Stillness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Slow and steady

It’s been a rather flip-floppy week and I’ve floated along feeling unanchored for the most part. First the extended weekend and the extra day spent at the beach. It took me a whole day to recover from that and get out of the holiday blues and back to work. Just then I had the blow out with the client. I felt all loud and fierce in the moment when I stood my ground, but a couple of hours later I began to feel really sad about it. Not for what I said or did, because I was in the right, but just about yet another disappointment. Human beings are just so disappointing and it felt like a last straw.

So I turned to good old carbs for comfort. With a side of a Sri Lankan cinnamon and burnt star anise infused G&T at my new favourite pizza place. VC was only more than happy to take me out and so I binged on a meatballs on focaccia starter followed by a pepperoni pizza.

Today though, I woke up feeling quite rudderless because it dawned on me that suddenly a large chunk of my day is absolutely free and I didn’t know what to do with myself. Work does give my day structure and purpose and I’m back to the drawing board about where to go next. All of this is especially floaty in Goa where my days are long and lazy, and I’m technically in this limbo between holiday and regular life, not sure which way to go.

It could have been another floaty, aimless day but thankfully by now I have figured out my go to fixes that anchor me and bring steadiness to my days. I’ve dragged my feet with exercise this week, thanks to sleeping late so many nights in a row and all the indulgence in terms of food and drink. I’ve flaked and fudged a workout or two, even though I caught an hour long beach walk/run with R every morning that we were away.

Today I just knew I needed to not give myself any excuses. So I kicked myself to workout in the morning and forced myself to finish it strong, in a pool of my own sweat. I was finished, totally wiped, by the end of it but I felt so good. It’s like every single day, I forget how this is just starting trouble and that just seven or eight minutes in when I really break into a sweat and begin to feel the burn, is when the endorphins happen and I begin to thank myself for not allowing another miss.

I went to the nursery again this past weekend and got some new plants for the house. I’m afraid it might have become my new retail therapy, considering I’ve decided not to buy any clothes, shoes or accessories for at least another year.

After my workout I spent a good 20 mins tending to my plants. Don’t ask what I do and why it takes so long but I just enjoy pottering about, digging here clipping there, moving pots around. I don’t believe I’m very good at it but it is extremely satisfying and warms my heart.

I’ve also figured I don’t do well with just being cooped up all by myself for many days. I’ve been especially lonely after VC leaves for work this week, and the lethargy has made my enthusiasm to plummet. So today I got out and decided I should get out every few days, even if it’s just a supermarket run. I’m no longer the homebody I used to be when I lived here, going for days on end without stepping out at all. An hour outdoors was all it took, stocking up on groceries and stuff for a BBQ dinner VC has planned tomorrow, for me to feel steady and like I was back to being myself.

I came home, put things away listening to John Mayer and cooked myself a simple lunch. Dal, millets, a sabzi of sprouts and ate it with leftover kheema. Later, I watched Brene Browns new Netflix special and I ended up doing a couple of card readings for peeps.

This is pretty much all it takes to bring steadiness back to my life. A rhythm of utterly mundane tasks. Some days are just like this, steady and normal, as S said just as I was going about my day and she coincidentally texted me at the very same time telling me how she went about her plain and simple day and how it grounds her in ways nothing else does.

The benefits of having a routine are seriously underrated and I realise this is just what my parents talked about all along when I was growing up. I’m just living and experiencing the wonders as an adult.

Watching Gully Boy yet again in bed tonight and already looking forward to the beach tomorrow morning.

This is joy.

One year ago: The times, they are a-changing
Three years ago: Go far, they said

Separate, yet connected

The biggest takeaway, for me, from this past weekend has been the realisation that I suddenly know what it is to be separate, yet connected. To engage, to relate just enough and connect, without losing myself wholly, or disconnecting either.

Somewhere along the way, all these weeks and months of owning the words and turning them around and around in my head, I suppose the inevitable has happened and it has sunken in just a wee bit, into my being.

For a decade now, VC and I have consciously believed that we are not one of them, and unconsciously kept ourselves away from extended family on his side, as a whole. I suppose there is a time for everything, and this past weekend was as much about testing my renewed capacity for this kind of togetherness, as much as it was for me to create a space for myself, just the way I am. I have always feared doing this because of how different I am. But I realised this past weekend that I’ve reduced different to be a weakness. Unknowingly, that difference became my strength over the last three days.

I’ve only ever thought of belonging in this family, as requiring losing myself a whole lot, and so I’ve always kept myself at a safe distance. Something happened this past weekend that made me realise what it is to be almost wholly me, rather fearlessly, and still believe that I can be one of them. Surprisingly, I received nothing but love for it.

I feel I have a better sense of what it is to live and let live now. The two may be separate and very different indeed, but they needn’t be mutually exclusive. The two, they can coexist in the strangest, most bizarre and satisfying ways.

***

It’s a bright hot day outside, with an over-zealous wind in the air. I’ve picked up toppled pots several times, watched my curtains billowing violently almost like they’ll snap and fly away, and I’ve devised many methods to keep doors from slamming. I have work to get started on, but all I’ve managed to do in between all of this is lie down and doze off from time to time. It seems almost ridiculous, but between the emotional stirring from the weekend and the excessive time spent in the water and the harsh sun, I’m totally exhausted. After pondering about why I’m so tired for all of today, I suddenly realised what I am feeling is a deep vulnerability hangover.

One year ago: Where is the love?

Postcard from staycation – 2

It’s been an extended weekend staycation by the beach. This time around, I have realllly indulged and maximised the time in the sea and pool, spending an average of 6 hours everyday between both waterbodies.

I’ve returned exhausted, burnt to a crisp (so burnt my shoulders hurt) but feeling really (surprisingly) fulfilled. I was super sceptical, borderline worried about this trip and was on the brink of chickening to stay home on the eve of it. But it has surprised and satisfied me in ways I will have to slowly unpack for myself over the next few days.

The best part? When everyone else was leaving, lamenting the end of the holiday and the crash back to reality that flying into Bangalore will be, VC and I drove 1.5 hours back home, still feeling the holiday feels.

Hashtag blessed, I guess?

More tomorrow when I can put my thoughts down coherently.

One year ago: Remind yourself, nobody built like you

Everybody says I’m fine

Today I realised stillness is not something I can achieve. It’s not a thing that I can trap and make mine, captured in me forever. It’s fleeting, it’s constantly transforming, it’s constantly elusive. So much to my disappointment, I realised in therapy today that despite many past brushes with the virtues of stillness, it remains to be something I don’t quite know. It comes and it goes and when it goes it becomes something to win back again. It’s something to constantly aspire for.

I’m not very good at accepting these realities about myself. These dips, these realisations of the two steps back that we all have to take every now and then. Even now, despite all the work and movement, I hold myself to an unnaturally high expectation of constant upward movement, rarely giving myself a break (on this emotionally exhausting journey) even when body and mind are screaming for it.

To let go of that expectation, is to invite in the fear of crashing, of falling those 2, 3, 4, 5 steps back from where I’ll have to work my way up again. To let go, is to begin to wonder what a step back means. In some senses, in my head, to let go is to fail. And today, in therapy, I realised this is what I have been running from. This is why I have avoided being still.

It’s so much easier to say I’m fine. And maybe I am, but to acknowledge that small part of me that isn’t at this moment? Would that be such a bad thing? I don’t even know what it is like to acknowledge it without the riders and the disclaimers of being “largely okay”, that stem from my deeply hardcoded nature of emotional adjustment and flexibility that compel me to look on the bright side.

To let go of this expectation is the only way to move forward again. And so while I may pride myself in being emotionally agile, constantly flexible and finding the good/happy in me even when other parts are in distress, today I’m trying to just be still. To let go of this need to be okay constantly. To see what happens when I do.

One year ago: We’re up all night for good fun
Three years ago: Giving thanks

Changing seasons, changing reasons

Feeling the feels and thinking lots of thoughts about death of a phase, moving on to new horizons, finding new ground and growing into new skin since yesterday.

Maybe it was the massage I had yesterday that set of this feeling of having shed something. Or maybe it’s the energy of the first week of the new year that still feels like the dregs of the old, leaving on its last legs. I have actually been feeling this energy of something finishing since the last big full moon of December. Or maybe it’s the near end of this trip — that has in so many, many ways been life-altering — that makes me feel like something new has been set in motion.

Nothing confirmed it — this inner knowing of what was one young and tender, having grown, and what has grown and fulfilled its purpose eventually meeting a logical end, this feeling of the continuous cycles that keep finding their peaceful completion — like this splash of pink and white that’s taken over a curry-leaf tree whose time is in sun is clearly done.

This overgrown burst of colour that’s brimming with the kind of audacity that only be found in youth. The loud, look-at-me-flourish vibe that overshadows and drowns out what once was a wee little pot-sapling no higher than my knees, forced me to see what is.

Today, I went back to visit an old neighbour and dear friend, and quite by surprise found a parking spot right next to where it has grown into flourishing tree in it’s own right.

I’d planted that little sapling in the ground in the home I last lived in, in Goa. And something about witnessing this transformation, to see the blossoming tree full of life in all its glory, hit home today.

One year ago: Day 8: I’m just too good at goodbyes
Three years ago: Day 8: On waiting

Day 326: Oh God I feel like I’m in for it now

It’s hard to believe we’re almost at the end of November. Though my mind seems to want to defy that passage of time, within I’m feeling a slow churn like the wheels beginning to warm up and whir. It’s been many months of slowly taking one day at a time, walking through the disorienting I-don’t-know-ness of “future plans”. I’ve been waiting for a sign. Some indication from within or around, rather than a preconceived and fixed idea about where I ought to go next.

This has been time off from doing, and suddenly when the time to do something has come, Ive felt stumped and a bit caught in the headlights. It is so easy to slip back into these old patterns. Even so, I find myself still calmly moving. Without a plan, but with intention. Without a routine, but with a method to the madness.

At some level, I’m beginning to believe there is no other way to get closer to ones most authentic self, than to let go of the controls and commit to a slow life. I feel like this journey would have been incomplete without these important everyday-living lessons in waiting, patience, acceptance and surrender.

There is an incredibly freeing kind of joy in taking things slow that I never knew was possible, or that I could enjoy.

That said, I’ve sensed a shift these past few days. Like a pregnant buzzing pause before new beginnings. There’s some thoughts brewing about projects, new interests to pursue and some journeys to take. Fitting, as we’re fast approaching the close of the year. So even though my mind tells me it can’t possibly be the end of November, deeper within I know this has been a long time coming.

Two years ago: Day 326: Paint me like the sky

Day 309: The rest is up to you, you make the call

The #metoo updates have been consistently triggering for me. Much as I have tried to measure how much information I am taking in, I find myself drawn by the seething rage and the collective bubbling over of the resistance to silence with mind-boggling numbers of women continuing to bravely speak up. The last month has felt like the unclogging of a long-blocked pipe, and there is just no stopping it now. I’m enraged, yes, at the sheer extent of the extreme atrocities, violence and exploitation women have put up with for decades and decades. But I am also flummoxed, watching from the sidelines, at the uniform confidence and entitlement male predators possess. Across the board. I’ve watched as so many communities that I have belonged to or engaged with at some point — advertising, journalism, tech companies, the dance and music fraternity — have had so many of their star men and heroes fall. I have felt deep empathy and connection for every single story from every single woman, and a growing sense of blinding rage at how much we are all in this together. Every story (and there have been oh, so many!) that sounds eerily similar to a experience I have had has driven home the truth about how the casual and brazen this violence and exploitation is. How much this  tendency to take advantage of women has been normalised. For us, and by us. And just how much of it has continued to grow and be strengthened by our silence.

But it was this clever little comic that hit closest home for me, bringing back a flood of memories from the time when my trainer came on to me in a way that violated my personal space and consent, left me confused about what I might have done to bring it on, wondering whether he was really being inappropriate or just doing his job as my trainer, and most of all gripped me with worry and fear about whether speaking up would mean having to stay away from and essentially give up what was actually the best form of exercise I had ever experienced.

This was too powerful, nuanced, familiar and clever not to share. I hope you’ll pass it along, far and wide.

One year ago: Hotel hangover
Two years ago: Day 309: Invitation

Day 272: Say, say, say, hey, hey now baby

Amsterdam. Day 3.

It’s been ten whole days since we left India and finally I’m craving a good hot frothy sugarless filter coffee. Even though the frothy hot chocolate I’ve been having everyday (sometimes twice!) Has been excellent. I could also do with some veggies that are not lettuce and tomatoes. The food has been stupendous on this trip. We’ve had everything from local favourites wherever we stayed to fancy Italian and picnics in the park, overstuffed cheese platters, Lebanese, Asian and even so much dessert! I can’t think of a single meal that disappointed me, honestly. And that’s not just my easily-satisfied side speaking. Even so, it’s time for some veggies, I think. And some cold home-set dahi. Those are the basics. And I guess I’m that person who will in cliche fashion want those basics after ten days in a continent that loves white flour.

***

Im most surprised at not getting any reading done. I knew this was going to be a high activity, lots of getting out kind of trip. Even with all the walking, I’d assumed there’d be lots of lazy spaces and pockets of time — a day in the park, some hours ago a coffee shop, an evening by the sidewalk — where I could read. You see, that’s typically what I do on holiday. But this one has been so dramatically different. And in such a refreshingly new way — to be out and about in three different countries in such a short time — I’ve observed, internalised and learned so much just from watching. And like I said before, I’ve been so full with the experiences that I haven’t felt the urge to reach out or need a change of pace.

***

We have walked so, so much. That was a given when we planned this trip. Even so, the amount of traversing we finally have done has been overwhelming. We bought day passes for the trains, buses and trams everywhere and virtually took no cabs. This is a first for us.

The other thing I’ve watched with amazement is how we’ve so easily skipped one me everyday. Either breakfast or lunch depending on how we’ve felt at the start of the day. This was done for no other reason than that all things edible here come in such generous portions, the meals we have eaten have been large and sumptuous. Even with all the walking about we’ve eaten two big meals a day and felt completely fine.

***

This trip has really rekindled the explorer variety of travel that I thought I was done with. I was definitely in a space where all holidays were about winding down and relaxing, but this time I outside my own expectations of myself by exploring every place we went to. Doing it on foot probably added to the experience, because there’s something about getting a grasp of the place on foot that’s unparalleled.

This has also meant a lot of wistful longing for my 20s. Seeing my friends in Europe, with the life and opportunity for so much we can never dream of in India made me really think about how I might do my 20s over if I had the chance. Seeing them reminded me of dreams I’ve let go of and just pass me by as inaccessible because of the way life has come to me.

I have a deep longing to fulfill some of those forgotten dreams of travel and living. But on the other hand, getting out like this without a plan and seeing how easy it has been to navigate the place On my own has also infused me with a new excitement that maybe I will make up for lost time in my 30s.

This is movement for me. And it really made me warm and fuzzy with new eye and virgin excitement, like the world is my oyster right now. The months ahead literally have so many options open. VC has been throwing very tempting life plans at me, planting multiple seeds of possibility and I’m stunned at how longing for lost time quickly becomes excitement for the time I have. This is definitely a movement towards a healthier space.

Two years ago: Day 272: I am eager

Day 269: Take a deep breath

Bruges. Day 3.

What does it really mean to pause, when presented with the opportunity, unexpectedly, out of line?

The process of becoming has so much more silent staying than moving. The becoming happens almost in micro-mini movements. It can only be felt and known in the pauses.

This holiday, in the most unexpected way, is testing my capacity to let go of the need to get out and get moving and forcing me to choose staying in spaces I thought I couldn’t.

I’m trying to trust the uncertainty. The tentative, slow steps. Quite often it is when things are uncertain, that anything is possible. And I have not been too good at waiting to give that a chance.

Hold on to your dreams.

Day 253: Shine a little light on me

Plot twist.

As much as the process of shedding the old and stepping into the new feels one must discard the old entirely, I’m beginning to see the subtle difference between acknowledging what’s old and no longer serves me well, giving it a good place in this process; and turning my back on it completely. All those parts I’ve grown out of, were still me after all.

Maybe growth and evolution doesn’t have to involve rejection of the old, but simply a healthy honouring of the way things used to be, and a happy acceptance of the way they are now.

I’ve often wondered, and I’ve written about it too somewhere on this blog before (cannot for the life of me find the post now), about where our old selves go to die, when we scrub off the layers and move closer to the truth of what lies within.

Of late, I’ve realised they don’t go anywhere to die at all. They find a place within us, settling into the background and letting newer, younger selves emerge. Younger, relevant and current selves that are roaring and alive, raring to go. Current selves who have been lying in waiting for their time to come.

I’m finding (albeit with a little difficulty) that it is possible to look back on these past selves with a little bit of compassion instead of loathing, or embarrassment, or disgust, or criticism, or all of the above. These past selves, complete with all the not-so-great decisions I might have made, that led me to not-so-great events, not-so-great people choices and the not-so-great ways in which I dealt with it, were the journey that has brought me here, after all.

Inclusion has taken on a whole new meaning, suddenly.

Two years ago: Day 253: Disjointed, incomplete thoughts

Day 240: Talking about worries and problems, people

Spent some time alone last night. VC was out to dinner. Cooked me a pot of soup from roasted carrots and beets, threw together a mutton curry for VC to take to work today, and settled with a bowl of watermelon salad with cucumbers, pomegranate and feta cheese. All while talking to D about how I seem to be in a rut with the home-kitchen situation, and feel totally devoid of all inspiration. The irony of the situation caught up with me some time later, as I knocked back the last sip of jeera-laced buttermilk.

This is the thing about a time of transition. When change is coming at me from all sides. On a daily level, from the smallest shifts to the larger impending literal future move we’re headed towards. Everything feels overwhelmingly (refreshingly too) new and a bit comfortable and same-same all at once. I don’t know if that even makes sense, but that is how it is. And it is sometimes unsettling.

I take comfort in knowing that I am quicker to notice my slumps or when I am regressing into an old pattern that will likely hold me back. So I am quicker to ask for help or do whatever else I need to steer back, with minimal urge to beat myself up about the slippages.

And yes, there are slippages. Every now and again I find that it is a process of relearning the same things again and again before the next big breakthrough comes around. I like to think of this as practice, and I know it works when the learning comes faster and the frequency of slipping reduces. Also, and this is a biggie, I’m learning to take more leaps of faith. I am taking chances and allowing myself the permission to experience uncertainty far more often, and far more easily than ever before. I am getting better at trusting my intuition and enjoy the process of being in the moment as things unfurl, regardless of the outcome.

Day 239: Cake by the ocean

One whole year since the life-changing 6-week diet and 8 whole months after I gave it up completely, I am finally fully feeling like myself again. I know I point out my hips a lot, but this has been the real indication. My pants no longer hang on me. They’d all gone shapeless, several sizes too large, and needed belts and all kinds of other fasteners to keep them up. Now they’re staying on their own now, and they feel snug.

My hips don’t lie. I’m back in them the way I used to be. Thick thighs, wide hips and everything in between.

I’ve been steadily moving on to the side of regular unabashed eating over the months, but nothing pushed me over the edge like the frequent travel this year did. I find that as long as I am at home, eating home food I am balanced, measured and satisfied with what I eat. And I feel good eating the way do. But starting with the Thailand trip, when I really cut back and ate ALL THE THINGS, I’ve been on a non-stop no holds barred eating trip. This continued with every trip to Goa after, normalising only a little when I come back home, only to fall off the balance again with the weekly visit to VCs. So somewhere in between, I just completely stopped thinking about it — carbs, sugar, alcohol, bread — like I said, all the things.

Something about being on holiday mode (even if only in my brain) makes me want to eat, eat, eat all the things. And I realise I have been happiest when I have allowed myself to eat. It has taken so much rewiring to really admit, without berating myself and calling myself a pig or shaming my genuine love for indulgence, that I really, really love to eat. And that I eat a lot more than the average woman my age. Yes, my skin might sometimes suffer because of it — sugar sends my acne out of control. Carbs and alcohol make me bloat, and I have to find balance and exercise moderation. But I have realised, I love food far more than I love the idea of flawless skin or a flat belly. For now.

For many years, the last decade, I was in love with the idea of being fit. It was great, it made me feel invincible, I was in the best shape and health. Even when I was on the diet, and for months after, I continued to feel good. In my body, about my body. Perhaps it was the turn my life was taking, and the necessary twist in my self-development journey, but it wasn’t long before I began to feel a strong dissonance between what my mind demanded — ease, softness, openness — and what I was doing to my body — abstinence, curtailing, starving it.

Life has this way of beating me down into submission, to see the truth that needs to be seen. And if it weren’t for the therapy and the work I was forced to put in, I could probably have taken a lot longer to see the mind-body connection, and how much what I was doing to my body was slowing my mind down. On one hand, my soul was raring to go on this journey, but my body was stopping to exercise portion control and self-flagellation.

I couldn’t keep it up. This is not to say indulgence is the way to go. I know that my periods of indulgence and binging are short and are always punctuated by adequate windows where everything gets balanced. Home food is good food, and what we eat on a regular basis is good and wholesome, even without all the eliminations. And that really keeps my system ticking. But it was important to let the reins go. To feel fully, to be me fully. To allow my being to sprout.

In Goa last week, I realised this love I have, to treat my body with good food of late, has been such a vital part of that process of sprouting. About accepting myself just the way I am — hips, thighs, abs, arms, face as they are. In the months between stopping the intense diet and working-out and now, there were periods of struggle when I’d look at fitness icons every now and then and momentarily slip back to wishing my butt were a different size, my waist were smaller and the like. I’d stress about how I’m undoing what I worked so hard to achieve. I was so hard on myself, and it routinely made me so unhappy. First the lack of eating what I wanted to eat, and second the fact that I was even putting myself through it.

It is only as recently as the last 2 weeks that I am experiencing a new level of freeing self love. And I knew it was freeing when I stopped counting what I was eating.

I’ve realised it’s possible that for many years, I was more in love with an idea of being painfully fit, more than I actually loved what it takes to be that fit.

In reality, being just a little bit fit will do.

Second, that idea of what fit is was woefully inadequate for the person I was becoming. It was limiting, restrictive and at a very fundamental (and unconscious) level, ate away at my joy. My sprouting quite literally needed nourishment, and there I was not allowing it.

I’m trying every day to redefine my idea of fit — to tone down the emphasis on how my body looks, and focus more on how I feel. In my heart, in my mind. Deeper down, in my soul.

I realise now that the only want any of these life habits can be sustainable is if I feel good practicing them. And I will only feel good practicing them, if I listen to what it is I need, and move accordingly. So it has taken constant nourishing, through good food, healthy thoughts, and it has taken constant reworking of limiting beliefs and it has taken the hugely painful and taxing work of including everything that I was too afraid, ashamed, proud to see and accept as mine — my faulty beliefs, my inaccurate definitions, my terribly harsh goals.

Try as I did for a while, this process simply didn’t allow for exclusions of any kind. Not of food groups, not of happy moments shared in the company of people who would call bullshit gently when I faltered, not of the opportunities to look deep within with honesty, not of the ability to change

I simply could not keep going with the pursuit of “strong” the way I believed it to be true to me, when deep down my being craved and needed softness, less rigidity, more vulnerability. And acceptance.

In this too, there has been a big lessons in loosening up, and allowing a little give. As much as I struggled to embrace the fact that I did in fact have a warped sense of body image, I have found that joy in embracing my whole self again.

It is enough. I am enough.

The truth is, I love a hearty meal. How else can I explain the glee in planning even the simplest dal-rice meals? This joy comes to me on a daily basis, day after day after day. It’s true what they say, abs are made in the kitchen, but I love dal-rice-and-potato meals way more than I love the idea of flat abs.

Accepting myself, and my body has meant being realistic about its capacity, it’s limitations. It has been about understanding that joy happens when my body works with my mind, and vice-versa, not against. It has meant accepting that the softness I needed in my emotions, needed to find a home in my body.

It has been about choosing kindness and allowance, over the many disallowances Id made mine. It has been about growing soft, letting those muscles really soften, as a blueprint for giving up the obsession to be strong, literally and figuratively. It has been about spreading myself out, taking up space and not shrinking to fit in. It has been about allowing myself vulnerability in my very being — not something I can simply talk about if I don’t bring it into my life, in every aspect possible. And that has meant letting go of the labels, the notions, the sense of self I had cultivated so strongly attached to fitness.

I had to break it down and let a newness grow out of it, to see what else I could be.

Could I be a new kind of fit?
Can I find happiness in a different form and shape?
Could this be an essential part of the journey?

It has not been about seeking comfort in telling myself I’m perfect and flawless. It has meant accepting that my body, me, is just what it is. Not perfect, not horrific. It’s big in parts, smaller in others, it has skin that leaves so much to be desired, a shape that’s sometimes hard to clothe.

It is just what it is. Some days I feel great in it, some days not so much. But it has meant learning to be okay and comfortable in this body, this skin, despite it all. It has been about wearing it with love and acceptance even on those days when I’d rather not. It has been about finding clothes that fit me, rather than fitting myself into clothes I believe I should. It has been about letting go of labels of strength and muscle, and embracing the softness and vulnerability my life so needed.

They say what you eat, is what you are. And I can’t help but believe it is so darned true. These days I feel full and whole. I feel no parts of me left behind, or out. I feel lovely and loved.

I feel intensely. Every emotion I witness fills me up, every encounter and experience, a reminder to dig in and enjoy myself fully. Every time that I am faced with a desire an inkling these days, I find myself choosing action over abstinence — whether a mug of hot chocolate or the idea of a journey or an assignment or a tattoo or a new experience. This agility and impulsiveness is so new for the over-thinker and over-planner that I was. And this has made such a massive difference to the quality of my life. Suddenly everything is wide open, and so full.

The day I came home from Goa and got into my night shorts after 10 days in other night clothes, I felt the elastic bite into my waist, a wee muffin top on either side. Back to normal, like I was last year, I said to VC. Immediately, his reaction was to remind me to relax and not get obsessed about losing it. He’s used to this dance — I complain about my body and he swiftly does his job of making me feel better.

That was who I was. I’d only ever notice and acknowledge my body when I wanted to point out its flaws.

That night thought, it was different. I grabbed my waist, ran my hand around the little hump it created on either side of the elastic waistband, and realised just how joyful this process of filling-out has been. I have enjoyed watching what happens when I let go, give myself permission to eat freely. I have loved fattening myself up.

I have enjoyed watching my body up close and making it mine.

I want to take today to remind myself that this process, the progress, is slow. It takes time, and I might falter. But as long as I continue to allow myself everything — the transgressions as much as the permission to be — I’m moving towards the best life. Time will pass on, and I will continue to grow. In all the many, ever-changing ways possible.

Two years ago: Day 239: Friyay

Day 229: You haven’t felt the fire

(And by you, I mean me, of course.)

One of the side effects of discovering a deeper sense of myself has been the frightening reality that I enjoy dressing up and feeling pretty. It has meant allowing myself the luxury of indulging in small things I never thought I could possibly want or love. Things I didn’t even know I could love, simply because I hadn’t considered the possibility long enough to try it. All because of a fixed sense of self that didn’t fully align with things like pink lipstick, red hair, the occasional selfie on a day when I feel good, or even just looking in the mirror and acknowledging that I look and feel really good. All because of a woefully inaccurate and incomplete sense of who I am, and certain other ideologies that I had hastily picked up and imbibed, for no other reason other than that some parts of them sounded nice and aspirational.

I am now having to slowly deconstruct my false beliefs, examine how distorted my sense of self has been so far, and put it all back together in a way that is most authentic to who I am right now. So much of this has meant letting go of beliefs about being a woman I have staunchly held so far. Beliefs that I have partly because of how I was raised, some because of living through my teens and 20s believing I wasn’t cool/pretty/popular enough to every be worthy of the self-indulgence of prettiness and moments of self-assured confidence and vanity, but mostly based on the ideas of feminism that I have exposed myself to.

And so it’s been a fun time of smashing my own shaky foundations, and rebuilding what feels like and is a more wholistic self.

First and foremost, I’ve realised once again (and had it reaffirmed so many times in so many different ways recently) that the very idea of beauty is a social construct. Mostly one created to pander to the tastes and likes of the gender that sits in viewing, in judgement of the other. For far too long, one half of our kind have decided what is deemed pretty, desirable, sexy and so much of that has come at the cost of our comfort and sanity. To be constantly craving being something one is inherently not, and therefore the constant need to reach an (unhealthy) standard of what is beautiful, is taxing as fuck. And yet we wholly owned that fight and make it a large part of what we do day after day after day.

Personally, I have realised that even with a moderate-to-healthy level of self-awareness and self-assuredness, the constant exposure to a range of media and pop culture that screams messages of what is “right” and desirable, has further reinforced a lot of those shaky beliefs. I may have escaped the desire for fair skin wholeheartedly, but I fell hook line and sinker for the strong-is-the-new-skinny aspiration. And it was so easy to believe that was a healthy, even empowering aspiration to have. For over a decade this has shaped the way I viewed everything about myself — my body, my attitude to health and fitness that was ironically downright unhealthy/obsessive, the way I dress, the way I carried myself, my body language and even my sexuality.

I’ve realised how something so seemingly harmless, couched in good intentions, the right messaging has therefore shaped my notion of beauty, my self-worth, ad my notions of my self. But it was only when I realised how may choices I was making/have made are not quite my own but rather a reflection of what I have internalised as attractive, aspirational, that the cracks have become visible.

This year will go down as the year with the least amount of exercise or attention to fitness. In another time, this would have sent me down a spiral. But I wasn’t prepared for how freeing and powerful it has been to let that shit to, and instead watch myself grow. To feel my hips widen, to enjoy watch the cuts and curves of my once muscular body give way to a more curvy body, to experience with fascination, how my body is changing. And to therefore allow for changes in my wardrobe and the choices in the clothes I want to wear. Suddenly, I have found comfort in clothes that fit me, rather than the other way around. There are small joys in pink lipstick and red hair, in bright prints as much as muted staples, in shopping itself (a luxury I eschewed for a minimalism that I now know is not entirely mine).

What an absolutely liberating joy it has been to rediscover a new sense of self that is beautiful. In filling myself up with the solidity of an inner knowing, rather than the wobbly and slippery slope that is external validation. I think I am only now discovering what it means to know a self worth that is rooted in a belief system that is entirely mine, aligned with notions and attitudes that work for (rather than against) me and the person I am growing into. The most beautiful discovery is how this translates into a confidence, a positive body language, a freeing energy about myself. And this has come from building myself ground-up, rooted in a deep knowing what fills me deep in my core.

It has been like meeting myself for the very first time. And what a beautiful meeting it has been.

Two years ago: Day 229: Into the blue

Day 228: Stay and stay a while

For more than one reason, I have found myself contemplating the differences between where/who I was in 2016, and now. I thought life had come full circle when I moved back to Bangalore, but little did I know that it would go right around once again and give me another attempt to do-over something yet again, so soon.

As I contemplate the next chapter in my extremely ordinary life, another relocation and a possible uprooting and an inevitable resettling, I’m a bit taken aback to by how I have moved from the tentative, confused and overwhelmed-by-most-things person I was in 2016 to, how open-to-throwing-myself-at-most-things, very-willing-to-try-anything-once I’ve become now.

in the face of these new developments and new excitements, it is such a thrill to not be gripped by stress at the possibility of all the newness, and instead feel so ready to delve into it and take from its abundance, fully and completely.

Everything changes. Even we do. Provided we allow ourselves to learn, heal and look ahead.

And because I’m so taken by all the fresh newness, here’s a picture I snapped on yesterdays drive, at the exact same spot I snapped it in October, 2017. Wildly green, and so filled with promise.

It’s same-same, but different.

Just like me. Just like all of us.

Two years ago: Day 228: Sunday