Rest easy

When I have adequately tended to and cared for the vulnerable parts of me, I allow the overactive parts, that work hard to numb and hide them, to rest. And when they rest, I have more life to spend on living than merely existing. My days are bright and my life feels harmonious.

Not a tarot message. Just me marking a delightfully happy evening with VC in the yellow evening light of our home, conversation and much laugher, that affirmed this truth.

One year ago: Sweet relief
Two years ago: Happy days
Three years ago: You’re beautiful, it’s true

Moved

I am so easily moved to tears lately. It’s not a new, being moved. But allowing the emotion to flow without stifling it is certainly very new.

Things that have brought me to tears in the last few weeks:

  • The finishing moments on some days of Caroline Girvan’s Epic I. She is a warrior, so inspiring and such a healthy approach to strength over slimness and I delight in how I am slowly being able to do things I always pushed aside for not wanting to struggle.
  • So many, many moments on the new season of Drive to Survive
  • Ronnie and Barty’s channel, with the overwhelming views of snow capped mountains, high altitude sunlight and tall coniferous trees, just make me watch with tears streaming. You can sample the most recent one here, the most of which I watched through a teary gaze.
  • Some weeks ago I went to a play, for the first time in over a year of course. Socially distanced, and all. The hall was barley full, and it was a poignant,  but funny play. Dark comedy, if you will. But even before it began, when the lights went down and the spotlight on the opening scene came on, I welled up into an overwhelming river of tears that would just not stop. I realised it was just the visceral experience of being in a public space and enjoying something in the company of other bodies that did it. I have never been so grateful for my mask, which did a fantastic job of hiding half my face and soaking up snot.
  • Yesterday I went to an art show at CKP. And again, I got goose bumps walking through the gallery and felt very touched to be consuming art in a public space again. I have missed this so much. Now all I need is a night of dancing, or a live gig. When I think about it, I feel a bodily craving for it. This was the last memorable one.

One year ago: The birds
Two years ago: Mostly nothing
Five years ago: Pieces of peace

Moving ahead

One of the most gentle but impactful shifts in my thinking last year was to really shed the idea that my low points are an indication of having moved backwards in self-awareness. I realised at some point last year that this thinking was also deeply rooted in perfectionism, and holding myself up to an unreal, terribly high expectation, and worst of all — needing to have it together and be a projection of someone who consistantly “moves ahead”.

I don’t know when specifically what shifted to change this, but suddenly I don’t know what “moving ahead” even means anymore. What feels more empowering is to notice the low points and how I hold myself, react and move through them. And it is only when I started looking at things in this way that I realised how much has actually changed, and how whole and healthy I feel.

What feels like progress is knowing so deeply that I cannot judge myself for what I think or feel when I am going through a low or turbulent time. That if anything, I need to be the kindest I can possibly be to myself at such a time. It is in giving myself permission to falter as much as I need to, and instead being aware of my emotions and thoughts as I do.

It has made an enormous difference to the quality of my life. It isn’t that my life of I have changed, as much as it is that my gaze, my lens and my way of seeing my life, myself, has changed. Being kinder to myself, my mind, my body has felt like the truest act of love lately. And it moves me and fills me with an immense strength to just think about how much I can be there for myself.

One year ago: Lockdown things/thoughts/shenanigans
Five years ago: Fitter and stronger than before

Life and light

Being self employed, working from home since pre-pandemic times has meant building a routine around having nowhere to go. Our days swing between waking up and getting straight to work on busy days, and sometimes having the luxury to lounge about.

Lately, we’ve been trying to advance our time of rising. Slowly, without being too rigid with myself, I have been waking up 5-10 minutes earlier. It’s not because I have anywhere to be, it’s more because I like to have the luxury of moving slowly. And gradually, this has become a loved part of my slow mornings. To wake up, brush my teeth and still have nearly a whole hour to either just sit in the sun, to read or write, or finish the unfinished episode of whatever I was watching the previous night, as I drink my hot water; even before I get going for the day.

To begin the day slowly, mindfully. To have space and silence. To catch the morning sunlight. To be in the comfort of that has come to mean a lot lately, and it’s one of the things I am very grateful for, to have control over our schedules, how we work and having nowhere to report to at the start of every day.

One year ago: What progress looks like these days
Two years ago: Back to base
Five years ago: Pretending to be brave

Love quiets fear

Kindness eases change.
Love quiets fear.
And a sweet and powerful
Positive obsession
Blunts pain,
Diverts rage,
And engages each of us
In the greatest,
The most intense
Of our chosen struggles.

— Octavia Butler

I have a sneaky feeling she was talking about self compassion, because I’m feeling fueled by it’s softness in a way that is making my veins burst with a life I didn’t think was possible. The gradual waning of fear excites me. The space that has oened up feels gentle, cottony, welcoming.

One year ago: Standing tall
Two years ago: Mornings in Benaras
Five years ago: No. Just no.

Life right here, right now

This morning, I caught a visual representation of how I’ve been feeling lately.

Budding, thriving, flourishing (against all odds). Rooted, but flexible. Enjoying catching the breeze, loving the sun.

Thorns and bright blooms alike. Scanty branches, with promise of new growth, bunches of blushing fully-bloomed flowers alike.

One year ago: Cancelling today
Two years ago: Notes on an island
Five years ago: Travel

Little joys

From the last few days.

Pre-storm, billowy gusts of wind that threw all the dry leaves in the air, but cleared the view just for a bit so I spotted that audacious burst of yellow blooms down the street.

Made it to Koshy’s finally for a chill, early dinner and hot lemon tea. Got the window seat, gabbed away while it poured in dramatic fashion for a whole hour. Came home with still enough time to watch some TV and call it a day. Early.

Morning sunlight streaming through my windows (still shut), baking my legs gently orange, whilesitting in my unmade bed, taking my sweet time drinking my hot water to kick start the day.

Three years ago: All my sweat, my blood runs weak
Four years ago: Ten reasons why I love the girls I’m in long distance relationships with
Five years ago: Working better

In every direction

You’re the center and you’re always free
In every direction

— Junip

This morning, while obsessing over Nicolas Jaar’s musical genius with S, I discovered he had his first album out at 21. TWENTY ONE. It’s no different for some of my other favourite artists like Stormzy and James Blake, in terms of being focused and prolific in their 20s. And I said to S, in shock, “HOW do they do it so young! I feel like my life has only begun at 32. I spent my 20s unconscioulsy figuring so much stuff out, and consciously putting the pieces together when I was closer to 30.”

And here I am today.

This is just me in a moment of happy. Doing what I love best these days. Sitting on the ground, in the sun, beneath a tree. Reading cards. Joining the dots. Soaking it up. And the satisfaction from it comes from holding the polarities — this as a route to reaching people in a way that fulfills and excites me, and this as a job that earns me my daily bread. I’m finally in a place where I don’t feel the need to shirk the value that money adds and why earning it from doing what I love is a very, very key piece in the do-what-you-love puzzle.

This has been a hardwon learning. I’ve had a meandering life path that flits and swings from one thing to another every few years, with every pursuit taking me in intensely, often makes me feel bad because I have little to show for “consistency” or “staying power”. I’ve baked for a living, cooked and food blogged, had a pretty serious stint in freelance journalism and feature writing, and also a significant number of years in advertising. At every point, each of these things felt like the thing I’d do for the rest of my life. And eventually the pressure to balance the practicality of how much I earned from it (to make it practically work) without compromising on how passionate I was and how much joy it brought me, killed the pursuit. I would always reach a point where I had to “ramp things up” to make it make sense economically, a point where I realised I couldn’t go on in quite the happy go lucky way that I had the privilege to. And it frightened me to the point of giving up, each time.

There was so much shame from having built so many things up form scratch, only to shut it all up every so often and go on to the next. Repeating the cycle all over again.

Will I ever be taken seriously? I wonder. Even now, I stutter a bit when people ask me what I do. When I realise they mean “for work” and not just “in life”.

But in the last couple of years, I’ve become comfortable with seeing myself as someone with multiple directions. Easily excited and intensely taken into multiple things that capture me. A completely new thing every so often.

And I ask myself often, “What’s wrong with that?”

When this squidggly trahectory prickles me, I ask, “What’s wrong with reinventing myself?” And I remind myself, “You’re allowed to change your mind, life path and choices, as many times as you need to.”

Because that is what it has been about. If I’m being completely honest, I know now where my commitment and perseverence shows up. I am actually very committed to, and very consistent with reinventing myself. With all the practice I’ve had I’m so much better at responding to inner calls that take me to different, divergent places, and not necessarily in one direction. And I’m getting better at letting the shame around that slip away.

I’ve only recently started to see, accept, appreciate and hold that as just the way my life flows. I build, break down, let go, move on and rebuild often. I dig deep within myself often. I stay interested a lot. This is my life, as it has come to me.

One year ago: Finding flow, and flowing with it
Two years ago: Renewal
Three years ago: You guys, I must be the luckiest alive
Five years ago: Beach bum

Reunited

So dang happy to be…I’m afraid to say it…back to normal. Well, in as much as is possible right now, anyway.

It’s probably a product of some conditioning plus early upbringing/disciplining that made me harbour a fair bit of unnecessary guilt and shame around minor indulgences. Well into my adulthood I’ve had this ghost lingering around, asserting high expectations of when one is worthy of an indulgence, and even when one indulges, what kind of indulgence is permissable.

Little things like a daily coffee, a totally self-indulgent ritual that I might have enjoyed, or similar small “guilty” pleasures (why do we even call it that?!) — I’ve always kind of kept them hidden till just a few years ago. Even when I lived in Goa with absolutely nobody keeping tabs on no, nobody to answer to, I felt the compulsive need to build up and make convincing excuses to sound like I deserved a break or an indulgence.

I walked into Third Wave yesterday and had such a rush from the smell of that freshly roasted coffee that was so achingly familiar, that I have missed for a whole year now. The familiar faces behind the counter smiling behind from their masks and visors, eyes lit up to say hello to me, they even remembered my standard order — it was a thrill. The cafe was packed, buzzing with people working from “home” and it made me so nostalgic for 2019, through which I spent almost nearly 4-5 afternoons at this very cafe. Working, writing, reading, dreaming, chatting with whoever sat next to me, sometimes just sitting in silence drinking a cold brew or a hot tea all by myself.

And I thought, I’d really like to bring back that simple, everyday joy again. I said this to a bunch of clients the other day and I feel it is so applicable to me, I could do with the reminder — often.

The effects of simple joys, everyday beauty, small acts are seriously understated. If you grew up in a middle-class home in the 80s-90s, or in circumstances where simple pleasures felt like big, underserved indulgences, maybe you’ll relate?

I see now, as an adult, that it needn’t be something outlandish or opulent (though there is a time and place for that if youcan afford it, I suppose. Everyone’s idea of, and appetite for, indulge is different) and in fact the simpler and easier it is to access and make possible, the better. I have found joy in small things like a brisk walk to Third Wave, a quietly sipped hot tea, and a walk back. And for me, it doesn’t take much than that on any given day. There have been times I bought myself flowers on the way home. Or I stopped to pick up an aloo-bun at the bakery I pass. Or I met up with VC at where he was and took a ride back home together.

And then I thought of my weekly-solo-breakfast-someplace-out ritual from 2017-18 and how much that used to set me up for the week. I’d get my weekly fix of getting out of the home, of eating something nice that I’d plan to eat in advance, of spending some time by myself and sometimes even catching up with a friend later on. I no longer eat breakfast, but maybe there’s some scope to adapt the idea of that ritual in some way.

There was also my Sunday-morning-walk-followed-by-breakfast date with D that was such a good marker in the week. An excellent way to finish the week and yet start the Sunday off well. We’ve done it off and on post lock-down, but life and travels have made it hard to get back to the routine like we had going pre-COVID.

I miss the rituals. I miss those small joys. I miss the comfort of that rhythm. The predictable, unfaltering promise of fun in these routines. Now that we’re getting out, one way or another, masks on and sanitiser at hand, I am craving this kind of normalcy.

***

One would imagine Goa was a holiday time for us. But in reality I worked harder in November and December, than I did the entire year. Even the first two weeks of the new year that we spent in Goa were chock full of work. VC went off on a work trip to Calcutta and back and continued to work from home almost right through. The added difference this time was we were committed to getting out often and making the most of being in Goa.

We had really gotten into the swing of normal life there. A balanced, routine existence that since being back here took some time to regain. And then I went back and forth twice to my parents’ in just ten days and somehow that’s two weeks just whizzed by in this holiday like haze. Mildly disorienting because we’d returned from “holiday” to “real life”. Last weekend though, after days of trying to get back to my routine and finding my feet (and succeeding some) I swung back into action. Inevitably, a tsunami of work flowed in after and I have been swimmingly busy since the start of this week. And oddly, there is promise of normalcy in this.

Who knew.

One year ago: I’m alive
Two years ago: Super power
Five years ago: Fail

Unbridled joy

Barring the boost of forced optimism that January usually brings, the month hasn’t been a particularly good one for the last many years now. Pockets of sunshine aside, I have had deep, brooding Januarys for the last 4-5 years now, where the energy has been more downwards, into the depths than otherwise.

This year, I daresay, I feel distinctly different. Optimism feels like too shallow a word tod escribe how I feel. There’s a deep, deep rootedness that I feel firm in the soles of my feet, that has enabled a sort of springing up. An ascent, a growing out, a maturing, a heart-opening that I have been witnessing slowly come together since the beginning of December.

I have been afraid to acknowledge it, or fully revel in it so far. Wondering when the January sheen will wear off, and the real colour of 2021 will begin to show. But today I said, fuck it. I’m here. I feel really good. And I’m down for it. I’m going to own it, in whatever shape or form it has arrived. Because God knows, it has shown up very differently this year. The joy, abundance, happiness and contentment in my life looks nothing I have come to expect or I have experienced it before.

I’m here for it. With every cell in my body, I’m here for it.

One year ago: Maximum city
Two years ago: Mini thoughts make incremental change
Three years ago: January
Five years ago: On creative hapiness

Fin

Thank you for the sea. The sun and sand. For sudsegad and the daily siesta. For the sunsets. The daily brush with shells, saltwater and seabreeze. For the fish thalis. For tisriyo, veliyo, lepo and chorice. For the beef. For the chocolate cake, serrsdura and caramel custard. For gelato. For friends who never forget. For friends like family. For the beach stays. For beach days. For the drives. For the 2000+ kms done in just six weeks. For the ease and acceptance. For the best time with S. For all the good work vibes and the tsunami of sessions. For the comfortable routine. For the drinks and the doobs. For the humidity and good skin days. For the heat and the powercuts that made me miss Bangalore. For such great shorts weather, my jeans lay untouched. For sweaty workouts. For meeting new people. For making new friends. For comfort in those that have altered. For acceptance with those that I left and hurt over for too long. For the happy happy days that outnumbered all others. For the flat days that gave pause. For the solitude and solo exploring. For all the catch ups I managed. For all the new places I ate at. For letting go old discomforts that have been heavy. For lightness and ease. For everything that’s changed that I worried wouldn’t be the same. For how okay it feels. For how okay I feel. For the quiet end of the year. And quiet beginning of a new one. For a home away from home. Forever home. For always.

One year ago: On anger
Two years ago: New light
Three years ago: Blockrockin’ beats (Wayanad 2017)
Five years ago: Come undone

 

Tarot: On magic

It’s not Monday, but I had some thoughts on Magic. So here goes.

Making Magic usually takes some work in terms of aligning desires with actions that can take us towards fulfilling them.

But there are many times that life offers up Magic without any effort or doing on our part. Think the sweet spots that shine amidst the rhythm of mundane life. Surprises that hum through the low hum of daily existence. Unexpected gifts that were waiting to be revealed, that were chanced upon seemingly in the middle of nowhere. When we weren’t looking. Happy coincidences, chance twists in the tale, unexpected good times that somehow make our day, week, month or year.

It’s okay, good even, to take these moments of magic for what they are. With arms outstretched, to receive it in full, even when it feels unwarranted or like we did nothing to deserve it. From a source beyond our making or doing.

The end of 2020 has been nothing short of magical for me. And I’ve been trying to take it for what it is — pure goodness — without wondering if it will last, how long I’ll be before the next slump, if I’m worth it etc, and all the other thoughts I usually have that totally kill the magic.

If you need a sign, take this today. Magic received and passed on, just as is. No reasons given, no hustle needed.

One year ago: On listening
Two years ago: Changing seasons, changing reasons
Three years ago: I’m just too good at goodbyes
Five years ago: On waiting

Endless beach days

We took ourselves to the beach on the 31st to catch the sunset. And somehow, without plan, found ourselves back at the beach on the 1st too. Then on the 2nd, we celebrated D’s birthday by spending the day on a beach in the south. So now we’ve even ticked that off the box. I want to believe that starting the year with three days at the beach is a good sign. Of what, I’m not sure.

Of balance? Of grounding? Of more access to sunshine and salt water? All of the above?

One can hope.

One year ago: Recharged
Three years ago: Here I go again (on my own)
Four years ago: 2016
Five years ago: In-bloom

Sun and salt water days

I only got to the sea in the last quarter of the year. But it is a privilege and a joy I cannot overstate. Our plan for 2020 was to shunt between Goa and Bangalore, as and when we pleased, because finally we are at a stage and place in our lives where we can. But of course that plan was not to be.

We did make it though, in October, finally. And despite living in Goa for eight years and having this continued come-and-go relationship with it for nearly ten years now, this time around, I really made time and effort to make it to the beach.

VC and I decided before we came here this time around, four weeks ago, that we’d try and spend sunset at the beach everyday. And so when we did, I started marking the days. Counting them off, here and on Instagram. Till I got to day 10 (without a break) and I realised we were actually doing it. I t wasn’t just a pipe dream or a short-lived burst of josh. And so I stopped counting. Nearly four weeks in, I’ve been at the beach at least 5 days a week, on average. Most times with VC, some days with S, and many days alone. Sometimes to swim, sometimes to just sit and watch everything, sometimes with tea, sometimes just music, sometimes to lie on my mat.

I unfailingly made a conscious effort every single day to get out and go to the beach. And I made it on most days. Some days I settled for a coffee shop, or a drive — getting out at sunset everyday anyway. LIFECHANGING.

Anyhow. I’ve more than made up for lost time at the sea — a feeling I’ve carried for all the years I lived here and was too busy living life to actually go to the beach as often as one imagined one would.

All this to say, I’m deeply, deeply grateful for the sea. For showing me how to flow and be steady. For letting me let go. For taking my tears. For giving me so many spectacular sunsets to close so many days, all kinds of days. For taking my breath away so often. For leaving me silent and speechless. For being okay with my solitude and companionship, whichever I brought with me on any given day. For being always available. For steadiness. For resilience. For silence. For flow. For ease.

I have received more than I have given. I have taken more than I can ever return.

***

We spent today evening at the sea too. It was way mroe packed than it has ever been this season. That was expected, I guess. But it was ncie none the less. To soak my feet, ground them in grimy sand, catch floating seashells, dodge hermit crabs.

Watching the sun go down as it does every single day, I reminded myself to go in to the new year without heavily pressing my intentions on what is yet to come.
To be okay with feeling my way through.
To find comfort in the wonder. In discovering things beyond what I think I already know.
To learn and accept how little I actually do know.
To try and take each moment as it is. Full of possibility in its own way.
Without heavily pressing my intentions, expectations or plans on what it could hold for me.
To come and go lightly. To hold on to only as much as I need. And let the rest go.
To flow, and to be steady all at once.

One year ago: Curtain call
Two years ago: December
Three years ago: Crossing over
Four years ago: December

This disgusting sunset

So effing disgusting.

I mean, it has absolutely no business being so disgustingly good that my heart couldn’t handle it. NO business.

And then it went and made it worse by turning even more disgusting.

One year ago: Simple
Two years ago: Let the water lead us home
Four years ago: Home is where the yellow roses are