On love

Generations of conditioning about love as something that completes us has ruined it all. We’re not jigsaw puzzles, ffs. We’re all independent human beings, capable of being whole and integrated on our own. If anything, authentic connection begins right here — within. In our own hearts, with our own selves.

Instead, we roam the world in search of connection that can complete us, when actually the struggle is a connection with ourselves. And that connection with ourselves is really the basis from which healthy, balanced and positive connections with fellow human beings can grow. Without it we’re only going to find projections, attachments and codependency; instead of true intimacy. And belonging.

What’s worse, that sort of inauthentic connection will demand people-pleasing of you. All of which comes at a high cost to The Self. Negating, minimising your true self, and moving further away from an authentic connection with yourself.

When that connection with oneself is on shaky ground, it leads to the need to find safety in connection outside the self. When there are things within us are difficult to see, hear, sit with, acknowledge and integrate, we push them our Shadow. And the larger the Shadow gets, the more fragmented we feel. This is the sense of being incomplete. And so, we look for “completion” outside of ourselves.

Some weeks ago, I wrote a post about the fleeting moments of being the harmony of being deeply connected with myself and how that miraculously reflected in a sense of peaceful connection and ease with everything around me. This sort of authentic connection with each other is the need of the hour. In this age of hate and polarity, we need connection more than ever.

If you’re looking for love, start with yourself. Begin within. Do you truly love yourself wholly? What parts need some work before you get to acceptance?

Today, a wish for every one of you to find and nurture love — in significant relationships and friendship alike. Love that gradually grows free of projections, that isn’t attachment masquerading as love, that isn’t the harmful claw of control under the garb of love. A love that holds close the spark of honest and free expression, but also knows deeply the silence needed to hold space. A love that allows for comforting space to individuate and become your own person, while also connecting creatively and intimately. A love that both liberates you, as well as grounds and anchors you.

Today, this wish is for every one of you to find and nurture that love within yourselves first. It really is the first intimate relationship to nurture, and the only way to find true, balanced, wholesome love in significant relationships and friendship alike.

One year ago: Born again, all grown up
Two years ago: We’ve got to hold on to what we’ve got

Coke love

Something about flights and travel brings back Coke Studio to me in a big, big way. Every single time.

Did another massive on-repeat listen of my Season 12 favourites all the way to Bombay, thinking fondly of this warm evening we had at home in December. I actually physically hurt with a longing for how much I miss this music-filled, perpetual-food-coma, period in my life from the Goa years that was super-charged on a bonhomie I am yet to experience since then.

Listening tot he entire playlist made me super nostalgic, as usual. Enough to want to check ticket prices to Berlin for another reunion. Hahaha.

PS: Also, I’m running out of descriptive titles for this repetitive Coke-Studio-Love kind of post

One year ago: Glowing within, growing within 
Two years ago: What you seek is seeking you 
Three years ago: Busy times apparently

On receiving

I’m Starting a Monday ritual of sharing a message for the week. Just a little something to get my tarot energies out into the world, and who knows, maybe some of you may enjoy and benefit from it?

I’m also going to be posting a version of these on Instagram every Monday going forward.

***

As luck would have it, I picked an apt card for current times.

The idea of belonging and connection. It has come up in virtually every other reading I did this past month. Either in the ask for guidance in relationships, in the context of clashing families and community, in finding companionship and friends. And I too have been thinking so much about belonging, in context to the current political scenario.

This card speaks words of belonging, to me. If you’re waiting to find belonging or connection or simply support and understanding, it’s quite likely you already have a fixed idea of what it ought to look like, and you’re waiting for it to take shape in exactly that way.

It’s also equally likely that you are already receiving connection, the opportunity to belong, be held and loved, in many other ways. And that they may not look anything like the belonging and connection you long for.

Is it possible to perhaps change the gaze with which you’re looking? So as to not lose out on what already is, in the constant hankering for something more? Perhaps the work is to learn to receive what is with grace, and with gratitude? To find ways in which you can count your blessings. Identify the ways in which you are receiving — belonging, connection, support, love — and put your energy and focus behind that instead.

In a world that celebrates (and often conflates) independence and strength, it’s easy to lose touch with the authenticity of collaboration, community, connection — the very building blocks of belonging — such that the basic act of receiving becomes challenging.

This card always reminds me of these lines from the brilliant Toko-Pa Turner’s book Belonging, in which she says;

Worship at the altar of your being supported. After all, you are the receiver of too many generosities to count. Count them anyway … At any given moment we can attune ourselves to wellbeing, which is a tributary of belonging. It is that place in our hearts where we are grateful for all that we’re receiving and, for a moment, want nothing more.

Belonging begins with the ability to receive. So today, maybe think about how it is for you to receive — a gift, a compliment, a pleasantry, an olive branch, a hug, an act of kindness, help.

Four years ago: Finally moving

Awaaz do

Hum ek hain.

I really wish I had at least one video of this slogan, but every time that it was hurled out through the mic, I would freeze, my hair standing on end, driven to tears.

Sometimes I wonder what’s the point of taking myself to protests because I spend much of my time just crying, and wiping tears. So two nights ago when I headed to the first night of the 24/7 protest slowly growing outside the Frazer Town Mosque on MM Road, I wondered if maybe more than my doing something for the protest, the protest is doing something for me.

It has certainly been very cathartic for me. Just to be there, surrounded by swelling crowds of unity, finding a voice and joining in the slogans. Just saying Azaadi, over and over has been healing. For me.

After literal years of being a cynic and fearing this country is a lost cause in the hands of rogues, this past month has filled me up with hope. Literally, somatically, I have felt like I am being filled up by an energy I didn’t know we had as a country. Every time I have been at a protest I wonder where these people, people like me, have been hiding for all these years!

The MM Road protest has been incredible. Organised completely by and for women, it’s been an outstanding show of how ultimately it’s women who roll their sleeves up and get the job done. I’ve seen them there in huge numbers, big and little kids in tow, organising food, passing around water, multiple rounds of chai, and even coming back to collect trash.

At the foot of the stage, where woman after women goes up to speak or sing or chant or sloganeer, there is a makeshift activity centre of sorts. It’s not as fancy as I am making it sound, but it moved me immensely, because it was a sign of women doing what they need to, to get out of their homes to get the job done. It was well past 10 pm on Thursday night, and with  probably nowhere to leave their kids since they were out on the streets, several women gathered their kids together, distributed piles of paper, scattered some paints and crayons amidst them and asked them to stay together. The kids stayed, doodling, making posters, painting the tricolour on each others’ faces, while their mothers donned reflective jackets over their hijabs, and job hustling with their volunteer work.

I was there till well past midnight, all by myself, long after my friends left, and it was entirely safe, well organised, just so tremendous and inspiring.

I said this before, and I’ll say it again. This isn’t just about religious fundamentalism anymore (though that is also a big reason why we need to push back). This is about divisive politics. Politics that will come after minority after minority. Today it’s religious factions, but it wont be long before it irreversibly ruins the poor, Dalits, Adivasis, LGBTQIA folks, women and children.

Tomorrow marks 70 years of the Republic of India, and there is no better time to revisit and reassert our rights, and celebrate the very constitution that makes us who we are as a nation. The constitution that is at stake today.

All bets are off. The shiny veneer of the promise of development has all but faded. Unemployment is at its lowest. We’re in the midst of a full-blown agrarian crisis. The economy is in shambles and all we can seem to do is wring our hands and watch hopelessly. In fact, IMF is now pitting the global economic slowdown on India. And to top it all, our rights are severely at stake now.

The world is watching. Yesterday, The Economist revealed the cover of the first edition of the year. It reads “Intolerant India“.

We have got to stand up as one, like this matters. And like it matters to all of us alike.

***

The MM Road 24/7 (indefinite) protest is happening outside the mosque, opposite Carry Fresh Supermarket in Frazer Town. Today is Day 3, and there’s a lot of hope and determination to keep this going in support of the incredible women of Shaheen Bagh. If you’re in the city and you’d like to show your support, even if it is just for a short while, please consider going there.

This realy awe-inspiring piece talks about how it’s women taking the lead.

They need our support. Awaaz do, hum ek hain. 

One year ago: Full moon magic
Two years ago: Gravity is working against me
Four years ago: Love

Here’s to getting old

Another revolution around the sun, VC.

Another milestone. Another year on walking this planet.

Another year obsessing about all the things that you do. Another year living in that fully committed single-mindedly focused way that you do.

Another year of simultaneously infuriating me with our polar opposites and softening me with our fundamental likeness.

Another year of inconveniencing me with unnecessarily heavy luggage all for another year of stunning pictures and memories from our travels.

And yet, I suspect this year will be a touch different. So as you step into the new, I wish for you a year of just enough surprise of magic and just enough comforting familiarity. A balance of enough challenges and the right amount of easy wins, too. A year of flow and ease, peppered with opportunities to stretch yourself. I wish for solidity and harmony as you continue to take life by the horns and grow from strength to strength like you have this past year.

Something tells me you have only just begun.

Happy birthday, old man :D

One year ago: Would you rewind it all the time
Three years ago: Redemption reading

Through the years

The sadness of a really good time, of the sort that uplifts and nourishes and fills you up, coming to an end hasn’t hit me in literally years. The last memory of such a deep post-good-time of this degree sadness is from when I was a young child and my favourite aunt and uncle would visit us once a year, leading to endless bunked days of school and just too much fun all round. So much fun that when it was time to leave, even as young as 9, 10, 11, 12 years old, I remember feeling abject sadness and finding it difficult to slip back to normalcy and function as usual once again. It always took a few days to get back to the regular rhythm of life.

And that’s the degree of sadness that hit me yesterday once S had left. Thankfully, I had a meeting with S in the evening to soften the blow of the hard knock it could have been. And today, I met S for drinks and brunch at mid day which is always uplifting, and certainly helped fight the gloom that I would have inevitably felt if I was left to my own devices.

Talking to S this afternoon, about friendships as we always do, I realised for all my complains and cribs about disappointments and dissatisfactions about people, especially in a year like this one that has seen the most upheaval and shaking of the ground beneath my feet, I have also received the best and mellowest gifts of love, affection and friendship. I am not very quick to notice it for what it is, and that is something I am trying to change.

The last week spent with S and VC was life-affirming in that sense. And I want to acknowledge the many ways in which it was so good for me.

It gave strength and validation to my deeply held belief that friendships that are based in simple truths and genuine connection don’t take work. They work beyond distance, infrequent meetings and all else. And they have that wonderful ability to rejoin and pick up exactly where we may have left off, even when either party has undergone massive transformation in the time spent apart.

I realised S and J are amongst the handful of people (that I can count on one hand) that I have this absolute and utter privilege with. They honour me with a kind of friendship that some of the relationships closer home that I have struggled to keep going haven’t. That ability to cut through the fat and come straight to the heart of the matter. A high degree of respect and space for vulnerability, even as we hold space for the silliness and laughter. A genuine warmth and being excited for the best in the other.

These are folks I talk to maybe 3 times a year. It’s only in the last six odd months since we started a whatsapp group between us (yes, it took us that long) that there is some form of frequent banter. But otherwise it’s restricted to the timely wishes and brief catch ups on each others birthdays and new year, at best. And yet, somehow, by hook or by crook, we seek each other out at least once a year. Making plans to meet somewhere or the other, dedicated time to spend catching up and reliving the old days. This, is not something I have with literally anyone else in my life. The effort and the follow-through on this, year after year. And today, I realised I really love that we do it.

This past week, I laughed harder than I have in a long while. VC admitted he enjoyed our company more than just being the third wheel he usually makes himself feel like. And I came away feeling like we are grown up versions of ourselves from 2012-2014, with something at the heart of it all, intact. To have each been through some seriously diverse experiences, some transformative times, and still find it’s possible to connect. And connect long and well, and enjoy every moment of it, is special.

So, when I got home in the evening I dug out pictures that pock-mark the many years of our friendship. There are folks who have lifelong friends. I haven’t had that luck as yet. But here, I see solid potential of being stuck with each other for life. OOPSIE – hahahaha.

I realised I have a picture for nearly every year since we split ways, and that we’ve met in six cities and four countries in the years gone by. Again, not something I see myself going out of my way to do with too many people.

From 2013, when we did routinely took off for a staycation when we all lived in Goa.

This was taken on this summer trip that I documented, but several day trips and wanderings — way way too many to count because we’d go out literally every weekend — that probably went undocumented. When we weren’t out and about, we lived out of each others homes. We shared way too many common loves — for movies, music, art, travel — that made us converge on more things than not.

In fact, I cannot separate my association with monsoon listening of Coke Studio from S and J at all. I write about it here. I shared my most impactful professional year, the one that had more far-reaching consequences that I knew, working with S. We’ve cooked way too many meals together and shared way more beers for our own good.

S left Goa in the end of 2013 and moved to Bombay. He visited us in Goa again in 2014, but apparently we took more pictures of the food we ate and absolutely none of ourselves at all.

In 2015, we visited S in Singapore.

In 2016, S flew in from Singapore to Bangkok to catch up with me. Many shenanigans ensued, and ended with this very drunken picture that was taken at 2 am in a bustling street market.

Somehow, we missed meeting in 2017, as S reiterated today with a “WHAT HAPPENED IN 2017??” when I shared these pictures with him. I was caught in the landslide that was moving to Bangalore and the year zipped by without any big travel.

In 2018, we made it to Paris where S now lives. And he and J plotted to surprise us, with J flying in from Hamburg.

Again, way too many shenanigans ensued. And I’ve written about the ways in which I felt so filled up from it all here and here.

Last December, we caught up in Goa, just months after we had returned from Europe.

And then, a whole year later we connected in Bangalore, making a trip to Coorg together. I have a new picture to add to this collection — the first one in the post.

I want to say this is fate or destiny or some such, but I think it isn’t just that. It’s also a lot of deliberate intention, and sincere keeping up of our word and following through on the things we plan to do. That is a deeply cherished aspect of friendship I have coveted for years now.

It’s not too late to acknowledge that for all the knocks and falls I’ve had in the last few years, and especially this past year, as far as people and friendship goes, I am still one lucky girl, for all the love and connection that has stayed and found it’s way to me, despite it all.

One year ago: Take me to your heart
Two years ago: Shut up and drive
Three years ago: Time

So blue

Currently severely feeling the sads since S left this evening. The house got extremely quiet and lifeless for a bit. Thankfully I had a meeting in the evening to run off to, but when I got back home there was no escaping the full force of a plunge into deep, deep melancholy at a superbly fun and nourishing few days coming to an end. As all good things eventually do.

Niyu and amma made some sheera and sent it over so I ate a big bowl of it to feel better. Yeah, I’m that level of sad and feeling the post-holiday blues.

One year ago: I just want the realness
Two years ago: Warm sound
Three years ago: Spinning the wheel

Friendship fires

 

Two nights of feeding a fire to keep it going long enough for us to stay snug and warm, talking intimately and candidly huddled around it, listening to the best music is what it took to end a year of massive friendship lessons on a positive and love-filled note.

There was warmth in the silences. Life in the conversation. Fuel in the feelings shared. I am mildly changed by the three days I have spent away in the company of VC and S.

Something fundamental has shifted as far as my perspectives on adult friendships go. And after months of not knowing what, this trip away illuminated that something for me.

I’m just sitting in the afterglow of it.

I’ll say this again. I’m grateful for those who left, almost as much as I am grateful for those who remained.

One year ago: Lay down all your thoughts
Two years ago: Morning song

Love and belonging in politically charged times

My journey back to myself has been pockmarked with several points where I’ve questioned and examined belonging. Belonging is a theme I visit often, as I heal parts of myself and make efforts to integrate them — to really belong to myself fully again.

In recent times my focus has shifted from beyond myself to the world around me — both immediate and extensive. I have been asking What is my place in the world? Where do I fit in? What is my purpose? Where and how can I belong? And I find myself deeply disillusioned and let down by the ideas of belonging that crop up around me. Wishy washy, idealistic notions that sound pretty in words but are very difficult to put to life. Lip-service by the rich and privileged who cleave to feel-good ideas of connectedness and togetherness but think nothing of putting their support behind acts and bills that scream disharmony and throw entire sects of our people under the bus. Religious ideas of love and togetherness that they otherwise hold close are rendered null and void when the same mouths and brains that do things to tell me they’re backing the idea of a Hindu Rashtra.

I’m sick of the hypocrisy.

This makes it very hard for me to belong to groups that I ought to belong to by default. My family, my neighbourhood, my state, my country.

Today, I question where I belong. And I’m constantly looking for a spark of some signs of belonging in people around me. But it’s getting harder and harder to find.

I am the great granddaughter of staunch Gandhians. My great grandmother spun khadi at home, and she and my great grandfather marched with Gandhi in many acts of civil disobedience. My grandmothers older sister even went to jail for it. And yet, those same Gandhian values that I’ve grown up being dinned into my head, are altogether washed out today. My family is mostly unrecognisable when it comes to politics. They’re supporters of the fascist forces that celebrate Gandhi’s assassinator. I simply don’t understand it.

How then, can I say I belong to this? When I have nobody to converse and dialogue this with? When ideas of respect and politeness are conflated with dishonesty.

I can no longer be dishonest so I’ve chosen silence for too long now. That silence is slowly snapping.

My building is filled with upper-caste, patriarchal Brahmins who have displayed their displeasure of our unbrahminical ways more than a handful of times. I definitely don’t belong here. But I shut the door of my home and I make do.

I have for very long now questioned how I feel about belonging to India. The truth is, I don’t feel it at all. I have resented being Indian since 2014.

But something interesting happened this week. Over this week at all the protests I went to, though, I felt a surge of belonging. Like I had found my people. Like all is not lost and we may have just not sold the country to a majority of hate-mongers.

There is something incredibly softening and nourishing about finding this kind of connection. In receiving it, I realised it s something I have been missing it for way too long now. I have walked around feeling like an alien in my surroundings, around my family and everywhere else for just too long

So what I felt this week, I’d like to think is a start of something new, a new wave of healing yet another part of myself that has been deeply hurt and excluded.

Registered my protest today by beginning to read BR Ambedkar’s Annihilation of Caste. Woefully late in life, and just a quarter of the way through this is essential reading for every Indian (every human really), in a country that’s being fast made to forget the very idea of India that birthed our constitution and our identity as a nation. Essential reading for people being lulled to sleep slowly in a hateful frenzy. Essential reading for a staggering number of people in my immediate circle who have absolutely no idea what they’re talking about.

I can’t do much to change people around me, I think. As always, I realised today again that I can only work on myself. If what’s going on in the country today means anything to me, I can only inform myself and solidify my politics. I can only show up more often. I can only do everything it takes to put my entire being behind knowing exactly what I am talking about when I say,

I refuse to buy this hatred that insists on making me believe that I don’t belong in my own country.

I can keep speaking my truth. And I can keep consistently choosing love.

Because without truth and love, I’m going nowhere in this search for belonging.

One year ago: Find my direction magnetically
Three years ago: Too much nature ho gaya

There is a new voice

Thinking of Mary Oliver, on The Journey, today. This past week has been ike coming out from underwater, taking big chest-fulls of air, filling my heart with a soft light and breathing normally again. I’m on an upswing and around me even though nothing is different, everything has changed.

This is what moving through and forward – through the joys and pain alike — is like, I suppose.

But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do–
determined to save
the only life you could save.

Unlearning lifelong patterns and choosing to honour oneself over everything else is a deep, slow, long and often painful process. It requires being a little selfish, which has been easier said than done for me. Because in the doing, it has meant confronting the hardcoded people-pleaser in me, shocking the side of me that believed I was always my own person, and now contending with the possibility that I will be seen as selfish, unkind and self-serving.

As I move through this, without willing or wishing it away, and accepting this part of the journey in its entirety, I am deeply aware of how people close to me may at times feel hurt, shunned, abandoned or rejected.

I can see how relationships are shifting from one day to the next, how some have ended altogether, and others are having to find new ground — not always swiftly and easily.

There is a shit ton of grief and sadness, guilt and fear at all this changing, at letting go at a lifelong comfortable way of being. Of being okay with letting people go. Of facing temporary bouts of despair and loneliness. Of having to grow a new skin, and feeling utterly vulnerable until that new skin appears fully.

There have also been moments of doubt, when all of this has been sometimes too much to take. Moments of questioning if this was worth it? Moments when it all do terrible, I wonder when it will feel right again. Moments that make me want to stop feeling at all.

I’ve wanted to turn this around many times over. Shut all of this that I have unraveled over the past two years, back into a box where it came from. Lock it up and throw away the key.

I’ve been here many times before, and I realise that I will come back to this same place again and again. That’s just the way the cycle goes.

Each time I will question if this was worth it. And each time, that voice inside — of the soul I am nourishing and the life I am serving — will whisper yes, very, very softly.

There is a new voice.

One year ago: Yes we all need a room of our own
Two years ago: I shake off all that no longer serves me
Three years ago: The last of the books for 2016

More love

What effortlessly-picking-up-exactly-where-we-left-off looks like.

We hadn’t met in nearly a month — not something that’s happened in over a year now. And we hadn’t really talked much either. I have been too preoccupied — and generally feeling quiet — to engage with all my attention. And it has been strange for us to be in the same city and not in touch or up to speed with what the other is up to. Especially if one/both parties hasn’t been up to the mark. And then there has been so many thoughts about loss through this process, of a bare few remaining, of moving on and leaving behind, of the grief of that loss, of the grief of possible loneliness. And a few restrained exchanges about fear of abandonment on one side and fear of not knowing where all this peeling off is leading to, on the other side. Andnsome distance between us, because of all of this. And then we met today. And we effortlessly picked up exactly where we left off.

I’m glad I’ve finally had the privilege of experiencing what this kind of friendship feels like. I know it’s something I’ve always had a longing for, without quite having the words for what it was that I was missing. And now that it is here, I feel so full from it that I know just what it is. A friendship where there is space to unravel, but also to just agree to put it all aside and have a few laughs, without the need to fill in the gaps of so many weeks of silence gone by. This kind of friendship that holds quietness and a containment in its palms. The kind of friendship with endless space, and a strong connection, both. The kind that starts and pauses and has an effortlessness about it all. I feel blessed, really.

One year ago: Take all my world and shake it

New love

One of the things I’ve been grateful for in the past six months is the companionship I have shared with S. As a co-learner, but also as a curious person in the world, keen to understand ones place and how to belong. It’s been an ongoing journey and I have realised time and time again what a boon it has been to have someone who shares and understands this journey so keenly. It has taken the edge off the loneliness many times, it has given me a sense of belonging too. It most of all it has given me yet another safe space to take every little nook and turn of my bumbling journey so it can be held and heard.

So many gems emerge from our ongoing sharing. On chat, in person, while we have studied, while we have worked and now, as we plan our work as fellow practitioners.

Today’s gems:

I’m not disconnecting. I’m individuating.

An examined life takes hard work.

What is being separate? And what is the bond of love that can connect even as I hold my own separately?

It’s thoroughly refreshing to share with someone who isn’t in a rush to spout intellectual, cognitive, nearly figured out answers to all our questions. Someone with whom I can throw around the ideas bouncing about in my head, and hold them as unanswered questions still. Giving space for the answers to emerge in their own time.

This is not a friendship I went into with any intention of cultivation like one does sometimes. It kind of happened and grew organically over shared experiences. In a year that has thrown so many friendship rude shocks my way, this has been such a pleasant surprise.

There is a very refined quality to this friendship that I haven’t had ever in my life. And I am enjoying it with such relish.

Three years ago: Looking back

Moving on and letting go

It’s curious that what I am experiencing since the ending of this phase of my course, plus the slow and steady ticking towards the end of the year, is actually a lot of space and openness, and yet again and again, I chose to articulate it as emptiness. Maybe it is both. Maybe it is one or the other, depending on my state of mind at any given moment. But that choice of word — emptiness — is telling and interesting.

This past week and weekend, I sat with this emptiness a lot. The growing distance and spaces between me and many aspects of my life — my slightly nebulous current relationship with work, the yawning silence I have with most all of my closest friends, my family and how I am moving differently around them, cohabiting with VC and sharing all of my living space with him again. It has been a lot to contend with, while also being acutely present to the ever-shifting minutest changes I am experiencing within.

There’s an inexplicable sense of an ending with what feels like multiple open ends in my life, and yet I cannot quite put a finger on it. All I feel very aware of is the ask to stay in the present, with all that I have integrated and all that I am today, while holding space for what was once an old way of being (in similar circumstances) without feeling too drawn by it’s lure. After all, new ways of being bring with it opportunities to do things differently, hack old patterns and cycles and await delicious new outcomes. This is essentially what the process of moving from dependence to autonomy has been for me.

The changes call for me to be a new way — which the more I do, has created so much space and silence — while that same silence and emptiness constantly triggers the old narratives and old ways of being.

And since going back to the way things used to be is just simply not an option anymore (it is physically impossible), I find that all I can really do is make as much space as I can for everything that is shifting and the changes that are coming because of it. It has meant watching and listening to some of my old behaviours as they are called to the surface, yet silently let them just be. The more I sit silently, without rushing in to do something, the more the the old tendencies to fill those expansive spaces, the emptiness, the silence with activity, with doing, with unfulfilled desires, with music, with idle chatter and more, have surfaced. And the more I am able to not give in to them, they have receded to the background too.

To witness it all without acting, has been the way in which I am able to finally tell to some degree, which of the behaviours have been comfort-seeking coping mechanisms, and which have been genuine needs from within that I must respond or tend to.

In the process, I have watched as a lot of those comfort-seeking coping mechanisms have slipped away, and it has left me quite destabilized inside. imagine trying to walk again after years of having a crutch and having that crutch taken away.

There has been a fair amount of heartbreak and a lot of grief to experience. Grief for all that is shifting, and how nothing may ever be the same — with respect to people, work, my surroundings, the very fabric of my existence even. I know deep down that in all this emptying out (which currently feels endless) I am making space for something new, and I know it in my bones that that whenever it arrives slowly will be sweet, but until then there is no denying that this process has been equally fear-brewing, as it has been thrilling.

I am hyper aware of what is changing, what that newness means to me, and that for many folks in my life, this might all be too much to take. That it might be that many will leave once again. And so I sit, wait and watch, equally thrilled at how liberating it all is, as well as how horribly lonely my world sometimes feels because of it. And like S said to me last night when I shared this with her — quite rarely, I wonder if I’ve signed up for something way beyond what I can handle on my own, in terms of how much I will be on my own.

I am learning that this eventuality might very well come true. And so to hold both sides — the joy and the pain of it — equally, with grace, and honouring my needs, mroe and more these days. That’s a step up, I guess?

There were also some other small IRL heartbreaks. Heartbreak at finally accepting — after fighting this for literally months — that we won’t be walking the OXFAM trailwalk in February next year. Some sadness that despite all my efforts I haven’t jumped back on the exercise wagon as quickly and efficiently as I’d have liked to and that I might need to actually listen to my body some more. There was heartbreak at realising that I have to still play second fiddle in VC’s family and that this may never change — not for any other reason but because it simply cannot be any other way — because it’s not on me and there’s nothing I can do about it.

We spent the weekend entirely at home, chilling. I got a wee bit of work done, and we finally settled our second bedroom into a temp home office for VC. I enthusiastically cooked a whole lot more than I usually do — in quantity as well as variety. We watched some movies together, VC and I. And there was a lot of music. I dragged myself to the gym one morning and yesterday I was determined to get our Sunday walk in, despite the steady drizzle. It was such good weather to be out, and to eat a hot idli vada after. But then, I was holed up in my bedroom under the covers all day, until I couldn’t take it anymore post 6 pm.

I am really, thoroughly enjoying my home lately, in a way that I haven’t before. In a way that feels beyond and more than the last two years through which I have anyway really loved this space. There is connection and involvement of a different degree and I know this is coming from rightfully taking my place and acting from my own power and making this space mine, which is not something I have done very much in my life so far. It feels good to be beginning right here at home and feeling the effects of it so palpably.

Three years ago: November

Friendship, and owning my power

At the lunch table with my buddies from class last week, someone asked me about a friend that has recently slipped out of my circle in just the last few months. It was a fall-out that was difficult and confrontational, yet very essential for me, because it demanded a level of strength and honesty out of me that I had hitherto not extended to very many relationships. It made me confront some “not so nice” parts of myself that otherwise remain hidden, presenting a “good” but continuously inauthentic self to the world out there. It made me sit with being the “bad guy” in that conversation and situation, and yet be the one that could be honest, take a stand and stick by it.

In many ways it was one of those pivotal events of the last six months that pushed me to embrace parts of my shadow, without which there’s no beginning to step into my full power.

It has taken me many months to accept that the cost of that degree of honesty — the cost of owning my full power — is sometimes the friendship itself. One would like to think that with enough time and healing, repair is possible. But it is not always the case. A great degree of honesty can only pay off if and when the other is strong enough to hold that honesty too. And even though I wasn’t holding out for it, the confirmation that this wasn’t going to happen, was a bitter pill to swallow. Because it meant temporarily facing the empty space that the friend has left behind. Staring at the vacuum where that friendship used to be, and wondering when it will be filled with something else, something hopefully more meaningful, authentic and fulfilling.

Even though I ponder about the coming and going of friends, how dynamics with pretty much all my friends have been altered so much as I figure myself out, every time that there is a development, it is just as bittersweet as it was the very first time. One doesn’t get to acceptance and peace without first going through the initial throes of anger. It’s difficult to reach a place of compassion and forgiveness towards oneself without first submitting to beating myself up a bit. And so I have time and again felt caught up in a loop, wanting freedom, wanting to let people from my past go fully.

And so, in the months since, every time I’ve been triggered by a memory, or a glimmer of something form the past that I have shared with said friend, I have been filled with rage for allowing myself to feel so used and dispensable, self-loathing for not seeing the signs sooner, anger for sometimes sensing them and brushing them aside anyway, regret for allowing fear to take over and for being a pushover, and for “wasting” so many years putting up with inauthenticity.

But somehow that day, for the first time, I found myself very easily, reflexively saying, We’re not friends anymore, without feeling compelled to explain those words. That truth.

Of late, I have seen that I find myself in conversations  about the the difficulties of navigating friendship as an adult, a lot more than before. Every time that it comes up, a little something in me is triggered, and finds a new settlement again. That’s what happened at the lunch table the other day. Then on Sunday, N and I talked about how growing spiritually, continually and deliberately, means letting go of people more frequently than one otherwise would and how it means facing the empty spaces more often. This morning in a reading for D, about friendship, I found myself answering a question I had myself been simmering over for a while — when do you know it’s time to let go?

Coincidentally (but really, these aren’t coincidences anymore) I saw this on The Artidote’s Instagram page, that I visited after literally six months.

Forgive yourself for⁣ all of the relationships⁣ and friendships you settled⁣ for when you weren’t in⁣ your power.

I had realised earlier this morning that all of this has everything to do with feeling and owning one’s own power. The ability to face the truth, to know what you’re holding on to even in a failing friendship, to see the truth about allowing yourself to be “used”, to know when to let go — none of this is truly possible unless I am fully, feet-firmly-in-place feeling my power. Because when the ground beneath my feet shifts from asking some of these questions and facing the answers that emerge, I need to know I can hold myself through it. And not in a delusional way, but in an authentic, compassionate way that allows me to free myself from bitterness, regret and the very notion that I had made a mistake.

One year ago: I need to free my mind and see what I’m feeling

Alive, again

A big part of my journey into meeting myself fully, healing and integrating all parts of myself, has largely involved going back to parts of my childhood and revisiting events and times in my life that my conscious mind has no recollection of. Times that one usually files away in the long forgotten corner of the psyche, possibly because either there was something too frightening/painful/difficult about them to process as a child, or that they made us as children temporarily “adult”, in order to process quickly and “make it alright”.

Initially, every little discovery of even the slightest of pain or difficulty from my childhood, shocked me. The shock was almost always followed by a quick wave of denial, because 1) I genuinely don’t remember a lot of those times and 2) even when I have jogged my memory and accessed my unconscious, I have struggled to accept what has emerged because it has been difficult to acknowledge some of these memories as “painful” — my mind has a great way to paint happy all over a lot of small hurts to retain a larger picture that is “good”, presentable and most importantly, palatable. 

I’ve had to go back, really way back, and meet with my child self over and over and over again. To sit with her, as she was sometimes sad, sometimes lost, sometimes confused, sometimes hurt, sometimes trying to keep it together, sometimes trying to belong, sometimes trying to understand, and really believe that everything I did — both physically/outwardly and emotionally/inwardly — I did from the place of innocence and love as only a child can do. This process has been all kinds of disorienting and distressing, before things began to make sense.

I understand now, that the shock and denial I experienced when revisiting my childhood came from believing that to acknowledge the pain, to make space for it, would be like tainting the largely wonderful, happy and harmonious childhood that I have had the privilege of. Enough years of doing this work, though, has now made me realise that this defence mechanism, to shut down and deny the pain, is also the work of a child who is and has always been deeply emotionally loyal to her parents. So to acknowledge an experience of the contrary is almost like being disloyal, or cheating on them somehow. But what a relief it is to know, as an adult with enough help from professionals whose work it is to hold our hands in navigating these complex dualities and emotions, I can hold them both — the joys and the pain, the easy and the difficult, the ups and downs — equally, without one affecting the other.

Lately, I’ve been looking at some of my childhood pictures, and I’ve been seeing them quite differently. I have rediscovered a connection I had severed somewhere along the way. A connection I had possibly pushed away, in pushing away the pain and the sorrow. An immensely important connection with that child, without whom I can get nowhere in knowing myself as an adult.

Lately, I’ve been looking at some of these pictures from various stages of my life and feeling all kinds of lost memories resurface. I’ve been suddenly seeing myself fully, as that wildly innocent, impish, bright-eyed, curious and easily excitable child that I was. And I’ve been feeling incredibly soft and tender towards her, with great levels of love flooding over.

And quite predictably (because I no longer pass these occurrences off as mere coincidence) pictures from my past have been finding their way to me through unexpected and surprising channels, even when I haven’t been looking for them. The most recent one came in last night from my cousin M. It’s not like we routinely share pictures from the past with each other, so to receive this made me feel an instantly deep, deep connection with the innocence of this child sandwiched in the middle of two older cousins she looked up to and wanted to grow up to be like at that time.

This is my new favourite picture of my childhood. A picture of a moment I have no recollection of. But clearly, I was thrilled then, I feel it just looking at myself.

Lately, I’ve been feeling very much in touch with the innocence and pure-heart that I had as a child. I feel so connected with, and fond of that twinkle in those eyes, the nimble limbs that were so alive and active all the time, the ruffle of curly hair that flopped around messily without a care in the world. And I am deeply aware that the renewed spark I feel for life today, the excitement I have been experiencing for every single day as it blossoms, and the gratitude I feel all the time has everything to do with rediscovering and revitalising this precious connection and holding it tenderly within.

One year ago: Set the controls of the heart of the sun
Three years ago: Holiday reading