Day 284: September

Heaven, let your light shine down

I’ve thought long and hard about how I can sum up September. I’ve written, re-written and written again, this post collating all that happened in the month, and yet the right way to put it together has eluded me. Continues to elude me. It’s odd because so much happened in September. I was busy, the days were long, I was out and about, and then I went away on what can easily be called one of the best holidays of the last decade for me. Somehow, I’ve been lost for words.

This morning, I realised that perhaps it’s okay. That perhaps I must post this anyway, without neatly tying everything up with a bow. September was over-stimulating. September was snappy and brisk. And yet, September has left me silent. September has made me sit down and be still again.

For far too long now I have been seeking this stillness within. The sort of stillness that steadies me even in the midst of bustling action. Suddenly I realise, September was all about that kind of stillness deep within. Stillness that anchors, steadiness that fills a space. Somewhere, unbeknownst to me, that steadiness has crept in making space for a quiet assuredness that makes it possible to rest without my fingers fidgeting to hold something, to flow from one thing to the next without always knowing how or what or why, to be busy on the outside and calm within all at once, and to let go of the answers knowing that I can sit still with the questions swimming within.

Uncertainty, quietude, surrender, unsettling — there has never been a time in my life that I have enjoyed any of this. And somehow, here I am today doing exactly that. So here goes.

***

I had a shit ton of work last month, and the added pressure of finishing it all before I went away. And in classic fashion, I procrastinated a helluva lot before I eventually got it done.

Despite that, there’s been that stillness I mentioned. Peaceful, easy days with emotions running high, thoughts astir.
I feel a deep sense of contentment for where I am right now and all that life has brought for me, especially this past year.
I pondered about inclusion and what it means to evolve and think back wistfully, to older versions of myself.
On distraction and my relationship with screens.
Thoughts on social media, as a result of unrestricted screen-time I had.
Writing every single day this year has been not just exceedingly joyful, but also beneficial.
I’ve also found a new dimension of friendship that fuels me.

HAPPY days of love in September included the Supreme Court decriminalizing homosexuality in India. And our tenth wedding anniversary.

I spent a large chunk of the month in Europe and I posted every single day. Sometimes with words, sometimes without.
Enroute: Day 0
Paris: Day 1: Hello Paris, day 2: walking about, day 3: more aimless wandering, day 4: in love with the city of love
Brugges: Day 5: rainy welcome, day 6: all is forgiven, day 7: lessons in uncertainty
Amsterdam: Day 8: sensory overload, day 9: catching sunrise and sunset, day 10: last day reflections

Gratitude, as always.
For choosing the slow, flexible life that supports my inner being.
For the abundance that has come my way in recent times.
For love: in strong friendship that has grown unexpectedly, for family that comes through against all odds.
For friendship across continents, timezones and life spaces.

img_6730

***

One month ago: Day 246: August
Two months ago: Day 219: July
Three months ago: Day 184: June

Four months ago: Day 152: May
Five months ago: Day 134: April
Six months ago: Day 92: March
Seven months ago: Day 60: February
Eight months ago: Day 32: January

One year ago: Things change
Two years ago: Day 284: Escape

Advertisements

Day 246: August

Being still and silent and broken is its own kind of religion.

If I had just one word to pick to describe what August has been like, it would be reflective. Perhaps because I kicked the month off with the third module of the course, and it was by far the best it set things in motion down this very contemplative, perspective-altering, pondering sort of path and through all the shenanigans that went down, that mood has remained. This particular module was a needle-pushing one for me, I had a massive breakthrough that is, I realise now, changing how I feel about every major aspect of my life and slowly pushing me ahead in a very different way.

Have you ever had an emotional breakthrough that feels like after months of trying to tear down and and push through a door that refuses to open, it suddenly gives and comes clamouring down? Where suddenly the only thing blocking you (usually yourself) comes apart, letting you through? It’s exhilarating, because you’re eagerly waiting to be shown the next step, a foot in the door. And finally you’re there, but to your surprise, what’s ahead often isn’t a clear road to freedom, but…a free fall. Into nothingness.

And you have to just leap.

It’s exciting as fuck. But also terrifying. And brings with it this ginormous knot in my stomach, like OMG HOW is that even possible, how I am to begin all over again, where do I take myself from here?

So I was particularly humbled when I read these words in the letter in this Ask Polly edition last month, echoing much the same feelings, even though our situations, context and journey is entirely different:

…feels like I’m standing at a fork in the road, where one path leads to a pit of snakes and the other to a jagged cliff.

How do I begin? Where do I begin?

And these absolute gems, in the answer:

So this is where I would start: Ground yourself in reality.

Because that is just what my pursuit has been these past few months, years. To find reality. Over and over again. Seeking authenticity, truth and real comfort, within and around myself.

I realise this is really the crux of any journey of self-discovery, of coming into one’s own. And the deeper I go, the more I seem to let go of, and the more comfortable I find I am with myself. Exactly the way I am.

Once you ground yourself in reality…then you can finally approach the world as you are. You don’t need to be entertaining or sexy or clever or useful to be lovable. You don’t have to prove your value in order to be valuable. You can simply be what you are.

August especially, has been a time of cutting myself down to size. More shedding, more culling of the unnecessary, more pruning of an incorrect sense of self. But most unexpectedly, accepting uncomfortable and far from desirable facets of myself that exist, that I was oblivious to. Even after all these months of work, it was gutting to realise that there are parts of me that make me a difficult person to be with, to connect with, to understand.

So begins a new chapter. Fresh work commences. And it all begins with that leap of faith, that free fall into what seems like nothingness.

And here’s where the work done so far holds me in good stead. I can stay, I don’t need to run. I can be myself, imperfections and all, without having to hide.

Being still and silent and broken is its own kind of religion.

Because, it matters. It’s where a new me can bloom.

Being what you are looks like this: You enter every room as a calm, neutral observer. You are average. You don’t have an agenda. Your only job is to listen and observe and offer your support. Your only job is to watch and learn and allow room for yourself, even when you don’t say a word, even when you don’t look that good, even when you seem useless. There you are, giving yourself the right to be without running or hiding or dancing. That is grace. It matters.

***

All the healing, and some change
When the burden of the breakthrough hung heavy.
The absolute thrill of taking that leap, left me high on life for many, many days after.
And sometimes when I look back, take stock of what has changed and how much, I see how far I’ve come.
On the privilege of flying back into the nest, enjoying this fleeting time in Bangalore and readying myself to fly out once again.

Probably consequent to all of these shifts, my relationship with my body (that has been another big piece in this journey) saw yet another inflection point. And things have turned in a way that nothing will ever be the same again.
Reclaiming parts I’ve rejected, and finally seeing a glimmer of feeling whole again.
On finding confidence, self-love and how it feels like meeting myself for the first time. Every single day.
I think I may have finally let go of the fitness aficionado tag that formed such a huge part of my identity, and I’m ready to move on to new things.

I’ve had a on-again-off-again pattern going with all things domestic, of late. And several times in the recent past I’ve found it really has me in a rut. As much as a huge part of me wants to break away from the trappings of mindless routine and make time for all the things that I am seeking to explore, there is a sense of grounding that routine and doing homely things with my hands gives me, and I have been trying to find a healthy balance between the two.
I wrote about the how lucky I feel about being in Bangalore because it has given me just the space and time in this respect.
And every time I slip, I have to remind myself not to beat myself up about it, so I can move up and on quicker.

Bangalore love
August is also the month VC and I have decided to move on from Bangalore. And so predictably, I had a lot of feels for Bangalore. Through all the annoyances that I don’t stop myself form acknowledging, the sum total of my time in Bangalore has been nothing short of amazing. I have thoroughly enjoyed it for everything it has offered.
Of rain, and missing Goa.
Of rain, and traffic jams that lead to epiphanies.
Of clear skies that turn to rain.

As always, there is gratitude
Nine months in to keeping this habit, I know without a shadow of doubt how much it has impacted my mental health and contributed to moving forward and counting on abundance rather than being stuck in stories and beliefs that are grounded in a sense of lack. This past month, owing to all the feels, there was a lot of gratitude.
For life and how it flows.
For having this opportunity to take make a life of being, and not so much doing.
For opportunities that I could have only had in Bangalore. And the privilege of traveling to Goa again.
For family. Known and unknown, close and extended.
For Bangalore, and the rain.

Rumination
This year of writing everyday, I’ve taken extra pride in not ever missing a day or resorting to back posts as much as I did in 2016. Back then, I also resorted to writing Haiku when I was all dried up and the thoughts wouldn’t come. This year there have been very few days when I didn’t know what to write, and I have actually enjoyed writing every single day. August however, saw a lot of random thought bubbles and pictures, probably owing to days where I was just so overwhelmed with my own inner monologue.
Hot chocolate days.
Pause for a moment.
Driving to Goa. Again.
I read two more books.
Goa postcards. Here. Here. And here.

One month ago: Day 219: July
Two months ago: Day 184: June

Three months ago: Day 152: May
Four months ago: Day 134: April
Five months ago: Day 92: March
Six months ago: Day 60: February
Seven months ago: Day 32: January

Two years ago: Day 246: Wandering, right here at home

Day 219: July

Wherever you go, there you are.

A couple of weeks ago, I came under the axe of judgement passed by an ex-employer. And when I got wind of the statements, the unintelligent assumptions/presumptions, the uninformed conclusions they made, I was riled up way more than I imagined I could be.

Purposeless. Directionless. Unfocused. Seeking therapy. Just some of the descriptors used about me. It’s been on my mind ever since. I’m not offended or riled up anymore, but I have been wondering how and why someone who barely knows the insides of my life, especially what I’ve been upto the last 2-3 years, gets off assuming I’m purposeless. And I can only conclude it is because I don’t have any of the obvious markers of “having arrived”. I don’t hold a job. I flit from one thing to the next, whatever takes my fancy. I don’t have the burdens of a family of my own to tend to.

And yet, I’m happy and satisfied.

It doesn’t compute to the average mind, I suppose. The average mind stuck on the hamster wheel of working hard and having a single purpose as the only means to find contentment in life. Even if it comes at the cost of one’s honour, substance and emotional health. We’re a culture chronically obsessed with that kind of measurable achievement as the only tracker of success or happiness, it really saddens me.

My truth is that my only purpose is to enjoy whatever it is I do. Even if it is an entirely new thing everyday. My purpose is to be happy. Healthy. Stable. And I’ll do whatever it takes to get me there. What the average mind stuck on the hamster wheel doesn’t understand is that this too requires commitment, showing up day after day, an unwavering dedication. Even lesser known is the fact that it requires a far higher level of emotional honesty and vulnerability. And to do it without any form of glory or recognition at the end of the line, confuses and befuddles most people.

More and more I’m finding joy in this path, in this manner. Without the obvious gains I used to look for at one time. It’s erratic, it’s unpredictable, it’s downright difficult sometimes. But it has also given me immeasurable joy — the kind no job or form of employment ever has.

The awareness that this is it has been liberating and humbling. And the awareness that this is enough has been so empowering.

In other words, and to borrow from Seth Godin:

Wherever you go, there you are. You’re never going to arrive because you’re already there.

Since May, things have been astir in our lives. Not in an obvious, tangible way. But I’ve carried around a buzzing ball of movement within me, like I’m on the brink of some change, for weeks now. I’ve been edgy with excitement and anticipation because things were beginning to settle in June, showing some sign of what direction they may move in. But it was in July that everything peaked, and suddenly my life has made an unexpected turn again. We’re looking at yet another move.

And yet, looking back now, I can trace a pattern in the events. It makes sense, in retrospect, of course. Not so much when we were in the midst of it, getting from one day to the next. I will always remember July for being the month of a peaceful churn that has gently nudged us towards the next milestone in our journey, while also throwing ample opportunities to rest, travel, enjoy Bangalore and bond with my friends — building a strong foundation of love and comfort that is so needed in the months to come.

And so, we journey on. Throwing ourselves from one experience to the next, borrowing from SG again:

There’s no division between the painful going and the joyous arriving. If we let it, the going can be the joyful part.

More and more I’m finding joy in this path, in this manner. Shifting focus off the elusive goal/destination, and enjoying the ride instead. If this makes me seem purposeless and unfocused to the uninitiated and woefully unaware, so be it.

***

Rest and Recreation
There were naps. So many naps.
But I made the most of rainy Bangalore days with brunch
Before I ran off to Kerala
Returning to rainy days spent in coffee shops
Before I jetted off to Goa pretty much soon after
Where I worked for a few days and then resumed the R&R

Rumination
On gender, discomfort and self-hate
On the 5 books I read
On returning back to normalcy after a whole lot of fun
On friendship and happiness in Bangalore

Travel
Kerala is so frikking greeeeen in the monsoon!
It was also incredibly wet
But the silence was impeccable
Goa was green. And wet too.
And invariably gives me reasons to breathe and flow
And overwhelms me with the good energy and contentment
There were dog pics. Lots of them.
Because they’re serious distractions
A good trip is one that makes you feel like you’re back in your skin again
And leaves a happy afterglow

Gratitude
For family, friendship and for food
From journeying with my father
For Goa, for friendship, for dogs and where my life is today

One month ago: Day 184: June
Two month ago: Day 152: May
Three months ago: Day 134: April

Four months ago: Day 92: March
Five months ago: Day 60: February
Six months ago: Day 32: January

One year ago: What coming home feels like: kinship, quietude and becoming

Day 184: June

Have the courage to change your mind

This past weekend, I found myself at a hip and happening party spot in the city. This is not something that happens often at all in my life. The music was loud and pounding so hard, I could hear it all the way in the basement parking, as I drove in well past 10 pm. I was immediately taken by how Bangalore’s general style statement has changed over the years. Party clothes are definitely more striking, bold and out there. As I waded through the flurry of shiny, shimmying young ones, in my torn jeans and full-sleeved tee (what?! – it was a rainy night and I’m easily cold), making my way to the open air restaurant area, I thought to myself, Wow Bangalore has changed sooo much. Until I stepped into the quadrangle, within mere metres of what is obviously an exceedingly popular weekend spot to dance the night away, and I had to halt that thought right in it’s tracks. Because loud and thumping music, with the crowds interjecting at appropriate spots, I heard the lyrics: HEY Mambo, Mambo Italiano! GO, GO, GO! Because it was nothing like had changed at all. And I was back in Urban Edge in 2001.

Nothing has changed — it’s a recurring thought I have as I go through life in Bangalore.

Sure, the clothes have gotten shinier, the kids are more out and about, the curfews have been extended, we have cabs so hopefully less drunken driving. But aside from that it was like being sucked into a bad time warp, sliding back to a dark and dingy night club 15 years, where two extremely fun boys convinced me to smoke a cigar that I pretended to enjoy.

I felt so confused, simultaneously cool (because I knew the entire playlist because it was from when I was in high-school) and uncool, and suddenly so aware of my age. Because I was curling my nose up at it and avoiding the crowded noisy spots, going in search of ice cream instead.

Some things have changed, though.

Thank god for that.

***

I’ve been thinking about ageing. Growing up. Evolving. Moving on. And I suddenly realised mid-conversation the other day, that most of the disdain and angst about time running out has faded. I told P the other day that this decade — the 30s — are proving to be far, far more enjoyable than the last.

It wasn’t always the case. I still often wish for some of the simplicity that was my early 20s (everything was really straight forward, and I had far less fucks to give than I did in my late 20s) where I just went after most things without a second thought, high on a misguided cocky confidence. It had its advantages and disadvantages. But, this, here now — to be in this wonderful twilight zone between knowing what I want and having a quiet confidence that I feel from within, and feeling far less apologetic about chasing each one of those goals without justifying them — is far, far more enjoyable.

In my 20s, I had a very rigid sense of self. I was far too certain of too many things. Today though, my sense of self is far more fluid. Far more forgiving and open to figuring it out along the way. Even as I have eaten all the words from my twenties, and come to a point of realising that virtually nothing that I held to be true and absolute, holds good anymore. And that has been one of the most freeing realisations of recent time.

Suddenly, there is so much more space to let go of all the barriers I have created in my mind. There is far less self-doubt. There is also a lot more faith in myself, and a sense of surety about letting older parts of myself go without feeling like I am disappointing myself somehow. This has been a defining aspect of the last four years of my life — allowing myself the permission to soften up, loosen the grip and grow out.

I have enjoyed trading in my cocksureness for this far more confusing and uncertain process of bumbling along and taking everything one step at a time. I am slowly getting better at being okay with not knowing it all, being open to learning all the time.

Most of all, I think the thing that has changed my attitude to life is understanding that I need to have the courage and space to change my mind as I go along. And this courage doesn’t have to be fierce, loud or in-your-face, or even proclaimed and shared. It has a soft, graceful and very gentle feel to it. All qualities I never thought I would embrace.

So yeah, things are changing. All the damn time for me these days. And May and June have really shown me what is possible when I open myself up to all the possibilities that are waiting to turn my inner world upside down.

If May was all about unsettling everything and throwing all the balls up in the air, June was about making space for things to settle again. Not actively settling them myself, but allowing them to settle in, in their own time and pace.

June has been all about the resettling. And it came with a massive amount of thoughts because resettling has it’s own energy. It’s not an instant state that gets flicked on at the push of a button. It has been equal parts slow in it’s unfolding as it is energetic in what it is throwing up.

I am psyched for what the next half of the year holds, and if the last two months are anything to go by, it’s going to be interesting to say the very least.

Let’s reflect!

Rumination
The more life persists, the more rumination it brings. I’m just glad I have the time and space to allow it to find its way out, because it makes for very useful reading when I look back. (I’m sure I can’t say the same for you, though!)

  1. A whole month too late, but I finally wrote that letter to myself, that I had promised I would
  2. Serendipitously, I found yoga, once again
  3. Self-care and emotional literacy; and how it isn’t a fancy, unnecessary and expensive proposition
  4. Acknowledging moments of guilt and grief is crucial
  5. Weekend blues, chance conversations and surprising moments of friendship

Happy days
Looking back on the month I realised it was a mostly happy month, because without realising it, I have chronicled a lot of very small, everyday little happy occurrences.

  1. Little happy things that stuck with me on week 1
  2. Happy days of very little work and endless nothingness
  3. The happy occurrence of making it to a 6 am yoga class
  4. Happy breakfast conversations that work as timely reminders
  5. Happy with the Bangalore rain
  6. Happy meets contentment meets fullness
  7. Days spend doing nothing but reading make me oh sooo happy
  8. Home days that make me happy
  9. Brain-worms that trigger more happy thoughts
  10. Happy (temporary) reconciliations with Bangalore
  11. Proof of change also makes me happy
  12. Choosing a happy day

Gratitude, as usual
Because I will get nowhere without this.

  1. A serious kind of something new
  2. Come on, keep me where the light is
  3. Nobody really likes us, except us
  4. Did we fly to the moon too soon?

Books!
I wrote a lone book post (featuring 1 book I LOVED, and 3 I didn’t) because things have been slow on that front. My brain has been otherwise occupied. And I’ve decided that’s okay.

One month ago: Day 152: May
Two months ago: Day 134: April

Three months ago: Day 92: March
Four months ago: Day 60: February
Five months ago: Day 32: January

Day 152: May

Call it magic, call it true

I’m tired of repeating (even to myself) how utterly odd I’ve been feeling this month. Even as the days zip, the in betweens have stretched and made the four+ weeks seem inordinately stretched. I almost can’t believe it’s June today, and we’re at the edge of the halfway mark through this year.

All month long I waited for inspiration to strike, so I could write that one spectacularly articulate post that would sum up all the epiphanies, moments of clarity, positivity and inner strength that have kept me afloat and sometimes thrust me forward, even through the cloudiness that has shrouded the past few weeks.

But, it never came.

Admittedly, this hasn’t been the best month, as far as clarity goes. And it’s shown all over my blog. I’ve stayed with writing everyday, never missing a chance or putting it off, resorting to pictures 90% of the time. Sometimes hoping they’d do the talking, and sometimes not even that.

Despite all of that, it has been a significant and special time for me. For one, it was birthday month, and that always puts a shiny, brand-new-again spin on everything. And it was also a month of frenetic activity. Because there were two holidays — one to Goa and another to Thailand. And in between it all there was family visiting and lots of outings and get togethers. Somewhere in the midst of all that was also my inner self bobbing up and down, nudging me, constantly reminding me of the unsettled, unanchored way that I was feeling in my core. Like something is astir and change is in the works, yet again. It was a month of many of life’s firsts, each one remarkable and memorable in it’s own way.

One would think this would leave me with much to write about. And so I waited, all month long, for that perfect opportunity — where inspiration would strike and set the words in motion, just at the right time out from all that was going on around me.

But, it never came. And somewhere in the midst of the waiting, while also making do with the little juice I had going, I realised there was a little lesson to learn. To really just keep swimming. Even when the waters may not be perfect. Even when my arms are flailing uncoordinated. Even when I’m tired. Sometimes even when I don’t really want to swim too much.

This shift — recognising that not everything has to be perfect, or excellent, or enjoyable, or remarkable and that sometimes it just has to be, happen, exist, move on — has been the theme of the month.

Like Austin Kleon says about shitty, imperfect first drafts, whose entire purpose is to just get the juices flowing, the writing muscles loosened up, and the mind ticking, I’ll take this as practice to just get through the plateaus that hold promise of change at the edge of the horizon, to build the patience to make that journey to the edge without feeling like a leaf thrown in a storm, to hold my place and hang on to the small everyday joys even when all about me is a circus in full tilt.

It’s possible. Essential, even. To know and experience the meh as much as I crave and aspire for the woohoos in life.

I’m beginning to think of May as the first draft of the rest of this year, because I’ve just felt the immensity of how much this applies to life as it does to art like a flash of bright, bright light.

It doesn’t matter if it’s good right now, it just needs to exist.

***

Right, so if you’re interested in seeing what seemed like a picture album of the month gone by, let’s get on with it:

Birthday month!

I turned 34. And I feel convinced I may never really feel my actual age. I had a love-filled birthday that was somewhat perspective-altering.

Postcards from Goa:

  1. On sliding into what is, rather than getting caught up in what could have been
  2. I consumed more beer than I’ve allowed myself to in a long, long time. And I found a new favourite
  3. There was so much doggie-love, and warmth and a heart-tugging kind of comfort in their presence
  4. There was some work-related perks
  5. And a lot of relaxing down-time with friends
  6. Some roots dropped and new beginnings of sorts made
  7. And of course lots of pictures and home-sickness

Elusive spots of truth that sometimes made it through

  1. More lessons in boundaries
  2. On staying present in my emotional reality
  3. Leaning in to my wish to being a nomad
  4. Happy moments this month

Postcards from Thailand:

  1. Beach days, all day, erryydayyy
  2. Spectacular sunsets that made me feel overwhelmed, small and insignificant
  3. Affirmations
  4. Pleasant surprises
  5. Some more clarity (holiday edition)
  6. A little basic wisdom (holiday edition)

And of course, there’s always the gratitude:

  1. For food: Like happiness is the truth
  2. For Goa: I’ve been keeping all the letters that I wrote to you
  3. For VC and his selfless love: We keep this love in a photograph
  4. For Thailand and the privilege to travel: I’ll take a quiet life
  5. For this blog and finishing 12 years of writing it: Days when I couldn’t live my life without you

One month ago: Day 134: April
Two months ago: Day 92: March
Three months ago: Day 60: February
Four months ago: Day 32: January

Two years ago: Day 152: Skies that lie

Day 151: The week ends, the week begins

It’s been a summer holiday like month. Relaxed, very unhurried, travel, mangoes, afternoons spent guzzling books, plenty naps that have shot my sleep cycle to bits. Summer vibes and May feels all round. Some things I’ve loved about this oh-so-strange and up and down month:

  • Another birthday! Another beginning.
  • A whole week in Goa, for the time out, for the realisations that came from it. For the opportunity to do another workshop. For the shifts that came from that. For the dogs. For the week spend with D, and the hangs with Niyu and K and the unexpected girly fun I had.
  • A whole week in Thailand, for obvious reasons — the beach, the food, the holiday. For the opportunity to hang out with R, S and H in a way that I won’t have in Bangalore. For the scuba diving. For the taste of reality, and affirmation of some truths I have known. For getting the family trip done so the pressure won’t surface for a while now. And mostly, for showing myself that I can bend a little, relax a little, let go of my aversions a little, and do things I don’t always like to do but sometimes need to do, and still have fun while I’m at it.
  • A true and complete taste of both VC and I being funemployed, together: ever since VC joined me in my state of funemployment, he’s been the disciplined one taking himself to his co-working space everyday. He’s the man with a plan, even when there’s nothing to be done. But we took May off from normal programming, owing to all the travel and conveniently being between projects. I always imagined we’d be the sort of couple who cannot live under one roof all the time, because we’d get in each others hair (and maybe in another time, we would have did) but things have obviously changed. And I was pleasantly surprised to find myself telling him today that I have really enjoyed having him around. We’ve been sleeping in, waking up late, running off for breakfasts out, catching morning movie shows on Mondays, having impromptu work talk and meetings right in the comfort of our living room, we’ve cooked together, eaten more meals together this month than probably all this year, and somehow managed to enjoy the togetherness as much as give each other space to potter about as we please. This is a first, and I’m glad we had the chance to try it out, and be surprised, before he begins a new phase of work in the new week and new month on Monday.
  • All the time I ended up spending at home. I managed to do some long, long pending spring cleaning, sorting and disposing of stuff I’ve needlessly carried around for decades. Cupboards were cleared and space was made. But it was also remarkably cathartic, in a way that really reinstated how much I’m ready to move on.
  • The unplanned amounts of sleep I’ve got. It’s confused the shit out of me, and left me feeling very lethargic and lazy, but I suppose at this point it is what was needed and I’m glad it was a month free from all else, so I could just give in and rest.
  • The unexpected income.
  • The little bursts of clarity, that have shone through much of the haze. This will be a month to remember, no matter what I say or think about it right now. I just know it’s going to be a month I will look back on, maybe, 6-8 months from now and think oh yes, that’s what it was all about, and that’s where it all started.

One year ago: Changing seasons
Two years ago: Day 151: Waiting (the film)

Day 134: April

Last month in worries-vanish-within-my-dream

April came and went in an absolute flash, perfectly blending a few busy days where I had no time to do much else but keep swimming, a whole lot of time with family, and a very liberal dose of Goa-tinged nostalgia. It is almost like my subconscious steers me in the direction I need to move, without my ever realising or noticing it. In March I felt a bit run down and tired from not having enough time to myself. And almost in response, April gave me a lot of that.

April had so much family time — mostly down time spent at home, with them, or reading and catching up on TV. My grandmother came down for her annual summer trip and this year, more than ever before I got to spend time with her. This year, more than ever before we have actually engaged, chit-chatting as she spirals down her rabbit hole of memories.

I marvel at what it must be like to be in her 80s, in 2018, having experienced the sea change the world has seen in just one lifetime. Changes not only in the world around, but closer home, amongst her family, her children and grand children. Life today, is nothing like it used to be when she was younger. It isn’t even bear a remote sliver of likeness to what it must have been like when she was younger — having witnessed the Independence movement, the onset of liberalisation and the boom that followed. If I live to be 80 or more, I wish for at least half the agility, quiet calm and wisdom she has to watch peacefully as things change.

Time spent chatting with her also spiralled a lot of contemplation for me. And I’m thankful for the little break from hectic work and assignments to allow the churn to throw things up like it did.

Last month, in severe contemplation:

  1. I realised it is impossible to seek happiness alone, without a host of other feelings.
  2. Priorities, and the busy-trap
  3. Musing about punctuality (or the lack of it), passive aggression online, and cats
  4. On the necessary autumns of our lives
  5. Some more thoughts about my body and how it has changed as much as how I feel about it has changed
  6. A visit to LifeStyle and more thoughts about accepting our different bodies happened
  7. Self-improvement is usually two steps forward and one step back
  8. Self-improvement, change and how it sometimes affects relationships
  9. On the meaning of ambition, success, productivity and finding myself outside of it

Last month, in what happened:

  1. I read two books about marriage
  2. Unexpected catching-up with long-lost friends
  3. I finished 100 days of posting this year, on exactly the same day that I moved to Bangalore last year
  4. Some overt self-love lets itself shine through
  5. Work took over our home for a week

Last month, in indecision:

  1. I realised my Bangalore honeymoon is officially over, and this city is getting to me
  2. Consequently, I spent a whole week home-sick for Goa, and contemplated thoughts on living well and how much the city around matters

Last month, in gratitude:

  1. Because everything is never as it seems
  2. Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow
  3. I got mad, mad love
  4. All the small things
  5. Just a stirring in my soul

One month ago: Day 92: March
Two months ago: Day 60: February
Three months ago: Day 32: January

Two years ago: Day 134: Things about VC I never want to forget #16

Day 121: They say it’s your birthday, it’s my birthday too

No. I really, don’t think so.

Looking back seems to be the flavour of the month. I’ve been doing a lot of nostalgic reminiscing of late, and it’s no different today, even on my birthday. When I think back to the specific numbers, I’m agog — like OMG I was a wee 24 when I got married, piddly 25 when I upped and moved to a new city where I knew nobody, stupidly naive at 30. Still not much wiser at 34. But in my heart, 24 feels like it could have been just last week. Okay month, maybe.

But you get the drift.

As I turn 34 today, I’m looking back on birthdays gone by — just the ones I’ve documented — to remind myself and bring back a little something from each of the years I’ve crossed.

  • From 2010: Keep doing cartwheels — literally, figuratively.
  • From 2011: Allow yourself the surprising joy of rediscovering old loves of all kinds — habits, hobbies, comforts, people, cities.
  • From 2012: Dance.
  • From 2013: You’re over the fascination with alcohol. That’s perfectly a-okay.
  • From 2014: The only permission you need for making most things is your own.

    Start making your thing

    Sound advice from here.
    And, calm down.

  • From 2015:
  • From 2016: The cure to most things is salt water — sweat, tears or the sea.
  • From 2017: I didn’t write a post, but I know from memory that it was the year I began to just be more open. To everything. And I am better for it.

And so, here we are.

This year, in an attempt to start something new (something I’ve learnt from this mad talented girl), I’m going to start writing two letters a year to my future self — one on my birthday and one on New Years Eve — to be opened five years down the line. I’ve been meaning to do this ever since I first read about it, but never got down to starting it.

Today feels like as good a day to start as any.

Happy birthday, to me!

Past birthdays: two years ago, three years ago, four years ago, five years ago, six years ago, seven years ago, eight years ago

Day 120: Looking back, over my shoulder

Feeling all kinds of aching heart looking at this Goodbye-Goa video that VC* made, pinched out of this post from same time last year, right after I wrote this post last week, and sent out a version of it as a newsletter** last night. Clearly, the melancholy hasn’t lifted. All weekend I’ve been running over a world of feelings and thoughts about home, about second chances, about belonging and about roots.

Right this moment, if someone were to present an opportunity to go back to Goa, I’d up and GO!

***

There’s also this video from our holiday in Sri Lanka, from this post two years ago. And it fills my heart with a longing to go back to this country I couldn’t get enough of, even after three trips.

https://player.vimeo.com/api/player.js

***

Tomorrow, I will finish another whole year of being alive and clocking a circle around the big ol’ sun. In true Type A fashion (the vestiges still remain, and crop up time and time again reminding me I have still some more work to do) I’ve been feeling all omg-time-is-flying and putting that quintessential what-have-I-done-this-year pressure on myself. I wish I’d remember the hard-won wisdom I’ve stumbled on before, rather than keep slipping back to conventional and useless ways of measuring my days.

But right in time, just when I needed a reminder, N sent me this beautiful article last week about living long. More importantly, living well.

And surprise, surprise, the answer does not lie in eating better, exercising or any such thing, but in looking at our relationship with time, and what we do with what’s left of it.

If the goal is to have a longer life, whatever the dieticians may urge, it seems like the priority should not be to add raw increments of time but to ensure that whatever years remain feel appropriately substantial. The aim should be to densify time rather than to try to extract one or two more years from the fickle grip of Death.

Once again, a reminder to focus on quality, not quantity. On what I want to feel, rather than the stuff I think I want to fill my days with. On living mindfully, and with intention.

Every word in the article resonated, and had me longing for the wonder of childhood, when time stretched, even as it was filled with endless discoveries. Such a sharp contrast to adult years where every year seems like it’s flying by faster than the previous one and time is always short.

As I turn 34 tomorrow, I’m going to re-examine and add a resolution or two for the year ahead. This seems like a sane advice to go by.

We should be aiming to lead lives that feel long because we have managed to imbue them with the right sort of open-hearted appreciation and unsnobbish receptivity, the kind that five-year-olds know naturally how to bring to bear. We need to pause and look at one another’s faces, study the evening sky, wonder at the eddies and colours of the river and dare to ask the kind of questions that open our souls. We don’t need to add years; we need to densify the time we have left by ensuring that every day is lived consciously – and we can do this via a manoeuvre as simple as it is momentous: by starting to notice all that we have as yet only seen.

***

It’s getting impossibly hot. The only respite has been mangoes, fresh juice every morning thanks to my mother, and light dinners of roasted veg and salad.

Like some lunatic, I’m headed to Goa. Mad heat aside, I’m really, really aching for not just time away from this city, but specifically time in Goa. I’m going for a small bit of work for the course I’m doing. And hopefully amidst the sea, sun and sand, with friends I’ll keep practicing going with the flow and figure out what belonging everywhere and nowhere at once means, what turning older has in store for me, and how much I can bend time.

*If you’d like to see more video work done by VC, commission us some work or recommend us to someone who is looking to tell stories through film, head to our website, follow us on Instagram or browse our portfolio.
**If you’d like to subscribe to more verbal diarrhoea and navel gazing via my newsletter, head here: https://tinyletter.com/HaathiTime/

Two years ago: Day 120: Birthday weekend in progress

Day 115: Today I don’t feel like doing anything

I’ve been going over my blog posts from last year, and the ones from April 2017 particularly with a sort of fascination, like I can’t believe it’s stuff I wrote myself. I shouldn’t be surprised, really, because in those very words, I see the seeds of threads of my existence that sprung to life, bloomed and thrived into full, lush breathing organisms in the months after.

But, when I think back to the time, all my conscious mind remembers is the confusion. And the efforts to stay with the confusion and move through it rather than avoid it all and busy myself with easy distractions. With enough distance, restrospect is a wonderful thing. I feel oddly satisfied to see now, that I’ve been on the right track, steadfastly stuck to listening to the cues, simply going deeper, and on my way.

It’s a refreshing change from the many years before, when I flitted from this thing to that, one thing to the next, restlessly, anxiously in search of some consistency.

One post in particular really stands out. This one — that I titled Serendipity for some reason — and wrote just one day after I landed in Bangalore (clueless that I was going to in fact have to move back here).

In the essay I linked to and talked about one of my all time favourite essays — The Snarling Girl, by Elisa Albert. Notes on—and against—ambition. So much of it still speaks to me much the same, with as much intensity, if not more. But it’s nice to see how entirely different segments of it pop out at me today, 12 months after I first read it.

Same fantastic essay. Same essential thread of continuity in my life. The same thing I’ve talked about only so many, many times. Same idea, different expressions. Different times, different quotes to remember.

Same excellent essay. Give it a read, and maybe like me, you’ll find yourself going back to it so many, many times in any given year. And yet, find something entirely new and different speak to you every time.

Sample this:

The work, not the hearts and likes and dings and dongs. And maybe I can float the possibility that the work is best when it’s done nowhere near the hearts and likes and dings and dongs. Maybe I can suggest that there is plenty of time for hearts and likes and dings and dongs once the work is done, and done well. Maybe I can ever so gently point out that a lot of people seem rather addicted to the hearts and likes and dings and dongs, and seem to talk about and around writing a hell of a lot more than they actually do it. Maybe we can even talk about how some self-promote so extensively and shamelessly and heedlessly and artlessly that their very names become shorthand for hownot to be.

No prizes for guessing why that spoke to me.

On the solitary-ness of figuring out The Happy.

Nobody can tell you how to be happy because being happy is one of those things you figure out by figuring it out, no shortcuts. Or maybe you don’t figure it out, maybe you never figure it out, but that’s on you. Everything worthwhile is a sort of secret, anyway, not to be bought or sold, just rooted out painstakingly in whatever darkness you call home.

On the dangers of generalising “ambition”.

And isn’t everything we do, everything we reach for, everything we grab at, each of us in turn, a way of struggling onto that ledge, that mythical resting place on which no one can fuck with us? Don’t Fuck With Me seems as good a feminist anthem for the 21st century as any.

But the mythical resting place is … mythical. And trying to generalize about ambition is like comparing apples and oranges and bananas and flowers and weeds and dirt and compost and kiwi and kumquat and squash blossoms and tomatoes and annuals and perennials and sunshine and worms. Wanting to be first in your class is and is not like wanting a Ferrari is and is not like being the first in your family to go to college is and is not like wanting to get into Harvard/Iowa/Yaddo is and is not like wanting to summer on Martha’s Vineyard is and is not like wanting to rub elbows with fancy folk is and is not like wanting to shatter a glass ceiling is and is not like wanting to write a lasting work of genius with which no one can quibble. Our contexts are not the same, our struggles are not the same, and so our rebellions and complacencies and conformities and compromises cannot be compared. But the fact remains: whatever impresses you illuminates your ambition.

On finding rhythm, contentment and possibly ambition too, in the everydayness of life. On rejecting the glorification of striving.

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.

On the difference between what I call what-I-want-versus-what-I-want-to-feel.

What I would like to say (so that I might be forced to align myself) is that there is nothing material or finite that I will allow myself to rest on wanting. Okay, so dresses and clogs and art and peonies float my boat. But fool myself into thinking that these things constitute an end point, or that their acquisition will make me whole, or that people who are impressed by these things are my friends? Nope. No way. Not for a minute. (Well, FINE, maybe for a minute. But certainly not for two.)

On external validation. Possibly a la social media.

Sixty thousand shares is not a win, see; it’s a random, synchronistic event. The number of eyeballs on a given piece of writing does not confer nobility or excellence upon said piece of writing. If the number of eyeballs on a piece of writing excites and impresses people around me, that’s great, in that it makes possible more of the work I want to do. But it doesn’t make said work any easier! And I’m going to do said work regardless, so… what?

So What? Let’s add it to our list of proposed feminist anthems: So The Fuck What?

AMEN SISTER! If I had a penny for every time that someone told me I was wasting my talent by not pursuing my writing more seriously and sitting around at home, I’d be RICHHHHH.

I mean, writing is liberation. And for some of us who can afford to keep it that way, it is enough.

I don’t write because I “want to be a writer.” I don’t want to be famous and I don’t need my ego inflated. I write to make sense of things, to make order from chaos, to make something from nothing, to examine my own thinking. Because what I have found in the writing of others sustains me. Because while I am struggling to live, the writing—a kind of parallel life—helps me along. Because language is my jam. Because I never learned to play the guitar and no one ever asked me to sing in a band.

I mean, writing is liberation!

On the problematic assumptions around which ambition is conventionally defined.

Here’s what bothers me about conventional ambition, the assumption that we all aspire to the top, the winner’s circle, the biggest brightest bestest, the blah blah blah, and that we will run around and around and around our little hamster wheels to get there: most of these goals are standardized. Cartoonish. Cliché. Beware anything standardized, that’s what I would teach my daughter.

Try to be vulnerable so you’ll come acrossbetter?

Yeah, I need to tell myself this every time I have the passing thought about a blog post that I really need to write (because it’s my way of making sense of the jumble in my head) comes out feeling like “it’s not good enough,” or like “I’m so self-indulgent”.

“Try to be more vulnerable,” he said. “You’ll come across better.”

Come across? I don’t have time to orchestrate how I come across, dude. My job is to write shit down. More vulnerable? I feel like I’m walking around without skin most of the time, hello. Anyway, my vulnerability is not for goddamn sale. I’d rather suck a thousand dicks. I was overcome with weariness, and I thought: Fuck it, I give up. But no, that’s not true, either. Nope. Not at all. The snarling girl is still out there, in here, flailing, desperate, and who’s going to throw her a rope? I will. Onward.

It’s probably hard to believe that I haven’t pasted the essay in entirety down here, but really, I haven’t. These are just a few of the gems in there. So do yourself a favour and read it. Even more so if you often toss up ideas of ambition, success, productivity and find yourself struggling to choose what your heart really wants because you’ve been taught by your family, society, people in general that it isn’t enough — read it.

One year ago: I get by with a lot of help from my friends
Two years ago: Day 115: Mean things I want to say out loud, but can’t

Day 100: To the gypsy that remains

Two milestones today. And I’d like to think that too is not a coincidence: finishing 100 days of writing this year, on a day exactly one year since I landed in Bangalore, in what ended up being the first step in a series of many many steps towards uncertainty and an open ended kind of oblivion.

I have many, many thoughts about how far we’ve come since we took this leap. Of faith, and so much else. It was not just the start of life in a new city, but the start of a committment to tuning into myself and cutting out the external clutter and noise. So, it makes me extremely happy today, standing where I am, to look back at things I wrote 365+ days ago, and see I was already on this journey. And that I’ve steadfastly stayed focused and committed to it. And that I’m all the better for it.

It’s truly gratifying to see how one year ago I was talking about all of the same things. Back then I was eager and yearning for change — my voice was filled with trepidation, yet it was hopeful. Today, I feel a confidence and conviction, even as I am still talking about the same things. I can see the journey Ive made so far, and I know which way I am longing to go, in the coming future.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this journey. Of the place mindfullness and self-care or self-improvement or growth or authenticity (to me, they’re all different words for the same thing) has come to occupy in my life, and what an incredible value it has added to my daily life. Tomorrow, maybe I’ll do a look back. But today, at the exact moment that I realised it was the anniversary of moving here, I was in this sunkissed office, and something about the way the golden light streamed in and set everything aglow, gave me a moment to ponder. And all I wanted to do was to give thanks for every little thing that went into pushing me to do this. And all that continues to hold me up, helps me keep going and make all this movement continually possible. And no, I’m not talking only about moving cities. But you already know that.

To me, moving to Bangalore has been something of an inflection point in life. But it is also a symbol of possibility. A reference point of what happens when I suspend thought. A memory of the ultimate move of self-serving love. A prototype of the kind of agility I want for the rest of my life.

Day 92: March

Last month in everyday-is-a-winding-road:

If I had only two words to describe what March was all about, they’d be family and work. And not necessarily gracefully balancing the two as near well as I’d have liked. But such is life, eh? We get along, we get better, and we get by.

March really was dominated by all things work, and when we weren’t at work, it was with family. Sending an inordinately huge amount of time at VCs, me spending time with my mum with the house left to our devices, Niyu’s illness that brought us all together, and squeezing in work in between it all — I feel like it’s just been one thing after another.

We had an uber-productive month as far as the business goes. Satisfying, creatively as well as monetarily. We even travelled out of Bangalore on assignment. And I can’t help but notice how when the going gets good, it’s really effing good. And yet, it hasn’t been the most orderly month. But that in itself has been revelatory. Yet again, pushing me to let go of the rails and the impossible urge to tame, control, curb and bring order to an energy that at the moment just won’t have any of it. I have to pat myself on the back and say I’m getting better at this. And for that, March has been really, really good.

I’m really not prepared for the dry, punishing heat that the summer has brought. But, there is the promise of fruit. A visit to our home in Goa, and a holiday in Thailand (again!), so we’ll get along, we’ll get better, and we’ll get by.

Last month, in things I published:
In India, fighting menstruation taboos that silence women

Last month, in what happened:

  1. On the heels of VC’s granny passing on, we rushed off on a work trip
  2. The entire days and all that time spent with VC’s family during the 13-day time of grieving gave me a lot of fodder to mull on. Not just about VC’s family, but about the ways of the patriarchy and maybe, just maybe, I even made some sense, some peace of it
  3. VC is getting awfully good at reading Oracle cards. I can no longer call these chance coincidences. Here’s a card he picked for me, that reflected my current reality perfectly
  4. I indulged in a little bit of TV and of course I had opinions, of course I did
  5. There was some rumination and music-related nostalgia, thanks to an unexpected Apple music trip
  6. Some more TV and movie-watching
  7. And when I finally got sick of being off the bandwagon, I squeezed in some quick reading, and managed to finish up some fun books

Last month, in Therapy and Healing:

  1. On turning down my aversions and being open to change
  2. On patience
  3. On re-learning boundaries
  4. On how empowering self-acceptance can be
  5. The story of my body as things stand right now

Last month, in New Beginnings:

  1. I’m making baby steps and learning something new
  2. New-found gratitude for a peaceful agreement with where I am

Last month, in Gratitude:

  1. Let’s get one thing straight now
  2. The real, deep-down you is the whole universe.
  3. Love, let’s talk about love
  4. I get the strangest feeling you belong

Two months ago: Day 32: January
One month ago: Day 60: February

Two years ago: Day 92: Fullness

Day 78: People say I should forget

R was apparently listening to the Dev D soundtrack on Apple music last week. And the sneaky little tool announces it to the whole world. So of course I hopped on and gave it a listen early this morning.

I suppose that’s the point. Listening to the album was like closing my eyes and taking a free-fall into the past. Diving headlong, into the abyss of the way we were (Thank you Barbara Streisand).

There’s some music that I will always, always associate with my life in Goa. Just like there’s certain other music that will only always remind me of growing up in Bangalore. My music memory archive is tagged by phases in my life and there’s actually very little overlap between them, each phase having its own distinct soundtrack so to speak.

So now, when a song or track triggers a memory, it’s one very specific time. Sometimes a particular phase, but often times I can drill it down to a particular event. As insignificant as a drive home from the supermarket, sometimes. No other reason to really remember it or retain it, allowing it to hog shelf space in my mind. But it’s there, simply because of how the music playing, either in my car or on my computer, at work or at home, or at a party, has framed it for posterity.

And so it was that I listened to the Dev D soundtrack again, after something like six or seven years. And it took me right back to year one in Goa. I had this pendrive loaded with the most random — some would say eclectic — selection of music, specifically for my car. It had to cover all bases — driving music, upbeat stuff, a touch of trashy pop, some classics and favourites like Coke Studio and other very disjointed singles that Id just taken a fancy for. It had everything from Dave Matthews Band to Dev D so you can probably gather its purpose.

So listening to the soundtrack the other day, specifically this track, nostalgia scooped me into her arms and took me back to that first monsoon, an extra dark night thanks to a city wide power cut.

We had friends over for dinner but fed up waiting for the power to come back, we decided to go out and drive. In the pouring rain. As we got into the car and set off, this was the first track that came on. And all of us — VC, S, J and I — were silent. No talking, just listening to its hauntingly heady beat and that silly “my/by God” refrain.

The streets were inky black, silky swift and all the while the storm howled on. There’s something cinematic about the memory etched in my mind. My black car bumping along the then Miramar highway, with its quaint streetlights (that we’re off) the median with ghosty lanky trees swaying in the rain, all only lightly magically illuminated by our far from adequate headlamps.

We took it in, in silence. The song, louder in my head than it really was.

And all these years later, when the memory of it bubbles up to the surface, triggered by the opening chords of the song, the evening plays out like a scene from a movie, untouched in my mind. And the song, it just as loud.

Two years ago: Day 78: Abandon

Day 60: February

Last month, in a life less ordinary:
I realised, time and time again, that I am actually easily pleased with engaging my whole self in simple, unadorned, ordinary things. I want to go deeper in my commitment to a more basic, but wholesome routine for myself. Because I realised what doing little things, mindfully, wholeheartedly, and for myself, does me a world of good. It has a way of grounding me, feeding that very primal urge to create and engage in the most simplistic form, without any fuss, frills or fanciness that goes a long way in creating a kind of contentment that I have somehow just not found through the bigger more fanciful prospects of life. I’m still juggling the simple, everyday existence with the very real needs to keep life moving ahead, ie: work and other such obligations. But I believe finding a balance between the two, and making a way for the two to converge rather than be at cross purposes is not only key, but also very achievable. The hard part is that it requires an unrelenting focus on staying with the memory of that simple joy, every time that it is created. The good news is that every time that I reach a moment of truth in this regard, it points me right back to the basics. Time and time again.

Last month, in things I published:
The thing that drew me to social media, also led me to quit it.

Last month, in Things I Talked About:

  1. I attempted to walk 100kms with a team of friends. And it was all kinds of painful, and thrilling. Eventually, I recovered and felt all kinds of happiness.
  2. I watched a couple of movies.
  3. I read a fair bit. Okay, I read a lot.
  4. I re-started my newsletter. Because apparently even writing a post every single day, I still have things I want to say!

Last month, in Therapy and Healing:

  1. On why I’m no longer on any social media platforms.
  2. On coming back home, to my body.
  3. On making “empowered choices”.
  4. On why I write, and why this blog is a took to track versions of myself. Every single step of the way.

Last month, in Frustrations:

  1. I ranted about some aspects of work (even as I gave thanks for some others)
  2. I ranted about this city.

Last month, in Gratitude:

  1. The future is no place to place your better days.
  2. You guys, I must be the luckiest alive.
  3. Let it blow through you, don’t let it move you.
  4. I’m glad that I’m alive.

One month ago: Day 32: January
Two years ago: Day 60: February

Day 51: Stop this train, I want to get off and go home again

In November last year, I removed myself from all social media. While the trigger was completely unexpected, it was a decision that had been coming a long, long time, for a range of reasons that were festering (consciously and unconsciously) for about as long as I’ve been back on various platforms.

For the last many years I’ve harboured a love-hate relationship with all forms of social media. I’ve reacted strongly in favour of some, and ranted vehemently about others, depending on what my opinion was at the time. There’s no denying the tremendous value being online, social networks and using technology for communication, has added to various aspects of my life. My entire career as a freelance writer, for example, wouldn’t have been a reality today, if it weren’t for social networking. But I’ve always slipped in and out of the love and hate sides of the fence, when I become aware of the performative kind of existence being online demands. And no matter what we may think or tell ourselves, the lines between real and virtual worlds tend to blur.

This is something that has troubled me, for as many years as I have been online — both as a creator as well as consumer of content. I’ve been blogging for over a decade now, so the idea of curating slivers of my life is not new to me. My writing life has thrived because my blog has been a legit means to record and reflect on things in the only way I know how — in writing. It has provided a creative outlet for my writing. Sharing my blog online has allowed me to amplify my voice, push my skills as a writer and create an audience for it — professionally and personally. So there’s no denying how much I have benefited, and continue to benefit from it.

However, most recently, my angst came from the glaring truth that despite all the online chatter, putting myself out there, baring it all, sharing snippets of my life avidly on Instagram and my blog, there were entire chunks of real life developments that I was unable to share with some of my closest friends. Not for the lack of space and time to do it, but for reasons I couldn’t fully fathom then.

Over time, I realised that while technology definitely makes staying in touch and communicating over distances easier, there are many ways in which virtual connectedness does not make for enduring relationships.

What I was missing in my real life relationships the intimacy, the real space and a sort of closeness that I found was slowly slipping away, even as I felt connected and one amongst a large community of likeminded folks, online.

The more I thought about it, the more aware I became of certain patterns, that all traced back to the mediums and platforms of communication that we use. It’s easy to mistake the ease and immediacy that tools like WhatsApp and Instagram provide, for openness. But increasingly, I felt like I was always at arm’s length, at bay, behind a screen. There were so many things I’d much rather have talked about in person, over a cup of tea, or sitting across a table, or sharing a lazy afternoon, or a glass of wine, or while taking a walk. I have desperately missed making memories that don’t involve swiping my fingers hurriedly over my phone keypad, and collapsing entire gusts of emotion into a flattened emoji.

There is something about the way in which these tools lull us into constantly being an audience behind a screen, that slowly but surely creeps into the way we are in our real world relationships too. They do a fabulous job of creating the illusion of being in touch, while actually allowing us to (quite unconsciously) keep everything, including our closest people, at arm’s length. The weight of this irony hit me in full force in the months after I move to Bangalore.

Part of this conflict also crept to the surface because in the real world, the changes and transformation I’ve been seeking, have increasingly pushed me to pause, seek solitude, re-examine, rewire and reimagine a new way to move ahead. To listen to the voice within and do what makes sense to me, rather than follow a path already laid out. But the constant and habitual consumption mode that being online makes a habit of — the being an audience, the habit of instant gratification, instant judgement, immediate decision-making — meant my patience had worn thin, and I had no juice left when the going got tough and required me to slow down and go the long haul.

My real and virtual worlds were officially at loggerheads. While my heart was always telling me to slow down, the constant exposure to media, information, social networking and the like, the constant consumption had caused a deep mental fatigue, from just sheer information overload.

My brain isn’t wired to be on all the time. And being online was doing exactly that. The streams of information blurred, the chatter and subconscious preoccupations take over, and the conversations and engagements around things seen online were truly weighing me down.

I attribute a large part of the inexplicable restless that crippled me for over three years, and the constant need for certainty and regularity that gripped me, to this.

Anyhow, what started as random reflection many, many months ago, culminated rather unceremoniously one evening in November, with me taking an impulsive decision to quite social media altogether. It isn’t the first time. I stayed off Facebook (in the years when it was really the only big social network, before the hype around Twitter and Instagram grew) for over two years before. During that period, I didn’t ever miss it and the only reason I came back was to sell my home-baked cakes. Similarly, despite many reservations that popped up ever so frequently in the last few years, I had kind of made my peace with the hows and whys of continuing to be on Facebook because it was where I generated, found, promoted my work. I’ve taken several breaks from social media too. Month-long detox stints — how very first-world it all sounds.

But that evening in November, something definitely snapped. And this time I have a very safe, sinking sort of feeling that it is likely to be for good. This is the first time that it doesn’t feel like an experiment, or a detox with a time limit. This is the first time it has slipped in naturally and almost three months in now, I can safely admit that I’ve literally never felt the urge to go back.

It is also the first time that I have acknowledged that I can complain as much as I like, but ultimately the power to choose to be online or not rests with me. It is ultimately a choice. Completely in my hands.

A month into getting off social media (Instagram, Twitter and Facebook), I also cut into Whatsapp by turning off data for 10-12 hours every night. This felt like the harder ask, personally. And even though I am asleep for the most part of this time, I know for certain the world’s of good it has done for my efforts at mindfulness. Within mere days, I realised, as I’d suspected that absolutely nothing changed online. The world continues to spin, people continue to exist and stay in touch. You’re just not compelled to respond instantly.

Offline though, I am having relaxed and purposeful dinner time, more engaged and intimate conversations with VC that we’d lost touch with, and a colossal amount of time gained to read. That’s just the boost in terms of time, which is typically most noticeable and measurable.

And I suspect it’s just the tip of the ice berg.