Little pieces of magic

In the early years when VC and I had just begun seeing each other, we weren’t too big on using the phone. We’d spend all day together at the same workplace, and inevitably a gang of us would head out after work for a bite or a drink (or both) and it was only the hours between sleep and the new work day that kept us apart. So we didn’t really need to talk too much in the after-hours.

In general, in life, VC isn’t big on communication. If something is pressingly urgent or needs to be immediately shared — these are the only two counts on which I usually expect a call. A barrage of messages, an entire conversation on SMS — this is an impossibility with him. The thing is, I am a big communicator. Not so much telephone calls (though I sense something changing here too), but I can have entire conversations on chat/messaging services. And I can make calls to VC for no reason at all.

Anyhow, with this long backstory out of the way, this is just to note that VC has suddenly taken to calling me for no reason. We’re suddenly the people who begin and end most days with a telephone call. Sometimes just to say hi, and bye. The thing I thought would never be possible: video calls. We make them now. Several times a week. And I have to say, I’m not the only one initiating them.

I am enjoying this shift in our lives. Where suddenly there seems to be a place for long, detailed, emotionally-charged chatting, baring our souls and sharing our biggest excitements and dejections of the day, conversations that go late into the night. This is the stuff we bypassed entirely in our relationship.

***

Sunday morning walk has become a marker of a good week. A thing to look forward to. I’ll admit the idli-vada is still the draw, but it does feel really good to be out in the crisp morning air when the sun has only just come out.

I nearly didn’t make it two weeks in a row and the joy of actually having made it, and having finished a walk amidst many, many giggles and all kinds of conversation with D, and that breakfast with a double dose of coffee at the end — it’s near perfection.

However, the thing that just laces it all beautifully for me, like a cherry on the top, is coming home and getting right back into bed. Under the quilt and all, to either read, watch some Netflix or just nap — it is just divine.

Last Sunday, I realised this is a small, seemingly insignificant pleasure, the joy of which I almost didn’t fully register. But it has become something of an important ritual for me, and it does lift my day, my week up in more ways than I realise. To acknowledge that this past Sunday shifted something.

***

I have also resumed yoga again. AND I FEEL SO GOOD. There is that sweet, stretchy pain of having used my body for something more than just sitting around, which has been my predominant state for the last 12 months. It’s been a little over a week and it’s hard to fight the constant thought of how woefully out of shape I am, of how the proportion of time it takes to gain strength, stamina and muscle versus the time it takes to lose it all is so goddamned skewed. But, I feel really, really good. I like the deep stretching, the twisty, bendy moves that turn my mind and body into knots, I love the peace in the pranayam, and I go through the entire class in anticipation of the deep relaxation and full-body scan of the last 7 minutes of shavasana.

I’ve had sore abs and hams and glutes pretty much after every class. And then I went and started getting out for a walk on the alternate days when I’m not at yoga. Plus there’s the Sunday walk. So yeah, I’m moving again.

Last year was obviously a year of sitting still, conserving energy. And while it has had its place in the whole process, I hadn’t realised just how much I love to be active, and how happy it actually makes me. On Thursday last week after a walk, I actually came home and burst into a hysterical fit of laughter and cried happy tears from the sheer surge of endorphins like I haven’t felt in forever.

As my next Goa trip approaches, I’m wondering about my options to keep the exercise going. And almost like on cue, my kickboxing trainer messaged me out fo the blue. We hadn’t interacted in upwards of 6 months, and he just checked in on me suddenly, just like that.

I feel like it was a sign.

***

L was down in Bangalore after what feels like forever. Actually, the last time she was down was when we met and hung out at M’s wedding six years ago. Six years isn’t very long, but it feels like an age simply because of how much has happened in the years between. We haven’t been inactive touch through this time. We pretty much fell out of touch entirely, and I only surfaced to get in touch with her last year when I visited Pondicherry and this year when I was in Auroville — to see if we could catch up. Both times she was travelling, and we went back to our regular lives.

So we met, and I realised only after we met that she had made the entire trip down to catch up with me, and another friend. I am so used to assuming nobody would ever do that for me, that I had just taken it for granted that she had some other business to deal with in Bangalore and was catching up with me on the side.

We had a lovely hang. It was meant to be a quick coffee at Koshy’s, but it ended up being a long, long, chatty time. And when we weren’t done even after our coffee was done, we walked up and down Church Street chatting some more. Then ducked into Blossoms and bought a bunch of books. Still no sign of calling it a night, we went back to Koshy’s for dinner.

It was just so affirming. Here’s someone I have just not been in touch with, we have lives that are wildly polar opposites of each other, and yet when we met we picked up effortlessly. The conversation wasn’t stilted, the connection was warm, genuine and lingering, refusing to end.

In all my years struggling to get a grip on the loop of friendship and loneliness in my life, I’ve focused on the lack so much. It only takes a day like this to turn it all around.

***

I also caught up with S and D — we hadn’t done this since the course ended. I came home just so grateful. Here are two people I only got to know about six months ago, we don’t have history. I don’t know too much about the intricacies of their lives, and vice versa. But we’ve connected on a foundation of authenticity and vulnerability, just by virtue of doing this course together and experiencing each other’s worst selves in a closed room. There’s something special about that kind of bond. There’s warmth in the hugs we give, there’s a glint in our eyes when we talk about what we’re dealing with, and there’s the incredibly rare and wonderful bit where we meet like this, over coffee, after 3 months and waste no time in pleasantries, jumping straight to OMG I’m struggling so much this month!

***

I’ve been practicing reading the Tarot for myself for months now. Ever since D got me started last year it’s been a regular feature/habit and gradually growing interest in my life. At the start of the year, I told myself I want to do this more — for myself and for others. This week, I did four readings for four different people. And each of then were an utterly enjoyable experience for me.

What I love most about reading the cards is how there’s almost always a message for me in every reading, how much it makes me tap into my intuition and how much freshness it brings to my life as a newfound interest.

***

This is gratitude for all that has shifted this week. Something about a cycle closing — I’ve been feeling this since the turn of the year and the last full moon that gave me a burst of energy seems to have also completed some kind of shedding that has been in process. I’ve been so wrapped up in thought and working on processing it through my head, that I’ve lost contact with my feelings and my body. I realised today in an instant that I have loosened up physically, as much as I have relaxed about certain tight corners in my life.

Maybe it’s new. Or maybe it’s been there and I hadn’t noticed it because I’ve been so busy looking for cognitive answers.

***

This is gratitude for the winter. For the walks. For the parks. For the morning air.

For the strawberries that I could make jam with.

For this blog and the fresh connections it has brought to my life.

For friends who’ve been there in ways I have been unable to see. For new friends. For new people who are there, just as people, and that’s okay.

For friends who have come, are in the process of leaving, and also those who have left. For teaching me not to hold on so tight. For finally showing me what I’ve been fighting and how futile it is.

For therapy and N and how hard she pushes me.

For the crayons I bought, for the pictures of myself that I dug out and the drawing and writing that came from it.

For the numerous times that I found myself at Airlines this past week. For the coffee.

For home. For amma and for how much time we got to spend together since I’ve been back.

For R, S and H and how they’ve taken me under their wing. Counting me in whenever they go out as a family. It’s incredibly heartening.

One year ago: Pretty lights
Two years ago: Because I want to remember
Three years ago: Saaru-anna

 

Advertisements

Breathing space

VC is going to hate it and maybe tell me off a bit, but this is an appreciation post. For VC and the way in which he consciously or unconsciously always becomes the safest space in which I can allow myself to just be. Just the way I am, at my best and worst moments.

I’m saying this today because the couple of weeks have been sort of emotionally tumultuous for me. I’m going into previously unexplored, untouched territory at therapy and it has brought out a lot of (so far) unexplained grief and anger from a place so deep, so old and just so far beyond that sometimes it feels like I cannot take this outpouring all on my own. Very quickly I have realised that I don’t have to. Because VC has been there, listening, watching, sitting in quiet companionship while I just feel it all for what feels like the very first time in my life that I am allowing sadness to just sweep over me. Without questioning where, how or why it is all happening.

I’ll get to that later, I tell myself. For now, I just want to feel it.

It’s taking everything out of me to just be with it, without either having to stuff it all back inside me and put on a brave face, or allowing it all to dribble over, to hold it in the healthiest manner possible. And of course since I am only human, and already very vulnerable at the moment, there have been many a slip up where I have unraveled and much of these emotions as bubbled over, spilling all over the space between us.

So this is appreciation for VC always being my punching bag. My object at which I direct all these displaced emotions. Appreciation for how he somehow takes it all, and yet knows just when to tell me to shut up and watch what I’m saying. Shaking me out of an emotional nosedive, at the right moments, bringing me back up for a breath of air so I can see clearly again.

I am constantly talking about how emotionally incapable and stunted his family experience and upbringing has been. I’m actually the one who has had the privilege of an emotionally sound childhood where almost no feelings or opinions were too much (some of that may have changed after my teens hahaha), while he has come from a background of absolutely not acknowledging any depth of emotion at all. So it’s true, for the most part. But I guess not all of that has to endure. These cycles can be broken, patterns can change, new ones can be learned. And while my way to navigate these sensitive spaces may be to take a course or go to therapy, his is in practicing listening. And I see this work out very well for us on days that VC surprises (and humbles) me with his capacity for empathy and understanding. For just the way he listens, without offering counsel, advice or verbal responses.

There is great strength in having a body like that to just have it out at and know that I will mostly always be heard. I do not acknowledge this other side enough. I don’t talk about him. I haven’t had the space for much else but me and my thoughts these past few years. It’s been forever since I really wrote a Things About VC post.

Perhaps this side was always there and I have not had to lean on it as much as I have these past few months. Or maybe it’s a change, and a side VC is discovering himself. Maybe this change is a consequence of just making some space between us, so we’re able to be better to and with each other. These past few weeks that I spent in Goa with him, and even since being back, I have felt more than ever before a sense of being held just as I am, safe in this nothing-is-off-the-table equation. This is so new. And I am very grateful.

One year ago: Obscured by clouds (Coonoor, 2017)
Two years ago: Two new pieces
Three years ago: People puzzles

This being human is a guest house

Breaking down two words in my head for a couple of weeks. Two simple words — I’m okay. Dismantling them, mangling them, turning and twisting them around in my head. Observing how often I use them, when the reality is so far from that truth. How many times I feign strength in saying them, just so I don’t have to show what I am truly feeling. How many different variants of these two simple words I have in my vocabulary, that help me sidestep the full strength of my emotions, settling for a comfortable white lie. How often telling myself that I’m Okay, is only so I can feel a temporary regaining of strength to get on. and, my God, I’m flabbergasted at the many, many, many ways in which they’re inadequate. Inaccurate. Insufficient.

I’m not okay. I haven’t been so many, many times that I have effortlessly let these two words roll off my tongue.

Realising slowly, with soul-crushing clarity that I’ve spent so long aspiring to be a strong woman. Strong like the women I was surrounded by all through my growing up. Strong like the women who choose the partners they will spend their lives (or not) with. Strong like the women who earn their own living, live on their own terms. Strong like the women who don’t take bullshit when they’re groped on buses. Strong like the women who lift weights and scream strong is the new skinny. Strong like the women who look down on Zumba and turn to kickboxing. Strong like the women who don’t cry as much as they might feel like. Strong like the women who suck it up and deal with their emotions themselves. Strong like the women whose mantra is Bring It On. Strong like the women who respond with I’m okay, no matter what happens and what adversity they’ve faced and overcome.

These are women in my life. Women in my world. Faceless women in my mind. Pretty made-up faces of women on TV, in the movies, online. These are women all around. Women I know. Women you probably know too.

And I’ve spent my whole entire life trying to be one of them. Fighting some labels, clinging to others. Redefining some. Creating new meanings of my own for some others. And the bargain, I’ve become pretty damn hard. Frozen. Cold.

So can you imagine my horror when the very definition, the foundation, of what I have been trying to be for only like just my entire life came slowly crashing down? Falling apart brick by brick, with a slow and painful realisation that this chase for power and strength, when pitted against The Other — men, bosses, mother in laws, mothers, friends — is but a clever and unmistakeable glorification of strength as an aspiration. This hungering for power, no matter how small or subtle, that every woman knows only too intimately is in itself the biggest tenet of patriarchy.

Every single day, for the last maybe 10-12 days, I’ve felt like another layer of this patriarchal hangup has been stripped away form my brain. And I am nowhere near done. As I peel back the layers, the my jelly-like throbbing heart beats faster and faster, awaiting its inevitable expose. This is a frightening as hell process. And everyday I have thoughts of backtracking and abandoning this unravelling that I have begun. Because to be exposed, raw, open, soft — a beating heart that’s alive for all to see as it is — is the most frightening thing I have ever known or done.

And I wonder if it is frightening because it calls for a strength I don’t know if I have? It’s the sort of power that no gym has ever prepared me for. I have absolutely no capacity for this kind of softness, handling my own heart with tenderness and love that this calls for. The job description is already intimidating.

It’s taken me only 34 years, and we’re only nine days into the new year, but I already know that this will always be the year I will spend rediscovering strength.

Finding vulnerability. Being soft. Faltering, fumbling, falling apart. Learning.

Making space to feel with my heart (and not my head) again. Giving space for the warm, fuzzy heart that’s buried under layers of strong to feel pink and fragile again.

To love. To cry. To be real. To unpack my backlog of unprocessed emotions. Discovering the gallons of grief that flow out when I drop the I’m Okay. Touching the tears that flow when I stop saying I Can Do This Too. Gently picking up the flowers of guilt and pain that fall when I say Enough.

Now I know that all of this requires strength. And it is going to bring more pain, fear, loneliness and grief to begin again. To start learning to be soft now.

But I also know that guilt, pain, fear, loneliness is as good a point to start, as any.

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

— Rumi

One year ago: Day 9: The hardest part

Day 351: Love in a thousand different flavours

Weekending.

I spent Friday, Saturday and Sunday pretty much like this. In front of my laptop, either working, watching Netflix or “studying”.

On Friday night, in a completely wild occurrence, VC and I chatted on the phone for two whole hours. I haven’t done that in aaaages. And with VC, never. But it was nice, chatting while we each fixed ourselves a drink and solo dinner. (So what of I had breakfast for dinner?)

On Saturday, Amma left for Nagpur and I was suddenly overcome with the thought that I was all alone. Except one never really is, and I’m learning to remember that and reach out (rather than wait to be reached out to) to others when I feel that longing for connection. So I invited myself to join R and S for dinner in what is becoming a welcome and regular occurrence with us.

Sunday morning has a new weekly ritual. A long walk. For four consecutive weekends now D and I have caught up to do this. And it baffles me how I struggle to wake up before 7.30 on a weekday but waking up at 6 on a Sunday seems to come quite easily. I joked about not having put in so much focus or dedication into much this year, as I seem to be doing for the Sunday morning walk. Except, I wasn’t joking. Perhaps it helps that we top the walk off with a single-idli-vada and a tall, strong coffee each.

The rest of my Sunday was mostly spent cleaning the house, doing some cooking — another full meal — and a visit to the in laws. Beer at lunchtime almost always means a long nap will follow. But I also binged on You Me Her and finally finished the show.

S came over for dinner then, in what should be frequent occurrence with us, but for various reasons just hasn’t been. It was a delightfully chill time. Whisky, chicken 65, rasam and rice with pretty much non stop easy, heartfelt conversation.

I ended last week feeling quite raw about my realisations about loneliness and almost immediately, almost in anticipation of the downward spiral that it could have caused, I was forced to see how much opportunity for connection there is. Should I choose to see and have it.

Today, I’ve been in a bit of a daze. Cramps + procrastinating with packing meant I had left everything down to the wire. As usual. I got all my stuff together in the last two hours before I left for the airport.

I’m off to Goa in a bit. To spend Christmas, New Years Eve and VCs birthday with him, only to return in the new year when I will not be posting as frequently. I’m looking forward to the next 2.5 weeks.

It’s time to catch up with VC, spending time with him since I have been missing it so, S is coming down from Paris, I’ll get to hang with D and the puppies, I’ll get to spend time at home that’s slowly coming together.

It’s all kinds of emotional to think I’m ending the year in a Goa that is one half of where home is. This feels interesting and like it means something and I’m excited to see where we go from here.

Two years ago: Day 351: Misty mountain hop

Day 350: Wait, can you turn around?

Things I want to tell 18 year old me, about loneliness.

There is power in giving words to uncomfortable, hitherto unnamed feelings. It’s liberating as hell. When you find the word, the moment when you will stumble on it and that very first utterance of the unthinkable word, in relation to yourself, will feel all kinds of freeing. But before all of that, there will be denial, avoidance, inevitable tears and an internal shitfest of a degree directly proportionate to the level of honesty you currently have with yourself. So work on that instead. The uncomfortable feelings and the appropriate words will always be there, make yourself ready to accept them.

One year ago: Clarity
Two years ago: Day 350: Ohhaii again, Bangalore

Day 348: I got this feeling inside my bones

Remember this letter I wrote to myself on my birthday? I had decided back then that I am going to write to letters of the kind every year — one on my birthday, and another on New Years Eve. I made an early start to the year-end letter yesterday, thanks to finding myself at a cafe with a sudden blinding realisation that I just had to jot down for posterity. And because I had my letter pad in my bag, I began.

I realised that I have been so focused on healing and feeling whole and positive this year that I have unconsciously not allowed the pretty much constant feeling of loneliness that underpins my life to really come to the fore. There’s many aspects to why this has panned out so.

One, the extremely personal nature of self exploration itself cannot be ignored. But I have really been wondering if it needs to be strictly this way or that. I find myself seeking and longing for connection even more than before these days, and so I wonder, can I not have the intensely private journey on my own alongside the thriving and solid relationships that I also want? Why does one have to come at the cost of another?

Perhaps that is something that needs reflection.

Second, I have at some level become slightly mistrustful of people. Maybe it’s past experience, maybe it’s a deep-seated fear, maybe it’s even something trans-generational, but I have never really thought of myself as a mistrustful person. Until today. And maybe I’m not, on the surface of it. But, deep down, even with my closest relationships, the ghosts of past experience are always lingering, making me keep everything at just that safe distance. So even as I make headway with new levels of vulnerability in these relationships, I’m always prepared for the eventuality that when it really counts I’m probably going to be alone again. And in that way I invariably manifest it in some manner.

I know this because that every time that I have shared a relationship low point on here this year, it has come from that feeling of loneliness surfacing. Most times that I have acknowledged the goodness of people around, it has come off the back of feeling that loneliness. I have just made a very good habit of gratitude that makes me switch gears and feel grateful quickly, more often.

The focus of writing this blog every day has been to record with honesty the ups and downs of this journey. But combined with my typical need to reach the parts where I’m feeling the good stuff and everything works out, I’ve perhaps stayed overly focused on the good, merely throwing in vague references of the shitty parts that have surfaced in almost equal measure. There is also the fact that my blog is read by many, many people very close to me, and partly because I am still deeply afraid of being judged and partly because I sometimes don’t want to face the questions and deal with the feelings anymore than I already am on my own, I tend to project a picture of being largely a-okay. This has kept me from going into gory details of just how deeply I have sometimes felt the ugly bits. I’ve resorted to talking in vague circles a lot, only referencing the unpleasant bits in passing, when what I intended to do was really sit with it all, equally. This is not to say I haven’t done that at all but, a whole year of writing this way has meant I might have some times papered over a lot of the subtleties that have come up and that needed to be acknowledged deeply. I might have glossed over some of the loneliness, the regret and the grief more than I was willing to dwell on it.

And so in it went, in full technicolour detail, into the letter I will open 5 years from now, by which time I hope to have forgotten the intricate details of this day in this time. I hope that when I open it then, it is an apt vehicle to travel back in time and remember a day like today when I felt soft and almost pliable, yawning open like a newly bloomed flower that has woken up to a new sun, kissed by gossamer morning dew — a picture of freshness, a leaning towards new possibilities.

Two years ago: Day 348: The last of the books for 2016

Day 339: Trying to get high enough to cut the clouds

Today was a good day.

For some reason, I woke up extra early. This hasn’t happened in a while. The nippy mornings we’ve been having have meant that even on the off chance that I wake up early, I linger around under my blanket much longer after. Getting out of bed is a task in this weather. But today was different. I actually woke up, managed to finish some work ahead of time today. I also did this reading for D, which uncannily seemed as much a reading for me, as it might be for anyone else who stumbled on it today. Uncanny because of the pondering about friendship that I have been doing, which has been pointing me in this general direction — of surrender and acceptance once again. Uncanny because last night S and I met for dinner and our conversations stirred up these feelings again.

I went across town to meet S for breakfast (and run a few pending errands) and here too, our conversations brought home this fact again. Of accepting changing dynamics, keeping my heart open to the inevitable evolution and to drop expectations and embrace things as they are. Unconditionally.

Breakfast was an elaborate affair that started off on a breakfast-y note, but since we lingered around chatting, while I waited for the person I was meant to meet to arrive, and it was past noon we indulged in some chaat too. I came home in time to catch an afternoon nap and some work, before I headed off veggie shopping to prep for lunch with A tomorrow.

I came home and suddenly felt a cooking frenzy descend. I stuck some tomatoes laced with garlic, basil, salt and pepper in the oven to roast. I set a big pot of vegetable stock on. And I set off cooking tomorrow lunch with guidance and help from Amma who came over for dinner. We made one of my favourite gravies, but with cow-peas (teehee) since they’re in season and because I love them so much. And a cold dill and sour yogurt coconut curry. Then I also made a few Vietnamese cold rolls with fresh carrots, cucumber, spring onions, mint and pan fried peanut-chilli tofu for us to eat with the soup. By then the roasted tomatoes were set to cool, and blended with the vegetable stock to make soup.

I love a day like this that is full, productive and fun. A day that has equal parts work and play, and leaves me feeling content with such seemingly simple pleasures.

I’m grateful, and thankful, today. For the winter chill in the air. For breakfast with S. For her friendship and life-affirming conversations she brings. For serendipitous messages from the universe. For the cabs and autos in Bangalore. For VC, who gets me. For my CA who takes the load of paperwork off our backs. For flexible work hours that allow for the rare nap. For fresh vegetables and the sporadic willingness to cook. For amma and her company. For keeping me well-fed, one way or the other, wether in her kitchen or mine. For light, satisfying dinners. For experiencing living alone and to my own rhythms alone. For turning in at 9 pm.

Day 337: Anyway, I should be doing alright

Before I look back on last month, I want to remember last weekend.

My favourite kind of experiences are those that flow organically, forcing you to go in with no expectations, but emerge with so much more than just the experience. This past weekend was kind of like that, for me. Last week, when I found I had finished up all my assignments for November a week ahead of time, I decided to sign up for 3 days of participation in D and K’s practice module on a whim. Until then I was quite sure I didn’t really need to go, and so my inclination was low. But what I experienced, was far bigger and better than anything I could have anticipated. It was yet another instance of being guided into the right place at the right time, finding myself representing parts that resonated with my own position and patterns in life, prodding me on to look deeper at things I am unconsciously resisting seeing. More than one aha moment occurred and completely unexpected was the impact they have had on me. So deep that I have begun my Monday with a bang, acting on three things that have been mere ideas in my head, very very quickly this morning.

Besides the experience itself, I absorbed, with wonder and humility, yet again, how this work is the gift that just keeps giving. When Im not looking, when I’m not even anticipating it. There is healing and then there is this kind of healing that comes in gentle, timely doses that I feel so blessed to be a part of.

Then there were umpteen, endless conversations with D & K of course. I sometimes wonder when we will run out of things to talk about, and how it is that we always have so much to talk about.

There was also lots of little happy making events. An MTR thali, another opportunity for a whole day in a saree, pani puri, two evenings of enjoyable whiskey drinking after such a long spell of feeling completely not inclined to drinking, greasy Chinese take out, fresh fruit and mithai and eating together.

Early on Sunday morning, D and I went for a long walk again, increasing our pace and distance by a notch. Topping it off with idli-vada and hot coffee makes it worth leaving home that early on a Sunday morning. The rest of the day was spent completely relaxed, and in the evening we caught Bohemian Rhapsody, finally. What a complete treat it was. And once again, it touched me in a way I least expected it to. I thought I’d be entertained, yes. I didn’t think I’d be moved. Moved by the sheer mammoth powerhouse of talent that Freddie Mercury is, and the entire canon of his poetry and art. It’s a beautifully made film, that captures the energy just spot on. In fact, it’s left me feeling like I need to watch it again. Somewhere in between there was coffee in an elephant mug, and mutton mince samosas from Albert Bakery.

I had a good weekend that has filled my heart up. And something tells me there is more to come.

Two years ago: Day 337: November

Day 330: I can buy the sunshine

It’s been a week since I came back from Goa, and Auroville and life has resumed after what seemed like a long, long time in limbo with my routine up in the air. While I was quietly happy about the fact that the state of flux had surprisingly actually made way for flow, I cannot overstate the joys of having life swing back to normal again. I spent most of the last week catching up on emails and work, spending my days at my mum’s home, cooking and eating meals with her, meeting the in laws and other utterly normal things like that. Just the kind of normal I had missed.

It’s just been a week, and even though I’ve been at home by myself for only 50% of that time, the joys of being by myself cannot be overstated. I don’t know what it is, because VC isn’t even remotely demanding of my time or attention, but somehow his absence has brought in an unencumbered feeling like loosening the strings on my own being. I’ve enjoyed falling in a routine and a rhythm of my own calling with absolutely nothing else to consider.

It has meant I have been able to spend a lot of time reading uninterrupted (even by my own whims and distractions), I’m currently reading three books at one time. I actually wrapped up my assignments for the month this week. I started to binge-watch Gossip Girl. I managed to catch a play with A last week, dinner with R and S one night, and post-dinner coffee with them another night, and I’m going to watch Badhaai Ho with S tonight. On Saturday evening I walked, and then on Sunday morning, D and I met for a walk again. Somewhere in between there have been long drives to take my mum to physiotherapy, the usual grocery shopping , etc. Even with all of this packed in, I find I have pockets of time. I’m in bed sooner while I am late to actually fall asleep. There’s a sense of rhythm and floatiness that I am exploring for almost the very first time in my adult life. It is equal parts enjoyable and slightly unnerving. Especially when my good old Type A self rears her head to try and coax me into finding “better” ways to spend my time. When that happens, I’m doing my best not to blindly fill time out of a sense of guilt or angst with not knowing how to handle this better. Instead, I’ve been forcing myself to let it be, feel the feelings — the doubt and the fear — let them pass. And pass, they do.

It’s not a big deal, I know, this living alone business. But as someone who has never, ever done it before, to be doing it deliberately at this juncture in my life feels enormous, exciting and excruciating. All at once, if that’s even possible.

Even so, the newness has overshadowed everything else this past week alone, during which:

  1. VC has already visited Bangalore once, on work
  2. I read Gloria Steinem’s essay titled Love vs. Romance that has put an irrevocable, life-changing spin on my thoughts about marriage. I cannot imagine steering back from here on. It has been like opening my eyes what has been right in front of them all along, just somewhat hazy and out of sight. So to be seeing things that were always there, differently is bound to make the journey ahead…interesting. To say the very least.
  3. This never-happened-before activity has become a regular feature

Today, I feel gratitude for all that I have and everything in my life that has contributed to bringing me to this very special place. Where I am able to do the things I am, navigate this path in a manner that makes most sense to me. I don’t acknowledge it enough, but I have the undying support of VC, my parents and my sister who are there for me in innumerable ways supporting me in being the person I am, on an everyday basis.

It’s usually gratitude for the physical, material things — how comfortable my life is, how looked after I am, how filled with abundance I feel right now — that I tick off when I give thanks. But I absolutely also feel immense gratitude for the intangible things. The silent support. The unspoken confidence. The love and positive energy. The sense fo being held. The immense space and expansiveness that is my life right now, and how there’s literally nothing standing in the way of making the most of it right now.

Two years ago: Day 330: One number mini rant about Instagram

Day 324: I’m feeling outshined

I wanted to write about the weekend, the food we ate, why we walked so much and the thoughts about community living that I’ve been having swimming around in my brain. But cleaning up my WhatsApp media just now, I saw these pictures and felt the ache of a big twitch in my heart.

Easy love. In three simple steps.

Irrevocable, irreversible, love. I’m grateful to have received this and have it touch me in a strange and unexpected way.

The more I think about it, the more I believe that in the emotional department, humans have nothing on dogs. In my next life, I want to be a sausage doggie in a home that will keep me well.

Day 311: What do you need to make your wild heart beat?

Dogs, I tell ya. They’ve got my heart ticking in ways nothing has in many, many years now.

It’s been more than a few days since D left on her holiday, leaving the puppies with us. It seemed like a huge responsibility we were only to happy to take because of how fond of them we are, but also because of how familiar being around them has been thanks to the many many trips I’ve made this year. Not just being around the pups themselves, but knowing their daily lives and whereabouts, their routines, food habits and even the intricacies of their weird whines, barks and unique manipulative moves. I have loved these dogs for a while now, so there was actually little thought or consideration involved when D asked if we’d puppysit. All three of them have (Leo leading the way) have long wormed their way into my heart, so I was prepared to have my heart crushed by puppy love. But this much?

I honestly didn’t see this coming. I booked my return ticket to Bangalore today, and while I am excited to be going back to resume life all on my own, I am already prematurely heartbroken about going back to a puppy-less home.

Safe to say I am beyond smitten.

(Yeah, how did I get to the dark side? When did this happen?)

Since we’re avoiding leaving the two of them unsupervised and alone for long periods of time, I have been timing my errand runs during the first half of the morning when the help is still around, which means our days have fallen into a neat little routine. So much so that Olive now knows that I will step out between 9.30 and 10. So she begins to follow me around like a tail, waiting for that moment when my sunglasses come on and my bag goes across my shoulder. Then she begins to bark and bring the roof down, demonstrating a full-on protest with gusto, giving it her all in the hope that either I will stay or take her with me. In a last ditch attempt, she dashes off to the gate ahead of me, bounding in double-steps, and stands between me and the gate defiantly. She may be small in stature and size, but she is larger than life in confidence and determination to have her way. In that moment, in her eyes, I see the wild, unbridled firmness of a woman who wants to get her way come hell or high water. It’s like she is oblivious to the fact that her ground clearance is barely four inches off the ground and her height is not more than a foot in total. And it means nothing to her that I can actually just step over her and proceed. Because she has the grit of a woman who means business, she seems large. Massive, even. And it makes me stay a moment longer, get down on my knees and pet her and mumble a few weak and unconvincing words to let her know that I will be back really soon.

What she lacks in size (how can anyone be so damned cute and small and contort themselves into something that resembles a puppy-inspired sushi roll? HOW?) she makes up in her vivacious personality.

Lego on the other hand, is best known for the way he uses his lanky front limbs like hands. Grabbing, holding, pawing, nudging like a bloody human being. It’s like a constant defiance of his doggy-ness and a consistent effort to be human in the way he carries himself. Inside his large head with impossibly big ears is a small brain, from the looks of it because he is dufferest of duffer dogs I have ever come across. But aren’t they the best kind?

He is VC’s favourite, and vice versa. Nobody in this home greets VC with the kind of unrestrained enthusiasm that Lego does. When VC walks in the door Lego loses his shit and doesn’t know what to do with himself. So he darts back and forth, between jumping on VC to bouncing off pieces of furniture like a crazy ball. Except if VC walks in with his full-face helmet on, or with a broom in his hand like he did the other day. Then Lego has no idea who he is and the only way he will run is in the opposite direction. We’re major fattu like that. Despite his small brain and easily triggered flight response, he has the body language and demeanour of the man in charge. Restlessly pacing about, investigating and inspecting things all the time, always walking around with an officious look on his face that would make you believe he’s the boss around here and everything runs on his watch.

He is also completely oblivious to his stature and size which, when he is standing, is about four or five times Olive’s. So sometimes she gets caught underfoot, as he tramples over her like collateral damage to his attacks of excitement.

After a morning of all these adventures warding off humans from leaving the premise, or pacing up and down in anticipation of our return (which leaves them quite hyper and wound up, borderline traumatised on occasion), some semblance of normalcy returns at lunch time, which is when I am usually back home. Nothing settles them like the sight of a plate of food in a human beings hands. They turn into the quietest, most docile dogs with the sweetest, googliest eyes. They sit, transfixed by the food focusing all their attention on the plate as if willing it to float towards them. At that moment, they’re a picture of perfection, the most innocent, angelic dogs. Until Olive’s drool pool begins. Depending on what’s in the plate it varies from being a drippy, leaky tap to a full-on open tap.

Afternoon naps follow. For the first two days after D left, Olive staged a massive sulk by hanging around us but at a safe distance, refusing to respond when called, making no eye contact and generally avoiding too much contact. But after 48 hours, something switched and she has become my tail. If she had it her way she would be attached to me, I suspect. And so we regroup in the afternoon, almost to assuage the trauma of separation from the morning, usually clustered on the couch — me stretched out reading or working, with the two of them curled up on 2/3rds of the couch. If I so much as stir or move, they wake up. If I get up to leave, even to just go to the loo, Olive follows me while Lego looks on from a distance.

Evenings are easily my favourite time of day. I have been walking Olive, while VC has been walking Lego. I didn’t know it, because I have no experience with dogs, but there is something so very grounding about walking a dog every single day, on the clock. The rhythm, the trail, the clicking of their nails on the tarmac, the same spots they stop at, the other dogs we encounter, the predictable fashion in which they behave at all the known spots.

In all of this, I deeply feel the absence of Leo’s presence. I feel it the most when we walk because I remember how different it was walking him. He’d saunter like the King of the land, scoping his field as far as the eye can see, his head held high. I find myself wondering what it might have been walking three instead of two dogs and I yearn for the missed opportunity. Yesterday especially, I was lost in a daydream thinking about him when we were out on our evening walk carrying around a heavy heart like I was aching for a person.

Evenings have been passing in a mellow, quiet fashion. It really is the time when the frenetic activity of their days too, winds down. I’ve found comfort in sitting together with the pups in silence. Them chewing on a bone, while VC and I read or Netflix before we eat dinner and turn in. There is companionable silence and an unspoken togetherness in sharing your day so closely with animals who so easily make you their own.

It’s taken barely 4-5 days for us to make this our routine and figure out how to manage the two of them together.

It’s not taken much doing really. The simple life that a dog loves, makes it easier. There’s barely any managing needed beyond feeding them and walking them on time, giving them adequate pets, belly rubs, back scratches, watching their poo for anything suspicious and holding them close when Diwali crackers begin to thunder around us. They make it very easy because they’re ruled by their hearts, and they know nothing else. So they go after what they want, demand it with all their might and don’t rest until we’ve understood just what they need. And in return for just that little bit of care and attention, I’ve been at the receiving end of a love so, so very pure. Filterless, distilled, concentrated love that is very hard to fight and not feel. It has swept me in, into a life-long snug embrace.

This kind of filterless love, this way in which puppies go all-in with all their heart, the endless giving even in the face of everyday little betrayals and disappointments (I still leave every morning, I still withhold that little morsel of food), this is the stuff worth aspiring for. Who knew, these doggies might teach me a thing or two.

Two years ago: Day 311: Okaybye

Day 306: Ain’t it good to know you’ve got a friend?

Recently someone remembered me as that person with a strong aversion to people I have changed my mind about. It had obviously irked said person enough to remember me as someone who inexplicably rejects and moves on from people without so much as a thought.

I was taken aback when I heard this. The thing is, the description is not entirely inaccurate, but it isn’t completely true either. And even though better sense has prevailed, I haven’t been able to shake off the judgement. Perhaps it bothered me, and continues to bother me to some extent, because I realise fully why it might seem that way to onlookers who take the convenient position of watching my life from a distance and who get this sort of second-hand information passed on by other onlookers.

From the outside, if does really seem like I run through friendship like seasonal wardrobe changes, I’m sure. I have built and broken far too many friendships in the three decades I’ve lived, with most of the action in this department being concentrated in the last decade. And here’s the thing, I’m finally in a place where I am at peace with that. After years of longing for forever friendship, I’m more in acceptance of the idea that for some of us, that is not a realistic goal. And the more I accept the very transient nature of relationships in my life, the routine coming and going of people, the gradual building of some friendships and the natural fading away of others, the more it seems to make sense, and the less angst it causes me.

So in that sense, it is a bit like wardrobe changes with seasonal spring cleaning and doing away with that which no longer fits or interests me, while keeping some ever-green favourites that will never go out of style, and having that stash of items in the periphery towards which I have temporary difficult feelings, but that I hang on to for nostalgia’s sake or in eternal hope that we will fit again. Someday.

This no longer feels like a bad way to live. It works for me. However, there’s no denying that the uneasiness of this judgement bites me. And nothing makes it bite harder than a visit to Goa, because the judgement was based on the state of my relationships in the time before I left Goa.

I moved cities, yes, but much before that happened I had moved on from many people in my life here. But today, over a delightful few hours spent with C — fellow freelance writer and dear friend from Panjim — I realised that every time the uneasiness about being judged for this surfaces, I give away a little bit of my power. I dim a little bit of the light that is my lived experience and my agency — both which shined bright in guiding me through these choices.

Every time that I am affected by how easily I have been branded, I am weighed down by that opinion that is quite honestly only a half-truth. But most of all, hanging out with C and having the delightful time that we did made me realise that every time that I feel bad about this judgement and I wallow about being misunderstood for walking away from some relationships, I undermine all those relationships that I have allowed to remain. I lose track of those that I actively chose to nurture and grow. I fade out the light and love of those that I continue to keep thriving in my life, even 700 kilometres away.

Meeting C who I have such a soft spot for, had me overjoyed and so content. And I realised its a friendship that has had none of the typical markers. We barely hung out, we’ve met a handful of times in real life, but we’ve connected over so much more. And every time that we meet, we seem to have so much to talk about. It’s one of the few connections that has endure even after I moved on, and she is one of the handful of people I feel like connecting when I come back. We’re frequently sharing things of mutual interest over email, catching each other up briefly on where life and work is, sharing writing contacts and passing assignments on to each other. And I always feel a genuine warmth without the song and dance of it.

Most times I tell myself I don’t care what people think, but today, I acknowledged that the reason being judged in this instance bothered me is because it hurt to be judged and misunderstood. I have not done a very good job of dealing with that hurt. And so every time it surfaces, it takes me right back to that half-truth, misinformed judgement. It takes me back and it makes me focus on the lack. The lack of empathy, the lack of understanding, the lack of people in my life at that time, and the lack of my ability to deal with it then. But that was then, and I have come a long way since. But in choosing to focus on the then, I discount the abundance of all these little connections that I have now. Many of which have flourished in the time after I moved away. I discount all the relationships that stirred over a few commonalities that only bloomed as time passed, and I discovered friendship beyond the limited definition I had back then. I think of people like C, and a couple other “work friends” who I am in touch with virtually, and how despite how little we hung out when I lived here, are always quick to jump at any opportunity I present for us to catch up. I am overwhelmed at how my relationship with D and K has turned into so much more than mere friendship. I think about B and R who keep checking in on me to see if I’ve had enough of Bangalore and if I’m returning any time soon. There’s R and S and J who are some of my fondest friends from Goa, and how our relationship has gone so far beyond the time we spent together here. And there is A who I know I can always turn to and lean on, in times of need. I think of P in Finland (Hi, P!) and how we catch up over infrequent but frantic bouts of messages about things we feel deeply about. And all I feel is a sense of abundance.

So, I came away wondering why it takes so little to shrink that sense of settledness and abundance I know I carry within me. What is it about hurt that makes everything that’s otherwise solid, so fragile? And what do I need to do to make it go away?

Two years ago: Day 306: Diwali 2016

Day 288: All along this love was right in front of me

Today has been such a slow day. This feeling of everything being tentative seems to pervade every where, across spheres of my life. The only thing that’s moving ahead with sprightly energy is my presence and activity around home. Thanks to Niyu being with us, recovering slowly, the workings of my home have fallen into a healthy clockwork pattern which has brought about a sense of grounding for me.

I’m deeply grateful for this. It’s hard to look at difficult times (the last ten days have been hectic and stretched us all in ways unimaginable) and feel gratitude for unseen gifts. But this is the truth, hard as it is to accept, there have been positive aspects to it. We got the gift of focused family time. I was thrust into a role of caregiver that has skyrocketed my respect and gratitude for the role my mother plays in our lives, I see the men in my life (VC and my dad) in a very different light, and there has been the gift of a home that works like a home again.

Two years ago: Day 288: New eyes

Day 285: They’ll be making sure you stay amused

Grateful for friends today. This week has shown me abundance in friendship like never before.

Rekindled connections, restored conversations, grown up versions of the camaraderie we once had.

New friends who I’ve found unexpectedly. New friends who visibly feel a sense of kinship through the experience of the work we shared and make no bones about wanting to stay in touch long after.

Friends who lead by example and champion causes dear to us. Friends who will always be the torchbearers for me to look up to.

Friends who relentless stay in touch and more even when I completely fail to.

Friends who send me food. Always, friends who send me food.

Two years ago: Day 285: Shifting gears

Day 283: Wandering through life will love come home to you

Lessons on becoming come at me from all sides. Sometimes loud and crashing, toppling carefully curated beliefs, forcing in freshness. Sometimes gently, softly, like comforting words whispered in confidence.

As I contemplate a time of solitude, with a deliberate focus on my becoming — that little bit that’s begging to turn that will only turn when I am alone — I find solace in the ways in which these messages show up at me. I realised earlier this month, that it was in September 2016, when I first sought therapy for what felt like a spiral into a depressive state, that I began this journey. I didn’t know it then, but I know it now. And since then, it has been a slow and steady process of peeling back the layers, cutting the fluff, removing all excesses, shedding all that no longer serves me, in order to move closer and closer to what lies beneath. An inner sense of knowing, intuition, a soul’s calling — whatever you may choose to call it.

This year especially, there has been something very steadying about finding my centre again — a centre that’s not attached to work, to my spouse, to my family, to a city, etc. And yet, I am still seeking a little something more. I can’t really explain it, but I feel that little bit that I am still seeking, I can only find in solitude.

I’m fortunate to finally be in a place in my life and in my marriage where this is a viable option. It has taken time and effort to get to a place in our marriage and relationship where VC and I feel safe and secure to deliberately stay apart. Not because of logistics, but out of the need to exercise the choice of wanting to stay alone for sometime. He deserves it as much as I do — to live our own selves into being. It has taken considerable shedding fear and uncertainty. But here we are. I’m so excited to watch this unfold and see where it takes us.