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Tag Archives: Lessons

Serendipity

11 Apr

I’m a hopeless believer of serendipity. I find myself irresistibly drawn to making connections when seemingly unconnected events line up in a row to articulately spell a message, or provide direction, or sometimes simply to reiterate what is already in my mind, even when I’m being too daft to see it.

Last night, it came in the form of an essay “on (and against) ambition”, that D shared with me. It was the last thing in a day of continuously running into affirmations about a decision that looms large, and it was just the thing I needed to read to reaffirm what I already know but am often too afraid to admit. And to commit to wholeheartedly. So while I swing along with it as the courage comes and goes in waves, this essay was yet another pause, followed by a swift blow to nail, right on its head.

I’ve written about ambition before, and my tussle with accepting what it means to me versus what it means to the world at large. A world that’s constantly sending me messages of what it means to be ambitious, productive, useful, good. To fight the labels, the boxes, the messages and to separate the wheat from the chaff, as it were, to find that which makes most sense to me and cling to it while all about me the world continues to make something else entirely of me, has been a constant work in progress.

The fight has always been mostly internal. And it has been a fight we all have seen ourselves go through in some aspect of our lives or the other. It is a fight to stick by a choice, no matter how atypical it may seem on the outside, because it is what makes most sense to us on the inside. So if you find yourself struggling to fully embrace alternative choices even when it’s what is best for you, if you tire of constantly going against the grain, if you’re wondering if women have it harder (we do) this is a great essay, and maybe it will be a much required blow to the gut for you, like it was for me.

Read?

The Snarling Girl, by Elisa Albert. Notes on—and against—ambition.

A few things that stuck out and sealed the deal for me.

Ambition: an earnest desire for some type of achievement or distinction, as power, honor, fame, or wealth, and the willingness to strive for its attainment. Note: we are not speaking here about trying to pay our bills, have a decent place to live, buy decent food, access decent health care, get a decent education. For the purposes of this particular discussion, those fundamentals are assumed. And there’s nothing in there about spiritual betterment, social service, love, or happiness. The entire concept can therefore be seen as anti-feminist. An ideal matriarchy would concern itself exclusively with the quality of our days. Whither the collective desire to make life better for everyone? Ambition is inherently egotistical; it is by definition about being in service of the self. Which has never, not once in the history of humanity (can you tell I’ve not bothered to read Ayn Rand?) made anyone anywhere “happy.”

(I have tried, and failed to get through Ayn Rand a couple of times before. Recently I made the discovery that two of my closest friends have had the same experience, for the same reasons.)

When I was little I wanted to be the president, a fire woman, a teacher, a cheerleader, and a writer. Now all I want is to be happy. And left alone. And I want to know who I am in the context of a world full of hate and domination.

Word.

What I would like to say is: Lean In my hairy Jewish ass.

Double word.

But mostly it was THIS, that got to me because it rings so. damned. true.

Taking care of myself and my loved ones feels like meaningful work to me, see? I care about care. And I don’t care if I’m socialized to feel this way, because in point of fact I do feel this way. So! I am unavailable for striving today. I’m suuuuuper busy.

And this.

Keep your head down. Do your work. Focus on the work at hand, not the work that’s done. Do the work you’re called upon to do. Engage with what moves you. Eventually you’ll get recognition. And if you don’t get recognition? Well then, all the more badass to continue working your butt off. Recognition has nothing to do with the work, get it? The work is the endeavor. The work is the process. Recognition comes, if/when it does, for work that is already done, work that is over.

As of yesterday, I am in Bangalore. It was meant to be a longish trip to test waters, but it’s just been 24 hours and already my reasons for doing this have become clear. In my mind, I’ve had well laid plans, but outside of me, things are in churn, full tilt. While I’m gathering my thoughts and trying to proceed through this time one step at a time, around me things are hurtling towards an unclear space in the future at breakneck speed. Reading this though, gave me some much needed clarity. Peace. And, like icing on the humble(and truth) pie, I got two great sounding book reccos out of this essay, and a renewed faith in serendipity too.

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Work. But also life.

19 Jan

I started 2017 with a couple of mini work goals. One, to send out a minimum of 20 pitches every week. And second, to just consistently do it without losing heart or feeling wasted.

I did the former fairly well, but semi-sucked at the latter. It has to be noted that the second half of last year saw me rolling way back on the effort to find new work. With everything else going on I was consistently only just doing enough to keep me going, and stay in touch. So I kind of began January with a clean slate that needed to be filled from scratch. That’s a scary place to be especially when your bank balance is slowly diminishing and there are bills to be paid. So my restless self began to despair just one week into January.

Why won’t people respond soon?

Why can’t my emails just be acknowledged, even if it is to politely reject my idea?

How long should I wait before I move on?

Maybe I should try something else.

Consistency has never been one of my strengths. I have the attention span of a housefly most days, and the patience to stay with something even when it seems like nothing is moving comes in bursts and spurts. So I hoped that this would be an exercise in gaining some chill. And getting it to stay

Additionally, the ups and downs of last year, the number of weeks I took off from work has meant that the motivation to keep writing has also been sporadic. Even though I did write something every single day, turning it to work is another thing entirely.

I’ve had numerous instances of giving up too easily, way too often. I really want to change this. To eork hard in the true sense of the word. Not only when I have a deadline having over my head. I want to taste the sweet success that comes from slow, but persistent consistency. I don’t think I have ever focused on cultivating that with my work. 

I was hoping to give this a shot by focusing harder on making a daily habit of pitching. The idea being that in order to do this successfully, I’d have to work on having a lot more ideas in the bank (which would mean having my thinking and working caps on even when I have no assignments on hand) and working doubly hard on turning accepted stories in (assuming they’d convert faster!) on time, to keep the ball rolling.
After one week of what felt like thankless pitching, I was disheartened when I didn’t receive as many responses as I’d expected. Maybe folks were still surfacing from the holidays? Maybe my emails weren’t good enough? Maybe they got lost in the slush-pile? I don’t know what it was. But I got no bites. Just a lot of crickets.

I took the weekend to regroup and decided I need to really, truly just chill out, and for once in my life focus on the process, trusting it wholeheartedly, doing the task at hand with sincerity and intention, without lusting over the results, or obsessing about how fast or slow they are to come.

And that right there was the hardest part. Not the idea generation. Not the writing of numerous LOIs. Not the combing the internet for contacts. Not the actual pitching. Just the pushing aside of all thoughts of why and how, stomping down on that imposter syndrome that is constantly trying to make a comeback, waving away the self doubt and fear. And just. keeping. my. head. down. and doing. it. day. after day.

Several days later, suddenly, smack in the middle of the week, I landed 4 stories in 2 days. Including breaking into another international site that’s been on my wish list for ages, one Indian glossy (it’s a really small piece, but still!), one international print mag, and one essay — and this last one has been the most satisfying conversion of this week. It’s an excerpt from a memoir I attempted to write not so long ago, but gave up on after much deliberation. For a year now I’ve been wanting to pick bits of it to turn it into publishable essays so at least some part of it sees the light of day. It took me one whole year to get cracking believe I can do this. And surprisingly just 2 days to land the story. Remind me again, why I didn’t do this sooner?

I think the hard work that went into keeping calm is what is at play here. I’ve been consciously spending significantly lesser time on all platforms of social media. Well, to be fair, I only use fb and instagram. I’ve returned to meditating and I begin every day with a big dose of affirmation. For this, I have A to thank.

I took up simple bullet journalling to keep track of my pitching, daily todos and wish lists and goals for three month and week. 

There’s the gratitude journaL, which I know is making a huge difference to my general state offer mind. I try and consistently stay positive, and be thankful for what I have and where I am and believe that it is enough. Part of this means I’ve further cut down the noise – sticking to my routine, being goddamned adamant about not missing my workout, and meeting only a select few friends in whose company I feel uplifted and happy. It takes a little being selfish, and isn’t always easy. But it pays. 

Most importantly, I think it was the deliberate effort to brush aside negative thoughts that spark laziness, self doubt and the inevitable spiral of apathy that makes my motivation turn to a sorry trickle, that boosted my confidence. 

I know I’m a creature of habit. I need a vague framework of routine within which to play. I like having a plan most times. And I’ve been a firm believer in daily habits. So, if the mindful and deliberate effort to bring this all back to my life is putting some basics into place, I cannot complain.

Is this what mindfullness really is? I’m not sure. 

I have to also say though, it’s not all me. I gather an immense amount of confidence boosting motivation from my virtual writer friends. Even as a silent spectator privy to a host of discussions, being exposed to an amazing variety of work, being a fly on the wall in so many discussions about ethics, professionalism and the right/better way to approach situations I thought were rare, I’ve gained a lot.

Despite the spotty year I had, I was a bit amazed when I realised how much work I’d gotten done. Today too, I realised that from feeling motivated to aim higher, to do better and to expect to be paid more, from learning to deal with rejection to never giving up on my ideas, from going about this in a nice-to-have kind of fashion to turning it into a practice for my daily life, I really couldn’t have done this on my own. So much of my will to keep at this without giving up, comes from the inspiration of others who have surged ahead, and been there and done everything that I am now doing. Their unabashed and absolute generosity to share, with zero insecurity is refreshing. It has taught me to open myself up, offer help even when it isn’t asked for, and basically never hold back if I can help it.

Sometimes I feel like writing is just the medium. What I am working at, what actually gets bigger, better and sweeter in the process, is life.

For all the help I get, I’m so grateful.

Happier: perpetual WIP

10 Jan

I’m not entirely blind to the unrealistic expectation that is thinking life will turn 180 degrees from where things were, just, well, last week, just because we moved into a new cycle of counting time. This big rock floating in space that we’re on, literally just completed another revolution around the life-giving blazing star, a time period that we’ve chosen to place such undue pressure on, holding it up to our desperate need for fresh beginnings and new avenues.

So it was natural for me to attribute the surge that I suddenly felt throbbing back to life, and persuading me to get out and see the light, to general peer pressure. One week in, I know now, that was a silly thought process. Because it’s not so much about flicking the pages of the calendar, or the turning of a proverbial new leaf, because yes they’re constructs of our achievement obsessed culture that train our minds to get ready-set-go at the start of the year only to lose steam approximately 2.5 weeks in. Which is about as long as it takes for the shine of a spanking new year to fade.

While it’s true that there needn’t be any reason at all for the uplifted spirit from the doldrums that was 2016, with the somethings-brewing kind of churn and rumble that I’ve felt as we turned the corner and stepped into 2017, the truth is, it was a happy coincidence.

The fact that I felt all the multiple diverging threads of my life, that for the better part of last year felt like they were unravelling slowly and painfully, suddenly converging again towards the end of the year, prompted me to take some time to regroup and prepare for a fresh start. That was intentional and well-timed.

Since, there has been a definite, undeniable shift, and I’ve bounced back to a former self I feel I had forgotten once existed. However, this week, I had to remind myself to press the brakes just a little bit. To slow down, not be impatient, and to remember the stillness and calm that I have worked hard to bring back to my life over the past twelve months.

It is crucial for me to make every effort not to lose this precious pace, to the urgency that brews at the start of every new year. To remember to mindfully, slowly, pace it out rather than rush in all guns blazing, only to burn out very soon.


The side of me that’s raring to go and rush in at all my goals like a maniac with a crack addled brain, is at loggerheads with the side of me that has tasted the benefits of letting go and watching things unfurl when you go at them with the tempered calm of a zen monk.

This morning, at therapy, I acknowledged that maybe I was slipping back into letting that pointless restless energy that does nothing but dissipate my focus, creep back and get the better of me. I visualised it as a ball of wires, knotted up, humming, buzzing frantically, the noise building to a noisy crescendo. But I spent the hour after, working those knots out as much as I could. And when I was done, I visualised myself chucking the whole mess of wires out of my life.

Indu shared an instagram picture with me last night, that reminded me of it’s origins in one of my most favourite posts. And it felt like today was a good day to revisit it.

Everyone is trying to find happiness or stay happy in any way they can.

I realise so much of getting through from one day to the next is in simple acts of mindful living. In tiny reminders of moments full of promise of joy that are in the works, waiting to be acknowledged. In schedules that bisect and dissect time the way I’d like it to be. In moments of peace snatched in between mundane chores like cooking lunch and folding clothes. In the little victories of stories submitted, deadlines met (or happily extended) or a surprise telephone call, shared by no one but me alone. In the simple contentment that comes from eating a square of chocolate. In knowing when you need to heal. In choosing to work out the knots. In trying to understand when to stop, and just throw the whole damn mess out. In not giving up on the urge to get better and thrive. In accepting that this is healing at work. In doing the work. And believing wholeheartedly that this itself, is the very purpose of being alive.

ds-happy-02

You do not “arrive” at joy, but you can strive to create it in small and enjoyable ways.

This is a reminder to myself. (And maybe to you too.) That wanting to be happy, getting happier, staying happiest, is WIP. Keep at it, work those knots out, throw out the unnecessary, get help when you need it, find love when you’re feeling the lack of it, demand support from those who you count on, ask for it when they’re not listening, and just keep swimming.

2016

5 Jan

So it’s done. What I’ve called the most forgettable, shitty year, time and time again, is over. It’s true that last year I had more than a fair share of lows. But it’s also true that in bouncing from one low to the next, only keeping my head above water, occasionally remembering to thwack my limbs and move towards the closest object for support, I’ve often needed to remind myself that I’m still alive and breathing. Which is a convoluted way of saying, a lot happened in between the lows that really wasn’t bad at all. But I have been so occupied with just barely staying afloat that it’s felt like I’ve been mostly stuck in a downward spiral of negativity. The bad has a way of eclipsing the good, and painting a picture so dismal, you wonder why this is your life. Which is why I’m thankful for forced stops in the infinite loop of time. We put a date to the end of the year, we decide it’s a time to reflect, and I’m glad we have this opportunity to lay out all the cards, pick which ones to fold over and put away, and which ones to take ahead.

There is such a difference in looking back cursorily, because all I can see is large spans of time spent lying in bed, unable to move, just staring out the window, and looking back one day and month at a time. Broadly, I feel like I spent way too much time wondering why this is happening to me. This, being the thick and heavy fog that consumed me. But, it’s only when I combed through my archive that I realised I was diffident, cynical, exhausted from the get go. I entered the year in a terrible headspace. Maybe it set the tone for the year? Maybe I was a fool not to see how things were hurtling towards an inevitable crash right through 2015? Maybe this was all just a necessary intervention in the making? I don’t know.

What followed was a lot of indecision and confusion that really chipped away at my confidence and left me on very shaky ground. Pretty much the entire year after has been spent trying to regain that solid ground beneath my feet. Whether it was putting my confidence in myself and my work back together and resuming in a direction that made sense to me, but scared the shit out of me, or opening myself up to honesty of a different kind, running all my relationships through a sieve and keeping only the most important ones close, learning to distinguish between an inner and outer circle, basically redefining the very notion of love and friendship, or regaining some bit of pride and a sense of self and identity that I’d lost sight of — everything about 2016 was an effort towards building something in me that 2015 had broken.

I couldn’t have picked a better year to write a post a day, because looking back has helped me see that while 2016 was far from fantastic, it sure was eventful. It was shitty in many parts, challenging in ways I have not previously known but omg, you gaiiis, so much happened!

Mostly, 2016 has been a year of rediscovering honesty. Of coming to terms with many things I was either not seeing right, or turning a blind eye to. It all started with the decision to take some time off. To regroup and clear my head out. I had a breakdown at the end of 2015, that made me realise I was overworked, confused about my priorities and sorely needed some time out. My inability to be honest with myself was pushing me into a cycle of repeated losses that had left me very, very tired.

So, I planned to spend 5-6 weeks unwinding and doing the things that gave me joy, in the hope that it would make room for some clarity. I read and wrote. And that’s not counting my work. There was some drawing, some haiku, and an exercise regimen, all in the interest of building a routine that enriched rather than depleted me. With all the mind space to introspect, it wasn’t long before the truth, or rather the lack of honesty emerged strong and loud.

I don’t mean honesty in the sense of truth-telling. I mean honesty in so many different ways — the inability to break through my denial, my stubbornness in not admitting to seeing things as they were, the fact that far too many people in my life had more to take than give me, the false belief that the work-life pattern I had unconsciously fallen into was necessary for success, my misplaced conviction that it was what I liked and wanted, when the truth couldn’t have been farther from it.

I’d begun to realise a need for a deeper honesty in my friendships. As it happened several of my closest friends found themselves in a bad patch at the start of the year. It involved unravelling, together, and being there for each other and made me realise just how much I valued openness and vulnerability, even in or maybe especially in hard times, as a measure of authenticity of any relationship. I suddenly saw how I was surrounded by relationships lacking in it, even though I considered them to be the solid, long-term ones. I backed away from many that seemed to exist in a perpetual state of hiding behind convenient veils of passive aggression, demanding more from me than I could give, or they could ever give back to me.

This has meant being alone a lot more, staying with solitude and embracing this part of me wholeheartedly. This will always be the year I made peace with my introvert tendencies. After a hectic 2015 chock full of socialising, putting myself out there and pursuing things I never imagined I would have, giving the hedonistic life a shot I realised my place. It’s indoors, with myself, away from the mindless din of connections and networking. I much prefer the loud camaraderie of a few I call my tribe, even if we choose to exist in absolute silence.

This too, required honesty. In laying the tussle between the virtually-social and actually-solitary, to rest. On the one hand, I live what many call a “social” life, especially thanks to frequent and frantic social media posting. And on the other hand, I was trying to teach myself boundaries, to say no, to protect my personal space and energy. This tug-o-war between sharing my life has given many observers a sense of false camaraderie that often oversteps the virtual lines that separate me and them. I began to see through social media veneers, and was disappointed by people on more than one occasion. I found myself wanting to dig deeper and find within myself the strength to accept the differences that these are just virtual interactions, while saving my energy for the solid core of authentic interactions I have in real life. Even when it meant accepting the truth that was far from pleasant, realising that seemingly normal people sometimes display unacceptable behaviour, or that I myself had untowardly let some folks far deeper into my life than was needed.

The need for this honesty came with a price. For one, I let go of the steady promise of work that I had in hand to make room for the work I wanted to pursue. Second, I had to consciously let go of a couple of friendships that I had assumed were easy-going and probably for life.

What I gained, though, was immeasurable. Because the time and energy freed up from it, was channeled into all that I wanted to put my mind to, but had failed to in the years before. I will always remember this to be the year I moved closer to finding myself, and my voice, professionally. The decision to quit a steady, decently-paying gig with scope for growth, to dive fully into the erratic, unpredictable world of full-time freelancing was a pivotal one. A lot of it happened because I had to own up to the fact that clinging to a safety rails was only going to get me that far. Yes, I’d have a salary in the bank at the end of the month, but the hours spent earning that salary was definitely keeping me from expanding my repertoire, aiming higher and going wide and deep into the kind of writing I want dip into. If I were to be honest with myself, and I was, I needed to be brave. Or at least pretend like I was. It was not without its moments of extreme imposter syndrome, but I know I am better for it.

There were moments of immense frustration. A steep learning curve that I didn’t particularly enjoy at all times because let’s face it I wasn’t feeling positive and upbeat for a large part. The long waiting periods, systemic inefficiencies, blatant unprofessionalism made me cynical and under-confident. Incidentally, it was the year with the most number of unsavoury professional experiences. But while navigating the doubt and incertitude with heaps of scepticism, I did manage to get a whole lot of work done. It’s funny how the haze of unpleasant experiences has clouded this reality that. Ironic that the shittiest year is the year I had several work wins that I am proud of. Like this, this, this and this and this and this. I never imagined I’d write essays worthy of being tweeted by the UN Women’s handle. I didn’t think I’d see myself published in The Telegraph. I certainly didn’t imagine I’d find myself in a publication dedicated to science and technology.

I even managed to throw together a website and a portfolio that I should have done a long, long time ago. Much of this had to do with trying very, very hard to unlearn my obsession with perfection. Of quitting the terrible habit of waiting for the ducks to get in an absolutely straight line before making a move. In accepting that well begun is half done, I may have taught myself a thing or two about what is possible when you accept what works for you and hold yourself to slightly more realistic goals and ideals.

One of the best things I did was write and write and write every single day. Whether it was the for the stories I worked on, daily posts on here, scribbles, ideas for stories, half written posts — I made sure I did a little writing every single day and this is a habit I don’t want to lose. I am a little astounded at myself for seeing the daily post habit through to the end of the year, even though I fell off the wagon and frantically caught up again, sometime. Even with all that writing, I have so much more to express and share. So I started a newsletter. Admittedly, it’s taken a break so soon after it was launched but I hope to be back this year. 2016 marked the completion of 10 years since I started blogging. I wrote 318 posts this year having blogged every week, which feels like a fitting way to mark a decade of rambles.

On Day 1, I decided it was going to be a year to move more. In addition to upping the ante with training by joining, pursuing and loving kickboxing, I let the husband get me a cycle. It transformed the middle parts of this year in ways I can’t explain. Unfettered joy and immense satisfaction have been had from the hours spent pedalling through Goa. Cycling changed the way I experienced what could potentially be my last monsoon here. I even finished my first ever 100 km ride.

Part of the reason I caught the cycling bug was the undeniable urge to get out and get out. In the open. To travel. It’s something I’ve denied myself the pleasure of indulging in, for various reasons in the past few years. I travelled back home more than I ever have since I have moved out. Cleartrip sent me an email calling me a Happy Tripper today, for the 18 flights I’ve taken. There was a trip to Chettinadu, KeralaThailand and Coonoor. There were a few mini vacations right here at home too. I turned 32 in the company of these lovelies who came down to celebrate over a weekend of beach time, with me. And it reaffirmed my faith in certain inalienable truths about why some relationships endure and others don’t. It’s the one year VC and I haven’t taken a holiday or travelled anywhere together. And no, we’re not complaining.

The other big change I made this year was I kicking myself back into the reading habit by getting myself a Kindle. It has made all the difference and  finished the year with 29 books read, a high for me. While I’m looking at numbers, it seems a good time to look back at this post where I detailed the few things I want to see myself doing through 2016.

  1. Read a little everyday – check, post-August
  2. Write a little everyday – check, check, CHECK
  3. Give in to the urge to draw/doodle as much as possible, don’t put it off for “later” – check, for as long as the inspiration and urge lasted
  4. Avoid multi-tasking at all costs – yes and no
  5. Wear a saree at least once a week (any more is a bonus!), and don’t wait for the “right” occasion – ditched
  6. Call ammamma more often – check
  7. Meditate every morning, consciously remember to slow down – check for the first half of the year, then abandoned
  8. Go to the beach more often, even if it is for a stroll or to catch the sunset – check, check, check (run a search for “beach” to see how)
  9. Actively avoid clicking random links that lead to news on social media – CHECK!
  10. Whenever posting something on facebook, ask myself if the post would annoy me if I were looking at it posted by someone else – check, followed this for the most part, but slipped a lot, now correcting it by slowly deleting all fb activity from all of time
  11. Generally, avoid oversharing on fb – not every thought needs to be telecast to the world on fb, do it here instead, in longer form – check
  12. Keep phone away from bed and sleep-time – failllll!
  13. Sneak some more kisses – CHECK!
  14. Choose things, make decisions with purpose – CHECK
  15. Make the most of Goa, get out, breathe, watch, listen, do – CHECKCHECKCHECKCHECK, cyclecyclecycle
  16. Reclaim stillness whenever it happens, and when it doesn’t, create it – this is WIP
  17. Fuck perfection – this is WIP

Speaking of WIP, one of the best things I did for myself in 2016, was take myself to therapy. When the cycle of breaking down, finding my footing, stabilising, coasting and only to slip again recurred three times in a span of 8 months, I knew I was in over my head. Again, it called for a kind of honesty I didn’t have, but so desperately needed to find. To accept that I cannot navigate this alone, that I need a fresh pair of eyes to see things differently and help me work my way through, rather than away from this. It has been the best, because it brought to the surface things I wouldn’t have noticed on my own. It made me reclaim myself, discover and strengthen crucial aspects of my identity that were slipping away form me. Much of my newfound peace, focus and positivity is a result of this, and I know that every day I am making progress in facing up to and loving my imperfect self.

It hasn’t been an easy year to live with me. Every break down has brought with it several emotional outbursts, thoughtless spewing of anger and frustration, violent mood swings, long periods of demotivation. But through it, VC has been my constant. Constant everything. Punching bag, sounding board, friend, foe, confidant, co-homemaker, support, voice of reason, strength and solace. We celebrated our eighth anniversary. Ironically, it was a year that made me fully understand how relationships that nurture are the ones that help you growing together, separately, rather than collapse and grow into one entity, and completely turned my beliefs about marriage around, that somehow also brought us much closer.

I find myself feeling a little sheepish about how much I have bashed 2016. It had so many sore points, so many weeks and months I wanted to just wish away. So many events and incidents I wish I didn’t have to go through. It all felt so damned shitty. And yet, when it all stacks up and I look at it in retrospect, it was rather eventful. Memorable, even. But most of all, transformative. They say things sometimes need to get really bad before they can begin to get better. Maybe my bad bits were peppered right through 2016. But right there, in between the bad events, things were already beginning to get better.

This year I just want to build from here. Make some goals, shut up about them, work hard, live big, laugh loud, love hard, breathe deep and smash them to the sky.

*****

Quick guide to posts in 2016
Monthly recaps: APostADay
Bheja fry, since this year had so much of it
Work and writing
Books and reading in 2016
Travel and photographs
Cycling and exercise
Music

Day 344: Looking back

9 Dec

The dregs of this year, they’re dragging. If anyone has a fast-forward option, I’d be down for that. The sudden bouts of clarity, positivity, and hope for 2017 to be better, way better, than 2016, are egging me on, teasingly. If someone could just push me straight into the throes of the new year I’m in. (Okay, anyone listening and trying to make it happen, please only give it a shot after next week, when I go off on what may be my last holiday for the year.)

This blog has been a largely accurate reflection of what’s going on with me, and in my head (except when I’m faffing off by posting silly haiku and pictures that only interest me). So it’s been an all round mope-fest around here for the past many weeks. I’ve lost track of when I began to slide and the multiple occasions on which I’ve felt hopeful and upbeat only to slip right back into the doldrums again. Around me, the world has fallen apart, everyday there’s shocking news that bristles and causes reactions worth being spoken about, I read things that amuse and entertain me, move me and impact me in ways that I can only describe in writing, I’ve done more things than I’ve cared to talk about here, and there are plans afoot of which I haven’t really been very articulate at all. All I’ve focused on is myself, and my sads. Of late, that has turned into a 100% pity party. I’m aware. Today too, I was moping to A on fb, when a thread from a bunch of writers caught my eye. Each one of them taking stock of the year and reporting their achievements, challenges and stating their plans for the next year.

I’ve contemplated this, and made small beginnings, to some extent. But I just haven’t had the inclination to further it. Instead, I’ve been moping about the catastrophe that was 2016 and wishing for a magic trick to teleport me right into 2017. Seeing everyone’s inspiring updates of the year gone by, though, I was prompted peek into my excel sheet, to see just how I’ve fared. Considering it’s been a year with a shocking number of forced and unforeseen breaks from work, I’ve felt my focus and motivation shot to bits. So I wasn’t particularly inclined to do this looking back business. But I have an excel sheet I’ve been rather meticulous about keeping this year, so “looking back” is a matter of glancing at a well-formatted excel sheet, rather than rummage through work folders and files like I had to last year.

2016 was a largely challenging year, personally, of course. Professionally too, there were challenges a plenty, but in retrospect it has all been positive. As it turns out, 2016 has been the most prolific year in terms of the amount of work I’ve done. I realise I have a lot to be thankful for, despite everything.

I’ve written 50 stories, for 16 publications. These include 7 new (for me) international publications and 4 new Indian publications that I broke into. This was a bit of a happy surprise for me, something I haven’t registered even though I am doing the writing, and excel sheet tracking. At the start of 2016, I had a measly goal of breaking into at least 3 international publications. It was only looking at the sheet right now that I realised until I’ve more than surpassed that goal. As for earning, I’ve doubled what I earned last year, but I could have done a lot better if the hiccups and forced breaks hadn’t kept me away from writing as much as they did.

The other big change, and win, is that I’ve finally made peace with facebook, because I’ve learned to wield it to work best for me. I say this because I found almost all my work this year, through resources and discussions through facebook writing groups that I am on. Through them, I’ve been exposed to some incredibly inspiring writing from around the world, got a glimpse into the lives and routines, challenges and successes of some wonderful women writers. I’ve found inspiration and solace in their virtual companionship. In their numerous anecdotes I’ve realised that no problem is unique, someone somewhere has already been there, done that and will most likely offer to help. I’ve also made some new friends through these groups and I’m really glad for some of the writer connections that keep me going.

All said and done, this year was not without its fair share of lessons. Every big meltdown this year was caused by a professional situation that had bubbled over when I wasn’t looking. And each of those situations had very clear lessons that I had failed to pick up and act on before. I continue to trust people blindly. I still sometimes fail to consider all options before jumping in. And I still don’t fully know how to put a high enough premium on myself. I’m still utterly useless with managing my collections and don’t fully understand the business side of managing my work. This is something I hope to either outsource or take steps towards mastering myself, in the coming year.

I’m still growing a pair of lady-balls, and learning my worth. I’ve had moments of success in the rare instances that I was able to be brave and push myself outside my comfort zone, but those situations were scary and will take a lot more getting used to before it begins to come naturally. I have such a long way to go.

This will always be remembered as the year I took the difficult decision to let go of an anchor gig that while offering economic stability, only leeched away at my joy and creativity. It will be the year I actively worked towards bettering my professional communication and saw amazing things happen as a result of it. I’ve bettered my working relationships with a few editors, seen a duplicitous side of others, and managed to navigate through all kinds of situations.

Does 2016 make me feel proud and victorious? Not really. Could it have been better? Definitely. But, am I happy with the way things stand? Hell yes.

Day 308: Reading list

3 Nov

Between being in a funk, staying away from the computer and trying, just a little bit, not to obsess about tracking my ideas, pitches, work, published work, invoices, payments I realise I forgot to share some updates here. Three little things I wrote went live and I hadn’t linked them up here.

First, this story about the woman driving Asia’s first all-woman-run food truck. I enjoyed working on this one so, so much. For multiple reasons, not the least of which was that I actually enjoyed interviewing Archana. I’m not to love interviews, otherwise. In fact I tend to really put them off until I can’t anymore. But some folks are just so lovely and energetic and make the job not just easy, but enjoyable. The best kind of interviews are those that leave you inspired, a little more curious than you were before, and also a little bit in awe. Archana was so vehement in telling me how she woke up one day last year and felt that she had only dabbled in one of her big passions — education and schooling — and not even gotten started on the other — food — and she realised that time was running out. It spurred her to get cracking on pursuing that dream too. Something about the urgency and the way she said time is running out really hit home.

I gently asked her age again, convinced that maybe I’d misheard the number she gave me at the start of the interview.

“32,” came the reply.

No, I hadn’t misheard it.

I worked on this quick list for overseas visitors potentially looking to take back Goan foodie souvenirs or gifts for folks back home.

And then there was this small newsy piece about events to catch in Goa over the next two months. If you’re looking for reasons aside from the sun, sea and sand to visit, this list has films, jazz and literary festivals to watch out for.

It was while updating my Contently Portfolio this morning, that I suddenly woke up to the fact that I’ve now written for over 20 publications. The article count on this page has crossed 70. And this is just the work I care to share. There’s a lot more that I don’t personally find portfolio worthy, which would take the count up to over 100 pieces since I began freelancing. I ruffled through my email to the start of the year and noticed that my pitches have only two publications to showcase, which made me realise that literally all the rest have been a product of my effort this past year alone. I broke into more international publications than I thought I was capable of. I wrote more than one piece for some of them. I even built personal relationships with some editors. Especially worth noting for me, is the fact that the two publications I bandied about in the early pitches from the start of this year are two I have now weaned myself off of. This happened for two very different reasons, but that can both be summed up as: I want better for myself. 

Last week I received an email out of the blue, from an editor in Hong Kong seeking to commission a story. I had tried to reach out to this person two months ago and failed at the time. The emails we shared back and forth pleasantly surprised me. When I bagged the story, I called VC to tell him, “I’m in shock” (at this turn of events).

“Well, stop being shocked,” came his very casual response.

He’s right. I have to stop being shocked. This is what I do, it’s my work and I am good at it. That shouldn’t come as a surprise anymore.

Suddenly, I feel very, very good about myself. I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time berating myself for not really reaching exactly where I want to be. But I’ve been so blinkered with my goals. Metrics vary, and while I may not have reached some targets, I’ve more than surpassed others and knocked them out the park. Very quickly, I updated my portfolio to reflect this.

Perhaps I need to take stock, and bask in the sunshine of my small victories more often. But this post isn’t just a little bragging about my writing. I also wanted to share some recent good reads that I’d saved.

This hilarious piece titled I’m Not an Asshole. I’m an Introvert was so on point. With the proliferation of writing we’re suddenly seeing on the topic, it’s natural that the spectrum of introversion blurs. Titles and labels become watertight when they shouldn’t be, and many are used in ways that misrepresent their actual meaning.

After discovering you’re an introvert, waxing eloquent about how liberating acknowledging that was, was natural. When enough people had done that, the monopoly of the noisy extroverted world was sufficiently challenged, so it was only a matter of time before introverts with social awkwardness be mistaken for assholes with a lack of manners and social decorum. So I’m glad someone found a funny way to look this whole situation.

Okay, I did not see this coming, even though I’ve believed this to be true for a very, very long time. Bye-bye babies talks about how parenthood is such a fraught decision. One that many live to regret, but few care to admit. Some startling lines:

While women express their doubts about having children, elsewhere, the Independent reports, men have lost interest in the idea of marriage itself. Tens of thousands of men have formed an online community called MGTOW, or Men Going Their Own Way.

Children, as an idea, have also gone out the window in Japan where startling statistics released by the National Institute of Population Research show that 70 per cent of unmarried men and 60 per cent of unmarried women are not in a relationship.

In fact, the Japanese have pretty much stopped having sex. 42 per cent of male adults surveyed and 44.2 per cent women admitted they were virgins.

Some parts of Europe are experiencing what is now being called a “Demographic Storm” due to the increasing choice of people remaining child-free. From my very cursory understanding it’s a situation where women are outliving men, yet they aren’t having enough babies fast enough, while the old continue to die. Ouufff, sounds so first world to me.

Birth rates are falling and the government is worried. Falling birth rates are already a problem across Europe.

In India, we have an unsentimental attitude to children. Children are an investment in your own future. It’s a case of quid pro quo. You look after your children; you expect them to be at your bedside in old age. No wonder that the Indian economy is reaping the benefits of a demographic dividend rather than weathering a demographic storm.

Are all you iPhone (iOS) users finding yourself completely and utterly pissed off with every consecutive OS update? I can’t help but think they’re going the Microsoft way, ruining good things for no reason, and breaking the very fabric that their minimalistic, function-first ideology was built on. This piece makes an eerily accurate comparison between Steve Ballmer and Tim Cook. It makes me want my next phone to be the Pixel, and I didn’t think that day would come so soon.

Here’s another convincing piece on everything questionable about the direction in which Apple is moving, which often feels backward rather than forward. Convincing, and troublesome.

And finally, saving the best for last, the series of pieces about Monica Ghurde, written by seven women, in an effort to counter/resist/undo the insensitive, dehumanizing way in which she the media chose to write about her the days following her untimely death. These pieces all made me tear up and cry for a woman I didn’t know personally, but whose death somehow has hit me where it really hurts, and still leaves me a bit paranoid, afraid and confused about the meaning of freedom for women like me. Please read.

  1. In BuzzFeed: My Days With Monika, by Akanksha Sharma
  2. In Vogue: Learning to be a little monster, by Amrita Narayanan
  3. In Hindustan Times: When the earth laughs in flowers, by Arundhati Subramaniam
  4. In The Hindu: A letter to Monika, by Tishani Doshi
  5. In The Indian Express: This is how you fix what is broken, by Margaret Mascarenhas
  6. In The Times Of India: Don’t kill Monika Ghurde again, by Deepti Kapoor
  7. In The Herald Goa: Tribute to a very special woman and friend, by Katharina Kakar

Protected: Day 301: Notes to self

27 Oct

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Day 300: Three hundred

26 Oct

300 days. 222 posts. I don’t know how many pictures, videos, haiku – but somehow, I kept this up. I have 66 days and 44 posts to go till the finish line. Which is the end of 2016. I’m not sure it will be the finish line. Some of you may want to take this cue and unfollow me now. But this has become a bit addictive. Every time I hit a nice round figure milestone, I wondered how much longer I’d keep this up. Milestone posts also seem to be seminal posts this year, I just realised while scouring through my archives.

Day 10 came on a weekend. Day 50 was about major leaps and minor struggles. Day 100 also landed on a weekend. Day 150 happened to be the tenth anniversary of writing this blog. Day 200 was a shitty day so distinctly clear in my mind, it was one of the reasons I decided I had to change something. Day 250 is the day I gave thanks for my people.

Which brings me to today. Day 300.

After posting about my book quandary last night, I started to read Cheryl Strayed’s Brave Enough last night. And finished it this morning. It’s really slim, and it’s not really a book book. It’s a collection of quotes by her, from various places collected into one massive book of here-take-another-punch-to-your-guts. She calls it A Mini Instruction Manual For The Soul. And it is. If you’ve read and loved Strayed, like I have, you’ll want to add this to your collection. I read Wild and Tiny Beautiful Things with such fervour two years ago, and it hit all the right spots, over and over through the book, that I’m a Cheryl Strayed fan for life now. Goodreads reviews for this book range from terrible to amazing, so it’s that kind of book that nobody can seem to agree on with any kind of remote uniformity. Many people found it insipidly inspiration in a very Hallmark-card sort of way. And I can see why. But I’ve always found the simplest things sometimes speak very profound truths, to me.

This book is filled with them. Powerful, brutally honest words that aren’t always sugar coated or pleasant words that are exactly what you want to hear. Words that cut, sometimes so close and so deep you want to imprint them on your skin. This is a book of unbridled, raw inspiration. And as is the case with inspiration, it hits you the hardest, when it’s the right time. I read Wild and Tiny Beautiful Things at what I believe was the best time I could have picked them up. And I feel the same about this one too.

room

This, is an overwhelmingly accurate summation of what I’ve been feeling lately. I even wrote about it a few days ago, only to find these six words say so simply what took an entire post out of me. A gentle coming back to life. A return to base. A peaceful acceptance, that feels like home. And there’s so many more quotes where this came from. I practically underlined every alternate page.

Some of my favourites:

Transformation doesn’t ask that you stop being you. It demands that you find a way back to the authenticity and strength that’s already inside of you. You only have to bloom.

***

Hello fear. Thank you for being here. You’re my indication that I’m doing what I need to do.

***

Desperation is unsustainable.

***

Bravery is acknowledging your fear and doing it anyway.

***

You don’t have a career. You have a life. Do the work. Keep the faith. Be true blue. You are a writer because you write. Keep writing and quit your bitching.

Each of these quotes hits hard and makes you go ouch, but in a way that you’re grateful for the punch to where it hurts the most.

So it’s day 300. Booyeah.

And one last thing;

Vulnerability is strength.

Day 280: Too many words, so here’s a cop out

6 Oct

I’m feeling a lack of words again. If last month I worked myself to the bone, like a hamster in a wheel, this month I’m trying to get better. I don’t want to keep doing the same things I do wrong, over and over. I want to make it right. It means I’ve been reading a lot of things to figure where my pitches are falling short, looking at the work of some folks I am inspired by to see what they’re possibly doing right, and generally reading a lot of work that comes my way. And then there have been the emails — fresher, better pitches, three better crafted stories (one of which was killed after it had been commissioned, worked hard upon and submitted, but that’s a story for another day), some back and forth on a new assignment that requires me to be on the telephone way more than I have been used to, and remembering to come here and write a post a day. I feel like I’m out of words for the week, already. I’ve been unable to read at the end of the day like I am used to and I’ve been feeling quiet this week, not my usual chatty, responsive self on whatsapp either. Then there was the newsletter I sent out earlier today. Which makes a good post, because it’s a summation of everything that’s been swimming around in my brain, neatly distilled in a letter (with a really cute gif for extra measure!). So for all you folks who haven’t subscribed, I’m stealing a bit of it for this post. Because I have no new words to give today.

The left and right halves of my brain have been in a perpetual twist over what I should be doing and what I really want to be doing. And it’s given me a terrible case of month-long hiccups. It’s always the hiccups that bring out the demons. The roadblocks that run you down, make your confidence plummet, and things seem a lot worse than they really are.

So when I found myself in a hole at the end of September, I had to take a moment and let the right side of my brain take over. Because it’s the side of my brain that rules, and reminds me that it’s the experiences that matter, that there are no mistakes – only lessons, that I am enough, that this may look utterly shitty now, but you can’t connect the dots looking forward.

The reason everything looked utterly shitty is I have been measuring myself by the rules of success that were never mine to begin with. I have never chased the kind of success that comes from hoarding an astronomical bank balance, or working 8 hours a week all week at something I don’t enjoy, or building it all up so one fine day I can sit back and enjoy it. None of this is to say it’s a terrible crime to want any of that. The astronomical bank balance does great things, I’m aware. As does the hard work and dedication extended to work that isn’t all enjoyable. But it’s just not for me. I have never been able to get on board with accumulating a lifetime of experiences, money and aspirations to enjoy it in a hypothetical time in the future, when really, all I have is the here and the now. And it’s waiting for me to step in and savour it.

All we only ever have is the here and the now. Maybe a little bit of knowledge to predict the immediate future, but not with any degree of accuracy, anyway. But what we do have, is a wealth of information about our past. To know what worked, what didn’t, and what you’d do differently the next time around. So that every moment ahead of you, is better than before. Isn’t that really what being happy is about? So if finding your bliss sounded like unattainable mumbo-jumbo, don’t worry. Here’s science to prove it:

qzbmz

Widely shared on the internet, this is an image of molecules of the protein called myosin holding up a massive ball of endorphins, dragging it along a filament into the inner part of the brain’s parietal cortex.

Happy hormones walking a tightrope, making their way to your brain. ALL SO YOU CAN FEEL HAPPY. Like S once exclaimed, that’s literally the most accurate depiction of happiness: just focus on the here and now, keep placing one foot in front of the other, and just keep going on.

What you will be left with is a trail of experiences — good bad, shitty, traumatic, a bucket load of everything that comes your way. A lot of it will be amazing. A lot of it will leave you cold. A lot may not make sense, not immediately, anyway. But it’s all essential. All of it has a part to play in the larger scheme of things, as you plod along, carrying your big ball of happy on your back.

When I was done telling myself time and again how shitty September was, which is when the right side of my brain took over, I looked back. I realised that first of all what I’d deemed shitty was really just one aspect: my work. I’ve let that one aspect eclipse all else, outshining all the other wonderful things that happened. Second, I realised that despite everything, I had some amazing moments. I celebrated my eighth anniversary. I broke into one of my must-crack international publications — Broadly, a VICE channel — with a story that I’ve wanted to explore for over a year now, this story that I loved interviewing for writing finally went live after over a month of sitting on the bench, and I bagged a semi-long-term gig with The Telegraph UK. Apart from that, all the confusion and upheaval forced me to a point where I decided I needed to move ahead, rather than wallow. So I did. I changed tracks again.

Movement is always good, no? And there’s the thing I realised once again: confusion is essential. Unhappiness, chaos, discomfort — they’re essential milestones for change on the path to getting on with it. Sometimes that path is rocky, a squelchy mess, far from fun. But that is okay. I wouldn’t have realised any of this, unless I’d looked back on the shitty, shitty September. So it’s true what Steve Jobs said.

You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.

I’ve always been a gut-feeling kind of person, counting life experiences over time, and I think Karma has a lot to do with everything that comes our way. Somewhere, I’d forgotten that. And it took a shitty September to remind me to recalibrate my measures for what matters, and how much I want to do to get as far as I want to get.

Day 277: 109 kms done

3 Oct

So this happened, after all.

Vagus adventuro flags off

A post shared by Probyk (@probyk) on

After some deliberation and accumulation of a lot of blind over-confidence, I decided to go through with it.

Even the morning of the event, as my alarm woke me up at 4.30 am, I got out and looked at my bed. It was so inviting, tempting me to just get back inside and stop kidding myself about this insanity I had signed up for. As much as I have come to love cycling, I haven’t reached a point where I can say my love for cycling has overtaken my love for sleeping in. The difficulty of waking up early is strong and real.

Just 3 minutes prior t this picture being taken, it was still dark out. Don't believe these happy faces. I was NOT happy to be up that early.

Just 3 minutes prior to this picture being taken, it was still dark out. Don’t believe these happy faces. I was NOT happy to be up that early.

I went in completely devoid of any expectations of myself, fully psyching myself to give up if I needed to.

What I was lacking in confidence, I made up for in snacks. I was over-prepared in that department. Obviously. Lined my stomach with fruit and a sandwich even before the event began. Plenty of chikki, a handful of dates, two packets of ORS on the go. And I wiped it all out before end. This is not counting the large breakfast we had at checkpoint 1, and the ice cream at checkpoint 2.

I was one of two women in the event of about 25 participants. I was expecting more women. But clearly I was in the minority with that expectation because not one, but two dudes gave me the statement of utter surprise — “hey, you’re pretty good!” and I could almost feel the “…for a girl” subtext.

The ride: it was fantastic. For all the starting trouble I have, every time that I get on a bike and get going, it is rewarding. There is something mildly massively addictive once you’re on a bike, zipping through the wind and experiencing early morning like nothing else can, really. Not even walking or running. Okay, maybe doing this in Goa adds a million points in favour of the activity, so yes, I’m giving thanks for the wonderful place I’ve found myself in. The weather suddenly turned that morning, and we had grey cloudy skies. A ten minute downpour was a welcome relief, and I seemed to escape even the harsh noon sunlight which caught up with me only in the last stretch of about twenty minutes as I was struggling to the finish line.

Thankfully, the event wasn’t a race. It was about finishing, and there was a very comfortable outer time limit in which to do it. There were enough triangular shaped, testosterone pumped men who didn’t have a moment to spare to even smile or exchange pleasantries because they were dashing off to beat each other, or their own personal records, I’m not sure. I was the very very very last person to finish. I can’t say I didn’t expect it.


I’m just glad I finished. That was my focus, and I’m glad I didn’t waver there. I couldn’t have done it without VC who pepped me up with his inspirational talks, R who absolutely insisted this was going to be a cakewalk and then stuck around cycling with me for the entire second half of the ride, and a random friend we made, let’s call him A. A is a 51 year old man (possibly the oldest participant) who was also lingering around the back of the trail with me. We’re the guys who stopped to take pictures all along, got lost a couple of times, bothered to look at the map, ask for directions and generally have a bit of fun along the way. He claimed all he’d ever done in life was smoke and work, and that bicycling was a new interest. He’d so far only ridden a maximum of 30kms ever. He stuck around with us, we definitely drew off of each others’ energies and somehow stayed together until the end.

End of segment 1.

End of segment 1.

Control point #1, where a massive bhaji-pao breakfast was laid out with plenty of other essentials - cold towels, premixed ORS, carrot cake, a photo booth (!) and the route map for the next segment that ended at Baskin Robbins with the assurance of 2 free scoops of ice cream.

Control point #1, where a massive bhaji-pao breakfast was laid out with plenty of other essentials – cold towels, premixed ORS, carrot cake, a photo booth (!) and the route map for the next segment that ended at Baskin Robbins with the promise of 2 free scoops of ice cream.

<3

Just keep spinning, rere. <3

I couldn’t have done it without my people. And my playlist, which I heard from end to end for the very first time in my life. Twice over, in fact.

Also, training. For all the heavy duty working out I’ve been doing in the last 3 years or so, I’ve never done anything that’s tested my strength or stamina. This was quite the test, and it completely reaffirmed my faith in sticking with working out and always trying to remain fit. It always pays off.

I’ve also never felt a gush of endorphins as strong as I did at the 88km mark, when R and I, unsure of what turn to take, stopped to ask for directions. Except I wasn’t of much use because I was collapsing in a huge outflow of uncontrollable guffaws. For absolutely no reason at all. R watched helplessly, not sure what to do next. And try as I did, I couldn’t hold back the laughter. It was coming out in heavy, loud bursts that just couldn’t be contained. We had just pushed ourselves over a 8 kilometre stretch, hitting the highest speeds I did on the entire ride, and maybe the energy rush just got the better of me.

A stupid move at the very end, possibly caused by the lack of oxygen going to my brain by then, made me take a wrong turn. I was leading the trio at the point, so the other two followed suit, and we found ourselves off track, adding a whole lot of unnecessary kilometres to the finish, not to mention one major chunk of which involved backtracking across the stretch we had just covered.

Home stretch! Just across the bridge to the finish line.

Home stretch! Just across the bridge to the finish line.

So as it happens, I didn’t just complete a 100 kilometre ride. In fact, I clocked 109 kilometres to the finish line. And it was worth every minute of excitement, adventure, pain and exhilaration.

img_6772

Cold beers waited us at the finish line. Which we emptied into our water bottles to consume. Because, Gandhi Jayanti = dry day, it seems.

The next logical step is to attempt 200km. If someone had asked me last week, if I could see myself doing it, I’d have laughed loudly. But ask me now and I’ll say, hell yes, without batting an eyelid. I’d just like to be better prepared, maybe actually train for it next time around.

Honestly though, I didn’t think I could finish it this time around. I went in blind, like I said before. But maybe the endorphins kicked in, maybe being in the presence of all the other cyclists gave me a boost, maybe I just went into auto pilot, but it was hard to think about giving up. I actually didn’t feel the need to at any point. It was only somewhere around the 60km mark that I realised how far I had come and that I was actually possibly going to finish this.

So while the ride was physically taxing, as was expected, beyond a point it was entirely a mental game. Every 10 kilometres knocked down felt like a huge milestone crossed. There were moments when an unexplained energy kicked in, pushing through my lower back that had begun to ache, my quads that were tensing up, and my butt that had gone numb. I’ve never felt that kind of resilience in myself, I don’t think.

Clearly, I had underestimated my capacity to physically push myself, and overestimated the time it would take me, in the event that I did finish. I overshot my estimate by a 120 whole minutes, finishing in 6 hours. Despite coming in right at the very end, this was a win I needed to undo the collective shittiness that September was.

So that’s done and dusted.

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Moderate to severe levels of hysteria at having finished may be showing here.

Day 274: For every down, there is an up

30 Sep

There are good months. There are meh months. And there’s various kinds of meh. Professionally, it means that sometimes I haven’t received enough responses. Sometimes it’s that I’ve received so many responses, but I haven’t successfully converted as many of my pitches into stories. Sometimes it also happens that a story I expect to turn around really quick, drags out painfully. Sometimes I turn a story around in record time, and then the editor sits on it for an impossibly long time (seven months has been my longest wait, no jokes). Most times, I only get paid when a story is published. So, to take the story that was 7 months in waiting, it really does feel like what I’ve eventually earned is a significantly shredded amount, given the effort and time (including the wait) that has gone into a piece of work. Sometimes I send a story per a commission, and the editor ghosts me out. It happens, sometimes for legitimate reasons too, and then you can’t even be pissed.

The good months can be all kinds of awesome. I’ve had months when I’ve knocked it out of the park with my energy to pitch relentlessly. I’ve also tasted what its like to hit that sweet spot of having a high conversion rate. Some times I am able to knock the stories out as per the schedule. On extra good months, long pending payments come in, to tide me over until the work I’m now doing eventually pays me. The wait is long. The struggle is real. In an ideal world, the balance is a part of the routine and rhythm of this freelancer life.

I am far from that world. I swing from extreme highs to extreme lows of energy, commitment and digits in my bank balance.

But I am also slowly realising that the best months are the months in which I have sustained my routine, and my discipline and the months where I have let that slip, it shows. It shows in my work, it shows in my state of mind, and it shows in how I deal with what I am feeling. September has seen me all over the place, agitated, restless, sleeping badly. But every time I hit an emotional downer this past month, I’ve had a reality check that has made me question my perspective about some of my beliefs to do with my work. Eventually, I had an epiphany that I thought was a crucial breakthrough in the emotional tussle I am going through. It made me take myself to therapy this week, to address it. It’s all you need sometimes — a conversation with someone completely removed from your reality. It’s definitely what I needed, for starters, because it has caused a shifted in my brain.

I’ve been mulling over everything we spoke about at therapy for the last two days and this morning, I found a strange but timely affirmation of it all in a conversation with N. Later she posted a status message that had a sentence I needed to read;

Productivity and following plans is great when it happens but it’s not everything. On a day like this when life wants me to realise this important fact, I’m glad I took the bait and listened.

She’s talking about her life, and her important facts, and unproductive day, but I could completely relate. September has been a strange month, as you’ve probably already figured. I started with such gusto, and then slipped into a sea of self-doubt immediately after (if you received my first newsletter you’ll know, because I talked about it there). Then just as I got going again my laptop died. And here I am today, a week from that horrible day, realising it’s the end of the fucking month already. Part of me wants to cry and scream for the days that have gone by in a blur. But a larger part of me has this strange resigned acceptance.

I haven’t got nearly not as much work as I planned to do. I haven’t done nearly as much of it as I’d have liked to. But for the first time in months, I’m telling myself that it’s okay. I’ve been unproductive with work, but I have done the best thing I could do for myself, which was to take the bait and listen, at every point that life was giving me a cue. It’s how I had the epiphany. It’s what made me go to therapy. It’s what made me want to get to the bottom of this.

*****

If you’ve stayed with my self-indulgent navel-gazing ramble and read this far:

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Because I’ve lost some of the patience I have carefully built in the recent past, this post aptly titled Shut Up and Be Patient, really spoke to me, with sentences like,

These are all great transitions, good changes coming to a life that is slowly inching its way into its next stage. But life transitions, even when good, are always difficult, and they are always slow and gradual.

A good life is not a life without problems. A good life is a life with good problems. And so, despite the turbulence of the rocky waves and twisting tides, I can sometimes stare into the heart of my confusion and the crossed strains of joy and sadness, and smile and be grateful that it’s all there.

Did you watch the Presidential Debate? No, I’m not going to share yet another article that breaks down the obnoxious mansplaining of downright idiotic beliefs that one of the candidates displayed. It’s this interview with Chelsea Clinton that really stood out amongst a lot of the heavy post-debate analysis that has been doing the rounds.

I love that the topic of child-free-dom is seeing so much press. We’ve gone past the point of asserting out legitimate choice for a life without children, to talking about the many other ways in which those of us who have made this choice fulfil our instinct to care for and nurture people. This essay makes a lovely point about the presence of child-less women in the lives of mothers. I’ve always said I love being an auntie, and I am an auntie to so many lovely babies. This piece breaks it down so well, and while it is about alternative roles played by the child-free, it is mostly a case for building a life with community and kinship.

Remember that picture of Anthony Bourdain and Barack Obama seated on plastic stools in what looked like a tiny eatery in Vietnam, sipping a beer each, that surfaced around May this year? Well here’s an interview with Bourdain, and deets about the episode that will feature the POTUS. So heartwarming.

*****

Okay, c’est fini.

I’m looking forward to a weekend of reading, a 100km ride on Sunday that I eventually decided to bite the bullet and go through with. I have had no practice in about a month now, so I’m going in blind. Armed with dates, chikki and ORS. Wish me luck. I’m going to need it.

When Monday rolls along, I hope to feel more refreshed, ready to wipe the slate clean and take on a new month.

Day 216: July

3 Aug

If there’s one word I had to pick, to describe the month of July, it would have to be tired. I wasn’t just tired, tired became me. I may not have shown it, but at various points I felt physically, mentally, emotionally depleted and wrung out.

When I fell pretty badly ill and even the doctor couldn’t figure out why, I boiled it down to the fact that I may have overworked myself. Just a tad. There was a fair bit of writing that happened, but I may have over committed and reached out for more than I can grab at one go. But there was a lot of fun work too. I wrote this piece on Indu’s 100TinderTales project and this piece on my favourite, homegrown chocolate brands. I cracked one new pub, instead of two like I originally aimed for, but I’m not complaining because a lot of this month was wasted, so I’m discounting a lot of the time. By wasted, I mean time was spent “at work” but not quite working. 

It’s been a slow month because of it. Several days were spent at my desk, in front of the computer, struggling to just follow through. I made every deadline dangerously in the nick of time, which causes a lot of stress and is really not the way I like to work all the time. My attempts to fight the sloth that seemed to come over me in waves, included driving away to places far from home in the hope that a change of scene may get the creative juices flowing, plenty of snacks and drinks which I can now feel settled around my belly, looking up writing tools like this crazy drastic but much-needed one right here, and trying everything short of strapping myself to my chair to get my work done in time, I’ve accepted that I’ve hit a major productivity slump. The weather has been amazing, and that hasn’t helped at all. Right from the start of the month I’ve been wanting to stay cooped indoors. It began with a serious extended holiday hangover, coupled with the effort to make myself work even though every cell in my body was revolting, which resulted in a lot of navel gazing about solitude and the unlikely, unexpected way in which I realised I’ve become a thorough homebody and realised I may actually be more of an introvert that I am willing to accept. Add to that the forced week off from all activity, and the most gorgeous rainy weeks, and you realise why it has been such a slow, sluggish month.

It isn’t the kind of slow that made me irritable or has left me unhappy in any way. If anything, I’ve felt like it was a natural course of required slowing down that I always find being enforced in my life when I am not looking, but when I need it the most.

I’ve been relaxing over the weekends by cycling again. The rain notwithstanding. And as with every monsoon, this year too I have been listening to a lot of music. I don’t know if it’s entirely the weathers doing, but I have been overly emotional. Feeling things I don’t really need to feel. Weeping over things I shouldn’t have to. Ranting about minor annoyances. And just feeling very, very wrung out.

The slowness, it just doesn’t seem to leave me. It brings to the surface the restlessness that I thought I had channeled into my work. But somewhere that seems to have gone a bit tits-up, and it calls for a little revision. So I’ve kind of allowed myself to go with the flow. It was a high-emotion month, with low-energy — which results in a lot of heart not keeping up with the head, head not cooperating with the heart. I’ve wanted to do a lot more, but have been unable to get moving. This is possibly the natural order of things, there has to be a low, so we get a chance to rebuild momentum to take things up again. So I’m hoping that this too shall pass.

I’ve started August in the same uninspired mode, finishing up some work from last month that has trickled into this week, thanks to the lethargy. At the end of this week I’m off to Bangalore, and Kerala and hope to be back mid-month, when I will hopefully take stock of things and begin again. If I were to listen to my gut, this is going to be a month of taking it slow again.

Protected: Day 188: More work thoughts

6 Jul

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Day 168: I’m only procrastinating to avoid the discomfort

16 Jun

Procrastination and productivity – two sides of a coin – are topics that perpetually occupy my mind. Just searching for the word procrastinate on my blog throws up enough posts to keep you going for a while. I’m a chronic procrastinator. I doubt I will ever be the kind of person who is can uniformly balance the two states. I have many days when I feel I have stumbled on a trick that will help kickstart some efficiency and productivity, but it’s hard to sustain it and just as I think I have cracked a possible solution to this eternal problem, I suddenly have a day (sometimes many days) of paralysis. Mostly, when the going is good I’m constantly wondering when the next slip will happen (because I am that prone to procrastination), I’m almost anticipating it, waiting for it to happen. And when the going is tough, well, I stress about it and wait for last minute panic to hit me.

About 2 weeks ago, something suddenly shifted within me. I desperately wanted an answer to why this happens to be so often. The procrastination bug has bitten harder this year because I’ve seen the visible consequences it has on the quality of my life – both, when I am efficient and planned and productive, and when I let things slip and procrastinate over them. Weeks and months of pondering over this has in some way made me accept that extreme highs and lows are probably a part of the larger plan and the way things are for my personality. I’ve found myself thinking about ways to mazimise the bursts of efficiency when they do hit, and trying to find ways to tide through the lows without letting them paralyse me complete.

It helps to think of tackling the procrastination habit in smaller chunks, rather than a big mighty overwhelming beast it is. In my search, I came across this ZenHabits post that really hit the spot for me, making me introspect and begin to accept something I never have, to myself.

It is far easier to dismiss procrastination as a product of laziness, of which I have aplenty. It has also been very convenient because my idea of ambition is not typical. Settling for what seems like less, and then being lazy for it is a really good excuse to get out of doing what it takes. But I had never stopped to think that perhaps procrastination is sometimes my defence against discomfort and uncertainty, as this post suggests.

Just saying that to myself felt like a mini breakthrough. It’s been a year a of inculcating many mindful practices with the purpose of getting better at the small things – keeping good habits, doing more what makes me happy, acknowledging the shit that rises to the surface so often, working through it rather than shoving it under the carpet, and just living everyday life being whole and present. So when I talk about productivity, it’s very rarely about clocking more hours so I can earn more, or filling my time with x more activities or coming out at the end of a stipulated time period with a socially acceptable measure of success. All the navel gazing, mindfulness and efforts to imbibe big and little habits to make my life more joyful revolves around understanding why I stumble, as I do so often. Why I take so long to move on the things I tell myself I want so bad. Why I choose the safety from discomfort so often. It’s true, I realise. Sometimes big tasks — finishing that essay I bravely pitched, delivering the article to the new pub I cracked, picking up the phone to make the call to the intimidating person I have to interview, making time to finish x mundane household jobs, acting on step 1 of moving towards my what-next, planning to get organised as a professional — have daunting possibilities. Somewhere deep down, perhaps even subconsciously, I am afraid of the outcome. I’m afraid of what succeeding might mean. I’m afraid of the hardwork that will follow, I’m scared that step 2 will follow soon after and I will have to be on my way.

So I take comfort in whittling away time, pushing the inevitable to the very last hour. Alongside that, I also fret about wasting time, and about how it is stopping me from reaching my goal. It’s really the most confusing vicious cycle, but I realised today that at the root of it lies my diffidence. I procrastinate when I’m diffident about the outcome of the task I need to do. I’m unsure about the results and what it could mean for me. Thinking about it makes me uncomfortable, and the uncertainty is a scary place. Much nicer being enveloped in a bubble of inaction, with no immediate

The article made me realise that it’s time to try and “get good at discomfort and uncertainty”. Starting now.

But we all know that by now, I mean next week.

Day 137: Who do I think I am?

16 May


Who do I think I am? I ask myself, time and again. Especially after I’ve done something I think is audacious (by my very conservative standards).

I’m small, unnoticeable, unknown. Just who do I think I am trying to be heard above the din? Who do I hope will listen to me? And who is going to understand?

Sometimes the question keeps me up at night. Weaving ghoulish thoughts of failure into a quilt to wrap me up with. It eats into the slices of time that make up my day. Worming it’s way into the sweetest, most delicious thoughts, planting seeds of inadequacy, so they can eat at me from the inside. It lies festering like a germinating pod, quiet, unmoving. And when the moment is ripe, breaks ground to rise above the surface in waves of lush verdant self-doubt. A whole fresh plant of it. Bearing fruits of envy, tendrils of hope and loathing, clinging to anything that will lend some support.

All along, thoughts bubble up like accidents waiting to happen. And when they do, I’m that paranoid bystander fighting that plant that’s taking root in me belly. Lunging forward to gather the broken pieces into my arms and put them all back together again. It’s always a struggle. A beautiful, bittersweet struggle. Picking the right pieces, staining them with glue, finding ways to join unlikely edges together.

Finishing thoughts leave me restless. Like letting go of the string that once anchored a helium balloon to my wrist. I loosened it just so, prodded it ever so gently. And of it went. A small insignificant balloon. A speck in the sky. A dot in the universe. Larger than life to me. My big little balloon. All alone, unattended and wandering about the vast, expansive galaxy.

Just who do I think I am? For piecing that accident together? For letting that little balloon go?

It takes a grey, pre-monsoon evening at sea, watching tiny, new leaves, quivering in a raging wind, to find an ocean of surety.

There is always a storm brewing. Within. Without. All I can do is keep piecing the accidents together. My scars, my funny bones, my laugh lines, my stomach cramps, my joyful fits and starts, my aching knees, my beginnings of muscles, my heaving body, my clouded mind, my alkaline heart, all of it is an accident in the making. And piece every little bit of it together, I must.

I am small, unnoticeable, unknown. And I have the wisdom of that insignificance, tied tight to my wrist. The knowledge of fear and insecurity keep me rooted.

But it takes a grey, pre-monsoon evening at sea, to realise the truth. That the wisdom of insignificant, the knowledge of fear and insecurity are as good a starting point as any.

I am nobody. But I am here now. And today, I’m stripping off a part of me, letting yet another balloon go.

Protected: Day 134: Things about VC that I never want to forget #16

13 May

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Day 110: Go far, they said.

19 Apr

Sunday mornings are usually my time to sleep in. It’s the one day in the week I am undisturbed by the doorbell ringing – first the milkman, then the gardner, then the help. I have nothing to wake up to on Sundays, considering I’m rushing off to the gym on every other day of the week.

Everyone gets a day off on Sunday. Including me.

Except the weekend that went by, when I dragged myself out of bed at 5.45 am. I’m quite the morning person, but only once the sun is up. It’s called feeling bright and chirpy for a reason. I don’t feel bright and chirpy when the sun is not out, when you need a headlamp on your bicycle to make your way out.

But we do these things. In the name of trying new things. And whatdya know? Sometimes doing that thing you hate so much enough times can make you love it enough to do it over and and over and over again. In this case, waking up when it’s still dark, dragging my feet to the door, bicycle in tow.

I’m always on the brink of giving up and crawling right back into bed, right until the last minute I’m actually out the door.

But once I’m out there’s no turning back. And the father I go, the more I fall in love.

Last Sunday we clocked 45 kilometres on the morning ride. It included silky smooth roads, winding through woody, shaded avenues that ran through villages. While people ambled around going about their morning business, a sight I don’t get to see very often. Then train tracks were crossed, a spectacular lake visited, some idlis and vadas consumed. And a super zippy ride back, despite the fact that the sun was already beating down hard by then.

I got home with a black, dust streaked face, tan lines on my thighs and arms, exactly where my shorts and tee ended. But I was blissed.

Sometimes it’s about taking that once step outside your comfort zone. And sometimes it takes a little repetition, practice and pushing yourself. Sometimes it takes doing it over and over again. And sometimes it’s about doing it over, and going the distance.

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Day 102: Mondays like this

11 Apr
I’m slowly beginning to love the feeling I get when an editor in a distant city reads a submission and somehow manages to get right to the heart of it, despite the lack of background or prior context.

I want to bottle it up and stash it on a shelf somewhere, so I can take sips of it every time it doesn’t happen. It’s a truly wonderful, gooey, fuzzy feeling. Try it on a Monday and it will make you wonder why work ever gets you down. It’s what makes every thoughtful and articulate edit suggested, come coupled with the best intentions for the story held firmly in place. That every change is merely suggested, so respectfully and gently, tells me that my editor is guarding the authenticity of my voice, and doing her best to bring out the story without losing it.

I live for moments like this. It reinforces the belief that there is hope for honest collaboration and work relationships based on nothing but the merit of work alone. No social media pimping, no PR frills, no braggy CVs to ride on.
Yes, the story (and my story too) has changed a little, but it is (I am) so much better for it.

Day 99: On being average

8 Apr

I really love it when different trains of thought that have crossed my mind at various unconnected points of time, take off in a different trajectory, only to somehow eventually diverge into one solid epiphany, that comes as a pleasant, calming force that gently nudges me to make you sit up and notice, rather than knock me down with a full gust of realisation.

It’ was that pleasant feeling warmth that wafted over me when I read Mark Manson’s blog today, to find completely articulated in perfect, neat, succinct lines of words, exactly what I have been mulling over the last many weeks.

In my consistent pursuit mindfulness, self-improvement and fixing the restless that I have felt within me this year, I’ve been reading up a range of literature about it, differing opinions, different sides to the story, various theories and possibilities. A lot of it eventually points to accepting what I loosely term mediocrity, and it all loops back to saying a big, loud fuck you to perfection (something I listed here at the very start of the year). Consciously and unconsciously living in the present (and not in that fluesy, psychobabble-y way that we tend to brush it off as, but a solid part of my life in practice), with intention has been a constantly recurring message in my life. And what it comes down to is giving up the relentless pursuit of awesome, and settling for a more realistic average.

I’ve grown so tired of the glorification of busy, of doing it all, of being excellent. For a long time I have been in awe of, and spent a lot of bandwidth aspiring to be like the people who “have it all” (or at least seem like they do). And then I read this piece in which Mark Manson calls it “the tyranny of a culture of exceptionalism”. A dangerous disease that has the power to make even the most calm, sorted, happy person who is otherwise peacefully bumbling along on a path of contentment, stop and feel like shit for not being awesome. The post really hit the spot.

I’ve always wrongly assumed that the other end of the spectrum of excellence is lowly mediocrity which someone is equated to failure. But Mark Manson puts it in refreshingly simple terms;

Which leads to an important point: that mediocrity, as a goal, sucks. But mediocrity, as a result, is OK.

I don’t know when being anything less than awesome came to mean abject failure or pointlessness. Whatever happened to the in betweens. The completely average, mundane things things. Manson’s words resonated deeply with what I have been toying with the last few months.

You will have a growing appreciation for life’s basic experiences. You will learn to measure yourself through a new, healthier means: the pleasures of simple friendship, creating something, helping a person in need, reading a good book, laughing with someone you care about.

You know what being average does? Average is what reminds you to be content. It’s what realigns my mirrors, sharpens the focus, and reminds me to keep things small, simple and honest. Average reminds me that it’s all that matters.

Day 97: Maybe I’m finally making my peace with being mediocre

6 Apr

It’s always on the heels of hectic days like yesterday, that I am so full of angst about being busy. On the one hand there is a sense of satisfaction at the end of one such day, or even five, a week too, but on the other hand, there is the truth thag I’ve come to realise. And it is  this: I am not one to feel this same sense of satisfaction when too many such days stack up.

I love my work but I also love my space to do other stuff. To read, to watch Grey’s Anatomy, to go out for a run, to meet my friends, whatever it may be. I have always liked work and life to be distinctly separate, and get very antsy when one bleeds into another. Especially after the uber “successful” (and I use that term in a very loose, generic fashion right through this post) year I had, and the slump that hit me in January, I’m a bit wary of veering off track and finding myself back there again. Because, this. Happens to me. A lot. 

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So it takes constant reminding to slow down, make time to unwind, savour  aloneness, enjoy bouts of peace in between bouts of hectic work. Time and again I have realised that although I thrive when I am challenged with projects that not only make me flex my writing muscle, but also make me venture into spaces I didn’t, and learn things I didn’t already know, it is not the centre of my life. It’s possible that the typical definition of success is in days packed to the brim with that kind of work, and it will most definitely have the cash endlessly flowing into my bank account. But that’s not where happiness is. Not for me.

I know it sounds like fake modesty when I say this but, I think the sweetest spot for me is right in the middle. A simple life, with just enough. Enough to do, enough to live, enough to survive. And that’s why this quest for balance is such a big deal in my head. 

And so what if the kind of existence I love and thrive in, is seen as merely mediocre by the world at large? So bloody what? I’m growing so tired of the constant messages of productivity, perseverance, reaching above and beyond, delivering excellence, excelling standards, reading new benchmarks. Why does everything have to always be bigger and better. What if I’ve found what works for me, and I’m okay to just let it be.

I’ve tried doing it the way the world does it. Worked like a mad dog, earned more money than I ever wanted or thought I could earn at a point in time, surprised myself, and kept running that way, until I was burnt dry. only to realise that it’s not what I wanted. 

I’ve said before, I’m just an ordinary 99%-er. An average person with no outlandish ambition to be excellent or stand out in the world. I’m very happy to bumble along, as long as I’m happy doing what I am doing, I’m being useful in the world and not getting in anybody’s way. My idea of ambition is pretty limited. There is no higher purpose or point to my life. And I’m inching close and closer to accepting fully that it is enough.

I keep harping on about this with respect to my work, because it does occupy a large space jn my daily life and it js what I invest my energies in the most, but I also see this to be increasingly true for me in other aspects of my life as well. 

More and more I’m discarding the idea of perfection, especially where I’ve realised it’s not my idea of perfection but something I’ve imbibed along the way. I’ve lost the will for that perfect, beautiful home. I’m happy if things work, are clean and I have a home to come back to everyday. I no longer chase crazy standards of domestic goddess-level perfection in the kitchen, the way the home is decorated or in keeping up with pressure to entertain folks. I have mostly lost interest in anything that needed to be done for an outward display, unless it is something that makes me innately happy, or is crucial to my very existence.
I used to be so filled with angst about my inability to socialise, to be a gregarious “out-there” kind of person because that’s the kind of person the world likes no? That’s the kind of person who gets ahead. I know this has held me back at work in the past, where I constantly felt the pressure of having to step up and be a certain way. Something always held me back though. Perhaps it is the gut feeling of knowing fully well that it was not something that would come naturally to me.

I said this in a comment on this post, and I’ll repeat it here. I have a history of being good at most things I took up — in school, college and even the first few jobs I took up. I got through with above average results with very little effort. And this was not limited to academics alone. Extra curriculars, socialising, sport. Now, the game has changed. Previous levels of perfection are rendered useless and there are new standards to ascribe to. Not only does succeeding take a lot more effort, I have also realised that there is no joy in it for me. That is not my idea of contentment a d nit’s ot where my sense of purpose and validation comes from. Successful the way most people expect it to unfold, takes a lot more effort, in the face of competition, criticism, instant gratification. It takes a lot more than just showing up and delivering. And most times I couldn’t be arsed to go beyond that.

I do have my moments of enthusiasm, when I push myself to my limits. But they’re few and far between these days. Mostly I’m at peace with being a full time freelancer working from home, settling for a smaller income than I’ll ever make in a full time employment. But what I make, it’s enough. I’m growing to love the sense of home the way it is around me, my space, and not some pinteresty re-creation. My home is warm, neat for the most part, and that we can afford it and have a peaceful life here, is enough. I’m growing more and more comfortable with my natural oscillations between mild extroversion and extreme introversion. I venture out when I feel the innate need for it, and I stay in and say no when I no longer want company. I choose my own company more often than not, because I am enough. I’m far more forgiving of my perpetual food-baby, the wideness of my hips, the disheveled eyebrows that frame my eyes. I exercise like a maniac, knowing fully well that I no longer chase an insanely unreal image of thinness. I no longer do my eyebrows. I feel healthy and strong when I workout. I like the face I see in the mirror. And that is enough.

Yes, so I sometimes eat bread and butter for dinner. Yes, 7 out of 10 times I procrastinate like crazy before I deliver my work. Yes, I sometimes forget to do the laundry for a week and I routinely find myself in the car with the petrol indicator on E. Yes, there are days when I want to be a bum, and I have the luxury and privilege to do so. Yes, I’m not always on top of everything. But what I am, is enough.

The usual checkboxes for a life well lived, a successful one as it were, looks nothing like mine does right now. There’s a lot of scope for what people might call improvement. But you know what? I don’t even have the ambition to aspire for it. I’m stuck in the middle – in that sweet spot between what once was, and how far I’ve come. And I’m happy to be here, taking it one day at a time. This is the sweet spot for now. It’s where the happiness is. Where calm breathes. Where peace seeps in and reminds me time and time again that it’s okay to be mediocre.

It is enough.