Day 84: Fitter and stronger than before

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Something strange has been going on. I complained about starting trouble and you now know how procrastination tussles are a major part of my daily life. But this is one of those cases where I can’t believe I’m the same person. Where I often struggle to finish a piece of work, or get that long pending email sent, or finish that dratted interview, my efforts to get back into a serious and regular fitness regimen have remained frighteningly regular and undeterred by everything else that has come my way.

No, I don’t mean in terms of results, because I’m learning (the hard way) that the older you get, the longer and more effort it takes to really see change. So I won’t say I’ve reached the goal I wanted to, but the effort I’ve put into it staying regular, the tenacity in giving every workout my all, and sometimes completely taking myself by surprise when I manage to squeeze in a double workout on somedays has come as a pleasant shock.

First, the energy levels. A combination of paying a little more attention to what I’m eating, and staying off alcohol and dessert for the most part has its very obvious benefits. I am less lethargic, manage to make even the littlest dregs of energy count for a lot and feel a lot more motivated to push myself. I have had fewer urges to skip gym, and even the two times the thought occurred, I dismissed it pretty easily. I had intended to go an entire month without skipping class, and I’m happy to say I came close to achieving it, missing only one day, that too because my folks were visiting and I didn’t want to be sitting at the gym while they had fun!

Second, its the season to sweat it out. The temperatures are slowly rising and the change is really apparent, but the real discomfort is the humidity levels that re through the roof. It really sucks to be sweating it out for no reason at all. Sometimes I’m even sweating just sitting in one place. So while I complain about it for 90% of the day, it’s during the couple of hours of working out that I really feel like the humidity is a boon. First, you don’t feel as dehydrated because you’re practically surrounded in a pool of moisture. I know it doesn’t work the same way for everybody but working out in this weather makes me feel really energised. I end up drinking a lot more fluids to compensate, and it helps me work harder, and feel more energetic overall.

Third, I think the time/frequency-based goal worked well for me. Instead of making an ideal fat% or waist size my goal, I decided to just start by ensuring I go in to the gym everyday, as many days as I could. Much easier to manage, much easier to achieve.

Fourth, I was trying to find a good combination of activities that would suit my fancy when I realised I should just go with the flow and not try and mix things up too much. I’m currently really enjoying my kickboxing class, so I signed up for the class 5 days a week and it has been the right balance of challenging and rewarding. I bought myself a cycle early in March and have been also cycling with the hugsband every chance I get (Yes I need to write about this!) and it has been UH.MAYY.ZING!

So I don’t know which of these changes has brought on the extra energy and added determination or motivation because God knows it’s been flagging in the other parts of my life. Perhaps its a combination of all, but it’s been such a good few weeks, I sometimes wish I could design my life around just training for something. Coincidentally, I wrote about getting back on the fitness bandwagon, specifically overcoming starting trouble or breaking the laziness rut over at ZenParent. I don’t know why I didn’t write that post  in first person because it is entirely a personal story, about the way I was feeling at the start of the year, and what I did then (and in the past) to overcome it.

If you’re feeling lethargic and like your energy is flagging, just start. Make a beginning, a small one. And start by trying to get from one day to the next. Make it a habit, and soon enough you’ll find yourself at the end of the month feeling so much better than where you began.

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Day 81: Giving thanks

I wrote an abysmal 24 posts in all of 2015. I’ve never been as disinterested in looking at that little compilation video of how well you’ve done wordpress sends you at the end of the year, than I was this year.

On a whim, while taking a walk on the beach on the first day of this year, I decided I was going to write more. Like I’ve said before, the idea was to write, just write. No edits, no cleaning up, no frills and fanciness, no aim or agenda. With every week that ends, I find myself wondering how far I will go, and I realised yesterday that I’ve very easily and quickly reached the 80-day mark. Clearly all it takes to break an old habit (or dry spell) is to inculcate a new one.

A large part of my motivation to do this was to inculcate some discipline in keeping a handful of daily habits. While I’ve faltered on a some, I’m going steady and strong with haathtime. Quite unsurprisingly (because that’s the point of daily habits and rituals) it has become easier with every passing day. The words flow quicker and stronger, but more importantly, it’s become a lot easier to find something worth ruminating about, something worth noting for myself. And it’s become easier to sit down and turn those thoughts into a ramble, to get that post done every single day.

I’ll be honest, and you don’t even need me to say this, this is a completely selfish, indulgent activity. I’m doing this for myself alone. To track some fundamental things for myself, to watch change, growth, and to just stick to it. 9 out of 10 posts are of the tl,dr variety, full of self-absorbed navel gazing of the highest order. I write expecting nobody to 1) understand 2) relate 3) appreciate any of it. So for those of you who keep coming back to read and comment, but especially those who don’t leave comments, but take the trouble to write to me, message me, call me and share stories of how you have gone through similar cycles, felt the same things I feel or relate to my rambles in even the minutest way, I’m deeply grateful. The list is pretty small, but I don’t need to spell it out. You know who you are <3

Day 80: On unlearning and re-learning order

Try as I might, I’ve been completely unable to make myself open my laptop and get extra work done on the weekend. Not just this weekend, but every weekend since the beginning of February. The good thing is it’s a sign that I am managing things well enough during the week, without spillages that gnaw into my weekend. But on the downside, there’s a lot of “extra” things I put off for “the weekend” when I am “free from work” but when the time comes, I slip into a domestic bubble and it’s getting harder and harder to extricate myself from it as the weekend progresses. I slip further into that deadly combination of domestic bliss and sloth that makes time bend and go almost convex. Slowing everything down to the point where every second is apparent. Tick, tock, slowwww.

Saturdays have been mostly dedicated to pottering about the house. Changing sheets and pillow cases, straightening sofas and cushions out, dusting neglected corners, refilling money plant bottles with water, re-stocking a week’s worth of  glasses and mugs to their assigned place. And it’s in the delightfully slow moments between these chores that I realise suddenly, that I’ve become quite relaxed around the house. I obsess less, I no longer fret over tidiness on a daily basis, choosing to make a morning of it once a week and be done with it, rather than drive myself batty every single day.

To give you an example, at this very moment, there’s a pile of documents (everything from bills to lease agreements, IT returns, travel documents etc etc etc) on my dining table that has been steadily growing every day. It bothers me every time I look at it, but clearly not enough to do something about it on my own. And here’s the big change: I don’t take myself to be solely responsibility for keeping a clean home.

You see, I share a home with someone who has grown up having mother/father/the help constantly pick up after him. The concept of everything having a place of its own, and the need to return said things back to their designated place was alien to him. Until he met me. He ridiculed my anal tendencies, but always revelled in the benefits of a neat and tidy home.

For many years I took on the responsibility of keeping the home clean. Because thats how I like it. The Type A personality in me didn’t trust the hugsband could try and learn to do things around the house,  because he’s never been taught to do them before. So naturally he’s gotten very used to things being spic and span around him. And of course he thinks it all happens by MAGIC! Until one day I just stopped going the extra mile. I no longer pick up his crap if I can help it. The pile of documents for example, require him to sort through, decide what to keep and discard, before they can be filed away. And I have promised myself not to touch it until he does his bit. Some time ago this would have driven me up the wall, to the point of just doing it all myself, but I like to think of this as some weird kind of peaceful coexistence.

Cooking leisurely meals has become so rare around here. So I take the time on weekends to stock up on veggies and fruit, and try and fix us at least two meals that satisfy the urge to cook, not just eat good food. Considering the laptop hasn’t come on on weekends the past few weeks, I’ve been basking in the luxury of extra long naps, getting comfy under a blanket (with the AC turned on!) with a book. The phone is mostly ignored, all whatsapp groups muted. And before I know it the weekend is done. Hugsband and I usually round it off with a drink or a meal out on Sunday night, if we’re not feeling too lazy to get out, but even that is an effort. Staying in, is so in with us at the moment.

I’ve gone from bing completely disinterested in anything domestic, to discovering to my absolute surprise that deep inside me was this completely domestic homebody who wanted to play house down to the last T, to going full powder batshit crazy trying to be a full-time freelancer with no time for anything beyond basic domesticity, to once again revelling in the simple life that allows me to dip my feet into the domestic life, without letting it consume me.

Weekends, the last few months, have taught me to let it go. If get a grip has been the refrain for most of last year, I’m slowly learning to loosen that grip. One weekend at a time. And it’s been a humbling reminder of how what “order” can be like, and how much of it is and isn’t in my control. Whether the mess on my dining table, an offhand comment that ticks me off, a sexist conversation, an annoying piece of news, the pressure to socialise.

Weekends, the last few months, have reminded me that “having it all” is not for everyone. Certainly not for me. That there is a special kind of relaxation in going with the natural rhythm of my body, my breath, my inclinations and in giving myself the permission to break the routine to indulge – in sleep, in cooking, in reading, in walks, in cycle rides, in late night music hopping, in dreaming.

And slowly, gently, in the beautiful way that change always works, a new order has emerged. The little conscious steps I have been making towards slowing down again, cutting out the noise and focusing on the important bits, has undone a few rigid Type A traits that used to once define me.

While in my life and routine it manifests in enjoying leisurely weekends away from my laptop, it has also brought a new kind of mellowness in me. A little less aggravated by the littler irritants – people’s comments, annoying clients, the spotty Internet, the breaking of routine and set patterns – and when I am aggravated, moving through it has become easier, faster than before. Stewing over the small stuff. In disagreements, I am learning every day, to say my piece honestly and move on. I’m trying all the time to cut myself some slack, consciously remind myself that only so much is in my hands, and leave the rest to go the way it’s meant to. It’s made me a little confident and added some grace to walking away or out of situations I don’t want to be in.

Change has always distressed me. Even the slightest challenge, smoothing rough edges in my personality, being open and adjusting easily to altering situations, teaching myself a little humility, building patience, slowing down – none of this has ever been palatable, fun or even remotely easy to do. I’ve shied away from it for the most part of my life. But something about this second round of domestication, with these minor changes, is making me see a side of myself I didn’t know existed.

2012-me might have looked at present-me in shock, cracked the whip and restored order the way she knew it to be. But 2012-me doesn’t have the experience present-me does. She doesn’t realise that order is a faceless, fluid, shapeshifting, quick-to-vaporise thing. Rarely do you ever control order. Most of the time, order controls you. And it controls everything around you. Including the way time ticks by. Sometimes making it rush, sometimes bending it down to near-standstill. Reminding you to laze underneath that blanket a while longer. Allowing you the luxury to read that extra chapter. Telling you that dinner can wait, that the sheets don’t need changing right this minute, and that it’s okay to eat buttered buns for dinner today.

There is so much spoken about unwinding, disconnecting, decompressing and I know it does take effort in these times of hyper connectivity, hyper productivity and what not. But it is possible. And it is easily done.

I’m learning every day that order is constantly changing. There is no joy in being on top of it all, all the time. Loosen the grip, let it go, be responsible for yourself wholly, and be mindful for the way you feel and act. I’m learning to accept change. That in itself is a big change for me. And you know what? It ain’t so bad.

Day 71: Pretending to be brave

At the start of March I ambitiously paid for a whole month of kickboxing classes. I used to go in only 3 times a week, and was nearly dead by Friday. Just three times a week and yet, for the last few months, I’d been seriously slacking off, taking too many shortcuts and giving into every slight desire to bunk a class and sleep in. The only way to break out of it was to up the ante, so I went ahead and paid up for a 5-days-a-week set up. Two weeks done. I’ve survived it. Aching and tired, but I made it.

I started the month with a promise to cut back on the daily dessert binging and the alcohol intake. I started off by saying I’d go off it completely, but realised pretty soon that that approach has never worked for me, never will. So I’ve altered it to cutting back, and allowing myself the odd indulgence. No more sugar/chocolate/dessert fixes after every meal. No more drinking 2-3 times a week.

Two weeks in and I’ve eaten a piece of chocolate on two occasions. One rasmalai last weekend, when I also consumed half a bottle of wine. And a few glasses two days ago* but I’ve survived it without going too insane. There was that one day when I had a very, very only too real struggle with demolishing the image of a gooey warm cake fudge from Corner House that suddenly manifested in my mind and just refused to go away. Eventually, it did.

For months now I’ve been pitching a range of international publications to get new story ideas out there and broaden my perspective. I want to go wide as far as publications are concerned, and go deep with the themes I write about. I’ve had varying luck, but it has been an excruciatingly slow and painful learning curve. A couple of days ago, I was nearly done with the day’s work. I was about to shut my laptop down when I saw the little postit I’d stuck at the corner of my desk to remind me that I wasn’t going to end work for the day without pitching that story. I’d been dillydallying over that one for a while because it’s a format of writing I have never done before, I’d have to pitch it to a bigish “popular” publication that I’ve never done before, and writing the story itself will require me to glean form my personal experience. SCARY.

But enough procrastination, I said. Sat down, wrote a brief recalling valuable inputs that S gave me a few days ago, ran it past VC who helped me chisel away at it further and essentially turn it into a sales pitch. This is something I’ve never done before. The most crucial mistake I’ve been making is to make every pitch a little snippet or a preview of the story I have in mind. That day however, I made the pitch sellable, it had a clear hook. And it took a lot of putting myself out there, getting out of the comfort zone I am so used to, and finally after some hemming and hawing, I hit send.

*I plied myself with a couple of glasses of wine before I got to the point of doing it. It has to be said.

But. It paid off, because I received a positive response in under ten minutes.

I was gobsmacked and did a happy (mildly-drunk) dance around the room.

So, I’ve been trying slowly but surely to be brave in areas I didn’t think I was. Push myself a little, get out of the comfort zone, live a little. And scary as it has been, it hasn’t backfired entirely. No post-facto shaky feet either.

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On to new challenges, then? The first of which is the very real one of having to write said piece.

Given the no-alcohol promise I’m going to have to find some other poison (or narcotic) to actually get down to writing the story. And try and make a kickass job of it. No pressure, really.

Hmm.

Day 67: Flying solo

I’ve emerged fresh, sunshiny and very rejuvenated after a weekend of beautiful, wonderful sloth. The kind of sloth that comes from cutting back from my routine and having absolutely no demands on my time. I got to actually catch up on all the things I have put off for The Weekend. Yes, not any weekend, but this weekend because VC was away on a 3-day biking trip, and it’s only when he travels that I let myself off the hook. It sounds terrible when I say it like that, because it implies that  he cracks the whip around here, making me work to a routine, when the truth is he couldn’t care less. In fact he’d love it if I relaxed a little and let go of the tyranny of a tedious routine. Honestly, the ties of a routine that bind me down are completely self-made. The doing of my Type A personality that sometimes worries when I have too much free time on hand. So I have a routine, and I chalk out my time, so I can function in some kind of sanity that makes sense to me. But, off and on an opportunity like this presents itself, and I’m always surprised at how much I enjoy it.

Lying in bed lats night, having turned in extra early, thinking about the weekend reminded me of how much I love flying solo. Considering I have never lived completely alone (a phenomenon very common amongst women in India, apparently), and I quite like the regimented life otherwise, it made me ponder about why I turn to routine, and who decides what this unattainable ideal of a perfectly flowing, full and bustling life is the way to go. So I wrote half a post about it. I pondered some more about how blissful a simple three-day weekend of no extraordinary activity had been, and wondered if maybe I unnecessarily chase after “something more.” I  am increasingly realising once again (or rather I’m being made to remember what I seem to have forgotten) that I am just an ordinary 99%-er perfectly happy with a mediocre but fulfilling life. And so I wrote half a post about that too.

Several changes at VC’s work have ensured that he no longer travels as frequently as he used to 1-2 years ago. Back then I often joked that the outward displays of love were short-lived. That once I was done whining about hating being alone, whispering sweet nothings about missing him, and kissing him good bye as I sent him out the door, I would walk back in to whoop with joy. Because the time apart guaranteed a chance to just be, unfettered by the machinations of my self-made trap — the routine I claim I love so much. So when he goes away for more than a day at a stretch, I really get to cut those ties and just do my thing. Which usually involves cooking a large pot of dal and eating it four meals in a row, so I don’t have to interrupt my reading or movie-marathoning to get up and fix myself a meal. In that sense, I do nothing else. No chores, no work, no cooking, no cleaning. No alarms, no gym, no hectic socialising.

And that’s precisely what happened, a whole lot of nothing and everything of a different kind. It seems like it is just what I needed. Because after weeks of wandering around feeling not quite fully rested, not quite completely fulfilled, not quite really at peace, not, today I woke up feeling just. so. pumped.

A complete break from the usual, meant that I got to do things I keep putting off for when I am free. Read a decent bit, catch up on about four weeks of episodes of my TV show guilty-fix. I also watched Spotlight The Big Short, and finished watching Cooked too.

Friday was spent at home. I had some work to finish up, post which I read myself to sleep, a good long nap, and spent the rest of the day at home just chilling. On the weekend, I caught up on solo time with friends, which is something I haven’t done in a very long time. P and I had actually planned to spend Saturday on a beach in the South, but I had a touch of UTI and as excited as I was to be outdoors and by the sea, I didn’t fancy having to use a public loo, getting sand in places sand shouldn’t be (when you have a UTI) and risking being away form home in case my symptoms worsened. So I called it off, and we decided to catch up for a light lunch instead. But even before that happened, I was woken up by messages from the gang at kickboxing, because they’d planned to go get breakfast together. The thought of crispy, warm Goan buns really wakes me up, so I drgged myself out of bed and to breakfast quickly. I spent the rest of the day back in bed, reading and watching something or the other, until about 7 pm, when I realised I’d actually made dinner plans with D a few days ago. Since we were catching up at her home, I decided not to go empty-handed. I bought us some rasmalai for dessert and trudged over. We finished an entire bottle of Sula Seco between the two of us, and talked so much about so many different things, while her dogs enviously eyed our plate of fried prawns and prawn biryani, that I lost track of time. I drove myself back home at almost 1 am, and was too buzzed to sleep. So, I watched some more TV.

On Sunday morning, my gardner didn’t show up. It wasn’t planned that way, but I was glad because it meant I didn’t have to get out of bed. At all. I woke up only at 11, and after much contemplation and willing myself to rise, I fixed myself an fully-loaded omelette for brunch. I had it with two toasts slathered with Amul garlic and herb butter. It does the trick of making a meal of breakfast. Topped it up with a large mug of sweet chai and I was set. For another day of lying in bed, that is. More sloth continued. Reading, watching TV, I even doodled a little and napped too.

VC came home in the evening after his three-day bike ride trip. He was so exhausted that he got into bed too. Perfect. I didn’t plan to cook dinner and we could have ordered in, but I’d brought home leftover biryani from Saturday night, so all I had to do was microwave it in time to eat. Which meant that I had no reason to leave bed right until dinner time. Which happened earlier than usual and we found ourselves back in bed by 9.30. I realised I’d clocked just a little over 1000 steps. Ordinarily, I’d have balked. But yesterday, I. Just. Didn’t. Care.

I opened my book and began to read.