Learning to let go

I held myself back because I thought that’s the only way to meet heartbreak.

I held myself back because it helped me cope and (feel like I can) move on from the pain.

I held myself back because it made me (feel) big, strong, capable. And grown up.

I held myself back because was honestly just easier to close my heart up and withdraw.

I held myself back because I thought it would help digest and dissolve all the difficult feelings within myself.

I held myself back because I thought I’d be too much for people around me.

And now I’m trying to learn to let this, too, go.

What makes you hold yourself back?

***

Had a severe oh-ffffff moment hearing that Mary Oliver has passed on. And immediately remembered her through one of my favourites. Which, ironically, sums up what all of last week was like for me.

I did think, let’s go about this slowly.

This is important. This should take
some really deep thought. We should take
small thoughtful steps.

But, bless us, we didn’t.

— Mary Oliver

One year ago: Sorry seems to be the hardest word
Two years ago: Work. But also life.
Three years ago: Hope

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Old selves

I’ve been experiencing a whole lot of grief in accepting the part of change where I have to physically let go of so much that I used to be in order to become the person I am growing into. It’s not the cloud it was a few weeks ago, but more like a tap that tends to be left open sometimes. Running dry before it stops.

I’ve been thinking about changing, shedding layers, growing. New selves. And what must happen to old selves when we move into new places, embracing various aspects of ourselves.

In therapy, whenever we get to talking about heartbreak and times in my life when difficult emotions made themselves shown, I somehow land at my teens. It’s like I don’t have conscious memories of unpleasant emotions from a time before that. Either they’re largely absent and/or so deep in my subconscious, or I have pushed them away. But we’ve been pressing on, to go deeper down in time and deeper into my body and heart. To go beyond the obvious, logical point my head keeps taking me to.

And so, I went on a hunt for old pictures of myself today to help aid the remembering. Again, I found it so hard to find pictures of a very young me. There are pictures, they’re just not showing up when I look. Instead I have a ton of pictures from my teens — capturing a whole host of moods and events.

I have the same eyes, I realised. And even in my smile, I feel like I can see through to the hurt I carried within. I can see it in those eyes.

But I also stumbled on this picture. And I got fixated on it for a bit.

This was a picture taken during the peak of heartbreak and sadness during that time in my life. But there was also this distinct memory — a girl who can kickback, literally throw her head back overcome by giddy spells of happiness, holding her belly because of the overwhelming joy that bursts through. A girl who loves the sea and takes off to go there every chance she gets.

There is also this girl.

What a girl she used to be. What a girl she can be. What a girl she is.

One year ago: Afterglow
Three years ago: End of day

Winter joys

So, yeah I missed the best, coldest winter days because they passed when I was in Goa. The first week of January saw lows of 9-10 degrees, I hear. I was so jealous.

Thankfully 12-13 degree lows we’re having no are pretty cold. My home and Amma’s too, while well-lit don’t receive too much direct sunshine. There’s plenty light but no spots in the sun to sit in. So I’ve been in full sleeves clothes and feeling my fingers go cold and refusing to co-operate when I try and type.

JOY!

I may be revelling in the dregs of winter a little more dramatically than I need to, with:

The ten minutes of snuggling in my blanket, that I allow myself after getting out only to turn the fan off

Resuming yoga and breaking into a sweat even when it’s 13 degrees out

That scalding hot bath after, putting on two layers of clothes when my body is still warm, and trapping that post-bath warmth within

Sharp, long sunny winter morning shadows

Shawls, stoles and sweaters in the day

Socks in bed at night

Hot sugarless coffee with breakfast, after lunch, at teatime and sometimes after dinner

Soaking my feet in a bucket of salty water as I’m sitting by a candle writing my journal for the day, right before bed

Lohri, 2019

One year ago: You’ve been on my mind

The morning after

Like the familiar tinge of regret and guilt after a night of indulgence and debauchery — a feeling I remember so keenly from my twenties — the start of a new year brings on the cliche stock-taking and performance-driven evaluation.

It was fitting in my 20s, and maybe even kind of cute because it came with copious amounts cluelessness about the self. This angst surrounding finding my purpose was at its highest then. I am much better now, and I’ll take a bi-annual bout of angst over that constant hankering for “something more”, any day. And even so, despite all the inroads I’ve made with self-discovery, despite replacing much of the cluelessness with a rather solid sense of self-assuredness, I go down this rabbit hole at least once a year. Transgressing, and succumbing to measuring my worth, my value, by an appropriated sense of success. Borrowed ideas from things I see, things and people I am influenced by, notions of what I should be (doing).

Almost like a sign, just as I was pondering this and writing this post, D has just sent me a video of Olive joyfully exploring an empty Amazon carton, snout stuck deep in a hole she’s ripped into it, with singleminded focus. The epitome of just being. With no feigned sense of higher purpose.

I yearn to get to a level of pure and simple being. The goal is to successfully rewire my brain to really hold myself to measuring success in happiness levels alone. I watched the video five times and laughed out loud each time she looks up for a split second, lifting her eyes off the box, not a hint of embarrassment or shyness, before she goes right back to it.

I hope that I get to a point where I can be that happy, in that most basic, simple, joyfully unencumbered way.

One year ago: Video killed the radio star

Solo Saturday night

Finding joy in my own light and the opening up of new narratives and possibilities.

And so it’s done

Came to Goa feeling quite like this three weeks ago.

Bright, spiffy and sunshine-y. Sparkly. Ready to cool off.

Njoyed lyk nething. And then some.

This has been one of the most memorable few weeks here in a long, long time, for VC and I. We set up a new home. We reconnected with old friends, in our old stomping grounds. We cooked together, laughed together, watched a lot of TV and movies together. And I developed an irrational interest in watching him play PUBG — another thing we did together. We barbecued for two to bring in the new year. We painted furniture. We ran away to stay at the beach for a weekend. We ate out so much.

Embarked on a new year. New life.

Finally, this party’s over. And it’s time to go home.

One year ago: Happier: perpetual WIP
Two years ago: A hazy shade of winter

Day 360: I just want the realness

A day that begins like this can only go well. And today was that kind of day.

One year ago: Warm sound

Day 359: Lay down all thoughts

I’m taking the downtime to really put it all down. Rest my mind a little. I’m not succeeding all the time. But I’m still trying.

This year was filled with more new experiences than any other in a while. And yet, this year I came face to face with loneliness. I don’t mean that as a lack of people. I mean loneliness like this cloud that chases me around, always looming like a darkness waiting to descend. I mean really facing and acknowledging the truth about this pattern of loneliness that’s like a theme that threads through all the stories in my life.

This year, I gained weight again. And despite all the positivity I’ve felt about my body, there have been days when it has bothered me. When I felt fat and ugly.

This year, despite everything I’ve realised about boundaries and saying no, I said maybe instead of a clean no, more times than I care to admit.

This year, I worked on myself more than I ever have. In fact I’ve worked so hard at it, I cringe at the word work, despite all the good that came from it. I need a new word.

Despite all that work, right at the end of the year I’ve woken up to some pretty groundbreaking realisations about myself. The kind of realisations that have left me on very shaky ground the last few days.

I’m more self-sacrificing than I’d like to believe.

I’m not as comfortable with vulnerability as I thought I could be. In fact I’m so quick to build an armour of defence, when I’m feeling vulnerable.

I’m not as good at forgiving myself as I am at forgiving others.

I suppose the good thing is despite realising all of this I’m mostly left feeling and thinking, so effing what? 

The one thing I know for certain is I’m more open to change and growth than I have ever been before. I have that. And so, tomorrow is a new day, next week is a new year. I’ll live, I’ll try again. I’ll keep trying and I’ll grow.

One year ago: Morning song

Day 354: Find my direction magnetically

It’s fitting to be in Goa as I head to the end of the year, because everything always slows down for me when I’m here. Even in the midst of ongoing house work, despite the hectic journey here and now entertaining visiting friends and the like, there is a slowness about being in Goa that I have come to appreciate and crave.

I spent a fair bit of time just writing last week. Not working. Not blogging. Just writing. Pondering, imagining, living words about what I feel is to come in 2019 and broadly which way I’d like to move. Very organically, subtly, I’m being led towards a path I didn’t know was just around the corner, even just one month ago.

Some weeks ago, I heard someone say:

Where focus goes, energy flows.

and I see now, what it means to “put my energy” into that which I want. I always imagined that state to be one of toil and hardwork. But it looks nothing like it from where I’m at today.

I always ask for my new year to be “well done” but this year, I feel I’d like 2019 to be only medium-sized rare. Tender, juicy, soft at the heart. With room to build all kinds of flavour.

Two years ago: Day 354: Old and mighty

Day 353: We got soul food in the house

Within mere hours of reaching Goa, I came down with a massive cold. A combination of the drastic spike in temperatures between Bangalore and here, and spending upwards of an hour stuck in a non air-conditioned bus and then plane, breathing a cocktail of germs while we got through the inordinate delay in taking off from Bangalore international airport.

The dust from the carpentry work at home hasn’t helped. It’s day 3, and today, finally it settled. After a chilled beer, beef fry and a bigass mackerel fry.

Day 350: Wait, can you turn around?

Things I want to tell 18 year old me, about loneliness.

There is power in giving words to uncomfortable, hitherto unnamed feelings. It’s liberating as hell. When you find the word, the moment when you will stumble on it and that very first utterance of the unthinkable word, in relation to yourself, will feel all kinds of freeing. But before all of that, there will be denial, avoidance, inevitable tears and an internal shitfest of a degree directly proportionate to the level of honesty you currently have with yourself. So work on that instead. The uncomfortable feelings and the appropriate words will always be there, make yourself ready to accept them.

One year ago: Clarity
Two years ago: Day 350: Ohhaii again, Bangalore

Day 348: I got this feeling inside my bones

Remember this letter I wrote to myself on my birthday? I had decided back then that I am going to write to letters of the kind every year — one on my birthday, and another on New Years Eve. I made an early start to the year-end letter yesterday, thanks to finding myself at a cafe with a sudden blinding realisation that I just had to jot down for posterity. And because I had my letter pad in my bag, I began.

I realised that I have been so focused on healing and feeling whole and positive this year that I have unconsciously not allowed the pretty much constant feeling of loneliness that underpins my life to really come to the fore. There’s many aspects to why this has panned out so.

One, the extremely personal nature of self exploration itself cannot be ignored. But I have really been wondering if it needs to be strictly this way or that. I find myself seeking and longing for connection even more than before these days, and so I wonder, can I not have the intensely private journey on my own alongside the thriving and solid relationships that I also want? Why does one have to come at the cost of another?

Perhaps that is something that needs reflection.

Second, I have at some level become slightly mistrustful of people. Maybe it’s past experience, maybe it’s a deep-seated fear, maybe it’s even something trans-generational, but I have never really thought of myself as a mistrustful person. Until today. And maybe I’m not, on the surface of it. But, deep down, even with my closest relationships, the ghosts of past experience are always lingering, making me keep everything at just that safe distance. So even as I make headway with new levels of vulnerability in these relationships, I’m always prepared for the eventuality that when it really counts I’m probably going to be alone again. And in that way I invariably manifest it in some manner.

I know this because that every time that I have shared a relationship low point on here this year, it has come from that feeling of loneliness surfacing. Most times that I have acknowledged the goodness of people around, it has come off the back of feeling that loneliness. I have just made a very good habit of gratitude that makes me switch gears and feel grateful quickly, more often.

The focus of writing this blog every day has been to record with honesty the ups and downs of this journey. But combined with my typical need to reach the parts where I’m feeling the good stuff and everything works out, I’ve perhaps stayed overly focused on the good, merely throwing in vague references of the shitty parts that have surfaced in almost equal measure. There is also the fact that my blog is read by many, many people very close to me, and partly because I am still deeply afraid of being judged and partly because I sometimes don’t want to face the questions and deal with the feelings anymore than I already am on my own, I tend to project a picture of being largely a-okay. This has kept me from going into gory details of just how deeply I have sometimes felt the ugly bits. I’ve resorted to talking in vague circles a lot, only referencing the unpleasant bits in passing, when what I intended to do was really sit with it all, equally. This is not to say I haven’t done that at all but, a whole year of writing this way has meant I might have some times papered over a lot of the subtleties that have come up and that needed to be acknowledged deeply. I might have glossed over some of the loneliness, the regret and the grief more than I was willing to dwell on it.

And so in it went, in full technicolour detail, into the letter I will open 5 years from now, by which time I hope to have forgotten the intricate details of this day in this time. I hope that when I open it then, it is an apt vehicle to travel back in time and remember a day like today when I felt soft and almost pliable, yawning open like a newly bloomed flower that has woken up to a new sun, kissed by gossamer morning dew — a picture of freshness, a leaning towards new possibilities.

Two years ago: Day 348: The last of the books for 2016

Day 341: Turning all the night time into the day

I’m closing in on one month since I came back to Bangalore. Life on my own, in the everyday-living of it, is largely the same. The bits that are different are small, and I don’t notice them until they creep up in seemingly insignificant moments. Like nobody to fetch me that forgotten bottle of water once I’m already under the covers, for example. Mostly it’s a chill, easy existence, this.

I didn’t know it then, but the lightness of being on my own has been precious. And by being, I mean just being. The parts where I’m not doing anything. As someone who has never lived alone before, this feels like coming home to myself.

Today though, I dodged work and went to catch a morning movie followed by lunch which featured a spot of daytime drinking, some wandering about and roaming without a plan, I realised what I didn’t even know I have missed the most, and what I am loving now — this meandering, plan-less, easy-going being. And how much of it seeps in beyond just doing things, into the essence that is me.

Many times, several times a week in fact, I do feel a touch of guilt for having, living and enjoying this privilege. It is a constant effort to fight down that guilt and come back to a place of being present to it and translate those feelings of guilt to gratitude. And so today, wandering about, I had a moment where I felt that pure unadulterated joy of gratitude. The kind that made me feel small in the face of the enormity that is the possibilities that this openness presents. I felt young and free. I felt like a traveller in my own city. Open, eager, curious and easily happy.

Two years ago: Day 341: Grasp

Day 340: Now I’m free falling

I’ve been feeling drawn to cooking again. And I’ve been feeling equal enthusiasm to make quick dinners of things as simple as eggs and toast as I am for the the slow, laborious, long-drawn out way that the food I grew up eating is made. I realise that primarily, it is the act of using my own hands and brain to create a meal that gives me that kick of dopamine. It happened last week when I made a large pot of pulao, some faux cholle and a mashed pumpkin sabji. And it happened again today when I cooked this meal for A who came over to spend the day.

What is it about this kind of food that takes one right back to ones roots, that spells home? Today it was the wispy fragrance of the just-boiled beans from a freshly released pressure cooker, or the crackling pungent hit of coriander seeds and crinkly red chillies sauteed in coconut oil, or the weedy robust and palpably green smell of freshly barely wilted dill spun in the mixie with fresh spices and coconut, that kindled a warm fullness in my Heart.

A full plate of this sort makes me indescribably happy. And to make and share this with friends — complete with granularity, texture and a transference of the tedium that this sort of meal requires — is extra special. 

There is something about labouring over the food that sustains me. An experience I take for granted on a daily basis when I casually waltz over to Amma’s and eat at her table, and of her giving. Perhaps it’s the slowness, or the act of proceeding in a sequence of actions, or just the sheer meeting point of all the senses, that taps right into that deep, primal dormant fire that is stoked every time a good meal is in the works, and immediately invokes a feeling of connection to The Source. Of belonging. Of roots. Of home. 

Two years ago: Day 340: Happy high

Day 339: Trying to get high enough to cut the clouds

Today was a good day.

For some reason, I woke up extra early. This hasn’t happened in a while. The nippy mornings we’ve been having have meant that even on the off chance that I wake up early, I linger around under my blanket much longer after. Getting out of bed is a task in this weather. But today was different. I actually woke up, managed to finish some work ahead of time today. I also did this reading for D, which uncannily seemed as much a reading for me, as it might be for anyone else who stumbled on it today. Uncanny because of the pondering about friendship that I have been doing, which has been pointing me in this general direction — of surrender and acceptance once again. Uncanny because last night S and I met for dinner and our conversations stirred up these feelings again.

I went across town to meet S for breakfast (and run a few pending errands) and here too, our conversations brought home this fact again. Of accepting changing dynamics, keeping my heart open to the inevitable evolution and to drop expectations and embrace things as they are. Unconditionally.

Breakfast was an elaborate affair that started off on a breakfast-y note, but since we lingered around chatting, while I waited for the person I was meant to meet to arrive, and it was past noon we indulged in some chaat too. I came home in time to catch an afternoon nap and some work, before I headed off veggie shopping to prep for lunch with A tomorrow.

I came home and suddenly felt a cooking frenzy descend. I stuck some tomatoes laced with garlic, basil, salt and pepper in the oven to roast. I set a big pot of vegetable stock on. And I set off cooking tomorrow lunch with guidance and help from Amma who came over for dinner. We made one of my favourite gravies, but with cow-peas (teehee) since they’re in season and because I love them so much. And a cold dill and sour yogurt coconut curry. Then I also made a few Vietnamese cold rolls with fresh carrots, cucumber, spring onions, mint and pan fried peanut-chilli tofu for us to eat with the soup. By then the roasted tomatoes were set to cool, and blended with the vegetable stock to make soup.

I love a day like this that is full, productive and fun. A day that has equal parts work and play, and leaves me feeling content with such seemingly simple pleasures.

I’m grateful, and thankful, today. For the winter chill in the air. For breakfast with S. For her friendship and life-affirming conversations she brings. For serendipitous messages from the universe. For the cabs and autos in Bangalore. For VC, who gets me. For my CA who takes the load of paperwork off our backs. For flexible work hours that allow for the rare nap. For fresh vegetables and the sporadic willingness to cook. For amma and her company. For keeping me well-fed, one way or the other, wether in her kitchen or mine. For light, satisfying dinners. For experiencing living alone and to my own rhythms alone. For turning in at 9 pm.