Love-filled

I feel soft and full of love today.

***

Today, I cooked the first proper meal all by myself in my home. I’ve had the extreme, extreme luxury of hopping over to my parents place for every single meal since I got back from holiday over ten days ago. Between feeling disoriented and resuming a killer workout schedule that has rendered my movement in the rest of the day a little compromised, and a whole week of hectic social activities, I have unabashedly leaned on amma and her unrelenting capacity to give and keep giving. Whether it’s hot meals, breakfast every single day, her car whenever I need it (which has been every day these days *eyeroll*) and just generally being that fall back I always have. It has meant I didn’t have to stock up my kitchen till yesterday, I didn’t have to worry about my nutrition as I stepped into the 6-week program, I didn’t have to do a thing other than show up and be fed with wholesome, nutritious food.

S is coming over for lunch today, so I decided to cook rather than order in or go out. While cooking this morning, I realised that to be able to slip into domesticity as and when I feel like, rather than bound by necessity is such a game-changer at this present time of my life. This is one of the big issues I fought in Goa, right before I left. I felt bound and tied down by some parts of domesticity, and constantly felt like doing them was keeping me from doing the things I really wanted to. I feel grateful for the proximity to my parents that allows this, for amma’s constant presence and support in ways I don’t even have to ask for, and for how life sometimes conspires to make possible the smallest, seemingly insignificant details of my life a reality, and for how hugely that impacts my life.

***

I woke up this morning feeling fresh as a new summer day. I’ve been having some incredibly good sleep since resuming working out harder. My digestion feels more settled, my skin feels better — these, and some other small niggling physical changes in my system that had begun to creep up last year seem to be on the wind-down. It’s amazing what a little extra movement, some essential burning of excess energy and regulation in food and hydration can do. I’m grateful for another opportunity to workout with S. For the new sneakers I got this past week. For access to a gym so close to home. For summer mornings that make waking up easier. For VC’s constant, unquestioning support in this area of my life.

One year ago: Somebody holds the key
Three years ago: Silence

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It’s been a long time coming

I got back to my daily walks pretty soon after we got home from Benaras. Summer is here, good and proper. So it’s ridiculously bright, warm and muggy at 7 am, not at all like the crisp mornings I enjoyed when I left for Goa.

I felt physically uncomfortable for days after we returned, feeling my body heat and dry up from the inside out. It was like my insides were revolting the drastic turn in climate. Would you believe Goa was cooler?

On the upside bright, early mornings have meant waking up super early to sunshine streaming through my curtains. The exact opposite of winter when it’s dark and grey, making it impossible to wake up and get going.

So, waking up has been easy. It’s been good but more than that, the feeling of getting going, of the wheels beginning to move and run from the get go, is such a summer feeling I love.

And then there’s splendour like this where I go for my walk/run. And it has made all the difference in helping me stay consistent.

Since the start of the year, I’ve listened as my body as asked for a little movement, and then some more and a little more. I started with walking on Sunday, then a few more times in the week, then I started running some of the time before eventually rejoining my yoga class. Slowly, I’ve been feeling my body come alive after a whole year of what felt like hibernation.

This week, I went back to a gym. My body has been screaming for some weights and so I listened. It’s been five days and such a viscerally felt thrill to be back on a treadmill, pounding the kms away, picking up a pair of dumbells even more so.

This sense of an awakening in my body has been slowly trickling in spurts. This week I really felt like I’d rekindled and revisited an old friend within me. And old self I’d loved and lost. And regained again. That meeting, that felt like a coming back home to myself once again.

It’s been just so, so, so good to be back.

One year ago: Love, let’s talk about love
Three years ago: On unlearning and relearning order

Out there

I meant to post on the weekend, because so much happened that I want to mark and remember but I’ve been rather preoccupied, mentally. Too much happening, too many places to go to, some engagements, some recreation, a lot of busy-bodying around and barely any time spent at home at all. I’ve been very not inclined to sitting down to compose my thoughts and put them in coherent form here. I only realised last night that the corollary to this is that what I’ve been is inclined to distract myself.

I’ve been a little emotionally overwhelmed and scattered since getting back from Benaras. And this invariably makes me feel a bit disoriented/disconnected from myself, what I’m really feeling. It’s a bit of a catch-22. When I’m feeling disconnected and overwhelmed, the logical thing for me to do would be to slow down and sit still. But sitting still also means facing some of the emotions that have been bubbling up — the overwhelm of the trip that moved me, swinging straight into regular life and getting used to being minus VC all over again, settling back to the Bangalore groove again (which always takes time), constant preoccupation about the Bangalore-Goa conundrum, and the impending trip back there in about a month and all that I want to do here in the meantime — cumulatively this has occupied a lot of my mental bandwidth silently. Sitting still would mean facing it really, and fully. And that is what I have been running away from.

This past week instead of giving myself, and reconnecting with myself some time and space, I’ve felt drawn to frittering my time away outside the home. This should have been my first indicator of what was going on, but I guess I am that disconnected right now, that I didn’t pick up on it.

And that’s okay.

I’m currently straddling two worlds and trying to find a meaningful balance, between knowing and understanding my feelings, but also not going overboard and obsessing over every little up and down.

My outer world always mirrors my inner world. There was a lot of outward movement in my life, high activity, travelling long distances, long hours spent outdoors — to the coffee shop, ostensibly to work, but I’m getting done only a mere fraction of what I am otherwise capable of, catching what I thought would be a 1-2 hour lunch with a friend and having it turn into a 6-hour massive catch-up, I’ve watched two movies since I’ve come back, and my mum has had guests and rather uncharacteristically I offered to drive them around town and catch the few Bangalore meals they’ve had on their bucket list. I should have realised this is me moving away form myself.

It wasn’t until last evening (Sunday) that I realised I am unconsciously voiding being home. Avoiding being still. Because when I am still, invariably emotions become clear, seen.

I’m not sure what I am avoiding seeing right now. But I hope to regain some balance and connection this week and tune in some.

Three years ago: Abandon

Baffling Benaras

So, Benaras had been on my wish-list for so long, oh so many, many years, that I actually forgot/lost track of it somewhere along the way. I remember having a conversation with VC about 5-6 years ago after my parents and sister had visited, saying we should go too, and I remember him being most disinterested — “What’s to do there?”

We’ve always had very different motivations to travel. I’m more about the sights and sounds and different kinds of experiences, I find forests as exciting as cities, and I enjoy history and heritage as much as I do the nothingness of a beach. VC is and always has been all about the photography and for a bit in between, the videography (as his Instagram will reveal).

A place was worthy of visiting only if there was something to do there, ie: photo-worthy locations to scout. Even in this, cityscapes, historic/heritage places have never been his thing. As a result, our inclinations to travel and the destinations we’d pick often do not converge. This has meant that I’ve done a fair share of travel by myself, or with my family, my friends, without him. Lately though, I’ve noticed a change in him, in this respect. Where there was once absolutely no curiosity about places that didn’t fall into his very narrow category of an inviting destination, there is now a willingness to at least experience it, and a readiness to go even if no great pictures come out of it.

I was aghast when he announced to me in January that we were going to Benaras. He had decided it singlehanded, on my behalf. He was right to assume I’d want to go. I had absolutely no complains, no inputs even. I just go on board from the word go, and only gave him the nudge by doing my share of research about which area to Benaras to base ourselves in and where to stay.

As it turns out no amount of research can actually ever really, fully prepare you for what a place is really like. We chose to base ourselves about a 400 mt walk away from Dashashwamedh Ghat, which VC picked because he’d figured it’s one of the most widely frequented places in Benaras by photographers of the world. But we didn’t realise the interiors of the older parts of the city along the ghats and banks of the river are mostly not motorable. Old Benaras is mostly a labyrinth-like maze of narrow alleyways, haphazardly cobbled, with homes packed close and high on either side and doors opening almost by surprise right on to the door. Everything happens in these alleys — shops open, little eateries with their coal-fueled stoves right on the road, old women gather around for a chat, school kids run amok, cows and buffaloes amble about very, very slowly, and sometimes two wheelers zip through recklessly.

It can be dizzying and quite confusing to navigate, even with Google maps on hand. It’s also mindbogglingly filthy with open drains, sewerage flowing through in parts, plenty of trash just thrown all around, and lots and lots and lots of shit. Real and proper shit. Open defecation is real in this country. And then there’s cow dung, to top it all. So yeah, it was fascinating to navigate this every time we had to get from the hotel to a spot to shoot, or catch lunch or even just venture out for a meal in the evening.

On the up-side the location was perfect for what we were there to do — explore these parts on foot and get pictures. We didn’t take a single cab or rickshaw the entire time that we were there, until we had to head back to the airport.

The thing that hit me the hardest all through the trip was the extreme levels of filth. I was forewarned but nothing, nothing, could have prepared me for the levels of filth I witnessed. More than the actual filth itself I was severely disturbed by how easily life seemed to go on around it. Sidestepping piles of shit, people stepping out of their homes to casually take a leak or a dump right in the street outside their homes — I couldn’t get over the numbness towards it. It also made me feel very aware of my privilege as well as how out of touch I am with these realities in the far reaches of this country that seem to exist our of sheer lack of choice. I can’t imagine anyone being okay with these living conditions out of choice.

All of this was doubly baffling and disturbing to witness in the landscape of one of the most religious and “pure” places of interest in the country. And this is exactly the sort of paradox that Varanasi is full of.

I haven’t digested so much of what I saw and observed and all that I felt — a rousing sense of rage, confusion, disbelief and helplessness at how terrible things really are in our country. And how much we are falling prey to an excellent PR campaign. The conversations I had with some of the locals really brought to the fore a deep dissonance between what they believe and what the reality right before their eyes is. How did things get this bad?

And yet, I believe this was a good trip. Eye-opening in more ways than one. We experienced a kind of raw and unpolished kind of holiday very very unlike anything we’d usually pick for ourselves. The pictures and the food — essentially what we went for — didn’t disappoint. I put that down to the advantages of getting down and dirty instead of slick and fancy.

One year ago: Everyday is blue Monday

Back to base

There’s something still very exciting about getting in a capsule of metal and hurtling through the skies at gravity defying speeds to be in places much, much faster than you could I’d you chose to go by road.

I’m feeling very grateful for the capacity to do this as often as I do, and for the possibilities it affords. But I’m even more grateful that VC is on board with the idea, after many years of dismissing it as “too much kheti“.

Today began at 5 am again. But only to catch our flight back to Bangalore. We touched base only for enough time to catch lunch and do a batch of laundry before jetting off to watch Captain Marvel. And OMFFGGGGG it was so meta. And so damn good. So posts about the food and the rest of Benaras will have to wait while I pick my brains off the floor and recompose.

Until then, ta.

Three years ago: Pretending to be brave

Slow row

Kedar manjhi dropped a truth bomb within five minutes of us stepping on to his boat.

Watching his seemingly frail 80-year old frame deftly rowing us across the Ganga, I was curious to know how come the whole lot of them haven’t just turned to using motors on their boats. So I asked, and pat came the answer:

Arrey, motor se jaldi ghumne mein kaunsa anand hai! Ab yeh dekho, dheere dheere jaaney mein maza jo hai, thoda idhar dekho thoda udhar dekho, thoda humse batiyao bhi, is ka anand hi alag hai.

Reminding me, inadvertently, that sometimes the joy is in taking the slow route.

One year ago: Come a little bit closer, hear what I have to say
Three years ago: Small joys

This is us. Really.

So I binge watched This Is Us, after all. Catching up on seven weeks of tear-jerking developments in the lives of the Pearsons over two days. I think after that slight dip in the story arc last season, things have picked up again. On the up side, I did not cry. But as always, as always, there were some insights that cut closer to the bone than I imagine this show can.

Fresh off the workshop I did here in Goa, one thing that hit me the hardest was the episode where Randall and Kate recollect a particular day in their lives, and it turns out they both have wildly opposing memories of the same exact event. The recollection of the event spurs them to make an impromptu visit to their childhood home and they’re both in shock and in awe at how the very same event they experienced had left them both seeing it entirely differently, much like the shock and awe I experienced at the diametrically opposing emotions I felt at viewing a set of pictures over a gap of 24 hours.

I felt so much resonance with the episode with Beth and how the strong, internalised messages of not showing emotion, working hard, being “sorted” and moving on has shaped her life. Especially her waking up to this reality in adulthood.

The one that touches on teaching children to deal with “failure”, about how there are no mistakes, just transgressions and diverging options, about how there is always the chance to course correct. Oh I felt that so hard.

The entire show, across generations has this strong, underlying constant thread of how parents only ever do the very best they can. Always. Always. And I have come to feel this so much in my adulthood.

There is also a reiterating theme of how the “path” may feel wrong at a particular point in time, but it always has gifts to offer. A capacity for honesty and grace to change perspectives makes all the difference.

These are things we all experience and have the capacity to experience. This is true for all of us. This is who we are.

This is us. Really.

One year ago: Let’s get one thing straight now
Two years ago: Whisky-shisky

Like coming home

It’s so nice to wake up before my alarm actually goes off and then will myself to stay in bed until the sun has come up enough for it to be light out.

I took myself for an hour-long walk/run around the island this morning. I already feel like it was the best thing I’ve done today. No map, no directions, no familiarity. Just out and about.

I am constantly overwhelmed by the beauty of divine timing and the ways in which everything happens in its own time. I have been feeling so very prepared for this workshop in a way that I know I wasn’t last year. This feels right. This feels like the time has come.

Been thinking a lot about my connection with Goa and how by unknown circumstances and by design, I find myself experiencing some of the really meaningful inflections in my life here. It feels like an old connection but a fresh one too.

***

P. L. A. Y.

F. E. E. L.

B. R. E. A. T. H. E.

One year ago: I hope you’re not lonely without me

Born again, all grown up

I’ve been feeling overwhelmingly content. Like there’s just so much of this good life, I can’t get enough of it, I’m too small to take it all in, it’s abundance spilling over from all around me.

Everything is a bit superlative right now. All the words are excessive and extra. And even then the words to explain how new this all feels aren’t enough.

I feel young, tender, and wide open like a child. I also feel very confident, whole and empowered like an adult. All kinds of grown up.

I feel whole, like stepping into a new door with new agency. New energy.

This is new. This is mine. And I don’t have to fight for it anymore.

So much gratitude for where I am today. For how for the first time in probably my entire life I feel a sense of balance. Of everything being right just as it is. No unquenched yearning, no burning desire, no sense of longing or incompleteness for anything.

I have never known this before and I feel such immense gratitude for having arrived here.

One year ago: We’ve got to hold on to what we’ve got

Super-power

I’ve peeled myself, and I’m only nearly halfway done
I’ve pulled myself out, and I’m still in, waist-deep
I’ve picked myself dry, and I feel anew.
I’ve cracked open the box I’ve only ever held closed shut
Only to find that inside,
It isn’t filled with truths I can touch
Or make mine in an instant.
It feels empty, but I look deeper within it’s drawing darkness
And I find only more questions, leading me on,
I find gratitude I want to reach out and kiss.
A whoop of laughter, a big gulp of life,
A tender lock of loneliness, a feather-touch of grief, still,
An inner steadiness,
And an invisible calm that fits in my palm.
It’s my super-power. What’s yours?

***

Last week was such a good week. Yes, even with the way it started. Even with everything that transpired. There were flowers in my home, night rains, many much-needed coffees, lots of time spent in bed, a significant amount of writing, mostly being alone by myself at home, a day with S, lots of time and space for me, many letters and postcards written, every yoga session fulfilling, a fabulous post-rain Sunday walk that was longer and faster than usual, an excellent and game-changing session at therapy, a certain togetherness that I felt palpably around me. And a deep, deep sense of calm within.

Three years ago: Fail

Safe and sound

Life is suddenly very quiet. Things have quietened down. Within as much as around me. There is an expansiveness about this quiet. It stretches for miles around me, it slows down time, it fills me up and makes me feel safe.

This quiet has a very different quality from peace. And I feel it because much of the inner quiet is seeping into my outer world too, and I can sense how different it is from just being calm or feeling peaceful. It’s in the overwhelming safety in being a small speck in the wide wide-openness of it.

This feels different. And now that it’s here, I feel a sense of old, old familiarity and resonance. Like it is something I had unknowingly lost, and that I have been waiting for, for so long now. And there is the heart-crushing gratitude for it too.

This quiet. This sense of containment. And of steadiness.

One year ago: The heartache lives on inside
Two years ago: Commitment issues
Three years ago: Begin again

Glowing within, growing within

I’m marvelling at how so much of my journey has become about creating space. And how much of that space I am suddenly finding.

Space to feel emotions fully.

Space for honesty.

Space for safe vulnerability.

Space to expand.

Space to explore.

Space to be.

Space to travel.

Space between VC and me.

Even as I journey within, go deeply inwards, almost as if I am closing in on myself, my world is expanding like never before. I have not felt this kind of palpable wide-open expansiveness in my life ever before. This eagerness to be out there (not literally), the hunger for connection, the seeking of experiences; even as I am always preoccupied with what’s going on within.

There is liberation in not having to choose, not having to pick one at the cost of the other, not having to wildly swing between the two, not needing labels. The two co-exist. This too is duality – *grin*

One year ago: What you seek, is seeking you
Two years ago: Busy times, apparently

My heart is a bloom

I’ve held myself back to keep my heart intact and safe from breaking.

But what if my heart needs no protection? And what if a broken heart is not something to be afraid of?

What if the entire purpose of being pushed to that point of fear and confrontation, to reckon with the possibility of loss and loneliness, and sometimes even the reality of it, is only to have my heart broken again, and again and again?

What if the entire purpose of having a beating heart full of life, and every emotion within, is to be given umpteen opportunities to crack it wide open?

What would happen if I were to live my life with love — through my heart first, and then my hands and at the very end, my head?

What if I’ve been afraid of the wrong thing all along? What if the thing that ought to petrify me is a a heart so protected, so safe it’s fortified and closed up?

And what if, what I don’t know at all is that there’s an immense strength in a heart that’s wide open? Exposed, vulnerable and out there for all to see?

What if I’ve got it wrong all along!

Closing my heart up has cost me deeply. It’s caused me distance — not just from people around me but from me and my own authentic self and my needs.

In keeping my heart so safe from being seen, I’ve kept myself and all that needs to be seen away from my own eyes.

Suddenly, I need to be seen. Most of all, with my own eyes and from my own heart.

When I live my life through my head first, I build an overly cognitive, cerebral and intellectualised version of my reality. A reality of verbiage that creates a buzz and chatter in my head and an increasing loss of contact with my heart.

What I want now, is to go deeper and begin with my heart. To ask myself the harder questions.

What are the things that most make my heart close up?

Why is Open such a fearful place to be?

What is it that I really want? What am I really afraid of?

What compels me to do the things I do?

Who am I truly upset at? What am I really hurting about?

When I operate from fear and hurt, am I making space to allow for the things I think I want?

How can I most help myself?

How can I be present to the truest version of my emotional reality?

Who am I, really? What makes my heart sing?

Ironically, asking these questions has in the past, cost me the very same love, support and presence of people that I am deathly afraid of losing to begin with. I was so quick to presume that asking these questions and showing my true self will be too much for them to take. That they may judge me, feel overwhelmed and unable to handle it. Or worse, that they may leave.

But the truth is, that may very well be the case.

And even so, it must be done anyway. But more and more, I’m finding the capacity to encounter fear, to believe in other possibilities. To take a chance. To throw caution to wind. To question the deeply ingrained notion that my heart needs walls and walls of protection. To resist the fear. And to ask, what if, in a wild twist of fate, they stay?

One year ago: We are children that need to be loved

On duality

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

There’s both. They co-exist.

***

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

There’s both. They co-exist.

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

Sparks of joy

Just some things that sparked joy this past weekend.

The beginnings of the jacaranda blooms are here. And the city is bursting into clouds of pink that make my heart sing.

I may have developed a habit. A flowers for no reason habit. Oops.

Cooking.

And a few other things:

Being back in class for two days and understanding duality s little bit more.

All the experiences of being forced to slow down.

That stunning slice of chocolate mousse cake I had on Sunday night.

Yoga. Making it to a walk every other day.

Waking up and surfacing early again. Just like it used to be before I turned into a sleepy head.

Homemade strawberry jam.

New epiphanies and letting them sink in slowly.

A new skin.

Three years ago: So, is this a blogathon?