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.

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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.

Day 31: What you seek is seeking you

A couple of weeks ago, we had PK over for dinner on a weeknight. I cooked a hurried meal of pasta tossed in a silken tomato sauce, with mushrooms and roasted peppers, green salad with almonds and feta, and crostinis topped with apricot chutney and salty cheese. Something told me PK would want to eat a non-Indian meal. Since I had already checked, and he had told me he was off meat, it was easy to pick pasta as the main!

It got me to thinking how effortless it was communicating and planning this with PK, who was, for all practical purposes, someone we had never met in our lives.PK is N’s husband, and we’d all be meeting for the first time that night, but it felt like a trivial detail. I guess upwards of eight years of exchanging notes and talking about ourselves has made our husbands feel like a part of the group even before we actually met. Even before he arrived, VC and I felt like we had invited an old friend over.

As conversation flowed, over everything from issues of identity living in a predominantly white country, to politics of hate and violence in India, it didn’t take long before we wound down to the matter of self-discovery that we have each stumbled on, albeit in our own time and in our own ways. By the end of the evening, I was astounded at how much we had to talk! VC, who is otherwise the silent watcher, had talked a week’s worth of words usually rationed for social engagements.

It was rare, unexpected (because we went in with no expectations, I suppose), but also very special. I don’t think that PK and VC, or even I, for that matter would have found common ground, if we weren’t connected as spouses of friends. On the surface we’re not the most similar bunch of people. We each come from such varied backgrounds, interests, professions, even. But connections happen in strange and sometimes roundabout, perhaps serendipitous, ways too.

The evening really confirmed this new truth about the people piece in my life: my attitude towards friendship has become less about finding likeness and sameness at the outset, over the most obvious things that show on the surface, and more about inviting in the differences, and finding deeper things to connect about.

This is the piece that I have struggled with. I won’t beat myself up about it, because I suppose it is natural, and the easiest thing to seek comfort in familiarity. And let’s be honest, that is the basis for people to forge connection. But the more I find myself coming around to accept the fact that the boxy definitions and fixed ways of looking at people and who I let into my life may not be working for me anymore, the more I find myself enjoying people, the more connection I am able to forge, and the fuller my life becomes.

On the flip side, this kind of bonding takes time, effort and is hard to come by. Primarily because of the effort involved. But I find that I am slowly accepting it in whatever form it comes. In bits and pieces, glimmers here and there, in surprising conversations, in unlikely places.

It’s starting to be a lot more about quality rather than quantity. I have never been the one to have a large bustling group of friends, so numbers haven’t been my stronghold. But even with the few, I found that the disappointments occurred when I realised that every friendship seems to come with an expiry date. Today, more and more, I am okay with that. I’m learning to give thanks for the years I get, than hang on to an idea of “forever-friends” with the weight of foreverness attached to it, even when the friendship has faded away.

The wonderful thing about breaking the barriers in my own mind as far as friends and friendship goes, is that I’ve connected with people I’d least have expected to. And this transcends age barriers, interest groups, activities to interact over.

I think two things have contributed to the shift in my mind.

  1. Time off from social media (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and a 12-hour WhatsApp shut down) has ensured I focus on real interactions. I’ll make the effort to go out more, meet up with people, and really show up rather than flake off over text.When I’m out there, at an event, or in a conversation, I’m picking up my phone less. It feels like a small change, but the consequences it’s had on the quality of my interactions has been manifold.
  2. Deliberately trying to shake off the fear of uncertainty. Or the need to control it in some way to bring in certainty. By approaching every experience with people as a fresh, standalone chance to connect, rather than as an event that blends into a stream of continuity labeled by time, distance, duration.By allowing myself to be surprised.

The critical change in all of this was getting over the fear. The fear that something’s changed. The fear that I’ll have to inevitably face loss. The fear that I will have to start over.

But here’s the deal — discovering myself is not without the constant process of recreating parts of my identities. And creating new identities and ways of being is impossible to do without letting go of the old. It’s the only way to make to make space for the new.

Loss, is a crucial, and essential, part of revival.

Coincidentally, Mark Manson wrote an insightful piece about this aspect of loss just earlier this week. When I read his piece, I knew exactly what I have been processing these past few days.

I’ve been an emotional ball this weekend, with the abundance of people and the love it has brought to my life. I’m so thankful for it. But it’s only when I read Manson’s article that I was able to make sense of what I was feeling, and fully internalise the change that has very obviously kicked in.

The more I open myself up to this newness, the more new stuff (people, experiences, small little events) come my way. Whether it is willing to host my sister in law and her sister and her husband last week, or feeling so excited to meet PK, or catching up with A and finding the ability to be so vulnerable despite the time and distance between us.

As a result of this, I am no longer stuck in a loop of rueing the death of some friendships, or the format in which they existed. I’m no longer craving the connections I feel I’m not getting.

When the world is my oyster and my heart is wide open, even a chance interaction with a stranger fills me up in ways that years of friendship can. And can’t.

One year ago: Busy times, apparently

Day 18: Afterglow

Today was a really good day. For no special or momentous reason. Just many little seemingly insignificant things strung together. And I just want to remember it while I’m steeping in the afterglow.

Bunking gym and sleeping in.

Early morning reading even before I got out of bed and surfaced for the day.

Placing an essay that would have otherwise been just a blogpost.

Talking to S about hypno-therapy and social media.

Afternoon reading that lulled me to sleep.

Meeting P and having pasta for dinner for the first time in months.

Turning in early and tucking myself into bed with a book.

Two years ago: Day 18: End of day

Day 17: You’ve been on my mind

Fresh off the back of a long weekend, that also brought with is the unusual first-time that both my parents, and my sister are away, I realised how much VC and I are out of the bubble that was our default mode of existence in Goa.

Physically cut off from family, alone, in a home where we called the shots, had no social obligations even in the city we lived in, had a life devoid of most other sorts of obligations — we were really left to our own devices.

In Bangalore, the bubble doesn’t exist. With my parents living in the building adjacent to us, I’m more often than not tempted to go hang out with them. I spend entire days with my sister, with my folks around. More often than not, I choose going over to be with them, even when VC is home. This was not the case before. So, when either/all of them are not around, I physically miss their presence. Of course, all this is compounded by the fact that I am so ready to get out and go, these days.

We’re about a fifteen minute drive away from VC’s family, which also means we go over at least once a week. And we’re subject to invitations to lunch, dinner and other family hang-out scenarios, more often than we’re used to.

But this past weekend was different. Slightly under the weather, I chose to stay in, made no plans and had nowhere to go. VC, as usual, indulged in a lot of TV. But it was after absolutely aeons that we were alone. Together. And we had a weekend to ourselves like the ones that were the norm in Goa.

There is quite nothing like a weekend like this, extended time spent in quiet companionship, to reinforce and reaffirm my faith in the absolute, critical need to have someone in my life who is there for me wholly and completely, even as he gives me space to do my thing (while he does his). Who doesn’t need the noise and fanciness of plans and dates and conversations and the overtures of love. Who revels in the smallness of the rhythm of everyday life. Who is happy to just be beside me. In silence. And who still comes out of three days of just doing that and only that, to tell me he had a “fun weekend”.

I love the synchronicity of seeing in words the exact representation of what is otherwise just a jumble of feelings, a tumble of emotions on spin dry in your heart. Even as I was sitting down to write about this, and finding myself unable to pin down the right words, I opened The Artidote today after forever, and saw this —

I love when you become so close with someone that you can see parts of each other in one another and you begin to say the same things and steal lines from one another and have a similar sense of humor and can exchange an inside joke with just a glance you don’t even have to talk because you have such a strong connection with them and you can sit in comfortable silence but also talk for hours it’s really hard to find that kind of compatibility

Compatibility, while accurate, feels like a small, limiting word. Caging the immensity of togetherness — a far bigger, open, expansive word, in my mind — into a small cubby hole. If compatibility feels like the two parallel columns finally syncing with a ka-ching! when the right elements find alignment, togetherness feels like massive rivers gushing down from parts unknown, tumbling together in a noisy ashen blur, only to collide and find a peaceful merging, even in the cacophonous union.

Compatibility does the trick, but togetherness goes several layers deeper. It digs in to the depths of my soul. Touches and kindles a fire that fights through the hubbub of regular life, throbbing to stay alive even when we’re turning the lights out.

Compatibility is just the tip of the iceberg. To have this kind of comfort, connection and peaceful coexistence with a single person feels like so much more, I actually don’t have the word/s for it.

Day 15: Block rockin’ beats (Wayanad, 2017)

When VC told me he was meeting with R and R over drinks one November evening, “to plan our cycling trip,” I dismissed it as an excuse to drink and talk bicycles. But four hours later, when I caught up with them and they spelled out their well-laid plans to cycle 300 kilometres, over three days, all the way from Bangalore to Wayanad, I ate my words thoughts and kept my cynicism to myself. Because the second part of the plan, as I was informed, included me. They would need a support vehicle. To carry essential supplies, a bike rack for emergencies, and generally a fall back, should something untoward happen. Which is where I featured: designated driver or said support vehicle. At this point, I happily joined in what I thought was a mad plan from hell. I haven’t seen VC this excited in anticipation of anything, ever. Except this time, instead of his typical hyper-efficient, over-preparedness, he just had a lot of sleepless nights. Like an over-eager kid before a school picnic. I was a bit surprised to see he didn’t even dust his bike before the ride, forget getting it services or tuned up. They’d managed a few rides here and there in supposed prep for the long distances, but really, nothing that can actually be passed off as training. Anyhow, that’s what the support vehicle was for, they said. To jump into when the going got tough.

And so, on the long weekend around Christmas, they were off. The plan was to cover approximately 100 kms a day, over three days, halting along the way. Day 1 began at 7:30, saying goodbye to the boys as they rode off to battle Mysore road traffic on bicycles — all the while wondering why they wouldn’t just allow me to drive them to a point beyond the traffic jams, and then set off. But there’s no arguing with such determination. And stubbornness.

I had happily agreed to drive when this plan was first proposed, but on the morning after the boys had left, a wave of laziness came over me. I wasn’t so hot on driving all alone anymore. Slowly, over three days. What if I had a flat? What if I got caught by the cops (the car was GA registered)? What if I was just bored hahaha? Anyhow, too late to have second thoughts, I left a good four hours after them, and we merged about 10 kilometres short of Mandya, which was our first pitstop. On the way though, turned out my worries were unfounded. The car was a zippy Honda Jazz, and with absolutely no weight to carry around, some really good music and a better drive given less traffic at the time of day that I’d ventured off, I surprised myself with how much I enjoyed the drive.

I met with a very dehydrated R stopped on the side of the road, with a flat tyre, waiting for the other two to back track and come help him. We made it to Mandya by about 3, ready to check in to the hotel. It was super entertaining trying to explain to the hotel staff in a very straight-jacket, respectable lodge, why three men dressed in neon coloured lycra wanted to cycle from Bangalore to Wayanad, when a woman was driving along with them. Not nearly as entertaining as convincing the same staff that VC and I were in fact married, and the other two “gents” sharing the other room were just friends. The request to carry our bikes into the rooms with us probably did nothing to help our cause.

Picture: VC

A terribly delayed lunch, a mistimed, extra-long nap and general disorientation from the schedule being so off meant we woke up bleary eyed at 8 pm, wondering what to do next. We drove off into the town looking for dinner. We circumnavigated the place  three times before we settled for a seedy local stop that promised Bannur style biryani. It was delicious, but not the kind of place we could chill and eat slowly. In and out quickly, we then headed back to call it a day in lieu of an early start the next. But not before finishing the tedious task of fixing R’s flat – which he did in amazing sync to Block Rockin Beats that played, as we all watched, amused.

Day 2, despite good intentions, began late. It didn’t really matter to me, but the boys needed to beat the rising sun and make it to the next stop ideally before lunch time. But that was not to be. Traffic, a horrible head wind and then cross winds, plus the sun beating down hard, meant they took it nice and easy. I sped off, drove through Mysore, and found a nice little spot just 20 kilometres short of our next pitstop, where I pulled over. I popped open my kindle and read for the next 2.5 hours waiting for them to catch up.

It was a glorious day, had they got that early start, but with the sun soaring and the wind to beat, the boys looked completely wiped. At this point VC threw in the towel, mounted his bike on the rack and drove with me for the remainder of the journey to Gundlupete, our stop for the second night.

200 kilometres done, I couldn’t believe they were still up and gunning for more. Crazy, crazy boys. While the other two caught some z’s, VC and I ducked off towards Gopalswamy Betta, to catch the sunrise, but ended up mucking around trying to catch light trails, on the drive up instead. Which is to say VC pitched his tripod up waiting for the right light, and that trail you see are my tail lights speeding off into the distance.

Picture: VC

After some much needed food, drink and rest, we convened for a round of drinks and other downers to set us up for a good night’s rest. The evenings were getting progressively cooler and I was excited to get to Wayanad the next day.

Day 3, the last third, commenced late once again. But, in terms of terrain and landscape, it was probably the best, most enjoyable drive for me. I know the boys thought so too. Undulating stretches of road, driving through not one but two states worth of national forest reserve, which meant a constant canopy of trees to hide under, gave them sufficient shade from the sun.

And thank god for the nice and refreshing first half of the ride, because the second half, once we entered Wayanad, was gruelling. Arduous ups and downs, punishing climbs, narrow hill roads in bad shape, unruly traffic. By the last stretches, we were halting every two kilometres or so, so they could give their legs and backsides a rest. VC, being VC had called it a day soon after the good bits riding through the jungle were over. He drove shotgun, and grabbed his camera to film what little he could of the ride. R and R powered through, all the way till the goddamned end.

We’d booked ourselves in a lake-facing resort with tented accommodation, which looked very promising online, as such things tend to. In person, it left a lot to be desired. Also, the resort was attached to a government tourism facility with boating services in the lake, which meant we had noisy, selfie-taking tourists traipsing around us all evening long. However, the view made up for it, once the facility shut shop for the day, we ventured out to sit by the lakeside, watching the sun go down, and a ghosty fog descend over the lake. The morning was supposedly gorgeous we were told, so despite three mornings of rising early, R, VC and I managed to drag ourselves out of bed while it was still dark, waiting for the sun to rise. It was stunning, and worth the few hours of missed sleep.

Wayanad is quite the stunning part of Kerala, and it takes a little scouting to find a nice spot tucked away from the humdrum of mainstream tourism, much like any popular destination in this country. But once you do, the sights and scenes are a feast.

Picture: VC

The acres and acres of banana and areca-nut plantations, blue skies, palm trees and winding roads, are all reminiscent of the slow life. It was easy to decide we wanted to stay another day. And so we decided to delay our return, and set off on the look out for a place to stay the night. A place that wasn’t as “public” as the lake-facing resort.

We found another tented accommodation set along the steep slopes of a coffee plantation. A setting and a price that was honestly too good to be true. Happy for the opportunity, we settled in. Pretty much all day was spent indoors, and we only set out before sunset, for a walk that took us from the wild and rogue growth of coffee plantations to the immaculately neat style of tea plantations just across a winding village road.

A splendid sunset sealed the deal and we returned, to repeat our evening routine – drinks, downers, dinner.

The next morning, R and VC trekked off once again to catch the sunrise, and apparently had the best hike of the trip. R and I missed it. Because, sleeeeeep.

The boys, of course, had their share of fun. High on adrenalin from the ride, and the thrill of having finished what was only an idea just few months ago. However, it was a really good three days, for me too. After ages, I found myself amidst a gang of boys — a feeling I’ve forgotten. I realise it’s a different kind of easy-going, hassle-free fun. Maybe it’s my own newfound fascination to let-it-go and go-with-the-flow and see where it takes me, and these boys were probably the best boys to tag along with on this kind of trip, but I surprised myself. I wasn’t bored, I didn’t feel lost or left out, so much so that I didn’t even open my kindle for the rest of the trip. Whenever they were off the saddle, we chatted, listened to music, ate some good food, drank and made merry late into the night. Road trips of this kind, are the best kind.

This is a pretty accurate picture of what the holiday did for me.

My memory was jogged back to days in Goa, with the same gang (a couple other boys sorely missed) when doing this kind of spontaneous thing — a random road trip to a faraway beach,  an unplanned but miraculously well-worked-out barbecue, a secret trip to a campsite in a neighbouring state, a monsoon trek upstream a river — was so passe, so normal, so regular. And so I took it in, happy to have had another chance to experience something I had pushed far back into my mind. Like I also said here. And here.

The best part, for me was how relaxed and devoid of rigid plans the entire trip was. Aside rom setting off to cycle every day, little else was fixed and we played it entirely by ear. There were several stops for chai, coconut water, pazham-puri, and on our return journey, toddy — which I’d never have ventured out to try on my own. I’m glad I did because I really, really loved it.

It was truly a trip that was more about the journey than the destination. And perhaps because I was meant to tail the boys and always stay within accessible distance, I was forced to slow down and enjoy it that way.

VC, he made a film, so we can always go back to it and remember the trip for what it was.

Next time around, I want to be on a bike, rather than in the car.

One year ago: Two new pieces
Two years ago: Day 15: Come undone

Day 9: The hardest part

is admitting that you were wrong. But once you’re over that hurdle, it’s like walking into the light, or unlocking the next level of a mystery you’re desperately trying to solve.

For someone so convinced I was an out and out introvert just over a year ago, the past year has seen a big change. The developments of recent time, specially the last six odd weeks have only confirmed what I have known to be true for a while now: I have changed, in ways I know, but more so in ways I am only getting to know slowly.

The more willing I am to sit still and observe, question and think about the changes I see, the more I know this to be true. And that willingness is the hard part. Because it means accepting that it may be time to let go of some rigid truths, or that I might need to soften up on some of my staunch aversions, or it means letting go of the safety of labels that I use to define me. It means instead, to look at the very real circumstances that are shaping me in entirely different ways.

It means finding new connections.

It means sometimes standing alone.

Daunting as it sounds, and is in some part, it is also incredibly energising. Nobody talks about how refreshing and life-giving the process can be. It is not without tedium, and there’s really no escaping the bitter realities that you’ll have to stare in the face, but once you’re over that hurdle, it is like a breath of fresh air. Light, rejuvenating, and puts the spring right back in your step.

Perhaps it is the mistaken ideas of adulthood and becoming-who-you-are that we have inculcated, that makes this journey seem one way. The pursuit of prescribed ideals, boxed definitions and perfection itself makes looking back, revisiting old versions of yourself and admitting less than ideal facets of yourself impossible, and a waste of time. Shame, envy, inadequacy, confusion become bad words we don’t want to believe are parts of us.

But the truth is, growing up involves going back and forth all the time. It is acknowledging these unsavoury parts of ourselves that unlocks the potential to plummet ahead. Never before have I valued retrospection so much. For it has helped revisit so much, only this time with a softer eye. Less self-loathing. Less judgement. More acceptance.

With every passing week, I realise I’m not the introvert I was in the months before I left Goa. It was circumstances that made me withdraw and seek my own company, closed in from the world. But I didn’t understand why or how it was happening. It was simply the playing out of what N articulated perfectly — Everyone can’t go with you everywhere — a truth (and several others) I’m only realising this now. And I’m changing, because of it.

Even until weeks mere ago, it was hard to say if it was a change brought on by changing circumstances, or if the shifts brewing within me in turn were reflected in my circumstances. Mostly this has been a revelation about how wrong I was.

I noticed around the middle of last year how suddenly I was much more willing to go out, be with people, socialise and do things outside of the four walls of the introvert cocoon I’d settled into. The frequency with which I’d surprise myself by volunteering to do something I thought was uncharacteristic began to rise, till I realised it was too frequent to pass it off as “exceptions to the rule”. It was, in fact, the new normal. Try out a new restaurant, I’m in. Want to come to xyz, with abs, def, (who you don’t know), sure! Want to try out a reading club where we’ll read a book on self-esteem, why not? Poetry reading, yes. Movie with the family, yes. Dinner with extended family, okay to that too. Cooking for fifteen people over two days, count me in.

Slowly I found myself feeling a lot more energetic and willing to to put myself out there, in situations I’d told myself were never for me. The clincher was willingly joining VC in his new business, and taking on a client-facing role.

Conversely, I don’t fancy spending as much time all by myself at home. It helps that amma’s home is in the next building, so I always have a cocoon of comfort to jump into when things get overly solitary around here.

This is a big change for someone who in Goa barely ever left home, and loved being alone. The most joyous moment on any ordinary day then, would be when VC left for work and the help finished for the day. I would savour the solitude slowly over the course of the day, wearing my space and isolation like a comfortable skin.

It’s true what they say, the company you keep really does reflect your state of mind. And maybe this, in some measure also explains the dissonance and distance I’ve felt with those I’d most easily turn to for daily kinship. I’ve carried this feeling, that something has changed, but I’m not quite sure what to do with it, around uncomfortably for a few weeks. Eventually, the truth dawned on me: in the face of all this drastic change, I feel less and less inclined to stick to fixed anythings. My faith in the rock bed of certainties has shaken, so I’m finding it very counter-productive to stick in places I am feeling restless. Whether that is a pattern of friendship, the habits I think I need to have, or fearing breaking them because it means being alone.

The last few weeks saw me do both. And surprisingly, it got easier. The fear subsided and I felt charged with an energy I didn’t know possible.

Do you know what it is like to watch yourself move from being a somewhat passive, this-is-who-I-am-and-I’ll-just-stay-here-until-the-right-stuation-happens to a let’s-go-out-there-and-find-a-way-to-make-this-work state of mind? It has been like dipping into a secret reserve of self-worth I have suddenly discovered.

We really underestimate how much we are capable of growth. How much we are in fact changing all the time. Drastic growth brings with it such significant shifts in the mind and body that inevitably, it leads you to the reality of leaving things behind. By definition, it is what movement entails.

So whether it’s a time (it’s futile being torn up about moving on from the perks of full time employment, for example, because it doesn’t have a place in my life or in my current reality), place (similarly, so meaningless to wistfully long for my life in Goa when this is where I am now and it is what I know is most necessary), or even company (If I am changing all the time, surely every body else is too. So what then am I hanging on to so tight?), the need to loosen the grip and ease up on expecting a pre-defined kind of certainty has slipped under my skin.

Much like hanging on to older ideas of a version of myself did nothing but delay the movement that was waiting to happen in my life, I’m realising that hanging on to a fixed, rigid idea of the kind of friendship I am made for, or what I am capable of in relatonships, has made it hard for me to find deeper, authentic connections suited to where I am now.

 

One of the things that has become utterly clear to me in the recent past is that my life has little meaning without connection. I’m craving it all the time. In people, in activities, in experiences, in spaces, in habits. I’m only now learning how believing so hard in the fallacy that I am a complete introvert, has held me back in this respect.

It was hard to acknowledge that my introvertism was a temporary shield I donned, while I waded through emotions I didn’t want to face. I mistook a streak of introvertism to be a personality-defining thing, when actually it was just me seeking safety in numbers, in memes that scream relatable truths that made me feel like I belonged. Because I wanted to belong anywhere, but to the real self that was desperately running away from feeling all the feels.

Until, I was ready to break out and do all of that — face those scary feels, be as vulnerable as I possibly could, acknowledge how wrong I was, look at new and intimidating ways of being that my situation now required.

Now, I’m less afraid to make connections.

Similarly, I am less afraid to stand alone.

This shift in my attitude has already brought tremendous positive change — I see it in the most significant things like the way I was able to accept moving to Bangalore to the smallest, seemingly insignificant things like suddenly embracing hot pink lipstick with a casual comfort that was alien to me.

I see it in the way I am suddenly more outgoing. Accepting invitations to meet new people, pushing myself out to events, trying out new restaurants, making plans to beat traffic and increasingly seeking new experiences, over the comfort of mundanities, when it comes to people. I’m reluctant to keep going over the same motions out of habit. I have little to share in terms of mundanities, and the lack of conversational sharing does mean I’ve fallen out of the loop. But I’m dealing with that, and even with its difficulties, I feel it’s better than the hollow, exhausting efforts of continually trying to flog a habit I’m clearly not in the space to hang on to.

I am so not that person anymore.

Accepting that was the hardest part.

This business of looking back at the trail we’ve traversed now seems like an essential healthy practice, one that I should probably do more often. To see where we were, how far we’ve come, to ask crucial questions about where we’re headed, why, and if we’ll actually be happy once we get there requires so much reworking of of our old selves, to take what’s best for us and to let go of all that no longer serve a purpose.

But I won’t lie, that is the hardest part.

Day 8: I’m just too good at goodbyes

I really am. The people-come-people-go theme of my life continues. The only difference I’ve come to notice is a decrease in angst or disappointment every time it happens. Earlier, I’d be very torn up about it, even the times when I consciously chose to distance myself or cut off ties with someone. But now, the blues come and go quickly. It bothers me, but doesn’t affect me in that lingering sort of way. Earlier, I’d see the end of a relationship as The End. Now, I see it as a timely intervention for a new beginning. A chance to either alter something in the relationship or just to move on and find something new elsewhere, with someone else, perhaps.

At some level, I think I’ve made peace with this pattern. In the last few years, I’ve noticed how deeply linked this is with my own growth curve. Every time that I’ve hit a situation that has caused me to either step back from a relationship, or retreat into myself, it has been a time when I have experienced a shift in my own growth.

In December, I spent quite a lot of time pondering over this, and I’ve come to some conclusions. I’d like to think these are fundamental caveats that I have taken way too long to arrive at. And the process was not without it’s share of rife and pain. But I think of what Glennon Doyle Melton says, and take heart.

The truth will set you free, but it will hurt so badly first.

This is what will help ease the pain every time I find myself at a goodbye.

Making friends, maintaining friendships can sometimes be intimidating, at times exhausting and seemingly futile. That’s normal. And completely okay. There are times when you need and deserve companionship and the company of people can be uplifting, but there are some experiences you have to go alone. I’ve been going through some changes myself of late, details of which I’d usually be very keen to unravel and discuss and share with my closest friends. But this time around, I’ve been unable to (also not very inclined to) do this, except for N and D, who really get this process and side of me, for obvious reasons. I was a bit perplexed at my own behaviour, but over time, I realised that there is a certain sanctity in the process of change that is best enjoyed alone. It doesn’t need an audience, or that extra boost of confidence that we tend to sometimes seek from sharing information with our friends, when we’re unsure and we need a pat on the back and someone to unabashedly side with us. Tell us we’ll be alright, that in a similar situation, they’d do exactly the same.

Every relationship/person will come with some disappointment. This is bound to happen, because no two people evolve at the same pace, or ever have circumstances so similar to keep the likeness going. Evaluating what you value in each relationship, at each of those moments, will decide what parts you’re willing to ignore and let slide, and what parts become deal-breakers. Consequently, what relationships remain thick, which ones morph and move to the fringes, and which ones are eliminated altogether.

There comes a point in every relationship when the way things are going will be a clear reflection of some aspect of your sense of self. This was a hard one to acknowledge. Because it means taking responsibility for things that you’d normally pass on to the other party. It means noticing that you get what you give. Most recently, I saw it pan out when I came face to face with an extremely judgemental and critical side of myself I didn’t like. It took noticing and feeling bothered by someone elses judgemental behaviour to see my own. As I tried to work this out in my own head, I found greater and greater dissonance with the friends in whose company I was indulging in said judgemental behaviour. Things became harder still when I realised that I didn’t need to or want to talk about the process of reworking or course correcting this behaviour anymore. Doing so felt like a lot of roundabout justification of what I had come to realise was just shitty behaviour coming from a place of shame. I needed to just shut it down completely and move on to doing something about it. Quietly, without a fuss or much explanation.

Walk the talk, minus the talk, actually. In fact, this is the first time I’m even articulating these thoughts in writing. I saw in that situation that the friendships involved had devolved into a lot of casual chit-chat that involved wide-swathe judgements passed rather casually, and seemingly harmlessly, but that involved thoughts that were deep and really telling. In these friendships, I saw a reflection of this aspect of my sense of self that needed alteration. For those of you suddenly reaching out to ask why I’m off Instagram — this has something to do with it. I felt I needed to eliminate the trigger first, if I were to honestly address the issue at the heart of this.

Your spouse/friends will very well not be the answer to every one of your needs. And that is okay. You’re going to have different people for different things. Someone for the laughs and the fun. Someone else entirely for the truth-telling conversations. Sometime you reach out to for strength and support. And maybe none of these people will be the one you want to travel with or think of when you want some lighthearted fun. This is okay. Your friends are not and cannot fulfil every need at once.

N and I have discussed this at extreme length these past few weeks (given the time zones we’re in, every time I find us deeply engrossed and furiously sharing away, I worry that it means one of us is awake at an ungodly hour usually meant for sleep haha!) and she put it beautifully, in words I keep going back to.

Everyone can’t  go with you everywhere.

Every relationship will lack something. And that’s okay too. Because every relationship will give you a whole set of other valuable things. I am increasingly finding myself constantly evaluating this, and I realise how my equations with various friends keep fluctuating. When I moved to Bangalore, I came with huge expectations, looking forward to being in the same city as some of my closest friends. In reality, I didn’t connect with them nearly as much as I did with people from a forgotten past. I found that my family was there for me, far more than friends who promised they’d be. I inadvertently spent a lot more time with them, and by myself, focusing on things that really needed my time and attention. I saw myself enjoy the process of making new friends, when I realised the ones I had didn’t have the time or space for me. And that has been a wholly enriching experience in itself. I don’t feel the loss, as much as I have soaked in the gain.

Every time you hit a bump in a relationship, it is an opportunity to evolve. It’s natural for relationship to get old at some point or the other. These situations are inflection points that can be turned around positively if looked at as a call for evolution. Each opportunity is in a sense, a test of whether there is scope for evolution or not. Last month, I met a friend I was convinced I had put out of my life just three months before. I was over the moon thrilled to realise that over that period of complete silence and no contact, meeting again brought out conversation and experiences so telling of the growth we’ve both had in our time apart. No part of that meeting was reminiscent of our friendship as it used to be. It was utterly refreshing and in a sharp contrast to the time before, I didn’t come away exhausted and mentally drained. I felt uplifted. Nothing excites me these days as much as a kindred spirit who gets what I’m on about.

Not every goodbye, is goodbye for good. Yet, the truth hurts. It’s not easy to feel like you’re about to lose a friend. Because it means facing the truth about how much we want to be seen, known, loved and heard. How much we want to belong. But, I’ve realised that the silence from the frenetic activity of friendship presents crucial moments of pause. Moments necessary in cultivating a focus on belonging so wholly to yourself first.

Two years ago: Day 8: On waiting

Just do the next right thing, one thing at a time. That’ll take you all the way home.

I’ve been in this floaty in-between space, I call my extended time of transition, for so long now. First I was transitioning from Goa to Bangalore, then from my parent’s home to my own. At some point I realised this transition wasn’t just physical. In some ways I was transitioning from the 2016-me to the now-me (for a lack of words to explain this). And somehow, the process doesn’t feel complete. A trail remains, and I’m gliding along slowly.

Some part of me knows this is WIP, and perhaps not a start-stop kind of event that will ever end. This is a transformation of sorts, a shedding of what was and stepping into what could be. And I say could be because I’m not sure as yet where I’m going. I am sure of the lack of surety, because I see the signs that tell me not to rush, to wait and to allow things to settle in their own time. Because the process, and what’s happening now, is crucial.

I need to sit with the quiet. I know that much.

I have been in a funk with work. For many reasons, and that is the stuff of another post, should I choose to ever discuss it. C put is so perfectly yesterday when I was whining about this to her.

“I can’t stop thinking about writing. And yet I can’t seem to get myself to write. For work.”

So it’s what I’ve done. I’m only quietly pursuing a few opportunities that landed in my lap, and not aggressively going after anything. I have enough, and yet it feels like a lot. What I am doing, I am really struggling to keep up with.

On the home front, I’m semi-interested in most things. I feel like I could do with a project and there are so many up for the taking, but I don’t seem to want to actually push myself into investing time and effort into any of them. I’ve been doing the bare minimum to get by. The house is not always spic and span, the laundry tends to get ignored for longer than is ideal. Our meals are a far cry from what they used to be — sticking to basic stuff now that my diet has given me permission to scrap all the fluff.

Socially too, I’m not over-eager, neither am I cutting myself off or anything. I’m doing what feels easy and doable. Much like work, there’s a lot I think I want to do, but I realise maybe it’s just the idea of doing those things that excites me, and not so much actually going out and doing them.

I’ve considered travel several times these past few weeks. It just seems fitting no? To go away, be with myself while this shit works itself out. Especially given how I’ve unlocked new reserves of patience I didn’t know I had. But again, same issue — half of me is willing and the other half doesn’t want to budge. I just want to remain and watch as things happen.

I’ve discussed a hypothetical Europe plan with J and S three times this year. Finally semi committed to dash off to Singapore. And discussed numerous desirable weekend getaways with S and R. I stalked Goa airfares for about eight weeks before actually booking ourselves on the trip last month.

So yeah, maybe you get the drift? Have you ever felt like this? In limbo, on all fronts? Ennui-like and just happy to be afloat?

***

And then when I returned from Goa, it occurred to me that virtually, social-media-specifically too, I seem to be in the same headspace. Nothing compels me. Work was the only reason I would frequently visit facebook, and now with that fading, I don’t check in nearly as often. I am not feeling the burning need to respond to every notification or do anything else while I do check in. I’m only frequently posting on Instagram, because I still love picture-making and rambling on. But there too, my follow list has been pruned and transformed so much. I’m surrounded by art more than anything else. My interest in watching people and their lives has nearly died. Much like it did for food, clothes, cakes. But the icing on the cake was finding myself indifferent to whatsapp too.

Could it be that the quiet is creeping deeper than I thought it could?

Right now, it feels like there are several moving parts that are making small, almost non-existent movements to come together. I feel the movement ever so slightly. It is only some times overwhelming, but mostly tantalising. And yet I am only still waiting. Watching. Patiently waiting, quietly. To see where it is all taking me.

It is really beginning to feel like this is going to be a year I should write off to WIP, transformation and about enjoying the process while I get to where I am headed.

Just do the next right thing, one thing at a time. That’ll take you all the way home.

As for the title, it’s another quote from my favourite Glennon Doyle Melton. I read this somewhere a while ago (and I really wish I knew where it was) because it came back with resounding alacrity on one of our evening walks in Goa last week, as I watched this amazing sunset, wondering about exactly this. This limbo, and what I need to do next.

Time and time again these past few weeks wait and watch keeps coming back to me. It is the next right thing to do.

***

Speaking of limbo, I chatted with S last night after what felt like absolute aeons. I don’t think we’d actually properly caught up, giving updates on all that is happening in our lives, since we met in Bangkok last year. That is a long, long time for us. Listening to him tell me about his very own kind of comfortable limbo, in a world so different and remote from mine, I still felt an affinity. I could relate. In as many ways as our worlds and experiences are poles apart, that feeling of being in a comfortable limbo, in waiting, is so, so familiar. We spoke for an entire hour before I realised we were all caught up.

Literally all of this year we have made plans to catch up, promising to call each other as soon as a window frees up. The weekend, after work, when I’m back from my trip, when I’m feeling better — and somehow the right time just never came up.

I don’t know about him, but for me it was a lot of avoidance. I didn’t want to have to give updates about things I wasn’t fully sure of myself. Maybe I was worried I’d be judged? Maybe I was too shy to admit I was downsizing my amazing Goa life to a seemingly-less than ideal one in Bangalore? Maybe I just didn’t want to have to explain everything that had happened in the run up to this transition because it felt like just too much to have to talk about on the phone? I’m not sure. Maybe it was all of it.

But it felt like I needed to get out of my hole and call him last night, as it has for a few weeks now. The wonderful thing is that once I did call, it was just so easy. Conversation flowed, updates happened, all the things I thought I didn’t have the words for, suddenly articulated themselves. It helps when you have an eager, earnest person on the other side, genuinely concerned and interested in knowing what you have been up to.

It didn’t feel like an effort at all. It didn’t even feel like we were catching up, merely talking.

And then there was the kindred spark — the mention of that limbo. The only too familiar feeling of being comfortable while I wait and watch. And boom, i changed the conversation for me.

I’m not sure why I didn’t do this sooner, really. With S, I have a really special bond that has time and time again made it spectacularly easy to pick up where we left off, with barely any effort. There is never any awkwardness or the need to fill gaps and silences. It’s not something I have with too many people, and I realised last night how much I really, really cherish it.

As I drifted off to sleep, it dawned on me that actually, I have had this with a lot of people off late. With N, who I chatted with at length last week — catching her up on the amazing, life-changing experiences I had in Goa that I absolutely knew she would relate to. With P, who I had sworn I would never have anything to do with again, but with whom, time and time again, I have relevant, insightful and meaningful conversations that matter. With D, who came into my life most unexpectedly, but with whom conversation is rarely just that, and almost always impacts me in deeper ways.

I went to sleep with my heart brimming over. I have said this so often off late — that I don’t have much to show for on paper, when I think of what I’ve done/achieved this year. Yet, my life, even in it’s utter slowness, with the pregnant pauses and tantalisingly slow trajectory, feels so goddamn full.

***

And so I continue to wait, basking in the overwhelming gratitude for where I am, the people I am surrounded by, the connections I have and those that come back to me even when I’m not making the effort, and for everything moving along until it finds it’s place.

I wait because it just feels like the next right thing to do.

Same time, last year: Day 279: Sticky trash

Grow

I’ve been meaning to write about how I’m feeling, and what a positive difference being in a new place, surrounded by all the right elements I most needed, has done for me. It has sparked a lot of freshness,  a renewed way of looking at everything.

But.

I can’t find the right words.

I have felt like there aren’t enough words to stack the overwhelming goodness I’ve been gloating in, into rows of squiggly letters and words. It feels too limiting.

So I haven’t really even tried.

I must also admit there are times where I feel I don’t need the words.

I ask myself if I really want to dig deeper? Why do I feel the need to get the better of this feeling? Why this incessant urge to explain or decipher it?

I haven’t found a convincing answer as yet.

So I stop looking for words.

I did say before that this is quite easily the best I have felt in all my life. And I wasn’t exaggerating.

I’m content. Existing, absorbing this feeling, marinading in the goodness of it all. Or at least I was, until something happened last month that gave me the sign I needed.

And suddenly, I had the words. So I wrote about it.

***

One morning last month, I woke up troubled. I faced a situation that caught me unawares. And yet, it had that stale stench of familiarity that creeps in slowly: something tells me I’ve been through this before.

It made me go back to a similar episode from January this year. I dug through my chats and pulled out a series of voice notes I sent to S, my voice broken, the words coming out in between stifled tears. I almost couldn’t believe that was me and the words I spoke had been what I had felt. It was true, I had been through it before. Present situation was no different from the one that triggered the breakdown in January.

It was identical. But the only difference had been my reaction. Or rather the alarming lack of it.

Suddenly I realised that something had changed. I had let it go, almost as quickly and unexpectedly as the situation had occurred. After months and months of trying to let go, here was an instance of having actually done it. Turning those mere words into deeply internalised thought into action.

Almost serendipitously, I stumbled on an image with words that perfectly describe what I had been feeling all morning.

If you are willing to look at another person’s behaviour toward you as a reflection of the state of their relationship with themselves rather than a statement about your value as a person, then you will, over a period of time, cease to react at all.

***

It got me thinking some more about these past few months. Not much has happened, on paper. I don’t have a lot to show for what I have been up to. And yet the shortest span of time, punctuated by a whole lot of silence and stillness that I only take a break from to either go to the gym, or meet happy people, has catapulted me into a different headspace, a different version of myself. I haven’t experienced this kind of internal transformation ever before.

Through all this, if there’s one thing I’m proud of having allowed myself to do, it is opening myself up to face the fear of letting so much go.

Everything from people. Expectations. Reactions. Situations. Interactions. Labels. Earlier versions of myself. Older versions of relationships. I’ve let so much go. And when it felt like I had nothing more to lose, I sat back and looked at everything that had remained. It was telling to see that not only was I left with people who matter, but I had made space for new people, and many lost connections from the past that surfaced almost magically. I found forgotten aspects of myself emerging from the dark corners I’d hidden them into. And I discovered new parts of my persona that I didn’t know I had.

keep letting go
PC: Buddha Doodles

To be light, to go with the flow, to be at peace with the way I feel, to be in happy harmony with my thoughts and feelings in sync most of the time — this has been a large part of the reason I chose to begin therapy last year. I did it at a time when, amongst other things, I was stuck in a loop of always finding myself at the receiving end of shitty behaviour. Whether from clients, friends, acquaintances, relatives. I didn’t know why they sometimes behaved the way they did, or why their actions had the kind of unravelling effect they had on me.

Therapy unlocked something. And there has been no looking back since.

Self awareness is a bit like an abyss. Once you’re on the path to discovering nuances about yourself, the way you feel and how you’re reacting to things around you, there’s no turning around. Every time you feel you’ve hit a milestone, the deceptive end point moves further away. The deeper you go, the more you figure out. The more you learn, the lighter you feel. The higher you go, the more there is left to discover.

When I began therapy, I was sick of being caught up in a web of issues, and the feelings that resulted from them. I longed to be able to look at them, objectively, and figure a way to move through them, rather than being stuck in them.

And so, to be able to react with an almost dispassionate calm, having noticed a recurring pattern, stepped back, taken stock and moved through it, was happy-making.

If the road to self discovery is speckled with potholes in the form of shitty people, shitty situations, shitty luck, testing your patience from time to time, that grim August morning, I believe I finally hit a milestone.

Same time, last year: Day 259: Morning moods

What coming home feels like: making friends edition

When I was preparing to move to Bangalore, I wondered about feeling lonely and isolated in a city of nameless faces. I didn’t particularly fancy the thought of making friends all over again. Nor did I want to continue my streak of people-less-ness. Much of the urge to get out of Goa was bolstered by the promise of new people. I’d grown rather jaded of the company I kept and was seeking a fresh energy and some new faces. And yet, 33 isn’t the most appropriate age to venture out into the school yard, to scope cliques and meekly gauge which one to attempt to break into.

I felt at sea in matters of people-ing because it’s just been so long since I had to go out and make an effort in this regard. Specially since the last decade or so I’ve had things just happened — people have come and gone from my life, connections were effortlessly made and lost with equal ease — without any active pursuing on my part. Not to make friends, and not in keeping them either. I’ve let a lot of people just go. So making friends felt daunting.

Wh is friendship in adulthood such an intimidating proposition?

However, in yet another unexpected turn, things have been strangely easy on the people front. Ironically, while I still continue to struggle to come to terms with many other things about this city (including some aspects that I thought would be a good change) it’s the people who have been pleasantly warm and welcoming.

I’ve already said coming home gave me the opportunity to reconnect with old friends that I’d sworn I would never go back to, and how comforting it is to just be in the same city as the best of my friends. But that apart, there’s a third set of people-ings that I’m so happy to have stumbled on. It’s the new and unexpected friendships I’ve made. Through friends, through older connections, through people who know people. And happily, so many of these connections have brewed over home cooked meals. I’m more than grateful for these folks who just easily opened their homes up, invited me over and cooked some splendid, memorable meals.

There have been multiple such events. With D, I thulped Goan sausages and bread like it was my last meal ever. A cooked me this stunningly simple but high on flavour Andhra meal, from recipes of her very own cookbook complete with a spicy and heady bone broth that kicked my cold out of the way. With N and D I ate baingan bhartha, chapaties laced with carrots and some gluten free bread because I’ve been off carbs lately.

Each that I’ve shared a meal, hanging out over hearty hot food, huddled around a table, cross-legged on the floor crouched over a plate laden with goodies — something opened up for me.

This past weekend I ate what will go down as yet another incredibly tasty, beautifully put together meal, at yet another table in the home of someone I didn’t know just a few months ago.

It was a large, painstakingly out together array of Andhra food. And again, I felt grateful for the opportunity. For the warmth, the openness and the joy of sharing a meal.

There’s something about honest, homely food cooked straight from the heart, that reaches right inside and touches my soul.

Same time, last year: Day 257: Down and up again

Brain noodles

It dawned on me this week that growing up doesn’t have to happen at the expense of the child inside of me. That a major part of the self development piece involves acknowledging that child/younger self without feeling guilty, ashamed and afraid to admit to the person I once was or the things I have said, believed and done in the past. Owning up to some of these past versions of myself has been difficult. And yet it has been strangely liberating.

***

Four weeks into the six-week shred I’m on, I did four full nose-to-the-ground push ups. The thrill of watching progress and improvement as it unfolds right in front of your own eyes is unparalleled. When I began, I was hopeful and confident because of the changes I’ve already experienced with my body. But nothing prepared me for this kind of drastic, visible transformation, possibly the fastest and most impactful I have ever achieved on my own.

This time around there is the added discovery that I can be self-motivated beyond what I’ve assumed to be my natural or innate capacity to push myself through the grind. I didn’t think I could ever go off white rice. And yet, here I am four weeks in, not missing it, and potentially tossing up the idea of giving it up for good.

***

It was Teacher’s Day yesterday and I was asked to make a list of ten mentors/teachers/people who have impacted my life positively. It was strange how not a single actual teacher from my years in school and college came to mind. My list included abstract things like *life* and *marriage* and at the very end, just when I was finishing it off, I thought it D and A who have taught me so much about how to look at life by looking within. And then. Thought of B and R who have permanently altered the way I look and feel about my body. These folks didn’t come into my life as teachers. But they’ve hugely impacted the way I have understood and explored the strengths my mind and body are capable of. I am eternally grateful for the experience – especially of the last 3-4 years. My life wouldn’t be the same without it.

Same time, last year: Day 250: Finding my people

What coming home feels like: finding new comfort in old places


Nothing prepared me for the kind of freshness this new beginning in an old home would bring.

I thought I was wiping the slate clean and starting over. I hadn’t the faintest clue that so much of this new beginning would involve picking up old threads I’d left behind, visiting feelings I thought I’d dealt with good and proper, and doing things I swore I would never do.

I’m the most change averse person I know. I usually find security in sameness, in old comfortable habits, in well set patterns. But Ive realised how sometimes that cuccoon keeps me from experiencing things I need to. It keeps out the possibilities that I most need. Not just events and experiences as end points, but the process of getting there too.

So much if this newness has been about relaxing a little, letting go of my staunchly held beliefs, questioning all the firm nos and opening myself up to the gentle maybes, and allowing some bits of the old back into my life, looking at it anew and opening myself up to that change completely.

What I once knew to be crippling fear that made me build my walls up high, has turned to a gentle acceptance – first and foremost, of myself – of this wave of fresh energy. Bright and green, new like the eager blade of grass pushing through damp soil, ready for life.

I seem to be dealing with a lot of this change and everything that has come with a lot more grace and gentleness. Towards myself, first. Rather than stiffen up with fear, I’m learning to relax and take a chance more often. It’s led me to stumble on new, interesting people, to some kindred spirit, and best of all uplifting friendship in unlikely, old connections I was so sure I was never revisiting.

The change then, has been within myself, than in my external surroundings.

I not sure I love Bangalore. I haven’t fully come to terms with where I am going. But for now I am utterly and completely at peace with why I am here.

I’m still learning.

Same time, last year: Day 224: Wayanad Things

What coming home feels like: kinship, quietude and becoming

With four months in Bangalore now behind me, I find myself taking stock. I’ll be honest, Bangalore is not a silver bullet to the complicated “where do we go from here” situation VC and I had been in for many months. So much about this city, the people, life here, my neighbourhood, that I have in fact returned (which has given me fresh eyes to look at many of the same things I grew up seeing), the people I used to know, the people I now know, often surprises me — both pleasantly and some times jarringly. Some times I’m irked or frustrated. There’s a lot about life in Bangalore, when compared to Goa, that really annoys me. And some times I have moments of utter clarity, when I know why I am here.

Everyday, though, slowly and calmly, I’m adjusting to it. I find myself still just coping, getting by from one day to the next. But, (and I suspect this is the newfound adult in me talking) I’m making peace with it. By focusing on what I came here for — familiarity, security and kinship — which thankfully, I don’t have to go very far out (or brave the maddening traffic) to find.

The key has been to find a rhythm and balance. To go it one step at a time. Gently stringing together days of hope, punctuated by pops of stillness, weeding away my fears one at a time.

I’ve found new meaning in making peace. I’ve realised it isn’t a shiny thing that you just find and hoard. It takes cultivation, active seeking and building bit by bit. And it takes practice. In doing things to create it for myself I’ve found a strange inner satiety (for the lack of a better term) I can’t name, a warm quietude in the pit of my heart, taking over me.

There, in the depths of the addictive, gummy, don’t-want-to-let-go-of-it peace is the reason why despite all the madness and recurring chaos this change has brought externally, I’m finally happy to be where I am.

Before I moved I had a long list of pros that I enumerated in convincing myself that coming back to the city wouldn’t be as scary as I imagined it would be. That list featured many things my life in Goa didn’t allow — friends and more work topped it. But today, irony is having the last laugh, as I slowly slip deeper and deeper into accepting the real place I want work to have in my life. That, and the fact that I haven’t met or hung out with my friends nearly as much as I imagined we would.

In a brief moment of introspection the other day, I realised that on a literal day-to-day level, my daily routine, the motions of every day life here, is not even a little bit different from what it was before. I still spend a bulk of my time alone, at home. Either working, or reading, cooking, catching up on things I want to. The only difference is, in Goa, I was alone for the most part. Here I have the constant company of my parents and my sister through the day, VC – post work hours, and his family when we go over to visit (which is shockingly more often than we imagined it would be). I cannot begin to describe how much I needed this.

All my life I’ve been running, escaping the present in search of something or the other. Even up until I upped and left Goa. For the first time, choosing to stay is coming easily. All that I am in search of is right here, within the walls of this place I call home.

And this has been the change I needed. The one I feared. It was never about this city or the next. Or where better work opportunities lay.

I’ve never been good with change, I’ve said this numerous times before. But perhaps it isn’t change I needed to fear. I’ve realised that it isn’t change itself, in it’s purest form, that is challenging. It is my own resistance to blend and bend, my uncontrollable need to control and own it, my urge to plan and fight the inevitable that creates rigid, inflexible periods of pain and flux.

For the longest time I shunned the sense of continuity, of eternity, the word home brings. And here’s the thing — home used to be the place that binds me. The space I fled some years ago. And yet, today, it is that same space that has set me free.

I’m completely absorbed in making the most of this opportunity I’ve been presented, when after a decade of being in different cities, my family is under one roof again. I’m greedily taking in the comfort of being surrounded by the silent company of people I love. People who get me. People. Just hanging out. Doing simple everyday things. Going about our daily lives, just together.

Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to meet my friends often, all the time. But this has been the most painful realisation of stepping back into the city life. Nobody has the time. And because even a simple catch up takes time and effort, nobody owes you that time or effort. It sounds naively idealistic when I hark back to the simpler life I had in Goa, when I say it was just truly so much easier to get out and get going. Whether with friends or alone. Granted, I didn’t have as many real people whom I could truly call my people, but it was very uncomplicated to meet. It’s bittersweet to realise I’m in the same city as all my people, and we’re still more in touch on whatsapp than in person. But it is the way it is. I have no complains.

It’s the nature of life here that involves navigating through the biggest hurdle of all, the traffic, which ridiculous as it sounds, dictates all schedules. Every outing involves planning, a predetermined plan of action, and some amount of praying that things go to said plan. I’m never really fully sure if a pre-committed engagement is going to actually materialise, until it does. I’m still not used to the significant coordination and pre-planning that goes into orchestrating even the simplest of outings. And that is when I sorely miss my life in Goa where getting out was as easy as that – getting. out.

Anyhow, before this sounds like a litany of painful comparisons and like I’m complaining, let me say, I’m merely acknowledging what I’ve come to realise and how it has made me feel – a bit disappointed. On the other hand, it has forced me into a very comfortable shell. And in retrospect, I realised this is the place I needed most to be. At home. Literally, if I think about my folks’ place where I spend most of my days, and figuratively, when I think of the sense of feeling at one, or at home, in my own mind.

There is an ever pervading feeling of gratitude I feel for where I am. A feeling I didn’t know I was missing all along. It comes in dense doses that swoop in and sit snugly in the base of my heart. Heavy, leaden but bright and luminous.

When I try and talk about what I feel, I cannot find the words to quantify or describe the quality of that peaceful gratitude. At first I was unable to find the words, and it crippled me in moments of excitement and wanting to share it.

Nowadays I find myself not wanting to necessarily talk about, describe or even share it.

That in itself has brought a sense of calm.

This, is honestly the best I have felt in all my life. Happy, healthy and balanced — right into the depths of my very soul.

I’m not too big on Nayyira Waheed’s works, but this poem really hit the spot.

I guess what I’m trying to say is this. It took leaving a seemingly quiet life, where I had a noisy fire raging within, to move to the madding urban existence. It took giving up the exclusivity and embracing being lost in the cacophony of crowds. It took leaving the home I thought I’d never leave, to come back to the place I never thought I’d return. To assuage that fire. And find the peace I never knew I was missing.

The key has been to find a rhythm and balance. To go it one step at a time. Gently stringing together days of hope, punctuated by pops of stillness, weeding away my fears one at a time.

Perhaps then this wasn’t a homecoming, but a becoming.

Same time, last year: Day 221: On the road

What coming home feels like: Love and abundance

For many years while I was away, I believed I missed absolutely no part of my life back home. It sounds extreme, but for a brief while, this was entirely true. Call it the honeymoon period, or whatever else, but I was snug as a bug in the newness of the anonymity and the pleasures of discovering everything a new life in a new city has to offer. It helped that the Goa I moved to was the diametric opposite of everything I left behind in Bangalore. And I mean this in more ways than one — it was a shift to an entirely different space and time. And that joy lasted a long, long time. The fresh excitement at the newness remained for more years than I imagined possible, for far long after the newness was no longer even new.

But as I’ve discovered near-eight years is a long enough time to go full circle. And I had definitely entered a headspace where I began to slowly miss some very specific things about being home. Big and small, they included everything from being a short drive away from my friends to easy access to fresh filter coffee.

There were days when I longed to wake up to a hot cooked breakfast, amma-style. Or the smell of fresh filter coffee. Or weeks when I’d walk out of the gym on Friday night and desperately long for the luxury of being in the same city as my friends, friends who get me, so we could all gang up at home over wine or beer and do nothing but talk.

I’ve missed experiencing a wide range of food and drink. I’ve missed having options, and I’ve missed having people to obsess over the variety with. I’ve missed the comforts of being on familiar ground, of old haunts an of new discoveries. In the months I’ve been here we’ve already sampled a fair amount of microbrewery beer and I may have found a temporary favourite too.

I’ve missed my family, just being around them even when there is nothing particularly important to say. Breakfast time, evening chai time, and dinner time — which is usually when we gather together. Weekday chai time with amma, weekend drinks with anna, for example. Coming back to this ready set up, where I don’t have to work to provide it or create a space for it has been the change I wanted. When all else fails, I have my parents to go back to.

When enough years of basking in the newfound hermitism grew old, I yearned for some of the bustle that people bring in your life. The right kind of people. Without the frills, without the special occasions, without the stilted conversations and pretence that comes with manufactured togetherness. With equal amounts of silence and the mania that only kindred spirits can appreciate alike. Converging and agreeing on the silliest of things, going into raptures about the most mundane and inane things, and knowing that it is with only just these few that you can and will always be at your unbridled best.

In the last two years of being away, as I rediscovered sides of myself I didn’t know existed — some that I thought I’d left behind had actually resurfaced, and some that I never imagined possible had made a loud appearance — I realised how much the transformation had affected my relationships. Both near and far.

Distance and time are difficult variables to work with. Very unconsciously, I had started to filter people in my immediate circles out. Days and weeks would go by without me getting out of the house. No plans, no get-togethers, no outings seemed to tempt me into engaging with the family I’d built in Goa (save for a few people). And yet, the bonds that grew thicker, stronger and richer were with folks in Bangalore and away.

Here I am now, and even as I carve out a niche for myself again, a large part of the everyday joy of coming back is in reminding myself how I’m so close to all the things I love. Especially the things I was craving in the last two years of my life away.

Anyhow, this ramble just to say that coming back has been difficult in many ways. I’m often taken aback by situations I’ve forgotten how to deal with, overcome with emotion when the stark contrast between Goa and Bangalore makes me question my decision, and there have even been the odd instances where I feel defeated and overpowered by the city whose way is to ensnare everything within its reach.

Yes, this city is overwhelmingly large (literally and figuratively) compared to where I used to be. But within and outside of my home, I have pockets of peace. Sanctuaries of love and abundance that I can slip into. A mere glance through my picture roll on my phone showed me enough evidence of ample instances of this abundance. Unsurprisingly it is about the people, punctuated by food and drink. In each of these images is a reminder of the things I desperately missed until three months ago.

Yes, I’ve left behind a lot and sometimes I’m not entirely sure the trade off makes sense. Especially when I feel the lack — of open spaces, of greenery, of silence amongst many other things. But there is an abundance of exactly that which I was seeking. And it counts for a lot.

Same time, last year: Day 182: Watercolour eyes

In-stages

By no deliberate design the frequency of my Instagram updates dwindled at the start of the year. Scrolling back the other day, I realised that aside from work updates, my feed (before April began, that is) has an unnaturally high number of pictures focused on my feet. And legs. (Remember this and this?)

I don’t know what brought this sudden preoccupation on, but the whole thing is kind of telling.

March 5, 2017.
When I was a bit resigned to keeping my head down and getting from one day to the next. Knocking off assignments, doing the drill. I was still very much in limbo.

In transit.

March 14, 2017
Holi day began with a big breakfast of idlis and vadas. And I saw this splatter of pink at the entrance of the restaurant. It was a week when things began to shift for the better and a quiet reassurance was creeping in.

And I think everything is going to be alright. No matter what we do tonight.

March 16, 2017.
Somewhere in all of this, the positive swing made me realise that I needed to focus on getting my head together and moving on, which required time and attention. Attention I couldn’t squander on much else. Not even work. But this wasn’t an easy thing to accept. My inner Type A rises to the fore way too frequently, bringing up a perspective that is at loggerheads with the one that one that demands silence. This is where I began to really question what ambition, productivity and the rest means to me.

It was also my quarterly reminder to stop holding myself to irrationally high standards or productivity, and to just keep swimming.

There is literally nothing in nature that blooms all year long, so don’t expect yourself to do so either.

April 9, 2017.
By the beginning of April, it was clear I was going to be on my way. A sabbatical, some time off was on the cards. And given that I intended it to be an indefinite break, we decided to go away for the weekend with some friends. And their pups.

At the end of a deliciously easy weekend away, on the eve of my trip to Bangalore, I came away ever so recharged and happy for what lies ahead.

Things about Goa I’ll miss the most: weekending outdoors. Spent my last one amidst cashew groves, lazing in the summer heat, reading, waking up to chirping birds and having these two at our feet.

April 20, 2017.
This trip to Bangalore has had a definite relaxed mood like never before. It’s been without the rush to do the things I’m always urgently wanting to tick off because I only ever have a few days at my disposal. Very high up on that list is getting some down time with S&S. As it happens, we try and combine it with sampling some food, or a menu or restaurant I haven’t tried before. But this time, we met only ten days after I got into town. In a relaxed, beer tinged evening at home, spent gabbing while we waiting on our home delivered Thai meal to arrive. It was a good taste of times to come, of one of the few things that promise to make living in the city bearable again.

To more nights like this <3

Step by step, in stages, I’m getting through it after all.

Same time, last year: Day 117: See Lanka

I get by with a lot of help from my friends

Honestly speaking, I’m all into this mindful seizing of day, living in the present business. I really am. For the most part. But for the longest time now, I have literally felt like I am existing in-between. Like I’m passing through a conduit of endless waiting. In limbo. And it has meant enjoying the present is a tough ask. It has tested the absolute life out of my capacity to stay still, to remain present without racing ahead of myself with dreams of the future or being stuck in a loop of lamenting about the past.

It’s been painfully slow to move, this time of transition between one phase and the next. And the pain started as a smidgen of dissatisfaction with what had become of my life. Feeling limited in the littlest ways, and that longing to go beyond — at work, in my city, with people around me — constantly clawing away at me, in tiny nibble-sized chunks. A little minuscule molecule of dissatisfaction in a period of almost 24 months morphed into a burgeoning restlessness that rumbled on endlessly, just beneath the surface. And when I was unable to decipher and deal with it adequately, it festered. Gently at first, a very covert sort of twist and churn, making itself seen and known in small, but shocking ways. Eventually, the churn got bigger, noisier, and the made its presence felt in painful, alarming ways, more often than I cared to be reminded of it.

But that was just it. As I busied myself with convenient distractions in the form of the pursuit of over achieving, outrageous professional goals and what not, the rumble continued to make itself known, nudging me to stop filling my everyday life with distractions, and instead look at the bubbling cauldron of pain I was in. I saw the signs, and I took every one of those events as an affirmation that the pain I was feeling was real. But I just didn’t know where to go to begin to fix it. To find my way out, I had to stop and acknowledge the situation I was in, and accept that I couldn’t and didn’t need to do it alone.

But everything has a tipping point. Over time, the fuzzy restlessness turned into a distinct surety that my time here was done. And that was really hard to wrap my head around. I mean this is where my life is. It’s where adulthood really began. In Goa, in this phase of my life.

It was in Goa that I landed quite by surprise, and then cobbled together a home with the man I love, built little every day experiences and got through eight years together, ploughing through an assortment of situations — good, bad and ugly. t’s here that I trudged through expanses of most no work prospects and yet carved out a flourishing career in a manner that made sense to me.

This is where I’ve made, nurtured and lost friendships, relationships, associations of all kinds. This is where I found other sides of my identity, and it’s also where I shed them. This is where I learned to appreciate solitude, the bliss of silence, where I stumbled and fell multiple times, picked myself up and gathered myself time and time again, where I truly embraced the slow life.

This is where I hit my stride and became the adult I was waiting to be. This is where I discovered sides to myself, found my feet, explored hobbies and chased experiences I wouldn’t have had in my other life if I had continued the way I was going in 2010,

This is where the naive decision to pick up our lives, wrap them in 13 little boxes, and a car and get going came to fruition. My life since has been full of experiences. Enriching, enlightening, eye-opening, humbling, and so much more. This blog, more than anything else, is testimony to the changes we went through, the various milestones and setbacks we hit along the way. There has never been a more transformational time. This is where I had the best years of my life.

To go from near-eight years of that to a sudden, but very rapidly consuming limbo was all sorts of painfully incapacitating. For a while now I’ve felt this building up of everything to a very pregnant point, this growing ennui has gone on so long. It has only kept pointing me closer and closer to all the little, seemingly insignificant aspects of my life that I was ignoring (some by choice, some by sheer ignorance itself) because it would mean facing difficult questions, difficult choices and difficult conversations.

For the first time, I realised what having a empty life was like. While I was consciously and unconsciously filling my days with all that I thought needed my time and attention, life was doing it’s best to pare itself down, so I would just focus for a moment, on that which needed it the most.

In the bargain I stripped my life down to the bare minimum. The friends I have left will affirm this. Only a handful know what’s really been going on with me. I found it impossible to expend even an ounce of energy in explaining any of it to an audience just because they were curious or concerned. It’s not like I chose to alienate people, but it is what happened as I sought the company and conversations of folks who cared to check on me, understood when I explained, and kept conversations from going back to talking about themselves. With work already taking up a fair bit of my mind space, I had very little left to spread between therapy and those few who did get my pain. Fewer still were the number of people who realised that my needing some time and space to myself was not a reflection on them, and therefore no reason to take offence.

In many ways the experience of the last 2 years has been a large filter, holding a mirror up to the quality of interactions I’ve accumulated over the years. It’s been a slow withering away of those that existed at the fringes, held by weak ties, and pulling those I hold close, even closer still. Without much effort or doing, it became exceedingly clear the friends I was clinging on to, many of whom, ironically, weren’t close to me in proximity. Spread between Bangalore, Bombay and even as far as Singapore and America, they’re the ones who stayed. Pitched in when they had advice to give, insights to share or answers to those 12 am questions. And sometimes even when they didn’t. They’re the ones who had the constant reminders to not be hard on myself, to take my time.

For the absolute first time in my life, I realised what it was to be lonely. I fully fathomed the pain of longing for the company of folks you love, because they get you, and are so far away.

Despite the distances, though, pain has a strange way of bringing those you need the most closest to you. In a late night call with N one day in March, she reminded me of this really pertinent snipped from Glennon Doyle Melton’s Love Warrior.

…we think our job as humans is to avoid pain, our job as parents is to protect our children from pain, and our job as friends is to fix each other’s pain. Maybe that’s why we all feel like failures so often — because we all have the wrong job description of love. What my friends didn’t know about me…Is that people who are hurting don’t need Avoiders, Protectors, or Fixers. What we need are patient, loving witnesses. People to sit quietly and hold space for us. People to stand in helpless vigil to our pain.

It was the kind of conversation that clicked something into place in my head, and set off a ripple effect of things that were just waiting to happen. It set the wheels in motion, in a way that wouldn’t have happened without the push. And just like that I felt like the vacuum that was the two-year limbo suddenly released, making way for movement again.

I’m grateful for the timely reminders.

I’m grateful for the kindred spirits and the uncanny commonalities we discover in our lives.

I’m grateful for the company that blurs distances and erases time zones.

I’m grateful for the gentle nudges and the wholehearted pushes.

I’m grateful for my tribe who has consistently sat quietly, holding space, sometimes in helpless vigil, to my pain.

I wouldn’t have realised my pain, and made the effort to move through this two-year limbo, without them.

It finally feels like I’m at the start of something new, rather than wasting away in the dregs of something old, done and dusted. And I’m so very ready to get going.

Same time, last year: Day 116: Bits and bobs

Ten reasons why I love the girls I’m in long distance relationships with

(AKA things a man friend will likely not be good for)

The effortless way in which we can go into collective raptures over anything from this delicious Instagram account to why Hidden Figures was so amazing.

The absolute ease with which I can ask to be listened to every time I need to vent/bitch/rant/froth at the mouth, because I know I will not be judged.

The obscenely granular level of detail we can go into while discussing everything from saree weaves we love to the exact nature of PMS.

Virtually no topic is off the table, not farts, not poop, not body parts, not the abysmal lack of decent underwear.

No matter how shitty I’m feeling, or how much I’m beating myself up describing the serious levels of fail I think I’m hitting, they’ll always make me feel like I’m actually amazing.

Constant, heartfelt reminders to stop being hard on myself.

They listen. Even when they don’t have the answers. Especially when they don’t have the answers.

They know when to just stfu and let me vent, because they know what it’s like to just need to voice some thoughts – no solutions offered, no explanations given.

They’ve made opening up easier, taken me closer to honesty – with myself, with them.

They make literally everything fun. Surprise trips. Holidays. Holidays. Holidays. Whatsapp groups. Conversations. Gossip. Long distance friendships. The whole nine yards.

*****

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This isn’t just a post-Hidden Figures high talking, but watching the movie last night I really came home feeling grateful for having a bunch of women in my life with whom I have found the space to live my belief in genuinely rallying together through thick and thin, propping each other up, and always creating space for the kind of intimacy we’ll never find in our relationships with men. Several times in my life, I believed I had it – but nothing comes close to where I’m at now in terms of having relationships that are grounded in trust, transparency and utmost comfort. This is all kinds of liberating. Yes, it took upwards of three decades to get here, but I’m so fortunate to have found it.

*****

I used to be that girl who was really surrounded by boys all the time. Who believed having women friends was laborious and tedious. For a long time I honestly believed that maybe I’d just encountered the wrong kind of women. I was the wrong. It wasn’t the women I encountered – it was me. Somewhere down the line, life happened and #3 from this amazing essay kicked in. So I was so incredibly choked up to see it articulated in such simple honesty here. I don’t know how I’ve missed sharing this already, but it is the truth, it is life. I could start quoting the many things I love, that spoke right to me, reached out and grabbed my heart, yadayada, but I’d essentially be quoting the whole damned piece, so do yourself a favour and read it.

And then go tell your girlfriends how much they mean to you.

Same time, last year: Day 54: Working better