Retrospect

Hi once again, from absolutely rainy, drippy, beautiful Goa.

I sense this back and forth life split between Goa and Bangalore slowly nearing its end (or at least reducing in pace and frequency of going between the two states) and the return to Goa this time around has come with an intense desire spend the next week really soaking it up.

Something really did lift for me yesterday, confirming my hunch that I’m experiencing an internal shift that is beyond my own comprehension and certainly not decipherable through words and overthinking.

***

A lot of my disorientation and struggle of the weeks past have been compounded by the some shame and self-hate that I have been directing at myself. I realised last week, yet again, how easily I forget to be kind and compassionate to myself, post-therapy. There is so much healing that happens in just meeting whatever comes up — the old wounds, the hitherto untouched grief, the completely unexpected discovery of an inner child pock-marked with memories of being worried, confused, brave and compelled to be put-together — with kindness. It’s the first step to acceptance, and then integration, and really, without that does this journey even get anywhere?

N has been pushing me, harder than ever before, to stay with the internal distress that is so quick to bubble over, when I am faced with the difficulties of my inner child. It is extremely difficult territory for me to navigate because I still doubt my capacity to be there for her. For me.

I’m only getting very slightly better with every interaction that I have, but I think the more I learn to meet her with kindness, the better this will get.

For now though, there is probably going to be a lot more disorientation. From facing so many unknown truths about that inner child for the very first time, from learning to stay with the distress, from owning and meeting the grief and sadness of it all, from fighting the urge to turn around and bolt from it all.

Most of all though, I’m learning to go easier still on myself. To remind myself that there is no fixed end goal, and no milestones that I have to hit. That there will be times when I feel like I have taken three steps back, instead of forward. To keep the disappointment at bay, and drop the need to “perform” and do this well. It sounds like a lot, and it overwhelms me in times of distress, but when the fog has lifted it soon becomes apparent that all I really need to do is be kind to all parts of myself — inner, outer, child and adult — alike. To face myself with the same empathy I extend to others. To be patient and gentle, to see myself, and to be there for myself.

***

I’m happy to be in Goa, with its bizarre golden evening monsoon light, with this new relaxed state of mind. In the peace of just today spend in Goa, I realised I need to bring back some stillness in my life, some mindfulness or grounding practices that help me stay in the moment, rather than in my head where things get sometimes unnecessarily complicated.

I need to get back to a routine of slowness and taking time out for myself. Being in Goa sets that pace for me. It means I can let it all go, chill for a few days and make a plan for setting myself up back to the bustle of life in Bangalore.

One year ago: If everything could ever be this real forever
Two years ago: Perfect love
Three years ago: Barely moving

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Days like these

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

Today, I feel like the light is shining through.

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

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

***

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

New light

Adversity has that strange capacity of bringing out aspects of us that we didn’t know existed, that we didn’t know we needed, even. In this past week, I have seen family rally around and show up in ways that while essential and maybe even expected, but with a quality of togetherness that has caused role reversal, and brought out vulnerability and tenderness in the most unexpected places.

When I decided to fly back to Bangalore on Friday, I was responding to an inexplicable push from within that was nudging me to do the same — to show up and be present in a way that I have shied away from for years now. In that moment I realised that it isn’t about the the doing, but just the single act of being. Of showing up. Of being there. All my thoughts about being the odd one out, and all the difference I held between them and me, that had actually unconsciously kept me away, suddenly made way for clarity about the single and only way in which I suddenly wanted to connect, which was to be there. These emotions surpass the stories in my head, the narratives I want to cling to and all the various things that allow my mind to keep me staying in a place I am adamant to be in. But many times, like I said the other day, the heart and soul is ready to move on. To transcend barriers, to find a new way of being, to make way for growth — and I’m only just, very, very slowly, learning to be easy with that, in a way that doesn’t feel like a compromise to myself.

This past weekend, I have watched myself be present for VC’s family, in a way that I haven’t before. In a way that I have maybe even held myself back from being before. It’s been special to see that this happened even though I didn’t have the active presence of VC for support, as well as to hide behind, which is my usual MO. He came down with the flu the day I landed, which meant he had to stay away from the hospital entirely, and I still felt compelled to be there anyway. It’s been special to acknowledge that am now in a place to be able to do this with confidence rather than diffidence, calmly without slipping into panic and most of all without feeling the distress about the possible cost to my being.

It’s like discovering new light, in an otherwise dark time.

It is not lost on me that is yet another positive manifestation of how relationships with others, with the world at large, are changing, as the deepest most private parts of my relationship with myself are also changing. It brings the promise of new ways of blossoming.

The impending crisis has settled, for now. I return to Goa, in a couple of days, and life will likely resume. Even though everything about this back and forth seems familiar and old, at some very fundamental level I feel like nothing will ever be the same again.

One year ago: Oh my life is changing everyday
Three years ago: That’s all

Taking myself to new places my mind doesn’t know are good for me

I had two weeks to write out my assignment. And yet, from the moment I found out that we had to write this essay, to the point of finishing it up (only just finished an hour ago — it’s due today) I have been gripped by an underlying, quiet panic. During this time, I did no real writing. And as a result, only began working at the very last minute.

I have become aware that there is a latent “paranoid student” inside of me. In fact, it was over the course of the three days of class last month, that I became aware that this side almost triggered by the rigour of a classroom setting with just the slightest intensity and demands of learning that I am experiencing with Level 2. This side that immediately cues my brain to perform, outperform and excel, when met with an atmosphere of competitiveness – something that has always made me very uncomfortable – is the side of me that also knows only one way to react. That is to shy away from doing anything at all. It brings on a higher-than-normal level of fear, crippling parts of me that are actually perfectly good to perform, rendering me almost paralysed.

I have felt this in the last couple of days before sitting down to write that essay – my brain knows what I want to say, but the overwhelm of having to say it all, the self-made pressure to do that exceedingly well, and the panic of whether I will get it right has made me immobile for the last few days. Until, I just made space for it, and broke down my expectations of myself.

This side of me has been hidden for so many years since I have made protecting it a default way of being. That it surfaced so quickly and easily in class made me see that it’s time for it to be witnessed and given a place. In the past I have made many easy, conveniently less-demanding choices in my profession, to protect this side that feels pressured or fearful of being in the spotlight that comes from performance and evaluation of it. Even though I have learned and loved Indian classical music and dance for over a fifteen years when I was growing up, it was the fear (absolute terror!) of performance that made me move away from it, and eventually give it up altogether. At my very last job, before I quit full time work completely 7 years ago, to choose working from home (which I now see, among other things, as an act of protecting myself from the competitive demands of my professional space) to avoid getting out of my comfort zone and doing things like making presentations and meeting clients. I was happier being the worker bee, and very willing to slog many hours in the background, while someone else took the lead.

In some ways, I have been feeling for a while, that the call and the draw to pursue Level 2, despite the underlying fear of what it will require of me, has also been a call from within to see what emerges and what is possible for me, when I stretch myself out of this protective, comfort zone.

Safe as it has been, the same space has started to feel limiting for some time now. It’s a strange thing to explain – even as I feel drawn to come out, there are traces of resistance that urge me to pull back and stay within. I feel both energies, simultaneously, yet pushing through seems to take less effort these days.

It’s like the need to stay safe, is making way for the side of me that wants to be seen, and wants to claim a new place.

It’s interesting to me that I am suddenly seeing it in this way – as something that is emerging that needs a place, without judgement or adding value, without having to run away from it, or lock it away. It feels like an outcome of the many months of personal therapy that is making me just that little bit more comfortable with all aspects of myself — those that are loud and visible on the outside, as well as the softer, hidden sides — with every passing day.

I understand very slightly now what it is to move from the level of the personality to get in touch with one’s soul. It’s probably in an experience like this — when I decided to pursue Level 2 — that felt like a call from within that pushed through all the signals of fear and need for protection that my mind was throwing at me.

Sometimes my mind gets stuck in a place, based on previous (sometimes traumatic) experiences that brought out fear or panic, for example, but I’m becoming aware of how the rest of me — my soul, specifically — is ready to move on from there. I realised today, that the slow, and honestly never-ending, work of meeting myself has brought me just that much closer to my soul and I have in some fleeting moments felt a sense of willingness to listen and the capacity to move to where it is taking me.

It is sometimes to places my mind doesn’t know can be refreshingly new and good for me.

One year ago: You ain’t been blue, till you had that mood indigo
Three years ago: Pedalling again

Breaking the silence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grey

It’s been a terrible day, right from the get go. It started off with minor niggles but with every progressive niggle (and they were flying thick and fast) it began to feel like the world was conspiring to make me have this shitty day in every way possible. It started with an all-morning power cut that threatened to ruin my agenda for the day, and ended with a full on battle with a lizard the size of a mini dinosaur, and resulted in my having a full blown melt down at sundown.

Physical niggles aside, there’s been a lot of heaviness in our lives this past week. I realised I hadn’t given myself enough time to process everything that happened and came up in class — a lot of which has been heavy and overwhelming for me — and went straight into flying to Goa, landed in the midst of news a medical emergency in our family. We have been riding that wave all week, waiting on endless hospital tests and doctors opinions before we figure out which way to proceed. All this has meant that as a family too, we haven’t had the luxury to really come together or even process the fear and grief that has surfaced in the face of a life threatening disease.

I’ve had a vague sense of being disoriented all week but I just put that down to my inability to run on autopilot like I was in the week before I landed in Goa, and thought I just needed time to switch down from that tempo. However I realised today, when it all bubbled over, over a full-on war with a harmless (albeit menacingly large) lizard, that there was something else at play. I have held all of my emotions in this past week, in an attempt to just get on and get by, not fully in touch with what I am feeling and how it is showing up in my body. It only showed up and became clear like looking through a freshly minted sheet of glass, in therapy today when everything — all the varied, disparate, disconnected open ends of my life at the moment — spiller over in full force.

I haven’t had a day this heavy in, possibly, years. In fact my last real memory of a day like this is from 2016 — a year when I had several of them. Since then, even with the small ups and downs, I have felt a steady forward, upward movement and real changes in being able to manage the heavier days without breaking down completely or being thrown totally off kilter.

Of course the real goal of any inner work is not to eliminate such days entirely, but to get to a place where they are managed in a more mindful way, by being present rather than absent to the difficulties that are coming up.

Last week, I felt largely absent. I have not been in my body and certainly not been present to the full impact of the real emotions I have been having. This has disoriented and fazed me a fair bit, also something I wasn’t aware of. And so today has been a reminder of how much more work there is to be done. And how important it is for me to look after myself, in order to be present and fully available, for myself as well as for others who look to me for support. Especially in times like this.

One year ago: Did you fall from a shooting star?
Three years ago: On solitude

Decompress

A spot of alone time and unwinding before I head out to dinner. I really needed this to decompress all that has been held within me for the last 24 hours.

There was a death in VCs family and being around the family in these circumstances always triggers something very deep within me, bringing up differences and making me realise the full impact of the way in which I feel like a misfit.

I carried all the stirrings of this to therapy last evening. A mad dash after a day that was spent in a tizzy on the run. And what emerged attherapt crushed me like a ton of bricks and took me to a very deep, dark place.

I’m tempted to say I was not ready for it. That it came out of the blue. But if I were to be really honest, the signs have been there, the writings been on the wall, this has been coming a while. I had only to see it and have the right trigger unleash it all.

I realised yesterday what a sense of safety and guidance I feel with N. Something just clicks into place for me when we begin a session, giving me the unexpected confidence to bring out the things I do — the things that stay deep in dark places in my real life. But I’d be untrue to myself if I didn’t give myself credit where it’s due. If I didn’t acknowledge the work and focus it has taken in getting myself to where I am with my personal journey. The process of integrating, becoming hole, including all that has been separated, looking at the ways in which I am bound by my consciences — all of this has contributed to making me just that little bit more solid and whole from within. And it is only because of this newfound solidity that I am even able to tap into the depths of my shadow self, brave enough to go there and wrench out the more deeply held fears and anxieties like I did yesterday.

I have never felt so simultaneously fearful and brave. Afraid, yet ready. Empowered, and up for a challenge.

The difference now is just how much I feel like I am on my own side. How much I have my own back. And how much I feel committed to not abandoning myself.

So I sit here today, finally decompressing, and I realise since therapy yesterday I have subconsciously waited and anticipated a mild falling apart that I thought would follow.

The flux, it’s there. The distress and unsettlement, it’s there. The angst and butterflies in my stomach about what will be, it’s there. And yet I feel together.

The “breakdown” — it hasn’t come. And I’m wondering if it may have left the building entirely.

One year ago: Did we fly to the moon too soon?
Three years ago: Back to base. Almost.

Tender

Things have suddenly grown very quiet with me. Quiet. And contained. There are a lot of open ends in life right now, but for a change there is no desire to close or to make meaning of most things.

This is a pleasant change from always having my mind working overdrive to analyze, understand, get to the bottom of.

I am reading about the power of un-knowing. How sometimes, the desire to learn, gets in the way of the path of the soul and its movements, and it may be well worth my time to taste this un-knowingness. To approach every day without a knowing, or a plan. To be so utterly open, is scary and uncertain and vulnerable. All the things that still take “work” for me to turn on. But to enter into a state of un-knowing also takes surrender, relinquishing control — both which command a high level of courage that I feel I am only just building.

I feel tender, and exposed. However, I am just about feeling ready to embrace this opportunity — to hold, to stay still, and to wait, in this space of not knowing, from where anything can emerge.

One year ago: You live, you learn
Three years ago: I don’t feel sorry about posting pictures about my life

My own person

For a few weeks now, I have been feeling a deep sense of settledness, settlement, within. I waited to see if it was just a bout of peace as I’ve experienced before, or something deeper. And it seems to me, more and more, that this feels like a filling-up from within. A kind of sufficiency that I am unable to put a finger on or find words to explain. And it’s come with the profound, but very quiet, realisation that I am mostly okay on my own. These are S’s words. We were talking about this the other day, each of us articulating the same thing even given the very opposing circumstances of our lives, and we were delighting in the fact that we’re in similar places of understanding of what it really truly means to be on one’s own.

What then, does one do with the constant thread of loneliness, and the need for connection that also exists, on the very flipped side of that same coin? It is there, all the time, undeniably so. A constant reminder that even as I discover facets of myself on a daily basis, unearthing unknown resources and reserves of self-love, and seeing how it manifests as new connection and healthy boundaries in my outer world, and even as I skim th surface of  the well-spring of belonging within myself, and as I teach myself to dip in, drink of it and fill myself up, in the end I am all alone.

What do I do with this, I wondered.

The past three days especially, these thoughts have peaked, as I consciously and unconsciously made time to just be with and by myself. And I realised this is a new kind of loneliness. A kind of solitude I am happy to choose. It doesn’t come from feeling alone or abandoned. It doesn’t spring from messages unanswered, plans deferred or any such basic occurrence. It comes from a sufficiency that has been slowly welling up inside of me. A settledness, a feeling or oneness with who I am discovering myself to be. And an understanding and experience of space, around and inside of me. Even the words and thoughts I have been thinking as I feel my way through this has been different, from before.

Only after some thought, and careful processing did I realise that this loneliness, is different from before. And I shouldn’t mix them up and confuse myself. This is the loneliness of finding myself. This is the slow, but full sweeping understanding of what it means to be enough. And that in the end, even with all our connections, relationships, families and society at large, we are all alone. That it is possible to hold my space, connect and feel utterly lonely all at once. Minus the fear, minus the abandonment that was once so easily triggered, minus the panic, minus the desperate need to distract myself from it.

It took a while to notice that this is no longer cerebral, and somewhere when I wasn’t looking has found a place somewhere deeper. I only realised it when I noticed that in flashes, in many little moments, acts of putting myself first and looking out for myself, that something has changed in the way I am presenting myself to the world. There is this new person slowly emerging from the bed of fertile soil that I have been nurturing — feeding, nourishing, watering, wand waiting over — for the past so many months. This new person feels lonely, but I am able to be with it and let it flow through, without much any effort at all. It has less control over me, doesn’t grip me in angst or desperation to connect and find people or things to fill it up with. Instead, when it presents itself, it sometimes makes me feel settled, near-perfect. And that was a confusing feeling, until I figured out what has actually happening.

This person has been showing up more and more of late, and I can’t wait for her to find her whole self and emerge. The process thrills me, and makes me feel like this, right here, is me living my best life. It feels so darn good to have this be a conscious, deliberate part of my life. This is the healthiest, fittest, most happy and mentally fulfilled I have felt in many years.

One year ago: Home where my love lies waiting

On boundaries: how they’ve changed my experience of friendship

Lately, I’ve been seeing some interesting shifts with the way in which I am experiencing friendship. For years I understood boundaries purely cerebrally, and struggled to find a way to really let the ideas sink deeper and peter into my life. The idea of a boundaries always drew up images of a solitary existence. While I embraced this as a kind of solitude at one time in my life, there came another time when I began to really crave connection, and I began to understand the importance and need for healthy, dependable relationships. Forging those has been a whole adventure of it’s own with so many hiccups and milestones alike.

I didn’t realise this before, but for the longest time I saw a boundaried existence and loneliness as by-products of each other. For the longest time, I didn’t see the middle ground that exists between setting healthy boundaries and simultaneously forging deep and wonderful connections.

I am slowly getting this now that I am experiencing a physical healthy distancing from people, even those I love and hold close. And I am doing my best not to mistake this for the old loneliness. This manifests more as a healthy space between me and the other, and it’s so fascinating to note that it’s the same space that acts as a protective boundary in some relationships, yet deepens my capacity to relate and to connect in others.

In just the last week alone, I experienced both in two separate instances. And both times, I experienced it as a safe, welcome distance between me and the other person. Being someone who usually knows no other way but to go all in, sometimes to the point of being completely enmeshed or losing myself totally to the relationship, and therefore experiencing constant lack from an imbalance in giving and taking, this has been a welcome change.

And what a relief it is. To be better with space between us, minus the throes of fear and peak abandonment that it once resulted in. To enjoy the poise and grace that comes with the space. To watch what happens in the many moments of pause that increase and grow, when there is this space in a relationship. To let go of the need to be seen as good, or well-meaning and kind at all times. To no longer mistake the desperate need and expectation of the other to change or deliver in ways differently from the way they can, as kindness and concern. To just let it go, entirely, as fulcrum on which the future of the relationship hinges. To be okay with people as they are (within healthy limits, of course). To be okay with the uncertainty that comes from not always being on the same page as the people I choose to surround myself with.

This has 100% happened because I am seeing the minutest ways in which I am getting better with a very conscious understanding of:

  • boundaries, how they won’t lead me to impossible loneliness and why they’re actually good for relationships
  • kindness and compassion and when I tend to allow them come into play
  • my tendencies to judge and how they have an impact on the quality of relationships
  • and of course, the overarching process that is meeting myself in a good way, feeling whole and at home with myself

There’s a lot of nuance involved in each of these, and I’m only recording this in brief to remember this feeling of ease and relief that I’ve experienced this past week. The sense of space, again, is really hitting the spot for me.

One year ago: Stop chasing shadows, just enjoy the ride
Three years ago: How blue

Tough love

Last week, in an unnecessarily heated conversation with VC, I realised I have so much work to still do in the gracefully receiving his (acts of)love freely and fearlessly.

The conversation had me being thoughtlessly sharp, defensive, and plain mean. It took many hours of conscious rethinking, going over the conversation again and again in my head to realise where I had slipped and why I had heard what I had heard even though the words VC had used were totally different. It took many days of processing too, before I realised how I had unconsciously projected the inner tussle caused by my inability to receive freely from him, on to him, very quickly (and unnecessarily) turning a gentle and love-filled conversation into a bitter one.

When I realised the full extent to which I had slipped and the consequences the conversation had had on him, I was of course filled with guilt, shame and regret. It’s been several days and even though we’ve had our truce and life has moved on, I still haven’t said the words I’m sorry.

This week, I realised I have so much work to still do in freely and fearlessly saying sorry and being accountable for every time that I behave like a child, or a jerk. Or sometimes both.

One year: A serious kind of something new
Three years ago: No words today

Meeting myself

It has taken me so long to really understand:

  1. And articulate to myself, what I have been after ever since I began my self-work
  2. My own process and how it can be no other way except the way my mind and heart can and will go
  3. How slow and expansive my process actually is and how much time and space I need to still learn to give myself
  4. The difference between being troubled by my thoughts and instead witnessing them from a place of compassion and acceptance
  5. That this is so much more about the process and the journey, than it is about the outcome

One year ago: Serendipity, do you believe that this makes sense?

Here you are

It may not always be apparent on the outside — the silent, slowly shifting way in which the soul moves. Every little expansion, stretching my skin, elongating my bones and making me porous and light, open and free. Only I know the work that it has taken and continues to take — the quiet, private work of meeting myself in a way that I have never known before. The energy it consumes and the emotions it brings to the surface. To make space for it all even as I hold it within is a process — almost dance-like — that I am only just getting familiar with.

It may not always immediately make sense. Especially to my rational, habituated mind that still slips back into old ways. And even more so, it may make absolutely no sense to the outside world.

The ask of this ever growing soul, constantly morphing, WIP being, is to stay tuned-in, as far as possible. To the voice that is emerging, growing from strength to strength, as well as the opposing voices also within me that are constantly trying to drown the other out. My job is to give both space so they may meet, converse, mingle and come to a new kind of settled alignment. To make space for this process, to slow down if I must, rather than fill myself with the next activity to numb, deny, ignore or avoid everything that is emerging at this time, or to rush ahead and lose sight of the subtleties that are gentle and small when they show up.

This is the slow and sometimes painful, also hopelessly lonely, grief inducing, and simultaneously exhilarating and invigorating process of being in-bloom.

This is where I am.

One year ago: I wrote a letter to my love
Three years ago: May

These days

I’ve only been back in Bangalore a week, but the settledness that comes with returning home makes it feel like it’s been a while. Longer. Only thoughts of my plants give me a pang for the wonderful summer I had this year, not so long ago. But for the most part, life here has resumed in full swing. The weather has turned here with thunderstorm-y nights and grey, overcast days. Summer feels long gone.

There is the new development of not having work at all, something that otherwise grounds my days, giving me tangible milestones to work towards. I’m also mostly still eating all meals at amma’s, because ammama is visiting, so my kitchen hasn’t found a burst of activity as it usually does when I return. The only thing I’m doing (and by doing I mean expending physical energy) with utmost dedication an enthusiasm, is hitting the gym every single day. As much as this is a luxury that I love and appreciate, it has meant my days are rather floaty, like an extended holiday of sorts. Except I have to keep reminding myself that it isn’t a holiday, this is now life itself. A phase of life without work, a life with abundant help and generosity from my mother. It is here for the taking — with freewheeling days to do as I please — and I must step up and take it for what it is, without diminishing its (or my) value with my sometimes problematic notions of what is “okay” to receive, and what is an unnecessary indulgence.

This seriously still disorients me — the floaty days, and the internal tussle I go through before I can enjoy them — but the uncanny and deliberate way in which events aligned to land me in this place this time around feels like a fresh call to just stay with it for a change. Do not rush to fill it with busyness, Re.

Even though I am getting better at it, it still takes a lot of effort to put myself in the headspace to go with it and enjoy it, to believe I am not “slacking off” for not being “productive”, to quit equating my usefulness to professional work alone. There is a sense of urgency I feel in getting to work, that I haven’t had in a while. The comfort of a steady gig, a steady income had kept that at bay, I suppose. The emptiness left by it now has brought old demons I’d somewhat put to rest, back up again. I’ve done my share of overthinking it silently in my head. And I keep coming back to asking myself this — what is your rush? What are you in looking to fill, ignore, move your eyes away from? Are you looking for work to numb the discomfiting silence that comes from extreme stillness? What is so scary about emptiness that you are trying avert it so urgently?

While I figure this out, I’m casting the net out again. Feebly. I’ve been out of the game for so long that I feel inept and a bit at sea about where to begin. So I must remember to take it slow, telling myself as many times as it takes to remember, I didn’t get to this stage of funemployment overnight, that sheer providence has sent a steady flow of work my way even in phases when I wasn’t really looking for it, that I am probably not going to go back to a state of steady work overnight. This is the natural order of things now. That it is okay. That there are gifts in here, even in the sometimes uncomfortably empty days, in the laziness that forces itself on me, in the wealth of time that is opening up for me. Is work really the only thing I want to fill it with?

At this point, I don’t know.

One year ago: Life has a funny way of helping you out
Three years ago: Period story and writing lessons

Boundaries

I used to think boundary setting was hard — almost impossible — when I first realised what an unboundaried existence I had. This was when I mistakenly conflated avoidance and distance with boundaries. I’ve now learned that boundaries have nothing to do with avoidance, or distance even. Also, like with everything, a little consistency and practice has helped me get better at what I once thought was impossible. I have experienced what healthy boundaries can do in the closest relationships in my life. And like everything else, getting to one level of progress invariably opens up the road ahead, and gives me a view on how much more there is to be done. Allied aspects of setting boundaries have revealed themselves, my understanding of it has deepened. For example, I have realised how much I still would like to control outcomes. How badly I sometimes want “good” endings. How much I wish and try to mould them. How high my need to be seen as “good” is. All this, even as I am firm about boundaries.

The hard part has been realising that setting healthy boundaries comes with the added practice in learning to let go of the outcomes. And that includes being okay with imperfect, abrupt endings. Being okay with people not liking the boundary. Being okay with me not being liked for setting it. I’ve seen this to be especially true during phases when I’ve experienced rapid, constant, visible change. There have invariably been people who have been jarred by it, some people who suddenly no longer fit, some people with whom I feel the need for new boundaries, some with whom I have want to change up the boundaries. All of this is not going to uniformly go down well across the board, with everyone alike.

I’m learning that part of being better with healthy boundaries is to also get better at letting go of the need to please, and to that extent control the way the other feels about my boundaries. To be accountable only for my actions and emotions, and leave the outcome, the responsibility of the reactions and responses to the other. And I’m trying to be unhurried about learning this.

One year ago: The week ends, the week begins
Two years ago: Changing seasons
Three years ago: Skies that lie