Renewed relationships

It’s easy to get that comfortable in a relationship that we feel we have each other all figured out. And maybe we do, to a large extent.

If there’s one thing spending these past 6 weeks in Goa with VC has shown me, it is how refreshing it to also allow for growth, evolution and surprises from your significant other. I’ve been so consumed in my own growth, so much so that I had to physically remove myself from our partnered life and live separately, that I may have forgotten that the space and time apart could have done him wonders too.

In our eleventh year of being married, and almost thirteenth of being together, I’m surprised, humbled and so grateful that there is room for freshness, still. For surprises, for new developments, for renewed excitement, and the possibility of uncharted territory opening up once again.

I did not see this coming. But somehow, here we are.

There’s a lot of surprises that came from this trip. All totally unexpected, some very wild, but I think this has been my favourite surprise of them all.

One year ago: April

Advertisements

All the hearts

I’m in fine company today. Fully receptive, attentive and all eyes on me (and my food).

Funny how I was in their fine company same time last year too.

One year ago: Sweet dreams are made of these

Flow

Yeah, what does it say to me about my community? And where do I go from here?

Yesterday, I was overwhelmed how this message spoke directly to something I spend so much time thinking about — community, connection, friendship, belonging — especially in the context of freshness and newness that I now desire in my life.

It seems like a fitting question to ask myself, and as I see it, it is an invitation to look at things in a new light and possible push myself out of a comfort zone in this regard. Great fodder for thought at a time when I feel I am moving from one phase, one way of being, into another.

One year ago: Stuck in the sunshine riptide
Three years ago: That urban poverty piece that has everybody’s panties in a bunch

35

This has been a pretty significant year for me. But quite unlike significant times in the past that have had an unmistakeable flourish, this has been a quiet sort of significant year, with flecks of change, the tiniest shifts and movements flowing in, unnoticed. The sort of change that mostly only I and the people I am closest to know about or will likely notice.

For far too long I’ve been very shy about admitting how much I love my birthday. But the honest truth is that I love having a day dedicated to me, to look back on how far I’ve come, to give myself a good pat on the back, and to take stock and feel optimistic and really hopeful about the future. I’ve been fortunate to have this happen every single birthday thus far. So, even though I haven’t really admitted it in as many words, my folks, my sister and my husband already know how only too well, how much I love this day. To the rest of the world, I’ve always played the omg-it’s-just-another-day-it-doesn’t-matter act pretty damn well.

So, today is that day again, and I’m off to the beach to celebrate how grateful I am for the gift of another birthday, another year to travel around the sun.

I’m grateful for all that this past year has been — for the lessons it brought, for making me see that growing up sometimes requires looking back, accepting transgressions, grief, hurt, difficulties, but absolutely looking ahead and making amends gently, slowly.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to temporarily disengage from the forced cohabiting arrangement of marriage, and for all the realisations and insights that came out of this experience. It’s been quite the game-changer this past year, enabling me to stretch myself and come into my own. I’m so grateful for VC’s understanding, support and acceptance of this and all that came, and continues to come out of it. I really cherish and hold close his ability to accept me as I am, as much as the woman I am becoming (which I am sure sometimes feels like not at all the woman he married hahahaha), and the constant state of work-in-progress that is our lives at the moment.

I’m grateful for therapy that has so wonderfully tied together the various threads that currently bind my life and being, in a way that no amount of conversation with friends or family can, no amount of reading the best books has, and no amount of trying to figure this out on my own could ever have.

I’m grateful especially for my body. In the past year I have seen what happens to it when I deliberately, totally let go, allowing it to balloon and flourish in surprising ways. I began to notice age in some places — in the way the suppleness and flexibility I took for granted now resists when I push it, the way the skin on my face doesn’t spring back as easily as it used to, the way my digestion has visibly slowed, the tiger stripes that really stand out now, the way getting back to exercise was a bigger uphill task than I ever imagined it could ever be.

And yet, I’m grateful that with a little work, my body still does the things I want to do — whether it’s working my way up to a 5km run again, nailing push-ups again or doing a cartwheel on a whim. Yes, still got it.

I’m grateful for the awareness that all of these changes have come gently, slowly, with little to almost no panic for a change. There has been a very conscious awareness, yes, and it’s made me prioritise taking care of myself and my body in a way that feels very intentional. I’ve always had an eye for eating well, a penchant for fitness and staying fit and healthy, but somehow this feels very different from before when I held many fantastic (unrealistic) notions about my body.

I’m grateful that the rush has died down some. The rush to get somewhere, do this, be that, do more — that constant buzz in my head reminding me of time rushing by and there being so much left to do is dormant for the most part, and I’ve figured out how some tricks to shut it down, when it tends to get active from time to time.

This past year, I re-discovered deliberation. It’s brought a certain slowness and a calm, an ability to move with intention, that has really been another game-changer. It’s made me free-er in choosing which way I want to go, more open in accepting everything that has come my way, and just light and easy going in embracing it all.

A younger me might roll her eyes and scoff at me for turning soft. Maybe she’d balk at how little I hold on to anymore, and how fluid I’ve become. But it is what it is and it seems to work for me.

***

Just one birthday ago I wondered about whether I’ll ever really feel my age. For most of my life I haven’t felt exactly my age. I’ve always felt extremes — either too wise and old beyond my years sometimes, or just so young and naive for my age. This was mostly brought out in situations where I had other people my age to compare with. I’ve lived a large part of my life feeling like I never quite fit right.

This is changing, ever so slowly. I realised recently, that thanks to this newfound comfort I have begun to feel over the course of this past year, I have truly begun to feel my age. Not that I miraculously make myself fit, but that I am comfortable just the way I am, whether I fit or not. And so more often than not, it does feel like I fit.

Nothing feels out of sync, things don’t stick out and irk me as much, differences don’t hinder my experiences. I hold desires for doing more but the desperation to get there fast is slowly fading. I’m re-learning patience all the time. I’m comfortable in my skin, in my body, in the way I am, and the way I feel for the most part.

I don’t know if it’s a function of age or growing up, but I’m keenly aware that my time here is limited. So limited that I feel a strong need to make the most of it. Which is not so say I’ve drawn up a bucket list of impossible things like scuba diving and bungee jumping or visiting 10 countries in the next 10 years, I must tick off. I want to focus my time in spaces that matter to me, on things and people I love and am drawn to. I want to try and always say what I absolutely mean, be more honest, articulate and truthful in the relationships that matter, and try more and more to tell those people just how much they really mean to me.

I’m being constantly shown how often I need to redefine the many catch words that I hold on to — markers of things that are important to me — Peace. Success. Happiness. Care. Love. Strength. Joy. I’ve also learned that happiness and joy is not, and never needs to be, linked with perfection. Or success. Of any kind.

I am mostly bumbling along and stumbling over myself along this journey, but if there’s one thing I’m truly proud of, it’s how much I have been able tame that inner perfectionist in me. I’m grateful for having learned that it’s okay to change my mind. I’ve embraced softness as far as possible, in every area of my life that I can — softness with people, towards myself, with my body, with my dreams, with my emotions. I don’t see the need to be the kind of strong or hard that I once aspired to be.

This past year I relinquished control over the grand plans, a lot. Life has become so much about living the small everyday things, cheering myself on for the little wins, revelling in mundane daily happinesses and the utter smallness of it all. I’ve really been feeling this is where that joy — that I’ve so long believed lies in chasing the grand plans, the big picture, the distant future — is at. Right here. Now.

The nowness of life hits me on a daily basis, and it stays and lingers in a way that has made me feel very, very secure and steady. I put this down entirely to the course I did last year that altered my compass, pointed me closer to my true north. It’s made me see things so very differently, shifting my very perspective on everything, on life itself, 180 degrees. And there is just no unseeing it, no turning back. It has been like opening the curtains on a view I’ve known all along, but suddenly everything is brighter and beautiful.

Year 36, I’m so very ready for you.

Past birthdays: one year ago, three years ago, four years ago, five years ago, six years ago, seven years ago, eight years ago, nine years ago.

Acceptance

It’s been nearly a month since I made a sudden, unplanned departure and came to Goa. It has been an interesting, sometimes challenging month since, for VC and for the both of us. We’ve been mostly going about life, letting things unfold and pass in their own time. There have been some tremendous changes for me, during this time, and it has been interesting to see evidence of old patterns fall to the side, making way for new ways of being. As individuals, of course, but we’ve also seen how much that impacts what we bring to the table as a couple and how our relationship can change for the better. The biggest learning for me here, is how much work I have to do in taking him as he is, for the person he is, knowing where to let go, understanding what is not in my control, and that so often my love and adoration (no matter how well-meaning) for him cramps his style.

So this is yet another appreciation post. For VC. For many, many things — and I don’t want to go into listing them. But mostly for his mammoth levels of patience and acceptance of me, in taking me just the way I am. In all my ever-changing, ever-growing glory.

For as much as I chide him for being impatient, in a rush and for how he never gives anyone a proper chance in life in general, somehow, with me he is this gentle, patient being, with an immense capacity to just let me be, and watch from a distance while also always having my back.

Everything that I have been going through on my own has not all been easy for him, or on him. Not immediately and certainly not in the moments as they happen. So I like to take pauses like this, to pull back and to really acknowledge the goodness in him that makes so much of being me possible. If today I believe I have the space t be this version of me, it is because he has absolutely made space and accepted it. And for this, he has had to grow in slow and silent ways on his own too. I love you, VC. I don’t know how you do it, but time and time again, you do.

One year ago: Looking back, over my shoulder

Belonging

I’ve been thinking about belonging a whole lot these past few weeks, and how much it has everything to do with finding clarity about what you can and cannot live with, as much as it is about realising what you absolutely need in your life right now. As I sit in Goa, every day tossing about a new sense of comfort in this very space that has been a source of anxiety and has tested me for too long now, I actually have found more and more clarity about where I truly belong, and what makes me feel at home. Right now, that is Bangalore. Because in Bangalore, I have all the things I need at this present moment in my life, to feel safe, secure, worthy, happy and most of all…like I belong.

S and I have been directly and indirectly talking about this a whole lot. And just this morning I said to her, this idea that what I want is tied to a place has dictated my movements for so long now, and I am only now realising how limiting it has been to diminish this discovery to geography alone. Very soon after relocating from Goa to Bangalore two years ago, I realised what I was really in search of was absolutely not related to the city I was in or where I was going to. It had everything to do with me, what was going on with me, and how I would choose to respond to those inner cues. That shift in perspective has made all the difference and has been so enriching.

And so while I use Bangalore and Goa as markers to distinguish two very separate parts of my journey, the real journey has been with myself. I’ve said many times before, how every small step, every big milestone in the two years since, the little changes, the monumental shifts, all feel like taking one step closer to coming home to myself. And that’s what true belonging has come to mean to me. To know myself, to dig deeper into an authentic experience of being me, to find comfort in all that I hold within.

At this point, VC is on a similar path too, and it’s fascinating to watch what is emerging for him, and how it is so similar to my own journey from 3-4 years ago. As much as I have been talking about this — with VC, with S, with D — in direct and tangential ways, and as much as I have tossed thoughts about in my head on my own time, I realise this idea of belonging and all the acrobatics we do to understand it and get behind it has been a huge preoccupation for me in recent time.

In my own life, in my body, in my being, I have sensed a change too. And it is undoubtedly having a massive impact on the relationships in my life. Both, really close and immediate, and those that are on the fringes threatening to fall away. This is natural. This is a byproduct of knowing belonging in oneself. It is frighteningly isolating and empowering all at once. I have struggled to talk about this coherently, choosing to talk instead about everything from exercise and food, to plants and the beach.

So imagine my surprise, and relief, to wake up this morning to this beautiful piece of writing by N, that put into exact words just what I have been feeling viscerally these past few weeks. This has been the journey for as long as I remember, before I even gave it actual conscious meaning and an actual place in my life. This search for worthiness, for love, for purpose — has all been about finding a place to belong. And I have spent so long trying to look for it all over, in places, in cities, in people, in groups, when all along I was right here waiting to welcome myself. N recaps this journey — coming home to myself — succinctly, touching every emotion that I’ve felt, every milestone, and beautifully conveys how scary yet exciting the journey has been.

It has been like bursting forth to new life. Like blooming anew. Like shedding skin. Like finding new reserves of self and self-worth. Like growing.

Sharing her words here, with permission.

You’ve felt unworthy of love your whole life so you cling onto anything that will help you feel accepted, loved, and respected.

Anything.

Friends who don’t feel like friends but meet social requirements for friendship.

Careers that don’t fulfill the soul but look and feel shiny and successful on the outside.

Dysfunctional relationships with people who seem to dole out bite size portions of respect and love .. but  only when you meet their expectations.

Money, power, expertise, a beautiful face, a fit body, your work, toxic relationships, social circles hold you hostage. All because they make you feel like you will hear the magic words one day: I love you. You are worthy.

Well-meaning loved ones seem puzzled by your constant need to be right, to be praised and to get credit for anything and everything you do right.

Then one day you decide you’ve had enough.

You stop trying so hard. You begin to tune out the noise and look for worthiness within yourself. Turns out there was enough within you and you didn’t need to go out looking for it in all the wrong places.

You begin showing up as yourself in the world: self assured & confident yet vulnerable and authentic. Love and acceptance begin finding you from unexpected places.

A stranger sees the light in you minutes after meeting you.

New relationships come together out of thin air – they satisfy your every need and make you feel supported and held. Like you always hoped you would be held.

Some old relationships take on a new meaning and depth.

You begin finding what you’re passionate about and what makes your soul sing not sigh.

You hope your newfound wisdom will help you mend all your wounds from the past. But you find that the residual pain, the wounds, the scar tissue will take a long time to heal.

The loved ones, the society, the work fraternity, the workout buddies – your former source for scraps of love have moved on without you.

They could throw you a bone while you hustled for their love but now that you’ve given up on that game you don’t meet their expectations.

You’re surrounded by love but it’s hard to give up seeking approval from the same old places. The places where you know you won’t find your worthiness.

This hurts. You howl in pain. Your wounds awaken and torment you. “If only they loved me as much as I want them to” you tell yourself between sobs.

You’ve been through this before. Looking for love and worthiness in the wrong place.

But this time is different.

You’ve already found a well spring of love and acceptance  inside you. It would be wonderful to have it pour in from everywhere but the amount you need is right there in your heart.

No more no less.

Life and its players will continue to fail you with their expectations and conditions on love.

That’s their role in your life.

They are here to remind you that they are a poor substitute for that undying love you can feel for yourself.

One year ago: Just a stirring in my soul
Two years ago: More books and a mini Bangalore update

Three years ago: Mean things I want to say out loud but cant

Plant babies

It’s official. I have a new problem interest.

Monday began with a drive to drop VC off to work, because he was off to Bombay for the day. On the way back, I swung by the lovely nursery I’ve been going to almost every weekend since I’ve been here. I cannot help it. It is one of the nicest nurseries I’ve ever seen, is so large and well organised and just so calming just to walk through it. And it’s dangerously just five minutes away from home.

I came back with this loot, some more empty pots and couldn’t wait to get home and get my hands dirty again. I spent a couple of hours repotting the new babies I got, shifting some old plants into bigger, new pots and making a few adjustments.

An old, familiar excitement is back. The painfully testing but thrilling test of patience and the never-ending fascination with how plants grow is back. There is a quiet happiness in beginning my day with opening out the balcony and checking on my plants — seeing what as sprouted, observing tiny white tender shoots slowly creep up one milimeter at a time from the soil that holds the seeds so snug, seeing the gradual way in which buds become flowers, how dying withering leaves give way to bright green new ones, which plants are fighters and keep going even when the water runs out and the sun is beating down on them (bougainvillea, incase you’re wondering) and most of all how much just a little involvement and attention can make such a big difference.

The first batch of plants I’d set up when VC moved in were all but dead, with just the two bougainvillea and one tiny plant hanging on to dear life, when I arrived three weeks ago. Today, they’re all doing well again. And I promise, all it has taken is a little attention every day. I don’t claim I understand gardening or know what I’m doing even. This time around though, I am enjoying observing and figuring things out as I go. I guess that takes involvement and that involvement makes a difference?

Sooner or later, it will be time to go back to Bangalore, and I’m already feeling FOMO about looking after these new babies.

One year ago: You know it used to be mad love

Postcard from staycation – 1

Salt water, sea spray and soothing sand therapy – that’s what the weekend was about.

We were meant to check out and bid the family farewell today. Because we were so sure a day was all we’d be able to take of this organised fun. But I suppose there’s space now for new surprises.

We’re staying a whole extra day. And I’m not even complaining.

We’re just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl, year after year.

***

Three years ago: Satisfaction

Making space

Some recent developments in a couple of relationships in my life have had me react in a way that is very new for me. Where there was once a need to immediately let go (read: discard) when things were on rocky turf, I have observed that I am now able to let things go (read: let them be). And wait and watch a bit, patiently.

There’s been a lot of talk about reclaiming space for myself. And I have been feeling this palpably in everything I do. Today I realised that this too, is a manifestation of claiming space, making my space, drawing a boundary and having a very clear idea of what I am and am not willing to do any more.

Something has changed, yet again. I have changed, yet again. And I feel it in the difference between the way in which some old relationships were severed with every effort made to discard them, versus just letting things be now, without assigning a definite label, without making unnecessary meaning of every action or mission action, and without forcing a conclusion as to where these relationships now stand.

I feel a little bit more graceful in the way I am with people. It isn’t so much about putting my own needs first as it is about just acknowledging that sometimes more often than not I have a need too. And that sometimes, it is quite the opposite to what I end up feeling compelled to say/do.

I have been sensing the end is nigh with a few relationships in my life. But the refreshing difference this time around is how this impending loss, while heartbreaking, doesn’t grip me with fear. I see it in how I am no longer rushing, throwing myself into a dramatic tizzy of exchange of words to have a definite conclusion. I feel a patience and grace about letting things be.

Today, I realised this is what normal people call holding space. I’m merely holding my space, for a change. It is essential space to let people do the work they want or don’t want to do, depending on whether the feel the need to do it or not.

I’m also seeing how this holding of space is playing out differently in different relationships in my life. It’s so telling to note the relationships where I take the liberty to push and pull the boundaries of space, where it comes naturally and comfortably, and where I feel absolutely no inclination to. So many clues all the time about where I stand with some people vis a vis others.

I had a sobering, settling session of therapy today where I was quiet a lot, for a change. This, and many more new developments came to light. It’s been a while since I felt like I am at a milestone, where I had a clear sense of progress or movement into a more authentic, whole sense of self. This is a largely lonely, self-motivated journey. There are no markers of progress, no cheerleaders, no incentives to keep going even. No paycheck at the end of the month. No encouraging pats on the back. There is no right or wrong way, everything goes. Most of all it is a deeply solitary journey that will not let me forget that I have nothing to prove to anybody. Not even myself.

So to have a glimmer, just a tiny hint, of something small beginning to change is like holding a world of promise carefully in my hands. It stirred the same excitement and satisfaction that gardening did the other day. Much like with waiting for the seedlings to sprout to new life, breaking ground and reaching out for the wide open, now begins ultimate test of patience, compassion and kindness with letting myself unfurl and see which way I want to go next.

One year ago: Forever in-between
Two years ago: Serendipity
Three years ago: Mondays like this

Chance encounters

One of my big fears about coming back to Goa used to be facing some of the people I left behind when I moved. I say left behind because it’s what I did. My moving cities coincided with a gradual moving away from certain people. It was an inevitable, gradual shift in my mind, but I can see now how and why it must have seemed to them like an abrupt kind of abandoning. And so every time that I am here, I wonder about what it might be like to meet them again. Goa is a small place, and thanks to my workplace, my freelance work, the gym I went to my circles were all very mixed and I was in a social space where everybody knew everybody (that in itself was too much for me, and a big reason why I just wanted out). On past trips here, I’ve been unusually stressed about possible encounters, getting riled up at hearing about things they’ve said about me post my leaving, and such. But I underestimate myself, and the capacity of enough time having passed and the wonders it can do for growth.

It is my tendency to protect myself when I feel vulnerable and my insecurities are exposed, and so in the past I may have done things like measured and calculated my wandering within Goa in the hope that I do not encounter someone I do not want to meet. I didn’t realise when this phase had passed, because on day 1 here, I didn’t even think twice about walking to VC’s office and waiting at the entrance for him. This was unthinkable last year. I was engrossed in an email when a friend from back in the day approached me with a tap on the shoulder. I turned, and when I saw it was her, I instantly expected a wave of panic and rage to come over me.

But it didn’t come.

We chatted, exchanging mundane pleasantries. And then she said those dreaded words.

Let’s catch up sometime.

Again, I waited for the polite response to make its way out with extra faked gusto: Sure!

But it didn’t come.

In its place was a measured, polite It’s alright.

And maybe I was saying that more to myself than her? It’s alright to be me. It’s alright to be honest. It’s alright not to put myself in a place I know will not make me feel good. It’s alright not to want the company of people I have chosen to move away from. It’s alright.

I’m grateful for whatever it is that’s happening with me that has suddenly brought forth this ability to put myself first. Even if in little, seemingly minor ways. I’m enjoying cutting away a lot of the unnecessary politeness, that stemmed from wanting to be seen and known in a certain light, fall away. I am grateful for the openness to discover this confidence to be seen as I am.

Sometimes distant. Sometimes impolite. Sometimes aloof. I am all these things sometimes, and it’s been freeing to let these sides be seen too.

***

With VC, I feel like I’ve come home to a whole new-old person. Does that make sense? Do you know what it’s like to know someone, deep in your bones and be so familiar and used to it that when a big change strikes it sweeps you over and knocks you down just like the charm you felt the very first time you met them? Maybe he’s changed as much as I have and I needed to be here to really see it. Maybe I’ve changed and I had to be here to see how it all plays out and what possibilities it now opens up for us? Maybe this is the beginning of something new and there was no way to unlock it than to come here. I’m grateful for the visible changes. I’m grateful for VC. I’m glad I came.

***

The very next day after I got to Goa, I visited A who has suddenly taken very ill. Last week, I sat in Bangalore, worried sick, helplessly wondering what I could do to make a difference. Distance is such a bitch at times like this. I’ll be there in two weeks. I’d said to JC then, feebly, feeling so inadequate and hopeless for not being able to be around when they’re dealing with so much on their own.

I guess it was just meant to be because here I am two weeks ahead of plan, and A got out of the ICU and came back home the same night that I landed. Which meant, I could see her immediately.

I know I went there for her. To be present, to offer support, to check in on her. But it was oddly fulfilling for me. There is an openness and welcoming nature she has that always, always makes me feel so warm and happy. I think even if 20 years go by and we meet again, I will feel this again. As I often worry about friends in Goa and having to start over in a pool that is already small, made smaller still by my very efficient first round of selection, I’m grateful for people like A who make me time and time again feel that it will be okay.

***

Of course I also went to visit D, Olive and Lego on day 1. The pups greeted me with exuberant jumping and many licks, hyper sniffing and loud demands for biscuits. All of this lasted much longer than usual. I am tempted to say it was the doggy bag of tandoori chicken that was parcelled in my bag, but I also want to say maybe it’s just that they remember me. And they are always so unabashed in showing that they remember, and welcome me back home. As per the norm, D and I chatted on and on and as per the norm, I caused her to miss her siesta again.

I like that we can pick up from wherever, whenever. Despite being emotionally all over the place in our own respective ways of late, I like that the prolonged silences do not get in the way. I’m truly grateful that I don’t have to pretend, or make extra overtures to bridge them. I can be what I am, the way I am and we still have a world of things to talk about, or sit in silence together, equally.

***

I know why I resisted coming here sooner than planned so much. It’s because the circumstances brought out these latent fears full force, and I was just not ready to face them. But today I think maybe I needed this. As much as VC did. Because it’s been just a few days and, I felt it the very next morning. I felt like something very fundamental that I was missing in the last few weeks has suddenly been found.

In many ways I feel like I have come full circle, and I feel today, like I did one day two years ago when I finally made some sense (and peace) with moving to Bangalore.

I just had a strangely serendipitous conversation with VC about how sometimes one has to really go the distance to learn something very basic. It seems like an unnecessary journey, and sometimes the upheaval seems disproportionate to the truth learned, but it is how it is.

One year ago: A life of stranger things
Three years ago: Busy bee day

New ground

It’s going to be six months since VC moved to Goa and I decided to stay on in Bangalore. I have travelled here a lot, and we have actually not been apart for very long periods during this time. But even so, I feel it has impacted us in many positive ways.

Sometimes I feel I cannot get enough of this solitary life and I lose myself in thoughts about the future, the worry that this blissful new-found joy will come to a premature end eating me up. But there are also moments when I miss the everyday togetherness of our life, the comfort and intimacy of a life together, the familiarity in a rhythm that renders words redundant, makes mere movements suffice, and I long to be with VC enough to want to impulsively buy an overpriced ticket to fly off immediately.

I suppose those are the two most obvious, yet opposing feelings. They both exist, and accepting that two equally has been a journey in itself. Nonetheless, this time away and apart has been transformative for me. I have had the luxury of a support system, a city that I have grown to love and that really works for me just now, three homes to choose from, and abundant company and bodies around me whether or not loneliness strikes. VC on the other hand, has lived the truly solitary life, shuttling between work and his home-for-one, and pretty much staying afloat all on his own in the way he knows how. The experiences and effects of each have been drastically different for the both of us.

Our lives now look entirely different. Not just from the way they used to be when we lived together, but also from the way each others lives as individuals are. And one of the things I have enjoyed observing is how far apart our disparate lives can and have moved. Conversely, thoughts about whether they might meet again, and when and how that might be, follow close after.

Back in 2016 when we first contemplated the idea of living apart to see what a little space could do for us, VC was the first to suggest it. I wanted to move to another country and VC was undecided. I wasn’t entirely ready for the distance. I was open, but apprehensive. I’ve ended potential relationships in the past because long distance relationships frightened the hell out of me. So to actively choose this of our own volition, when it would be the easiest thing for us to just be together has been interesting.

As I work on myself, I’m slowly discovering the many, many misconceptions I have about the idea of space. In life, in relationships, in my physical world. What it is to give and take emotional space? How can I make space for love change and growth and all the many things I want in my life, even as I give of myself to people and things around me? As I navigate my way, finding new sense and context to the aspect of space, I realise the work is in finding what works for the person I am today.

I’ve watched in fascination as the changes have slowly crept in. Into my life, into some key relationships in my life, into my marriage, and certainly into my physical world too. Whether it’s the little act of taking up two cupboards instead of one, or going out all on my own, how I carry myself, how I feel within the space my body occupies, or feeling unabashedly, righteously upset to have the flow of my routine upset by this unexpected travel — I’m seeing surprising shifts all the time.

***

The predominant reason for the muddle of anxiety and fear that I have unconsciously harboured over the last few weeks has been the sinking feeling (almost a premonition) that sooner or later something will happen to make me move to Goa. And it’s something I am not ready to do, yet. I’m not done soaking up all the space I’ve made for myself. Whether physically — enjoying living alone, exploring my city and my interests on my own, travelling, or even emotionally and spiritually — experiencing what it is to be alone sometimes, lonely sometimes, how it is to be tethered to relationships even as I hold my space and play with re-making  boundaries in this new reality.

In essence, this time apart has given me the space to be me again. The me I’d blended away and mushed up into marital roles, gender stereotypes, stuffed into the only kind of life I knew to live in Goa (where my adult and partnered lives both really began). The time apart has given me the space to dig out old facets of me that lay in hibernation, and it has given life to new facets to emerge, alike. Sometimes, on an idle moment when I catch myself saying or doing something I would deem so “uncharacteristic” of me, I take myself by surprise. Quickly, I remind myself that perhaps this is in fact not our of character at all. It is characteristic of the me I am now.

The claiming of space, cultivating it and nurturing it slowly over the last many months has been precious. Through therapy, writing and constant witnessing of my life, I have built this step by step. And I’m only getting started,

So the fear is real. The fear 0f having to lose this new, hard-won space, freedom and being, so quickly. I’ve only just dipped my toes in, and I want to deep dive in this, still. So the question arises again — when and how will our disparate lives meet again? And can they meet without either of us blending away into each other once again? What impact could a life bound by a certain geography (Goa) have on me? Will it bring back the inherent compromises to my life that it did back then? Or will this new me navigate these same spaces differently this time around?

***

Just two days ago when I was experiencing heightened anxiety, I felt hollowed out and like I was melting away, at the mere thought of what this sudden trip to Goa means, and if maybe it’s the beginning of the inevitable move that looms large. As I fought it hard and even as I found myself digging my heels in, I had vivid images of having to jump back into a life and an existence that feels so small and constricted, that I wanted to do nothing but dissolve and disappear through the gaps and cracks.

But the new me has surprised me yet again. Just two days of being here already, there has surprisingly been no talk of moving back (in a hurry or otherwise). I find myself at peace. Where I felt hollow and like I was dissolving, I now feel full and alive. The shaky ground beneath my feet now feels solid and sturdy. I’m here now. I don’t have to run.

In the smallest ways, I can feel my body adapting to what it is to really be with someone, to share space, without having to dissolve myself or melt away to make space. I’m discovering what it is to be a support for another, without destabilising myself, how it’s possible to relate but not at the expense of myself. I can be whole, even as I am with the other. I can be myself, even as I am being there for the other. And what a frighteningly refreshing way to be this is.

For now, I’m taking small sips at it, rather than rushing to gulp this experience down greedily. I’m taking tender, gentle steps, my body slowly taking shape and space, yet again. I feel like this is a whole new opportunity to grow, yet again.

One year ago: March
Three years ago: Because everything is never as it seems

Love-filled

I feel soft and full of love today.

***

Today, I cooked the first proper meal all by myself in my home. I’ve had the extreme, extreme luxury of hopping over to my parents place for every single meal since I got back from holiday over ten days ago. Between feeling disoriented and resuming a killer workout schedule that has rendered my movement in the rest of the day a little compromised, and a whole week of hectic social activities, I have unabashedly leaned on amma and her unrelenting capacity to give and keep giving. Whether it’s hot meals, breakfast every single day, her car whenever I need it (which has been every day these days *eyeroll*) and just generally being that fall back I always have. It has meant I didn’t have to stock up my kitchen till yesterday, I didn’t have to worry about my nutrition as I stepped into the 6-week program, I didn’t have to do a thing other than show up and be fed with wholesome, nutritious food.

S is coming over for lunch today, so I decided to cook rather than order in or go out. While cooking this morning, I realised that to be able to slip into domesticity as and when I feel like, rather than bound by necessity is such a game-changer at this present time of my life. This is one of the big issues I fought in Goa, right before I left. I felt bound and tied down by some parts of domesticity, and constantly felt like doing them was keeping me from doing the things I really wanted to. I feel grateful for the proximity to my parents that allows this, for amma’s constant presence and support in ways I don’t even have to ask for, and for how life sometimes conspires to make possible the smallest, seemingly insignificant details of my life a reality, and for how hugely that impacts my life.

***

I woke up this morning feeling fresh as a new summer day. I’ve been having some incredibly good sleep since resuming working out harder. My digestion feels more settled, my skin feels better — these, and some other small niggling physical changes in my system that had begun to creep up last year seem to be on the wind-down. It’s amazing what a little extra movement, some essential burning of excess energy and regulation in food and hydration can do. I’m grateful for another opportunity to workout with S. For the new sneakers I got this past week. For access to a gym so close to home. For summer mornings that make waking up easier. For VC’s constant, unquestioning support in this area of my life.

One year ago: Somebody holds the key
Three years ago: Silence

As Goa as it gets

I have an internal map of Goa in my mind. And it is riddled with pins dropped in every nook and cranny of the state — places that dot the landscape of the entire memory I have of the place. Not just physical spaces, locations, but places that evoke feelings, feelings that bring back memories, memories that draw out faces of people I knew and know. And because I am sentimental, that map is alive and thriving, getting updates in real time. Even when a memory is sometimes somewhat hazy, it takes very little for it to jog itself back to the fore, brightening up like a bulb turned on suddenly. A mere mention of that fish thali, a faint passing recollection of that one monsoon 100 km cycle ride, an aching memory of the countless Sunday evening G&Ts at my favourite sunset spot, the joy of that urrak smuggled from the neighbourhood restaurant — and just so many other things — all come rushing back to life.

For the entire duration of the two years that I have been away, I haven’t been able to conclusively decide where I belong. If Goa was a home that I have left, or if Bangalore was always the home that I have returned to.

My life in Goa (and every single thing about my experience here) is so key to my sense of self and who I am, even after all that has happened and after two years of living away, that I sometimes feel I’m split in half. Rendered perpetually torn.

The real-time map in my head makes me feel like I know Goa like the back of my hand. And I do. It’s here where the streets are wide open, the coconut trees stretching over to meet, the salty breeze and muggy air that is so quintessentially special to here, that I’ve roamed around so much all by myself. Driving to faraway beaches, scoping out eateries in distant nooks, seeking out stories and interviews with people doing interesting things, visiting friends in places all the way down south, staying alone on assignment in strange and fascinating hotels, and so much more. I took most, almost all, of these trips alone. They’ve contributed to who I am. And the map is a reminder of all that I’ve been and felt in the years gone through.

There are the parts that signal the newness. A decade old bittersweet semi-excited, semi-shitting-bricks euphoria. My first home, the store right outside that refused to deliver milk to my door, the pao-bhatti that I frequented ever so often. There is the drive down Miramar to office to work. My first workplace in Goa that would be the longest I’ve ever been employed. The days of trying to walk back home in an attempt to get some exercise again. Stopping at our favourite bars on the way home and making last minute plans so everybody would congregate. Endless meals of greasy Chinese and too much consumption of alcohol and other narcotics.

There is the spot that marks fond memories of barbecues past. Of jumping into pools with my jeans on. Of gathering 65 bottles of beer when we were done.

There’s remnants of memories from that daily beach running that eventually wrecked my knees. Of finding a gym that made me fall in love with weights. Of discovering kick boxing and finding true love in my trainers there.

There’s the years spent writing and writing and writing. Blogging. Professionally. Reviewing restaurants. Food blogging. Home baking. Cake selling. Full-time freelancing. The whole nine yards.

There were three home changes. Each home giving me a set of special things to love. Th smallness of the first one matched perfectly with our cluelessness. The open green field view in the second. And priceless neighbours and a promise of the hidden recluse in me in the third.

There was the brush with learning to salsa, jive and bachata. There were innumerable different groups of acquaintances and some friends. Plenty more people I met and knew through work. And the inevitable clashing of all circles and the world closing in.

There was angst about the ex workplace. There was angst about knowing too many people. There was angst about running out of work. There was angst about inadequate internet speeds. There was angst about having to work too hard as a writer reporting in Goa. There was angst about being the lonely isolated writer in my den.

There were the silent noise parties in Palolem, the projector parties every monsoon, the rooftop movie marathons, the holidays bhaang parties and the office Diwali parties. There were the Friday morning visits to Mapusa market, the Sunday morning fish market jaunts, chasing the sunrise at Divar, cycling to save my life all over Goa.

There was so much. Each phase, each year, each stage a page in my Goan chronicles. And in so many ways I feel I’ve lived in so many different Goas. The map in my mind, is very real. It’s as Goa as it gets for me.

***

Today, I had a quintessentially Goa day. A thali for lunch with A, some aimless wandering in our old haunts, window-shopping for export rejects and fighting a nap because we had too much to talk about. An unexpectedly extended evening there also meant another round at the market. I always feel crippled by nostalgia there, seeing the fisherwomen with their baskets laden with fish lined along the streets. So wistfully I stepped towards one of them and pulled out my phone to snap a picture fully expecting her to smile. Except she rolled up the newspaper she was reading and swatted me on my shin, startling me completely. I nearly dropped my phone in shock and had to make a run for it.

Serves me right for making like an annoying tourist.

Even as I was startled, it was such an endearingly hostile move. It made me grin wide. That’s just such a Goa thing to happen! I thought. And it might have been the highlight of my very Goa day, if I hadn’t wound up at the carnival square where the red and white dance for the year was about to begin. It’s carnival week here in Goa and I didn’t anticipate I’d head to the thick of the action, eat beef croquettes, fish cutlets and drink Urak out of a Thailand-style bucket, all while listening to Maria Pitache.

Two urraks down, laced with slit green chillies, lots of lime and a good dash of salt, and a grilled beef wrap in me, I think this entire day, today, is as Goa as it gets.

That map just stretched itself a little bit more today, and wrapped itself around me.

One year ago: Hit the road, Jack 
Two years ago: Kitchen soup for the homesick soul
Three years ago: Why Facebook just feels like a lot of noise

Like waking up again

Unlearning the ways of my adult mind and psyche has proven to be equal parts fascinating and frustrating. Trying and liberating. It has felt like a struggle and a joy. But every little bit that I go deeper, every step of the way, I know I am that much closer to my authentic self.

I came into this workshop with little idea of what specifically I wanted to address. It wasn’t so much a lack of clarity as it was an openness to whatever it may be that comes up for me. And I am so grateful that I have so unexpectedly chanced upon the idea of play. As something that is so simple at its core, yet has the capacity to profoundly change my life at this point.

The road ahead seems bright and open, rather than heavy and taxing like it does at times, even as I have been on the path to heal, integrate and look ahead.

***

E. A. T.

S. L. E. E. P.

C. O. N. N. E. C. T.

One year ago: Let it blow through you, don’t let it move you
Two years ago: Roads and Kingdoms
Three years ago: Playtime

To heal

There is no wisdom in a clenched up heart.
No solace or comfort, even, as I had imagined.

I shut my heart out, and I let my brain lead the way.
Somewhere along the way though, I realised I’ve led myself astray.

I hungered for all the answers,
I unpacked the layers, I dug deep
And I found a heart closed so tight,
it would not keep.

So now, I’ve dropped the weight of the questions.
There is no wisdom in a clenched up heart.
No answers or insights, even.

What a relief it is to let more things go,
to watch, observe and be a part of all that comes to be
As a bystander and a participant alike.

Some things just are
It is what it is
It is. As it is.

There is no wisdom in a clenched up heart.
No “right” meanings, even.

I hungered for all the answers,
To know it all, to process it
To do the deep work of fixing.
Only to realise I am magic, just as I am
Nothing is perfect, but nothing needs fixing.

So now, I’ve dropped the weight of the questions.
Because there is no wisdom in a clenched up heart.

And so, I’ve watched how, once closed like a bud
it now has the space to unfurl,
With gusts and bursts sometimes,
Sometimes, nudged on by a sweet breeze
Sometimes, encouraged by gossamer morning light.

Inside, I’ve found a soul of laughter
Held by bones thick with joy
Glued together with layer upon layer of memories.

I peek within, now and again
And suddenly, I am not afraid.

There is space to move
To grow, to breathe, to revel in the dark spaces
As much as to stretch in the sunshine

And every time that I stretch,
My soul expands a little
My bones crack, my skin is supple
My body, it is accommodating
Like a glove that longs to be used.

There is no wisdom in a clenched up heart
It was born to unfurl, to stretch, to grow,
To know that at the heart of it,
this is me.
To go through it all.
To hurt, to crack,
to be stabbed, to melt, and to heal.

Time and time again, to heal.

One years ago: Make me somewhere I can call a home