Soft

Sometimes when we make the choice to venture into the unknown—to break the old spells & quit dancing the old dances—we find distressing mental experiences waiting for us there. Fear, grief, shame and rage. All waiting to twirl their tendrils tightly back around our hearts. Hearts that have just freshly been cracked open, still raw from the experience of letting the hurt down.

Much of my personal journey has been in again and again meeting the experience — past and present — that trigger the same old responses of clamming shut, building that wall and shortly swiftly back to that solid heart that will not breathe free. The work has been in learning how to go soft. How to be soft. In showing myself again and again that it’s possible, safe, that I am not weak for choosing it, that I can do it. that in fact, I need it.

And because I have been at it for literally years now, I can recognise and I have a full body experience of moments where I feel thawed completely. Where my heart blooms open and life bursts forth, coursing through my veins, uplifting me.

This was one such moment. Lying in the sun in the driveway at home, one sunny afternoon after days of grey, grim, rainy weather. “Eating sunshine” with my blood women. My mother pacing about digesting her lunch, my sister catching the warmth on her face. Someone said something utterly ridiculous and it was funny, but not that funny and it set me off. I went I to a tizzy and a loop of endless giggles that rushed out thru my lungs, pushing my ribs apart. Coming out in gusts that made me shake and lose my breath.

long after the moment had passed I was still laughing, breathless, with tears running down my face. It felt for a moment like I wasn’t laughing anymore but that it was the laughter that had taken over.

I felt alive. Soft.

I recently came across a French word that struck me as delicate and beautiful. Not just in what it means but in the way it sounds and the form it takes — letters standing up tall but with a softness that shows a give. Touch it and it’ll bend, almost.

S’épanouir

It means “to bloom”.

And this moment here is a moment of épanouissement that I will remember fondly for some time to come.

Because, je m’épanouis.

Monday Tarot Message: On self-love

How do you meet the other in any relationship? Are you more of a giver, are you also comfortable receiving? How is it for you to ask for what you need? And how do you feel as an individual within a relationship unit?

If you find yourself holding out for something to change in the other, so you can be seen or heard, have your needs met, feel safe or acknowledged, loved and validated in some way, chances are, you’ll be waiting for a long, long time.

The more whole and fulfilled we are in and of ourselves, the free-er it is to offer and receive love in our relationships.

This is not to be mistaken as a call for self-sufficiency that makes us shirk help or assistance. Independence for the sake of defying and denying the basic human need for connection and collaboration is futile. This is more the subtle but important difference between learning to satisfy your fundamental needs in a healthy way, versus waiting for them to be met by unwilling/incapable parties.

When we operate from a place of wholeness, we enter into relationships ready to give and take freely, rather than expectantly waiting for the other to fulfil or complete us in some way.

There is a lot to be said about learning to make choices and build a life that reflects and reaffirms that you can look after yourself, tend to your needs, nurture, love and keep yourself safe. Then everything else that you may ask for and receive from the world, will be a bonus. But, to be the master of one’s needs requires a level of judgement-free honesty about one’s own vulnerabilities, that most often requires learning and building.

Cultivating the means to meeting your own needs begins with a truthful understanding of your needs — whatever they may be. Union and connection for some, safety and boundaries for others. This too is an act of self-love. The term gets oversimplified when we don’t include the important parts of owning up to missteps that we may have made from seeking love or completion in places where it could not be found. From people who weren’t equipped to fill those gaps. Or in places that were inherently unsafe.

Completeness or “wholeness” as it is often called in therapeutic practice comes from understanding needs, which are the shaped by a range of experiences and the positive and negative effects they may have had on us. When we do ourselves the honour of healing that emotional back-log, we can connect with others without putting the burden to soothe us, on them.

Self-love and healing is about reinstating trust within yourself, that you can keep yourself safe, loved and cared for. That you are enough. The interesting thing is that learning this takes *making* choices that reflect the fact itself.

A catch-22 of sorts.

You can begin by checkin what it’s like for you to say, “I can trust that I can keep myself safe” ? See what comes up for you. Is it disbelief? Or maybe a deep trust already exists.

Two years ago: One breath leads to another
Three years ago: Go, Goa, Gone: End of my sunshine dream
Four years ago: This morning

Lockdown love

We had such a peak 2020 celebration for our anniversary last night. I cannot get over how accurately a couple of hours one evening, succinctly mirrored the general progression of this year.

It began well. With promise, even, despite being locked down. VC got me yellow roses, as he did last year. As he always does. As he always has since the start of us knowing each other (see here, here and here).

We went from having no plans to deciding to treat ourselves to a good evening right here at home. I drag VC’s ass to take a nice picture of us every anniversary. Over the years his enthusiasm has gone from somewhat willing to very, very reluctant to complete disinterest, to now slightly more willing because rather than take a hurried self-timer shot on the phone, he gets to set up his camera. Last night we even got “dressed”. And by that I mean got out of our standard evening attire of pajamas and into decent clothes, I put on kajal and earrings, and we took some lovely photographs.

That lasted all of half an hour, before we relapsed back into our PJs, waiting for dinner to arrive. We even splurged a little and ordered a fantastic meal of dimsum and stirfry and flat noodles and what not. We had a few drinks, and I actually indulged and had more than my standard single micro-mini whiskey.

At some point in the midst of all of this we got into a conversation that started as just that — a conversation — but very quickly escalated into a very heated conversation and finally into a full blown debate. Both of us very steadily slipping into a spiral of incoherence, leaving the original premise of the argument far behind, veering off kilter so terribly that neither of us knew what the other was saying. And eventually we didn’t even know what we were saying anymore.

I have to say, though, that my ability to remain calm even in impassioned discussions has greatly increased and anger/rage was nowhere to be seen. I was almost waiting for it to arrive and make a loud entrance, but nope. No luck. Until the very end, when emotions were SO high and emboldened, that VC said something to me that was mostly untrue, but rather hurtful. And it jabbed me in a way that I wasn’t anticipating, thanks to the surprisingly even-flow nature of the conversation thus far.

Filled with hurt, half in disbelief and half in shock, I snapped back at him;

Happy anniversary to you too, as he slipped away to bed. And I stayed up in the living room, watching Netflix till my emotions simmered down.

***

I find that the amount of emotional labour I am willing to expend on soothing VC’s trauma, at the cost of triggering my own, has greatly diminished. I am all for building a supportive relationship, but I see how my definitions of that are so different now. Some years ago, I might have taken it upon myself to not only get my point across but also ensure that VC was feeling better by the end of it. And yes, I would have virtuously taken this on singlehandedly, despite nobody (least of all VC) asking me to.

These actions, that I thought were coming from a place of empathy, compassion and love, were absolutely not. Now, being compassionate has come to mean letting emotions flow if they must. Even if they are burning the room up around us.

My capacity to remain in that godawful uncomfortable space of stewing in a mixed-bag of very volatile emotions — and watch VC do that too, in his own way — has improved a smidgen. It doesn’t mean the disagreements are less painful. If anything, they’re worse and horribly more painful because the truth now has the permission to pounce out with no filters slapped on. Nobody is mincing words anymore. But it does mean that when the hurt comes, I am able to stand by my own side first, soothing myself, before jumping to rescue anyone else.

It’s taken twelve years of being married to finally realise that rescuing my husband is not a KRA I need to keep. Many times he doesn’t need rescuing. Many times he can rescue himself.

***

This morning though, we were back to doing the dishes together, and him sharing with me that he didn’t remember too many specific details of where the conversation veered after a point. Possibly that point of no return, which should also be the point at which one should end such conversations, or know that nothing after that is to be taken seriously, or as the truth.

In the past, painful conversations like this would have a distasteful energy that lingered for hours, sometimes days, after. But something different happened yesterday.

Ah well. Lockdown anniversary marking twelve years of marriage. I guess we had to have something different to remember this one.

One year ago: Monday funday
Two years ago: Every inch of sky’s got a star
Four years ago: Disjointed, incomplete thoughts

Twelve

Happy 12th, to the boy who doesn’t hesitate one bit to tell me how much he loves making a life and sharing a home with me. Reminding me so often, that it’s the little things that make a life.

What would I do without your unabashed, childlike, honesty?

Past anniversaries: eleven, tennineeightsevensixfivefourthreetwoone.

Coming back to life, again

Taking a break from the Monday Tarot Message this week. Because, I’ve had a very challenging past week, and weekend too. Just dealing with a lot of emotions — like I said here — and trying to stay with it, rather than disconnect and float off into fantasy land where everything is changa si. Things weren’t good. But it is the way it is when you confront challenging emotions, make strides with accepting discomfort and internalising difficult realisations.

I was excessively sad. Grief is too small a word for what I was going through. And there was also anger, as I mentioned the other day. So much anger at being gaslit, and what that did to me, unconsciously baiting me in to a process I could have sidestepped.

I was on edge, irritable and lashed out on everybody and everything, very, very easily. And so to avoid doing that, I went under a bit. Incommunicado.

I’ve traversed a world of emotions in the last seven days, and with an intensity that I haven’t felt in a while. What’s more, it brought a feeling of being unmoored, which I haven’t felt since about 2016. The thing about unraveling and diving into the grief pool is that it makes everything watery and dilute. I lose sight of where I’m at and how far I’ve come. And when the present is clouded, the past takes over so easily.

The incident at class triggered something so deep this time. I confronted really old, old narratives that my logical brain knows I have moved past. And yet, there they were, dragging me down again. I had a surge of memories from wayyyyy back, like years 1-6 in school. Some that I had buried, some that I didn’t even know existed. Painful, not too pleasant ones. Worries around success and money, that I absolutely certainly have a much more flexible, soft and clear approach towards now, surfaced in their old avatar. I felt extreme lack in so many fronts. And almost all of this attacks my self-worth. Cumulatively, I went nose-first into the pit of self-pity, beating my own worth down with all I had. Between Monday to Friday, I had gradually pulled my life apart and was on the way to convincing myself it is all for naught.

Its also been excessively rainy, and while the sun comes out we haven’t had bright, sunshiney days in over ten days now. The weather has officially crossed that fine line between sexy and wonderful to downright gloomy.

When I don’t see the sun for a considerable time, I get the blues, I do. VC snapped this picture of me just hanging out in the balcony, watching the daily 4 pm rain, wishing for just a spot of sunshine. Basic, everyday comforts like chai that VC makes for me, and creature comforts like home-delivered sourdough croissants have really gotten me through.

The weekend was a good transit, a slow moving from what felt like a very unanchored and chaotic state in the days before to today which has me back on solid ground again. The coming up for a breath of air, letting my arms and legs relax after a week of flapping them around to stay afloat while a storm of emotions raged on within and around me.

The good news is my laptop got miraculously fixed, very, very easily. Leading me to believe it was but another text the universe sent my way, in what was a very..ahem..testy week. I leaned on got very clingy with VC in a way that I haven’t in a while, the poor thing. After trying to stay on top of things, and failing, all week, I took the weekend to just stay in. I did work some, but mostly we just rested, I cooked and got the house in order, which is all very grounding for me. Things I wasn’t very successful with doing during the week itself.

These days I feel the waves of emotions come and go, within my body. The more tuned into to my physical body I become, the more I see how my emotional body impacts it and vice versa. By Saturday night I felt the weight literally lift. My eyes felt bright, open and my face less pressured and compact. My breathing that was shallow, was open and easy again.

Cumulatively, it’s been upwards of two weeks since I have been wallowing in the dumps, in varying degrees of distress. It goes all the way back here and here and got progressively harder as the days when on, as you’ll recall seeing here and here.

But that was last week. And then the weekend brought fresh energy. VC and I had some spontaneous but important conversations that I didn’t know needed to be had. Some words I needed to hear, some pieces falling into place. Some reassurance, some support I needed, but didn’t realise it was right here for the taking. On Sunday, I just took the time to savour the return of energy and normalcy. We spent the day with VC’s family, which surprisingly was a good break for me.

It was only over the course of the weekend, when I relaxed and quit literally returned to my body, that I realised I’ve been feeling quite emotionally knackered the past few days. So I eased up, and went to bed with a belly full of good homely food, having spent a few hours setting up my old-new laptop again, and knowing somewhere in the pit of my being that the new week is going to be different.

Lo and behold, I was right. This morning I felt alive again. Like a butterfly that’s emerged out of a pupa. We focus so much on the flourish and beauty of the emergence, not realising that the process of coming out is preceded by so much physical distress, thrashing around, exercising new muscles that will enable flight.

I felt freedom in my body this morning, a new energy. New wings. New light. New day. It’s easy to think of growth as a peachy, honey soaked journey where you move from milestone to milestone all the better for it. Yes, we’re largely always better from our experiences of growth, but they are never without their share of stretch and deeply painful challenges.

It’s also very easy to deny myself the allowance of feeling and being challenged in this way, because of the assumption that doing self work somehow makes me immune to it. It’s a constant process of reminding myself how human I am. That in healing means opening up to feeling things more keenly, allowing for a lot more emotional onslaught, but learning to handle it with gentleness and care.

I am only human. I’m coming back to life. All over, yet again.

(Monday Tarot Messages will resume next week.)

One year ago: This way or that
Two years ago: I request another dream
Four years ago: I’m reading again, so books

Broken

I’ve spent the day feeling a bit heavy and sad about hitting the one year mark since 370 was abrogated. Thinking about how even one year down things are far from hreturned to normalcy, but slipped further into chaos, actually makes my eyes well up. That it is all just shrouded in silence, an entire state silenced, forgotten brings up so much grief for me. It hurts deeply, somehow.

I went for a long walk this evening. It wasn’t planned. But I needed the quiet and the time to be by myself and to just let my thoughts flow as the tears did.

I don’t know where we are going as a nation. This thought is not just troubling but very unsettling. I think of myself and how little time I feel I have, and wonder if I should be wasting it away in a country I no longer feel is my own.

The desire to leave and find elsewhere is real. Sure, every country on the planet has issues today, but I can think of at least a dozen where I feel safe, on the basis of my priorities in life at the moment.

I watched some videos of Shaheen Bagh today, feeling terrible that I didn’t make it there to witness it in person when I could. I cried watching the women, smiles on their faces, using their bodies to resist. How long will women continue to be the most vulnerable? How long will women have to stand in revolt, starting with our own bodies, within our own homes and further out into our streets and cities and lands beyond?

I know a fearless state is potentially nonexistent. I don’t know if I can ever be completely devoid of fear, but I like to dream of a land where these basic fears won’t chase me. A fear of speaking my mind, because I think differently. Fear of believing in things opposed to that of the status quo, the majority. The fear of looking, living and feeling differently from what “I’m supposed to feel”.

Fear of carrying my life around in a woman’s body. Fear of not conforming. Fear of letting too much show, having said too much, or feeling too much. A very real fear of never being able to live unguarded — physically, emotionally.

***

This is the reality we live in. The country is being ripped to shreds in every way possible. If you’re tuned into the news, you’ll know in how many, many, many ways. So many ways, it hurts. So many, many ways, it feels impossible to even think about how we’ll begin to make amends. It feels like an attack, and it feels very, very personal. Even I in my privileged bubble, feel afraid. And I feel rage. And I feel helplessness.

 ***

Most of us live in constant conflict with our shadow selves, whether consciously or unconsciously. It’s that deep dark place that holds all our vulnerabilities, our triggers, our fears and shame safe from being out in the open for all to see. And so we live in a way that denies its very existence. But that only amplifies and strengthens it. That which is kept under wraps, finds all kinds of ways to surface and be seen. And I think this is what is happening in this country. Generations of keeping our hypocrisies, our chasms and the fault lines of our sick, sick culture under wraps is what has brought us to this point in history where our shadow side as a nation is on full display.

As with any churn, a deep unsettlement ensues, bringing up both the sweet and sick, the benevolent and maleficent, the good and evil in (un)equal measure. In my personal journey, I have seen how working to excavate my sense of wholeness or personhood has required me to sit with my shadow. The dark spaces that hold these not so pleasant parts of me. And I wonder if as a nation this is our time of reckoning. To sit with the ugliness, call it what it is, not wish it away, not side step it, but sit right with it, name it and wait for the great churn to complete its tide.

If this pandemic has taught me anything, it is this. There is no getting to wellness without discomfort. Similarly, there is no getting to healing and wholeness, without first experiencing the many ways in which we are in fact broken.

On the eve of the day that marks a year since we snuffed out an entire state, erasing very specifically the experiences of millions of a certain community; on the eve of a day when this country will celebrate the inauguration of a temple whose very foundation is steeped in carnage; I feel broken today.

I feel broken.

Four years ago: So green

Rosé

In all my dreaming about being outdoors, for just a tiny bit (not even far, just out will do, for now) I have been having visions of being outdoors. I dreamt of being on a farm the other night, uprooting a gigantic cauliflower from the earth, satisfaction writ large on my face. I’ve been daydreaming of picnicking — recollecting intensely happy memories from my childhood when we’d go off on picnics a lot, without a plan or too much thinking. VC and I have considered driving out of the city, a flask of chai and some sandwiches in tow, just to go out to be amidst trees, take our masks off for a bit.

And then yesterday, I had this very deep ache in my chest, thinking about this afternoon in Paris from nearly two years ago.

Suddenly, this right here, perfectly captures what being outside has come to mean to me right now, in this moment. Open, green, lush, fresh, cool. FREE.

This was a couple of hours we spent on the banks of the Seine, when we picked up wine, by the glass, at a bar whose very purpose seemed to make available wine by the glass for people to drink by the river. We walked in and everyone else got beers, but I asked for a rosé. It was that perfect weather for rosé. A crisp nip in the air, but the sun shining sharply, breeze from time to time — perfect 4 o clock wandering weather basically. I saw the bartender casually chuck a couple of ice cubes in my glass of wine.

I know absolutely nothing about wine. But for some reason I remember thinking I’m pretty sure that breaks some wine rule somewhere, but HOW COOL that he thought nothing of doing it.

Want chilled wine, but the wine isn’t chilled? No problem, here’s some ice.

Wine snobs everywhere might have turned their noses up at me. Rosé — that somehow always feels a touch finer and presents more delicacy than red or white wine — running dilute as the ice that keeps it cool also melts away into it.

But it was perfect.
Flexible. Chill. Improvising on the go.
Going with the flow, not letting warm wine get in the way of a delightful afternoon hang — just what the moment needed, really.

Quite like me, I remember thinking then.

And my God, how strongly that vision came back to me yesterday. That day, that afternoon, sitting by the river drinking my rosé from a non-plastic glass, ice cubes and all, I remember feeling so seen and understood by the moment. For giving me just what I needed.

And I am quite like this. Even more so these days. As I have leaned so much into the side of me that can roll with fewer plans, that’s okay to break some rules, that’s willing to do what’s needed to be happy.

Even if it is put ice cubes in wine.

It thrilled me no end to make that completely obscure, even contrived, connection. For a few moments there, looking at this picture, I lived vicariously. I imagined being outdoors. I saw iridescent greens from the treetops, pearly limpid blues of the river gently lapping by, and me sitting amidst it, wine glass in hand, feet dangling off the edge of the bund, along with literally scores of others doing the same.

Open, green, lush, fresh, cool. FREE.

The whole day dream made me curious about the rules around putting ice in wine, and so I googled it. I didn’t learn a thing about the “rules”, but guess what?

Ice in rosé? IT’S A THING!

La piscine, it’s called. A refreshing glass of rosé, made further refreshing by being poured over ice.

La piscine literally translates to “the swimming pool” — which I think is just the most exquisite description of a drink that was literally like swimming in a pool of freshness. I don’t think I have ever felt so thrilled, or found so much meaning in an alcoholic beverage (or any other beverage, for that matter) in my entire life.

I have to say this reverie soothed the impossibly itchy need to be outdoors quite a bit. But it set of a whole other spiral of missing this afternoon, and being with these peeps.

Soon, soon.

One year ago: Time out
Two years ago: What about sunrise, what about rain?
Three years ago: Books-shooks

Nesting

It’s been gloomy all day. Spend the day under a blanket kind of weather. And that’s just what I did. Getting out only briefly to help VC make lunch. He made us steaks with a creamy wine and mushroom sauce today, with sauteed garlicky beans on the side.

I’m happy for days like this, somehow. And I said to VC, how different this whole time might have been if he or I or both of us had full time jobs that took us outside.id have definitely missed this opportunity for nesting in the way that we have.

Something about the luxury of that has meant cocooning some more. And it has been very good for us.

One year ago: Reflections
Two years ago: I wouldn’t change a single thing

Monday Tarot Message: Reimagining love

The Ace of Cups typically speaks of romantic love. But lately, I’ve been drawn to examine love outside this stereotypical association alone.

Love, like all emotions, is like water. It will find a way to flow. It can either refresh and give life, if tended to nurturance; or it can flood and destroy, if suppressed and withheld.

This is an invitation to revisit love in a time when building walls around our hearts and saving up our love only for people exactly in the same camp as us, is the norm.

Growing a positive and nurturing attitude towards love begins within each one of us. With noticing what makes us clam shut and close our hearts up. Why we give up connection and empathy so easily, even when we’re neurologically hardwired to connect and belong. And to examine the deeply held prejudices that block love from flowing. Conversely, what makes us open up and express love to those with whom we have a sense of sameness and commonality.

Can we learn to let love flow freely again, as the necessary component of structural compassion and empathy our communities so desperately need right now? How else can we reorganise our world to move past the growing divisions that split and keeps us apart?

What role does love then play, in a world constantly being served up hate, differences and distinct polarities? How can we reorganise the notions, practice and expressions of love so it allows for:

  • examination of our deeply held prejudices that block love from flowing freely
  • compassion for the varied experiences of the other, completely different from the ones we know.
  • justice for those wronged by an inequitable system.
  • empathy for circumstances our privilege will never allow us to touch
    closer-knit, self-contained communities.
  • courage for a less fear-driven way of connecting with each other.
  • a broader sense of wanting a better, equitable and ecological world beyond our little cubbyholes.
  • the ability to making space for all expressions and kinds of love across the spectrum.

Just questions today. No ready-made, neatly summed up answers. Because some answers don’t come easy and sometimes we’d do well to sit with the discomfort of *not* knowing, with confronting the messy work of pulling existing structures apart, not having quick answers, immediate opinions and perfect fixes. Then, maybe we can begin to rebuild.

One year ago: Stillness
Two years ago: I choose to be happy
Three years ago: What coming home feels like: revisiting old haunts
Four years ago: Holiday vibes

Things worth remembering (part 1)

The last two weeks were an emotional landslide, to say the least. I constantly felt the undertow tugging at me, dragging me down and asking me to slip and slide and go under. I was torn between giving in to it and letting to, or flapping my arms around to stay afloat. I did bits of both — neither with very much success.

At some point last week, things began to turn ever so slowly. Then the weekend came and I noticed an observable, significant shift. Yesterday, I felt anew again. I’m getting better at witnessing the natural (and maybe necessary?) ebbs and flow in my emotional energy. I also see how, often, the movement is aligned with either the moon, or some planetary movement that’s on the cards. I just notice, there’s nothing to be done. But it helps be lighter and easier when the shifts and slips and slides come, as they do. And it helps mark the moments when things aren’t spiralling and feeling well isn’t so entirely out of my grasp. Moments when I can breathe deeply and fill myself with life-giving air. When I can smile softly, subtly. When I can stretch myself and take up space fiercely. When I can enjoy life’s little gifts, however minute. I like remembering those moments.

Cooking and allied kitchen/domestic activities have taken me through the last three months of uncertainty. Giving me that window of groundedness and familiarity — predictability — in a time where things are anything but predictable. And after consistently leaning on this habit for over three months, my hectic schedules the last two weeks meant planning, shopping for, cooking and consuming wholesome meals was the first thing to fall to the side. This was the first proper meal I cooked after cleaning out my fridge last week. Mixed veggie stir fry in oyster sauce with broken red matta rice.

Been stalking these critters twice a day, everyday, for the last 10 days or so ever since I spotted them. Watching their every move ever since, as they are fast growing out of the gutter where they were birthed. Also exercising massive amounts of self-control to keep from giving in to my own achy heart that wants to take the dusty brown one in, and also VC’s incessant chatter about this spotting of puppies is the last in a string of “signs” that we should get one.

A surprise Sunday morning video call with the nugget/rosogulla/dumpling/firecracker of a new niece. It’s all kinds of surreal, yet somehow acceptable, that I have barely any smidgen of an ongoing relationship with so many of my cousins, but one of them has a baby this cute and suddenly I want to video call them?

The “new normal” featuring a live Kunal Kamra show via Zoom. It was more like hanging out in a room with a comedian and a bunch of random people, listening to the comedian talk about a realllllyyy random collection of things and being funny some times, and less like a live show I’d catch on stage. But it was interesting, and I stayed up later than usual for it, and I laughed a lot.

Three years ago: What coming home feels like: Bangalore sky porn
Four years ago: Kursi ki peti

Love and magic

…amidst all the hopelessness, it shines through sometimes.

I am now convinced that this country only runs on hope. When all else fails and the paltry systems we have are exposed for how broken and dysfunctional they are, it is only hope that takes us through.

That and the goodwill of regular, everyday people.

I don’t know where we’d be without either.

One year ago: This is now
Four years ago: Work things that make me chuckle

In a funk

It’s just one of those weeks. Where many things I cannot digest too easily have hit me all at once. I have days like this some times. And on those days, I choose the luxury of lying low, staying in and spending my time just being in the fullness of whatever I am feeling. This week, I didn’t have that luxury. Because after three months of a very minimal, home-bound routine, I ventured out and offered my time with volunteering to collect and deliver food to the migrants leaving Bangalore by the thousands every single day.

It was meant to be something I did for a few hours every week, but it very quickly ballooned into a massive operation that consumed me mentally, emotionally and physically. The need is enormous, the situation on ground is far worse than even the most honest media reports will have you believe. And even though I was overwhelmed from the suffering from the get go, I couldn’t get myself to step back.

I didn’t make the connection initially, because the adrenalin that kicked in from the relief efforts took me through most of the week. By yesterday though, my energy was flagging and I crawled into bed at noon, unable to function. Time-wise, I have also had to de-prioritise working out and eating healthy home cooked meals, to compensate for the hours spent working outdoors. These things are my anchors in any given day, and I really felt the effects of having to run on fumes without it.

I haven’t been able to eat a single meal in peace, thinking of the thousands and thousands and thousands of people we have been trying to keep fed and hydrated with bare minimum, collected entirely from neighbourhood mobilisation activities. I could no longer think about elaborate meals, let alone get myself to plan and cook them. I couldn’t put a morsel down my throat without feeling wretched inside.

I’ve been on the phone for more time than I have in a long, long time. I haven’t been able to relax and turn my mind off. My sleep has been shot to bits again. This past week has swept me away and put me in a strange state of mind. On the one hand I am overwhelmed and filled with hope to see how much and how quickly and large-heartedly citizens are willing to give of themselves. From contributions in neighbourhoods, to people galvanising relief efforts, to the team at the sites organising migrants, processing their paperwork and giving them food and drink and setting them off. I am beyond stoked at how much of all of this is being manned and handled by regular, average citizens. With lives and work put on hold, giving so much of themselves to this effort. But on the other, there is no escaping the hopelessness of this situation. I keep thinking how did we let it get os bad? Why weren’t we looking close enough even before the pandemic hit us? Why are we like this?

On the one hand, I feel like involving myself gave me some much-needed relief and channelised all that pent up frustration from months. But on the other, it plunged me quite deeply into a funk. Today, I felt so hopeless, I had a very, very compelling sensation of just wanting to exit my body. Just leave and escape this world. Everything feels so pointless in the face of the mammoth mess we are as a country. And no, there’s nothing, no silver lining and no bright spot, right now that can outweigh the heaviness of what I have seen this past week.

I have not been present to VC at all through all of this. I have had no mental or emotional energy to spare. I have been weepy, crabby, clingy, unreasonable for the most part. But he’s let me be all of it. And I am so grateful to have a home in him to come back to, where I can be as I am. Ugly, messy, imperfect and letting it all fall apart.

On a day like today, with clearly so much going on emotionally, internally, I don’t know what I’d do without this support. Where I can just be, not spoken to, no advice or solace needed (because there is none for a situation like this), just silence and presence. Presence.

One year ago: On boundaries: how they’ve changed my experience of friendship
Two years ago: Stop chasing shadows, just enjoy the ride
Four years ago: How blue?

Monday Tarot Messages: Share the load

Sometimes, the burdens we carry, we carry not because nobody else will; but because we aren’t able to allow ourselves to put them down so others may have the chance to pitch-in, help, do their share of the work.

Observe and introspect on the balance of giving — physically and emotionally — in the significant relationships in your life today. What burdens do you tend to carry, what roles and responsibilities do you automatically take, what kind of dynamics do you most find yourself drawn into, across relationships?

This feels like a message especially for me, on the heels of a particularly challenging week in terms of love and friendship in my life. A week in which I became aware of my tendency to take on certain burdens that I have assumed come from my love and caring for someone, but are sometimes just my inability to say no to bullshit, or my proneness to believe I am inherently too much for my friends to handle and so to take the entire responsibility of backing away. Which is effectively me choosing inauthenticity in order to maintain a status quo. Doing this takes a lot of exhausting labour out of me, and most often doesn’t fetch me the results I am looking for. Leaving me bitter, unhappy and lonely.

Emotional dynamics in relationships should ideally be shared more or less equally, in order for the relationship to flow in a harmonious way. But sometimes the balance goes askew to facilitate something else. For example, the control or holding of power can lie with the person who does the bulk of the labour. We sometimes choose to take the entire responsibility as a means to control or steer a relationship in a certain direction.

Or it can be easy to delude ourselves about the true health of a relationship, as long as we keep engaging in “doing the work”. This labour unfortunately is then not going into healing or growing the relationship, but in keeping it from falling apart. A subtle, but important difference.

To lay down unnecessary burdens requires a high degree of honesty. When we engage with that, we are invited to get deeper in touch with our authentic selves. And we are encouraged to show up as we are. It helps us see what we can and absolutely cannot do, what burdens we can and cannot take, what roles we can and cannot perform, in a relationship. And what emerges from there is connection in a true form, free of roleplaying and people pleasing.

This process has been particularly challenging, and a painful one for me this past week as it has meant confronting some of my own judgements around the sharing of emotional labour and how I view people’s reasons for staying or remaining in relationships that have long passed their expiry date.

Taking responsibility for only as much as we can and realistically want to and should do, is an act of deep humility and respect. For the self, primarily, but also for the other. Learning this is to allow freedom, for love and connection to flow freely, and for a respectful, mutually balanced dynamic to emerge between people.

One year ago: All heart and all soul   
Two years ago: When the rainy days are dying   
Four years ago: Workspace

Things that happened today

I got out of home and looked up. And I caught a view that wasn’t the same one I have been seeing outside my balcony for three months now.

I went in for an in-person therapy session today. My first in three months. And when I stepped out of my home to walk down to my therapists’ I had this surreal, never-felt-before feeling of excitement. I was a bit giddy, walking down with a spring in my step. Such strange, unforgettable times, where the idea of meeting another human being, sitting in (safe) proximity, sharing an intimate space, gave me that mix of excitement and wonder.

It was my first real “outing” that’s not for shopping, which is the only other reason I have stepped out since March. This is the first interaction with someone other than VC, my sister, my neighbours and building staff, since March. I know things around are opening up and moving back to normalcy, but I still feel a bit stuck and safe indoors. I have yet to go out and meet another human being in the way that I did today.

***

I realised that even the outings for shopping for supplies have been so limited, that I had to almost reorient myself to being out in the open again. It was so, so strange.

I desperately want to be out some more, and meet people. But I am also feeling so tentative about who I am feeling drawn to reaching out to. And that is such a strange feeling.

***

 I woke up with an intense urge to be elsewhere today. Travelling, in a cafe drinking a frothy cappuccino, in an homestay or a hotel in a new city, in a different country — anywhere. Just somewhere else. It felt like such a deep, physical need. Almost like wanting to leave this body.

I’ve been nursing this desire to “get out” since the weekend. But it’s not just physically getting out of this home and these self-imposed restrictions. But something else, I am not able to put a finger on it. Again, it feels like a need of some sort, and I can’t figure it out.

I’m ready for life, in its fullness and in a different flavour and form again. Something has got to change and I feel ready to venture out and figure it out.

***

Insane amounts of sleep. I think the three days of being in class, even though online, triggered it. It seems the therapy can have the same effects as it does when I am in class or in a workshop. I experienced the same full-body exhaustion and the need to do nothing else but stay horizontal. Extra long naps, yesterday and today. Despite which I was knocked out cold at 11 pm last night, only to wake up bright and early at 7 am today with the intention of finishing a host of chores before therapy, only to staying horizontal and in bed, cancelling all plans, till it was time to go to therapy.

I am getting good with cancelling well laid plans. So good that VC commended me on it today!

One year ago: Here you are   
Two years ago: I wrote a letter to my love

Turning and turning

It is kind of fascinating that:

  1. yesterday, I wrote about a sense of fullness in my life — not just for me personally, but in what I share with VC. And exactly a year ago, on that same day, I wrote about our relationship feeling renewed.
  2. two days ago, I wrote about feeling quiet and contained. And exactly a year ago, on that same day, I wrote about wordlessness and feeling quiet.

I believe we’re all always going in circles. Our growth isn’t linear or upwards, but in spirals, and we find ourselves back in old and familiar spaces time an time again, feeling like we are in the same spot, but knowing deep within that it is different. Deeper, somehow.

Like seeing the sun set every single day, as I have these last almost-60 days. And knowing every single day, that even in the sameness and familiar, repetitive moving away from the sun, something is different.

One year ago: Growing friendship
Two years ago: I’ve been keeping all the letters that I wrote to you