Day 17: You’ve been on my mind

Fresh off the back of a long weekend, that also brought with is the unusual first-time that both my parents, and my sister are away, I realised how much VC and I are out of the bubble that was our default mode of existence in Goa.

Physically cut off from family, alone, in a home where we called the shots, had no social obligations even in the city we lived in, had a life devoid of most other sorts of obligations — we were really left to our own devices.

In Bangalore, the bubble doesn’t exist. With my parents living in the building adjacent to us, I’m more often than not tempted to go hang out with them. I spend entire days with my sister, with my folks around. More often than not, I choose going over to be with them, even when VC is home. This was not the case before. So, when either/all of them are not around, I physically miss their presence. Of course, all this is compounded by the fact that I am so ready to get out and go, these days.

We’re about a fifteen minute drive away from VC’s family, which also means we go over at least once a week. And we’re subject to invitations to lunch, dinner and other family hang-out scenarios, more often than we’re used to.

But this past weekend was different. Slightly under the weather, I chose to stay in, made no plans and had nowhere to go. VC, as usual, indulged in a lot of TV. But it was after absolutely aeons that we were alone. Together. And we had a weekend to ourselves like the ones that were the norm in Goa.

There is quite nothing like a weekend like this, extended time spent in quiet companionship, to reinforce and reaffirm my faith in the absolute, critical need to have someone in my life who is there for me wholly and completely, even as he gives me space to do my thing (while he does his). Who doesn’t need the noise and fanciness of plans and dates and conversations and the overtures of love. Who revels in the smallness of the rhythm of everyday life. Who is happy to just be beside me. In silence. And who still comes out of three days of just doing that and only that, to tell me he had a “fun weekend”.

I love the synchronicity of seeing in words the exact representation of what is otherwise just a jumble of feelings, a tumble of emotions on spin dry in your heart. Even as I was sitting down to write about this, and finding myself unable to pin down the right words, I opened The Artidote today after forever, and saw this —

I love when you become so close with someone that you can see parts of each other in one another and you begin to say the same things and steal lines from one another and have a similar sense of humor and can exchange an inside joke with just a glance you don’t even have to talk because you have such a strong connection with them and you can sit in comfortable silence but also talk for hours it’s really hard to find that kind of compatibility

Compatibility, while accurate, feels like a small, limiting word. Caging the immensity of togetherness — a far bigger, open, expansive word, in my mind — into a small cubby hole. If compatibility feels like the two parallel columns finally syncing with a ka-ching! when the right elements find alignment, togetherness feels like massive rivers gushing down from parts unknown, tumbling together in a noisy ashen blur, only to collide and find a peaceful merging, even in the cacophonous union.

Compatibility does the trick, but togetherness goes several layers deeper. It digs in to the depths of my soul. Touches and kindles a fire that fights through the hubbub of regular life, throbbing to stay alive even when we’re turning the lights out.

Compatibility is just the tip of the iceberg. To have this kind of comfort, connection and peaceful coexistence with a single person feels like so much more, I actually don’t have the word/s for it.

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Day 16: Video killed the radio star (what I’ve watched)

I haven’t watched “TV” — as in, tracked television programming on the idiot box, in the good old way that we used to by tuning in night after night — in forever now. We haven’t consistently had satellite TV for many years. Barely a year after we first entertained the idea of doing away with it, we actually went ahead and kicked the idiot box out of our lives. Though we had our TV hooked up in our last home in Goa, only sporadically got the TATA Sky going. Typically, only when VC’s folks visited or someone mentioned a must-watch show. But it never lasted long enough to hold our interest and invariably our account would expire from sheer neglect.

When we moved to Bangalore, I was determined to keep the TV out of the living room as it had been for the last many years. The new home doesn’t have a conducive space for the TV in either bedroom. So the damn thing is currently languishing in a box in a cupboard, while I entertain the idea of selling it off, from time to time. I’ve gone several years without traditional television, depending on downloading shows when the sweet spot of my interest/inclination to watch something has met with a promising show showing up, and having the requisite amount of time to actually watch it. the number of shows I’ve started and abandoned is embarassing.

But, it would be inaccurate to say I don’t watch TV anymore. With Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hotstar at our disposal, we’ve ben dipping in and out of television lala land. I’m still not quite there yet with binging the way one is supposed to with this kind of access. I don’t know, I suppose it’s watching it on a small screen that doesn’t really work for me. Also, I very rarely have that much time (or mindspace) at a stretch anymore, and I’m far too restless to actually binge watch anything, as the format demands. I do have spurts and the last time it happened was with OITNB, but by and large, I tend to give most of the much-talked-about shows a miss.

All this, to say I only very rarely get hooked to a TV show, and I’m usually very late to get the memo on most “good” TV shows. I just find it hard to keep up. So much TV, so much social media, so much news. Where are you guys also finding the time to read and cook and exercise and have a life? (which is what I tend to choose over TV)

Anyhow, last year, when I was dillydallying over choosing between forging ahead with my writing, or joining VC, I found myself with a lot of time on hand. I told myself it was time that would be hard to come by, depending on which way I decide to go. So I began to watch 13 Reasons Why. Long after everyone had watched, obsessed, critiqued and discussed it to death.

I hadn’t really read too much about it, and wasn’t even fully aware of the plot, so I went in clean. I had a fair idea what it was about, so maybe I had a bit of an expectation of how it could go. So, when it didn’t — and it actually progressively went annoyingly south — I was severely disappointed.

The only thing I really, really liked about it was the title track. I will not lie.

Okay, it’s mildly well-written, given the altered (from book to TV show) plot line, and most of the actors have acted really well. But it’s just, the very premise, and the way the theme has been dealt with, really, really annoyed me.

Straight off the bat, I couldn’t shake off the feeling that the entire build up to uncovering and going through the tapes in gory, drawn-out harsh, urid detail, felt like it glorified suicide. It was really hard to ignore that it felt exactly like the opposite of what the show was trying to do.

If the show was supposedly meant to make a case for how suicide should never be an option, how come it comes out sounding like it’s a great way to get revenge. A legitimate way to make yourself heard. To serve justice. To come out victorious.

I know I’m treading thin ice even saying this, but I don’t buy the argument that this show aimed to build awareness. Sure, it got more people watching and talking about bullying amongst teenagers, cyber bullying specifically, peer pressure and suicide, but it definitely did it in a way that sensationalised the issues surrounding teenage suicide, and it exercised very little tact and sensitivity in dealing with the many facets of the issue.

Perhaps because I set off with this notion in my head, and I couldn’t shake it off at all, the show grated on my nerves right through.

I know, I know, you’re thinking why did I bother watching it. Well, I thought at 13 episodes, it’s far shorter than some of the worst shows I’ve subjected myself to. And I wanted to see if anything changed.

It didn’t. The well-intentioned message — that suicide should never be an option — just didn’t come across clearly enough for me. For one, Hannah never talks about having suicidal thoughts or never seeks any kind of help, despite having all the obvious channels for it. I’m not placing the blame at her doorstep, but her parents shock and devastation at having absolutely no idea their daughter was troubled enough to be driven to suicide, was telling. They assumed she was a regular, average troubled teenager, is all. Second, when she does seek help from her counsellor, in the very last episode, her efforts to talk about her troubles are dismissed by a counsellor who belittles and confuses her. This is a horribly wrong route to take, especially if the intention of this depiction is to steer people from towards seeking help, over suicide. This, amongst other things, really made me feel like the entire progression points towards glorifying suicide as a way to make yourself heard, when you have nowhere to go and nobody to talk to.

There is also the graphic representation of rape, twice over, despite the trigger warnings, that really troubled me. I know, you can go ahead and tell me, I shouldn’t have watched it. But here’s the deal, I read the trigger warning and I went ahead and watched it. As would anyone else, I suppose. And I was physically disturbed for several days after. I know it’s a fine line when you’re making a show like this, and you need it to work on a platform like Netflix. But to go so horribly wrong in the accent you take, when dealing with a topic as sensitive as this — it feels like the makers and Netflix kind of just abused the theme to catch as many eyeballs as they could. This isn’t to debate the need for programming to take serious issues into the ambit of production, or to choose a style that favours realistic depiction, but just like we’re increasingly being made to be aware of diversity, inclusion and representation, the issues surrounding mental health, teenage development, cyber bullying and suicide need a lot more awareness building and sensitivity to be woven in.

More than anything, I was hoping the show would tell us things we didn’t already know. I really wanted the show to delve deep into the reasons rather than give me a playback of how horribly wrong things went for Hannah. I wanted it to be more than a lazy retelling of the sequence of events that led up to Hannah’s taking her own life.

Oh yeah, it just occurred to me: in addition to being insensitive, I found 13 Reasons Why to be very, very lazy.

Earlier still, in October, while I was gallivanting around Pondicherry, I got into This Is Us. More because I had P telling me how every episode made him cry. This, I’ve got to see, I thought. And I’m happy to say, it worked out for me because enjoyed the show very much. Since I was on holiday with absolutely no agenda, I binge-watched it.

It is not since watching The Wonder Years or Brothers and Sisters that a family drama has tugged at my heartstrings this much. Possibly because it has been ages since any TV show so unabashedly deals with the story of a family like this, in all it’s dirty, raw, realness — feelings, mess-ups, emotional baggage and all.

A semi-naked Milo Ventimiglia in the opening scene definitely urged me on, but eye-candy aside, it’s a show about entirely mundane, regular family things. Shining a light on every aspect of family — from the immensely special bonds shared by siblings complete with jealousy, competition and an overarching undeniable love, to the frustrations one inevitably feels towards ones parents, the ups and downs of growing up, the triumph of being an adult and parenting your parents, the growing up of owning up to your issues and solving them in the hope of being a more wholesome, integrated human being, and most of all — in knowing that family — in all it’s imperfect glory — happens to everyone. It is not something you can forget, divorce, distance yourself from and ever move on. We are all products of what has happened to us growing up, and the families who bring us up, even if we’re not bound by blood.

It’s intelligent story-telling that weaves two timelines in parallel, creative and beautiful production, has an outstanding soundtrack and background score (by an Indian!), lovely acting all-round and also ticks all the right boxes for me as far as representation goes. It had many a moment that struck a chord so deep with me, as far as theme and plot go. The second season, typically, saw a dip. Especially in the pre-holiday phase, with unnecessarily long and dragged out story lines that say so much but do little to develop the plot or further the story.

Yet, I continue to watch. Because even though the writing may sometimes falter, and the scenarios feel too white or too American, the characters are heartwarming, honest, real and very, very relatable.

Day 12: Obscured by clouds (Coonoor, 2017)

As it happens, VC and I hadn’t taken a holiday together in a couple of years now. The last trip that comes to mind is Sri Lanka. There have been several weekend getaways in and around Goa, but my privilege doesn’t allow me to count any of them as “holidays”. And so this December, we decided to take off on NYE. Two reasons. In all our years away we’ve never “celebrated” the day with a typical bang. Save for the one year we went to P’s for a small party of close friends, we’ve always only ever stayed home, cooked something nice and had an evening by ourselves, or with a friend or two – tops! It would be nice to get away, I thought. Second, being in Bangalore I was deathly afraid of getting dragged to VC’s annual family get together. So I figured, anything would be better than being here.

Having woken up very late to this eventuality meant we were left with little choice. It’s Bangalore, and every single getaway destination within driveable distance was naturally booked up. So we made multiple bookings in multiple places, because we really didn’t have the luxury of choosing. Unsure till the very end where we’d actually end up. The week before NYE, we received a strange email from the hostel we’d eventually locked down on, asking us to make a final payment to confirm the booking. In it was a clause: a no-alcohol clause.

Now, I’m not the biggest drunk around. I can go entire holidays without drinking actually. But I’d definitely like to have the option to choose. Especially if I’m on holiday with my husband, over NYE. It was a dealbreaker. And that’s how our final choice too went out the window. Back to the drawing board again, I was frantically hunting for a place that would have us. Even if just for one night, we thought. All we needed was a clean bed and loo, some peace and quiet. I’d manage the rest, I thought. Our standards were really dropping.

Suddenly, a property we’d never stumbled on in the weeks of hunting before popped up. A home nestled amidst tea estates, aesthetically designed, small and cosy, not housing more than 7 people at any given time, and available over the long weekend — it seemed too good to be true. So without much ado, we booked it.

And so it was that we decided to be in Coonoor. I was super excited. It would be my third time there, the second being just one year ago when S and I took off for a blissful week in the clouds, with no plan but to stay-in.

I realised that over 2016, I took many holidays, none of which were with VC. 2017 was dedicated entirely to settling in, and despite considering several opportunities to go away, somehow nothing materialised. It really was beginning to feel like it was time to go on holiday. Together.

My new-found excitement about going to cold places (even though I’m petrified about turning into an icicle) peaked when this trip came through. I bought myself woollen gloves and a beanie, in addition to the ridiculous number of warm clothes I’d packed.

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Picture: VC

VC laughed, but within mere hours of landing in Coonoor, the sun setting and the evening mist settling in, I had the last laugh when he gingerly asked if I’d perhaps packed any extra warm things for him. I had. An extra sweater, a muffler and lots of socks. So there I was, in two jackets worn over my teeshirt, socks, gloves, a shawl around my neck and my beanie — snug as a bug. While VC had to make do with a double-barrel sock arrangement, a sweater inside his jacket and a muffler. Before long though, he appropriated my beanie.

Google told me night time temperatures would drop to 3-4 degrees. I had that exhilarating combination of thrill and worry when I read that. But when we got there, the homestay owner pointed at his very dead looking tea estates and told us how bitterly cold it had been this winter. Temperatures had dropped to -3, causing the tea to be bitten with frost, dying a slow bitterly cold death.

But this is the wonderful realisation I’ve come to so late in life. Like the Danish saying N told me about goes, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing,” if you’re adequately equipped, you’re mostly good to go. I used to think I was completely incapable of handling the cold. This was confirmed by short brushes whenever I’d travel to cold places in the years I was away, but it was exacerbated because I simply didn’t own the right clothes. I’ve been too afraid to consider travelling to Ladakh for this reason. For years I’ve nursed the dream, but stopped short of committing several times over. This trip though has been a bit of a game changer.

***

We planned to leave early on a Saturday morning to try and beat as much outgoing traffic as we could. Anticipating that most of Bangalore would be on the Bangalore-Mysore highway, an early start was crucial. But it was not to be. We celebrated VC’s birthday the night before, had a late night, and stupidly forgot to set our alarms (forgetting that the auto-set ones only goes off on weekdays!) so I woke up with a start, a good two hours later than the time we planned to be out the door.

Oh well.

This put us considerably behind in our schedule and extended our drive time by three hours. But, since we weren’t on a deadline, VC and I decided to just relax and drive. I had a playlist ready and it was a long, but comfortable trip up, despite considerable traffic along the way.

Once we were in tea land though, the landscape is just so gorgeous. Rolling gentle slopes of green, so green it makes your eyes hurt, achingly blue skies, with the of fluffy clouds scattered, mist floating in and out casually, with tea pickers huddled under the weight of their baskets, tea stalls selling piping hot tea and vadais, the narrow hilly roads made us relax and enjoy the ride.

In Coonoor, I had no agenda but to put my feet up and chill. We had the house completely to ourselves the first night, and on NYE night, we were joined by a group of five people from Chennai. The hosts were incredibly lovely, hospitable, and cooked us simple homely food. The rest of the time, VC was determined to be outdoors shooting pictures. Having recently rekindled his love for still photography, he wanted to make the most of the best two slots of any given day — sunrise and sunset —  so we ended up driving out everyday scouting for vantage spots. I’d carry my kindle along, and when we found a spot, VC would take off to set up his tripod and begin his patient wait for the right moment and right light. This would take anything from 1-3 hours, during which I’d listen to music and read. It’s how I finished the last book of the year in two days. I like this part of our life where we manage to make our love to travel and be outdoors merge, only to get there and have the freedom and space to enjoy it the way we please.

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Picture: VC
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Picture: VC
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Picture: VC

NYE itself was a very quiet affair, that surprised me. I had no expectations actually, and was fully prepared for another simple meal eaten between just the two of us, and an early night. However, the other house guests got chatty, invited us to share their daaru and maal, and were delighted when we offered them ours. It’s not usually like me to happily join a crowd like this, but I know now that that’s changing. So we joined them quite willingly, the hosts got a big fire going, and we huddled around it. Me in all the layers I could possibly have thrown on, of course. It was an added bonus that they had speakers, and remarkably good taste in music (they had a lot of Coke Studio Pakistan on their playlists, aside from some Beatles, good old classic rock and a few staple new poppy trash favourites). Dinner was simple, but it was all that was needed. I was high on the ambience, and the experience. Deathly silence, with our music playing softly, while we chatted — smack in the middle of a tea estate in a corner of Coonoor, with no humans for miles around us — it was like no other NYE I’ve ever had. Our house guests joined us half an hour before midnight, and entertained us with stories about interesting guests — of the human and wild kind — and by the time the fire began to die down, my energy was flagging. It was just before midnight when I called it a day and crashed. A hot water bottle snuggled into the sheets was such a welcome little touch of hospitality, in Coonoor!

Intoxicated on all the relaxation, and the perfect, best end the best months of the year, that I could ask for, I woke up on Jan 1st feeling physically energised. Happily grateful for where I am, excited for where I am headed. And just so happy deep into my bones. So happy, that we decided to extend our stay by another day, and drive out to Ooty, in the hope that the crowds would be on their way out.

We checked into a hotel there, spent the day roaming around, took an extra long nap, and headed out before sunset, grabbed a drink of thick hot, rich hot chocolate at Moddy’s and went off into the hills because VC wanted to catch one last photo opportunity. We topped that off with a hearty dinner at a rooftop Chinese restaurant in a hotel that VC has lots of memories from his childhood spent there. I was happy for the extra day and the chance to share this slice of nostalgia with him.

The next morning we woke up super early to hit the road back to Bangalore, only to find our car frosted over. Pretty soon I realised the grass all around that was looking oddly pale was actually encrusted with a layer of frost. I’ve never seen snow in my life, so this came pretty close and excited me no end!

It was a happy three days of peace, lots of snuggles, plenty of good hot tea and biscuits, soaking in winter sunshine, enjoying the mist and finishing off a book and just re-grouping all that I have been mulling over in my head. I cannot explain it, but the last six odd weeks have been so high on mental activity, I have felt like I have really crossed a major landmark and stepped into all new ground as far as self-awareness and growth goes. My heart was just so full. I came away with all the sights embedded in my head, and not more than half a dozen pictures. So almost all the pictures here are courtesy VC.

On the way home, the otherwise not very expressive VC gently shared how the holiday, simple and unplanned as it was, had unlocked something in his head.

“We’ve got it all wrong, Rere,” he said. “We can’t be working our asses off so we can travel. There’s got to be a way to make this our work.”

I’m summing up a conversation that lasted a good hour, of course. But I think he’s on to something. The same thing I’ve been on to for years now.

I heaved a sigh of relief, and ended the holiday on such a good note. My workaholic husband has come home to me, and is finally on the same page as I am.

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One year ago: Inconsequential posts you really don’t need to read
Two years ago: Day 12: R & R

Day 9: The hardest part

is admitting that you were wrong. But once you’re over that hurdle, it’s like walking into the light, or unlocking the next level of a mystery you’re desperately trying to solve.

For someone so convinced I was an out and out introvert just over a year ago, the past year has seen a big change. The developments of recent time, specially the last six odd weeks have only confirmed what I have known to be true for a while now: I have changed, in ways I know, but more so in ways I am only getting to know slowly.

The more willing I am to sit still and observe, question and think about the changes I see, the more I know this to be true. And that willingness is the hard part. Because it means accepting that it may be time to let go of some rigid truths, or that I might need to soften up on some of my staunch aversions, or it means letting go of the safety of labels that I use to define me. It means instead, to look at the very real circumstances that are shaping me in entirely different ways.

It means finding new connections.

It means sometimes standing alone.

Daunting as it sounds, and is in some part, it is also incredibly energising. Nobody talks about how refreshing and life-giving the process can be. It is not without tedium, and there’s really no escaping the bitter realities that you’ll have to stare in the face, but once you’re over that hurdle, it is like a breath of fresh air. Light, rejuvenating, and puts the spring right back in your step.

Perhaps it is the mistaken ideas of adulthood and becoming-who-you-are that we have inculcated, that makes this journey seem one way. The pursuit of prescribed ideals, boxed definitions and perfection itself makes looking back, revisiting old versions of yourself and admitting less than ideal facets of yourself impossible, and a waste of time. Shame, envy, inadequacy, confusion become bad words we don’t want to believe are parts of us.

But the truth is, growing up involves going back and forth all the time. It is acknowledging these unsavoury parts of ourselves that unlocks the potential to plummet ahead. Never before have I valued retrospection so much. For it has helped revisit so much, only this time with a softer eye. Less self-loathing. Less judgement. More acceptance.

With every passing week, I realise I’m not the introvert I was in the months before I left Goa. It was circumstances that made me withdraw and seek my own company, closed in from the world. But I didn’t understand why or how it was happening. It was simply the playing out of what N articulated perfectly — Everyone can’t go with you everywhere — a truth (and several others) I’m only realising this now. And I’m changing, because of it.

Even until weeks mere ago, it was hard to say if it was a change brought on by changing circumstances, or if the shifts brewing within me in turn were reflected in my circumstances. Mostly this has been a revelation about how wrong I was.

I noticed around the middle of last year how suddenly I was much more willing to go out, be with people, socialise and do things outside of the four walls of the introvert cocoon I’d settled into. The frequency with which I’d surprise myself by volunteering to do something I thought was uncharacteristic began to rise, till I realised it was too frequent to pass it off as “exceptions to the rule”. It was, in fact, the new normal. Try out a new restaurant, I’m in. Want to come to xyz, with abs, def, (who you don’t know), sure! Want to try out a reading club where we’ll read a book on self-esteem, why not? Poetry reading, yes. Movie with the family, yes. Dinner with extended family, okay to that too. Cooking for fifteen people over two days, count me in.

Slowly I found myself feeling a lot more energetic and willing to to put myself out there, in situations I’d told myself were never for me. The clincher was willingly joining VC in his new business, and taking on a client-facing role.

Conversely, I don’t fancy spending as much time all by myself at home. It helps that amma’s home is in the next building, so I always have a cocoon of comfort to jump into when things get overly solitary around here.

This is a big change for someone who in Goa barely ever left home, and loved being alone. The most joyous moment on any ordinary day then, would be when VC left for work and the help finished for the day. I would savour the solitude slowly over the course of the day, wearing my space and isolation like a comfortable skin.

It’s true what they say, the company you keep really does reflect your state of mind. And maybe this, in some measure also explains the dissonance and distance I’ve felt with those I’d most easily turn to for daily kinship. I’ve carried this feeling, that something has changed, but I’m not quite sure what to do with it, around uncomfortably for a few weeks. Eventually, the truth dawned on me: in the face of all this drastic change, I feel less and less inclined to stick to fixed anythings. My faith in the rock bed of certainties has shaken, so I’m finding it very counter-productive to stick in places I am feeling restless. Whether that is a pattern of friendship, the habits I think I need to have, or fearing breaking them because it means being alone.

The last few weeks saw me do both. And surprisingly, it got easier. The fear subsided and I felt charged with an energy I didn’t know possible.

Do you know what it is like to watch yourself move from being a somewhat passive, this-is-who-I-am-and-I’ll-just-stay-here-until-the-right-stuation-happens to a let’s-go-out-there-and-find-a-way-to-make-this-work state of mind? It has been like dipping into a secret reserve of self-worth I have suddenly discovered.

We really underestimate how much we are capable of growth. How much we are in fact changing all the time. Drastic growth brings with it such significant shifts in the mind and body that inevitably, it leads you to the reality of leaving things behind. By definition, it is what movement entails.

So whether it’s a time (it’s futile being torn up about moving on from the perks of full time employment, for example, because it doesn’t have a place in my life or in my current reality), place (similarly, so meaningless to wistfully long for my life in Goa when this is where I am now and it is what I know is most necessary), or even company (If I am changing all the time, surely every body else is too. So what then am I hanging on to so tight?), the need to loosen the grip and ease up on expecting a pre-defined kind of certainty has slipped under my skin.

Much like hanging on to older ideas of a version of myself did nothing but delay the movement that was waiting to happen in my life, I’m realising that hanging on to a fixed, rigid idea of the kind of friendship I am made for, or what I am capable of in relatonships, has made it hard for me to find deeper, authentic connections suited to where I am now.

 

One of the things that has become utterly clear to me in the recent past is that my life has little meaning without connection. I’m craving it all the time. In people, in activities, in experiences, in spaces, in habits. I’m only now learning how believing so hard in the fallacy that I am a complete introvert, has held me back in this respect.

It was hard to acknowledge that my introvertism was a temporary shield I donned, while I waded through emotions I didn’t want to face. I mistook a streak of introvertism to be a personality-defining thing, when actually it was just me seeking safety in numbers, in memes that scream relatable truths that made me feel like I belonged. Because I wanted to belong anywhere, but to the real self that was desperately running away from feeling all the feels.

Until, I was ready to break out and do all of that — face those scary feels, be as vulnerable as I possibly could, acknowledge how wrong I was, look at new and intimidating ways of being that my situation now required.

Now, I’m less afraid to make connections.

Similarly, I am less afraid to stand alone.

This shift in my attitude has already brought tremendous positive change — I see it in the most significant things like the way I was able to accept moving to Bangalore to the smallest, seemingly insignificant things like suddenly embracing hot pink lipstick with a casual comfort that was alien to me.

I see it in the way I am suddenly more outgoing. Accepting invitations to meet new people, pushing myself out to events, trying out new restaurants, making plans to beat traffic and increasingly seeking new experiences, over the comfort of mundanities, when it comes to people. I’m reluctant to keep going over the same motions out of habit. I have little to share in terms of mundanities, and the lack of conversational sharing does mean I’ve fallen out of the loop. But I’m dealing with that, and even with its difficulties, I feel it’s better than the hollow, exhausting efforts of continually trying to flog a habit I’m clearly not in the space to hang on to.

I am so not that person anymore.

Accepting that was the hardest part.

This business of looking back at the trail we’ve traversed now seems like an essential healthy practice, one that I should probably do more often. To see where we were, how far we’ve come, to ask crucial questions about where we’re headed, why, and if we’ll actually be happy once we get there requires so much reworking of of our old selves, to take what’s best for us and to let go of all that no longer serve a purpose.

But I won’t lie, that is the hardest part.

Day 8: I’m just too good at goodbyes

I really am. The people-come-people-go theme of my life continues. The only difference I’ve come to notice is a decrease in angst or disappointment every time it happens. Earlier, I’d be very torn up about it, even the times when I consciously chose to distance myself or cut off ties with someone. But now, the blues come and go quickly. It bothers me, but doesn’t affect me in that lingering sort of way. Earlier, I’d see the end of a relationship as The End. Now, I see it as a timely intervention for a new beginning. A chance to either alter something in the relationship or just to move on and find something new elsewhere, with someone else, perhaps.

At some level, I think I’ve made peace with this pattern. In the last few years, I’ve noticed how deeply linked this is with my own growth curve. Every time that I’ve hit a situation that has caused me to either step back from a relationship, or retreat into myself, it has been a time when I have experienced a shift in my own growth.

In December, I spent quite a lot of time pondering over this, and I’ve come to some conclusions. I’d like to think these are fundamental caveats that I have taken way too long to arrive at. And the process was not without it’s share of rife and pain. But I think of what Glennon Doyle Melton says, and take heart.

The truth will set you free, but it will hurt so badly first.

This is what will help ease the pain every time I find myself at a goodbye.

Making friends, maintaining friendships can sometimes be intimidating, at times exhausting and seemingly futile. That’s normal. And completely okay. There are times when you need and deserve companionship and the company of people can be uplifting, but there are some experiences you have to go alone. I’ve been going through some changes myself of late, details of which I’d usually be very keen to unravel and discuss and share with my closest friends. But this time around, I’ve been unable to (also not very inclined to) do this, except for N and D, who really get this process and side of me, for obvious reasons. I was a bit perplexed at my own behaviour, but over time, I realised that there is a certain sanctity in the process of change that is best enjoyed alone. It doesn’t need an audience, or that extra boost of confidence that we tend to sometimes seek from sharing information with our friends, when we’re unsure and we need a pat on the back and someone to unabashedly side with us. Tell us we’ll be alright, that in a similar situation, they’d do exactly the same.

Every relationship/person will come with some disappointment. This is bound to happen, because no two people evolve at the same pace, or ever have circumstances so similar to keep the likeness going. Evaluating what you value in each relationship, at each of those moments, will decide what parts you’re willing to ignore and let slide, and what parts become deal-breakers. Consequently, what relationships remain thick, which ones morph and move to the fringes, and which ones are eliminated altogether.

There comes a point in every relationship when the way things are going will be a clear reflection of some aspect of your sense of self. This was a hard one to acknowledge. Because it means taking responsibility for things that you’d normally pass on to the other party. It means noticing that you get what you give. Most recently, I saw it pan out when I came face to face with an extremely judgemental and critical side of myself I didn’t like. It took noticing and feeling bothered by someone elses judgemental behaviour to see my own. As I tried to work this out in my own head, I found greater and greater dissonance with the friends in whose company I was indulging in said judgemental behaviour. Things became harder still when I realised that I didn’t need to or want to talk about the process of reworking or course correcting this behaviour anymore. Doing so felt like a lot of roundabout justification of what I had come to realise was just shitty behaviour coming from a place of shame. I needed to just shut it down completely and move on to doing something about it. Quietly, without a fuss or much explanation.

Walk the talk, minus the talk, actually. In fact, this is the first time I’m even articulating these thoughts in writing. I saw in that situation that the friendships involved had devolved into a lot of casual chit-chat that involved wide-swathe judgements passed rather casually, and seemingly harmlessly, but that involved thoughts that were deep and really telling. In these friendships, I saw a reflection of this aspect of my sense of self that needed alteration. For those of you suddenly reaching out to ask why I’m off Instagram — this has something to do with it. I felt I needed to eliminate the trigger first, if I were to honestly address the issue at the heart of this.

Your spouse/friends will very well not be the answer to every one of your needs. And that is okay. You’re going to have different people for different things. Someone for the laughs and the fun. Someone else entirely for the truth-telling conversations. Sometime you reach out to for strength and support. And maybe none of these people will be the one you want to travel with or think of when you want some lighthearted fun. This is okay. Your friends are not and cannot fulfil every need at once.

N and I have discussed this at extreme length these past few weeks (given the time zones we’re in, every time I find us deeply engrossed and furiously sharing away, I worry that it means one of us is awake at an ungodly hour usually meant for sleep haha!) and she put it beautifully, in words I keep going back to.

Everyone can’t  go with you everywhere.

Every relationship will lack something. And that’s okay too. Because every relationship will give you a whole set of other valuable things. I am increasingly finding myself constantly evaluating this, and I realise how my equations with various friends keep fluctuating. When I moved to Bangalore, I came with huge expectations, looking forward to being in the same city as some of my closest friends. In reality, I didn’t connect with them nearly as much as I did with people from a forgotten past. I found that my family was there for me, far more than friends who promised they’d be. I inadvertently spent a lot more time with them, and by myself, focusing on things that really needed my time and attention. I saw myself enjoy the process of making new friends, when I realised the ones I had didn’t have the time or space for me. And that has been a wholly enriching experience in itself. I don’t feel the loss, as much as I have soaked in the gain.

Every time you hit a bump in a relationship, it is an opportunity to evolve. It’s natural for relationship to get old at some point or the other. These situations are inflection points that can be turned around positively if looked at as a call for evolution. Each opportunity is in a sense, a test of whether there is scope for evolution or not. Last month, I met a friend I was convinced I had put out of my life just three months before. I was over the moon thrilled to realise that over that period of complete silence and no contact, meeting again brought out conversation and experiences so telling of the growth we’ve both had in our time apart. No part of that meeting was reminiscent of our friendship as it used to be. It was utterly refreshing and in a sharp contrast to the time before, I didn’t come away exhausted and mentally drained. I felt uplifted. Nothing excites me these days as much as a kindred spirit who gets what I’m on about.

Not every goodbye, is goodbye for good. Yet, the truth hurts. It’s not easy to feel like you’re about to lose a friend. Because it means facing the truth about how much we want to be seen, known, loved and heard. How much we want to belong. But, I’ve realised that the silence from the frenetic activity of friendship presents crucial moments of pause. Moments necessary in cultivating a focus on belonging so wholly to yourself first.

Two years ago: Day 8: On waiting

More Goa postcards: walking through Mapusa Market

Easily one of my most favourite things to do in Goa was visiting the Friday market in Mapusa. Few things invigorate me like a market full of fresh produce can. And our visit to this one churned up all kinds of nostalgic and mixed emotions about how far away I am from the simplicity and luxury of this: going to a market this abundant, lush and thriving, where I can buy things straight from the makers/growers themselves.

Le sigh.

Filed under #youwinsomeyoulosesome

Goa mornings like way I like them: chai <3
Goa mornings the way I like them: letting my nose guide me through the piles of produce on a Friday at Mapusa market
Goa mornings the way I like them: bathed in a crisp, blindingly bright October light

Same time, last year: Day 305: Light and life

Postcards from Goa

It’s been such an overwhelming week. Sensory overload. Hectic, tiring, physically taxing. Mentally and emotionally too, Ive felt stretched. But it has also been so satisfying.

Details to follow. But for now, thank you Goa, for a sparkly time, yet again. And before I head off to location two, here’s a few postcards from the past week spent wandering in spots I’ve roamed countless times, that I got to see through new eyes.

As a traveller. As a visitor. As an outsider. As an assistant to a film maker. As a professional on assignment.

Looking at everything anew sometimes makes all the difference.

Same time, last year: Day 293: Stuff