Day 136: Waiting here to find the sign, that I should take it slow

One of the expected side effects of growing self-awareness is how clear my own bullshit becomes, and despite a struggle how much quicker I am to call bullshit on some of my behaviour, patterns and tendencies.

But nobody told me it was going to also become easier to notice other peoples’ bullshit just as easily too. It often lands me in a quandary, especially with friends whom I feel I owe honesty. Do I speak up? How much should I say? And how do I say this without sounding self-important and risking trivialising the issue?

I am also realising that mostly, this self-awareness is a privilege and a gift. One that I must handle with care. I’m learning every day, to separate noticing bullshit from spilling over into judge-y tendencies that tend to go into building entire stories in my head. I slip up sometimes, but I’m getting better at noticing it when it happens, and nipping it in the bud.

On the flip side, it doesn’t make the awareness go away. For eg: when a good friend is being a jerk, or being silly, or maybe just floundering in a way that you can help fix, it’s hard not to notice. And so often, I find myself having witness a peculiar behaviour, and sometime siting with the knowledge of where it may be coming from. But more and more, I keep myself from jumping to provide an opinion or solution. I’m trying to exercise restraint more often than not, because every body has their own journey of self-realisation to make.

In a seemingly insignificant conversation this week, I noticed two things:

  • My absolute refusal to get dragged into drama that is fundamentally not mine, or drama where none is needed, has peaked.
  • Instead of flapping out polite, rational, “correct” responses, I actively take some time out to think about what is happening and how it is making me feel, before I respond.
  • Consequently, my responses are clearer. Firm, but articulate. Calling bullshit, but kindly.

I patted myself on my back for my proportionate and precise responses that keep the drama at bay, and the conversation short. N said something yesterday that really resonated with me: it’s a step up to be able to talk about things that I’d otherwise just stew about in private, allowing it to cripple and cramp me along the way. It’s nice to keep working out the kinks. And sometimes seeing proof that whatever’s at work, is working.

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Day 131: Please don’t go

Postcard from Goa 7.

MAJOR GOA WITHDRAWALS IN PROGRESS.

I promise to stop this pcture posting standing in for actual writing now. And let normal programming resume on Monday.

(I think.)

Two years ago: Day 131: Summer evenings

Day 129: What are they talking about, on the weekends?

Postcards from Goa 6.

All things considered, all said and done, there’s something so deeply compelling about how much I slow down in Goa. I know these are pictures of not the average “everyday occurences”, and not indicative of regular day to day life in Goa, but I’ve observed how much my being slows down, slips into an ease of pace that requires no rush.

I’m grateful for the chance for a year away to come back and appreciate all that I had grown to ignore towards the end of my last stint in Goa.

Second chances are rather life changing. I highly recommend them.

Day 123: Like happiness is the truth

This past week, I’ve been treated to a variety of excellent meals. The food and drink situation has been consistently hitting above optimum levels of satisfaction and has been the thread of happy spots in an up and down week. So, I’m so grateful.

My mother and I have our birthdays just one week apart from each other. So my sister and I orchestrated a very complicated surprise lunch. We cooked a rather elaborate spread at my home (hidden away from amma’s knowledge of course), or eggplant parmigiana, an avocado and mango salad with sun-dried tomatoes and feta cheese with a mango salsa dressing, a mushroom and corn quiche and we ordered some cake, invited her friends over and — surprise!

I’m grateful for the opportunity to surprise amma. For being around to celebrate another birthday together. For the lunch we had. The rain that came down that afternoon. The outstanding banoffee cake.

I’m grateful for this late afternoon coffee, had at the end of a rather heavy meal at the club.

I’m SO thankful for this breakfast on a pretty dreary Saturday morning.

We had just checked out a house we really had our eyes set on, but probably cannot have at this point of time. VC and I had a weekend of some very heart to heart, confrontational, honest conversations that had left me feeling very, very edgy and just, raw. There’s nothing like a hearty carb-rich breakfast to soothe that feeling. Right after we thulped this, we watched Infinity War with R and belted a big bucket of popcorn at top speed.

I’m grateful for this palya puff, flaky fly-off-your-mouth pastry encasing a spicy vegetable South Indian style sabji that just hits the spot for those 5 o clock evening hunger pangs. I didn’t intend to eat the whole thing, but once I started there was no stopping and I wolfed the whole thing down.

There’s a whole other level of satisfaction that comes from crispy, unhealthy snacks that hit the spot, when consumed at that perfect moment when you’re not just hungry but craving something as specific as an Iyengar bakery palya puff.

I’m fast becoming a fan of meeting friends over breakfast. For one it’s bright and early, the traffic isn’t as much as yet, people aren’t batshit as yet, there’s more scope to find parking, and there will almost always be eggs.

I met S over a lazy, slow but chatter-filled breakfast the other day. I like when things happen spontaneously, without too much deliberation or high expectations.

It reaffirmed my faith in boundaries, in giving each other space, in allowing for time and room for everyone’s personal journeys, and for having the faith that if paths reconnect, we will only be better for it.

I’m grateful for what I have with S. I now see all our ups and downs, the rough patches, and the extent to which our relationship has changed, for the place they have had and the lessons they have brought to my life. And no matter how I have felt at various points of time, today I understand fully what I love and value in this relationship.

I went home thinking I want to make a weekly ritual of getting out for breakfast. With myself, with friends, over idlis, over eggs, long and lazy, unhurried. The scope is unlimited and when I’m back from Goa, I’m going to begin.

Two years ago: Day 123: Turning 32 and the salt water theory

Day 117: And love is all that I can give to you

There’s a lot I want to write about. A lot of fodder for long, verbose posts is crammed in my brain at the moment. And maybe I should have gotten to it sooner in the day. A morning of meetings and driving back home left me a bit winded, and I spent the rest of the day chilling.

But come evening, I’m feeling very listless and melancholy. A friend’s husband has an unexplained illness that is taking forever to get to the bottom of. I’m worried. Another friend has just lost a very. very dear relative. My heart clenched up reading the news and even though I never knew the person who has passed, I felt choked up. This made me so very sad and contemplative. Another friend I spoke with a while ago, is dealing with a very complicated domestic issue that I can’t imagine how one can get out of. I feel helpless just talking to her.

There is a lot to say and maybe I will get to it on Monday. Because, today is definitely not the day to wax on about my life and idle thoughts.

Sending love, healing and positive thoughts to my friends today.

One year ago: Because wanting to leave is enough
Two years ago: Day 117: See Lanka

Day 113: You know it used to be mad love

A few (more) thoughts on relationships and communicating with people in our lives. Some brain-noodles I’ve been having. Some pleasant epiphanies. Mostly notestomyself.

One of the things I’ve noticed with focusing on my personal growth is that once the process of change has begun, it’s basically a journey of turning into something entirely different from my peers. At various points of the journey, a series of differences present themselves. And they appear in so many, many ways, showing up in big and little things. Unexpectedly sometimes, predictably at others.

My immediate tendency of course is to be afraid of that change and the challenges it poses to my relationships. Or at least that was my default, until very recently when I have experienced a significant change in the way I feel and approach this.

I say this so often, and I’ve written at length before (I seem to be seeing, feeling and acknowledging it a lot more as time goes by) about the essentially solitary nature of this journey. By nature, it is a process that requires a boundaried existence, that inevitably makes me feel alone at times. But, accepting rather than fearing and resisting this has brought about a surprising change. And learning to recognise relationships that no longer serve a purpose, and letting them go has now become empowering.

I’ve realised:

It’s okay to be disappointed by people. Sometimes it gives the much needed breathing space to rethink wrongs (theirs and our our own), reaffirm the rights, apologise if necessary, forgive (ourselves too) sometimes, and move ahead. Sometimes it brings out a much needed truth that was in hiding. Sometimes it affirms the fact that a relationship has run it’s course. It’s nice to keep the lessons and let the disappointment fade, if it does. There’s no point hanging on to it. Because sometimes when the disappointment has gone, and enough time has passed, it’s easier to notice that people have changed. As much as I have. Allow yourself to change your mind about said person/s. Second and third chances are all kinds of exciting.

Words and gestures aren’t the only way to make people I love know that they’re loved. Sometimes all it takes is a conversation. Sometimes just sitting in silence, listening. It’s so nice to be seen and heard as much as I feel loved.

Communication, even when it’s hard, ugly and scary, and promises to potentially lead to disappointment, is so crucial. It’s not always easy, but I’ve been making efforts to choose that discomfort, over resentment and stagnation. Choose honesty over politeness. Without that honesty, I don’t think there’s space for anyone to grow in a relationship. And really, if we don’t keep moving/growing/changing, we’re already dead.

Funny story: I once had a friend who resented the fact that I had changed. Too fast. Too much, I suppose. And their way of dealing with it was to insist I hadn’t changed, and that everything I was saying and doing was “in my head”.

LOL.

I should have seen that as a sign then, but I didn’t. I stayed and spent my energy trying to convince them of the many ways in which things had changed for me, and why. And I encouraged them along to try it too. Several years later, after many, many fits and starts, I realised that this was the crux of the issue: our inability to have honest conversations.

I really should have seen it sooner, considering the repetitive loop we were in and how many times we found ourselves in the exact same situation. It always left me feeling emotionally exhausted.

Which brings me to the next realisation: be careful who you want to extend this honour to. Choose your people with care. This is something I’m still learning. To trust my instinct, listen to my gut feeling and overcome fear of loss when dealing with people.

Creating and nurturing an environment of honesty, seeking it in the little everyday happenings, without waiting for confrontation to test it out. Sharing opinions, even though they may differ. Speaking up when I’m hurt or offended. Sharing when I’m feeling vulnerable. Asking for help. These situations will invariably help gauge if the friendship is too precarious, is taking up a lot of energy just to stay afloat, or threatening to fall apart over difficult conversations or plain honesty.

If you feel this at any point, it means that the relationship probably needs to be examined.

If a relationship actually does fall apart as a result of a difficult but essential conversation, it wasn’t strong enough to begin with, was it?

Two years ago: Day 113: Stop

Day 103: I got mad, mad love

This past week, I felt immensely grateful for all the work coming our way. We had multiple meetings, an unusually high number of leads land open up out of the blue, and a fun and satisfying shoot on hand.

I am so grateful for the luxury of being our own bosses, reporting to nobody but ourselves, planning our days the way we want, doing the work we love most days. And I’m so thankful for the clarity and for being on the same page about the value of time we both need off. And the ability and privilege to take it when required.

I’m grateful for the shift in my definition of being busy/productive and for new clarity, new boundaries and new realisations in this respect.

I’m very, very grateful for my family. Especially my mother who keeps the “normal” going when I hit these busy spurts. I’m thankful for the hot home-cooked meals, her concern for how we may be overworking ourselves, and for her comforting company when I am chilling at home. And my sister for her endless love, warmth, entertainment, and ability to make me laugh and cook a darn good meal.

I’m so thankful for VC for having taken the professional calls he has these past few months. It’s not always immediately apparent, but I love when things slowly work out for the best. Being in that spot watching it unfurl is lovely.

I’m thankful for coffee. It’s been such a booster every morning this week.

I’m thankful for the beer and dinner with S, despite threats of being unavailable to meet me before June. And the unbelievably fantabulous (non-alcoholic and veggie) dinner she and I managed to catch with the other S. Burma Burma, if you’re interested to know.

I’m grateful for the connections that were rekindled quite unexpectedly this past week.

I’m thankful for N and our sporadic intense conversations. I love the ease with which we can take to whatsapp with our bouts of verbal diarrhoea and unburden/unload, knowing fully well that we may not get immediate responses, but when we do they will be conscious, heartfelt and thought-through. In these days of limited engagement, and wanting to only really talktalktalk about a handful of things, I am grateful for this channel being always open.

I’m grateful for my kindle.

Two years ago: Day 103: Lucid

Day 99: You’re beautiful, it’s true

Unexpected validation in unlikely corners. Just in case you’re feeling debilitating low self esteem on your way up the stairs.

***

I took today off to catch up on some really long pending, much delayed errands. And then I took the afternoon off to read, which went into a really long nap. Then, I woke up and went for a haircut.

Somewhere in between, I caught up with S over a call — most uncharacteristically. But it left me with the fuzzies and I made plans to catch up in person later this week.

In the evening, I called A after literally putting off the call for one whole year. And she said something that again gave me the fuzzies.

“With you, there’s no need to talk every week or every month. No matter how long it’s been, we always pick up just where we left off.”

I couldn’t agree more. I met A back in the good old days of blogging. We’ve met all of three times in person, and we realised today that we’ve actually been talking for fourteen years, and have seen each other through some pretty transformational, life-changing phases.

I don’t always acknowledge the many ways in which kinship finds its way to me. But it does. And today made me feel blessed for it, right in my bones.

Two years ago: Day 99: On being average

Day 78: People say I should forget

R was apparently listening to the Dev D soundtrack on Apple music last week. And the sneaky little tool announces it to the whole world. So of course I hopped on and gave it a listen early this morning.

I suppose that’s the point. Listening to the album was like closing my eyes and taking a free-fall into the past. Diving headlong, into the abyss of the way we were (Thank you Barbara Streisand).

There’s some music that I will always, always associate with my life in Goa. Just like there’s certain other music that will only always remind me of growing up in Bangalore. My music memory archive is tagged by phases in my life and there’s actually very little overlap between them, each phase having its own distinct soundtrack so to speak.

So now, when a song or track triggers a memory, it’s one very specific time. Sometimes a particular phase, but often times I can drill it down to a particular event. As insignificant as a drive home from the supermarket, sometimes. No other reason to really remember it or retain it, allowing it to hog shelf space in my mind. But it’s there, simply because of how the music playing, either in my car or on my computer, at work or at home, or at a party, has framed it for posterity.

And so it was that I listened to the Dev D soundtrack again, after something like six or seven years. And it took me right back to year one in Goa. I had this pendrive loaded with the most random — some would say eclectic — selection of music, specifically for my car. It had to cover all bases — driving music, upbeat stuff, a touch of trashy pop, some classics and favourites like Coke Studio and other very disjointed singles that Id just taken a fancy for. It had everything from Dave Matthews Band to Dev D so you can probably gather its purpose.

So listening to the soundtrack the other day, specifically this track, nostalgia scooped me into her arms and took me back to that first monsoon, an extra dark night thanks to a city wide power cut.

We had friends over for dinner but fed up waiting for the power to come back, we decided to go out and drive. In the pouring rain. As we got into the car and set off, this was the first track that came on. And all of us — VC, S, J and I — were silent. No talking, just listening to its hauntingly heady beat and that silly “my/by God” refrain.

The streets were inky black, silky swift and all the while the storm howled on. There’s something cinematic about the memory etched in my mind. My black car bumping along the then Miramar highway, with its quaint streetlights (that we’re off) the median with ghosty lanky trees swaying in the rain, all only lightly magically illuminated by our far from adequate headlamps.

We took it in, in silence. The song, louder in my head than it really was.

And all these years later, when the memory of it bubbles up to the surface, triggered by the opening chords of the song, the evening plays out like a scene from a movie, untouched in my mind. And the song, it just as loud.

Two years ago: Day 78: Abandon

Day 72: We form our own boundaries

The very first time I realised I had an issue with setting boundaries was when I realised just how bad my inability to say no was. It had caused all the classic signs of emotional fatigue and unhealthy relationships many, many times over. I’ve gone through most of my life trying to be “good” — which is to say do what makes sense, what’s safe, try and disappoint nobody. Add to it the do-it-all disease most women are ingrained with. It’s all the things we’re taught. So when the new-fangled adulthood wisdom dawned, and I realised self-love, self-care and self-esteem had everything to do with healthy boundaries and saying no, I was all torn up.

It’s not easy to unlearn that compulsive need to always do the best you can for people you love. But it’s not hard to notice that there eventually comes a point when that leaves you exhausted and depleted. A boundaryless existence is not only unhealthy, it’s unsustainable. What’s worse, it erodes the good effects of all the love, care, generosity and authenticity you might actually be attempting to bring into your life.

I’ve come a long way from where I used to be. Small steps, big developments, and there’s still so much more to work through in this respect. One of the biggest breakthroughs for me was acknowledging that if I find myself at the receiving end of behaviour that I classify as overstepping, encroaching in my space, asking for too much of me, exhausting expectations to meet up to, it is most likely because I have not set my own boundaries right.

I have not been clear about what is okay, and what is not okay.

I have been making steady progress in this area of my life, and I know the ways in which it impacts me. But recently, an event made me sit up and realise there is still some more work to be done. So back to the drawing board, I have been very seriously reflecting upon boundaries, getting a deeper understanding by reading related writing, and generally thinking about the signs and what I might have missed reading this time around.

The other thing that keeps coming back to me, again and again is seeking connection, and how being steadfastly committed to what it is I want most from relationships actually brings more of it to me. One thing is for certain, I am far more at eace with having a few good friends, than being surrounded by a brood of people that exhaust me. With that context, here’s a few new things that I’ve realised about how crucial boundaries order to have meaningful, authentic relationships:

  • True authenticity in relationships requires honesty and vulnerability. Sometimes it means choosing honesty even in the face of potential loss — ie: the risk of losing someone I love, being rejected by someone I value, potentially disappointing those same people I care about, losing comfort and familiarity and once again braving the unknown.I know this because the relationships that allow me the space to step into that twilight zone of uncertainty, with little fear of rejection or loss are the ones I turn to time and time again.
  • Drawing boundaries is a crucial act of self-respect. I’ve got to fully reject the idea that respecting myself and valuing myself enough to want to move away from a person or situation that is exhausting me, or demanding too much for me, is somehow selfish or conceited.I have this ease with literally two people in my life right now. And I noticed it exists because they too have a healthy amount of self-respect, which means that when I retreat, draw a line, express what is okay and what is not okay by me, it is respected and accepted with an ease missing in every other relationship.
  •  At the core of every act of drawing a boundary, is a value. The act of drawing a boundary, reinforces that value. Whether it’s protecting a feeling or emotion, my energy, or a part of my body even. Different people have different values towards each of these things, and therefore different boundaries too.This learning was reaffirmed when I read Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A Fuck. Increasingly I find I have the highest sense of kinship with the people who value the same things as I do.
  • The way somebody is with drawing boundaries for themselves, usually says a lot about the way they are with respecting others boundaries.This has been the big one to learn this time around, given the recent event I mentioned up top. I missed or ignored all the signs that I got along the way.

But this is not to berate myself, rather to acknowledge and understand what I missed, so I can pick up on it going forward. On the other hand, the same event made me realise what I have actually gotten better at. I saw that in my ability to separate what I am responsible for, with what I am absolutely not responsible for. I can only control what I bring to the table — which in this case was honesty, even with the risk of rejection. I cannot control how the other side takes it, what they make of it and what they choose to do about it. Similarly, it is not my job to save or fix the issue at hand.

Getting into a friendship with the hope that the other party will change, and make making that change happen my mission, is a grave mistake I’ve made, failed at and learned from very early in life. I see now that it is a heavy lack of self-respect and gross muddling of boundaries that made me venture in that direction. I try and not go there again, if I can help it.

It was liberating to realise the ease and complete lack of angst in walking away from a fatiguing argument, where I’d otherwise have fallen straight into the trap of a futile cycle of reasoning, trying to have the last word (which is another classic trait of  boundarylessness, which I very much had).

The downside, and I use the word very loosely here, of being brutally honest, presenting an authentic kind of vulnerability, drawing strong boundaries often means that they will inevitably be tested again and again. And naturally, not every situation or person will pass the test.

It is a fine-tuned sense of self awareness that helps cut through the fat and get to the heart of things. Even the bits that are otherwise difficult to digest, or make me uncomfortable — like the fact that maybe someone is trampling over my boundaries because I haven’t set them clear enough to begin with. 

Coming to that place of clarity is simultaneously empowering, and lonely. Because not all the people you’re dealing with are going to get everything I do, understand it in the same way and certainly not at the same pace or time. Dissonance and a clash of wavelengths get exacerbated all the time.

For me, this meant facing my other demon — the angst about how often people leave, or I have to walk away from people. I’m still making my peace with this. I see now that this is another price to pay, for being self aware. For being a HSP. For constantly elevating my own standards. This coming and going of people has become so normal, I now no longer fall apart every time it does, because I realise the increased frequency is a direct result of how quickly things become clear. Situations where values clash, boundaries are crossed, and emotions come to the surface no longer drag out like they used to. Things are very clear, very quickly, and  the ability to decide if I must stay or walk away has become rather free of hassles.

When I think about it this way, I know I’m actually better for it. I’m moving ahead. I’m tuning into my values. I’m strengthening my boundaries. I’m working on my self-esteem.

But, this whole moving on and leaving people behind theme of my life, that I often feel sad and confused about, beat myself up about, or take to be some kind of problem or lack on my part, I now realise is just the way it is. It’s a natural outcome of this evolution and growth. It is going to happen again and again, sometimes more often than other times.

The good news, and I know this to be true from recent experience, is opening myself up to growth invariably brings new interactions, new people, new avenues for bonding.

So I fear the loss of losing people less. Because I know others will come along, and they have come along. Some have surprised me by how long they have stayed. Others who I know will stick around, do. Sometimes it’s brought folks from my past back into my life, even if for a short period. Sometimes the same people you walked away from/who walked away from you will come back. But I’ve only seen all of this once I opened myself up to that possibility. By being selfishly committed to this learning. Of boundaries, of values, of growth.

It has meant letting go of the rails a little, and wholeheartedly refusing to shrink my capacity to grow, in favour of politeness, or in staying in the safety of familiar friends, or the security of a number of friends.

In my reading, I chanced upon this really amazing video where Brene Brown pretty much sums up everything that I was mulling over and trying to make sense of.

This really hit the nail on the head for me:

  • The most compassionate people, are absolutely the most boundaried.
  • I’d rather be loving and generous, and very straightforward with what’s okay and what’s not okay.
  • I am not as sweet as I used to be, but I am far more loving.
  • Generosity can’t exist without boundaries.
  • Boundaries are not easy because we care more about what people will think, we don’t want to disappoint anyone and we want everyone to like us.
  • Nothing is sustainable without boundaries.
  • Boundaries are not fake walls, they’re not separation or division. They’re respect, with here’s what’s okay for me, and here’s not.

If you’re interested in more, this is another excellent article on Mark Manson’s site, about on Strong Boundaries. And this TED Talk by Sarri Gilman.

Day 68: Come a little bit closer, hear what I have to say

I’ve been all about tuning down my aversions, cutting out the will-never-dos and the won’t-ever-happens, of late. Because if I’ve learnt anything at all in the last few years of my life, it is that anything can happen and everything can change. Even the things you swear won’t, can. And probably will. I’m trying all the damn time, not to be so cock-sure about anything. To approach everything I do, with just a little more give. To allow for that smidgen of change (that I am so sure will never happen).

A lot of this had to do with dissolving my ego a tad. Because I realise that most times, if I swore something — some aspect of me, or a situation I was presented with — would never change it was because it was too damn scared to let it, or it made me feel less in control, or small unsure and unworthy, or it felt too damn far away from where I was for me to even relate. But loosening up a little, I’ve come to believe that making room for the possibility that all those things could in fact change, doesn’t diminish who I am. It just means I’m letting the fear go, and opening myself up to possibilities — whichever way. It means that in the eventuality that things don’t go the way I am so ramrod sure they will, I will not be shattered.

One of the biggest positive manifestations of this change has been the improvement in some of the key relationships in my life. I realised my unwillingness to take feedback was a direct result of being cock-sure about my reasons for doing things and being a certain way, which in turn left absolutely no room for improvement. No give to try alternatives. I used to be impatient, impulsive and very restless in my communication. Stepping back, tuning my mind to acknowledge that there are always other possibilities, other perceptions and opinions outside of my own, has made me slow down a little. I’m not perfect, but I’ve found that swallowing my pride has meant that I do listen more, and I mean really listen not just hear. Listen in a way that makes me contemplate when I am told, the feedback I am given, and consider that maybe my way — just because I am so dead-sure I can be no other way — isn’t always the right way. And that even if it sometimes feels like the right way fr me, it could possibly have completely differing effects on the other person involved.

It’s nice to have the advantage of hindsight, to see how far one has come. For example, I often look back to where I used to be — stubborn (and I’m talking rebel-without-a-cause stubborn) steadfast and sometimes so silly — that when I now encounter statements like “That will never change” it makes me want to laugh. Out loud. Because the words “never change” almost don’t hold any meaning anymore.

Because, everything changes.

Every damned thing.

All of this recently came to light when I was in an argument with someone, and they went down that path. Something to the effect of this-is-who-I-am-and-this-is-what-you-mean-to-me which is all well and good. I laughed. But when that cock-sure, definitive edge of and-that-never-changes got added to the mix, I knew it was time to back off. Because it meant that nothing I said or contributed to the conversation from there on — no matter how honest or true — was going to be heard, let alone make an impact or be acted upon.

It didn’t matter how I felt, I wasn’t going to be heard. Which then begged the question — what use is that love and respect and empathy and generosity (this-is-what-you-mean-to-me) if the relationship doesn’t allow space for me to be heard?

That was my cue to back off. (This also led me to some new realisations about boundaries. More specifically, how much more I need to learn and apply, in this respect. But that’s a story for another post.)

The thing is, being so dead sure, of anything, often means shutting out all other possibilities. Including the possibility that one’s behaviour, actions, words, the version of oneself one bring to a relationship, might be problematic, or detrimental to the way in which the relationship is moving. Or sometimes it’s just that the way one is, isn’t making the other person feel very good, no matter how honest or noble the intentions.

There are few things worse than big, kind gestures wrapped up in ego-driven good-intentions. Perhaps one of those few things, is being cock-sure said good intentions are for the best, and will never change. Because it means there is little chance one will ever examine the effect it has on the very people one seeks to love, respect and shower with generosity; whether they’re actually feeling good or bad to be at the receiving end of it all; and if maybe, just maybe, there is a better way to be. A way that takes into account a version of reality that’s outside of one’s own. A way that could in fact mend or further relationships.

Wouldn’t that be so much nicer for us all?

Two years ago: Day 68: How we’ve aged (part 1)

Day 51: Stop this train, I want to get off and go home again

In November last year, I removed myself from all social media. While the trigger was completely unexpected, it was a decision that had been coming a long, long time, for a range of reasons that were festering (consciously and unconsciously) for about as long as I’ve been back on various platforms.

For the last many years I’ve harboured a love-hate relationship with all forms of social media. I’ve reacted strongly in favour of some, and ranted vehemently about others, depending on what my opinion was at the time. There’s no denying the tremendous value being online, social networks and using technology for communication, has added to various aspects of my life. My entire career as a freelance writer, for example, wouldn’t have been a reality today, if it weren’t for social networking. But I’ve always slipped in and out of the love and hate sides of the fence, when I become aware of the performative kind of existence being online demands. And no matter what we may think or tell ourselves, the lines between real and virtual worlds tend to blur.

This is something that has troubled me, for as many years as I have been online — both as a creator as well as consumer of content. I’ve been blogging for over a decade now, so the idea of curating slivers of my life is not new to me. My writing life has thrived because my blog has been a legit means to record and reflect on things in the only way I know how — in writing. It has provided a creative outlet for my writing. Sharing my blog online has allowed me to amplify my voice, push my skills as a writer and create an audience for it — professionally and personally. So there’s no denying how much I have benefited, and continue to benefit from it.

However, most recently, my angst came from the glaring truth that despite all the online chatter, putting myself out there, baring it all, sharing snippets of my life avidly on Instagram and my blog, there were entire chunks of real life developments that I was unable to share with some of my closest friends. Not for the lack of space and time to do it, but for reasons I couldn’t fully fathom then.

Over time, I realised that while technology definitely makes staying in touch and communicating over distances easier, there are many ways in which virtual connectedness does not make for enduring relationships.

What I was missing in my real life relationships the intimacy, the real space and a sort of closeness that I found was slowly slipping away, even as I felt connected and one amongst a large community of likeminded folks, online.

The more I thought about it, the more aware I became of certain patterns, that all traced back to the mediums and platforms of communication that we use. It’s easy to mistake the ease and immediacy that tools like WhatsApp and Instagram provide, for openness. But increasingly, I felt like I was always at arm’s length, at bay, behind a screen. There were so many things I’d much rather have talked about in person, over a cup of tea, or sitting across a table, or sharing a lazy afternoon, or a glass of wine, or while taking a walk. I have desperately missed making memories that don’t involve swiping my fingers hurriedly over my phone keypad, and collapsing entire gusts of emotion into a flattened emoji.

There is something about the way in which these tools lull us into constantly being an audience behind a screen, that slowly but surely creeps into the way we are in our real world relationships too. They do a fabulous job of creating the illusion of being in touch, while actually allowing us to (quite unconsciously) keep everything, including our closest people, at arm’s length. The weight of this irony hit me in full force in the months after I move to Bangalore.

Part of this conflict also crept to the surface because in the real world, the changes and transformation I’ve been seeking, have increasingly pushed me to pause, seek solitude, re-examine, rewire and reimagine a new way to move ahead. To listen to the voice within and do what makes sense to me, rather than follow a path already laid out. But the constant and habitual consumption mode that being online makes a habit of — the being an audience, the habit of instant gratification, instant judgement, immediate decision-making — meant my patience had worn thin, and I had no juice left when the going got tough and required me to slow down and go the long haul.

My real and virtual worlds were officially at loggerheads. While my heart was always telling me to slow down, the constant exposure to media, information, social networking and the like, the constant consumption had caused a deep mental fatigue, from just sheer information overload.

My brain isn’t wired to be on all the time. And being online was doing exactly that. The streams of information blurred, the chatter and subconscious preoccupations take over, and the conversations and engagements around things seen online were truly weighing me down.

I attribute a large part of the inexplicable restless that crippled me for over three years, and the constant need for certainty and regularity that gripped me, to this.

Anyhow, what started as random reflection many, many months ago, culminated rather unceremoniously one evening in November, with me taking an impulsive decision to quite social media altogether. It isn’t the first time. I stayed off Facebook (in the years when it was really the only big social network, before the hype around Twitter and Instagram grew) for over two years before. During that period, I didn’t ever miss it and the only reason I came back was to sell my home-baked cakes. Similarly, despite many reservations that popped up ever so frequently in the last few years, I had kind of made my peace with the hows and whys of continuing to be on Facebook because it was where I generated, found, promoted my work. I’ve taken several breaks from social media too. Month-long detox stints — how very first-world it all sounds.

But that evening in November, something definitely snapped. And this time I have a very safe, sinking sort of feeling that it is likely to be for good. This is the first time that it doesn’t feel like an experiment, or a detox with a time limit. This is the first time it has slipped in naturally and almost three months in now, I can safely admit that I’ve literally never felt the urge to go back.

It is also the first time that I have acknowledged that I can complain as much as I like, but ultimately the power to choose to be online or not rests with me. It is ultimately a choice. Completely in my hands.

A month into getting off social media (Instagram, Twitter and Facebook), I also cut into Whatsapp by turning off data for 10-12 hours every night. This felt like the harder ask, personally. And even though I am asleep for the most part of this time, I know for certain the world’s of good it has done for my efforts at mindfulness. Within mere days, I realised, as I’d suspected that absolutely nothing changed online. The world continues to spin, people continue to exist and stay in touch. You’re just not compelled to respond instantly.

Offline though, I am having relaxed and purposeful dinner time, more engaged and intimate conversations with VC that we’d lost touch with, and a colossal amount of time gained to read. That’s just the boost in terms of time, which is typically most noticeable and measurable.

And I suspect it’s just the tip of the ice berg.

Day 50: There’s nothing here to run from

“If you inherently long for something, become it first. If you want gardens, become the gardener. If you want love, embody love. If you want mental stimulation, change the conversation. If you want peace, exude calmness. If you want to fill your world with artists, begin to paint. If you want to be valued, respect your own time. If you want to live ecstatically, find the ecstasy within yourself. This is how to draw it in, day by day, inch by inch.” —Victoria Erickson

Thoughts of living the life I want, guided by what I want to feel — secure, alive, content, healthy, at peace — rather than fill it with stuff I want have consumed me this past weekend. I finished reading Danielle LaPorte’s The Desire Map, and it couldn’t have come at a more apt time in my life. Parts of it read like unfolding pages from my own life this past year.

On the one hand, I know I’m moving closer and closer to where I need to be and that, like any journey to new spaces, is exciting, exhilarating and energizing as hell. But on the flip side, it means moving further and further away from all that I know to be true, certain, familiar and safe. Giving in to chance and surprise more often I otherwise would. And finding new ground. Whether it’s people, places or feelings.

It’s a bit like feeling excited to cross over to the other side of the bridge to see what lies ahead, but feeling gripped by fear at the thought of what it requires to get there.

Here’s the other thing about constant, active growth — the kind where you’re in the driver’s seat, navigating, and not where things are just happening to you — it’s exciting and petrifying all at once. It’s uplifting and isolating all at once.

And you still want to go it alone.

Last week, a stray mention of a sum of money, triggered a world of feelings in me. Feelings I hadn’t felt in a while. Feelings I thought I was over. Especially in relation to the idea of money. But it momentarily turned my world a little upside down, to a point where I questioned a couple of major decisions I’ve made in the recent past. Decisions I have made in utmost clarity and confidence. Decisions that have since steerer my life in a particular way.

But, once the chaos had passed, it led to two pivotal conversations. One completely by chance, that I had with VC, where I found I was expressing myself more to sort through the thoughts in my own head. I needed to talk it out, more than VC needed to hear it, I thought. But it turned out chatting with VC actually forced him to come clean about some things that he was bumbling over without much clarity.

Here’s the wonderful thing I’ve experienced about pushing myself to be brutally honest with myself. It forces out the conversations I’m meant to have, it digs out the truth I most need to hear. Talking about it, cemented the ground that had momentarily shaken beneath my feet. And it set the wheels in motion in VCs head too.

The second conversation was a very deliberate one I had with N, that further clarified what I’d realised after chatting with VC. It settled me back into my space, secure in my truth. The truth I’d let fly out of the window with the mere mention of a large sum of money.

This idea of money, the notion of it that I’ve grown up with, that I’m trying so hard to change now, is such a distraction. Just the mention of it put a spoke in my wheels and turned things backwards temporarily.

But then, I’ve said it before: moving ahead is rarely without stepping back every now and then. It’s not without constantly revisiting and re-evaluating concepts, ideas, goals, versions of myself. And that process (that Danielle LaPorte calls making “empowered choices” that take mind, body and soul into consideration, and not any one at the cost of the other two) is where the work happens. It is at once empowering and terrifying to have to sometimes shake the foundation right beneath my feet, and break down and rebuild concepts that I’ve grown up knowing to be unshakeable truths.

Like the idea of money, for instance. The role it plays in our lives, what it takes to get it, how much does one really need and most of all how much is enough?

And that’s where things inevitably begin to get lonely for me. Because it suddenly feels like watching the world zip by in one direction with urgency and alacrity, when all I want to do is hang on to the side rails, hit pause, defy gravity and begin to go the other way. Nobody else gets why, nobody cares, nobody even wants to join in, nobody asks why. (Because, everyone can’t go with you everywhere, remember?)

Funnily, the loneliness hits hardest when instances like this come up. When I’m in the midst of a personal mental struggle. When I want so much to find sameness and understanding so I can talk about it. And then I realise it’s lonely because the spaces I have sameness aren’t always the places that have the intimacy which allows the vulnerability I now seek.

But I’m learning more and more not to fear that loneliness. To accept it as a part of this process of healing, growing, of moving ahead. It is a necessary (and temporary) feeling. I’m learning to stay with that feeling — the loneliness, the chaos, the temptation to avoid rather than confront — instead of numbing it or turning away. And inevitably waiting it out brings the right person, right situation or right opportunity to bare it all. The right person for that pivotal conversation that will push things ahead, pick up and fix the broken pieces and make me whole again.

And that feeling of realising I’ve made an empowered choice, that I’ve dug into the depths of me and made a choice that is the best for me at this point in time, that this version of myself is undoubtedly an improvement from the one before? That feeling of pushing myself to a point where there’s no running away from it? That is the absolute best.

Two years ago: Day 50: Major leaps. Minor struggles.

Day 38: The only baggage you can bring is all that you can’t leave behind

I actually don’t remember the exact moment when I agreed to participate in the OXFAM Trailwalk. All I remember is curiously asking what it takes to prep, what it feels like getting through those two days, and how long it takes to recover. The next thing I remember is laughing loudly when I was told I give it a shot. At some point though, I’ve obviously said “Okay, let’s do this,” because I was registered and a part of a team, along with R, S and D. I’m not that much of a quitter, and to be honest, semi-masochistic challenges like this are kind of my thing. It’s how I found myself at the start line of a 100 km cycle ride with zero cycling preparation. I was banking on regular exercise to and a lot of inflated confidence to take me through.

Thankfully, it paid off then.

I can’t say I was banking on the same set of variables this time around. Because as the day inched closer, and it so happened that I had a terrible month of infrequent gymming in January, a proper worry descended. I had accepted and mentally prepared myself for getting completely fucked, physically speaking, and had therefore turned to psyching myself mentally, to just finish it come what may. At some point I even told myself, if I managed a 100 km cycle ride, this can’t be so hard.

Can it?

IT CAN.

On a cycle, the kilometres rush by, you thrust ahead, propel yourself forth and go places. Quickly. On foot, you’re painfully aware of every single step you take, and how small it is in the larger scheme of things. On foot, my speed is a fourth of what it is on a bike. On foot, the strain and pain is about four times more than it is on a bike. That said, fear and butterflies-in-my-stomach aside, I was severely excited in the week running up to the day. There was so much (unnecessary) prep we did, and much like the time I did the 100 km cycle ride, I tried to compensate for the lack of physical prep by doubling up on the food and snack reinforcement.

If all else fails, have a Yoga Bar and power on.

But there were other things to consider too. This was a 48-hour event. That’s two days of trampling through the wild. So we had a bag of extra clothes, reinforcement for shoes and socks, lots of Enerzal, warm clothes for the night walk, blankets for our night stops. This time around, VC (and P) volunteered to be our support crew, returning the favour I did when VC cycled to Wayanad.

Finally, at 4 am on the day, we were on our way to the start point, 1.5 hours away. At 6 am, even before the sun was out, we walked through an arch, over which stood a larger than life, and oh so incredibly gorgeous Milind Soman, flagging off the walk. From there on it was just…a lot…of…well, walking.

I wish I had a more detailed description to give, but really it was just that. Walk, walk, walk. One step ahead of the other. Onwards and upwards. Up and down, under branches, over rocks. Alongside lakes, beside eucalyptus groves. The weather started out beautiful, but as was expected as the sun made its way overhead, it began to beat down on us hard. The area around Devanahalli and Nandi Hills is largely arid, with large tracts of barren, rugged earth, with rocks and brambles for miles together.

Off and on we’d hit a patch of shady trees which would give some respite. But for the most part it was walking through shades of brown earth, clouds of dust surrounding us, as we trampled on.

We managed to keep a pace of about 5 kms to the hour, for the first 38, walking through the worst of the afternoon heat, before we took our first longish break. The event was rather well-organised. Every check-point had adequate water and snacks available, a first aid and medical station, a rest-stop which was a large tent with dozens of mattresses and blankets for anyone to grab, and the whammy — a physio station where hordes of physiotherapy students stretched and pulled and pushed at walkers, relieving our muscles of the strain and lactic acid build up that was bound to happen.

The walk itself, while arduous, was really a lot of fun. I have to say. Even through the muscle cramps, the hellish stretching in my calves, the twitching and eventual burn in and around my knees, the hips that began to pinch, I had an utter and complete blast. It had everything to do with my team, and that includes my support crew. Somehow, just being in the energy of the gang, I found the strength and willpower to keep going.

We chatted in some parts, of course there was an inordinate amount of giggling and laughing (mostly on my part), and a really good rhythm in terms of pace and teamwork between the four of us. This is where knowing your team probably helps. This isn’t an event you can do alone, or with a team you put together just to hit the numbers. VC and P showed up diligently at every check point, bearing food and drinks — bananas, upma, coconut water, dal rice and omelettes, and kept us going with motivation and laughter.

Five things I loved and enjoyed about the walk:

  1. It’s been ages since I faced the elements like this, with no veneer to mask the effects. Punishing sunlight, gusts of wind, clouds of fine red dust, splinters and brambles in my shoes, the beautiful night cold that required me to layer up and get my gloves out — it was a bit mind-boggling to have experienced it all in two days.
  2. All manners of trees. Some stubby, gnarly with twirly, unruly branches cut short, some ragged, half-eaten, some lush and full with an almost visible bounce, some stripped down with a framework of a thousand, wide-reaching thin arms spread in different directions, some mushroomy, airy and pouffy, large and cloud-like, some tall, minimalist, some just so furiously flowering with no time for leaves, some almost dead but still alive.
  3. THE MOON. The moon! The night of our walk was just two nights after the spectacular Lunar Trifecta the effects of which lingered on. We watched the moon watch over us like a steady sentinel in the morning sky, long after te sun had rise on day 1. By evening, the a blazing orb hung low over the horizon, furiously large and intimidating, yet calming. The bright post-full-moon moon lit up the path for us, making it possible to turn our torches off for much of the night walk.
  4. The sheer push it took to get going and keep going. In recent time, my life and the kind of experiences I’ve had have made me believe I’m not one for too much roughing it out. I’ve shied away from treks, trips into the wild and any other outing that required a little less than bare minimum comfort. I’ve completely stopped taking bus journeys for this reason. Of late though, I’m feeling the pinch. I’m feeling the pinch of having missed out on a lot. And this is pushing me to get out some more. Not just physically, but get out of this box in my head. The truth is I can rough it out. I just need to choose to. So while the walk tested my physical abilities for sure, it also pushed my mental boundaries, to do with lack of sleep, to go without a shower or brushing my teeth, to use a porta potty to take a dump — four times over! It’s no big deal, but I’m glad I’m over that small hurdle in my head.
  5. The camaraderie. It’s very unlike me to put very diverse groups of my friends together, otherwise. I’m not the person who throws a party and brings a motley crew together, while I sit back and watch the fun. So it really amazed and thrilled me when I realised that with absolutely no effort on my part, four very varied sets of people I’d otherwise hang out with separately, somehow converged over the course of the walk. These are sets of people I haven’t taken the trouble to mingle with together. It happened, and there we were altogether, bound by this common goal to finish the walk. And we all came through, together. It was brilliant to watch how freely the energy flowed, and how by the end of it we were all hugging each other uninhibitedly.

That was the good news. Now for the bad news — I didn’t finish the walk. By the second morning, we were running on three hours of sleep and gunning on. When I reached the 65 km mark, I felt a surge of energy and 35 kms felt like a small number in the face of how far we’d come. Up until then I was just taking it one kilometre at a time, but at 65 kms, I actually saw the finish line in my head and believed I was going to make it. The strain was real, the pain in my legs excruciating, yet I felt like I could keep going, slowly but surely, with as many breaks as were needed. But very, very soon, something snapped. In my knee, to be specific. And I reached that uncomfortable place where I so badly wanted to stop after every kilometre, but the more I stopped, the harder it became to get up and start again. Truly like being stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Eventually, when I felt a pinch at the back of my right knee, with every step I took, and I noticed an involuntary rotation of my foot that try as I might I couldn’t control, I had to will myself to quit for fear of doing some long term damage. In a brief span of five excruciating minutes I had to call it a day.

I made it to 81 kms, which took 31 hours, before I called our valiant support crew came to fetch me.

I wont lie, I’m very disappointed at having come so close to the finish and yet not making it through. But I guess that’s what next time is for?

D and R powered through for 7 hours more, to finish the 100 kms at 9 pm on Saturday night. What a rush!

The physical aspect aside, the two day experience was far more humbling and reaffirming in ways I didn’t expect. For one, I was happy I got out and made it. On the other hand, the six of us coming together the way we did was a bit like watching a real life experiment in letting go and being a part of a team you might not fully identify with at the outset. Once again, life seemed to be affirming how it is little about likeness, and more about the experiences that bring me closer to people, presenting opportunities to bond over commonalities that don’t lie at the surface. Commonalities that you wouldn’t discover over whatsapp, or sharing a coffee or beer, or even endless hours of chatting.

It is an incredibly privileged place to be, to be able to occupy my mind with matters of purpose and meaning attached to every experience. To see connections where I might not have even six months ago. To find common ground where I least expect it. To constantly time and time again find myself pushed into situations where I am forced to open up my heart some more. And the beauty of it all is that the more I seem to do it, the more natural and less like an effort it becomes. The more comfortable I get with getting out of the spaces in my head, the more life seems to push these amazing experiences my way.

Day 37: The future is no place to place your better days

I’m thankful for the weekend that just passed. For how it churned together several affirming moments and put so many different, disconnected pieces of my life together. I’m so thankful for the many reality checks it presented, the thumping steady beat of truths I knew to be true, but that I needed to experience in order to believe.

I’m thankful for my friends. The entire diverse lot of them, and how we miraculously converged, rallied together this past weekend.

I’m thankful for uninterrupted the access to a great gym. The opportunity to keep working out. I’m thankful for the many people who have contributed to my approach to strength training, because I know it’s a large reason I was able to make it through the walk, and how quickly I have recovered and bounced back.

I’m thankful for VC. Again and again, the man surprises me in big and small ways. The more I find myself abandoning the chase to find sides of him I want to see, but aren’t really there, the more he surprises me with other facets I need to see more. I’m so grateful for his kindness, generosity and patience.

For his unending support, his ridiculous faith. For his rock solid presence, cheering me on in whatever I choose to do, and how he always has my back, should I happen to falter. And I am eternally grateful for his perpetual, blind confidence in my capabilities.

I’m thankful for the number of opportunities to meet people to discuss work. Even as I get incredibly frustrated at the slow pace at which the conversations seem to move, or how long it takes for something concrete to materialise, the truth is I feel lucky to have so many people willing to open up opportunities to meet with us and have a chat about the possibilities of working together. I’m thankful for the places these meetings take me to. I’m thankful for the second shot at dressing for work. I’m thankful for the purpose it brings to my days.