Day 171: Let me in, unlock the door

To learning more, and yet doing less.

To ditching the glorification of a unidimensional kind of strong, and embracing softness instead.

To allowing for the hiccups, the stumbles, the loud crashes, instead of walking on eggshells in fear.

To finding comfort in vulnerability and companionship, over keeping my shit together all alone.

To be decidedly soft, in the face of all harshness.

To stay still when it’s needed, and to move, but at my own pace when thats needed.

How’s your Wednesday going?

Two years ago: Day 171: I don’t feel sorry about posting pictures of my life

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Day 166: Come on, keep me where the light is

Today, in gratitude.

Yoga. I’m closing in on a full month and every day I surprise myself a little more with how much this is feeling right. To just be there, focus on starting and finishing every class, without an eye on the clock (like I used to be at the gym) or watching any kind of number led validation, or watching for “results” or anything else. This is definitely one of the better choices I’ve made this year, after signing up for the course I’m doing.

A week of rain. It’s been such a good week. Finished a long-drawn-out book thanks to the good weather.

Surprise walks about town. I really love central Bangalore — there, I said it. And I’m trying to make the most of it when I am out and about. It helps that there have been plenty trips that side. Between breakfast dates, class and general gallivanting. I took this picture when D and I went to Blossoms last week. Church Street is spanking new and shiny, but it thrilled me to see nothing’s going to keep the hand carts out. This one, laden with summer fruit — lychees, stat fruit, jamoons, ice apples and the like — just seemed like a perfect goodbye to the season.

Koshy’s. One of the few things that I really love about Bangalore. I’m glad I live close enough so I can duck out when I please. This past week I actually found myself there more often than I planned.

Breakfasts out. Quite unknowingly I’ve managed to keep up the get-breakfast weekly habit I wanted for myself. I met M last week and A this week. And already have plans for next week. I didn’t plan for this to necessarily be an outing with company — in fact, I was quite looking forward to a table for one because I just assumed it would be me all by myself — but I’m so grateful for how it’s turning out.

My folks who came back to town over the weekend. Amma, Niyu and I went out for a spot of shopping. We also managed to catch a weekday lunch at Nagarjuna — the four of us — together which is such a rarity. It was fun, rainy out and despite the traffic and the waiting, I am grateful for the time.

The heightened, energy-spike in my aha-moments this past week. Once when I picked up on some seriously bad energy one evening and just couldn’t settle until I had dug deeper and broken it down to get to the bottom of what exactly was bothering me. And second, all day long after meeting A and chatting about the things that we did — it sparked off a whole lot of thoughts for me. I love a conversation that has an impact so hard it lingers long after.

The ease in my conversations with VC. It’s beginning to feel like every time I feel we’ve unlocked a new level in our relationship, there’s something deeper to get to. I am only realising now how much this has been about presenting myself wholeheartedly and authentically to him. He has always been around for me, I’ve had to see it in the way that I do now, and grab my share of it and dive in. This has been an empowering and freeing experience. We’re better together. And I’m equal parts grateful for where we are and excited for where we seem to be going.

Two back-to-back weekends of coursework. As exhausted and mentally depleted as it makes me feel, the heady high of coming out with new insights, new learning is so addictive. I’m grateful for the safety of the circle we’ve created where I am able to fall apart, as well as participate in holding others up with equal ease. It is a privilege and a gift, and by no means a coincidence. I am eternally grateful for this is fast turning into the very reason for spending 2018 in Bangalore.

This gratitude habit itself. Six months in, I know just how much it has impacted the way I am able to operate out of a mostly positive headspace. One, my bank balance has never been this low and yet somehow I’m spending (literally and figuratively) with an ease I’ve never had. It hasn’t stopped me from grabbing the experiences I’ve wanted to. Two, despite the unsettledness of May, I got through it with minimal flare ups. Not because I was bottling it in, but because I’ve been better at recognising and acknowledging what is a blip vs what is an actual shitty experience and dropping shit and moving on with alacrity.

Three, the serendipitous way in which an assignment landed in my inbox. From an unexpected, unlikely source, it ended up being a foray into an area of work I’ve been toying with the idea of exploring. I didn’t know how to get an in. And suddenly there it was.

Four, there is a newfound comfort and balance in experiencing solitude (which sometines subtly slips into loneliness) as well as meeting new people and widening my circle, alike. It’s an inner ease that is taking me through it all — it feels like a strengthening of my core — making me stand comfortably alone when I find myself alone as well as open my heart (I actively volunteered to be in a study group, ffs) to new connections, new groups, when they present themselves.

This palpable abundance in my life — in experiences, people, travel, things too — I feel it every single day. And I’m so aware how it isn’t an outcome of the pursuit of this as stuff as much as it is about finding myself in this intangible bubble of positivity that I actually don’t have the words to express. It transcends physical happenings.

This is probably the first time in my life that I am actively watching myself change, and the fear of the uncertainty and of what I am shedding and leaving behind, is absolutely nil. I’m grateful for that. What an exciting time this is to be able to watch all the pieces of this puzzle as they are slowly falling into place.

Two years ago: Day 166: Just keep swimming

Day 164: Please stick to the rivers and the lakes that you’re used to

Another day. Another breakfast. Another conversation about going back to our roots. To a simpler, pared-down, more gut-driven, mindful way of life. A message (in its various forms and interpretations) that seems to be coming at me from every direction — in things I read, in conversations I’m having, in the choices that are coming up for me, in the things that impact my choosing, in the ways that I am indulging in the choosing — in every single aspect of my life, whether exercise or food or travel or the way in which I am one half of a coupling or the way I feel like my home should run to the way in which I want to be.

Today, once again, a conversation with A reminded me how much the intellectualised narratives we expose ourselves (and unconsciously, unquestioningly internalise and make our own) to can add to the chatter in our minds and the muddled sense of right and wrong vis a vis what is right and wrong for us, per se. And how much nonsense gets in the way of just humbly following that sense.

I feel grateful for the ways in which this simple reminder keeps coming at me. And Im so utterly thankful to be in a space where I have the capacity to listen, and really act accordingly.

Two years ago: Day 164: How blue?

Day 156: Serendipity, do you believe that this makes sense?

One way of looking at patience is the acceptance with utmost calm, that most times things happen in a pace, manner and an order quite different from the one I have in mind.

Beginning yoga (yet again) really affirmed this for me. That the right thing only makes perfect sense when it is the right time. At that right time, the outcome is sometimes entirely different from the one I might have imagined. And yet, it will fall into place and feel perfect, like a misplaced jigsaw piece that has surfaced unexpectedly and clicked into slot making everything shiny, whole and complete.

I’ve given yoga a shot many times before. Usually spurred by short bursts of enthusiasm to try something new, or when I have wanted to take a break but not go off movement completely. You see, I’ve always stupidly considered yoga to be too low-key for me. I know and acknowledge it’s power and place in the world of fitness and exercise, but personally, with my love for high intensity, cardio-based training and my experience with weightlifting, I just never felt that yoga would do it for me. It hadn’t really ever hit the spot like running or lifting weights or going to the gym or kickboxing did.

I’ve always deemed exercise “effective” when it has me breaking into a sweat, or it leaves me breathless, feeling sore the next day. My idea of progress too, was about pursuing that sweet pain that exercise usually gives. Bolstered adequately by messages that made me feel anything less than sweating bullets or having my heart race was not cutting it.

“If it isn’t hurting, it isn’t working,” “Your stomach should be on fire,” and “Always listen to your body, unless your body says don’t squat today. Stupid body!” and the like.

All very well and true. But because most things happen at a pace and manner quite opposite to what I usually have in mind, or the way in which I would imagine a spring back, it was no different with the downward spiral I took on the fitness front.

Several fits and starts in the first five months of this year made me realise I’m also utterly bored with a gym set up (even though I do enjoy some of the individual bits, like weight training, in isolation).

Even as I was allowing myself the time off, patiently waiting for the return to come in it’s own time, I always it would lead me straight back to the gym. I even contacted a couple of personal trainers, assuming that what I needed was a change of pace, some guidance and direction.

But, more often than I’d like to admit, things happen in a pace and manner quite unlike the way I imagine. And much like the attempt to hurry along change in my life, jump small steps to get to the bigger milestones faster, has proven futile, with exercise too, I realised that there is no fighting the natural order or energy of what my body has been telling me.

I’ve known my body hitting a plateau, but this was the first time my mind has.

It was no longer a matter of mere motivation alone, but one of actually tuning into the resistance, feeling it, noticing which part of my body it surfaces in, and just quietly listening. Without fighting it, without being in denial, and accepting that that too, has changed.

There was a time for a high-impact, sweat-it-out-and-get-breathless kind of exercise regimen. And boy it was glorious while it lasted. However, after nearly two decades of enjoying that, it would not be so wrong to accept that maybe that time is done. And I’m actually ready for something a little more low-key. Something a little gentler, less aggressive and up-tempo, more in keeping with the general slow-living kind of energy that has permeated the rest my life.

Which then made another lightbulb go off in my head: this is no longer just about fitness, but about the energy I am bringing to the rest of my life. If my life is a system, with several aspects and parts working in tandem, my goal these days has been to bring about as much synergy in getting these aspects to synchronise and flow. This has been about embracing and nurturing that synergy. And allowing the natural rhythm to take over, so all aspects of my life can be swept with that same Flow.

Life has been gently nudging me on to really lean in to the beauty in relaxing, in not being always wound up or rushing around, and I am only now beginning to see how that actually invites life to Flow — creatively, serendipitously, abundantly.

All I had to do was present myself and stop fighting it as it has engulfed me.

I’m almost too shy to admit that this has happened in the realm of fitness, as I least expected it. With how I suddenly decided it was going to be Yoga (after years of dismissing it as too low-key), how I actually woke up in time for class (after months of trying). And how I enjoyed last week’s lessons in a deeper, more internal sort of way, more than what it did for my body.

The messages I got, the same messages you’ll hear any yoga teacher say, hit a spot so deep inside me. Because clearly, it was all about much more than just my body.

Be gentle.

Go soft.

And then, there was the clincher yesterday, that had me nearly choke up and blink back tears, mid-Ardha-Chandra.

It’s not important to do everything all the way. Go only as far as you can. But it is important to find a safe way to get there.

In an older time, I casually used the term “Go with the Flow” and in my life that meant actively doing things keeping in the natural direction in which I am moving.

That too, has changed.

Now, going with the Flow has come to mean surrendering, doing little, but being patient and allowing life to unfold. Being open to being surprised, and allowing the mysterious, cosmic ways of the Flow to direct me, lift me up and keep me afloat in ways that I have accepted I cannot (and need not) fully understand, but feeling immense gratitude for how much I benefit from it.

So it’s no wonder that I have felt more spiritual in these weeks and months, than ever before. Words like surrender, patience, stillness have come to take new meaning — and they’ve become beacons guiding me along seeking more.

I’ve been talking about letting go, in so many different context, for yonks now. But only now, am I understanding what it means to let go of the urge to force life in the direction I want or imagine, based on my whims, my unquenchable ego and all it’s mind tricks. And instead develop an inner knowing, a trust that the universe has my back. To focus instead on getting my mental desires to meet my those within the depths of my heart, so that when they are completely in tune, that Flow happens effortlessly.

Title inspired by one of my favourite songs.

Day 147: For you will still be here, but your dreams may not

Postcards from Thailand 6.

Holiday wisdom in nondescript corners of unexpected places. Sometimes when I’m not even really looking.

Synchronicity and serendipity excites me almost as much as beach holidays do.

Sit and wonder.

Okay, yes.

Two years ago: Day 147: On the calmness of being at home

Day 138: Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day

On staying present in my emotional reality*

I’m sitting here pondering about time again. How it has this uncanny, tricky, devious way of slowing down just so, just when I need it, and picking up pace, just as is needed. Never really in my control, but always making me conscious and aware of that delicate way in which it passes, just skimming by, barely touching.

This month is panning out with a seesaw of days that rush by, leaving me breathless, my mind whizzing, but with a fair number of days that have begun with something strange and new for me — sloth, and an inability to get up and get going. This is completely new ground for me. And entirely alien feeling, this one, of not being a morning person. I’m a bit flummoxed at what is at play here.

Part of it could be residual effects of the workshop in Goa — something major has shifted, though I’m not exactly sure what!) and some changes are afoot, bubbling beneath the surface. I can feel it, and it’s giving me the butterflies in my stomach in anticipation, except I know not for what I wait, or what is to come.

Outwardly, it is playing out a bit like ennui, only on the days time hangs, when the slowness of it all becomes obvious. Meanwhile the churn continues just below the surface, out of sight. But it isn’t quite ennui in that there is no dissatisfaction at the heart of it. In fact there is that anticipation growing under cover, like a pupa sheltering what’s inside it from the world. It feels like what will emerge will be entirely new, unexpected, bright and exciting, in a way that the present state (pupa!) refuses to reveal.

Inwardly, there is a feeling of unsettledness. Something is astir. Call it a silent churn, the gentlest movement that is causing no major upheaval. Yet, is apparent in that slow whirring, low-hum, shape-shifting sort of way.

I’m taking it one day at a time. Observing the little changes — noticing which ones make me smile, which ones leave me a bit off-centre and grappling with finding my space again. I’ve been having broken sleep, which has also contributed to waking up not feeling entirely rested. There has also been a lot of thoughts buzzing, resulting in conversations and reading. But my mind refuses to be held by much. Not much work has happened, or much reading. I’m being awfully forgetful and scattered on some days. And all of it is feeling like this isn not quite me. Much of this has surfaced post-Goa. So, I am just letting it pass.

I think I am dealing with these times of transition much better than ever before. I am learning to have the patience, to dial in to the subtle shifts that happen in quiet moments that usually go unnoticed. I feel more persistent about tiding the low, as much as I do about riding the highs. And I feel overall more excited about what is to come, even as these moments of being present sometimes leave me exhausted.

More and more I’m finding not just the benefit, to use a staid, dull and clinical word, in staying, but also the joy in the process of staying.

Stay until the end, and there will inevitably be a beginning. Stay to begin a new, and lead myself to the inevitable end. Rinse, repeat. It is becoming the only way for me to be in the present, for as many moments as possible. How else can I know, watch, see, and feel? How else can I live through this?

“One never notices what has been done; one can only see what remains to be done…” She was always asking, “what’s next?” [laughs]  But as soon as we’re expecting the next moment to give us what this one is missing, life becomes this game of next, and what’s the final destination? It’s death.*

This is where the dance of time comes in to play. In every little moment throbbing to life right before my eyes. Time, grabbing my hand and taking me along some times, dulling me into a lull some times, caressing me gently as it brushes by, or turning things into a tizzy as it rushes by.

I stay. Because I’ve learned that everything reveals itself much better, much clearer and much fuller, when I stay.

*If you’re interested, Maria Popova has some incredibly touching, thought-provoking thoughts on staying present and grounded “in one’s emotional reality”, that have spoken to me in times when the loud and often harsh voices that dictate the shoulds and musts often out-shout the far quieter voice that struggles to make itself heard. And in times like this, when my capacity to stay is being stretched to the max.

Two years ago: Day 138: Flame of the forest

Day 113: You know it used to be mad love

A few (more) thoughts on relationships and communicating with people in our lives. Some brain-noodles I’ve been having. Some pleasant epiphanies. Mostly notestomyself.

One of the things I’ve noticed with focusing on my personal growth is that once the process of change has begun, it’s basically a journey of turning into something entirely different from my peers. At various points of the journey, a series of differences present themselves. And they appear in so many, many ways, showing up in big and little things. Unexpectedly sometimes, predictably at others.

My immediate tendency of course is to be afraid of that change and the challenges it poses to my relationships. Or at least that was my default, until very recently when I have experienced a significant change in the way I feel and approach this.

I say this so often, and I’ve written at length before (I seem to be seeing, feeling and acknowledging it a lot more as time goes by) about the essentially solitary nature of this journey. By nature, it is a process that requires a boundaried existence, that inevitably makes me feel alone at times. But, accepting rather than fearing and resisting this has brought about a surprising change. And learning to recognise relationships that no longer serve a purpose, and letting them go has now become empowering.

I’ve realised:

It’s okay to be disappointed by people. Sometimes it gives the much needed breathing space to rethink wrongs (theirs and our our own), reaffirm the rights, apologise if necessary, forgive (ourselves too) sometimes, and move ahead. Sometimes it brings out a much needed truth that was in hiding. Sometimes it affirms the fact that a relationship has run it’s course. It’s nice to keep the lessons and let the disappointment fade, if it does. There’s no point hanging on to it. Because sometimes when the disappointment has gone, and enough time has passed, it’s easier to notice that people have changed. As much as I have. Allow yourself to change your mind about said person/s. Second and third chances are all kinds of exciting.

Words and gestures aren’t the only way to make people I love know that they’re loved. Sometimes all it takes is a conversation. Sometimes just sitting in silence, listening. It’s so nice to be seen and heard as much as I feel loved.

Communication, even when it’s hard, ugly and scary, and promises to potentially lead to disappointment, is so crucial. It’s not always easy, but I’ve been making efforts to choose that discomfort, over resentment and stagnation. Choose honesty over politeness. Without that honesty, I don’t think there’s space for anyone to grow in a relationship. And really, if we don’t keep moving/growing/changing, we’re already dead.

Funny story: I once had a friend who resented the fact that I had changed. Too fast. Too much, I suppose. And their way of dealing with it was to insist I hadn’t changed, and that everything I was saying and doing was “in my head”.

LOL.

I should have seen that as a sign then, but I didn’t. I stayed and spent my energy trying to convince them of the many ways in which things had changed for me, and why. And I encouraged them along to try it too. Several years later, after many, many fits and starts, I realised that this was the crux of the issue: our inability to have honest conversations.

I really should have seen it sooner, considering the repetitive loop we were in and how many times we found ourselves in the exact same situation. It always left me feeling emotionally exhausted.

Which brings me to the next realisation: be careful who you want to extend this honour to. Choose your people with care. This is something I’m still learning. To trust my instinct, listen to my gut feeling and overcome fear of loss when dealing with people.

Creating and nurturing an environment of honesty, seeking it in the little everyday happenings, without waiting for confrontation to test it out. Sharing opinions, even though they may differ. Speaking up when I’m hurt or offended. Sharing when I’m feeling vulnerable. Asking for help. These situations will invariably help gauge if the friendship is too precarious, is taking up a lot of energy just to stay afloat, or threatening to fall apart over difficult conversations or plain honesty.

If you feel this at any point, it means that the relationship probably needs to be examined.

If a relationship actually does fall apart as a result of a difficult but essential conversation, it wasn’t strong enough to begin with, was it?

Two years ago: Day 113: Stop

Day 111: Doesn’t mean I’ll stop

Connie is back to posting again and today’s post is smack on for the way I’ve been feeling this past week. Some Sobering Saturday Wisdom.

(If you’re reading: I love you so much, Connie!)

This feeling of taking two steps way ahead, and one mini little one back, every now and then; the feeling that I am kind of sort of lost and fumbling my way through the dark (and that’s okay, and yet knowing that I am right where I need to be; these alternating bouts of calm and restlessness like I’m at the brink of change — this is all part of the process.

I know this now.
I know it for sure.

Two years ago: Day 111: Happy music fix

Day 86: Love dares you to change our way of caring about ourselves

Today, I’m grateful for the trying-so-hard-to-be-wild party I got to witness from the sidelines this past weekend. Because just when my eyes were about to glaze over from utter and complete boredom, the DJ played this tune that I had somehow all but forgotten. And it hit me like a bolt out of the blue. In the nicest way possible.

I’m glad for the reminder. I’m glad for the chance to sing out loud. I’m glad for the absolutely smack-on lyrics that are simple, but really cut straight to the heart of things.

 

I’m grateful for the music.

And I’m grateful for the champagne. And the wine.

Day 72: We form our own boundaries

The very first time I realised I had an issue with setting boundaries was when I realised just how bad my inability to say no was. It had caused all the classic signs of emotional fatigue and unhealthy relationships many, many times over. I’ve gone through most of my life trying to be “good” — which is to say do what makes sense, what’s safe, try and disappoint nobody. Add to it the do-it-all disease most women are ingrained with. It’s all the things we’re taught. So when the new-fangled adulthood wisdom dawned, and I realised self-love, self-care and self-esteem had everything to do with healthy boundaries and saying no, I was all torn up.

It’s not easy to unlearn that compulsive need to always do the best you can for people you love. But it’s not hard to notice that there eventually comes a point when that leaves you exhausted and depleted. A boundaryless existence is not only unhealthy, it’s unsustainable. What’s worse, it erodes the good effects of all the love, care, generosity and authenticity you might actually be attempting to bring into your life.

I’ve come a long way from where I used to be. Small steps, big developments, and there’s still so much more to work through in this respect. One of the biggest breakthroughs for me was acknowledging that if I find myself at the receiving end of behaviour that I classify as overstepping, encroaching in my space, asking for too much of me, exhausting expectations to meet up to, it is most likely because I have not set my own boundaries right.

I have not been clear about what is okay, and what is not okay.

I have been making steady progress in this area of my life, and I know the ways in which it impacts me. But recently, an event made me sit up and realise there is still some more work to be done. So back to the drawing board, I have been very seriously reflecting upon boundaries, getting a deeper understanding by reading related writing, and generally thinking about the signs and what I might have missed reading this time around.

The other thing that keeps coming back to me, again and again is seeking connection, and how being steadfastly committed to what it is I want most from relationships actually brings more of it to me. One thing is for certain, I am far more at eace with having a few good friends, than being surrounded by a brood of people that exhaust me. With that context, here’s a few new things that I’ve realised about how crucial boundaries order to have meaningful, authentic relationships:

  • True authenticity in relationships requires honesty and vulnerability. Sometimes it means choosing honesty even in the face of potential loss — ie: the risk of losing someone I love, being rejected by someone I value, potentially disappointing those same people I care about, losing comfort and familiarity and once again braving the unknown.I know this because the relationships that allow me the space to step into that twilight zone of uncertainty, with little fear of rejection or loss are the ones I turn to time and time again.
  • Drawing boundaries is a crucial act of self-respect. I’ve got to fully reject the idea that respecting myself and valuing myself enough to want to move away from a person or situation that is exhausting me, or demanding too much for me, is somehow selfish or conceited.I have this ease with literally two people in my life right now. And I noticed it exists because they too have a healthy amount of self-respect, which means that when I retreat, draw a line, express what is okay and what is not okay by me, it is respected and accepted with an ease missing in every other relationship.
  •  At the core of every act of drawing a boundary, is a value. The act of drawing a boundary, reinforces that value. Whether it’s protecting a feeling or emotion, my energy, or a part of my body even. Different people have different values towards each of these things, and therefore different boundaries too.This learning was reaffirmed when I read Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A Fuck. Increasingly I find I have the highest sense of kinship with the people who value the same things as I do.
  • The way somebody is with drawing boundaries for themselves, usually says a lot about the way they are with respecting others boundaries.This has been the big one to learn this time around, given the recent event I mentioned up top. I missed or ignored all the signs that I got along the way.

But this is not to berate myself, rather to acknowledge and understand what I missed, so I can pick up on it going forward. On the other hand, the same event made me realise what I have actually gotten better at. I saw that in my ability to separate what I am responsible for, with what I am absolutely not responsible for. I can only control what I bring to the table — which in this case was honesty, even with the risk of rejection. I cannot control how the other side takes it, what they make of it and what they choose to do about it. Similarly, it is not my job to save or fix the issue at hand.

Getting into a friendship with the hope that the other party will change, and make making that change happen my mission, is a grave mistake I’ve made, failed at and learned from very early in life. I see now that it is a heavy lack of self-respect and gross muddling of boundaries that made me venture in that direction. I try and not go there again, if I can help it.

It was liberating to realise the ease and complete lack of angst in walking away from a fatiguing argument, where I’d otherwise have fallen straight into the trap of a futile cycle of reasoning, trying to have the last word (which is another classic trait of  boundarylessness, which I very much had).

The downside, and I use the word very loosely here, of being brutally honest, presenting an authentic kind of vulnerability, drawing strong boundaries often means that they will inevitably be tested again and again. And naturally, not every situation or person will pass the test.

It is a fine-tuned sense of self awareness that helps cut through the fat and get to the heart of things. Even the bits that are otherwise difficult to digest, or make me uncomfortable — like the fact that maybe someone is trampling over my boundaries because I haven’t set them clear enough to begin with. 

Coming to that place of clarity is simultaneously empowering, and lonely. Because not all the people you’re dealing with are going to get everything I do, understand it in the same way and certainly not at the same pace or time. Dissonance and a clash of wavelengths get exacerbated all the time.

For me, this meant facing my other demon — the angst about how often people leave, or I have to walk away from people. I’m still making my peace with this. I see now that this is another price to pay, for being self aware. For being a HSP. For constantly elevating my own standards. This coming and going of people has become so normal, I now no longer fall apart every time it does, because I realise the increased frequency is a direct result of how quickly things become clear. Situations where values clash, boundaries are crossed, and emotions come to the surface no longer drag out like they used to. Things are very clear, very quickly, and  the ability to decide if I must stay or walk away has become rather free of hassles.

When I think about it this way, I know I’m actually better for it. I’m moving ahead. I’m tuning into my values. I’m strengthening my boundaries. I’m working on my self-esteem.

But, this whole moving on and leaving people behind theme of my life, that I often feel sad and confused about, beat myself up about, or take to be some kind of problem or lack on my part, I now realise is just the way it is. It’s a natural outcome of this evolution and growth. It is going to happen again and again, sometimes more often than other times.

The good news, and I know this to be true from recent experience, is opening myself up to growth invariably brings new interactions, new people, new avenues for bonding.

So I fear the loss of losing people less. Because I know others will come along, and they have come along. Some have surprised me by how long they have stayed. Others who I know will stick around, do. Sometimes it’s brought folks from my past back into my life, even if for a short period. Sometimes the same people you walked away from/who walked away from you will come back. But I’ve only seen all of this once I opened myself up to that possibility. By being selfishly committed to this learning. Of boundaries, of values, of growth.

It has meant letting go of the rails a little, and wholeheartedly refusing to shrink my capacity to grow, in favour of politeness, or in staying in the safety of familiar friends, or the security of a number of friends.

In my reading, I chanced upon this really amazing video where Brene Brown pretty much sums up everything that I was mulling over and trying to make sense of.

This really hit the nail on the head for me:

  • The most compassionate people, are absolutely the most boundaried.
  • I’d rather be loving and generous, and very straightforward with what’s okay and what’s not okay.
  • I am not as sweet as I used to be, but I am far more loving.
  • Generosity can’t exist without boundaries.
  • Boundaries are not easy because we care more about what people will think, we don’t want to disappoint anyone and we want everyone to like us.
  • Nothing is sustainable without boundaries.
  • Boundaries are not fake walls, they’re not separation or division. They’re respect, with here’s what’s okay for me, and here’s not.

If you’re interested in more, this is another excellent article on Mark Manson’s site, about on Strong Boundaries. And this TED Talk by Sarri Gilman.

Day 68: Come a little bit closer, hear what I have to say

I’ve been all about tuning down my aversions, cutting out the will-never-dos and the won’t-ever-happens, of late. Because if I’ve learnt anything at all in the last few years of my life, it is that anything can happen and everything can change. Even the things you swear won’t, can. And probably will. I’m trying all the damn time, not to be so cock-sure about anything. To approach everything I do, with just a little more give. To allow for that smidgen of change (that I am so sure will never happen).

A lot of this had to do with dissolving my ego a tad. Because I realise that most times, if I swore something — some aspect of me, or a situation I was presented with — would never change it was because it was too damn scared to let it, or it made me feel less in control, or small unsure and unworthy, or it felt too damn far away from where I was for me to even relate. But loosening up a little, I’ve come to believe that making room for the possibility that all those things could in fact change, doesn’t diminish who I am. It just means I’m letting the fear go, and opening myself up to possibilities — whichever way. It means that in the eventuality that things don’t go the way I am so ramrod sure they will, I will not be shattered.

One of the biggest positive manifestations of this change has been the improvement in some of the key relationships in my life. I realised my unwillingness to take feedback was a direct result of being cock-sure about my reasons for doing things and being a certain way, which in turn left absolutely no room for improvement. No give to try alternatives. I used to be impatient, impulsive and very restless in my communication. Stepping back, tuning my mind to acknowledge that there are always other possibilities, other perceptions and opinions outside of my own, has made me slow down a little. I’m not perfect, but I’ve found that swallowing my pride has meant that I do listen more, and I mean really listen not just hear. Listen in a way that makes me contemplate when I am told, the feedback I am given, and consider that maybe my way — just because I am so dead-sure I can be no other way — isn’t always the right way. And that even if it sometimes feels like the right way fr me, it could possibly have completely differing effects on the other person involved.

It’s nice to have the advantage of hindsight, to see how far one has come. For example, I often look back to where I used to be — stubborn (and I’m talking rebel-without-a-cause stubborn) steadfast and sometimes so silly — that when I now encounter statements like “That will never change” it makes me want to laugh. Out loud. Because the words “never change” almost don’t hold any meaning anymore.

Because, everything changes.

Every damned thing.

All of this recently came to light when I was in an argument with someone, and they went down that path. Something to the effect of this-is-who-I-am-and-this-is-what-you-mean-to-me which is all well and good. I laughed. But when that cock-sure, definitive edge of and-that-never-changes got added to the mix, I knew it was time to back off. Because it meant that nothing I said or contributed to the conversation from there on — no matter how honest or true — was going to be heard, let alone make an impact or be acted upon.

It didn’t matter how I felt, I wasn’t going to be heard. Which then begged the question — what use is that love and respect and empathy and generosity (this-is-what-you-mean-to-me) if the relationship doesn’t allow space for me to be heard?

That was my cue to back off. (This also led me to some new realisations about boundaries. More specifically, how much more I need to learn and apply, in this respect. But that’s a story for another post.)

The thing is, being so dead sure, of anything, often means shutting out all other possibilities. Including the possibility that one’s behaviour, actions, words, the version of oneself one bring to a relationship, might be problematic, or detrimental to the way in which the relationship is moving. Or sometimes it’s just that the way one is, isn’t making the other person feel very good, no matter how honest or noble the intentions.

There are few things worse than big, kind gestures wrapped up in ego-driven good-intentions. Perhaps one of those few things, is being cock-sure said good intentions are for the best, and will never change. Because it means there is little chance one will ever examine the effect it has on the very people one seeks to love, respect and shower with generosity; whether they’re actually feeling good or bad to be at the receiving end of it all; and if maybe, just maybe, there is a better way to be. A way that takes into account a version of reality that’s outside of one’s own. A way that could in fact mend or further relationships.

Wouldn’t that be so much nicer for us all?

Two years ago: Day 68: How we’ve aged (part 1)

Day 25: Gravity is working against me

I’ve been beating myself up about a couple of things of late. I’d like to stop. Not so much put and end to the completely unproductive self-flagellation itself, but also gently remind myself that there are no mistakes. Just missteps that serve as lessons. On the flip side of the opportunity to learn something.

It’s okay to have made a wrong call with a certain work assignment. It’s okay to acknowledge that I didn’t see the signs, the writing on the wall, right from the start. There was enough evidence staring me in the face. I had a hunch right from the get go. That the editor wasn’t being upfront, clear and transparent. And that I was selling myself short. But I chose to ignore the signs and go for it anyway. Because I thought I was at a loose end, and I needed something to bind me down to a work routine again. I am a long way off from seeing the end of this, but I need to stop beating myself up about it, get the job done and just move on.

I’ve really, really had an ongoing tug-o-war in my head as far as the whole fitness debate goes. The more I think about it, the more clear it is, how much of confidence, positivity, clarity and true liberation I have lost to what I now see as a completely unfounded need to experiment with my fitness. Last week, I finally admitted to myself that I was fine even before I went on the six week plan, and that in retrospect, I now no longer understand why I had to do it. Fixing this place in my head, and regaining this conviction is taking a lot more time and effort that I am willing to give it. I want to snap back, but the truth is I have to take the long, painful route. And it is testing me.

Then again, nobody said it would be easy. The rewards however, are happy-making beyond compare. So I’ll take it. Even though it isn’t always a pretty picture, or a perfect progression of linear, ever-progressive movements forward. I’ll take it, for that crushing sort of all-pervasive relief in finally learning to forgive myself, let it go. And just get on.

Two years ago: Day 25: Love

Crossing over

It’s looking-back time, I know. But I find myself only filled with wishes for the year ahead. I ended 2016 with a strong burning need to find my place — physically speaking — as I dealt with the growing certainty that it was not Goa. but I had no idea how that search had little to do with location or city or anyplace. And everything to do with looking within.

I moved cities, back to Bangalore, a move I didn’t imagine possible even ten to fifteen days before we took the decision. And it was merely the start of a series of unexpected, but so necessary, changes that would surprise and challenge me in equal measure.

2017 has been one heck of a year and the thread unifying it all would have to be one of transition and transformation. It’s been a time of letting go of the reins in order to figure out a new way ahead. In a strange space of being back on familiar ground, yet recognising so little of the city I once called home, I found fertile testing ground to stretch my ability to allow change, move with it and realise I actually enjoy it. Physically, it took wrenching myself out of the comfort zone to find myself again.

How odd that it took cutting the roots off to find belonging. It’s been a year of discovering that belonging and my place. In family, in work, in friends and camaraderie, in connections, in extended family, in my marriage, and most of all, within myself. It’s been a year of peeling back a few more layers and getting closer to what’s at the core. A year of understanding, with extreme clarity, how necessary it is to be so wholly comfortable in my place and in my skin, in order to belong to each of the systems that I do, need and want.

This will always be the year that I realised with astounding certainty how much I need and love my family. I’m closing the year rich with memories and experiences of time spent deeply engaged with my parents, amazing times with my sister (who fortuitously moved back home around the same time that I did), VC — my truth-teller and fellow braver-of-change, and a handful of friends who have walked along with me as I navigated the shortest. I feel so much gratitude for the gift that was 2017. Even with all its oddballs and challenges it was a gift to realise and claim a whole new set of values to go from here on.

For all my life I have craved stability, consistency and the safety of roots. This year I let that need go and turned my life around in the most significant way possible. The truth is, I have seen how different the entire year turned out to be, as a result of it. I took a wild chance, shut my eyes and jumped with little idea of what was waiting for me. I’m happy with how taking this chance has turned out. Because it turned out that at the bottom of that jump, I had an army of support waiting to hold and bolster me. Giving me a huge step up even as. Picked myself up with okay feet and wobbly knees. It’s been an incredible year of vulnerability that tested my resilience, but gave me surprising revelations and staggering opportunity for personal growth. And it wouldn’t have been possible if I hadn’t changed certain fundamental truths and values I held to be mine.

I’ve seen as much loss as I have, gain, this year. People have come and gone. Work has transformed. My sense of home currently lies in shambles (and it’s okay). Like I said before, it’s been an incredible year of shedding. But all the room created by it has only opened me up that much more for what’s to come.

I’ve already signed myself up for another year along this path. To discovering more. To talking less and doing more. To belonging more and more to myself.

Same time, last year: Day 366: December

I shake off all that no longer serves me

I started to write this post on the 1st of this month, and wanted to add in a fitting song because I realised all of 2017 has passed without a single music track/link being posted on this blog. That is utterly unthinkable. But guess what, the silence and an inexplicable energy-saving mode of sorts has crept in so deep, I didn’t get down to finishing the post and I have now forgotten what song I wanted to add in.

Pardon this jagged, rushed job of a post. Its long winded, repetitive and very roundabout. I’m aware because I haven’t even bothered to edit or prune it. It is an attempt to get going and have it out. Something, is better than nothing, I tell myself. Letting go of my obsession for perfection and finishing all business to the T has been constant work in progress and this too is an attempt to express, and write even when the words aren’t coming out the way I’d ideally like them to.

*****

It’s December, and funnily that expected panic and omg-how-is-it-December-already feeling hasn’t hit. I don’t think it will this year. Possibly because I’ve spend most of the year in a state of churn, and haven’t really felt settled in the real sense of the term. There’s been a fair bit of travel and moving around always makes me feel like I don’t have my feet firmly on the ground. I vascilate between the comforting mundanities that bind my daily routine, and the little surprises it throws in terms of things to do, travel out of Bangalore, meeting new people and trying out new things.

The rumbling workings of moving from one phase to another is what 2017 has been about. Even as I think back and feel like I don’t have much to pen, I know this has been a big year of shifts, change on multiple fronts. It feels so full and hectic, even as I realise I don’t really have much to show for it, in tangible, tactical terms.

And so I have written this entire year off to WIP, a state of transition, with no expectations of having done big stuff, ticked things off the proverbial list and the like. It was much needed because it meant letting go of control, the very notion of it, and the contents and parts I tend to try and have a hold over in my own life.

This year more than ever, I let go of patterns, fixed ideas and considering the relocation back to Bangalore, I had no choice but to make space for the physical change it brought. The only way to make sense of it and move through it with least angst was to go with the flow. Truly go with it was what I was aiming for. It took a lot of conscious effort, but for the first time ever, I may have succeeded in some part. In doing so, I got a taste of what it is to surrender to the what-will-be-will-be philosophy that so far only sounded too good to be true. I got a better sense of what is important to me — personally, professionally and otherwise — and began to focus on it. I am coming to terms with constantly allowing space for change, not only within and around myself, but also in people I associate with. It has meant accepting changes in relationships, allowing myself to feel disappointed and shaking it off quickly rather than brooding over it, and most importantly it’s brought people I had turned my back on for good back into my life in a pleasant, refreshing way.

I’ve realised this year, more than ever before, that my feelings towards people and the longing for kinship of a certain kind has always been fraught with angst caused by my own tendency to remain fixed to a pre-meditated and cookie cutter idea of the nature of relationships I want in my life. This year, I accepted differences, tonalities and diversity in people and I know I am all the better for it. Differences matter less, disagreements bother me lesser, and my life feel full of people, even as I’ve trimmed some folks out.

All in all, If I spent the last two years anxiously in wait for change (not knowing I was actually laying down the path to move ahead), this year I stomped ahead and claimed that path. So there really isn’t much to take stock of. On paper, I have little to show for what happened and what was accomplished this year.

Yet, so much has happened. Most of it has been internal, and even though I pontificate and ruminate over it in cyclic fashion on this blog, I’ve found it hard to bring it into conversations with people around me. Even those who have been a part of and shared much of this journey with me. I’ve found myself conserving energy, feeling silent and sitting with the shifts I am experiences, craving more and more of it, and consciously moving towards a place of intensifying growth and becoming better with every passing day and week.

This was the year I shed a lot of my fear of change, examined more aversions that I’d like to admit I had, and recognised how much I was getting in my own way and how much of this has been keeping myself from getting ahead. But that process in itself has been the journey, and there’s no easy, short-cut to get around it. It takes painfully long, and my days are often dotted with tedious introspection and reflection.

The funny this is, it slows down time and yet this has been the fastest, most brisk year to have zipped by, yet. I know I say this every year, but 2017 has really made me feel it. The general theme has been wait-and-watch, rush nothing, look before you leap, but let go and move with the flow.

While I’m cursorily looking back on the year, its clear as the first rays of morning sunshine, that this has been a year of a great amount of shedding. The first step to a lot of that has been to truthfully look at everything in my life — people, habits, attitudes, work, likes, dislikes — and accept where it is and what purpose it serves. Many times it has meant coming to a painful conclusion that something/someone I love, or who makes my life look and feel a certain way, isn’t actually serving me any good anymore. Some times it has meant letting go of a stupid idea I believe defines me, when actually it defined me two or five or ten years ago, when I have actually moved on and hanging on to it is actually keeping me away from a fresh experience. There has also been the odd yet very humbling instance of seeing my own harsh and judgemental outlook on so much around me, and trying every single day to consciously be gentler with myself and with people around me, with the words that pass through my brain and the lot that carelessly slip out, has opened up something for me.

It is constant work. At being present. At being conscious. At being mindful and watchful. At being gentle every chance that I can. At allowing space for change all the time. At moving closer to a deeper, more granular level of honesty. At choosing kindness. And all the while reminding myself that nothing, not even all of this, is forever or permanently written in stone. What works today, may not have a few years ago. And may not serve me well in the years to come. Understanding this, is what has required the work, the mindfulness and the repeated need to quieten down and tune inwards.

I shake off all that no longer serves me. Again. And again. And again.

Same time, last year: Day 348: The last of the books for 2016

On being present 

I’ve gone from being a complete sceptic to a firm believer in creating the change you want to see in your life, by affirming and living it every single day. It sounds very woowoo, I’m aware. But here’s the thing: it is.

I’ve learned that for the most part of my life, especially in times of flux and indecision, I’ve let fear take over so much and take me so far away from the goal, that I am my biggest obstacle. Nothing else gets in the way more than me and my very own thinking.

It’s taken a lot of effort, unlearning, softening, and believing to remind myself that it’s so important to keep that focus. On the goal. On where I want to be. To believe in it so damn hard that it’s like Im already there. Even when it feels like the timing is off or the situation isnt perfectly conducive or the ducks aren’t in a row.

This was once the only way I used to live. In freer, less fearful times. Call it naiveté or delusional optimism, but I was that eternal optimist. I knew no other way of living other than to dive in headlong, without waiting for perfection and correctness. It’s what helped make the most of the wildly messy spurts as much as enjoying the ride when the going is good.

And maybe I’m just going back to the way I used to be.

Same time, last year: Day 292: Love loss and what we ate