Taking myself to new places my mind doesn’t know are good for me

I had two weeks to write out my assignment. And yet, from the moment I found out that we had to write this essay, to the point of finishing it up (only just finished an hour ago — it’s due today) I have been gripped by an underlying, quiet panic. During this time, I did no real writing. And as a result, only began working at the very last minute.

I have become aware that there is a latent “paranoid student” inside of me. In fact, it was over the course of the three days of class last month, that I became aware that this side almost triggered by the rigour of a classroom setting with just the slightest intensity and demands of learning that I am experiencing with Level 2. This side that immediately cues my brain to perform, outperform and excel, when met with an atmosphere of competitiveness – something that has always made me very uncomfortable – is the side of me that also knows only one way to react. That is to shy away from doing anything at all. It brings on a higher-than-normal level of fear, crippling parts of me that are actually perfectly good to perform, rendering me almost paralysed.

I have felt this in the last couple of days before sitting down to write that essay – my brain knows what I want to say, but the overwhelm of having to say it all, the self-made pressure to do that exceedingly well, and the panic of whether I will get it right has made me immobile for the last few days. Until, I just made space for it, and broke down my expectations of myself.

This side of me has been hidden for so many years since I have made protecting it a default way of being. That it surfaced so quickly and easily in class made me see that it’s time for it to be witnessed and given a place. In the past I have made many easy, conveniently less-demanding choices in my profession, to protect this side that feels pressured or fearful of being in the spotlight that comes from performance and evaluation of it. Even though I have learned and loved Indian classical music and dance for over a fifteen years when I was growing up, it was the fear (absolute terror!) of performance that made me move away from it, and eventually give it up altogether. At my very last job, before I quit full time work completely 7 years ago, to choose working from home (which I now see, among other things, as an act of protecting myself from the competitive demands of my professional space) to avoid getting out of my comfort zone and doing things like making presentations and meeting clients. I was happier being the worker bee, and very willing to slog many hours in the background, while someone else took the lead.

In some ways, I have been feeling for a while, that the call and the draw to pursue Level 2, despite the underlying fear of what it will require of me, has also been a call from within to see what emerges and what is possible for me, when I stretch myself out of this protective, comfort zone.

Safe as it has been, the same space has started to feel limiting for some time now. It’s a strange thing to explain – even as I feel drawn to come out, there are traces of resistance that urge me to pull back and stay within. I feel both energies, simultaneously, yet pushing through seems to take less effort these days.

It’s like the need to stay safe, is making way for the side of me that wants to be seen, and wants to claim a new place.

It’s interesting to me that I am suddenly seeing it in this way – as something that is emerging that needs a place, without judgement or adding value, without having to run away from it, or lock it away. It feels like an outcome of the many months of personal therapy that is making me just that little bit more comfortable with all aspects of myself — those that are loud and visible on the outside, as well as the softer, hidden sides — with every passing day.

I understand very slightly now what it is to move from the level of the personality to get in touch with one’s soul. It’s probably in an experience like this — when I decided to pursue Level 2 — that felt like a call from within that pushed through all the signals of fear and need for protection that my mind was throwing at me.

Sometimes my mind gets stuck in a place, based on previous (sometimes traumatic) experiences that brought out fear or panic, for example, but I’m becoming aware of how the rest of me — my soul, specifically — is ready to move on from there. I realised today, that the slow, and honestly never-ending, work of meeting myself has brought me just that much closer to my soul and I have in some fleeting moments felt a sense of willingness to listen and the capacity to move to where it is taking me.

It is sometimes to places my mind doesn’t know can be refreshingly new and good for me.

One year ago: You ain’t been blue, till you had that mood indigo
Three years ago: Pedalling again

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Stillness

It’s so great to be in a learning environment again. While I’ve really enjoyed and felt the need for the time of processing in the months between level 1 ending and level 2 beginning, I have also missed staying in touch with the work and being in an environment that nurtures and makes me feel like a learner. Just two days of it and I’m thrilled, my heart brimming over with joy.

Last year, there was a decided pause I had made in my life to make space for this learning. This year it feels like I’m going with the flow. To be in a classroom again, without a plan, without a focused specific outcome and without any inkling where this learning is going to take me is like flirting with the unknown at another degree. To go with the flow even as I remind myself to go one step at a time, one day at a time is exciting. To lean in and make myself available to any way in which this journey may unfold and take me is feeling as much a part of the learning process as the course itself.

I’m glad to be able to give myself this opportunity and to be in this process minus the regular anxiety about performance and outcomes that I am known to experience, is refreshingly new. And it feels like a shift within me.

When I began this journey, this exploration of learning last year, it felt like a sabbatical. There was a concious putting off and away of all other preoccupations. It has been interesting to see how much more has peeled away in the months after, how much more continues to strip away even to this day, and how I am being guided to really focus on this without much effort on my part. Without a plan. Without any preconceived ideas. Without expectations.

My life looks nothing like it did one year ago. It looks nothing like I thought it would either. And I have been having Ong a strong feeling that I have to let go of the very idea of what “my life should look like”. Earlier this month when I had thoughts about work and which way to go, there were vestiges of a past life creeping in, which though I invited and explored, didn’t stay very long. So I’ve been feeling for a while now, with a growing sense of confidence every day, that perhaps this isn’t a sabbatical anymore, and just a new kind of life itself. The end of one way of living and making space for an entirely new one.

This exploratory, flowy way of living through my days has a special kind of slowness that now sits beneath my skin. I find myself reluctant to have days that are packed full of activity or that require me to run helter skelter. I am.unabke to function in that way. There is a slowness that has pervaded my very being, shifted and rewired some very fundamental building block in me.

It’s like an internal clock resetting, a rewiring of my system. And maybe I need to stop looking at this as a temporary set up, or a stop gap, but just a very new way of life itself.

One year ago: One day, we’ll be old and think of all the stories we could have told
Three years ago: Thoughts on a girly holiday

Meeting myself

It has taken me so long to really understand:

  1. And articulate to myself, what I have been after ever since I began my self-work
  2. My own process and how it can be no other way except the way my mind and heart can and will go
  3. How slow and expansive my process actually is and how much time and space I need to still learn to give myself
  4. The difference between being troubled by my thoughts and instead witnessing them from a place of compassion and acceptance
  5. That this is so much more about the process and the journey, than it is about the outcome

One year ago: Serendipity, do you believe that this makes sense?

Here you are

It may not always be apparent on the outside — the silent, slowly shifting way in which the soul moves. Every little expansion, stretching my skin, elongating my bones and making me porous and light, open and free. Only I know the work that it has taken and continues to take — the quiet, private work of meeting myself in a way that I have never known before. The energy it consumes and the emotions it brings to the surface. To make space for it all even as I hold it within is a process — almost dance-like — that I am only just getting familiar with.

It may not always immediately make sense. Especially to my rational, habituated mind that still slips back into old ways. And even more so, it may make absolutely no sense to the outside world.

The ask of this ever growing soul, constantly morphing, WIP being, is to stay tuned-in, as far as possible. To the voice that is emerging, growing from strength to strength, as well as the opposing voices also within me that are constantly trying to drown the other out. My job is to give both space so they may meet, converse, mingle and come to a new kind of settled alignment. To make space for this process, to slow down if I must, rather than fill myself with the next activity to numb, deny, ignore or avoid everything that is emerging at this time, or to rush ahead and lose sight of the subtleties that are gentle and small when they show up.

This is the slow and sometimes painful, also hopelessly lonely, grief inducing, and simultaneously exhilarating and invigorating process of being in-bloom.

This is where I am.

One year ago: I wrote a letter to my love
Three years ago: May

We back

Today, I was so happy to see I’m almost exactly at the same running pace I was at when I left two months ago. Finished an easy 4.8kms in 35 minutes today, and really felt a world of improvement in my strength and conditioning lifting weights today, compared to two months ago. Was so good to feel my legs work better than they did then. That I haven’t shaved off too much stamina and endurance even though I’ve only been working out at home while I was away gave me a real kick. In fact, if anything I’m doing better, because I finished today’s run with ease and zero cramps or huffing and puffing. I think all the clean eating and the consistent HIIT focus has helped fast twitch muscles considerably. I’ll go the distance and get there in time, my goal for now is to finish 5k in sub-30 minutes.

There’s quite nothing like tracking progress of this sort, when I’ve had a break and returned to an old activity, expecting to be a little rusty but I find the difference is pleasant, and so visible.

I’ve missed the gym so much. I’ve missed the treadmill, the weights, my new sneakers that I left behind in favour of an old worn-in pair to take to Goa. I’m so ready to begin lifting heavy again, because that’s what’s calling out to me now.

One year ago: Days when I couldn’t live my life without you
Three years ago: Waiting (the film)

Small sadness and everyday grief

I woke up to terrible news today. My maid, who I had e trusted with a rather simple task of watering my plants for just four days till VC was back, had failed spectacularly at the task. I couldn’t have made the job easier even if I tried, seeing as how I’d already moved everything into the shade, separating the plants that need daily watering from those that do better with less. And yet she couldn’t have done a better job of killing them even if she’d tried.

VC showed me the damage on a video call as he tried to salvage what he could, watering everything in a hurry. And as I watched the extent of damage a surge of grief rose within me and made its way out in a heaving big cry. Loud wails and big tears, snot and all, that was the start to my day.

They’re just plants, I know. But for some reason this morning seeing what had become of them just days after I’d left felt too much to take. I felt disappointed at my maids lack of care, and I felt guilty for having left them to her to begin with. I felt it all and I felt very, very sad. The irreversible finality of death, hitting me harder than it maybe should have? I don’t know. Because I’m also not sure if I was just crying about the plants, because I know the whole act of gardening and the attachment I’ve felt to this little garden I grew from a handful of pots has been something more, to begin with.

I went about my day after, but every now and then the feeling of sadness has been welling up in me. In empty moments, especially on a lonely cab ride into town, when the mind is empty and traverses so much, I teared up again.

I talk so much of everyday grief, and yet every single time I experience it, it feels fresh and new. I wonder how much if this is actually pent up grief from elsewhere and from another time perhaps many other times from long, long ago that I happened to tap into in an instant today. Small deaths, little defeats, insignificant hiccups all rushing out to find a way out to be seen and heard.

Anyhow, hitting a favourite happy spot this evening for a coffee and some conversation. But lingering at the back of my mind is surprise at the sudden outpouring of tears and sadness, and utter perplexity at where it may have come from.

One year ago: It don’t look like I’ll ever stop my wandering
Three years ago: Ten

An opportunity and a gift

Yesterday, I had an opportunity — a gift, a mirror held up right in my face — to reflect on my tendency to judge people too quickly.

Both ways — when I formulate a hasty negative opinion or perception, and positively when I just accept someone as a wholesome package without applying my own discernment — there is scope for slowing down and taking my time to decide how I feel about people. This time will give me the chance to remember that everyone has a story, everyone comes with their share of baggage and idiosyncrasies or they’re just dealing with stuff that makes them sometimes behave a certain way. This time will give me the opportunity to really discern for myself which side the scales stack up and how I truly feel about someone, outside of what the right way or popular way to feel is.

In general I’ve been feeling that the measures for a good person can’t be absolute. Goodness or kindness is not a state that we can attain and arrive and and remain in forever. Goodness is a scale, there can be innumerable parameters and we fare differently on each one of them, at different times, depending on the circumstances.

Being good is not a fixed, set in stone state. Far too often, I am quick to accept that if someone is good to me, they’re probably never going to disappoint me. And far too often, I am proven wrong. The opposite happens too. When someone who I have judged as intolerable and had an averse reaction to, suddenly surprises me with an act of goodness that touches me.

What happened yesterday was an invitation to re-examine my definitions and to allow for some play in the blurred lines between “good and bad”. There is an inherent duality in all of us. Nothing is so water-tight and absolute and more and more I feel I must trust my individual intuition before over the popular opinion about people, and go with what I feel rather than what I think. More and more I feel I need to move away from the limiting understanding that being a good person is a a fixed, unchangeable characteristic and move into seeing being good as a practice. A way of life that is is exhibited more times than not.

I’d be best to view being good as a work in progress, an ongoing practice. And the key elements of this practice to me are, acts that display an active engaging with honesty, consistency in vulnerability and transparency and an openness for compassion towards each of our inherent imperfections. This seems like a good base form which to operate from, for now. This gives me so much scope to grow, to understand and see myself a little deeper everyday, even as I am engaging and learning from interactions around me. Because really, if I have accepted that I am a constant work in progress that allows me to slip up and learn from it, surely it can’t be too hard to grant others the same benefit too?

In all of this, I can’t help but notice that increasingly, I am leaning on my own individual sensibilities, rather than going with the crowd (even if the crowd is just 1 other person). That used to be my pattern, and it said so much about my attitudes and tendencies towards belonging. This, on the other hand feels grounded, yet weightless (in a free-from-the-weight-of-expectation kind of way) and I’m taking note as to what this might mean about my evolving sense of belonging in and to myself first, this quiet but strong side that’s emerging, and the promise of a start of something new.

One year ago: We keep this love in a photograph

Happy bytes

The instructor on my workout video has this refrain whenever the workout hits a particularly tough or burn-inducing spot. Right when I’m wincing at that last rep, about to give up, he’ll go Just go to your happy place! and two months ago when I began using this channel, I’d chuckle, roll my eyes and have a giggle at his morbid sense of humor.

This morning though, right in the middle of all that burn, something like 45 burpees in, when he said Just go to your happy place! I suddenly got it. Even in that eye-popping, muscle-stretching moment, while I was melting nose-first, when I could have been seeing white spots in front of my eyes, I had such an endorphin rush I burst out laughing. In a truly happy, full-body guffaw of sorts.

I’m so happy that I’m back in this old familiar zone, even though I feel like a whole new me this time around. Where the exercise isn’t a pain or a chore (like it had become through 2017-18), and is in fact a joy-inducing, happy-making activity I am willing to put other things aside for, dedicating myself mind, body and soul.

***

Speaking of happy places, it’s been five years since P and I made the Goa Happy video, our little contribution to the literally thousands of local spin-offs to the Pharrell Williams song that took the internet by storm in 2014. So I revisited it!

If you watch closely you might even spot me hahahaha.

***

I spent the weekend with D, because VC went away on a bike trip with work buddies to Gokarna. I think after food, therapy and tarot, the thing we’ve started to discuss the most is plants and gardening, and as usual (as always — I realised I’ve always left her home with plants or cuttings or both, on this trip) I came home with so many new things to pot.

I came away earlier than I usually would have. Ostensibly to catch a Sunday nap, wake up in my own home so I have the mojo to cook and settle back in, rather than be washed out by Sunday evening blues as it tends to happen to me.

What followed though made me want to stop and think, What Sunday blues?! because I woke up from my nap and went straight out into the terrace. I planted a whole bunch of fresh cuttings of plants I wanted that she’d painstakingly made for me, I repotted some plants that have grown too big for their pots over these few weeks, and I did sundry round of tending to everything, picking out dead leaves, watering, loosening soil and the works. All this while listening to Coke Studio that has made a timely pre-monsoon comeback in my life, right on cue.

The evening light was beautiful, and we’ve had a warmer couple of days so there was the residual heat of the day, as the sun is getting the full effect of the last of it’s rays in. My terrace was strewn with picked weeds, dry leaves, piles and trails of soil from all the dirty work, pools of water, muddy footprints. The sun set in a glorious pink yesterday, and when I looked up I was a sweaty, muddy mess. Such a joy. Such bliss. I didn’t realise I had kept going long after the sun had set, until VC walked in and laughed at how engrossed I had been.

***

Last weekend I cooked pork ribs for the very first time on my own. Following no recipe, winging it as I went along, throwing things in intuitively. And it turned out beyond delicious, if I can say so myself.

This has been happening a lot of late. The draw to go experiment, without too much planning, going in and going all the way. Some days are for the simply comforting givens like khichdi, and some days we pull out all stops and go the whole hog.

Either way, the kitchen has been a huge source of comfort for me these past few weeks. I’ve said so much about the peace and quiet and solitude staying in Goa offers me. And as much as I have enjoyed it, last week I realised I am ready for the hustle of my Bangalore life again. But this kitchen joy, the steadiness and joy that it brings to me, is something I want to try and keep going in Bangalore. Even if I am cooking in Amma’s kitchen, or even if I’m cooking for just myself at home.

Today, I’ve just cooked a marinara sauce, fortified with minced carrots and smashed stove-top charred red and yellow peppers, with smoky cumin and coriander and lots of red chilli flakes. I tossed up some frozen meatballs in some olive oil, and I will put them together right before we eat, mopping it up with millets and a salad.

***

After the bursts of those quintessential curly edged long green leaved mango trees, delicate frangipani and bougainvillea, we’re at that time of year where the gulmohar trees have come alive in all their glory. Literally everywhere, there are these clouds of fiery red, leaf-less trees, curvy and orb like when seen from a distance, eye-hurting flaming red when seen up close.

***

I’m all set to go back to Bangalore. I feel like this time of rest has been amazing, and well-timed and I am so refreshed and ready to get back to regular programming. I’m excited at the blank canvas sense I have for the next few weeks, and I feel certain I need to be in Bangalore as it unfurls.

Looking back, I’m so happy for the unexpected twist that brought me to Goa earlier than time, and kind of set a very different tone to the way the last two months have gone. It was unpleasant and challenging at the time and induced a fair bit of anger, frustration and resistance within me at the time, but as usual, as always, I can only connect the dots looking back.

It’s abundantly clear to me that there was no escaping this time, or the gifts it has brought, foremost amongst which has been the quality of the time VC and I have had together this trip. It’s been different. There was a quiet, reassuring and steady quality to it that hasn’t been there for a while — probably ever since we moved to Bangalore two years ago — that I didn’t know was missing until we somehow have regained it while not even looking for it. And so while I am looking forward to going back to Bangalore, this time around I am already feeling the pangs of missing him that I am anticipating will follow.

This is new. I have been so busy and involved with myself for the last six months, there hasn’t been a lot of room to sit and miss him really. I’ve been having a really good time in Bangalore, too much to let the usual longing dampen it. So this is going to be interesting.

Three years ago: Malleswaram market things

Better

Some days are heavy. Especially after particularly investigative therapy sessions that come like a bolt out of the blue, squashing my optimism about maybe finally being able to go longer without a session, reminding me how much I need to heal still.

Monday was that kind of day and it took till yesterday evening to lift. When it did, in that instant, I knew something had flipped internally. I woke up from lying in bed yesterday afternoon, and from the moment my feet landed on the ground and the way I stood up, I felt something had changed. The cloud had flown by, the heaviness had done it’s time and left the building.

A lot happens in that time of heaviness. A time I have now learned to just let be. I don’t fight it as much these days. I am quick to recognise it to begin with, no longer mistaking it for random blues or anything else. And I give in and go with the flow. Allowing myself slow days if that’s what I feel is the need of the hour. Actually allowing myself whatever else is needed in that time. On Monday night it as chocolate chunk cookies, eaten without sharing, in bed while watching Mission Impossible.

It’s been six weeks of slow days for me here in Goa. And yesterday I began to feel the time for that too has passed. It has played it’s part, served a much needed purpose and yesterday as the cloud lifted, I felt a distinct feeling that it is time to move. What felt serendipitous and right for the most part, and gave me so much needed time (and boredom, even) now feels done.

In the sprightly energy I suddenly felt there was just one thing I wanted and needed to do. Cook myself a hearty, wholesome meal. Not eliminating the carbs, not eliminating the dairy, not eliminating the fried crispies.

So khichdi it was. This was my heavy days ending. Right here in a single bowl. Eaten all alone, fresh out of the cooker at 6.30 pm even before the sun had set.

Some days are heavy. Then there are some days that feel like simple perfection. And the difference between the two is sometimes just a bowl of humble khichdi.

One year ago: Waiting here to find the sign that I should take it slow
Three years ago: Who do I think I am?

Quiet

Feeling all kinds of quiet today. It’s been that kind of day. Quiet. Listless. And a bit heavy. I have opened and closed this window three times over the course of the day. Wanting to write, because there is much that can be said, probably needs to find a way out too; but also wanting to listen to the moment, which right now is protesting writing, to remain listless, bored, even.

I want instead to just be. Be quiet. And let this feeling stew.

Leaning on David Whyte for post completion here, because this is how I feel today. I had a long and heavy therapy session today, and ended it with a sense of having arrived, which brings with it a heaviness of relief mixed with thankfulness and sheer collapse.

The Well, David Whyte

Be thankful now for having arrived,
for the sense of
having drunk
from a well,
for remembering the long drought that preceded your arrival
and the years walking in a desert landscape of surfaces looking for a spring hidden from you for so long that even wanting to find it now had gone from your mind
until you only
remembered the hard pilgrimage that brought you here,
the thirst that caught in your throat; the taste of a world just-missed
and the dry throat that came from a love you remembered but had never fully wanted for yourself, until finally, after years making the long trek to get here it was as if your whole achievement had become nothing but thirst itself.

But the miracle had come simply from allowing yourself to know that you had found it,
that this time
someone walking out into the clear air from far inside you
had decided not to walk past it anymore;
the miracle had come at the roadside in the kneeling to drink
and the prayer you said,
and the tears you shed
and the memory
you held
and the realization
that in this silence
you no longer had to keep your eyes and ears averted from the
place that
could save you,
that you had been given
the strength to let go
of the thirsty dust laden
pilgrim-self
that brought you here,
walking with her
bent back, her bowed head and her careful explanations.

No, the miracle had already happened
when you stood up,
shook off the dust
and walked along the road from the well,
out of the desert toward the mountain,
as if already home again, as if you
deserved what you loved all along,
as if just remembering the taste of that clear cool spring could lift up your face
and set you free.

One year ago: Please don’t go
Three years ago: Things about VC that I never want to forget #16

Summer

This year, the first in many many years now, doesn’t feel like it is zipping by me while I clamber to catch up with it. I’m aware May may have felt like it came too soon, wasn’t it just December last week, but this year I feel like I have experienced  what a slowly ripening mango waiting in my fruit bowl. Sturdy, bright, ripe, and yet gently giving in to age and time. There is life in that passing, and it shows in how it lives even as it passes.

Of late, life has the quality of that of light suspended through the gap in my curtains on a bight summer afternoon. It’s laid back, it’s still, and it is full of life.

This morning, I realised that perhaps this is a function of age too? And of this extremely fortuitous place in life that I am in, where nothing is too fast or too slow. Things just are, and they’re passing. I’m aware of it, but it is without the manufactured urgency and/or FOMO that has come to be synonymous with time itself. I’m grateful for the slow, empty, pensive weeks I’ve had since getting to Goa, which have undoubtedly contributed to this internal slowing within.

One year ago: Simple things
Three yeas ago: Summer evenings

I feel you

Amazed, and happy to see how feelings have gone from being a source of overwhelm, triggering my perfectionist need to solve everything and get to the bottom of it all, to just things that happen, occur and give me cues to deeper emotions that lie below the surface. It’s pretty darn fascinating how the human mind can train itself to deny an entire set of feelings, because:

  • one assumes it will be difficult/too much for others to take
  • one grew up with a negative value attached to said feeling
  • one was made to feel ashamed for feeling a certain way

But the good news is the human mind is easy to train, and all of these patterns can be re-jigged. Doing this has made me realise that not only does listening in to my feelings give me useful cues to my emotional state and what needs to be seen there, enhancing my healing process, but also greatly improves my capacity for empathy and connection with others.

I’ve noticed that the emotions I find most difficult to see (or tend to judge) in others, are usually the ones I have most discomfort with in myself. So really, the only way to begin to connect better, is to built my capacity for empathy. Starting with myself and towards my own emotions. When I am able to accept in the best possible way, the difficult feelings I find in myself, I am able to see and acknowledge, maybe even accept them in others.

In my experience, this has impacted the quality of my relationships for the better. People tend to trust and open up more about what they feel, when I, the listener, come from a softer, less judgemental space. When I am able to say me too or I hear you with honesty. When I am not in a huge rush to label these feelings as issues that need fixing. Or treat them like an unpleasantness that needs to end soon.

It’s difficult to do when so many of us have grown up being told to be happy, positive, strong and other variations of these. Somewhere along the way, it makes us believe our worth is not only attached to cultivating a veneer of constant happiness (at the cost of negating all the times we feel sad, helpless, angry, lost, etc) but that it is also attached to ensuring that others feel that way too.

It’s taken me a long time to realise that it isn’t helpful to others, especially those I care about, if in my efforts to “help” them I am contributing to negating them altogether. Sitting with these feelings, just really feeling them first, rather than dissecting and analysing them, fixing, solving or moving ahead in a rush, is a good place to start. This is such a fundamental building block to vulnerability, and true connection.

One year ago: What are they talking about, on the weekend?
Three years ago: April

Flow

Yeah, what does it say to me about my community? And where do I go from here?

Yesterday, I was overwhelmed how this message spoke directly to something I spend so much time thinking about — community, connection, friendship, belonging — especially in the context of freshness and newness that I now desire in my life.

It seems like a fitting question to ask myself, and as I see it, it is an invitation to look at things in a new light and possible push myself out of a comfort zone in this regard. Great fodder for thought at a time when I feel I am moving from one phase, one way of being, into another.

One year ago: Stuck in the sunshine riptide
Three years ago: That urban poverty piece that has everybody’s panties in a bunch

Gratitude

I didn’t really plan on “birthday week” per se, but as it happened, the entire week of my birthday was a blissful happy time and it makes me really thankful for so much.

I watched Endgame, twice — on opening day and the day after. I am still not a hardcore MCU fiend by any stretch of imagination, but last year I really got into it and bothered to try and watch some of the better films of the lot, in order to get a handle on the overall plot. I did, to some extent, but watching Endgame made me realise there is so much I am suddenly curious about. So I also spent some parts of the weekend watching older movies. Dr Strange, for one, which I think is so far the best movie in this series for me.

We finally ticked off the other thing on my wish list on the weekend too. And. It. Surpassed. All. Expectations. The burger was huge, juicy, spectacularly flavoured, with a side of homemade potato chips, not fries, and aioli. MMMMMMM. The burger was in fact so big and filling, and my appetite has shrunk so much, both VC and I packed half a burger away to have for dinner. Which worked out just great for us.

Having my birthday on a national holiday has meant that there is always someone to celebrate with, and this time was no different. When I was growing up, it was always summer holidays and I’d mostly be in Bombay with my handful of chuddy buddies, and everyone was available because everyone was on holiday. As an adult, Labour Day has ensured that I’ve always had the day off and spent it with friends. VC had a holiday too, and we planned to go to the beach. But I got my period that morning, bummer, and was in no mood to swim anymore. So we made a detour and I got me another tattoo I’ve been thinking about for quite a while now. Even though it’s been in the works in my head for a while, I think the timing was perfect, and the tattoo suddenly means so much more to me, personally.

We then went out to dinner to my favourite Italian restaurant because earlier in the week I went down a rabbit hole watching endless videos of pasta in the making, that had triggered a serious, massive spaghetti bolognese craving. I went totally crazy and ate dessert too — a luscious, flowery fragrant creme brulee. Memorable.

It’s time to write my annual birthday letter to myself, and I got down to it this past week. Last year, I decided to write two letters a year to myself and ended up actually writing three — just so many thoughts and feels to share I suppose hahahaha. This year, in addition I’m writing letters to some folks I feel like letting know how much they’ve contributed to my life this past year. So there’s going to be a fair bit of letter writing in the coming days.

This is probably the only “work” I did. With fasting diligently on weekdays at home, I’m pretty much down to one meal a day. And that means I only need to cook dinner. So I spend a large part of the day, really just chilling. This extended chilling, with literally nothing demanding my attention or asking for my time has been timely, and hasn’t happened ever before. I’m learning to go with it, and doing my best to shut the guilty person in my head down.

Meals have been really good. Something kicks in in the evenings when I decide to get up and cook dinner. They’ve been simple meals, but low-to-no-carbs and unlike ever before, I’ve been feeling inspired to create something fun and hearty even with those limitations. VC has joined in and this entire week we managed to eat well, stay on top of the fitness goals by exercising every day, which always sets me up for a good state of mind.

On Friday, I went to my happy place this side of Goa — the Friday market at Mapusa and bought the freshest veggies, mangoes, and generally revelled in wandering about the crowded place. I love, love, love this place and going there just makes me so happy. To take in the sights and smells and to jostle about with the locals, watching the hustle does something for me. I came home with these insane flowery plants that I’m going to put in my terrace too.

I ended the week with watching Endgame yet again hahaha — third time’s a charm. Because I watched some of the older movies, and now I actually get — at a deeper level — what some of the little details mean. This past week I’ve been very taken by the cultural phenomenon that this entire comic book universe has been, almost like the Star Wars of our generation. So I got all academic and geeky and did a lot of reading to fill in the blanks for myself. And that really changed the experience for me. I’ve now decided to slowly go through the entire lot of movies in sequential order. While I think I should watch them in the chronological order of the sequence of events that unravel in the movies, VC believes I should go in the (mis)ordered way that they were made because that back and forth has a place and a logic, apparently. My sequence-obsessed mind is having trouble accepting that.

For various reasons, it’s taken me a while to get into the mangoes this season. Also, the best has only just begun in Goa, in my honest opinion. I’m firmly in favour of Goan mangoes over even the best Alphonsos which I honestly find super overrated. So I also got back some of my favourite mangoes from the Friday market, and I have to say there is quite nothing like breaking a 16-17 hour fast with mangoes. And for that, I am utterly, utterly grateful.

Every day this past week I’ve woken up to mildly overcast skies, with that sticky pre-monsoon stillness of heavy humidity hanging in the air. It’s given me wild hopes that I get to witness at least a shower or two before I leave for Bangalore again.

One year ago: The beer I had for breakfast
Three years ago: At sea

Content

It has taken me a practically all my adult life to understand that I feel most happy, experience contentment and flow, find myself to be “together” — call it what you will — in those rare (but very possible) moments when I am at peace with the imperfection that comes with work in progress.

When I am more in agreement with everything that I am — the good, the bad and the ugly — and believe I hold it all within.

When I accept what I can and absolutely cannot control, when I let that shit go, and when I revel in what is.

When I find those hidden joys in the everyday ordinary-ness of my life and realise just how much I thrive in it.

When I struggle less with making things happen, and allow them to happen as they are.

When I open myself up to the uncertainty of what can be, and find excitement in taking things as they come.

When I truly live by just putting one step in front of another, no more, no less.

This is when I most feel like I am enough. I’m alright.

One year ago: I’ve been saving this time
Three years ago: Inside-out