On trees and roots

Old-but-renewed fascination with watching age-old trees surfaced some weeks ago, aided by morning wanderings in parts of Bangalore that are beautifully shrouded in a tunnel of treetops. I recollected and shared Mary Oliver’s meditations on Tress some days ago on Instagram and D pointed me to a Larkin poem I have somehow never read before. I don’t know how I could have missed this absolute beauty through 5 years of studying English Literature, in which Larkin featured pretty frequently.

Better late than never, I suppose. Because this, today, speaks to me at so many levels. And maybe that’s why it’s stayed, the words dashing about in my head, playing a game of squash, ever since I read them two weeks ago. Making me look at trees longer, slower, and persuading me to listen in.

The trees are coming into leaf
Like something almost being said;
The recent buds relax and spread,
Their greenness is a kind of grief.

Is it that they are born again
And we grow old? No, they die too,
Their yearly trick of looking new
Is written down in rings of grain.

Yet still the unresting castles thresh
In full-grown thickness every May.
Last year is dead, they seem to say,
Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.

Delicious, no?

It’s hard not to see that my obsessive draw and deepening connection to all things green, to having and growing them, to enjoying their company and being surrounded by them has only grown over the last many months. It’s safe to say it very literally gives me a space to ground myself in, and to find real, dirty, hands-on parallels with my own emotional journey and process.

These days, I have my most calming epiphanies and those quiet life-changing aha-moments that make me smile stupidly to myself, when I am running/exercising or gardening. This is why it has also been important and easy to include these two activities into my daily routine, and not just for when I want to have some fun on a whim.

When something takes root, deep and strong, there is a space of anticipation, waiting, uncertainty that comes about. On the one hand, you cannot see what’s at work underground, and it’s also too soon to tell what will happen above. The only thing to do is wait, with faith, and continued dedication to nurturance.

Evocative possibilities can come to life in that space of nothingness. Promise of so many possible futures that can unfold, unravel, that will push through like literal life. Possibilities of thriving, surprises. Stories of death and resurrection. Literal cycles of life in full display within this microcosm.

It’s a place where dreams are real, and unreal all at once. Where possibility is both suspended and in-waiting, but also impending and somehow certain.

That space of seeming emptiness is potent, it is fertile. There is nothing to see, but I have felt it, when I have waited and let the emptiness touch me. And nowadays, when I listen closely, I feel the rootedness saying to me;

Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.

This morning, I remembered something very sweet and powerful that S said to me in a casual whatsapp chat many, many moons ago. It was such a simple articulation of a very profound thought about leaving people behind as we grow into our own. A thought she had had but we were both beating around the bush trying to catch, pickle and put down in words — and failing.

Until she said;

And this leaving people behind that you talk about is how a tree leaves the ground behind.

Even in the profundity of the moment then, I didn’t see how eminently crucial roots are. In the process of growing. Of transforming. Of gathering wisdom and understanding. And of leaving. Of grasping opportunities to beginning afresh.

Three years ago: Grow
Four years ago: Morning moods

Home and away

This whole self-isolation things is beginning to feel quite like school all over again. Specifically, when I was in group projects but was always the one that did the work and shared the credit. Or the time someone on our school bus was dumping their lunch on the floor of the bus every single day and the whole bus was detained because nobody owned up, so I ” volunteered to” to shorten detention for everyone. Or that time in Sri Lanka when we misguidedly went whale watching and were given clear instructions about staying in our respective sides of the boat but everyone clean forgot when the first whale was spotted and I thought I could singlehandedly balance the tipping over of the boat by staying on my side (and missing out on seeing the damn whale!) because everyone else had clearly forgotten. This is how it feels. Staying in, against all odds, feeling all the emotional highs and lows that come with it, only to see outside it’s a party like Covid has left the building.

I don’t get it. Is it positive thinking and optimism that these folks have? Or is it blind stupidity and denial about the shitshow we are in the midst of?

Anyhow, every time that I have mustered the courage to venture out a bit, and break the isolation, something has happened that makes me get right back indoors. It’s kind of amazing.

First it was the containment zone in our neighbourhood. Then the case right in our building. Then, last weekend I was mildly under the weather and I convinced myself that it was the virus, so I hunkered down and lay low only to have it all pass in 3 days – phew. And now, we’re back in total lockdown.

In between these phases, we have somehow managed to get ourselves the new sofas, replace some essentials in the kitchen, and I got new sneakers too, and some new plants for the house. I’m glad we did, because life indoors is better for it.

I can’t say we have been totally isolated, or totally out of touch with the outdoors. There have been consistent grocery runs and shopping for fruit and veg. But for the first three months we were hyper good about staying in. Even after “unlocking” we were limiting outings, stockpiling errands and waiting for them to accumulate before getting out. We haven’t met any of our friends, except having D over a few weeks ago, and then we went plant shopping last week. But it has been 90% isolation, I’d say. I have lost track of the days, but cumulatively I think they’re touching the day 130ish mark or so. Which just feels like oh so much.

The year had just started when we got locked in, and somehow we’re past the mid-way mark of 2020. I still have moments of awe and shock when I think about the enormity of this situation.

Since we’re back in lockdown, I am enjoying the silence again. The traffic disappearing makes such a difference. But right before all this happened my sister snuck away to my folks in Kerala, and so our party of three has whittled down to two. This is a number and a space that is both terribly isolating as well as snug and cozy, if you know what I mean.

The energy certainly shifted when July began. I feel it all round. Work has been picking up steam, I am enjoying the home and doing things at home again — cooking, working out, gardening — plus there is the rain. Those frightfully beautiful misty mornings, all-day rainy days that I know many don’t enjoy. But I can’t get enough of them.

Today was one of those days. I knew from the moment I woke up that it was going to be raining all day, and I felt immediately like I wanted to just potter about my home, and not do much else. I had myself a full on domestic morning. Cooked a full lunch of stuffed baingan, rasam and rice and assorted fried things to go with. Cleaned out the fridge, re-stocked the veggies that had just been delivered. Dusted and set furniture right again. Laundry. Watering the indoor plants. Otherwise dull stuff, but somehow satisfying in these strange times. What can I say, staying in is bringing out this extra nesty person in me.

Even after all these months, I can’t decide if I love or hate this. If I’m sick of it or very used to it. Mostly, I oscillate between these two extremes. Very little in my immediate environment or life like it used to be feels like it will return to “normal” whenever that may be. On the one hand, I am thriving in the moment and everything it has brought for me, and to that extent I’m so present and all here; but I am also away a lot, you know? In my head. Dreaming of something beyond, the larger picture, a different life, after. Late night chats with these two, in their faraway worlds and homes, has kept me going.

One year ago: Support
Two years ago: Under my umbrella

Rosé

In all my dreaming about being outdoors, for just a tiny bit (not even far, just out will do, for now) I have been having visions of being outdoors. I dreamt of being on a farm the other night, uprooting a gigantic cauliflower from the earth, satisfaction writ large on my face. I’ve been daydreaming of picnicking — recollecting intensely happy memories from my childhood when we’d go off on picnics a lot, without a plan or too much thinking. VC and I have considered driving out of the city, a flask of chai and some sandwiches in tow, just to go out to be amidst trees, take our masks off for a bit.

And then yesterday, I had this very deep ache in my chest, thinking about this afternoon in Paris from nearly two years ago.

Suddenly, this right here, perfectly captures what being outside has come to mean to me right now, in this moment. Open, green, lush, fresh, cool. FREE.

This was a couple of hours we spent on the banks of the Seine, when we picked up wine, by the glass, at a bar whose very purpose seemed to make available wine by the glass for people to drink by the river. We walked in and everyone else got beers, but I asked for a rosé. It was that perfect weather for rosé. A crisp nip in the air, but the sun shining sharply, breeze from time to time — perfect 4 o clock wandering weather basically. I saw the bartender casually chuck a couple of ice cubes in my glass of wine.

I know absolutely nothing about wine. But for some reason I remember thinking I’m pretty sure that breaks some wine rule somewhere, but HOW COOL that he thought nothing of doing it.

Want chilled wine, but the wine isn’t chilled? No problem, here’s some ice.

Wine snobs everywhere might have turned their noses up at me. Rosé — that somehow always feels a touch finer and presents more delicacy than red or white wine — running dilute as the ice that keeps it cool also melts away into it.

But it was perfect.
Flexible. Chill. Improvising on the go.
Going with the flow, not letting warm wine get in the way of a delightful afternoon hang — just what the moment needed, really.

Quite like me, I remember thinking then.

And my God, how strongly that vision came back to me yesterday. That day, that afternoon, sitting by the river drinking my rosé from a non-plastic glass, ice cubes and all, I remember feeling so seen and understood by the moment. For giving me just what I needed.

And I am quite like this. Even more so these days. As I have leaned so much into the side of me that can roll with fewer plans, that’s okay to break some rules, that’s willing to do what’s needed to be happy.

Even if it is put ice cubes in wine.

It thrilled me no end to make that completely obscure, even contrived, connection. For a few moments there, looking at this picture, I lived vicariously. I imagined being outdoors. I saw iridescent greens from the treetops, pearly limpid blues of the river gently lapping by, and me sitting amidst it, wine glass in hand, feet dangling off the edge of the bund, along with literally scores of others doing the same.

Open, green, lush, fresh, cool. FREE.

The whole day dream made me curious about the rules around putting ice in wine, and so I googled it. I didn’t learn a thing about the “rules”, but guess what?

Ice in rosé? IT’S A THING!

La piscine, it’s called. A refreshing glass of rosé, made further refreshing by being poured over ice.

La piscine literally translates to “the swimming pool” — which I think is just the most exquisite description of a drink that was literally like swimming in a pool of freshness. I don’t think I have ever felt so thrilled, or found so much meaning in an alcoholic beverage (or any other beverage, for that matter) in my entire life.

I have to say this reverie soothed the impossibly itchy need to be outdoors quite a bit. But it set of a whole other spiral of missing this afternoon, and being with these peeps.

Soon, soon.

One year ago: Time out
Two years ago: What about sunrise, what about rain?
Three years ago: Books-shooks

Things worth remembering (part 2)

There’s more where this came from.

Rainy Bangalore evenings. Still not nearly as many as I’d have liked, with nearly not heavy enough rain for my preference. But it’ll do. I’ll take it. Even prefaced with sultry pre-rain mornings, tantalisingly grey afternoons finally turning to pregnant dark skies that only break in the evening. So, so, so Bangalore. So much love. Of course all this overflowing love is because there’s no chance of getting stuck in post-rain traffuck situations. So much nicer to enjoy this from the safety of my home where it seems I’m going to be for the rest of the year.

If there’s anything that tops a perfectly rainy day, it’s a tea-time production complete with snacks. I have become quite the tea-time glutton through this lockdown. I cannot seem to have my evening chai, the only cup I consume on any given day, without a snack of some kind. VC has been watching me with amusement and adoration, turning to mild worry these days hahahahaha.

The three of us are up to no good. Something is brewing and it has made us make a record number of calls late into the night because we’re managing time-zones across two continents. So long after my neighbourhood (and husband) has gone to sleep, I sneak out of bed and get on the phone. In no time at all, I’m giggling. No matter what we talk about, I find myself in splits.

The day before therapy last week, I gave myself a session of therapy by mindfully making myself this stack of egg (omelette), ham and cheese sandwiches, grilled to a perfect gold, under the careful guidance of D, who also very, very kindly provided the ham. The best ham the city has, I think. Sometimes this is what self-care looks like.

Sat down one rainy afternoon for a little session of sound painting. My sister is doing these Ways of Seeing sessions, and they’re such a great way to sneak in an hour of quiet, self-involved, downtime while playing with colour — whatever you’ve got handy. Open to people of all ages — young and old. No prior experience or skills needed. I would so totally recommend this if you’re inclined to just spend some time with yourself, exploring, expressing. Quietly, without anyone having to judge, see or understand what you’re doing.

One year ago: Simple
Four years ago: Begin

Tarot: Meeting ground

My mind has been swimmingly full of thoughts about everything that’s going on in the world. The great divisions, the poles we exist in, the massive grief of all the events that are just snowballing one after another.

what else is life,
if not loneliness and silence?

I watched Nasir (it was available for a limited time only on the We Are One youtube film festival) on the weekend, and I’ve been trying to encapsulate what it made me feel, but I just don’t have the words. In fact after the film ended, I just went quiet. Shut my laptop and sat in silence for the longest time.

So I’m just going to say this: what the film left me with was a visceral experience of how normal and mundane, regular, everyday, fear and marginalisation is for someone who belongs to a minority group in this country. Life is ordinary, and that includes the fear. The uncertainty becomes so regular, something to live and accept and fight every single day, even while trying to live a normal life and do things like hold down a job and keep your family safe and afloat.

And then I got drawn into the community mobilisation activity. A week of planning, and three days of delivering car-fulls of food and supplies to hungry, gutted migrants who just want to go home, was and experience like tearing my heart open to the pain that this country is currently facing.

And then there is what’s happening in America. Which feels so so so familiar and eerily similar to our own fight from December through March. N asked for a reading and as always it turned into a freewheeling conversation that was as important for me, as it may have been for her. We had a long, powerful chat that stayed with me long after and I woke up with thoughts.

What is the meeting ground, in times of such violence and polarisation? Where can we hope to create space for union and connection?

Many found space and form in my word salad from yesterday. And the rest, in a bonus card that I pulled more as a memento of the conversation we had. To mark and remember it because it was an important one for me.

This is your reminder, that is possible to:

  1. Feel extremely heartbroken by injustice, AND hopeful at expressions of truth to power. Feel them both, keenly and deeply.
  2. Hold the very best intentions of allyship, but ALSO have a lot of scope for learning and improvement. Listen more to those you wish to support.
  3. Be keenly aware of all your flaws, AND still be kind to yourself. Both have a place.
  4. Know a lot about many, many things, STILL have absolutely no idea about some other things. Be open to learning from those who do.
  5. Desire peace and harmony, while ALSO (unconsciously)hold polarising politics. Examine and watch yourself closer.

One year ago: Spaces in-between
Four years ago: New tricks

Transition

At a macro level, I see everything that we’re going through as a race and as a planet, is a massive transition. A portal that popped open when we were least expecting it, ushering in some deeply uncomfortable events that are shaking the very foundations of our existence — across the board.

It’s impossible to transition through this sort of change quickly. It’s really forcing us to slow down, in more ways than one. Asking us to look for meaning beyond the obvious, cliche interpretations of those two words — slow down.

Even as things are opening up and we’re seeking normalcy (whatever that may be — I don’t even know anymore) I see how unsettled things still are. Something important has happened in this period, whether one is conscious of it or not, it has happened. It feels at times like we’ve woken up from a long nap. And sometimes it feels like we’ve been thrown off a plane and have had to land abruptly, hitting the ground running. And no matter which way you’re experiencing this — as extreme slow, discomfort or a series sudden, quick moving shifts — this is a transition.

The foundations have crumbled, the cracks of inequity are visible, the the dust is still in the air and won’t settle for a while. We have much to do. And this feels deeply like a call for change. For examination. For introspection. For walking the talk. For doing the work. For stretching ourselves. For getting off our collective asses.

And. It’s becoming impossible to ignore how connected what’s happening at the micro level — at the level of my personality and within me — feels connected to what’s around. Whether, and what, I choose to do anything about it or not has become secondary. Through the entire lockdown I found myself much more willing to face the anger and angst, grief and hopelessness that was coming in waves, because I felt very sure that it was the only way to know what to do next. That a process and a path will show up. And it has, for me. Just last week, in a spontaneous collection of some kindred spirits getting together to mobilise food, medicines and other essentials for the thousands and thousands of migrants leaving Bangalore everyday. Suddenly I am in the midst of the operation, and there is an energy and a channel for my emotions.

Hopelessness thaws and turns to hope. Stuckness finds movement and energy. And in all this, that connection — between what’s been happening within me, and around me — has strengthened, more than ever before. Beyond just the cognitive understanding that this connection exists.

I also carry within me this strange dichotomy of emotions every single day. A bittersweet space where hopelessness and hope somehow sit side by side, where anger and joy are holding hands, and where stillness and action have found a way to coexist. Within and without.

This year came out of nowhere, and it is being the best teacher, asking of me things that I have been building and working towards for the last couple of years. I am at a threshold of sorts, and this entire shitfest in all it’s glory — energetically, emotionally, environmentally, economically, politically — feels like an invitation. Every single day it calls me, gently asking for my presence in some way or another. And I feel that something has shifted yet again, in the way that I am now willing to show up.

In so many, many ways I feel like the last 3-4 years, the turn that my life has taken, the things and people I felt drawn to, the issues that have occupied my energy and impacted the choices I have made, the work I feel called to do and how it has influenced my place and sense of identity in the world — it was all a massive preparation for this moment in time.

While there is urgency, there is also a capacity to slow down and wait for the call. I want to bring my voice to all that is churning and being spoken about and I also want to take time to read, learn and listen.

This is the way I think I can participate in this transition. With eyes wide open.

This work of dismantling old orders and frameworks of being is a crucial part of growth. Much like dismantling old beliefs and processes. It is the first and most important step to establishing new ways of being. New orders. New intentions. New, egalitarian ways of coexisting. Within and without.

We cannot go there without first eliminating the rot that no longer serves us. Whether that is within us, or without us.

For the new to take birth, the old needs to quite literally die. And the forces that hold power and keep this imperative death from happening, will have to be challenged as they are today. It is no different in personal work. Looking within, seeing all that we hold on to, the fear that holds us back, the walls we build to hide behind — all of it needs to be challenged — so we can emerge into our full power.

This is not an easy or beautiful process. No healing is uniformly positive, in that way. And I see how there is this constant attempt to make the process of change look beautiful and charming. It isn’t. It’s messy, challenging, painful and very, very exhausting. Whether you’re healing a broken heart, or a broken political system.

This is true at the level of the individual as much as it is as a collective. As a society, country, race.

So much of popular spiritual talk — meditation, mindfulness, self-care — is centred around positive vibes only. Almost as if that’s a ticket to circumvent the difficulties that are bound to come up when you begin this process of healing. Whereas, now more than ever before, we have to be willing to really face up to the violence and destruction of this churn we are in the midst of.

Revolutions, personal or political, always, always shatter the status quo, the superficially held facades that cover up the gross fault lines we’re always working to hide and avert our gaze from.

That transition has started. The rot is being swept up. Look around you, start in your neighbourhood, pull out and look at the country, look at the divisions, look at the people who hold power, and pull back some more and look at the environment, the world at large, other countries, the planet as a whole.

This transition begins to feel staggering. And if you look close enough, you’ll see your place in it. But you have to look. And you have to be willing to face the discomfort of what you’ll see. Within and without.

There’s going to be a lot more trauma, injustice, pain and suffering (which will almost entirely be borne by minorities) being churned up. We brought this on. And now is not the time to turn away and avoid the mess that we created. Now is the time to bring ourselves to the centre of it in whatever way we can. To listen, to unlearn, participate and relearn, reconstruct, heal and hold space. To show up. In whatever way we can.

Either way it feels like there is no way to go around this mess. Only through it. This call to focus on inner-work, suddenly seems such an imperative and essential stepping stone to connection, harmony and peace in my outer world. And I see how the challenges in connection I face at the personal level, are so implicitly reflected in the way the planet is struggling to find peace today. How much we struggle to meet one another in a harmonious way.

Personally, last week, I had a very powerful experience of what not just fully owning up to the truth of my feelings, but showing myself as a vessel of those emotions, did for me. It was painful, but so freeing.

Denying reality, only pushes connection away, widens the gaps and creates silos. Showing up along with the full force of our power (and that includes the good, the bad, the ugly, what we’ve felt, what we’re capable of, and everything in between) is possibly the only way to begin to connect again.

And the first step to showing up is to meet this transition for what it is. A call to step in, step up.

Four years ago: Awash with monsoon memories

Monday Tarot Messages: Share the load

Sometimes, the burdens we carry, we carry not because nobody else will; but because we aren’t able to allow ourselves to put them down so others may have the chance to pitch-in, help, do their share of the work.

Observe and introspect on the balance of giving — physically and emotionally — in the significant relationships in your life today. What burdens do you tend to carry, what roles and responsibilities do you automatically take, what kind of dynamics do you most find yourself drawn into, across relationships?

This feels like a message especially for me, on the heels of a particularly challenging week in terms of love and friendship in my life. A week in which I became aware of my tendency to take on certain burdens that I have assumed come from my love and caring for someone, but are sometimes just my inability to say no to bullshit, or my proneness to believe I am inherently too much for my friends to handle and so to take the entire responsibility of backing away. Which is effectively me choosing inauthenticity in order to maintain a status quo. Doing this takes a lot of exhausting labour out of me, and most often doesn’t fetch me the results I am looking for. Leaving me bitter, unhappy and lonely.

Emotional dynamics in relationships should ideally be shared more or less equally, in order for the relationship to flow in a harmonious way. But sometimes the balance goes askew to facilitate something else. For example, the control or holding of power can lie with the person who does the bulk of the labour. We sometimes choose to take the entire responsibility as a means to control or steer a relationship in a certain direction.

Or it can be easy to delude ourselves about the true health of a relationship, as long as we keep engaging in “doing the work”. This labour unfortunately is then not going into healing or growing the relationship, but in keeping it from falling apart. A subtle, but important difference.

To lay down unnecessary burdens requires a high degree of honesty. When we engage with that, we are invited to get deeper in touch with our authentic selves. And we are encouraged to show up as we are. It helps us see what we can and absolutely cannot do, what burdens we can and cannot take, what roles we can and cannot perform, in a relationship. And what emerges from there is connection in a true form, free of roleplaying and people pleasing.

This process has been particularly challenging, and a painful one for me this past week as it has meant confronting some of my own judgements around the sharing of emotional labour and how I view people’s reasons for staying or remaining in relationships that have long passed their expiry date.

Taking responsibility for only as much as we can and realistically want to and should do, is an act of deep humility and respect. For the self, primarily, but also for the other. Learning this is to allow freedom, for love and connection to flow freely, and for a respectful, mutually balanced dynamic to emerge between people.

One year ago: All heart and all soul   
Two years ago: When the rainy days are dying   
Four years ago: Workspace

Authenticity is expensive

It’s been a confusing day. A day that has shown me very intensely that many times the price to pay for absolutely honesty and authenticity is loneliness.

Because people show me time and time again how they cannot value and hold it.

How they cannot handle it.

How they absolutely will compensate by bringing in their projections.

How easy it is for me to feel like the problematic one.

How quickly I feel responsible.

And how all of this can drag me back to my old narratives in a jiffy.

I’m fuckenn sick of people’s projections.

One year ago: Meeting myself   
Two years ago: Serendipity, do you believe that this makes sense?

Tarot: Loss and betrayal

Pulled a card for myself today, because I needed clarity around this pronounced unease that has surfaced in the last week or so, along with the strange return of someone once close to me that I moved away from, because I never felt seen/heard/loved around them.

But, even as I say “they”, the Two of Cups showed up to once again remind me that it takes two to tango. Both parties create a dynamic. While it may be about them and what they were able/not able to give me, it is also about me (or you).

I know this for sure, especially given the person I am talking about. I did the right thing recognise the dynamic, acknowledge honestly to myself (and to them) what was just not working for me, and move away. But there was something incomplete about the way in which it ended and I carry this desire to have the last word.

Being unseen then spoke of what I wasn’t seeing something in me. And as that same feeling re-surfaces now, I wonder what I am not seeing in myself now too.

The feeling of being unseen in that relationship, reflected my own blindness and refusal to step up to my own need for honesty and greater vulnerability from the other party. The thing is when you open your eyes to a deep need and voicing it is that there’s a 50-50 chance the other party will see it and be able to hold space for it in the way that you need. It could go either way.

I was heartbroken when my hunch that this wouldn’t happen was in fact confirmed. It made me completely move away, and as happy as that development has been, I do carry some disappointment and a sense of betrayal. Almost like everything we had before then was a lie. This is in fact true. A lot of it was indeed a lie, a charade, because I feel like we were playing at being friends, for as long as I was turning away form my intuition that constantly prodded me for more, but I continued to ignore it.

***

As we grow into our skin, we may outgrow people and situations. As we feel fuller in our own beings, we may often find the courage to move away from people who don’t see us fully for who we are. Sometimes the parting is amicable and natural, sometimes abrupt, discomfiting and leaves an unpleasant taste for years to come.

Either way, the wonderful thing about individuating in this manner is that it means you are ready to 1) let go of what no longer serves you 2) make space for new people who will be willing to see you fully.

The Two of Cups shows that sometimes we choose people who serve a very specific purpose. By refusing to see all of us, doubting, judging, being competitive with, mocking and rejecting us, they push us closer to accepting ourselves.

And when that purpose is served, we leave.

Being who you truly are involves walking alone (literally and metaphorically) for much of the journey. It comes with losing people and connection, over and over. I have known this for years, and even as my ease with accepting this grows, the fear of loss and loneliness, old hurt and abandonment resurfaces.

I am reliving that sense of betrayal and of recognising how unseen I was. And it is reminding me to check what I am turning away from, refusing to see currently. It brings unease, but it also serves to shine the light on my path again, reminding me that I must first stand in my power, see myself fully, for those who vibe at my frequency to see me fully.

If you’ve been experiencing unease, rejection or doubt in an intimate relationship, it’s a good time to check if there is something in you that you are rejecting. Is your intuition telling you something that you are not ready to acknowledge?

Back then it was the need for honesty and vulnerability for me. I knew it, i felt it, and yet I pushed it away.

No more.

One year ago: Postcard from staycation — 2
Two years ago: Remind yourself: nobody built like you

Are you tired of me talking about grief, yet?

Because here is yet another post about grief.

Right. So, I’m having a hard time with what’s going on. I just needed to say it.

It has felt doubly hard because I feel stupid about even thinking and saying this to myself. While most people began to take this seriously only two days ago, we have been largely indoors and not socialising since March 14th. And we have been fine, which in a perverse way, makes it doubly hard to accept that even with everything being okay, I am having a world of emotions swell up inside of me, and that it has been challenging to hold.

I have a roof over my head, a fridge full of food and enough stocked up to last me weeks. The luxury of staying at home and so many ways to keep myself engaged and happy. My very first world issues include wondering about when I will get this a very overdue haircut, and when can I go out to the park for a run. While millions have been rendered homeless and jobless overnight, and are having to walk back to their villages many, many miles away. While J and S tell me stories of how their work and teams in Europe are slowly imploding, and how some of them are having to justify their teams existence from one week to the next. What business do I have to say I am sometimes emotionally overwhelmed?

Except, I am. And the additional guilt isn’t helping. But hiding the truth isn’t making it go away either.

I’ve felt uninvited anger. Inexplicable sadness. Confusion. Exasperation. Downright rage and fury. Helplessness and hopelessness. Grief, anguish and deep sadness. Fear. And sometimes just blankness from it all. I have felt all these things in the past 2 weeks, sometimes too much for my heart-with-limited-capacity to hold.

Even words, my usual go to, have evaded me. And I have pushed the edge to which I can go without trying to make sense of what’s going on and what I am feeling in response. I may not have always been very successful with that.

Then, yesterday I read this HBR article that demystifies this “discomfort” as Grief. I realised this is what I have been feeling, through therapy yesterday. There’s a bit in the piece about the power of naming the feeling really struck home. Because I realised that the moments of upliftment these two weeks have been the moments where I have shared and stated what I am feeling.

At a time when words have been few and difficult to find for me, having S text “how are you today?” literally every morning, and getting on a video-call with her every other day to simply say what has not been easy, and what has, has helped. We invariably end up having a giggle fit. And that really helps!

In addition to frequent group video calls — a thing I have avoided like the plague until now — J, S and I have a continuous stream of sharing images of what we’re cooking and eating. This is literally the only whatsapp group I am active on, save the other one with my folks and sister. Talking to them is always equal parts keeping it real and making a big fat joke of everything. I have a bunch of images where we’re chuckling, and a couple where J gave us a guided tour of his plant family, complete with telling us their names. So there are colourful plants in the window where his face should be, and there’s S and I laughing our heads off in the other. Clearly we’re discussing the gravity of the situation, and our collective sads, in the picture below.

In all this, I’m so glad I’m not alone in my isolation. I have my sister and VC with me, and we spend a fair bit of time sharing the little things that are scary, annoying and confusing about these times. Minus the guilt. Plus we have been doing things together — cooking, exercising, eating, painting — that certainly help.

It helped to just say it as it is — I’m sad, angry, exasperated, confused, uncertain, while also feeling fiiiine — in all the different ways possible, for a full hour of therapy yesterday. We skyped and talked so little. Again, virtual therapy sessions are a luxury I have enjoyed all through last year when I spent extended periods of time in Goa. That is the extent to which my life, on paper, hasn’t changed.

And even then, this is me saying it: Ive struggled from time to time these past two weeks. If you have, have you tried naming it? It certainly helps emotions lose the grip that they sometimes have over us, holding us down.

There is something powerful about naming this as grief. It helps us feel what’s inside of us. When you name it, you feel it and it moves through you. Emotions need motion. It’s important we acknowledge what we go through. One unfortunate byproduct of the self-help movement is we’re the first generation to have feelings about our feelings. We tell ourselves things like, I feel sad, but I shouldn’t feel that; other people have it worse. We can — we should — stop at the first feeling.”

I guess what I’m saying is these are uncertain times for all of us, and if you’ve been feeling weird, overwhelmed, confused, foggy — it’s probably grief. We’re all experiencing this in our own ways.

Even when our lives are intact and largely unchanged. It might seem illogical to feel grief for something that hasn’t really touched you. But here’s where I differ from the BHR piece. Which there may be grief for the prevailing circumstances, I think what we’re all feeling is also the grief of uncertainty. The grief of many fundamental pillars of ur existence being challenged. Knowing that certain critical things are crumbling and making way for a new era that we know nothing of. There is grief in that letting go, fear in not knowing.

The guilt of having certain privileges may be keeping you from admitting to what you’re feeling, making you teeter around the edge of this discomfort for days on end. It might help to open the door, jump in, right into the depths of whatever you’re feeling. State it, name it, call it out, share it if you can and if you have the luxury.

One year ago: This new abyss
Two years ago: I get the strangest feeling you belong
Four years ago: Fam-jam

Monday Tarot Message: On shame, hiding and relationships

Who are you when nobody is looking? What parts of yourself do you shy away from revealing even to your closest people? What are the casual white lies you tell to keep what’s hidden intact? Observe that today.

The need to lie about who we are comes from underlying shame, and shame, lying and hiding almost always comes from not being fully at peace with those aspects of and in ourselves. As long as they remain hidden, our work towards meeting our authentic selves remains incomplete. Because what we keep from the world, we also keep away from ourselves. Bridging that gap requires compassion so we may meet all that’s unpalatable, undesirable and sometimes downright loathsome, within us.

The thing is, each and every one of us comes with some inherent shame or self-loathing. Healing this requires compassion. Not to justify or allow continual inauthenticity, but to trust that what’s “shameful” needs acceptance, even integration, in order to ge healed. So we don’t have to be fragmented anymore.

The Seven of Swords asks to also look at your closest relationships. Who you are encouraged to be stealthy, cautious or surreptitious around? Who triggers your shame, making you most want to present a more “palatable” version of yourself?

We all have someone like this even in our closest circles. Sometimes it is our partners, our closest friends, or even our parents — with whom we may very well have great relationships. What version of yourself do you present to your closest people?

This happens because the ego is steadfastly committed to saying “yes” to relationships that help keep what you find shameful hidden. But this also means saying “yes” to avoiding the work of healing shame and meeting yourself wholly. And worse, it means saying “no” to your authentic self.

Most often, those of us with a history of deep shame are attracted to lovers and friends who appear to accept us completely, but around whom we unconscioulsy have to shrink, downplay, downsize ourselves. Think about that person/s in your life today. Look out for the ways in which you are stealthy around them. Choose well.

One year ago: Love filled
Two years ago: Everything is going to the beat
Four years ago: Flight

Monday Tarot Message: Find your tribe

That familiar grief of lost friendship that keeps rearing its head time and time again, is never without reason. I am going through yet another cycle of re-looking at myself, observing what has changed in this brief period, and along with it re-looking at what that has changed in my relationships. It also means observing the subtlest shifts in how I am with people, and how people are being with and around me. It’s making me once again re-look at who I want to belong to and how. This happens every time I reach a point of levelling up. I realise it is actually an upward spiral that brings me to the same emotions again and again (that’s why the recurring grief), albeit a little deeper. Lightness follows grief, brightness follows darkness, connection and solitude dance together, belonging and loneliness walk side by side.

So I have been going through a strange sort of pulling back that feels quite unlike me, and yet I am allowing myself to go with it. It’s almost like I am testing what happens when I pull back and really let go. What changes in people around me, who stays, who reaches out, who understands. It has been utterly fascinating. It has been a period of loneliness, and frankly, some anger too. This time around, though, there is renewed clarity about what I want for myself in terms of people and relationships, and what kind of presence (or the lack of it) just won’t do anymore.

So this seemed like a super interesting card to have popped up right after feeling this way for a while now. A reminder that just as relationships endure when individuals are committed to developing a healthy sense of who they are, individuals can truly grow when they’re surrounded by others who support that.

But this can be difficult for many of us. Especially, if we didn’t grow up with adults who valued or encouraged a sense of self in us. In many cultures this is avoided as encouraging over-confidence, self-obsession or selfishness. Without these early lessons, we may go through adulthood lost and trying to discover ourselves, wondering what we are outside of all the roles we play.

Inculcating wholeness, or a sense of self involves exploring making and respecting boundaries, getting in tune with personal desires, discovering the ability to hold space for ourselves, being in touch with our needs so we can go after them in an authentic manner.

While some part of this work is solitary, much of it requires the company of a chosen tribe.Relationships act as mirrors for our projections, where suppressed needs find expression in mysterious ways. Observing how you are around people, and how they are around you can be a very loaded way to get cues and insights into what you need to work on yourself.

So it is useful to identify a tribe. Who gets to be in your circle and walk with you as you tend to your inner self? Are they committed to their own growth? What happens to you when you are with them? Choose who you show your vulnerabilities to, with care. But perhaps that’s the stuff of another post.

In learning to relate to others, we understand our preferences, we see who vibes-in and who vibes-out. It is a key part in finding belonging, and in finding our true place in the world at large. It helps iron out the chinks, confront our shadow selves, and deepen what we want to make of ourselves. To believe this work can be done entirely in isolation is delusion.

The Three of Cups asks us to embrace the role of people around us on this journey. Friends, parents, families, significant others — whether or not there are difficulties in these relationships, they are good spaces to find portals into healing the inner self and learning in adulthood who you really are.

***

This is your timely reminder that if you’d like a personal Tarot Session to explore yourself and get more insights like this, you can reach out to me to make a booking. I offer these sessions in person, in Bangalore, as well as telephonically for anybody anywhere in the world.

Also, pssst: if you’ve already worked with me and are considering a second session, there’s a discount of 10% waiting for you. Only until the end of this month.

One year ago: The last of the despatches from Benaras   
Two years ago: But if you try sometime, you’ll get what you need   
Three years ago: What I’ve been reading   
Four years ago: Telepathy

Monday Tarot Message: Everyday grief

I have found such a stark difference in the way I experience closure in lost relationships where I have had a greater degree of processing the sadness of it, versus those where things ended suddenly, where I felt misunderstood (and still continue to) and had to move away, shut myself off, close my heart up, without any degree of processing that sadness at all.

It’s ironic that this past weekend, as hung out with some of the nicest friends I have at this point in time, having a genuinely good time, engaging, feeling nurtured, while also kicking back and relaxing, I was flooded with thoughts about a friendship that ended with a complete lack of space for vulnerability in the ending itself.

This was of course the issue with said friendship, and why I had to eventually let it go. So perhaps it is not ironic that even in the ending, the same pattern continued. The friendship had thrown up a lot of smaller grief along the way. Signs of a possible, impending ending. Signs that I had ignored, because at the time I was so frightened of having to let go, of being alone, of untethering myself. And in the bargain, I know the relationship had made me avoid facing the pain and grief it was causing me altogether.

And this is probably precisely why thoughts about this friendship still linger, long after it has ended and we have both ostensibly moved on. I have much grief still to process with this one. So I am not at all surprised at today’s card. It has come at an apt time, as a timely reminder to do right, now, what I haven’t done enough in relationships past.

Regular, functioning relationships throw up so many instances of small, everyday grief. That cancelled plan that you were so looking forward to, the prolonged lack of availability, the desire for conversation when there was no space for it, that friend who suddenly changed (as everyone is entitled to).

While there is always good reason for each one of the scenarios above, it doesn’t negate the minor level heartbreak that we’re all constantly facing. It is also not to say that we turn into snowflakes who take offence at and hang on to every little instance of things not going the way we’d like. But how often do we allow ourselves to feel this heartbreak? Is there space for sadness and everyday grief of this minor kind in our relationships and friendships at all?

We usually reserve the grief for potential endings of relationships/friendships. Even the mere thought of that grief can be scary, so we avoid familiarising ourselves with it. Over time it may be that even when we know a potential ending maybe good for us, we put off the inevitable, and sometimes the necessary too. Sometimes we keep walking back into failed relationships in the hope that something will be different, simply because we don’t want to face the sadness of the ending.

The reason it feels impenetrable and all-consuming is usually because we have not made space for small, daily grief to touch us. To slowly make space for it, is to know that we can hold it. So you do not have to avoid it altogether.

If you find yourself at a crossroads in a relationship or friendship, the card today asks you to imagine what rebuilding might look like. To put pen to paper if necessary, and work out all that you will need to hold yourself in the time after an ending. When the grief has arrived. To think about everything from the minutest, deepest emotional needs (the grief and sadness to deal with), to the other practical physical needs (an altered physical reality?). To work on building resources so you have them when the time of need comes.

I know it seems like this might be more apt for broken marriages, cases of divorce or long term romantic relationships that come to an end. But I feel strongly that it is no different in matters of friendship too.

Often we avoid this part of the work, not wanting to imagine ourselves at our most vulnerable — feeling abandoned, rejected, like we have failed — and so when grief comes, we jump straight to “moving on” bypassing the grieving process that is crucial to authentic recovery and actual moving on.

The message for this week is to acknowledge and make space for everyday grief, to get friendly with it on a daily basis. To avoid making it a monster you have to avoid at all costs. So you know you can hold it when it comes, as it does with every one of us. Because it is important to give grief a holding space. Without it there is no evolving, no growing.

One year ago: Slow row
Two years ago: Come a little bit closer, hear what I have to say
Four years ago: Small joys

Even flow

It’s been a good couple of weeks, the energy from the weeks before has turned. Like I said yesterday, there is equanimity. And this time, I find myself not dismissing it as “surprising” or “sudden”. I know this is deliberate. It is cultivated. I have put certain practices in to place, prioritised some stuff over other stuff, realigned my life to look and feel the way I need it to.

I’ve been sitting with duality again. About how sometimes it is possible to be going and coming at the same time. To feel incredible freedom and yet feel clenched up at the same time. Finding surprising elements of femininity and masculinity that exist within me at the same time. In realising that a sense of loss almost always precedes new discovery.

It’s been a day spent out with S again. A day of such lightness and freedom. Rushing off for a morning movie show so early, I was reminded of my years when I held down an office job that required rushing against time to get things done at home before I dressed for the day and dashed out the door. Except that was to go to work, and this was to go to fun. Walking around CBD with its wide pavements in the summer sun, oversized sunglasses making an appearance in March, an easy, luxurious Mallu sadya lunch on a banana leaf, running errands with S, and then catching up with D and S for a work meeting that turned into a lazy hang that last three whole hours before I slowly dawdled my way home.

It had been nearly 12 hours since I had left home in the morning.

It was a day that gave made me experience freedom in more ways than one. And a day filled with timely, required reminders that this, here, is enough.

One year ago: This is us. Really.
Two years ago: Let’s get one thing straight now
Three years ago: Whisky-shisky
Four years ago: Flying solo

Chasing sunlight

I took yesterday off.

After a rather hectic week, and an intense weekend of two full day workshops, and the realisation that I need to see some light, I got out and spent the day with S.

We’re so focused on our catching up that we make time for it, choosing to meet ahead of lunch to maximise the gabbing so we can cover all the topics we routinely file away to discuss at length “when we meet”. So there was a pre-lunch hang over chai, then greasy Chinese for lunch, then a post-lunch chai, and then dessert. And this time we did each thing at a different place, walking around Richmond Road.

It was like a breath of fresh air in an otherwise very dreary time.

On my way there, as early as 10 am, I thought to myself what a privilege this is. To be able to have life go on, undisturbed even as parts of this country are ravaged. What a luxury to have the space and the ability to begin a Monday morning like this. What a delight, to choose rest and recovery, with deliberation.

I’d like me more of this.

Three years ago: Kitchen soup for the homesick soul
Four years ago: Shine on