On grounding

When I’m faced with challenging circumstances that cause inner conflict, my tendency was once to be quickly lured back by an older self that preferred to shrink away from spaces that felt unwelcoming. To choose inauthenticity in being and in words to avoid the discomfort. To allow the pain to fester and turn into unexpressed anger. In the hope that this would keep the peace. It was always much easier to do this than to push through and emerge on the other side, not knowing what the consequences of owning my truth would be. Because there are consequences. Authenticity, and being true to myself is precious, it comes with a price.

Circumstances may change, but this essential dilemma — of whether to move forward (and pay that price) or give in to an older state or way of being (and return to the status quo) — seems eternal. This week, I practiced actively grounding myself, when faced with it.

I grounded myself as a way to remind myself of where I am now, how far I have journeyed and of what I am capable of. Not to wish the discomfort or the recurring pattern away. In fact it was a means to welcome it. Make space for it, allow it and fully see it. To realise that the confusion and conflict is as much a part of my reality as is the capacity to see it and hold my ground without letting it uproot me.

To realise that growth doesn’t mean challenging circumstances won’t come my way, but that when they come like the whirlwinds that they are, I can bend and be flexible, but not lose ground.

The two states — of feeling the tension of the challenge while knowing I can be steady — can coexist it seems. Not without causing internal chaos momentarily. But when I ground myself in thoughts of the now, I bring myself back from fears that are mostly old. I root myself in what I know to be true. And it helps me find strength in seeing and acknowledging what is, as it is.

I’m in constant awe of the wisdom basic, natural building blocks hold. Roots, plants, trees.

To root. To take ground. To recognise where we are. In the now. Is to find a state of balance even in shaky circumstances. Is to acknowledge everything as is, in full honesty. It is to allow a new possibility to emerge.

David Whyte has some beautiful words on taking ground as a means to feel at home in yourself and your body. He says it better than I ever will.

Ground is what lies beneath our feet. It is the place where we already stand; a state of recognition, the place or the circumstances to which we belong whether we wish to or not. It is what holds and supports us, but also what we do not want to be true; it is what challenges us, physically or psychologically, irrespective of our hoped for needs. It is the living, underlying foundation that tells us what we are, where we are, what season we are in and what, no matter what we wish in the abstract, is about to happen in our body; in the world or in the conversation between the two.

To come to ground is to find a home in circumstances and in the very physical body we inhabit in the midst of those circumstances and above all to face the truth, no matter how difficult that truth may be; to come to ground is to begin the courageous conversation, to step into difficulty and by taking that first step, begin the movement through all difficulties, to find the support and foundation that has been beneath our feet all along: a place to step onto, a place on which to stand and a place from which to step.

The realisation that making space for what is, just as it is, with nothing to be done but simply accept and witness, rather than trying to get over whatever it is, feels like breaking new ground.

And to do this in an embodies way, literally finding my roots, and feeling rooted in my body, seems to have made the difference in taking me across the uncertainty of having to make that choice between the old and the new.

One year ago: Reboot
Two years ago: There’s glitter on the floor after the party

On the cost of domesticity

Pulling out this post I wrote in mid-April, but never finished. It is so interesting for me to see that even between April and now, how much has changed in not just my thoughts around productivity, but the way my life is moving in an alternative way to make space for sloth, rest, repose and rejuvenation.

This is just a disclaimer to say the content still holds, but the feelings are not current.

***

One of the scripts in my family is high worth attached to high productivity, efficiency, being a woman who is a go-getter and always on top of everything. It’s a great motivator, but also a subtle killer in the long run, I’ve discovered. Productivity across the board — from applauding efficient women who run their homes and hold down jobs, hailing devoted mothers who put their families needs above their own as “good”, to admiring outward focused woman committed to “serving” others (even at great personal cost) who have the ability to just give give and give, and take on some more, even when their plates are full — is greatly admired, coveted and covertly sold as the benchmark to aspire for. These are traits that are held up as hallmarks of being good women worth emulating, worth noticing, worth embracing. So obviously, women committed to themselves aren’t looked upon very kindly.

The last few weeks have felt like an infinite loop of housework, cooking, cleaning, planning, and managing work in the pockets I can find, while also culling out some downtime right before bed. It’s made me think a lot about how first of all so much of this is assumed to be the woman’s department. Even while VC has taken over the dishes, helps by dusting while I clean, gets into the cooking, does laundry, and waters the plants etc, I find myself instinctively still reaching over and above and trying to either assist him, or offering to do his share too. He’s tired of telling me that his attempts to help me are futile if I help him back.

I stopped myself in my tracks the other — wondering why this is so hardcoded in me? And I know part of it this early and deep lesson in equating my worth with my productivity, makes it very hard, almost impossible, to gracefully and thankfully take help. And over time it has made living up to my own ridiculous standards hard enough, but also terribly run down every effort and willingness on VC’s part towards being an equal part of this home.

I only woke up to this harsh realisation sometime last year, that this is not only a sorry state of affairs, but a huge disrespect to him. So even as I have been reworking my beliefs around not equating my worth does to how useful, productive or desirable I am, it is extremely hard to stay on track.

In the constant cycle of domesticity that has consumed us these past few weeks, I see how much of a struggle it has been to cull away time for myself. Even if it is to just lie back and stare at the ceiling. There always seems to be something more urgent that needs my attention. I’ve not had as much time as I’d like to sit down and write my blog posts in peace, for example. Writing time is pushed further every day and sometimes I write out a rushed post just before bedtime. I’ve been reading and important book about money with S, convening over video calls to discuss, but after a good beginning we haven’t made any progress in the last 10 days. I usually spend a significant amount of time thinking about my Monday tarot posts, but since the lockdown they’ve been all but hurried posts banged out in the nick of time. There’s a book for my course that I need to finish, and I haven’t even gotten around to starting it. This is the stuff that creatively nourishes me. The stuff I’d happily be doing when I have outsourced the house work.

It got me to thinking about how my mother did it all. How much she put aside to tend to us kids, keep our homes and family afloat and happy. And my mother was extraaaaa. We’ve had a full childhood with a lot of hands-on family time, picnics and holidays and activities and time spent together. Very focused, dedicated, active, deliberate togetherness, that must have taken a lot of emotional and physical energy to keep at. My sister and I were challenging in our own ways, and I know we kept our parents, but more my mother, on our toes at various phases of our growing up years. I don’t actually remember a single phase where my mother wasn’t quick to respond though. To get on her problem solving, troubleshooting, go-getter hat on to fix whatever it is that needed fixing, or soothe us, feed us, cuddle us, and do whatever it took.

And it got me to thinking about what the colossal creative cost of that might have been. Especially for a professional vocalist like her.

I wondered about how much talent, creativity and potential we’ve quietly snuffed over generations by channeling energy towards chores, family and the like. For generations before that didn’t have the luxury and privilege of outsourcing as much of it as I do, it must have ben 100x worse. Sure, it made women be creative about their domesticity, and many have rocked playing that role to the T. But I think of my own mother who was clear she wanted to focus on her family, and put her career as a musician and vocalist aside till we were old enough to go off on our own. I wonder what the emotional cost of that has been. If she was frustrated from it back then, she never let it show. Or I was too young to know. And now, as an adult woman navigating the age by which she had two children to care for, I can no longer deny that cost.

But from a few weeks of having to fight for my time, sometimes feeling resentful that there seems to be so little of it these days, I’ve been asking myself, how many more would women be able to dig into themselves and the depths of their spirits and creativity, if they didn’t have homes and families to tend to? How many more successful artists would we have?

And of course, it all comes back to this oft-asked and long-unanswered question: can creative lives thrive and flourish around the central axis of families that need feeding and children that need caring and homes that need looking after? Sure, they can co-exist. I am a product of such an environment. But can they thrive? I can’t help but wonder how much more art and music and poetry and writing and cooking and whatever else we might have had access to, if women weren’t taught early not to hinge their worth and likability with domestic productivity. I cant hep but wonder how much easier it would be for girls and women thereon to then go find themselves, scratch all their passions and be their whole selves minus the angst of having waited a minimum 30 years to get to the realisation that there was something more to life that they’re missing out on.

I believe that one of the common traits successful women artists have is the ability to shake off criticism around caring for themselves. And maybe at some level it is giving up the urge to be liked in the way that society, their families, the world at large would like them to be. Maybe it is about knowing so deeply what they are made of and what is important, life-giving, and non-negotiable for them to survive, that they would not give it up for the world.

That notion of what’s likeable, it’s beyond old and tired now. I realised many days into cleaning up that the thrill of being efficient, having a schedule, having things so much cleaner than before, doing it all was so old and so boring. And when the day came when I was feeling depleted and quite drained from not having done a satisfying amount of anything nourishing for myself, I felt a smidgen of that cost I keep talking about. The price women pay. The cost of doing it all.

And I don’t know if it’s worth it. I realised that I was actually quite okay to have a slightly dusty home for two days in a row if it meant I can catch up on reading. It quickly became okay to eat Maggi for dinner, and let some veggies go to waste now and then to just not enter the kitchen for a day. I didn’t feel bad for VC for having to do the dishes on top of everything else he has to do, because er, it’s no different for me.

***

That was April. This is now, and too much has changed to even enumerate it. But reading this post in the drafts made me happy because I see how much has. We are now down to sweeping and dusting at best twice a week, mopping once a week. Maggi has become a staple like sugar and atta and rice in our shopping lists. Take out induces nearly zero guilt, compared to before. And I have enjoyed many, many, many days of lying on my back and staring at the ceiling. In fact, I was just telling a friend the other day that I think I spent much of June horizontal — and I don’t even mean that metaphorically.

I might complain about the banes of being locked in and everything that it has changed in my life a lot, but I cannot lie — it has been an extremely powerful time of change for me. And for us, as a family and a home. In claiming something very essential for myself I see what has been freed up, what has come alive, what has become visible.

I’ve been pursuing slowing down for years, but it took the world around me also slowing down, coming to a halt, to receive the much needed impetus to do the same. When I did, so much changed, so deeply and so quickly. So if I may for a moment fully own and acknowledge the immense privilege of it all: the last four months have been an extremely valuable time.

And maybe sometime soon, I will write about all the ways in which this domesticity has actually taught me to value the work itself, the invaluable contribution of people I have casually outsourced it to all these years, and why I’m trying to do without it for some time to come.

One year ago: All my worries seem so far away
Two years ago: My moves are slow but soon they’ll know

Home and away

This whole self-isolation things is beginning to feel quite like school all over again. Specifically, when I was in group projects but was always the one that did the work and shared the credit. Or the time someone on our school bus was dumping their lunch on the floor of the bus every single day and the whole bus was detained because nobody owned up, so I ” volunteered to” to shorten detention for everyone. Or that time in Sri Lanka when we misguidedly went whale watching and were given clear instructions about staying in our respective sides of the boat but everyone clean forgot when the first whale was spotted and I thought I could singlehandedly balance the tipping over of the boat by staying on my side (and missing out on seeing the damn whale!) because everyone else had clearly forgotten. This is how it feels. Staying in, against all odds, feeling all the emotional highs and lows that come with it, only to see outside it’s a party like Covid has left the building.

I don’t get it. Is it positive thinking and optimism that these folks have? Or is it blind stupidity and denial about the shitshow we are in the midst of?

Anyhow, every time that I have mustered the courage to venture out a bit, and break the isolation, something has happened that makes me get right back indoors. It’s kind of amazing.

First it was the containment zone in our neighbourhood. Then the case right in our building. Then, last weekend I was mildly under the weather and I convinced myself that it was the virus, so I hunkered down and lay low only to have it all pass in 3 days – phew. And now, we’re back in total lockdown.

In between these phases, we have somehow managed to get ourselves the new sofas, replace some essentials in the kitchen, and I got new sneakers too, and some new plants for the house. I’m glad we did, because life indoors is better for it.

I can’t say we have been totally isolated, or totally out of touch with the outdoors. There have been consistent grocery runs and shopping for fruit and veg. But for the first three months we were hyper good about staying in. Even after “unlocking” we were limiting outings, stockpiling errands and waiting for them to accumulate before getting out. We haven’t met any of our friends, except having D over a few weeks ago, and then we went plant shopping last week. But it has been 90% isolation, I’d say. I have lost track of the days, but cumulatively I think they’re touching the day 130ish mark or so. Which just feels like oh so much.

The year had just started when we got locked in, and somehow we’re past the mid-way mark of 2020. I still have moments of awe and shock when I think about the enormity of this situation.

Since we’re back in lockdown, I am enjoying the silence again. The traffic disappearing makes such a difference. But right before all this happened my sister snuck away to my folks in Kerala, and so our party of three has whittled down to two. This is a number and a space that is both terribly isolating as well as snug and cozy, if you know what I mean.

The energy certainly shifted when July began. I feel it all round. Work has been picking up steam, I am enjoying the home and doing things at home again — cooking, working out, gardening — plus there is the rain. Those frightfully beautiful misty mornings, all-day rainy days that I know many don’t enjoy. But I can’t get enough of them.

Today was one of those days. I knew from the moment I woke up that it was going to be raining all day, and I felt immediately like I wanted to just potter about my home, and not do much else. I had myself a full on domestic morning. Cooked a full lunch of stuffed baingan, rasam and rice and assorted fried things to go with. Cleaned out the fridge, re-stocked the veggies that had just been delivered. Dusted and set furniture right again. Laundry. Watering the indoor plants. Otherwise dull stuff, but somehow satisfying in these strange times. What can I say, staying in is bringing out this extra nesty person in me.

Even after all these months, I can’t decide if I love or hate this. If I’m sick of it or very used to it. Mostly, I oscillate between these two extremes. Very little in my immediate environment or life like it used to be feels like it will return to “normal” whenever that may be. On the one hand, I am thriving in the moment and everything it has brought for me, and to that extent I’m so present and all here; but I am also away a lot, you know? In my head. Dreaming of something beyond, the larger picture, a different life, after. Late night chats with these two, in their faraway worlds and homes, has kept me going.

One year ago: Support
Two years ago: Under my umbrella

The only journey is the one within

Things about keeping plants and growing things that I’ve said before, but I am going to say again:

  1. Five years ago, when I first gave growing anything a shot, it was already a process that gave me so much more than just produce. I was growing methi, pudina, palak, garlic chives and cucumbers at one point. It was a lot of good stuff to put in my food. I don’t remember a lot of the little details — like the cucumber plant — but the memories that remain are of the process. The wonder, the expectation, the excitement, the magic, the patience, the satisfaction. The wonder. The wonder.I don’t think I’ll ever forget the giant metaphor for life that tending for and growing things has taught me. I summed it up as patience, but really there was so much more. Lessons in nurturance, tenderness, beauty in rawness and imperfection, in taking time. And this is what has stayed for years on.
  2. Over a year and a half ago, the bug to garden came back. With a vengeance this time. And it has remained, steadfastly, since. And yet again, I found resonance in the what was happening in my garden, with what was happening within me.I wrote:
    It feels like my own experience of coming to (new)life, unfurling, stepping into a new seasongrowingflowering seems is reflected in my plants too.My plants have been life-giving and inspirational all through. A great way to get back to my roots, literally, and find observe and revel in life at the source.
  3. When VC moved back from Goa last year, the only thing we shipped back home were my plants. And it is a decision I rethink and feel extreme gratitude for almost every week.The number of pots we now have has significantly increased, and encroached multiple balconies, and indoor spaces. We now have enough plants to rotate and shuffle them around the place. And not all the plants that have been added on were bought. I have not just figured out how to multiply and propagate many of my plants but also figured out I can do it myself, contrary to prior belief about having a black thumb.My plants are the single biggest gifts that keep giving. I have received unending joy through them in these months gone by. Not just the green value they add to my home, but in the process of tending to them, nurturing and bonding with them. It is totally a trip to watch them grow, as closely obsessively as I do. Like they’re my literal babies.I now call my balcony full of pots a “garden” and it amuses Niyu and VC no end. But, it is what it is. Full and lush and happy making.
  4. I ended last year with the clear realisation that I was certainly feeling drawn back to the Earth, to roots, to more natural ways of living, in more ways than one. It’s a theme that has shown me many a parallel between the external reality and the internal landscape of my emotions and personal growth.
  5. And then this year, again and again, through observing nature abloom around me, as well as growth spurts within me — big and small — I have re-learned some old lessons about growth in a new way.These words I wrote here ring so true:
    Being in tune — whether it has been in taking to plants and dabbling in a bit of gardening, watching the moon and observing my mind and body through the cycle, running when I feel like it and lazing when I don’t — has affirmed in many a way again and again, that growth has it’s own pace. It’s own milestones. It cannot be rushed by an externally kept schedule.To ready yourself to bloom often requires long periods of inaction — whether you think of it as germination, autumnal period of your life, hibernation for self-care or whatever you will — it signals the necessary time of pause. Of stillness that is needed to first drop below. To peel. To shed. To let go and leave behind. In order to heal, nourish, nurture what lies beneath. And eventually to move on and about. To reach out. To evolve. To thrive. To bloom.

The other day, in a marathon session spent with my plants, I potted some spider plants that I had left to drop roots in bottles of water. If they were babies then, they had turned into literal toddlers by the time I got to potting them.

The bottles still had their labels on which meant that while I was topping up the water (often quite disinterestedly) every so often, I didn’t really have a view into what was going on within. Truth be told, there wasn’t much growth to show for on the outside either, which is actually why I hadn’t moved to do anything with them sooner. I was waiting to see some obvious signs of growth.

Externally.

Until that day, when I pulled the pesky little babies out the water.

It’s literally the most obvious things. Plants sprout shoots. We know this. And yet I couldn’t believe my eyes. Upon unentangling and loosening up the roots, I couldn’t get over how long and how lush it was.

All this beneath the surface, hidden from view, with nothing to show for it above the surface — I felt impossibly moved at the thought of how much action and activity happens in the quiet, hidden recesses of the internal world. With no real signs, no fan fare on the outside.

It felt resonant to my own therapeutic process, my journey the last so many years. Intensely private, quiet, only for me to see and know what I am chipping away at ever so subtly. Weeks and months go by with no visible change. And even when change comes, mostly I am the only one to know it, and hold it within me.

It reminded me of the personal, quiet, often lonesome and non-performative nature of true growth.

Not the first time I have cried over my plants, but the sight brought me to tears to see parts of my own life these past four months reflected in the plant. Being physically isolated, restricted, cut off has definitely cut away another layer of distractions for me, taking me deep within in a way that has been deeper and quieter than before.

I have shared little with friends and have mostly felt a lack of words to explain the nuances of my emotional state. It has seemed calm on the outside, but within, I have been through some extreme emotions, ups and downs and emerged from it all much more solid than before. I’ve witnessed the tiny roots and shoots nudging forward within me, forcing their way through my ribs and lungs, making my heart expand ever so slightly, a little bit more every day.

My therapeutic process too has been different lately. Few, almost no, words. More body work. Dream work. Art, movement, physical and other forms of expression. And through it all I have steadily noted how my movement has been inward. Going deeper within, even as I stretch out.

The lack of specificity, tangibility, the unseeness of the process I am currently in has been challenging. It has required of me a curiosity, patience and tenderness that I didn’t think I could ever extend to myself. It has been like falling in love with myself all over again.

It feels special, this privateness. I know it speaks of my capacity to hold my growth, and hold myself through it. Perhaps a day will come, when quite like a baby emerging out of a birth canal, or the spider plant being pulled out of the bottle, something will happen that will stun and astonish me at how much has changed, out of view.

How much growth happens beneath the surface. How much the roots matter. How much going within, is the key to growing tall. How much this silence and inwardness has made me feel rooted and centred.

How much growing outward requires the deep, difficult, yet essential journey within.

Right on cue, I found Rainer Maria Rilke put succinctly in simple words what I have stuttered along for too long here.

The only journey is the one within.

Everything else is noise.

Two years ago: Lost and found and turned around
Four years ago: Down and out

Life goes easy on me

There are currently fewer things that really, and I mean reallllly, hit the spot for me than

  • a day with no plans
  • cooking an utterly barebones meal
  • and sticking my hands in mud first thing in the morning

Today, I hit the jackpot, because even without intending or planning to, I waltzed through all three things, spontaneously today.

It certainly helps that it is a gorgeous morning here, with dappled light, a steady drizzle, with the promise of more rain. So gorgeous that it inspired me to indulge in that rare occurrence –breakfast. And chai on top of it.

And then I began sorting through my plants. Repotting some stuff, putting some babies that I’d propagated too long ago into soil, cutting and pruning some, and snipping off a large bunch of new babies, and making a giant mess in the bargain. I didn’t realise it, but three hours just passed by this way.

Thankful for the gifts my little balcony keeps giving. Literal and metaphorical today, because I was moved to tears seeing the root growth on a wee spider baby plant that I have ignored for longer than I intended to.

I’ve been easily moved and emotional lately. But the comfort with the emotions welling over isn’t always uniform. Sometimes there is extreme ease, and sometimes I feel taken by surprise and quickly begin to analyze where it may be coming from. Invariably, I conclude that it doesn’t matter. What matters is to feel it out, one way or another. I know that writing is one way for me to feel, but I have been trying to choose less fixed, cognitive, obvious and “presentable” ways to feel in recent times. Watercolours, watching the rain, gardening, sitting in silence. And I wonder if this has made it easier still, for the emotions to flow, without reason. Filterless and free.

Life goes easy on me today.

One year ago: Pause
Two years ago: You’ll be a good listener, you’ll be honest, you’ll be brave
Three years ago: What coming home feels like: light and life
Four years ago: June

Friday feels

Can’t get over, or enough of, the brilliant weather we’ve had this past week. Consistently moody skies, pleasantly refreshing drizzles in the day and nourishing downpours by evening.

I’ve taken it easy this week thanks to getting my period, but also the fact that it occurred happily right when the weather got so good. I’ve wanted to do nothing but stay in, so I took the readymade excuse that was offered up on a platter.

I had a mini catch-up session for my course, mid-week, but my mind was entirely elsewhere this time around. Amongst the rain laden clouds. The glistening wet streets. The cool air, beyond. In thoughts of picnicking somewhere outside Bangalore. With being in the hills elsewhere. Amongst this random dream of a cottage with a farm where I’m growing my own veggies.

That’s the only spot of work I managed to get myself to do. Readings have been going on, and they don’t tax me or demand a lot out of me at the pace at which I’m operating currently. So it doesn’t even classify as work. There are a few plans or side projects I have that I could get going with — logically this is the right time — but I haven’t been able. I don’t know how long I’ll have to wait like this for the right moment but it feels like the only thing I can do right now. I can seem to only push myself this much. Going against the grain and pushing through in the name of “getting shit done” just because an empty spot of time opened up is not only hard, it feels impossible now.

Today after cleaning chores, though, I shuffled things around at home. In anticipation of our new living room furniture that’s arriving soon. We decided to break the rule and not get a set, or a couch, but two single armchairs instead, in the hope that it opens up our cozy, tiny living room up. I bathed my plants and moved them around. I took the babies that have been inside outside, and brought some new babies inside.

The whole time it drizzled. And I cleaned while listening to Continuum, which threw it all the way back to to yonks ago, to a time in the years when I had just started to drive in Bangalore. When listening to my best music, driving around in the rain, with no plan or agenda, was a legit thing to do. Most times, I didn’t even need company.

This whole album is GOLD. And perfect for the rain. And is loaded with all the feels. It was a serious trip today that I thoroughly enjoyed.

I can’t believe another week has just whizzed by. I feel like I’ve been horizontal for the most part. I can’t complain, but I am just in shock at the pace at which time seems to be moving, even with deliberately doing so little. And just like that another weekend rolls along. The days are certainly blurring, weekday/weekend, nothing seems to matter anymore and I’m just floating through the continuum.

One year ago: Stay in
Two years ago: June

Nesting

It’s been gloomy all day. Spend the day under a blanket kind of weather. And that’s just what I did. Getting out only briefly to help VC make lunch. He made us steaks with a creamy wine and mushroom sauce today, with sauteed garlicky beans on the side.

I’m happy for days like this, somehow. And I said to VC, how different this whole time might have been if he or I or both of us had full time jobs that took us outside.id have definitely missed this opportunity for nesting in the way that we have.

Something about the luxury of that has meant cocooning some more. And it has been very good for us.

One year ago: Reflections
Two years ago: I wouldn’t change a single thing

Outdoors

In the midst of all the madness last week, I managed to wake up early, put my mask on and head out for my first outdoor run in over three months. I swear, I cried a little.

And because I felt so good, I went again, the very next day. It was raining, a typicaly Bangalore morning, feathery drizzle all the way through my entire run. It felt so great to be outdoors, and so good to be running in the rain.

It’s all the exercise I could manage. But it gave me a burst of energy and good hormones I so needed. I took the weekend off from volunteering, and lay low. Feeling feels. Journaling, painting, listening to music. Eating greasy Chinese take out. Crying and laughing. Sleeping. Not exercising. Just listening.

Then Monday came around, and I knew from the moment I woke up and stepped out of bed that it was going to be better. This week, I’m looking forward to gently getting my exercise and cooking routine back on track. Infections are spiking in Bangalore again and I’m not feeling so safe to head out again for a run. It was short-lived joy, but I think I’ll pass for now. Back to those home workouts that I’ve not done in two weeks now. My fridge was a mess, overstocked, but chaotic with nothing cohesive to make a meal from. I cleared it out and set that right over the weekend and already, I feel so much better.

As much as I am raring to get going, I clearly am not ready to dive into the deep end, so I have had to reign myself in and stay with what I can do and what my body and mind is allowing for. This whole experience has been a live lab for all my learning in boundaries, empathy, holding space for the other while also making space for everything that it rakes up within me. And I’m quite pleased with how I have pulled myself through it. Not punishing myself, but staying very close to what I need and taking it when I must.

Two years ago: Love on the weekend   
Four years ago: I’m only procrastinating to avoid the discomfort

Grey-blue

Woke up to a classic grey Bangalore morning, and a daytime drizzle that I have been praying for for weeks now. And it’s taken me from living in shorts for eight straight weeks to a full-sleeved teeshirt and jeans this morning. I have missed this weather so much.

This comes on the back of four days of torrential evening downpours. Insane winds, heavy, heavy rain that wreaked havoc in my neighbourhood. Amongst several others, we lost a gigantic rain-tree (I think) that was easily over 50 years old. A tree that the home I grew up in overlooked, a tree that I have seen every single day of my life the last 25 years in that home. A tree that has grown and grown right before our eyes, housing so many dozens of birds and squirrels and what have you. It’s survived being struck by lightning some years ago, but the storm a few days ago knocked it right off from the roots, sending this colossal epic life-giving green lunch on my block crashing down.

The storms have been so bad, flinging our windows open, bringing glassware crashing down, upturning my pots and badgering my plants. It’s been destructive as hell. In keeping with the general energy around the planet at this time, I would say. This virus, the genocide it’s brought on, the definite economic slowdown that’s creeping up, a cyclone, storms, avalanches in some parts of the country, a heatwave in others, and now locusts. I keep wondering when we’ll catch a break. It’s like we just can’t.

I’ve been feeling melancholic all week. And as it has been the last three months or so, the words have been hard to come by. They’re there, swimming around in my brain. But I have almost no inclination to pickle them and prune them and put down in articulate terms what I am feeling at the moment.

I have gotten far too comfortable with feeling the feelings, rather than trying to necessarily understand or break them down. It might seem counterintuitive to say so, but this has been a freeing shift.

And so this morning, when I woke up to the greyness that immediately spurred a hot shower and a full-sleeved tee, I felt a resonance. The skies are melancholic. The air is wet. There’s that faint aroma of rain hanging in the air like an unkept promise. And there’s no sunlight to be seen right now.

I’ve been feeling intensely lonely lately too. More than usual. More than I have even during the lockdown. It’s not loneliness that’s a longing for company, but something else. Something I am not quite sure of, but am feeling very intensely anyway.

And so this morning, when I woke up to this greyness, I felt very unwilling to get up and get going. Last night I had a plan for this morning. Workout, chores, veggie shopping, lunch by myself. Instead I have just been in bed for much longer than planned, canned the workout and chores, had a hot shower, and gotten right back into bed.

I am okay with this.

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

Lovely day

Highlights:

My tuck jumps have gotten steadily better. I’ve gone from not being able to do more than 2-3 at a stretch in February, to being able to do a slippy cheat version for 30 seconds (cheating was the only way to endure the interval) on my birthday, to today doing them really bloody well for the entire interval.

I felt seriously stoked. Working out within the physical restrictions of a 4x5ish space in my living room at home has upped my game. Who’dathunk?

Vc had a light work day and so we spent it together relaxing, just doing our own thing. It is a seriously underrated luxury.

I cooked lunch today as opposed to eating leftovers from dinner the previous night, which is usually the strategy. Sindhi kadhi, methi aloo and some crispies on the side — perfect for the threatening-to-pour-any-minute-now day that it was.

Then it came down finally. It poured the fuck out at sunset and things have cooled off considerably.

I went the whole hog and made Biryani today. Friday onions, a separate meat curry cooked in coconut milk, half cooked basmati rice. Layered and cooked on the dum. It was divine and I even took a picture, which I looked at much later, only to discover it’s a perfect depiction of how good the biryani smelt and looked because I was clearly in too much of a rush to dig in.

Two years ago: There’s still time for another
Four years ago: On the calmness of being at home

Babies

The only kind that interest me:

***

It’s been a quiet few days again. Meddling about the plants. Cleaning here and there. Cooking some. Sleeping lots. Reading a little again. And I may be getting eerielt comfortable with it all.

The silence. The aloneness. The containment. The sufficiency of it all.

One year ago: An opportunity and a gift
Two years ago: We keep this love in a photograph

Minimal

Things that excite me these days.

Before I get startled by the price for a bunch like this. 50 rupees last week. 55 this week. And yes we’re running through entire bunches in about a week. Don’t ask.

Mid-week work from home scenes. Aka: life. I have really enjoyed being locked down with VC. Much, much more than I imagined possible. And by that I mean for a simplified, pared down, minimal routine that we have had, it has somehow been richer and fuller, together. I’m not even sure how.

Blue hour that otherwise makes me slightly blue, I find bittersweet and beautiful, some days.

One year ago: Happy bytes
Four years ago: Malleswaram market things

The fullness of ease and balance

Going through another phase of really enjoying this stay-in business. Cooking, gardening, exercising, cleaning, pottering, tending to forgotten corners of the house, napping, bingeing on TV, staying up late, spring cleaning, hanging out with VC, chatting with Niyu, video-calling S. There seems to be time for it all. All the things I usually put off for “later” is here in the now.

There’s also no rush about any of it. I wake up and go with the way I’m feeling on any given morning. Energetic, sprightly? Great! A little lazy and wanting to sleep in? Let’s do that, let’s exercise later and get about the day accordingly, not doing all that I might ave planned to. Feeling downright lazy? Cancel the day.

This morning I had one of those slow days. I nearly skipped exercising altogether, because there were chores to be done and that usual toss-up played out: workout and skip chores or skip chores and workout? Except a third choice is emerging these days. One that only comes up when I’m not time-bound. So I worked out, slowly, because that’s the kind of day it was. No high-intensity jumping about. And then we got to the chores, VC doing his bit, me doing mine. And I took twice the amount of time I usually do. Going about it probably “inefficiently” — but it was okay. At lunch time VC made grilled cheeses toasts for me, and Maggi for him, while I cut up a plate of mangoes. And we called it lunch.

This is new for us. Certainly very new for me. This level of relaxation, the ease, the ability to just go with the way the day is unfolding and the way my body feels. An older me might have fretted about the slow start, the sloth in my body, and tried to whip myself to be productive and efficient. I might have felt terrible about wasting an entire morning to chores. I might have felt really guilty about VC having to make me “lunch” and a lunch of bread cheese, processed noodles and mangoes just wouldn’t cut it.

But somehow, it’s okay. There have been many days like this, and they’ve all been okay.

I have had phases of easing up like this before, and every time it has come from being very tuned in to what I am feeling. This is no different, I want to say. Except there is a difference. No previous phase has lasted this long, and been so enjoyable. Something has changed, the energy around this ease is different this time around.

It has come with a deeper connection, a newfound ability to fill out time, take space and take place, and really lean into intentionality a little bit more. Every little mundane thing that I do, feels very intentional. And I have a tiny inkling that is what has made the difference.

Our home feels more lived in, because I feel more present to every corner. Dusting, tending, prettying — because I now have to do it all and I have discovered I have the time, the patience and I enjoy it. The garden is abloom because we’re much more involved than we have been. I feel the fittest and leanest I have in a long while, because there’s so much more movement and exercise happening even outside of the scheduled workouts. We’re hanging out and conversing and enjoying things together — games, movies, silence.

Last week was a tumultuous one. For me, but consequently for VC too. I felt volatile and I erupted more than once. It was emotionally challenging. I felt and expressed anxiety that what we have had and enjoyed will not last forever, that it will be ruined. I felt torn up about that, horrible that I had no control in doing what one needs to to just make it stay. Until I realised; of course it’s going to change. Of course it’s not going to last forever. Of course it’s not in my control. 

And then things eased up again. Differently, this time. I know something very elemental has changed for us during this period of lockdown. I know things have shifted for VC, and I know they certainly have for me. Even though the physical reality of our life isn’t very different from before, something is different. Especially now than when the lockdown began.

It feels like a return. A return to connection, return to love, return to beauty and a return to ease and balance. And this feeling has really filled me up most days this past week.

The biggest difference by far though, is that I am not hanging on to it. I am not filled with thoughts of wanting to bottle it up for the future. I am just here, experiencing the balance, within and without. Witnessing the ease and flow that has made a remarkably different entry. Savouring this fullness now. As it is.

One year ago: Renewed relationships
Two years ago: April

The sweet confinement of aloneness

Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet confinement of your aloneness to learn,
anything or anyone that does not bring you alive
is too small for you.

— David Whyte

I don’t know when it happened, but this extended solitude and stillness has filtered much from my daily life. Chatter. Energy sapping conversation. Distractions in activity. Distractions in thoughts. Distractions in being. People and their behaviour. Inner circles and outer circles. Essential must-haves and non-essential great-to-haves-but-can-totally-do-without. Habits. Obsessions and compulsions. High standards. My own overactive kind. My own hyperactive energy.

It was probably a gradual and gentle descent and not a single, pivotal moment. Somehow everything seems very narrowed down to the bare minimum. Only showing what is really needed. Giving me proof, again and again, of all that I really need to survive, get on, and be happy. Like the barely visibly shiny dot of a pinhead.

Has this period made anyone else frightfully quiet, inward and still? Almost motionless. Minimal. Pared down. Stripped. Naked. Free. Light. Unadorned.

Necessary. Breathing. Alive.

Minimal-everything has been an ongoing theme and pursuit in my life for many years now. And I actively work on minimising (sometimes a little too ruthlessly) all aspects of my life — whether consumption or people — reflecting and course correcting at regular intervals. And still, nothing has brought me to this level of containment where everything feels subtle. Delicately complex. Yet understated. Delicious.

Even with the days I long to be out, the missing of people, the longing for the trees and the outdoors, the dreams of travelling, my life and my days feel full. The realisation of this dichotomy, this crazy contradiction, is so thrilling.

I already feel a new way of life has slipped under my skin. I am seeing changes have already just happened even as I was considering them just a few weeks ago. The newness has tucked itself in the notches of my joints, sprouting new muscles from beneath my bones. It feels natural, like a part of me, re-growing. I feel like now my insides need to be re-accustomed to it all.

I was telling N the other day, I feel like I need to re-learn how to be a person out in the world again. And I find myself treading slowly, in that direction, utterly sure about what I don’t want to do.

Baby steps.

The darkness has been hard. The aloneness has been heavy at times. The slowness challenging sometimes. The quiet, haunting. But I see how necessary it was. I see the sweetness of it all. The magic. The ways of the universe.

One year ago: Quiet
Four years ago: Things about VC that I never want to forget #16

Never gets old

Watched Piku tonight. It never get’s old.

Yep, I’m still not over it, I still can’t believe it.

One year ago: All the hearts
Two years ago: Sweet dreams are made of these
Four years ago: April