Days like these

With every passing day, a little bit of the fog lifts, the clouds part, and every day I feel that much better than I did the day before. Every single file day also tells me just a little bit more about how challenging the past few weeks have been, in retrospect.

Today, I feel like the light is shining through.

Today, I realised my primary internal response to stress is to freeze to the point of shutting down. Now I know it clearly because of how I experience it internally as a physical disconnection between my mind and body. Externally it translates into feeling paralyzed and unable to move, which translates to things like making absolutely no movement or progress on things that I know need to be done. I watch as time passes and deadlines are fast approaching, my mind feels anxious and yet my body is unable to respond to do anything about it. And the disconnect gets wider still This is how it has been for the past 5-6 weeks now.

Today, I also realised that because there has been a lot happening in my life, I have been trying extra hard to peg the inner unsettledness to these events. I’ve been trying to make sense of it in that way. When actually it is entirely possible that what is actually unsettling me in this deep way, in an internal shift, at a level that is almost cellular and somatic, that is happening outside of the uncertainties of my outer life. I cannot put a finger on this no matter how hard I try. And so I must stop. I just give up trying to make sense of it entirely and give in to flowing with it instead.

***

Yesterday was Guru Poornima and uncannily (or maybe this is not uncanny at all) I thought back to all the people who have played the role of mentors and influencers in the last few years of my life. I wouldn’t say I had a very great run with teachers in school and college, with barely two teachers worthy of remembering coming to kind. But in my adulthood I’ve had a lot of people influence me and shape the nature and direction in which I have grown, particularly in the last few years. I did a round of letters to thank some of them around my birthday. But today feels like a fitting day to think of my lineage, to my literal lifelines from whom I have received the very gift of this life itself.

Without them, complete with all their perfect imperfections, and all that they did and all the ways in which they had to be in order to survive, so I could thrive, I’d never have come this far, or live this life in this way. It feels like an immense gift, a source of so much life and wisdom packed into it.

Yesterday I lamented the fact that sometimes I wonder if I really have the permission of my family to be where I am and go on this path that I am. I questioned why any of this was even necessary and for a brief moment filled with self doubt, wondered if maybe this is all for naught. Today, I feel the unflinching support, verbal and felt, said and unsaid, and a good day to recognise the source, the beginning of it all, the lineage and the very line down which all that I am and have has come to be. It’s was a day for teachers, and I’ve begun to believe that there is no greater teacher than life itself, so it is that which I am most grateful for, first and foremost.

***

Today, I posted this reading for D and as I was writing it out, the message seemed so much for me as it was for the world outside. I have been so in over my head, and feeling so heavy on the inside, while also wanting so desperately to drop the heaviness and step into the light that is there, waiting.

Today feels like a good day for change. Today feels like a good day, for a change.

One year ago: Always somewhere, miss you where I’ve been

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In case you haven’t gathered already, whether I’ve explicitly stated it or not, it’s been a heavy couple of weeks weeks. Not to say it’s been outright down and out. We have made it through with our fair share of laughs. I was in Goa for the most part, amply bolstered by VC and my sister, being around whom, I realised just softens all the hard knocks for me. You know, there are some folks who make any situation better? I think VC and Niyu are those folks for me. So much so that it wasn’t until VC left to come be with his folks, Niyu went back to her routine, and I had a day all to myself that the full impact of just how heavy and overwhelming everything really was, caught up with me.

It’s been pouring buckets in Goa, the kind of weather I love. And I was all in to sit back and enjoy it. But the day VC left for Bangalore, I had a realisation that for now, he is the only remaining connect I feel with the place, the only reason I can get myself to spend any time in Goa at all. Without him around, even the rain, the solitude, the freedom felt a bit insipid and pointless. Because as soon as he left, I was all Okay what am I doing here ya very nice rain amazing weather beautiful lush green nice nice but can I just be with him thanks?

And so, it was also easier to follow and spontaneously book myself a ticket to come back to Bangalore a few days after.

Once here, felt ably supported to just do what I came here to do — to dive right in and be there for VCs family, sans distractions, because amma provided all meals — everything from hot rasam and rice, aloo buns to snack on, idli-vadas from our favourite breakfast spot — even though she is down with the flu herself. It meant I didn’t have to think about stocking up, cooking or managing anything at home, especially given that VC was recovering from the flu at home.

I managed to also squeeze in meeting with S for breakfast. It was meant to be quick and breezy, but it became a relaxed, drawn-out catch up because a turn of events allowed it.

I’m realising the importance to lean on my own resources and to take care of myself, so I can be there for others. The idea of giving from a full cup and all that. To recognise and acknowledge my support system, even if to myself. All the things — people, my routine and habits, comfort foods — that help me stay afloat, whether the going gets tough or not. I’m realising that I am less shy to ask for support when I need it, and a bit unabashed in stepping forward to take it when it is offered.

Recent developments with a friend, have really made me aware that sometimes the silence of waiting (for support, for help, for attention, for love) can be so detrimental. To the self, to a relationship, and to the other at the receiving end of it. I used to embrace silence — sometimes because I felt ashamed asking for help, or I felt indebted to step up and take help when it was offered, or I was hurt and offended that it hadn’t come anyway without my asking, or I just plain wanted the other to figure it out themselves. But all that ambiguity creates absolutely nothing but a lack of clarity about the truth. And quite honestly, sometimes it stemmed from my fear of stepping up and asking for it when I needed it — my fear of showing up as I am. Very often, in fact more often than not, it is my ego that keeps me from showing when I need support or what I feel the desire to connect.

In some ways, slowly being comfortable with myself, including all my imperfections and pleasant and unpleasant aspects, I cluding those that I once thought were “weak” or “shameful” in good times and in bad, has meant being able to take in all the love and support that I have, in a more fuller and wholesome way. And being comfortable with asking for it when I need it.

I really feel the difference that this has made to my life, during this time that was heavy and could have otherwise being very confusing, isolating and lonely. What a relief it is to know I can lean, and lean fully, on those who are there for me without having to be asked, and who don’t assume that I will come around when I need it. And what a pleasant surprise to realise that in the event that I need something extra — breakfast with a friend just for a few hours of normal talk, for example — I can ask for it unabashedly with confidence and without feeling lesser or shameful about it.

One year ago: Under my umbrella

Time-out

I had a post all written out, but I ca’t get myself to complete it and post it because my mum in law just got out of a marathon surgery, and all my thoughts are with her, at this very crucial time. Taking a wee time out today.

If you’re reading, send love and prayers.

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

Breaking the silence

Today is better, only marginally so, but entirely because I stepped out of the house and came over to spend the day with D. And that always puts me in a good mood. I don’t mean just the laughs and the good times, but just the space and comfort it affords, even outside of the acts of friendship. I’m seeing this as a blessing, the universe looking out for me today, a day that began with me responding to a long-pending call for honesty, a breaking of silence, with a relationship in my life that I have been struggling to make sense of.

There is an imminent sense of relief, the kind of relief I didn’t know I was missing, that I only fully realise when the burden is suddenly lifted, but there has been an undercurrent of deep grief too, all through today. Strangely, not just grief for yet another friendship irrevocably altered (perhaps ended?) but for myself, and the way in which I have unconsciously allowed myself to be taken for granted, in this and other relationships, for how misunderstood I have been by people I have counted as my closest friends, for how some of these friends I held close to thought it was better to read my blog and make wild assumptions about me and what I needed than straight up ask me if there was a way they could be available for me, for how imbalanced the nature of giving and receiving has been between us, for how used I have felt and still sometimes feel when I think about specific instances, for how angry it all makes me, for how my vulnerability was so often met by a complete unavailability.

There is grief, and a sense of feeling sorry for the person that I was, that I have been so many times in friendships past, who felt the need to connect in a certain way, that so obviously came at a cost to the person I am underneath it all. There is grief, for how simply innocent I was in the way that I so quickly went all in, blindly trusting of words of loyalty accompanied by the sweetest smiles. There is grief for how much I have allowed myself to be hurt. There is grief for how mistaken I was in thinking I was understood by people who clearly did not, and did not even care to try.

So on a day like today, when I am feeling forced to revisit all this hurt in my head, it’s a true boon to have the safe haven of a friendship like this one with D, where I can exercise and put into practice the very things — the silence, the honesty, the empathy — I know friendships past lacked. On a day like today, S has been an absolute rock listening to my unending rambles, re-hashing and revisiting it all with her. Careful to reaffirm what I know to be true, but also gently, kindly flagging off potential for more hurt, where I may be unconsciously slipping into my old ways. Despite her own current crisis, S been there for me in ways that I find hard to put words to, but that make me choke up because it shows me how we’ve grown and how far we’ve come from the fearful, insecure nature in which we once were friends, to being the open, heartfelt, unafraid women we are towards each other today.

The heartening part about today for me, is that I was able to dig deep and find the courage (that frankly, I didn’t know I had) to be as honest as I was; that I resisted the urge to get into a circular you-said-i-said conversation and stuck to just me, what I have done, and what I can do to be better in future; that I resisted the even bigger urge to place some part of the blame where it perhaps belong, and instead accepted blame for my side of things leaving the consequences of the rest to the other; that I truly suspended hope and expectations of any kind of response, appropriate or not; and that I was able to choose integrity, truth and my own vulnerability, over the moral high ground and silence, time and time again today.

This, is especially heartening because I have been disturbed by the palpable silence that I was met with this past week. Silence that is perhaps a place of moral high ground, a coping mechanism to deal with the hurt, for some. But a silence that only screams cowardice to me. It is that very same silence, that I chose to break with my truth today.

One year ago: Follow me down, to the valley below

Pure love

Staying in and all is fine, but how long did you think I’d go before this happened?

I love the frenzy with which O and L greet us, every. single. time. like it’s the first time after a loooong time. Like a reuniting of long-lost friends. L with his hyper-energetic bouncing off any piece of furniture and launching himself at you, and O with her very precise and targeted attempts to torpedo herself from her very low ground clearance to reach high and plant a kiss on your mouth.

It’s really the best, most heartfelt and enjoyable welcome I’ve ever received and it gives me life when I see them do it loyally. every. single. time. like it’s the first time after a loooong time.

I’ve been thinking so much about pure emotions. Especially, love and the level of dropping self-consciousness that it requires. And I realised yesterday that in these aspects, puppers are hyper-evolved. They’re way ahead of the curve, and certainly well ahead of us humans when it comes to showing their emotions in a pure, simple and utterly honest way.

It’s safe to say these three puppies have made a place in my heart like no other. They’re probably the first and last puppies to ever find their way so deep in there. I haven’t taken to any dogs like this before. Their presence, and seeing them every time I visit D, truly fills me up on the inside.

One year ago: Werk,werk,werk,werk
Three years ago: One foot in front of another, babe

Reflections

Things I’ve enjoyed this past week:

Bonus time with VC, who arrived in Bangalore as soon as his uncle passed last week. He stayed on for the weekend, coinciding his date of departure with mine, as we headed to Goa on separate flights on the same day. It’s been a while since I’ve seen VC chill like he did in Bangalore those few days, and even though I was away at class pretty much the entire time, I enjoyed the time we had together.

One rainy evening, we camped out at Koshy’s chatting (VC is suddenly into chatting, elaborate, detailed conversations and I can’t get enough of this) and drinking while we waited for the rain to subside, before we took ourselves for a dinner of soba noodles and stir fry. Bangalore is nicer, and more complete for me, with VC around. This surprise trip was well-timed, and solidified some things about us, in my mind.

Being in class again and feeling my brain stretching beyond control. Feeling distressed with a muddle of jitters and mild intimidation, with the delicateness of this new learning that sits in my hands, while I know not how or what I am going to do with it. Staying with the jitters anyway and finding joy at the very end of the short cycle of distress, and feeling a sudden surge of energy almost, at the excitement of what lies ahead.

Catching lunch with D and S, chatting about all the ways in which the work and the learning permeates our lives. While we’ve been in touch after L1 ended, we haven’t met — all three of us — as much as we promised we would make the time for. So there was a lot to really dive into and take apart. Later, on Saturday evening when we were finally done, S and I walked to Airlines where we chatted and chatted, over a Maddur vada and coffee (after ages!), in a conversation about marriage and womanhood and making space for both to coexist.

A marathon two hour conversation with N on Sunday that was preceded by a card reading. I realised my readings are only as deep and insightful as the clarity and intent that the questions bring with them. The ripe way in which N asked, and the lithe keenness, opened something up and resulted in a very powerful message that felt like it was as much for me as it was for her. No surprises there, considering how much our individual journeys mirror each other.

Then we had this never-ending, freewheeling conversation that touched upon so many different, varied, sometimes disparate things that matter to us right now. Things we’re experiencing, things we’ve understood, all that has come to be, and the greatest trepidation about what will be. I found great resonance in N’s words about how deeply personal, intangible and utterly indescribable the nature of what she’s doing as her self-exploration feels. And the consequent loneliness of it too. And yet we get each other, I thought.

D came over on Sunday evening, bearing gifts — kheema samosas and khoya naans from Albert Bakery — and VC made us chai, that we enjoyed with chatter and giggles (as per usual). I’ve been off tea and coffee for about three months now, and even though I have indulged in the odd evening snack, the milky, sugary beverages have been missing entirely. Last week I had that craving for aloo buns, and today too I tucked in a few bakery biscuits. The snacks on Sunday were just perfect, the tea was sweet, and if we had even the slightest rain, it might have been a perfect Sunday evening.

This was the icing on the cake for my weekend. Closing the week, and the month in Bangalore before I left for Goa with this banger of a show that I had booked myself for two months ago, was everything I anticipated it would be.

Kunal Kamra is astonishingly precise with his humour and he delivered a cracker of a set that was bravely political, didn’t shy away from intelligently bashing the current Saffron regime for all that they must be criticised for, while also keeping it light, funny and even touching in some parts. There’s something deeply touching about honest art delivered in this unfiltered way that crosses all kinds of barriers. I may have teared up a couple of times, not just at the bitter truth that he delivered, albeit in a funny manner, but also at the purity of his work that touched me.

Arriving in Goa to find that the plants that had nearly died have been mostly lovingly revived in VC’s patient and regular care. The crazy bougainvillea has in fact suddenly sprung to bloom in most uncharacteristic fashion (they prefer the sun to rain) and has in fact changed shades, now dressed in a heart-tuggingly bright pink, rather than the beaming, gentle salmon I thought we had.

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

The rain

Hi, from Goa, where I have arrived to not enough rain. But only just enough to inspire some Vada pav cravings as soon as I landed.

Right from the airport, I headed off to VCs office to catch up with him and head home together. Today was one of those ultra efficient days with everything operating ahead of time, from the moment I left home in Bangalore. So I got there much earlier than anticipated. In order to kl some time, I dragged my suitcase and two handbags down, two streets away, in the drizzle to Cafe Aram because the settings were just right.

The gentlest drizzle, a sniffle in my nose, a I peaceful journey, and lunch six hours ago. I ducked into the buzzing tea room. Fond memories of my last cuppa chai had there the day before welved from Goa wafting back to my mind.

The tables are snug, a little too snug for comfort. And of course one also sits where there’s place, sharing humble eating space with just about anybody. Often, this results in staring into other people’s plates as one waits for food to arrive, from no apparent reason except that, it’s there, so close.

Few things kindle nostalgia and fondness, a sense of home, as speedily as food. So as soon as my vada pav and chai had arrived and I took a bite of it, immediately I felt at home. Despite the fact that I looked visibly like an outsider. With just the way I look, and strolley in tow.

There is something about a tea room at 6 pm on the heart of Panjim. The vibe just brings you back to ground reality.

It was such a good way to begin. To come back home.

Outside, the rain began to fall harder and noisily.

One year ago: I choose to be happy
Two years ago: I need to sit with the quiet, I know that much

Three years ago: The rain, the rain

Powerlessness of love

Last minute, rushed brushing-up texts from last year’s course, as I prep for class again this week, I stumbled on this stunning description of “primary emotions” that I don’t remember reading last year. Or maybe I read it, merely glossing over it, not taking it in the way it stumped me this time around, simply because this stuff has come to mean so much more in recent times.

The author describes primary emotions as being so intense that there is a powerlessness in the experience of them. He speaks specifically of love, and how it, like most pure, primary emotions have that quality of lightness, ease, and of loosening up something within us, to the extent that they render us powerless.

I realised this only in context of how when we move into the realm of secondary feelings, what drives us is actually the desire to subvert that which makes us feel powerless. It is our inherent human tendency to attempt to control, to actually exert power over anything that tends to take over us — as most primary emotions do. It is what we all do, in order to make sense, in order to navigate what we’re feeling and in order to sometime just “feel” through the emotion.

I’ve consciously and unconsciously done this believing fully that it is what is to be done with emotions. But I’ve recently realised this is futile. It is counterintuitive and that the only way to move through it is to do nothing at all. To surrender to it’s power. To really wholeheartedly experience primary emotions like love and joy, are to surrender to the full impact of their inherent powerlessness, and how they invoke the same powerlessness in me.

In other words, let it all go.

I’ve been trying to let go, let loose a little bit more than normal when I feel primary emotions wash over me of late, to really see what happens when I do, what am I so afraid of. And the observations have been interesting to say the very least.

Gratitude for love and people in my life, this week. For the numerous small, daily opportunities my life presents for me to connect and feel this love in so many different ways.

Meanwhile, and as I speak of love, under a week to go before I see this face and get to do this IRL, than with screens between us. Gratitude for VC and for everything that he is to me, and this strange, magical place we are in.

Gratitude for the opportunity to be in a classroom again starting tomorrow. To learn. For no other reason except to itch the scratch of curiosity about something that has drawn me in so fully. To learn for the sake of learning alone.

Gratitude for the epiphanies this work and the learning continues to bring. For the numerous daily aha moments that abound. For the slowwww way in which it unfolds, creating the gentlest ripples in my life. For the incessant lightbulbs that go off and on from time to time. For this experience of learning that feels vast, endless and like I will take it through to the rest of my life.

Gratitude for exercise once again, this week. I realise the days immediately after my period ends are when I am at my lightest, most agile best. And I don’t mean this in terms of weight at all, but more in terms of how nimble and springy and ready to get up and run, I feel. There is a literal spring in my step that makes me quicker, feels like it transforms me into this lithe, subtle being that can fly.

Yesterday, at the gym after a four day break, fully expecting to take it slow an easy as I ease back in, I surprised myself by bursting into a spontaneous quick run that was faster and took me farther than I have been in the recent past.

I’m slowly figuring out the key to making myself sustain anything in a healthy way. The ways in which this works for me are to focus on consistency and ditch all the numbers. And this isbfinally how I’ve become about the gym too. I started in March and all I have done is very mildly streamline my food inake and get diligent about getting a spot of exercise six days, every week. I haven’t measured or held myself to any numbers or measures of progression as yet. I didn’t stand on the scales either. Until yesterday. But in the way that I feel, in the way I can run, in the way that I have been lifting weights again, I can feel myself getting marginally better every week.

I stood on the scales for the first time in years today, and was shocked to see I am back to my pre-wedding weight. This has happened entirely when I wasn’t looking for it. So I felt mighty thrilled and I treated myself to a slice fo flourless chocolate cake.

Gratitude for little surprises that break the monotony of this city life. D said to look out for signs in the form of bright, unexpected yellow flowers today, and minutes after I read the post, I realised I’d stepped into the midst of these.

And as it happens, I had extreme flow, zero obstacles on a day when there could have been many, a delightfully happy day.

One year ago: It’s just this thing that seasons do

Warm

This time, in Wayanad, I had the privilege of meeting with so many people my father has befriended over the last two years that he has pretty much lived there. Through smatterings of Malayalam, conversing in animated gesticulations and a lot of telepathy, he has managed to make friends. It helps that the people of the village he lives in are just so warm, open and hospitable. Ive been hearing about this, about them, for months now, but nothing prepared me for just how warm they could be, until I saw it myself this past weekend.

In the way that my father was waving, stopping to say hello, exchanging nods of familiarity and warmth with just about everyone, wherever we roamed along the long stretch of road that the home sits on. In the way that so many of those people, when they realised my mother and I were visiting, absolutely jumped at suggesting the idea of having us over, many insisted, and a couple were successful in convincing us. What followed was an overwhelming hospitality that I have not seen in a while. Literal strangers with whom I can actually barely converse (We don’t speak the same language) but who have a strange affinity for my father, this man building an impossible/unbelievable looking home in their neighbourhood, opened their homes out to us, laid their dining tables out with the best home-cooked food and snacks and just had us, hook line and sinker.

So we met, ate and dined with, got taken on house tours of new and ancient houses alike, ate home-grown fruit, learned about ancient bonsai and home-grown plants, and even got sent home with doggie bags of giant home-grown papayas, bunches of bananas, and seriously the very best pazhampori I have eaten in a very, very long time.

So now you know what added to my heart-full feels. (Belly was very full too, teehee)

It got me thinking about how this warmth, this wearing my ones heart on ones sleeve, being un-fearful, outgoing and just so open to experience and connection can dramatically change the quality of an interaction. It has the capacity to cross barriers of language, culture, socio-economic strata and bring people together in a bond of pure love. It’s something we definitely lose in big cities, where the hustle to just get ahead, the insular nature of life, the pressure to make meaning and tangible value of all interactions takes away something very tender and soft about connecting with a human being for just that — connecting, alone. It also makes us fearful, competitive, cagey. And in the process we’re definitely poorer for it.

Some part of my mind was cracked open by this experience, this brush with strangers who felt nothing like it, this thought post interacting with them. And I hope it sinks deeper and cracks my heart open too.

One year ago: Take a minute, I’ve been sitting here, wondering
Two years ago: What coming home feels like: seeking solitude

Simple

To Wayanad and back home this evening. So, some more Wayanad things:

It rained, but not nearly as much as it should be, or as much as I’d have liked to have experienced.

My heart is full. And still.

The home is coming together beautifully. And my heart fills with: 1) joy to think of how painstakingly and lovingly and with how much grit and determination my father has worked tirelessly, uprooting his entire life in Bangalore, to make this happen. For him, and for us. 2) humility and overwhelming gratitude to think of the number of hands and brains of complete strangers, blood, sweat and tears that have gone into building this home.

Walking into the house for the first time on this trip, looking around, watching masons splashing on cement on a bare wall, I had a moment where I really, fully registered how a home, a building, no matter how big or small, is still a handmade thing. A piece of art. A building together and making a sheer figment of someone’s imagination come true. It kind of blew my mind to think of the scale at which, brick by brick, things come together. How today, three years on from when we went as a family to break the ground and begin work on this piece of land nobody thought could be useful for anything, there now stands this magnificent home. A home, I think is amongst, if not the best, my dad’s finest creative work.

It’s taken many hands, many heads, many weeks and months of tireless confluence of energies, lots of hiccups and pitfalls, but to finally see it in it’s near-finished form, made me very, very happy.

I’ve seen this piece of land so many times before, and we’ve obsessed over the view through all stages of the making of this home, again and again and again, we’ve imagined it, hyped it, dreamed of it, built it up in our heads — but this was the first time it took my breath away like it did. Maybe it was because it’s the first time I was in a room, surrounded by walls, a super high ceiling, with this view in front of me created a different sense of space — of belonging — that it hit me the way it did.

We stayed on site on site, this time around in the parts of the home that are complete. It was such a thrill to be totally out of network coverage, so I mostly forgot about my phone. Pitch black darkness and just the sound of crickets after sundown makes for a kind of desolate and off-the-grid like I don’t witness otherwise. Simple, home-cooked meals eaten so early we were all in bed by 8.30 pm on all nights, in utter silence and total darkness all around, was topped by waking up to the rain-dappled morning sunlight. Forest sounds, birdsong, watching turtles frolicking in a pond — it’s a bit surreal to think this is what morning is like in a corner of the peninsula not too far from home.

The kindle did its thing and I finished two books in two days. That’s what happens when the day expands, time stands still and the world is forgotten. It’s nice to think I now have access to a spot thats not a “holiday” spot and experience this degree of remote now.

It was also nice to be with amma and anna, away and in peace, just us. This hasn’t happened in years, and to think this sort of unplanned trip gave me this opportunity to just be, unconsciously cocooned, is heartwarming. I enjoyed it thoroughly, we shared a room, cooked and ate our meals together, drove all around the little village, listened to music and drove all the way back to Bangalore together today. Things were absurdly simple. And easy.

So yeah, my heart is full. And still.

One year ago: Nobody really likes us, except us
Two years ago: What coming home feels like: Bangalore sky-porn

Three years ago: Begin

Within me

Feeling all kids of quiet and snug within myself today. Content, to use a dull and inadequate word.

Excellent sleep. Daily, intentional exercise. Finally, finally some balance in eating intuitively to nourish rather than punish my body and myself.

Expansiveness between therapy sessions. Mindful observation and reflection. A beautiful containment of everything, a slow and deliberate process and awareness of what really is my process.

Getting out of my head and into my body more. Digging deep to find the constant spring of space and solidity, alongside a red-hot, just kindled, young and feisty fire.

*This is an old picture from a spectacular day in Paris, in September 2018.

One year ago: After the tears have washed your eyes
Three years ago: Just keep swimming

All heart and all soul

Today, I stumbled on an email S sent me in January 2016. An email urging me to do many things that I didn’t know then would shake my very core, crumble the foundations of who I am an ask of me to rebuild from there. To drop all assumptions, compulsions, expectations of myself — to let it all go and see what remains. I didn’t know what any of this meant then, and I had no idea what to even do about it.

Some part unconsciously, some part by deliberate design, I set off on a path back then. One thing led to another and here I am. And it is only now, I would think as recently as early this year that I have just about found a somewhat deepened experience of what S had urged me to do in that email. What a long and fascinating trip it has been.

Of course I can only connect the dots backwards and so reading the email today, filled my heart with so much love and joy. For friendship that can shape my life. For friendship that has my back. For friendship that endures. For friendship that’s real and all heart.

It’s a good day for this simple reminder, which is also the crux of the email.

One year ago: With your hand in my hand and a pocket full of soul
Three years ago: What I watched

Onwards and upwards

Clambering back to regular programming today after four rather unnecessarily hectic days. This tends to happen when VC visits because his folks and family like to behave like he’s returned from Timbuktoo (and not just the next state). So our days get filled with obligatory meals out, hanging out with various parts of his family and with a short break at hand, consumes all of the days.

Perhaps it was the sharp contrast to all the quiet downtime we have had, but I’ve been spent from all the social activity, and I felt a real lack time to ourselves. Suddenly, I realised that this is my city now, and it would be nice to spend some time with VC here on my turf, which is quite different from life in Goa. Of course I mustn’t complain because I’ve just returned from an extended stay together. Or so my guilty conscience made me feel for even thinking this. But it did make me wonder about possible future trips that he might make, and how much it is my tendency to brush my desires aside in favour of what’s “right”. Even after ten years being married, it is still the default to step back and make space for his family to take over. To shrink my needs and desires, make myself take up less space, be less demanding. And to do all of this much more than I am genuinely willing, comfortable or happy to do.

This realisation hit me quietly, this past weekend. Like a gentle nudge in the right place at the right time. One of the side-effects of developing a new sense of self is growing clarity about what I want and an awareness about how much I tend to put myself aside for “the other”. Conversely, how much I am no longer willing to put myself aside has become very apparent.

Given that the last two months have been all kinds of favourable for a growing sense of self, some significant milestones and a very cohesive coming together of some threads in this story, it has given me a very real experience of the impact that healthy individuality that can have on us as a couple, in our marriage. So naturally, I experienced the very regular set of events that occur when VC comes home, in a whole new way. It was like seeing the same things but with very new eyes.

This is not to be mistaken to mean that I have been a docile, submissive daughter in law, or that I have quietly taken all things meted out to me. But even so, I am suddenly aware of how my default tendency has always been to push so many little desires to the back burner, to put myself behind to allow space for other agendas. In the name of being adjusting or sometimes to be the bigger person or sometimes just to save myself the hassle of a conversation to explain myself. This past weekend I could trace this pattern from the smallest insignificant things to some larger things that could in fact impact our relationship, and it worried me.

The thing about indulging in discovering myself, is that it sometimes brings me to unexplored territory and it sometimes presents an invitation to re-visit the old and to meet it in a healthy way, from a place of wholeness that I now inhabit. I feel this way about our marriage too. It feels like a second opportunity to do-over everything again, with a deliberate and purposeful focus on the sense of self I have now. That we have now.

I am not the same person I have been for the last decade of being married. VC isn’t either. And the more things change, the more I feel compelled to rework templates, fixed habits and patterns and ways of doing things. To evolve in a direction that makes sense for who we are now.

In just the last four days alone, all of this has brought up a lot of thoughts about belonging, love, commitment and values. I feel a palpable shift for VC and me, new roads opening, and multiple new ways in which we can steer our relationship up for the taking. At the moment, aside from the basic foundation of commitment, love and understanding, I’m really beginning to feel we can go any where from here. The options and avenues are unknown and aplenty. There is quite nothing like slow and steady, one step at a time, one day at a time — leaving a lot to providence and fate, but just as much to deliberation and mindfulness. This is a process that was at one time my worst nightmare, but is somehow today a thrill and excitement.

One year ago: I’ll take a quiet life

On compassion, connection and belonging

I’m at a point in this journey where the path to self awareness and the search for belonging have merged. They are no longer seemingly divergent pursuits, but a journey to the the same destination, asking the very same things of me. That is, the courage to accept that this journey is not all peaches and glory, or one that miraculously turns unpleasant events into happy ones, or even one that is steadily ascending or gets increasingly positive. It is in fact up and down all the time, one step forward and three back sometimes.

There’s been a spate of news of broken/breaking relationships reaching me of late, and as I think of my own journey — as an individual and a partner — and how much my relationship with VC has evolved along the way I find strength and solace in knowing that things are where they are today, only because we chose to deepen our connections with ourselves as individuals first. We may have woken up to this much later in our lives together, VC and I, and we have our different ways of coming at this. But time and time again, as we move through live together, I realise that if things feel solid between us today, it is because they are solid within each of us as individuals. I am now beginning to see this percolate into other relationships — with family and friends too.

To belong to one another, to have deeper connections, kinder and more compassionate relationships is only, only, only possible when I begin to belong to myself wholly first. And to do that I must accept everything that I am. That is the ongoing, life-long journey, not one that I can arrive at or achieve or master. It means to confront and meet everything I am, as I am. With all the inherent contradictions, complications, duality. The beautiful bits with the messy ones. The happiness and the fear. The love and the joy, alongside the hurt and grief. The light that shines through and the shadows that I keep hidden, the lightness of being and the heaviness alike. All the differences, evolving sides and ever-changing bits. It’s all there, and with every step that I take towards discovering and owning it all, just as it is, the better I am at accepting this about other people. And the better my relationships seem to be becoming.

This has be my spirituality. The stuff that nourishes my spirit — this habitual holding up a mirror to see what remains to be seen, to integrate it all, to sit with the contradictions and the discomfort and myriad feelings they may bring. To just be with it for a while, without rushing to numb it, ignore it, iron it or fix it. To just stay with it first.

Last week in a conversation with Niyu, I realised that this is probably also the keen difference I see between mainstream religion as I have witnessed growing up and  around me today, in an increasingly polarised and bigoted world. The brand of religion that comes replete with rituals and acts of put-on solemnity that we believe is a path to a higher plane has always seemed a very disconnected practice to me. Very little of it, in the way that I see it practiced around me brings us back to reality and the heart of what we struggle with on an everyday basis.

What good is meditation as an antidote to anger, for example, if it doesn’t bring you closer to the root of your anger to face it, and instead takes you floating above it, escaping it altogether, to an illusion of peace. Until the next blow-out.

What good are words like acceptance, forgiveness and peace if we don’t begin doing all of those things with ourselves first? And how to be begin to accept and forgive ourselves and find peace unless we own ourselves fully?

What use is religion if it fosters exclusion and hatred? I see so many adults around me who are sleep walking through their days, being very religious while also holding the most bigoted, regressive, sexist beliefs and living by them. How can one begin to integrate, be whole, when outwardly one holds so much exclusion, divisiveness and hate?

If there’s one thing that’s abundantly clear it is that we were born for connection and belonging. In my own experience, I have seen my desire for this burst out from within, ever since I  have been working on myself. And the first step towards building connection and true belonging is with compassion that begins right at home, with myself. If I can be compassionate to myself and all the uncomfortable things about me, I can maybe begin to do that with people around me. My story and all the narratives I spin about it is probably never going away, but I can change the hold it has on me with a little kindness. I can own it and integrate it, instead of allowing it to own me, and forever holding it at a distance.

I have experienced in brief, fleeting instances, that when I extend this kindness towards myself, I am able to do it with others too. I can only belong with others, if I belong with myself wholly first. And what an impact it has on the quality of my connections, my relationships, and my experience of a fuller, wholesome life.

This willingness towards this path has brought about a degree of softness in me that I didn’t know possible. That I didn’t know I needed. That I didn’t know would take up so much space in my life and satisfy me in such a deep way.

Which brings me back to where I started, I’m at a point in this journey where the path to self awareness and the search for belonging have become one. They are no longer separate agenda points, or issues that I want to address. Instead, they’re beginning to feel like a practice in spirituality, where a little work everyday adds up. And every day that I am given this chance to know myself a little more makes me feel just that little bit more whole.

One year ago: Ground control to Major Tom

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