Normally, I’d draw another card if I pick a repeat, but lately I’ve been having A LOT of conversations in sessions, with clients as well as in my own life with close friends, around love, pain, hurt, forgiveness and making space for evolution in relationships. So I’m running with this today.
When was the last time a current relationship dynamic brought to the surface an old hurt that you may have buried away? Old hurts can arise not just in past significant relationships, but also friendships, our relationships with our parents, early childhood experiences with one or both of them, possible trauma in connecting with family early on in life.
Sometimes forgiveness is about healing that old hurt/s. It is about building the self-awareness to notice the stories you may be building and running off with, that are coming from an older experience of pain or hurt. Forgiveness is letting yourself hurt and grieve the old, so you can heal it and separate the two — the past and the present.
Forgiveness is understanding that you can heal the past in order to reduce the stress it causes in the present.
is to heal yourself
helps loosen the grip an old hurt has over you
doesn’t always mean reconciliation
can happen over a distance, without a single conversation with the other
can help establish new, healthy boundaries you need
Forgiveness takes time. And most of all, you deserve to give yourself forgiveness too.
What if we learned early on that the quality of our relationship with the other, depends wholly on the quality of our relationship with ourselves?
What if there was a way to learn that to offer our love to another, is to come from a place of love for and within ourselves? To connect with another’s pain is to first have a connection with our own pain. That to be there for someone in a challenging time, hold space and offer support, is to also be able to offer all of that to ourselves?
Most often, our training/conditioning is of a “selfless” definition of love. But it is unsustainable, and difficult to truly be present for another with the belief that the only way to love them is to “make things better”.
To be there for someone, share their experiences and offer loving support is to sometimes just participate in a moment. To be present fully. Without fixing. Or contributing. To acknowledge our limitations, our helplessness, and the pain of this in relationship.
If we came at love from a softer place that didn’t hinge on “doing” things to avoid this, and instead focused on “being” in love, in pain, in joy, in grief, in helplessness, we would know how much practice it takes to be able to sit with all of this within ourselves first. And how much better our relationships can be for it.
The thing nobody tells us is how love is an experience so closely linked to pain. To know love is to also know pain. Intimately. Within and without.
Probbaly my most favourite quote on love, is a thought on an alternative definition of it, by Glennon Doyle Melton, in her book Love Warrior.
…we think our job as humans is to avoid pain, our job as parents is to protect our children from pain, and our job as friends is to fix each other’s pain. Maybe that’s why we all feel like failures so often — because we all have the wrong job description of love. What my friends didn’t know about me…Is that people who are hurting don’t need Avoiders, Protectors, or Fixers. What we need are patient, loving witnesses. People to sit quietly and hold space for us. People to stand in helpless vigil to our pain.
I’m going through a somewhat strange phase. One could say my old friend, loneliness, has been visiting. But one could also say that I’m getting better at entertaining him. Yes it’s a him. And by “entertaining,” I mean that I don’t lose my shit when he arrives, instead open the door, look at him and say, “oh, it’s you again (fuckme),” without the urge to shut the door on him. Except this time I’m also not wanting to throw my arms around him in a welcoming embrace, not wanting to roll out the red carpet and offer him snacks and drink and a comfortable spot to settle into. I just feel very, “meh, you again? Oh well.” And I go about my life. His hanging around is hard to ignore so there is a definite pall of gloom, but it’s just there and life goes on. Albeit shaded a slightly different hue or blue.
He comes bearing old reminders and new lessons. Old triggers. New perspectives. Old stories I’ve told myself. New reckoning of how much I’m not willing to tell myself those stories anymore.
He comes with a punch to the gut. As per usual. But I’ve been working on my core strength so it hurts. But it hits differently. It hurts less. I don’t fall down. I notice the pain. And sometimes I even smile. Because it reminds me of how far I’ve come.
Does that hurt? YES.
Do I want to give up? NO.
Am I better with the pain? YES.
Am I “over it”? NO.
All the statements above are 100% true.
This time the trigger was different too. A visceral reminder of people who were once in my life, that couldn’t handle who I was, who I was becoming and what that made them feel. (Heh. Incredible how entitled people can feel about others having to manage the feelings they can’t handle themselves. Ridiculous how I mistook that for presence, empathy and friendship.)
One person, when they couldn’t handle my drawing a boundary and how I was changing, told me blatantly, “you haven’t changed, you do the same thing over and over again, this is who you are,” about my need to move on from people when they didn’t understand me. It only affirmed my belief that they indeed didn’t understand me. It was deeply painful, but I had to let it go.
Another one, whose fondness and intimacy I couldn’t reciprocate because they stifled me with their strangely aggressive display of love, told me the distance I needed “felt like a breakup.” That stifled me even more. I hadn’t signed up for a relationship that deep and I felt I was being manipulated into staying. And so I shut it down and bolted.
Recently, as recent as one year ago, I got told my brush with success made a friend jealous. That it was too much for them to take. That my doing well made them unhappy. I have worked through this one, but I am not over it. It still stings when I recall that conversation.
And there was the other one, who when we began to drift, said they would visit me and talk it out in person. That was over three years ago and the more they seemed incapable of walking the talk, the less I trusted them about how close they claimed they actually felt towards me This too, was prompted by an instance of me changing in a very fundamental way. In a way that made me behave a little differently. In a way that was too much for them to take I suppose.
I’m not waiting any longer. But it’s hard not to be triggered when there are reminders of that intimacy we once shared, and worse, reminders of how it couldn’t grow and change along with how we were changing as people.
But to even just see it as this, articulate it and sit with the pain rather than immediately say “I’m fine, I don’t need anyone” is a big deal, for me.
I miss these people. I feel heartbroken that I changed or grew in ways that they couldn’t stomach. It reminds me of how much I have played small and stayed small to keep relationships intact. And how once I began to not do that anymore, people began to drop off from my life like flies. Which brings me to where I’m at today.
A vast famine in terms of honest relationships of equals. The only person I truly have this with is my husband. And it hurts that I can’t free him from that burden of carrying the husband as well as best friend mantle. I’m grateful for him, and yet I wish there were another outlet.
I’m at that point though where feeling the hurt is about just that: just feeling the hurt. Not fixing it. Not moving on from it. Not letting it go. Just standing here and feeling it.
And when enough of the feeling is done, I always come out knowing I am better for it. Better for growing. Better for not shrinking. For learning who to trust. For wanting better.
For waiting. Even if it means standing in the desolate loneliness for a bit.
I still hurt. But these instances of seeing and feeling the hurt help to remind me that I will not be loved wholly by everyone alike. That truth lands different these days. It doesn’t cripple me. It hurts. But the pain sits happily side by side with the gooey part that is loving myself that is always ready these days, to take over and coat everything around it in that peaceful, quiet acceptance.
It sits side by side with the part of me that knows in a bone-deep way, that I am enough. I don’t need to play small. I don’t need to be polite to keep the status quo going. I don’t need to tolerate excessive niceness to stay in spaces that don’t feel right. My success isn’t too much. My happiness isn’t too much. My growth and love isn’t too much.
That’s the thing with time, isn’t it? It’s not all the same. Some days — some years — some decades — are empty. There is nothing to them. It’s just flat water. And then you come across a year, or even a day, or an afternoon. And it is everything. It is the whole thing.
— Matt Haig
This year, like the last couple, I made no resolutions. No goals. I have some aspirations, but they’re broad and loosely held. What I did pick instead are three words that I want to live by. Words that represent things I want to incorporate more of in my life. One of them is levity. Lightheartedness. Casual, carefreeness. Spontaneity. Lightness and play.
And today was about that.
A morning spent in the sunlight in the park. In silence, but also with laughter. With no agenda, no “activity”, no real plan to do anything but lie back and bask in the winter light. With black coffee and music for company.
Light. Chill. Full.
That’s the thing about time. Especially time spent looking inwards. Most of it is flat. Uneventful. Nothing to show for it. Seemingly empty, even. Suddenly a moment, a day, week or month suddenly comes along with an intensity you don’t see coming. A coming together you couldn’t have envisaged.
This is exactly how it has been. I have spent so many years looking inwards for what it is that has kept me from this kind of levity. All the forces that got in the way, the self-made inadequacies, the limiting beliefs, the old hurts and everything in between. I have craved connection. Longed for fun and play. Done so much to invoke good, fulfilling experiences that lift me up. I have had them in fits and snatches. All the while, somehow, somewhere things have been clearing, making way for more, for what is yet to come. It’s like I’ve been climbing and climbing upwards for the last so many years, not knowing what lies ahead of the peak. And suddenly I find myself here, over the summit and now looking down, the vast, gleaming world lies ahead, luring me. Promising, full of life and light.
I had some preconcieved notions of what the good times will be. What levity might look like. And this is nothing like I imagined. Yet, it is everything.
I’ve been in a near eight week-long social bubble. Diametrically opposite to the isolation bubble that was the greater part of the year gone by, most of which was spent experiencing and confronting abject loneliness. It hit me somewhere in the midst of hanging out with my family, that it was a circumstance I had willingly, actively, enthusiastically chosen. A circumstance I would previously not go out of my way to make happen. Mostly letting my busy schedule and other preoccupations take precedence.
So what’s changed?
In the before time, so long as I had the option, the choice, to choose connection over isolation, I reveled in dipping in and out of it. Since I had the privilege of creating and protecting my personal physical space, I dug my heels in and made the most of it, often at the cost of connection. When I felt lonely, often from my own making and of my own choices, I turned to things like books, my handful of friends (also loners), therapy and smaller groups of my liking to bond over a set of interests and pursuits that we had in common. Anything outside of that felt like too much.
The vast disparities that extended families usually present have felt too much for me in the last many years. Being physically isolated in Goa (in the years between 2010 and 2018) unconsciously made it easy to remain in my mental bubble, and reinforce the idea that I was on a different page and we could never find commonality. The already glaring differences grew wider still and it felt physically impossible to commune over anything at all.
So what’s changed?
2020 turned a switch in my brain. Something about my craving for connection and touch coinciding with a time when I was forced into physical isolation and distance, did a real number on me. Where I’d once hold my personal space, my boundaries and my solitude hard and tight, I have been watching as the edges have melted slowly away, and I’ve been finding a midway that emerges quite organically, without effort. A way to connect without losing myself or my sense of personal space and identity that I build around it.
2020 made me see how much I wanted to tap into the collective experience of what was a global emotional crisis. That so much of what we experience anyway is collective, wide-spread and shared, and that it shouldn’t take a pandemic to finally see that. Isolation somehow made my radar for what is held in the collective super sharp and I felt desperate to create physical space for our collective experience. At a time when I…couldn’t.
My emotional/spiritual journey has bene largely private until last year when I threw the doors open and put myself in the thick of things by beginning a practice. Until then, I prided myself in processing everything on my own, in my meticulously developed capacity to detach. I wore my ability to walk away, draw hard boundaries and remove myself from situations and people, like a massive badge of honour. And yet, at a time that forced that upon me, I felt glad that I had a heads up on this moving away from the tangible world, but felt a deeply heavy sadness about suddenly having to process it all alone.
2020 was a googly I didn’t see coming, but that in retrospect I can’t thank enough. The isolation, the strangeness, the collective death and grief, the incessant handwashing and germophobia of 2020 has turned upside down on its head, what I thought was my “natural instinct” when life gets hard. I thought isolation was my normal. I convinced myself it’s what worked for me, what I loved and needed. And I was so absolute in my resolve around it.
But 2020 with it’s forced isolation and distance, in repsonse to my desire for connection and intimacy, that was deeper than it has ever been; it’s denial of any collective experience and shared spaces to process the mammoth emotional toll of it all; it’s default mode of detachment from all things real and “normal”, leaving everything uncertain and up in the air; made me see that even sadness, fear, loss and grief made me want to come together. All the thigns I would once take away into private, shut the door in on myself and sit with all alone, convinced the world couldn’t help me, now convinced me I needed to be out and with people. Specifically the people I love, my family and some chosen friends who have become family.
Something about being forced into being sanitised, and in that way less human, I found the very crux of what makes me alive and human.
That’s what changed.
I spent most of 2020 feeling feelings that I believed were rather uncharacteristic of me — craving the warmth of company of more than one body, the comfort that only comes not from the intimacy of shared physical spaces, connection from spening time being with other people. This was all very strange for me considering how much of a self-made, self-declared introvert/loner/not-more-than-two-people-for-me person that I have been.
The last eight weeks though, I have felt a profound relief from sharing spaces, conversations, bodies and warmth in communion with friends, with Goa, with the sea, and with my family. There have been several moments where I felt that relief. That comfort seeping into my cells. That internal settling and relaxing that comes from a bone-deep consolation and reassurance that only someone’s presence can give.
I’m hanging out with my extended family this week. And it’s been an interesting study in how love doesnt always have to hurt.
I am giving myself 100% credtcredit for shifting whatever it was that needed to shift within me, to feel this way. To be able to see my family for who they are — with their individual idisyncrasies, our collective dysfunction — and receive all the love they have to give, to bask in it, to enjoy it.
It is in seeing and accepting all of the above in myself, in seeing me as imperfectly human, that I am able to see and accept the same in people around me. This has made an astounding difference to how I can relate to my family, and in finding ease, comfort and love without a struggle.
Happy happy VC! It’s been a challenging year for you, and us. So I’m wishing that the year ahead sees good health, a wholesome and balanced life with many more photography adventures, good food, new work milestones and most of all ease and peace.
Fear and panic is contagious. But so is peace, rest and calm.
Of course it took a year of abject loneliness and severe lack of intimacy to realise this. I’ve known this in theory, as the Polyvagal Theory that suggests our nervous systems are primed for connection, and comes equipped with the capacity to reach calm states through “co-regulation” simply by sensing and responding to calm states in the other. Through non verbal cues, like breath, and social cues like smiling.
2020 has been the loneliest time of my entire life. And it took me months to accept how much it hurt. As someone who virtue signalled a lot (if you’ve read this blog long enough, you’ll know) about the privilege and joy of solitude, I really hated and struggled a lot through it. To a point where it got physically painful and manifested in really heartbreaking ways.
Yes, a lot of the time I need quiet and stillness from solitude. But this year, I realised that I feel dead without connection. It is what we are born for. Community, conversation, camaraderie, collectiveness. And as I sought it in virtual spaces like yoga, zoom workouts, many, many, many more video calls than I have ever made (both for work and socially), shared drinks and food and stimulants across a screen, in cooking, eating, housekeeping and cuddling with my homebodies, I also settled into the grief of it all. Accepting that this is also a part of this life that I cannot escape. A dance between retreat and rest, and connection and action that has its ups and downs.
And as always, the place of calm returned in the middle ground. In allowing silence and retreat, but also venturing out when I needed to. In not feeling ashamed to ask for the time and attention of people I love when I needed it, in not feeling like I am letting my tendency for solitude down by wanting connection, or vice versa. In dropping labels like needy and hyperactive.
I can do both. I can have both. I can be both. I can trust myself to know when I need what. And they can both contribute to my calm and peacefulness.
I’ve been carrying this on-the-brink-of-happy-tears feeling around in the pit of my belly, trapped in my throat, jabbing right behind my eyes for over a week now. It felt like a storm of emotions brewing in my stomach. Like the slightest nudge would break me. The feels sloshed around in me, threatening to spill…and yet they somehow would just not flow? Just sat there bubbling, kissing the edge of spillover and nothing more.
That upside-down splish-splosh feeling sort of just became omni present. I thought it was about the (surprise) excessive happiness of the good chill time I have been having with my husband and my best friend, juxtoposed with the shit year I’ve had. But as the days wore on, the feeling grew in momentum, intensity and and two days ago, riding the ferry across to Chorao, in a yellowed hazy sunset, it hit me that it was more than that. It was coming from more than just being in Goa and having this welcome, unexpected break. There has been an over abundance of joy, lightness and laughter, but with a very different quality. I feel very overly emotional about the joy. Like how is that even possible, to feel like I could cry buckets from happiness. Like so full and expansive that if someone touched me I could burst. And so, that state of being on the brink of happy weeping constantly just lingered around.
S left last night, and VC has been away on assignment since Saturday. So I took myself to the beach all by myself this evening. It was a flat, unusually blemishfree sky when I got there. Over exposed cloudless, exploding with hot white light. But at about 5:40, something turned and just as I was planning to leave and head home, I witnessed yet another spectacular sunset. In those few moments, something was also set off inside of me. It slowly broke me, gently chipped away and eased me into a swivel of happy tears.
Somewhere in the hour that followed I realised what I am feeling is the contentment of being seen. Just as I am. Not too much, nor too little. And the tears were a combination of having my heart pretty much splintered by this experience I’ve had over the last two weeks. Equal parts overwhelming joy from having the space to be entirely who I am, happy sad, in pain in joy, messy and fulfilled, awkward and alright, all of it. Without adjusting myself to make it better or palatable for the other. As well as equal parts grief from going over oh so many past friendships/relationships where I have gone looking for it, having a pre-defined shape and form in mind, expecting it to be something I will be offered, and never really having found it.
The simultaneous delicious surprise in having stumbled on it most unexpectedly, in a shape and form like absolutely nothing I had imagined, in a confusing medley of emotions, and heartbreaking realisation in how long I have waited for it, looking high and low, waiting for it to be somehoe given to me, when it was here within me, waiting to be had all along, has been a lot to process.
Today, I sit in the comfort of a warm lap of that grief for how much I’ve gone thru, and relief at looking back and knowing it has all added up to lead me here. This silent work I’ve done between one ruptured relationship where I wasn’t met and the next, has brought me here, to this place of being so willing to show up and be seen as I am, in the right moment. That when I was met with a willing, equally authentic recipient, something clicked.
And it feels like love. Pure and simple love. With no labels, no boxes, no pre-defined form or extension.
The last time I felt this swirl of inexplicable happy-crying, my-heart-can’t-take-it-anymore love was this day, two years ago. And I see now that the common thread has been the element of being seen. Being received. Having space to just be — authentically, in everything the moment has to offer.
These past two weeks have felt like my parched soul found an oasis. And I am still drinking of it’s soothing, hydrating, healing love.
Authentic, intimate relationships are pure love. Authentic connections are pure love. Authentic support is pure love. We were born for this connection. And I am here for it. All of it.
Turn over the earth with gentleness.
Make space for birth. For roots.
Palms open, to the sunshine, the soil, the air.
Sow seeds with love and patience.
Tend, till, trim.
Build. Nurture. Support.
Watch them grow. Like pieces of you, that you gave to, from yourself.
And then like whole beings. That have nothing to do with you.
Gathering life all on their own.
Chord trimmed, trainer wheels clipped.
Blooming, furiously forth.
Filling spaces inward and out.
Creeping like slow life into vacuums, taking over overflowing vessels.
These past twelve days, I tilled away at the friendship garden in my life
Ravenously digging, sowing, watching, gobbling, growing it all. Making up for a year of emptiness and drought. Barren, cracked spaces (some, not all) of loneliness in my heart filling up with fresh rain and bright light, a winter breeze to top it off.
Expansive and open, I feel the tingling buds of beginnings again.
An entirely unplanned break within a break has happened and I haven’t sat at my computer long enough to write today’s tarot message.
It wasn’t planned but it has been totally welcome. To have the general vibe of 2020 turn around slowly, just for a bit. To suddenly feel free, to roam, to enjoy the outdoors, feel together, bond with friends, share spaces, intimacy, laughter, sadnesses and fears as easily as food and drink, to feel flexible and allow indulgences, to re-discover home with my homies (VC and S) again.
It was entirely unplanned but totally serendipitous. And I have learnt to accept these instances with a bow and both hands outstretched. There was a lot of going with the flow, even more than I am used to, and it was freeing to be able to just chill out, and not be afraid of how far out we were venturing.
It was time to pause and hit refresh. And allow myself to relax my shoulders, shake my limbs out, swim in the sea, climb mossy seaside boulders, find hidden beaches, count the stars, eat greasy food, pet sandy dogs and breathe easy again. Even though I hadn’t planned for it.
I’ll be back with a tarot message in a few days.
I checked our odometer today and it seems we’ve clocked 1200 kms since leaving our doorstep in Bangalore over a week ago. In addition, I have enough sand in my feet (and sunset images in my mind) to have made up for nearly nine months of going nowhere limited movement. I wrote “going nowhere” earlier and on Instagram, but that is untrue I realise. I have been lucky to get out. Wayanad one, twice to Goa and a fair bit of freedom and luxury to move around in both places. But if I’m being honest, even that was with some reservation, self-imposed restrictions and a whole lot of retrospective fear. We have felt very weighed down by that.
This time aorund though, we have let loose, snapped, relaxed (while still taking care, of course) and that has been very freeing. I have just had so much fun these past 10 days. It’s been a bubble of friendship, warmth and a shared intimacy — all, of the kind that’s been very hard to come by this year.
In an older time I might have enumerated all the events and experiences, but I’m finding it hard to do that today.
Safe to say this was the year of loneliness, yeah? It’s the year I may have kind of understood that loneliness is a curve, not a state. Not a condition I need to cure, but a set of emotions I can look to when they are in my face. This year, mostly due to circumstance, I unconsciously became intimately close to many kinds of loneliness. Having only caressed the edges so far, 2020 was a deep dive into what happens when I let loneliness bloom inside of me. When I let it take me, become me, grow roots inside of me.
Talking about this always brings responses ranging from, “Is everything okay?” and “Can I be there for you?” which while I appreciate always gets me thinking about our default association with loneliness as something to fight, quell, fix.
2020 has been like a whole canvas made of every pantone colour of loneliness in the shade card. I have felt hope, settlement, peace as much as I have felt restlessness, anger, grief and brokenness emerge from it.
I’m lonely because there’s nobody around me.
I’m lonely because they left when I thought they’d stay.
I’m alone, and this is nothing like I imagined it would be.
I’m alone because I chose this.
I’m alone, and I needed this.
I’m alone and I love it.
I’m alone, I don’t think I could ever have it any other way.
I’m alone because this is how I understand my need for love and tenderness.
I’m alone because I have forgotten how to be with others.
I’m alone because this is how I wait for someone to reach me.
I’m lonely in how heavy this feels and there is nobody to share it with.
I’m lonely from being on my own for so long now.
I’m alone even when I am surrounded by folks.
I’m lonely, but it fits.
I’m lonely, I’m drowning in it.
I’m alone and that’s alright sometimes.
I’m alone doesn’t mean I am lonely.
I’m alone, and it doesn’t need fixing.
I’m alone, it is true.
There is a balm in sometimes inviting in emotions that we are usually tempted to power through and overcome. There is strength in familiarity with them, strange and upside down as that might seem.
Don’t surrender your loneliness so quickly. Let it cut you more deep. Let it ferment and season you as few humans and even divine ingredients can.
Wordless appreciation post for these two humans, that have stayed by my side, even when I didn’t ask for or express that I needed it.With whom I have unknowingly, unintentionally journeyed (literally and metaphorically) and grown (literally and metaphorically) in so many ways this year.
It was a year that pulled me away from all humans. Physically, of course. But also mentally and emotionally. I have withdrawn more than I saw it coming. My only other support, my parents who are otherwise just next door, and who I unwittingly lean on, are now in another state. My inner circle has dwindled down to just these two.
Even with all the utter rubbish 2020 brought our way, I’m super grateful these two were my constants — punching bag and body pillow, alike.