Day 9: The hardest part

is admitting that you were wrong. But once you’re over that hurdle, it’s like walking into the light, or unlocking the next level of a mystery you’re desperately trying to solve.

For someone so convinced I was an out and out introvert just over a year ago, the past year has seen a big change. The developments of recent time, specially the last six odd weeks have only confirmed what I have known to be true for a while now: I have changed, in ways I know, but more so in ways I am only getting to know slowly.

The more willing I am to sit still and observe, question and think about the changes I see, the more I know this to be true. And that willingness is the hard part. Because it means accepting that it may be time to let go of some rigid truths, or that I might need to soften up on some of my staunch aversions, or it means letting go of the safety of labels that I use to define me. It means instead, to look at the very real circumstances that are shaping me in entirely different ways.

It means finding new connections.

It means sometimes standing alone.

Daunting as it sounds, and is in some part, it is also incredibly energising. Nobody talks about how refreshing and life-giving the process can be. It is not without tedium, and there’s really no escaping the bitter realities that you’ll have to stare in the face, but once you’re over that hurdle, it is like a breath of fresh air. Light, rejuvenating, and puts the spring right back in your step.

Perhaps it is the mistaken ideas of adulthood and becoming-who-you-are that we have inculcated, that makes this journey seem one way. The pursuit of prescribed ideals, boxed definitions and perfection itself makes looking back, revisiting old versions of yourself and admitting less than ideal facets of yourself impossible, and a waste of time. Shame, envy, inadequacy, confusion become bad words we don’t want to believe are parts of us.

But the truth is, growing up involves going back and forth all the time. It is acknowledging these unsavoury parts of ourselves that unlocks the potential to plummet ahead. Never before have I valued retrospection so much. For it has helped revisit so much, only this time with a softer eye. Less self-loathing. Less judgement. More acceptance.

With every passing week, I realise I’m not the introvert I was in the months before I left Goa. It was circumstances that made me withdraw and seek my own company, closed in from the world. But I didn’t understand why or how it was happening. It was simply the playing out of what N articulated perfectly — Everyone can’t go with you everywhere — a truth (and several others) I’m only realising this now. And I’m changing, because of it.

Even until weeks mere ago, it was hard to say if it was a change brought on by changing circumstances, or if the shifts brewing within me in turn were reflected in my circumstances. Mostly this has been a revelation about how wrong I was.

I noticed around the middle of last year how suddenly I was much more willing to go out, be with people, socialise and do things outside of the four walls of the introvert cocoon I’d settled into. The frequency with which I’d surprise myself by volunteering to do something I thought was uncharacteristic began to rise, till I realised it was too frequent to pass it off as “exceptions to the rule”. It was, in fact, the new normal. Try out a new restaurant, I’m in. Want to come to xyz, with abs, def, (who you don’t know), sure! Want to try out a reading club where we’ll read a book on self-esteem, why not? Poetry reading, yes. Movie with the family, yes. Dinner with extended family, okay to that too. Cooking for fifteen people over two days, count me in.

Slowly I found myself feeling a lot more energetic and willing to to put myself out there, in situations I’d told myself were never for me. The clincher was willingly joining VC in his new business, and taking on a client-facing role.

Conversely, I don’t fancy spending as much time all by myself at home. It helps that amma’s home is in the next building, so I always have a cocoon of comfort to jump into when things get overly solitary around here.

This is a big change for someone who in Goa barely ever left home, and loved being alone. The most joyous moment on any ordinary day then, would be when VC left for work and the help finished for the day. I would savour the solitude slowly over the course of the day, wearing my space and isolation like a comfortable skin.

It’s true what they say, the company you keep really does reflect your state of mind. And maybe this, in some measure also explains the dissonance and distance I’ve felt with those I’d most easily turn to for daily kinship. I’ve carried this feeling, that something has changed, but I’m not quite sure what to do with it, around uncomfortably for a few weeks. Eventually, the truth dawned on me: in the face of all this drastic change, I feel less and less inclined to stick to fixed anythings. My faith in the rock bed of certainties has shaken, so I’m finding it very counter-productive to stick in places I am feeling restless. Whether that is a pattern of friendship, the habits I think I need to have, or fearing breaking them because it means being alone.

The last few weeks saw me do both. And surprisingly, it got easier. The fear subsided and I felt charged with an energy I didn’t know possible.

Do you know what it is like to watch yourself move from being a somewhat passive, this-is-who-I-am-and-I’ll-just-stay-here-until-the-right-stuation-happens to a let’s-go-out-there-and-find-a-way-to-make-this-work state of mind? It has been like dipping into a secret reserve of self-worth I have suddenly discovered.

We really underestimate how much we are capable of growth. How much we are in fact changing all the time. Drastic growth brings with it such significant shifts in the mind and body that inevitably, it leads you to the reality of leaving things behind. By definition, it is what movement entails.

So whether it’s a time (it’s futile being torn up about moving on from the perks of full time employment, for example, because it doesn’t have a place in my life or in my current reality), place (similarly, so meaningless to wistfully long for my life in Goa when this is where I am now and it is what I know is most necessary), or even company (If I am changing all the time, surely every body else is too. So what then am I hanging on to so tight?), the need to loosen the grip and ease up on expecting a pre-defined kind of certainty has slipped under my skin.

Much like hanging on to older ideas of a version of myself did nothing but delay the movement that was waiting to happen in my life, I’m realising that hanging on to a fixed, rigid idea of the kind of friendship I am made for, or what I am capable of in relatonships, has made it hard for me to find deeper, authentic connections suited to where I am now.

 

One of the things that has become utterly clear to me in the recent past is that my life has little meaning without connection. I’m craving it all the time. In people, in activities, in experiences, in spaces, in habits. I’m only now learning how believing so hard in the fallacy that I am a complete introvert, has held me back in this respect.

It was hard to acknowledge that my introvertism was a temporary shield I donned, while I waded through emotions I didn’t want to face. I mistook a streak of introvertism to be a personality-defining thing, when actually it was just me seeking safety in numbers, in memes that scream relatable truths that made me feel like I belonged. Because I wanted to belong anywhere, but to the real self that was desperately running away from feeling all the feels.

Until, I was ready to break out and do all of that — face those scary feels, be as vulnerable as I possibly could, acknowledge how wrong I was, look at new and intimidating ways of being that my situation now required.

Now, I’m less afraid to make connections.

Similarly, I am less afraid to stand alone.

This shift in my attitude has already brought tremendous positive change — I see it in the most significant things like the way I was able to accept moving to Bangalore to the smallest, seemingly insignificant things like suddenly embracing hot pink lipstick with a casual comfort that was alien to me.

I see it in the way I am suddenly more outgoing. Accepting invitations to meet new people, pushing myself out to events, trying out new restaurants, making plans to beat traffic and increasingly seeking new experiences, over the comfort of mundanities, when it comes to people. I’m reluctant to keep going over the same motions out of habit. I have little to share in terms of mundanities, and the lack of conversational sharing does mean I’ve fallen out of the loop. But I’m dealing with that, and even with its difficulties, I feel it’s better than the hollow, exhausting efforts of continually trying to flog a habit I’m clearly not in the space to hang on to.

I am so not that person anymore.

Accepting that was the hardest part.

This business of looking back at the trail we’ve traversed now seems like an essential healthy practice, one that I should probably do more often. To see where we were, how far we’ve come, to ask crucial questions about where we’re headed, why, and if we’ll actually be happy once we get there requires so much reworking of of our old selves, to take what’s best for us and to let go of all that no longer serve a purpose.

But I won’t lie, that is the hardest part.

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More Goa postcards: yellow

Walking through Fontainhas always gives me a sense of stillness. Like time stopped for a bit, and then picked up again, but the effects of that lag, those missed moments linger on indefinitely. Casting a cliche old-world hue, not just on the way the place looks, but energy it carries. I always feel like I can feel right to my bones, the yars and years of lives, histories and experiences that these buildings, little streets, tiny shuttered windows opening on to groaning balconies must have witnessed.

If I had one word to describe the afternoon we spent back in Fontainhas, it would have to be S T I L L.

And then there’s the beach of course. It doesn’t get more Goa than this. Peachy sun-kissed sunsets, a lilt in the air, beach dogs befriending you and succeeding effortlessly, and the smell of seafood and tandoori everything in the air as the shacks get set for dinner service.

After this trip, where every dog that passed us made a beeline for VC, and instantly struck a friendship and unreal levels of intimacy with him, I’m convinced he might be a dog whisperer.

Same time, last year: Day 301: Notes to self

What colour is your sky?

I’m still coming back to life in Bangalore, seeking rhythm and grounding in the mundane habits of my routine. It’s been an effort trying to find my pace again, while my mind is still in Goa at least 50% of the time. And I find myself wondering about perfection. Not the pursuit of it in action and practice. But magical picture perfect sequence of events. Like sunsets are for me. A performance in perfection of time. Like vignettes suspended mid air, the world on pause, waiting for you to notice.

There is something magical about sunsets. Especially like this one. When it feels like moments of perfection playing out before you. And you can’t help but wonder about the massive movements in space that are responsible for it. How much synchronicity must it take, for every little molecule and particle to find its place, align itself and move in sync, cushioned by the entire universe guiding the show, gently nudging things on so this plays out.

What decides the moment? When does the sky know it is time to put in a show? What goes into that one little move that clicks this rapid, vibrant, staggering play of light into motion?

Just how much churning energy does it take to create moments of perfection? And when you’re standing there, witnessing this, what colour is your sky?

Same time, last year: Day 277: 109 kms done

What coming home feels like: making friends edition

When I was preparing to move to Bangalore, I wondered about feeling lonely and isolated in a city of nameless faces. I didn’t particularly fancy the thought of making friends all over again. Nor did I want to continue my streak of people-less-ness. Much of the urge to get out of Goa was bolstered by the promise of new people. I’d grown rather jaded of the company I kept and was seeking a fresh energy and some new faces. And yet, 33 isn’t the most appropriate age to venture out into the school yard, to scope cliques and meekly gauge which one to attempt to break into.

I felt at sea in matters of people-ing because it’s just been so long since I had to go out and make an effort in this regard. Specially since the last decade or so I’ve had things just happened — people have come and gone from my life, connections were effortlessly made and lost with equal ease — without any active pursuing on my part. Not to make friends, and not in keeping them either. I’ve let a lot of people just go. So making friends felt daunting.

Wh is friendship in adulthood such an intimidating proposition?

However, in yet another unexpected turn, things have been strangely easy on the people front. Ironically, while I still continue to struggle to come to terms with many other things about this city (including some aspects that I thought would be a good change) it’s the people who have been pleasantly warm and welcoming.

I’ve already said coming home gave me the opportunity to reconnect with old friends that I’d sworn I would never go back to, and how comforting it is to just be in the same city as the best of my friends. But that apart, there’s a third set of people-ings that I’m so happy to have stumbled on. It’s the new and unexpected friendships I’ve made. Through friends, through older connections, through people who know people. And happily, so many of these connections have brewed over home cooked meals. I’m more than grateful for these folks who just easily opened their homes up, invited me over and cooked some splendid, memorable meals.

There have been multiple such events. With D, I thulped Goan sausages and bread like it was my last meal ever. A cooked me this stunningly simple but high on flavour Andhra meal, from recipes of her very own cookbook complete with a spicy and heady bone broth that kicked my cold out of the way. With N and D I ate baingan bhartha, chapaties laced with carrots and some gluten free bread because I’ve been off carbs lately.

Each that I’ve shared a meal, hanging out over hearty hot food, huddled around a table, cross-legged on the floor crouched over a plate laden with goodies — something opened up for me.

This past weekend I ate what will go down as yet another incredibly tasty, beautifully put together meal, at yet another table in the home of someone I didn’t know just a few months ago.

It was a large, painstakingly out together array of Andhra food. And again, I felt grateful for the opportunity. For the warmth, the openness and the joy of sharing a meal.

There’s something about honest, homely food cooked straight from the heart, that reaches right inside and touches my soul.

Same time, last year: Day 257: Down and up again

Nine

Nine. NINE! VC, it’s been nine years. I remember writing this post, overwhelmed that we’d hit the half-decade mark, like it was just yesterday. And this morning, I pointed out that today we’ve officially entered the double-digits. Next year it will be a decade since we got married.

The more things seem to change, the more they stay the same. It’s a old and overused cliche, but I can’t think of a better way to describe what it’s like being married to you. The change bit holds only too true for the past year. 2016-17 will go down as the year everything changed. Our professional paths, the painful changes in the run up to accepting that we’d have to leave Goa, moving back to Bangalore, figuring stuff out in the city once again, all the teething issues – physically and emotionally, setting up your new business — never before have we experienced such a huge quantum of change in such a short span of time.

You know what else changed this year? Our communication. I’ve always taken solace and quiet comfort in the knowing that we’ve always had a healthy level of honesty and good communication, but with everything that happened last year, I feel like we were thrust into a whole new level of brutal honesty that we didn’t know existed. I’ll admit it gets very tiring sometimes being the one to initiate us on this path, and constantly be the one digging deeper to find out what lies beneath the surface — our feelings, our opinions, our desires, our dreams — but I’ve realised there is no other way I’d rather have it.

I’ve seen far too many examples of marriages falling apart of late, where the fundamental reason boiled down to the inability to either face and voice the truth, or to accept and embrace it. So I’m extremely grateful for the space we share between us, where pretty much nothing is taboo. I can’t think of too many other relationships that give me this sense of safety. This space for extreme honesty is so, so, very cherished, and you have to know how much you (unconsciously, perhaps) have done to encourage me to speak nothing but the truth. Even when it was to finally realise and admit to myself, and you, that given the way my life has traversed this past year, I do feel that maybe we married too soon.

I broke down momentarily in therapy when I came to this realisation, because I expected to feel the predictable sense of regret. But to my surprise tears made way for relief. I felt so oddly free to be able to see what I had just articulated for what it is, and immediately I knew I was absolutely going to be able to share it with you. I know and believe and feel so thankful to have the kind of relationship with you that enables me to speak this, right to your face, no words minced. And to have us look at the fact with enough distance that is needed to learn the lessons in here, but enough keenness to know what to do with this awareness, and where to go with it. And that’s just what we did, it’s how we embarked on this most unexpected turn of events that has landed us in Bangalore. I do believe this is just the beginning, though, and that a change in cities has so little to do with the city itself, but that we have been presented an opportunity t dig even deeper.

This year, I feel stronger, more whole and at peace than I have ever before in my entire life. Therapy (with all the upheaval it brings in its aftermath), through which you have stood by me like an absolute rock, turned me into an absolute blithering mess at times. I talked nine to a dozen, rambling, losing the plot many a time, voicing and airing a lot of rubbish on the way to finding my clarity. Even as I was going through many of those sessions of verbal diarrhoea, I remember wondering if it might be painful to be at the receiving end of this all the time. It didn’t stop me, though. And it didn’t make you stop me either.

I’m where I am largely because you supported me entirely in getting here. I said last year that much of this exploration began because I was able to give myself the permission to do so. I allowed myself to let go of so much, because you constantly reminded me how important it was to put a premium on myself and do whatever I needed to, to feel whole again.

And for that, I am eternally grateful.

I hope you never muddle your sense of responsibility towards me and this marriage, to lose sight of your personal goals and dreams. Which is why I want you to know that my wish for us this year, and going forward, is that you remember all those things you keep telling me. And I wish and hope that I can be there for you, like you have for me.

This year, I see you at the start of your journey of self-exploration, similar to the spot I was in a couple of years ago. I hope you’ll remember that I’ve always got your back. I may not bring home the bacon, but I’ve really, really, got your back. You can lean on me. I’m here for the talk as much as I am for when you need the silence of comfortable companionship. I’m here for the ride as much as I am for when we need to stay still. I’m here for the plateaus as much as I am change.

I want to go back to one little thing I said on our anniversary last year. It was a liberating, life-changing realisation then. And it holds true even today.

I feel like today, more than ever, is a good day for a reminder.

This year, more than every before, I realised that being together has little to do with being together. Not to take for granted how wonderful it is to have a roomie to come back to, someone to hold at night when the fear of the dark envelops me, someone to lean on when I’m scared or lonely, someone to share a laugh with in a way that only we can understand. But I realised that growing old together involves taking routes that aren’t always going to run in parallel, or end up in the same place. It is possible to be together and yet give each other the space to be apart – in what we do, in where we go, and in how we blossom. And for the first time in all our years together, and my vehement stand on long-distance relationships, I have opened myself up to the idea of living apart. It will mean spreading our wings in different directions, and I don’t mean that just literally. I hope we explore it someday, because I think it will only take us a step up from here.

Happy anniversary my superstar. I haven’t done a very good job of being around the last few weeks and months since we moved to Bangalore. But I want you to know you’re a champ, my absolute trooper and I can’t wait to see what the months ahead hold for you.

As for the ride taking you there, I’m all in.

You’ve got me. I’ve got your back.

I love you so very much.

***

Same time, last year: Day 252: Eight

Past anniversaries: sevensixfivefourthreetwoone.

What coming home feels like: finding new comfort in old places


Nothing prepared me for the kind of freshness this new beginning in an old home would bring.

I thought I was wiping the slate clean and starting over. I hadn’t the faintest clue that so much of this new beginning would involve picking up old threads I’d left behind, visiting feelings I thought I’d dealt with good and proper, and doing things I swore I would never do.

I’m the most change averse person I know. I usually find security in sameness, in old comfortable habits, in well set patterns. But Ive realised how sometimes that cuccoon keeps me from experiencing things I need to. It keeps out the possibilities that I most need. Not just events and experiences as end points, but the process of getting there too.

So much if this newness has been about relaxing a little, letting go of my staunchly held beliefs, questioning all the firm nos and opening myself up to the gentle maybes, and allowing some bits of the old back into my life, looking at it anew and opening myself up to that change completely.

What I once knew to be crippling fear that made me build my walls up high, has turned to a gentle acceptance – first and foremost, of myself – of this wave of fresh energy. Bright and green, new like the eager blade of grass pushing through damp soil, ready for life.

I seem to be dealing with a lot of this change and everything that has come with a lot more grace and gentleness. Towards myself, first. Rather than stiffen up with fear, I’m learning to relax and take a chance more often. It’s led me to stumble on new, interesting people, to some kindred spirit, and best of all uplifting friendship in unlikely, old connections I was so sure I was never revisiting.

The change then, has been within myself, than in my external surroundings.

I not sure I love Bangalore. I haven’t fully come to terms with where I am going. But for now I am utterly and completely at peace with why I am here.

I’m still learning.

Same time, last year: Day 224: Wayanad Things

What coming home feels like: kinship, quietude and becoming

With four months in Bangalore now behind me, I find myself taking stock. I’ll be honest, Bangalore is not a silver bullet to the complicated “where do we go from here” situation VC and I had been in for many months. So much about this city, the people, life here, my neighbourhood, that I have in fact returned (which has given me fresh eyes to look at many of the same things I grew up seeing), the people I used to know, the people I now know, often surprises me — both pleasantly and some times jarringly. Some times I’m irked or frustrated. There’s a lot about life in Bangalore, when compared to Goa, that really annoys me. And some times I have moments of utter clarity, when I know why I am here.

Everyday, though, slowly and calmly, I’m adjusting to it. I find myself still just coping, getting by from one day to the next. But, (and I suspect this is the newfound adult in me talking) I’m making peace with it. By focusing on what I came here for — familiarity, security and kinship — which thankfully, I don’t have to go very far out (or brave the maddening traffic) to find.

The key has been to find a rhythm and balance. To go it one step at a time. Gently stringing together days of hope, punctuated by pops of stillness, weeding away my fears one at a time.

I’ve found new meaning in making peace. I’ve realised it isn’t a shiny thing that you just find and hoard. It takes cultivation, active seeking and building bit by bit. And it takes practice. In doing things to create it for myself I’ve found a strange inner satiety (for the lack of a better term) I can’t name, a warm quietude in the pit of my heart, taking over me.

There, in the depths of the addictive, gummy, don’t-want-to-let-go-of-it peace is the reason why despite all the madness and recurring chaos this change has brought externally, I’m finally happy to be where I am.

Before I moved I had a long list of pros that I enumerated in convincing myself that coming back to the city wouldn’t be as scary as I imagined it would be. That list featured many things my life in Goa didn’t allow — friends and more work topped it. But today, irony is having the last laugh, as I slowly slip deeper and deeper into accepting the real place I want work to have in my life. That, and the fact that I haven’t met or hung out with my friends nearly as much as I imagined we would.

In a brief moment of introspection the other day, I realised that on a literal day-to-day level, my daily routine, the motions of every day life here, is not even a little bit different from what it was before. I still spend a bulk of my time alone, at home. Either working, or reading, cooking, catching up on things I want to. The only difference is, in Goa, I was alone for the most part. Here I have the constant company of my parents and my sister through the day, VC – post work hours, and his family when we go over to visit (which is shockingly more often than we imagined it would be). I cannot begin to describe how much I needed this.

All my life I’ve been running, escaping the present in search of something or the other. Even up until I upped and left Goa. For the first time, choosing to stay is coming easily. All that I am in search of is right here, within the walls of this place I call home.

And this has been the change I needed. The one I feared. It was never about this city or the next. Or where better work opportunities lay.

I’ve never been good with change, I’ve said this numerous times before. But perhaps it isn’t change I needed to fear. I’ve realised that it isn’t change itself, in it’s purest form, that is challenging. It is my own resistance to blend and bend, my uncontrollable need to control and own it, my urge to plan and fight the inevitable that creates rigid, inflexible periods of pain and flux.

For the longest time I shunned the sense of continuity, of eternity, the word home brings. And here’s the thing — home used to be the place that binds me. The space I fled some years ago. And yet, today, it is that same space that has set me free.

I’m completely absorbed in making the most of this opportunity I’ve been presented, when after a decade of being in different cities, my family is under one roof again. I’m greedily taking in the comfort of being surrounded by the silent company of people I love. People who get me. People. Just hanging out. Doing simple everyday things. Going about our daily lives, just together.

Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to meet my friends often, all the time. But this has been the most painful realisation of stepping back into the city life. Nobody has the time. And because even a simple catch up takes time and effort, nobody owes you that time or effort. It sounds naively idealistic when I hark back to the simpler life I had in Goa, when I say it was just truly so much easier to get out and get going. Whether with friends or alone. Granted, I didn’t have as many real people whom I could truly call my people, but it was very uncomplicated to meet. It’s bittersweet to realise I’m in the same city as all my people, and we’re still more in touch on whatsapp than in person. But it is the way it is. I have no complains.

It’s the nature of life here that involves navigating through the biggest hurdle of all, the traffic, which ridiculous as it sounds, dictates all schedules. Every outing involves planning, a predetermined plan of action, and some amount of praying that things go to said plan. I’m never really fully sure if a pre-committed engagement is going to actually materialise, until it does. I’m still not used to the significant coordination and pre-planning that goes into orchestrating even the simplest of outings. And that is when I sorely miss my life in Goa where getting out was as easy as that – getting. out.

Anyhow, before this sounds like a litany of painful comparisons and like I’m complaining, let me say, I’m merely acknowledging what I’ve come to realise and how it has made me feel – a bit disappointed. On the other hand, it has forced me into a very comfortable shell. And in retrospect, I realised this is the place I needed most to be. At home. Literally, if I think about my folks’ place where I spend most of my days, and figuratively, when I think of the sense of feeling at one, or at home, in my own mind.

There is an ever pervading feeling of gratitude I feel for where I am. A feeling I didn’t know I was missing all along. It comes in dense doses that swoop in and sit snugly in the base of my heart. Heavy, leaden but bright and luminous.

When I try and talk about what I feel, I cannot find the words to quantify or describe the quality of that peaceful gratitude. At first I was unable to find the words, and it crippled me in moments of excitement and wanting to share it.

Nowadays I find myself not wanting to necessarily talk about, describe or even share it.

That in itself has brought a sense of calm.

This, is honestly the best I have felt in all my life. Happy, healthy and balanced — right into the depths of my very soul.

I’m not too big on Nayyira Waheed’s works, but this poem really hit the spot.

I guess what I’m trying to say is this. It took leaving a seemingly quiet life, where I had a noisy fire raging within, to move to the madding urban existence. It took giving up the exclusivity and embracing being lost in the cacophony of crowds. It took leaving the home I thought I’d never leave, to come back to the place I never thought I’d return. To assuage that fire. And find the peace I never knew I was missing.

The key has been to find a rhythm and balance. To go it one step at a time. Gently stringing together days of hope, punctuated by pops of stillness, weeding away my fears one at a time.

Perhaps then this wasn’t a homecoming, but a becoming.

Same time, last year: Day 221: On the road