If I had to do 2020 over

Wordless appreciation post for these two humans, that have stayed by my side, even when I didn’t ask for or express that I needed it.With whom I have unknowingly, unintentionally journeyed (literally and metaphorically) and grown (literally and metaphorically) in so many ways this year.

It was a year that pulled me away from all humans. Physically, of course. But also mentally and emotionally. I have withdrawn more than I saw it coming. My only other support, my parents who are otherwise just next door, and who I unwittingly lean on, are now in another state. My inner circle has dwindled down to just these two.

Even with all the utter rubbish 2020 brought our way, I’m super grateful these two were my constants — punching bag and body pillow, alike.

(What, year end thoughts coming already?!)

Greens

All the different kinds of greens I’ve seen.

This was lunch one afternoon. Everything on my plate was home grown.

Evening walk pitstop. So green. So chill.

Morning walk abandoned quarry explorations with these two.

Kind of ridiculous that this is our backyard. Alternating between pinching myself to come back to reality and feeling very, very grateful.

One year ago: Mediocre
Two years ago: Take a deep breath
Four years ago: Control issues

The hidden life of trees

So, I decided to break my boredom with home workouts and desperate missing of the gym, by braving the outdoors and resuming running again.

It’s been three days and one whole day of severely sore legs, but I feel so good.

It’s more than what running does for my body, which in itself is a whole other story. But I’m also beginning to see why being outdoors in an enveloping tunnel of trees, that are overwhelmingly old and large, surrounded by eye-hurting green views, even as small and limited as they are in a city park, does for me.

It’s a reminder to keep growing. To keep going. Of how strong roots are the key to talk trees. Of age and wisdom. Of a silent judgement-free witnessing. Of the cradle of mother earth. Of the place that energy and the elements have in giving life. Of fertility even in times of destruction. Of survival and enduring.

On Sunday, practically my first real long run since March (because I’m not counting the two failed attempts in May and June), I had a mini cry behind my mask even as I had just entered the parking and started my run. I just felt overwhelmed to be outdoors, for one. But I was also just taken by these large, old trees. Just standing there, watching the world go by, as they have for years now. I also felt a surge of endorphins, and while they’re usually known to induce extreme highs interpreted as happiness I have noticed that they heighten whatever emotion I am allowing myself to feel. That day it was overwhelming gratitude and aliveness.

I have not appreciated trees enough in my life. And that day I realised I have probably not appreciated the trees in Bangalore enough in my life.

They’re becoming reminders for me. Of life and growth. Of swaying with lightness and tenderness, while being powerfully rooted. Of grounding. Of joy and life. Of air and breath.

In the inimitable words of Mary Oliver, who I have realised has woven beauty in words for every goddamn experience, it’s simple.

Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches.
And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,
“and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.”

Stay. Awhile.

One year ago: Brain noodles
Four years ago: Wandering, right here at home

In a funk

It’s just one of those weeks. Where many things I cannot digest too easily have hit me all at once. I have days like this some times. And on those days, I choose the luxury of lying low, staying in and spending my time just being in the fullness of whatever I am feeling. This week, I didn’t have that luxury. Because after three months of a very minimal, home-bound routine, I ventured out and offered my time with volunteering to collect and deliver food to the migrants leaving Bangalore by the thousands every single day.

It was meant to be something I did for a few hours every week, but it very quickly ballooned into a massive operation that consumed me mentally, emotionally and physically. The need is enormous, the situation on ground is far worse than even the most honest media reports will have you believe. And even though I was overwhelmed from the suffering from the get go, I couldn’t get myself to step back.

I didn’t make the connection initially, because the adrenalin that kicked in from the relief efforts took me through most of the week. By yesterday though, my energy was flagging and I crawled into bed at noon, unable to function. Time-wise, I have also had to de-prioritise working out and eating healthy home cooked meals, to compensate for the hours spent working outdoors. These things are my anchors in any given day, and I really felt the effects of having to run on fumes without it.

I haven’t been able to eat a single meal in peace, thinking of the thousands and thousands and thousands of people we have been trying to keep fed and hydrated with bare minimum, collected entirely from neighbourhood mobilisation activities. I could no longer think about elaborate meals, let alone get myself to plan and cook them. I couldn’t put a morsel down my throat without feeling wretched inside.

I’ve been on the phone for more time than I have in a long, long time. I haven’t been able to relax and turn my mind off. My sleep has been shot to bits again. This past week has swept me away and put me in a strange state of mind. On the one hand I am overwhelmed and filled with hope to see how much and how quickly and large-heartedly citizens are willing to give of themselves. From contributions in neighbourhoods, to people galvanising relief efforts, to the team at the sites organising migrants, processing their paperwork and giving them food and drink and setting them off. I am beyond stoked at how much of all of this is being manned and handled by regular, average citizens. With lives and work put on hold, giving so much of themselves to this effort. But on the other, there is no escaping the hopelessness of this situation. I keep thinking how did we let it get os bad? Why weren’t we looking close enough even before the pandemic hit us? Why are we like this?

On the one hand, I feel like involving myself gave me some much-needed relief and channelised all that pent up frustration from months. But on the other, it plunged me quite deeply into a funk. Today, I felt so hopeless, I had a very, very compelling sensation of just wanting to exit my body. Just leave and escape this world. Everything feels so pointless in the face of the mammoth mess we are as a country. And no, there’s nothing, no silver lining and no bright spot, right now that can outweigh the heaviness of what I have seen this past week.

I have not been present to VC at all through all of this. I have had no mental or emotional energy to spare. I have been weepy, crabby, clingy, unreasonable for the most part. But he’s let me be all of it. And I am so grateful to have a home in him to come back to, where I can be as I am. Ugly, messy, imperfect and letting it all fall apart.

On a day like today, with clearly so much going on emotionally, internally, I don’t know what I’d do without this support. Where I can just be, not spoken to, no advice or solace needed (because there is none for a situation like this), just silence and presence. Presence.

One year ago: On boundaries: how they’ve changed my experience of friendship
Two years ago: Stop chasing shadows, just enjoy the ride
Four years ago: How blue?

Recharged

I couldn’t have asked for a better start to the year, really.

It’s been a week since I left home, and it feels like a lifetime has passed in my mind, during this time.

Feeling at home so deep in my bones, in my place, with a solid sense of belonging, is a truly unparalleled experience.

There have been worlds of thoughts marinading and being very slowly processed in my mind.

Thoughts about the power of truth snd conviction.

Thoughts about being impossibly heartfully connected, even as I find healthy separation.

Thoughts about how months of cultivating a healthy container seems to be giving rage a new kind of outlet.

Thoughts about an all new adult kind of definition of settlement.

I hope to unpack this slowly for myself over the next few days.

Thank you to this corner of Wayanad we now call home. Thank you for filling me up on ways I don’t yet have words for. But I will get there. For now, I’m Back on home turf, recharged and raring to go.

Two years ago: Here I go again (on my own)
Three years ago: 2016
Four years ago: In-bloom

To Mysore and

…back to the wild.

In four vignettes.

8 am at home.

11 am on the road.

1 pm at Mysore Railway Station.

4 pm en route back home.

Mandatory picture of parental unit, as seen in my adulthood, on a road trip rushing through just-planted paddy fields in that golden 4 o clock sunlight.

It’s a bit overwhelming, that I get to enjoy this peace and quiet, right here in my life without having to getaway or make space for it in anyway. I do have to physically get away to get here, but that suddenly my life is somehow fashioned so this is possible, and possible often kind of amazes me. Even now.

What a privilege and a blessing it is.

One year ago: Inhale. Exhale.
Two years ago: What is life
Four years ago: Reminders and notes to self.

Curtain call

 

New Year’s Eve has been something of a non event for years now. But this year we may have dropped even lower. And something tells me I could get used to the go-nowhere, do-nothing new year’s eve of this kind.

Snapshots from yesterday’s evening walk through the village, VC stopping for pictures and my father stopping to say hello to every single person we met.

We walked all along the river side for a good one hour, VC changing his mind and turning back halfway through.

Happy to be closing the year spending theseast few days (and the next few) in simpler ways and a slower pace.

We’ve had splendid sunsets for two days now. I hope today is spectacular too.

2020, I’m ready for you.

One year ago: December
Two years ago: Crossing over
Three years ago: December

Sunset

I had my last session of therapy for the year today and it was such a good culmination of the work I have done since I resumed again just over a year ago.

Today, as we talked about where I’m at — the cusp of a new unfolding in possibly every different space in my life — I had a moment of almost disbelief at the way in which I was even holding myself and articulating the things that I was.

Today, I reiterated and reaffirmed to myself the uniqueness of my own journey, the need to honour my pace and place, without judgement or measuring it up against anything or anyone else.

Today, I felt like I turned yet another corner in my becoming.

***

The fundamental building blocks of doing things to please others (and in that way make myself agreeable to them) because of the firmly held belief that doing things to please me will inevitably and always be “too much” for them to take, or might make them upset, or unhappy, or confused, or hurt, are shifting. This has been an unsaid code and way of being in my family. Especially for generation after generation of women.

In moving out from that space, that way of being, I have had to slowly let the foundations — those very fundamental building blocks that decide how I will be in the world — slowly crumble and fall away. There is no rebuilding new and healthier foundations without undoing the unhealthy, unsafe and unstable ones that have held me so far.

There is tremendous power in doing this. The proverbial endpoint seems promising,  liberating and great. And it is. But the journey to there is seldom uniformly great. It is downright painful, difficult, isolating and harrowing even. Milestones and in fact many important pivotal moments along the way are often the ones that have left me shaken up to my core and like I have lost the very ground beneath my feet.

But one of the most powerful experiences I have had this year is of letting myself crash and drop so low, allowing myself the ability to dive and sink to depths so low, and meet vulnerabilities so raw and deep that the only way from there has been up.

And the person I am today, as the year draws to a close, definitely feels like a transformed version of the person I was at the start of this year. I am ending the year feeling solid from within. Truer to myself, more in touch with my body and emotions, and very, very unafraid of seeing and holding my vulnerabilities

It’s true what they say. True strength only comes from being intimately and ruthlessly honestly in touch with those deepest fault-lines that exist in all of us. If only I learned earlier that there is no glory in that outward facade of strength and powering-through facade that comes at the cost of bypassing real pain that is asking to be seen and heard.

Today, I felt extra gratitude for all those whose help and support I have sought and leaned on during this time. Fellow truth-seekers, truth-tellers, some professionals whose work it is to help shine a light in spaces we are unable to journey alone, some friends and confidants who have offered everything from a kindred spirit, silent holding of space when I’ve been in the lows and cheered me on through my highs. All the people who have joined me on and off along the way, sometimes holding my hand, sometimes leading, sometimes being led by me, sometimes holding up a mirror or a light, sometimes stopping momentarily and letting me go on so I can journey those necessary parts on my own.

Meeting myself has been equal parts thrilling and terrifying, but I hold close those moments that I have been in touch with recently, the real fruit of all these years of an inward journey — moments where I have felt in love with myself. It has been life-giving like drinking sweet, sweet nectar. And somehow it makes all the heaving difficulty, the bouts of pain and loneliness so worth it.

What a ride.

One year ago: Be kind to the growing mind
Three years ago: Rewind

Away and around

Ever so grateful for the vast expanses of this country that offer sights, smells and sounds so removed from what one gets used to, day in and out.

Three years ago: Cutting the fat

Gratitude and love

Just gratitude today.

For flow. For life.

For excellent therapy. For movement. For learning to hold myself through the depths of despair, so I can soar to the skies with just as much ease.

For safety and opportunity, in the face of these difficult times so many of our fellow countrymen are facing.

For being the object of love and affection from my family and some friends.

For work and the new way in which it is manifesting in front of me.

For the unseen kindnesses I routinely receive. For the unabiding way in which no matter what happens, things move on.

One year ago: Love in a thousand different flavours

The ground beneath my feet

The mind is still a tizzy with thoughts of the country and how fast things are escalating. How the mainstream news channels and newspapers aren’t portraying a picture that’s even semi close to the reality on ground. Sending out prayers and good vibes to everyone facing this in a far more brutal and real way in their lives and days. And trying hard to find my grounding in simple things today. A visit to the nursery, where my father and I spent over an hour traipsing through the entire length and breadth of the sea of plants and flowers. The winter flowers are in full bloom, and it is an absolutely delightful sight for the eyes. So I walked, stopped, touched, smelled, picked, and then some. Before returning home with a small loot.

I napped a nap deeper than I’ve had in a while. My night sleep hasn’t been the best the past ten days or so. Preoccupations, my mind active, reaching out to read the news — all the things I do when I cant sleep that then keep me from getting to sleep. I woke up feeling tremendously rested.

I felt a shift, a weight lift, a sense of clarity and a penny dropping after my afternoon with S yesterday. There is a sliver of light shining through, and I feel heartened and suddenly invigorated by the possibilities, and the palpable sense of things coming together. I am no longer in dream stage, but things are quickly moving to action. I am not feeling paralysed by that movement, rather feeling more and more energised to get going. I have a website going that I hope to finish by the close of the year, tomorrow we meet a CA to discuss the options ahead of us to work together and the first project is already in sight.

And so, this evening I feel alive and full again. Not shrinking and cowering under a helplessness like I have been feeling inside of me, for over a week now. I cooked us dinner, figured out what meddling I need to do with my pots and plants tomorrow, and now I’m off to pick up some frames of prints I want to get up on the walls this week. And then I’m off for therapy.

I want to acknowledge and state here, that since my first meeting with S last week, where we really got down to the brass tacks of working together, I had this feeling that shit just got real, it has translated into a sudden burst of action in the rest of my life. My days are flowing smoothly. I somehow wake up knowing what I want to do and have been moving through my time effortlessly, getting things done. And not just work things, but home and food and life things as well. We’ve had people over, I’ve cooked umpteen meals, we’ve made time to chill and watch TV, we’ve been out, I’ve found my rhythm and regularity with the gym again, I went to a couple of protests, work got done, home improvement is in full swing like it hasn’t ever been. Somehow everything has been finding a time and place, and happening. I have managed to get some simple, small things that I have planned and not moved on for literally years — like a website revamp, like a visit to the nursery, like frames of prints I’ve collected over the years. I’m feeling a sudden effortlessness. And t has brought to my days a fullness that is not overwhelming or exhausting, which is the only kind of “full” I knew for a very long time.

Balance and flow, balance and flow, balance and flow. It is such a surreal, heady feeling to suddenly have that which I have only dreamed of and coveted for so many years. I feel so grateful.

This feels so sweet, I can almost taste it.

One year ago: Love in a thousand different flavours

<3

It has been a good, good week. And the highlight, quite easily, is having VC back home. We’ve been like stuck records repeating to each other, umpteen times, over the last week: This last year, living apart, was the best thing we could have done. Because from time to time, we realise the little things that have changed about us, within us, and the way in which we’re being different around and with each other.

Just a week since we’ve returned, VC has already flown off to Bombay today for a bunch of meetings, and I suddenly found myself with a day to myself.  It sparked so many thoughts.

On how living apart unconsciously made us experience individuating in this relationship too. How that has somehow brought us closer. How I think this might be a good thing to do every few years, if the need arises. But I’ll save that for another day. But for now, just gratitude for this here. For going full circle. For love.

One year ago: One day in Bangkok (or day one in Bangkok)
Two years ago: Acceptance is a small, quiet room
Three years ago: Guess I’ll have to leave some stuff behind

To new Mondays like these

I’m home.

And so just like that we are cohabiting again. Which means we have to both adjust to the rhythms and routines of living with one other human being around us. The added detail this time is that VC is probably going to be working out of home for the foreseeable future.

It’s exciting as hell, because everything is suddenly different, shiny and new and I love all the extra time we get together thanks to the fluidity that comes with having complete control over our schedules. But it’s also been a touch unsettling, as much as it was unsettling when VC moved away. Because it means getting through a bunch of suitcases once again, finding space for all our expanded belongings again. And until that happens, especially over the weekend, the home felt a bit like an obstacle course. I’ve noticed that this tends to happen very quickly when VC is around — things never find their way back to where they belong, they hang around, scattered and misplaced — and our tiny home begins to feel cluttered very quickly. But I’m also observing how this time I am less perturbed. Aware, and observant of the mess, but more realistically accepting, not annoyed as yet. Also allowing for ease, time and space before we get to unpacking fully.

It means that I have to temper my excitement of having VC around a lot more. It curbing allllllll the random things I want to say to him over the course f the day, because unlike me, he can’t compartmentalise his brain and chat while working. So I have to save it up for break time.

It means I have someone to outsource the chasing away of stray lizards that makes it into the home, rather than brave the horrendous task myself.

It means replacing the long-drawn facetime calls of the last year with actual facetime, everyday. More togetherness, more conversation.

It means twice the laundry, twice the cooking, twice the planning, yes.

It means realising once again that it’s possible to feel wistful and nostalgic about the time I had living by myself, simultaneously as I feel an overwhelming excitement about the days to come. The two can coexist. Like with most other dualities, I find myself no longer trying to choose and pick a side. Accepting one doesn’t make the opposing force less true.

It means spontaneous Monday afternoon jaunts to eat things we randomly crave, without having to plan or schedule them. Like we did today, with the intention to eat a really good burger — our last real binge and the end of the holiday life before we get back to regular programming and eating healthy, home food again — which turned into us eating really good steaks at an old Bangalore favourite. It did not disappoint.

It gave me special thrills to take an auto back and forth, to walk down the streets of CBD together on a typically Bangalore November afternoon with a slight nip in the air, a distinct breeze with the sun shining down too.

For now, I’m definitely home.

***

Gratitude today for the twists and turns of the last year. And like VC said to me yesterday, ever so grateful for whatever it is outside of us that has shaped and enabled the way in which our relationship has evolved and brought us to where we are today.

One year ago: And yesterday becomes tomorrow
Three years ago: That’s how the light gets in

Into the wide open

We left a blisteringly hot and sunshiney Goa yesterday, and have entered overcast, grey sky weather in Karnataka today. It stormed all night with scary thunder and lightning. But it means a more comfortable drive today. For VC more than me, who is happier riding when the sun is playing hide and seek.

Today, I’m grateful for the way in which VC and I can see eye to eye and make good travel buddies. It makes even tedious journeys like this one a touch more fun.

One year ago: While the world plays for our pleasure
Three years ago: Midweek blues

Drive

Our car will be ten in the new year. And while she’s begun to look her age, thanks to nine years and nine monsoons in Goa, she still runs like a very young girl off to chase a dream at the slightest opportunity.

Many little niggling things have been acting up. The AC has been on its last legs for about a year now. The headlamps were horribly foggy until I scrubbed them with baking soda yesterday. The speakers have been in various stages of disconnection for a long while now but kat year the music system itself came unhinged and stopped working. All it’s good for is charging a phone. So this drive hasn’t been easy. The heat is a lot more intense than I expected, the air is dry as hell. There’s no music to be had so I’m using a portable speaker because I’m all alone (with two suitcases riding shotgun in the front seat) and I could do with some entertainment.

Also, this blasted curse of development just won’t let things be. Forget setting dysfunctional things right, they’re hell bent on fixing things that ain’t broke. So the perfectly decent highway between Goa and Bangalore that made for a comfortable 10 hour journey just one year ago has shot up to a painful 14 hours. The road is pretty flawless, silky smooth, but the endless diversions every few hundred metres has made it painful. Getting on and off the rough service roads, throwing up clouds of dust and dry air as we bump down terrible stretched of dangerous half-built roads, means one can’t even enjoy and maximize the good bits for what they’re worth.

As such, we as a country deserve nothing good. No amount of “development” will ever be good enough and worth it because you can’t get on a “world-class” highway long enough before a tractor lazily ambles across without warning, or a two wheeler shoots at you on the wrong side of the wrong side of the road just to avoid going the long route to make a U-turn. We’re the pits.

So it hasn’t been a fun drive. And yet, I’ve enjoyed driving. If that makes any sense at all. Because my car, my gosh, she is still so fine. And perhaps the only advantage of having a choc full car loaded up to the brim is that the weight in the tail of the car means I can take all the bumps easily. I accelerate and the car complies, no fear of people or things flying around in the back of the car. There’s grip and grounding.

Anyhow, leg one of this arduous journey is done.

***

Today and glad and super grateful for my parents who absolutely insisted (not that I needed any coaxing and convincing at all, but still) I learn to drive as soon as I turned 18. It has made making movement in my life so much more significant.

One year ago: What do you need to make your wild heart beat?
Three years ago: Holiday mornings