a shift in my response to a recurring situation in my life. There is a blinding awareness of letting people go not necessarily being The End, but merely an opportunity to shift gears, a natural progression of new roles that fit our new ever-changing beings, an opportunity to see how my true self is met.

A peaceful settling has followed.

That feeling of being stuck in the riptide has gently passed, and in its place is a calm, collected, centredness.

It came to my attention all of a sudden when I was in a situation that would usually have torn me up, caused a lot of FOMO and instant hurt. That hurt and the fear of losing out would typically have made me bend over backwards and turn my plans around to make myself available. To be seen, to make myself present, to be in the place of being chosen. But neither happened. The hurt didn’t come. It still hasn’t. And the plans haven’t budged.

Ever since the articulation of the thread of loneliness that grips my life has come to my attention, I’ve been watching myself closely. Observing all the things that loneliness makes me do and feel. All the things I do to avoid feeling it, and just how much I go out and beyond my true self to fight it. Consequently, I’ve been questioning my true motivation in making myself available for my friends is, and which of my friends seem to trigger this response more, and which of them I truly want to give this privilege to.

I’ve realised I live with a deep fear of people leaving me. Even as I have worked on accepting it, it’s a hard one to crack and the effects of it persist. These last 10 days have tested my beliefs in this regard, putting me repeatedly in situations that trigger this fear, and forcing me to rethink a lot of them. But it was only in the subtle shifts in my reactions and responses that I realised that I have moved from mere thought, to living a small change.

***

This situation was a clear signal of people moving away, of changing dynamics. In another time, it would have sent me into an internal tizzy. But I am only now realising what this natural movement of people away from each other means and feels like. And for the first time, the hurt reaction hasn’t rushed in because I have fully realised that people (me included) moving away isn’t a reflection on me or my worth.

In the absence of hurt, the fear has less of a grip on me too. It was only when I saw myself standing my ground, not even so much as considering changing my plans and making myself available that I realised this is what it means to be me, in full acceptance of that fear. Waiting to see what it does

It was also particularly liberating to see that this stand didn’t come from a place of hubris or rebellion, but rather just gently being nudged in the direction of the most obvious, natural progression, and being made to see that sometimes when I show my true self (something I am otherwise convinced will make people bolt), people will stay.

***

Yesterday, I got flaked on. Flaking and flakey people get to me like little else does. And I have been examining why that is — beyond the obvious, of course. Not only does it really enrage me, it also usually sends me down an unnecessarily harsh and self-critical loop of why-does-this-always-happen-to-me thoughts, where I wonder if it’s something in me that attracts the energy of compulsive ditchers and undependable people who can just never be there for me when I need it.

There is a sense of powerlessness in that line of thinking, that I have picked up on recently. I am constantly recreating situations in my life where I hand over the power to the other to be there for me.

Today though, after precisely 1.5 minutes of anger, I was able to pause and see why this situation bothered me, to step back into my own power and realise this too isn’t about me. This is about some people and their tendency to flake. It isn’t a reflection on me, or my worth. All I could do then is express my displeasure honestly and clearly, in the hope that it will not repeat. I didn’t feel so bad anymore once I’d done that.

There was little rage. There was absolutely no angst.

There was loneliness, though.
Just a smidgen of it. But it didn’t unsettle me.

For the first time, it didn’t tear me apart. It fit in, found a place in my heart and completed me, instead.

For what felt like the first time, I felt this its entirety. In my being and not just in my head.

Yes, I feel lonely when I get flaked on. This is just the way it is.

Then I took it with me for coffee by my lonesome. I wrote that letter I was to write to myself at the start of the year. I finished an assignment for today. I watched the traffic and felt a strange love for this city and this wonderful place I’m inand the opportunities it offers, to do this.

***

I realise my life can never swing fully to one side. There will always be bouts of loneliness, when I will want space and distance, when people will disappoint me, when friends will leave, when things will not go the way I imagine, when I will feel a deep lack of love and connection. But there will also always be, as I have rewired my brain enough to see and acknowledge everyday, other kinds of love and connection. I don’t need to be hung up on getting love and affirmation in only one form from a limited set of sources my mind imagines. If I’m willing to open my heart and look at the world with openness, there are opportunities for connection everywhere.

The difference I feel since last week, like the big release of an old way of thinking, is that I’ve loosened my grip. I’ve let it go just a bit. There is a little less hankering and that desperate hope that people remain the way they are, in the places they are in my life, no longer grips me. There is less grieving the space they occupied when they (or I) begin to move away.

What there is, is an exciting expansive sense of space for something new.

One year ago: How about me enjoying the moment for once

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

 

Food and friendship

When the kind ladies at The Lookout Journal wrote in to ask if I could write a feature on food and how it forms such an integral part of documenting vignettes of my life, I was flattered. But also mostly shocked. That a) my blog interested someone enough to ask me to write for them and b) the angle they’d taken in talking about food was quite a refreshing departure from most things I’ve seen food-documenting in a while.

I didn’t end up writing the essay. What with being smack in the middle of travel, moving cities, setting up home, and continuing to work through it all. So they were kind enough to turn the opportunity into a Q&A with me instead.

I was deeply touched by how insightful the questions were, moving away from the most obvious and usual extension of food — nostalgia. Particularly inspiring for me to get down to answering their questions was the fact that really to got the heart of the place food occupies in my life especially this year — facilitating friendship with others and with myself. 

So here it is if you’d like to give it a lookie and a read.

***

It’s true. Food is such a vehicle for normalcy and finding grounded-ness.

This is the first meal I cooked at the new home in Goa and immediately I felt at home in a way that only cooking a full meal can make me feel. Even though it was just khichdi and aloo-fry. 

VC had been eating take out for over a month since he moved in. I had to buy a pressure cooker to begin with. But I went a little extra and bought a set of idli plates, a hand-mixie too. And I stocked up on a lot of masalas, which I’d been avoiding thinking VC is not going to ever cook an elaborate meal that will require them. Soon enough I realised the stupidity of that thought process. This is my kitchen too. I’m going to be visiting often enough. As soon as I gave myself the space to settle in, spices, pressure cooker and all, I immediately felt at home.

We have since had idlis and chutney, dal rice and anda-masala, aglio olio with mushrooms and sausages. On New Years Ever we even managed a barbecue for two — VC outdoing himself with a malai chicken (which had no malai hahaha) and paneer skewers. I tossed together some buttered veggies to go with it. It was simpler than I imagined, and we had a quiet, satisfying evening of it by ourselves.

***

Somewhere in the midst of it all R came to visit, and it happened to be the eve of VC’s birthday. So we bought our favourite chocolate cake for old time’s sake to surprise him with. And then on the birthday we had dinner at a quaint little “pizza bar” in North Goa.

I’m really enjoying exploring the food here. I didn’t do enough of it when I lived in Panjim, especially in the years just before I left. So I’m glad for the opportunity to be closer north. And for friends who’ve arrived bearing enthusiasm to make me get out and about. 

One year ago: Day 2: Gratitude. That is all.
Three years ago: Day 2: Love

Day 355: All your life, you were only waiting for this moment to arise

I was initially quite unsure about living so far away from Panjim. From civilisation and amenities, and the comfortable life that I had created for myself the last time around. My life depended a lot on accessing the things I need the most, after all. It still does. But five days into being here, three of which were spent driving around all day in the far north, have made me realise that the kind of things I depend on (and would like to make a part of my life in Goa) now have changed.

Second chances come for a reason. There’d be no point in re-creating once again, my life as I knew it back then. And yesterday, I realised I’m happy for this chance to be away from Panjim.

For one, from the few times I drove through, it feels unliveable. It has all the chaos and claustrophobia of Bangalore, almost. And it’s slowly losing its quintessential charm, which breaks my heart.

Second, I’m closer to the beach. Given the snarling traffic jams and multifold increase in traffic, I’m pretty sure living in Panjim would have meant close to no beach visits. I’m hoping that will change with the easy access I now have.

Three, I’m feeling far more inclined to the idea of Goa as a different life from the one I have in Bangalore. I’ve been wondering why the quiet life in Goa attracts me, and I realise all the reasons I list are of things that are so unique to being away from Bangalore. It’s futile for me to come here and lament the lack of, or try and recreate a little bubble of city-life conveniences. Yes, life here means driving out on my own for every little thing. It means precisely 2 restaurant delivery options. It means spotty Internet. Maybe that has a place too. In many ways the struggles of getting this home up and going have taken me back to the way things were when we first moved here. When Panjim itself was far less fancy than it is today, when it presented far fewer options, and everything took much more effort and involvement than it would have needed in a big city. It was partly stressful and partly annoying, but I know how that played a role in softening me some. In building some resilience and patience. And I’m beginning to think this second chance is actually a chance to do-over those parts of myself too. To brush off the city-slicker cynicism and get my hands dirty and in touch with the roots again.

***

All of the above thoughts inspired and festered on a day-long jaunt in North Goa yesterday.

S and I caught a blissfully lazy, late breakfast. Much like we used to some weekends from a life in another time.

Of course that meant we had to lazy around, drive around and kill time to make space for the large and satiating late lunch that followed.

And then we finally made it to the beach. Which was just lovely.

As always with S, there was music. Lots of good music.

And as always with Niyu, out popped the watercolours.

I could get used to this again.

Two years ago: Day 355: Too much nature ho gaya

Day 351: Love in a thousand different flavours

Weekending.

I spent Friday, Saturday and Sunday pretty much like this. In front of my laptop, either working, watching Netflix or “studying”.

On Friday night, in a completely wild occurrence, VC and I chatted on the phone for two whole hours. I haven’t done that in aaaages. And with VC, never. But it was nice, chatting while we each fixed ourselves a drink and solo dinner. (So what of I had breakfast for dinner?)

On Saturday, Amma left for Nagpur and I was suddenly overcome with the thought that I was all alone. Except one never really is, and I’m learning to remember that and reach out (rather than wait to be reached out to) to others when I feel that longing for connection. So I invited myself to join R and S for dinner in what is becoming a welcome and regular occurrence with us.

Sunday morning has a new weekly ritual. A long walk. For four consecutive weekends now D and I have caught up to do this. And it baffles me how I struggle to wake up before 7.30 on a weekday but waking up at 6 on a Sunday seems to come quite easily. I joked about not having put in so much focus or dedication into much this year, as I seem to be doing for the Sunday morning walk. Except, I wasn’t joking. Perhaps it helps that we top the walk off with a single-idli-vada and a tall, strong coffee each.

The rest of my Sunday was mostly spent cleaning the house, doing some cooking — another full meal — and a visit to the in laws. Beer at lunchtime almost always means a long nap will follow. But I also binged on You Me Her and finally finished the show.

S came over for dinner then, in what should be frequent occurrence with us, but for various reasons just hasn’t been. It was a delightfully chill time. Whisky, chicken 65, rasam and rice with pretty much non stop easy, heartfelt conversation.

I ended last week feeling quite raw about my realisations about loneliness and almost immediately, almost in anticipation of the downward spiral that it could have caused, I was forced to see how much opportunity for connection there is. Should I choose to see and have it.

Today, I’ve been in a bit of a daze. Cramps + procrastinating with packing meant I had left everything down to the wire. As usual. I got all my stuff together in the last two hours before I left for the airport.

I’m off to Goa in a bit. To spend Christmas, New Years Eve and VCs birthday with him, only to return in the new year when I will not be posting as frequently. I’m looking forward to the next 2.5 weeks.

It’s time to catch up with VC, spending time with him since I have been missing it so, S is coming down from Paris, I’ll get to hang with D and the puppies, I’ll get to spend time at home that’s slowly coming together.

It’s all kinds of emotional to think I’m ending the year in a Goa that is one half of where home is. This feels interesting and like it means something and I’m excited to see where we go from here.

Two years ago: Day 351: Misty mountain hop

Day 348: I got this feeling inside my bones

Remember this letter I wrote to myself on my birthday? I had decided back then that I am going to write to letters of the kind every year — one on my birthday, and another on New Years Eve. I made an early start to the year-end letter yesterday, thanks to finding myself at a cafe with a sudden blinding realisation that I just had to jot down for posterity. And because I had my letter pad in my bag, I began.

I realised that I have been so focused on healing and feeling whole and positive this year that I have unconsciously not allowed the pretty much constant feeling of loneliness that underpins my life to really come to the fore. There’s many aspects to why this has panned out so.

One, the extremely personal nature of self exploration itself cannot be ignored. But I have really been wondering if it needs to be strictly this way or that. I find myself seeking and longing for connection even more than before these days, and so I wonder, can I not have the intensely private journey on my own alongside the thriving and solid relationships that I also want? Why does one have to come at the cost of another?

Perhaps that is something that needs reflection.

Second, I have at some level become slightly mistrustful of people. Maybe it’s past experience, maybe it’s a deep-seated fear, maybe it’s even something trans-generational, but I have never really thought of myself as a mistrustful person. Until today. And maybe I’m not, on the surface of it. But, deep down, even with my closest relationships, the ghosts of past experience are always lingering, making me keep everything at just that safe distance. So even as I make headway with new levels of vulnerability in these relationships, I’m always prepared for the eventuality that when it really counts I’m probably going to be alone again. And in that way I invariably manifest it in some manner.

I know this because that every time that I have shared a relationship low point on here this year, it has come from that feeling of loneliness surfacing. Most times that I have acknowledged the goodness of people around, it has come off the back of feeling that loneliness. I have just made a very good habit of gratitude that makes me switch gears and feel grateful quickly, more often.

The focus of writing this blog every day has been to record with honesty the ups and downs of this journey. But combined with my typical need to reach the parts where I’m feeling the good stuff and everything works out, I’ve perhaps stayed overly focused on the good, merely throwing in vague references of the shitty parts that have surfaced in almost equal measure. There is also the fact that my blog is read by many, many people very close to me, and partly because I am still deeply afraid of being judged and partly because I sometimes don’t want to face the questions and deal with the feelings anymore than I already am on my own, I tend to project a picture of being largely a-okay. This has kept me from going into gory details of just how deeply I have sometimes felt the ugly bits. I’ve resorted to talking in vague circles a lot, only referencing the unpleasant bits in passing, when what I intended to do was really sit with it all, equally. This is not to say I haven’t done that at all but, a whole year of writing this way has meant I might have some times papered over a lot of the subtleties that have come up and that needed to be acknowledged deeply. I might have glossed over some of the loneliness, the regret and the grief more than I was willing to dwell on it.

And so in it went, in full technicolour detail, into the letter I will open 5 years from now, by which time I hope to have forgotten the intricate details of this day in this time. I hope that when I open it then, it is an apt vehicle to travel back in time and remember a day like today when I felt soft and almost pliable, yawning open like a newly bloomed flower that has woken up to a new sun, kissed by gossamer morning dew — a picture of freshness, a leaning towards new possibilities.

Two years ago: Day 348: The last of the books for 2016

Day 346: Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair

Gratitude today, for being in Bangalore. Because if it weren’t for being here, I wouldn’t have:

  1. taken the course I did, which has led me to the very best sources of everything else that I need, such as:
  2. the kind of doctor who spent over an hour with me, patiently listening, getting exactly what I was saying, only spoke when asked and opened her side of the conversation by asking if I was bi or hetero. And then proceeded to smash every single pre-conceived notion I had harboured
  3. the therapist I have been looking for
  4. the right friends for the right time. S showed up at home with flowers yesterday. It’s not with everybody that I can spend half a day in perfect silence, each of us chipping away silently and diligently at our work, and then taking a break to eat lunch, followed by a few hours of non stop, high-stimulation conversation

This week has reinforced a kind of belonging that comes with a sense of feeling like the universe’s luckiest child. It’s only Wednesday, and I’m brimming over with gratitude.

Day 340: Now I’m free falling

I’ve been feeling drawn to cooking again. And I’ve been feeling equal enthusiasm to make quick dinners of things as simple as eggs and toast as I am for the the slow, laborious, long-drawn out way that the food I grew up eating is made. I realise that primarily, it is the act of using my own hands and brain to create a meal that gives me that kick of dopamine. It happened last week when I made a large pot of pulao, some faux cholle and a mashed pumpkin sabji. And it happened again today when I cooked this meal for A who came over to spend the day.

What is it about this kind of food that takes one right back to ones roots, that spells home? Today it was the wispy fragrance of the just-boiled beans from a freshly released pressure cooker, or the crackling pungent hit of coriander seeds and crinkly red chillies sauteed in coconut oil, or the weedy robust and palpably green smell of freshly barely wilted dill spun in the mixie with fresh spices and coconut, that kindled a warm fullness in my Heart.

A full plate of this sort makes me indescribably happy. And to make and share this with friends — complete with granularity, texture and a transference of the tedium that this sort of meal requires — is extra special. 

There is something about labouring over the food that sustains me. An experience I take for granted on a daily basis when I casually waltz over to Amma’s and eat at her table, and of her giving. Perhaps it’s the slowness, or the act of proceeding in a sequence of actions, or just the sheer meeting point of all the senses, that taps right into that deep, primal dormant fire that is stoked every time a good meal is in the works, and immediately invokes a feeling of connection to The Source. Of belonging. Of roots. Of home. 

Two years ago: Day 340: Happy high