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Tag Archives: Therapy and healing

Because wanting to leave is enough

27 Apr

A little over seven years after I wrote this very telegraphic post, I’m back in the exact same spot. Came to Bangalore in search of a break, new beginnings, to get a feel of all things city-life again, and to house hunt. I’m aware of how ridiculous this sounds considering I am from Bangalore, but the truth is seven+ years away feels like an entire lifetime. And we’ve both completely forgotten what living here used to be like.

Very soon, I’ll be in this phase. The last time, I was leaving the security of home to fly off into the unknown, with mixed emotions. It was a happy-sad farewell. I was sad to go, but bracing myself with a hint of excitement about Goa and newfound freedom. This time around, I want so desperately to move, and after such a roundabout hunt, I’m coming back home. Yes, Bangalore is nothing like it used to be, but there’s nothing better than returning to familiar ground, home turf, right back into the safe space that is being around parents.

It’s strange how one tends to always end up right where one belongs. Even if it takes a long time getting there, and sometimes it’s the last place you imagine and believe you want to be.

That we wanted to move, was fact. It has been in the works for about two (painfully long) years now. What took this long was closing in on a destination. And that proved to be the hardest part, rife with unplanned twists and turns, and multiple choices, difficult conversations that weighed out the pros and cons a hundred times over, which made the decision-making process a bigger test than we ever imagined it would be.

I’m facing the “why are you moving?” and “why Bangalore?!!” question at least once a day and I find myself strangely at peace about it. Perhaps it’s because I’m not really feeling all that heavy-heart-y about leaving Goa. Yes, there’s a lot I’ll miss terribly about Goa, but for far too long now there has been many things that I have wanted to take to the next level that have required moving on. So I’m feeling more positive and ready about the present and what lies ahead, than wistful about the past. It has little to do with which destination makes a better home, and everything to do with where we are in life at this present moment, and what we want from it.

Also, we now have a home in Goa and I envisage some back-and-forth-ing is in the works. Every time the big city gets hectic, it’s nice to know we’ll have a space to camp out at in Goa. So it really doesn’t feel like a sad close to this amazing time, rather a much, much needed segue into a brave, new world.

And so that brings me to Bangalore, where finally, we have found a new home. I say new, because it feels like a new phase, but it’s an old home in an area I grew up in. Talk about full circle, eh? D pointed out to me this morning, how our bodies talk to us. It’s a connection I’d made, but hadn’t articulated quite the way she did. It’s very telling of the slow and steady, step by step movement towards acceptance of why I must go, how and when that eventually gave me a push. Closure, peaceful acceptance, the serenity of everything happening for a reason only really fell into place when I answered the why now? question with honesty. When I accepted the most fundamental reason that needed no further explanations or justification. To borrow the words of the inimitable Cheryl Strayed:

Go, because you want to. Because wanting to leave is enough.

Getting to this point of clarity has been a humbling exercise in learning to let go and trust the process. It took everything out of us, but without it there was no decision to be made. Once we got there, though, there was no stopping or turning back. Before we knew it, various elements had snowballed right before our eyes, pushing us into relocation mode faster than we could fully register what was happening.

I’ve always believed I don’t do well with change, but for the first time in a long time, I’m hungering for some.

For now, it’s goodbye Goa. And in true VC-style, there had to be a goodbye video. Featuring me and my very itchy feet that have been raring to go.

As ​7.5 brilliant years in Goa come to a close, I’m eager, thrilled and so at peace with being at the brink of change and beginning a new trip. Until next time, stay amazing, Goa. You’ve been everything.

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Happier: perpetual WIP

10 Jan

I’m not entirely blind to the unrealistic expectation that is thinking life will turn 180 degrees from where things were, just, well, last week, just because we moved into a new cycle of counting time. This big rock floating in space that we’re on, literally just completed another revolution around the life-giving blazing star, a time period that we’ve chosen to place such undue pressure on, holding it up to our desperate need for fresh beginnings and new avenues.

So it was natural for me to attribute the surge that I suddenly felt throbbing back to life, and persuading me to get out and see the light, to general peer pressure. One week in, I know now, that was a silly thought process. Because it’s not so much about flicking the pages of the calendar, or the turning of a proverbial new leaf, because yes they’re constructs of our achievement obsessed culture that train our minds to get ready-set-go at the start of the year only to lose steam approximately 2.5 weeks in. Which is about as long as it takes for the shine of a spanking new year to fade.

While it’s true that there needn’t be any reason at all for the uplifted spirit from the doldrums that was 2016, with the somethings-brewing kind of churn and rumble that I’ve felt as we turned the corner and stepped into 2017, the truth is, it was a happy coincidence.

The fact that I felt all the multiple diverging threads of my life, that for the better part of last year felt like they were unravelling slowly and painfully, suddenly converging again towards the end of the year, prompted me to take some time to regroup and prepare for a fresh start. That was intentional and well-timed.

Since, there has been a definite, undeniable shift, and I’ve bounced back to a former self I feel I had forgotten once existed. However, this week, I had to remind myself to press the brakes just a little bit. To slow down, not be impatient, and to remember the stillness and calm that I have worked hard to bring back to my life over the past twelve months.

It is crucial for me to make every effort not to lose this precious pace, to the urgency that brews at the start of every new year. To remember to mindfully, slowly, pace it out rather than rush in all guns blazing, only to burn out very soon.


The side of me that’s raring to go and rush in at all my goals like a maniac with a crack addled brain, is at loggerheads with the side of me that has tasted the benefits of letting go and watching things unfurl when you go at them with the tempered calm of a zen monk.

This morning, at therapy, I acknowledged that maybe I was slipping back into letting that pointless restless energy that does nothing but dissipate my focus, creep back and get the better of me. I visualised it as a ball of wires, knotted up, humming, buzzing frantically, the noise building to a noisy crescendo. But I spent the hour after, working those knots out as much as I could. And when I was done, I visualised myself chucking the whole mess of wires out of my life.

Indu shared an instagram picture with me last night, that reminded me of it’s origins in one of my most favourite posts. And it felt like today was a good day to revisit it.

Everyone is trying to find happiness or stay happy in any way they can.

I realise so much of getting through from one day to the next is in simple acts of mindful living. In tiny reminders of moments full of promise of joy that are in the works, waiting to be acknowledged. In schedules that bisect and dissect time the way I’d like it to be. In moments of peace snatched in between mundane chores like cooking lunch and folding clothes. In the little victories of stories submitted, deadlines met (or happily extended) or a surprise telephone call, shared by no one but me alone. In the simple contentment that comes from eating a square of chocolate. In knowing when you need to heal. In choosing to work out the knots. In trying to understand when to stop, and just throw the whole damn mess out. In not giving up on the urge to get better and thrive. In accepting that this is healing at work. In doing the work. And believing wholeheartedly that this itself, is the very purpose of being alive.

ds-happy-02

You do not “arrive” at joy, but you can strive to create it in small and enjoyable ways.

This is a reminder to myself. (And maybe to you too.) That wanting to be happy, getting happier, staying happiest, is WIP. Keep at it, work those knots out, throw out the unnecessary, get help when you need it, find love when you’re feeling the lack of it, demand support from those who you count on, ask for it when they’re not listening, and just keep swimming.

2016

5 Jan

So it’s done. What I’ve called the most forgettable, shitty year, time and time again, is over. It’s true that last year I had more than a fair share of lows. But it’s also true that in bouncing from one low to the next, only keeping my head above water, occasionally remembering to thwack my limbs and move towards the closest object for support, I’ve often needed to remind myself that I’m still alive and breathing. Which is a convoluted way of saying, a lot happened in between the lows that really wasn’t bad at all. But I have been so occupied with just barely staying afloat that it’s felt like I’ve been mostly stuck in a downward spiral of negativity. The bad has a way of eclipsing the good, and painting a picture so dismal, you wonder why this is your life. Which is why I’m thankful for forced stops in the infinite loop of time. We put a date to the end of the year, we decide it’s a time to reflect, and I’m glad we have this opportunity to lay out all the cards, pick which ones to fold over and put away, and which ones to take ahead.

There is such a difference in looking back cursorily, because all I can see is large spans of time spent lying in bed, unable to move, just staring out the window, and looking back one day and month at a time. Broadly, I feel like I spent way too much time wondering why this is happening to me. This, being the thick and heavy fog that consumed me. But, it’s only when I combed through my archive that I realised I was diffident, cynical, exhausted from the get go. I entered the year in a terrible headspace. Maybe it set the tone for the year? Maybe I was a fool not to see how things were hurtling towards an inevitable crash right through 2015? Maybe this was all just a necessary intervention in the making? I don’t know.

What followed was a lot of indecision and confusion that really chipped away at my confidence and left me on very shaky ground. Pretty much the entire year after has been spent trying to regain that solid ground beneath my feet. Whether it was putting my confidence in myself and my work back together and resuming in a direction that made sense to me, but scared the shit out of me, or opening myself up to honesty of a different kind, running all my relationships through a sieve and keeping only the most important ones close, learning to distinguish between an inner and outer circle, basically redefining the very notion of love and friendship, or regaining some bit of pride and a sense of self and identity that I’d lost sight of — everything about 2016 was an effort towards building something in me that 2015 had broken.

I couldn’t have picked a better year to write a post a day, because looking back has helped me see that while 2016 was far from fantastic, it sure was eventful. It was shitty in many parts, challenging in ways I have not previously known but omg, you gaiiis, so much happened!

Mostly, 2016 has been a year of rediscovering honesty. Of coming to terms with many things I was either not seeing right, or turning a blind eye to. It all started with the decision to take some time off. To regroup and clear my head out. I had a breakdown at the end of 2015, that made me realise I was overworked, confused about my priorities and sorely needed some time out. My inability to be honest with myself was pushing me into a cycle of repeated losses that had left me very, very tired.

So, I planned to spend 5-6 weeks unwinding and doing the things that gave me joy, in the hope that it would make room for some clarity. I read and wrote. And that’s not counting my work. There was some drawing, some haiku, and an exercise regimen, all in the interest of building a routine that enriched rather than depleted me. With all the mind space to introspect, it wasn’t long before the truth, or rather the lack of honesty emerged strong and loud.

I don’t mean honesty in the sense of truth-telling. I mean honesty in so many different ways — the inability to break through my denial, my stubbornness in not admitting to seeing things as they were, the fact that far too many people in my life had more to take than give me, the false belief that the work-life pattern I had unconsciously fallen into was necessary for success, my misplaced conviction that it was what I liked and wanted, when the truth couldn’t have been farther from it.

I’d begun to realise a need for a deeper honesty in my friendships. As it happened several of my closest friends found themselves in a bad patch at the start of the year. It involved unravelling, together, and being there for each other and made me realise just how much I valued openness and vulnerability, even in or maybe especially in hard times, as a measure of authenticity of any relationship. I suddenly saw how I was surrounded by relationships lacking in it, even though I considered them to be the solid, long-term ones. I backed away from many that seemed to exist in a perpetual state of hiding behind convenient veils of passive aggression, demanding more from me than I could give, or they could ever give back to me.

This has meant being alone a lot more, staying with solitude and embracing this part of me wholeheartedly. This will always be the year I made peace with my introvert tendencies. After a hectic 2015 chock full of socialising, putting myself out there and pursuing things I never imagined I would have, giving the hedonistic life a shot I realised my place. It’s indoors, with myself, away from the mindless din of connections and networking. I much prefer the loud camaraderie of a few I call my tribe, even if we choose to exist in absolute silence.

This too, required honesty. In laying the tussle between the virtually-social and actually-solitary, to rest. On the one hand, I live what many call a “social” life, especially thanks to frequent and frantic social media posting. And on the other hand, I was trying to teach myself boundaries, to say no, to protect my personal space and energy. This tug-o-war between sharing my life has given many observers a sense of false camaraderie that often oversteps the virtual lines that separate me and them. I began to see through social media veneers, and was disappointed by people on more than one occasion. I found myself wanting to dig deeper and find within myself the strength to accept the differences that these are just virtual interactions, while saving my energy for the solid core of authentic interactions I have in real life. Even when it meant accepting the truth that was far from pleasant, realising that seemingly normal people sometimes display unacceptable behaviour, or that I myself had untowardly let some folks far deeper into my life than was needed.

The need for this honesty came with a price. For one, I let go of the steady promise of work that I had in hand to make room for the work I wanted to pursue. Second, I had to consciously let go of a couple of friendships that I had assumed were easy-going and probably for life.

What I gained, though, was immeasurable. Because the time and energy freed up from it, was channeled into all that I wanted to put my mind to, but had failed to in the years before. I will always remember this to be the year I moved closer to finding myself, and my voice, professionally. The decision to quit a steady, decently-paying gig with scope for growth, to dive fully into the erratic, unpredictable world of full-time freelancing was a pivotal one. A lot of it happened because I had to own up to the fact that clinging to a safety rails was only going to get me that far. Yes, I’d have a salary in the bank at the end of the month, but the hours spent earning that salary was definitely keeping me from expanding my repertoire, aiming higher and going wide and deep into the kind of writing I want dip into. If I were to be honest with myself, and I was, I needed to be brave. Or at least pretend like I was. It was not without its moments of extreme imposter syndrome, but I know I am better for it.

There were moments of immense frustration. A steep learning curve that I didn’t particularly enjoy at all times because let’s face it I wasn’t feeling positive and upbeat for a large part. The long waiting periods, systemic inefficiencies, blatant unprofessionalism made me cynical and under-confident. Incidentally, it was the year with the most number of unsavoury professional experiences. But while navigating the doubt and incertitude with heaps of scepticism, I did manage to get a whole lot of work done. It’s funny how the haze of unpleasant experiences has clouded this reality that. Ironic that the shittiest year is the year I had several work wins that I am proud of. Like this, this, this and this and this and this. I never imagined I’d write essays worthy of being tweeted by the UN Women’s handle. I didn’t think I’d see myself published in The Telegraph. I certainly didn’t imagine I’d find myself in a publication dedicated to science and technology.

I even managed to throw together a website and a portfolio that I should have done a long, long time ago. Much of this had to do with trying very, very hard to unlearn my obsession with perfection. Of quitting the terrible habit of waiting for the ducks to get in an absolutely straight line before making a move. In accepting that well begun is half done, I may have taught myself a thing or two about what is possible when you accept what works for you and hold yourself to slightly more realistic goals and ideals.

One of the best things I did was write and write and write every single day. Whether it was the for the stories I worked on, daily posts on here, scribbles, ideas for stories, half written posts — I made sure I did a little writing every single day and this is a habit I don’t want to lose. I am a little astounded at myself for seeing the daily post habit through to the end of the year, even though I fell off the wagon and frantically caught up again, sometime. Even with all that writing, I have so much more to express and share. So I started a newsletter. Admittedly, it’s taken a break so soon after it was launched but I hope to be back this year. 2016 marked the completion of 10 years since I started blogging. I wrote 318 posts this year having blogged every week, which feels like a fitting way to mark a decade of rambles.

On Day 1, I decided it was going to be a year to move more. In addition to upping the ante with training by joining, pursuing and loving kickboxing, I let the husband get me a cycle. It transformed the middle parts of this year in ways I can’t explain. Unfettered joy and immense satisfaction have been had from the hours spent pedalling through Goa. Cycling changed the way I experienced what could potentially be my last monsoon here. I even finished my first ever 100 km ride.

Part of the reason I caught the cycling bug was the undeniable urge to get out and get out. In the open. To travel. It’s something I’ve denied myself the pleasure of indulging in, for various reasons in the past few years. I travelled back home more than I ever have since I have moved out. Cleartrip sent me an email calling me a Happy Tripper today, for the 18 flights I’ve taken. There was a trip to Chettinadu, KeralaThailand and Coonoor. There were a few mini vacations right here at home too. I turned 32 in the company of these lovelies who came down to celebrate over a weekend of beach time, with me. And it reaffirmed my faith in certain inalienable truths about why some relationships endure and others don’t. It’s the one year VC and I haven’t taken a holiday or travelled anywhere together. And no, we’re not complaining.

The other big change I made this year was I kicking myself back into the reading habit by getting myself a Kindle. It has made all the difference and  finished the year with 29 books read, a high for me. While I’m looking at numbers, it seems a good time to look back at this post where I detailed the few things I want to see myself doing through 2016.

  1. Read a little everyday – check, post-August
  2. Write a little everyday – check, check, CHECK
  3. Give in to the urge to draw/doodle as much as possible, don’t put it off for “later” – check, for as long as the inspiration and urge lasted
  4. Avoid multi-tasking at all costs – yes and no
  5. Wear a saree at least once a week (any more is a bonus!), and don’t wait for the “right” occasion – ditched
  6. Call ammamma more often – check
  7. Meditate every morning, consciously remember to slow down – check for the first half of the year, then abandoned
  8. Go to the beach more often, even if it is for a stroll or to catch the sunset – check, check, check (run a search for “beach” to see how)
  9. Actively avoid clicking random links that lead to news on social media – CHECK!
  10. Whenever posting something on facebook, ask myself if the post would annoy me if I were looking at it posted by someone else – check, followed this for the most part, but slipped a lot, now correcting it by slowly deleting all fb activity from all of time
  11. Generally, avoid oversharing on fb – not every thought needs to be telecast to the world on fb, do it here instead, in longer form – check
  12. Keep phone away from bed and sleep-time – failllll!
  13. Sneak some more kisses – CHECK!
  14. Choose things, make decisions with purpose – CHECK
  15. Make the most of Goa, get out, breathe, watch, listen, do – CHECKCHECKCHECKCHECK, cyclecyclecycle
  16. Reclaim stillness whenever it happens, and when it doesn’t, create it – this is WIP
  17. Fuck perfection – this is WIP

Speaking of WIP, one of the best things I did for myself in 2016, was take myself to therapy. When the cycle of breaking down, finding my footing, stabilising, coasting and only to slip again recurred three times in a span of 8 months, I knew I was in over my head. Again, it called for a kind of honesty I didn’t have, but so desperately needed to find. To accept that I cannot navigate this alone, that I need a fresh pair of eyes to see things differently and help me work my way through, rather than away from this. It has been the best, because it brought to the surface things I wouldn’t have noticed on my own. It made me reclaim myself, discover and strengthen crucial aspects of my identity that were slipping away form me. Much of my newfound peace, focus and positivity is a result of this, and I know that every day I am making progress in facing up to and loving my imperfect self.

It hasn’t been an easy year to live with me. Every break down has brought with it several emotional outbursts, thoughtless spewing of anger and frustration, violent mood swings, long periods of demotivation. But through it, VC has been my constant. Constant everything. Punching bag, sounding board, friend, foe, confidant, co-homemaker, support, voice of reason, strength and solace. We celebrated our eighth anniversary. Ironically, it was a year that made me fully understand how relationships that nurture are the ones that help you growing together, separately, rather than collapse and grow into one entity, and completely turned my beliefs about marriage around, that somehow also brought us much closer.

I find myself feeling a little sheepish about how much I have bashed 2016. It had so many sore points, so many weeks and months I wanted to just wish away. So many events and incidents I wish I didn’t have to go through. It all felt so damned shitty. And yet, when it all stacks up and I look at it in retrospect, it was rather eventful. Memorable, even. But most of all, transformative. They say things sometimes need to get really bad before they can begin to get better. Maybe my bad bits were peppered right through 2016. But right there, in between the bad events, things were already beginning to get better.

This year I just want to build from here. Make some goals, shut up about them, work hard, live big, laugh loud, love hard, breathe deep and smash them to the sky.

*****

Quick guide to posts in 2016
Monthly recaps: APostADay
Bheja fry, since this year had so much of it
Work and writing
Books and reading in 2016
Travel and photographs
Cycling and exercise
Music

Day 340: Happy high

5 Dec

I began the weekend by posting this picture on Instagram because I missed the blue skies, the sunburns skin, the green waves and the unencumbered time to read.

mis

Here’s why. December was to begin with the announcement of the winners of the fellowship I’d applied for. I didn’t win it, un case you’re asking. To be honest, my confidence flagged when I got news that the media house received 5k applications from across the globe. An email I received on 1st December confirmed that I had in fact not won it. What I did get instead, was my domestic help taking off for two months. I haven’t cooked a meal in over 6 months. And neither VC nor I have had to do much by way of heavy lifting around the house in terms of regular chores. The help is just one of those efficient people who has become so used to the way my house functions, and takes ownership of everything she does, often going above and beyond her responsibilities, picking up even when I have slipped or forgotten something. To say my world was falling apart a week bit, would be accurate. Luckily, she found me a substitute. Just to do the cleaning though, so I’m still going to have to cook us our meals. Having two hot cooked meals appear at meal time, without even having to do much thinking has been a luxury and I’m not looking forward to planning meals, stocking up veggies and culling out time from my mornings to cook, dammit. Second, substitute help comes at 6. On. The Dot. It’s been five days, and she’s never been a minute early or late. But, it’s literally still dark out when she arrives. And I’m usually very asleep at 6 am. So to alleviate my paranoia of sleeping through her arrival, my alarm rings at 5 am and I snooze it for an entire hour, neither really sleeping, nor waking up, making it an altogether restless, useless hour in bed, before I wake up when she rings the doorbell on the dot of 6. It’s hard to be complain or grudge her punctuality. I cannot complain. But I was drowsy for the first few hours of every morning last week, which made me miss my morning workouts. I made up for it by going to the evening slot instead, but it’s not the same and I’m just not a fan of so much change in routine at once. Urgh.

You know what else I got? The morning of December 1st began with a battle with a lizard that had entered the study, so when I opened the balcony doors for some morning breeze, it scampered out from behind the curtains, running behind my cupboard, dangerously close to the bed in the room. For someone who’d get paralysed at the sight of a lizard, only to recover long enough to jump on the closest piece of furniture, descending only once the creature had been dealt with by someone, I’ve come a long way. I still shriek. I still get a little stunned. But I am able to gather myself and deal with it on my own – with the help of insecticide to make them drowsy and a long broom to probe and poke them out of the room. Double urgh.

Anyway, last week was not very productive. PMS plus PTS (what I call post therapy syndrome) had rendered me a bit dazed. So I decided to take the weekend seriously. What I did was stay in bed and not leave for practically the entire weekend. I finished one and a half books, ravenously reading and getting out from under the covers only to eat.

All of Saturday, VC was at my service, bringing me beer, food and anything else I demanded, to bed. He even sent me an sms saying “at your service” – giggle. On Sunday, I kind of returned the favour. He’s developed what is now looking like tendonitis on his left wrist which has been acting up every now and then. It flared up early yesterday morning, rendering his left arm pretty useless. Which meant, I was doing the delivery. Aside from that, I stayed in bed reading, while he watched Black Mirror.

In the evening though, I dragged myself out. Cooked some chicken 65, and planned to have dosas and chutney for dinner. R came over with beer, chips and dip, and rasmalai (!), and we watched YJHD together, which I thoroughly enjoyed for some reason. I turned in early, diving right back into my book again before passing out close to midnight, a little frantic about waking up in time for my very timely house help.

This morning, I was up on time, with this song stuck in my head. So after the maid had gone, I turned it on and turned it up. At 7.30 am.

The rest of my day has been ati fantastic. A sudden spurt of productivity has meant I finished three stories I was struggling to make progress with last week. I responded to some enquiries. I even felt empowered enough to take a bit of a ballsy (for me) professional decision that I hope is going to pay off.

Somewhere in between I cooked lunch, picked and dropped off the injured husband, and watched an episode of my current shitty TV guilty pleasure and did some admin stuff I have been avoiding.

I wish there were a day to bottle the good juju from days like this. So I can take sips of it on days when the haze of the sads descends and makes me feel and behave totally useless.

 

Day 337: November

2 Dec

It’s December.

That escalated really quickly. And even within this year that seems to be in such a rush to slip through my fingers, while I’m still trying to get a grip, November was the fastest month of them all. It really, well and truly went by in a flash. And like I just said the other day, that only ever happens when you’re either having way too much fun, or you just have way too much happening in general. And the past month was a bit of both for me. Practically half the month went by in a holiday blur, and the other half went by in recovery, a little skulking around trying hard to normalise again, and a week with my sister. And poof, the month was done.

I have to pinch myself to check if this is really happening. How are we already in November? Wasn’t I just here, dealing with way too much at once, and feeling completely at sea?

But November was a month of contrasts. If the first half was spent zipping around, wheels on my heels, the second was spent being a homebody. Where the first half had be getting out and about, the second half had me avoiding everyone. For the first two weeks of the month I felt so upbeat and confident and with it, and the second half saw me nosediving a bit, trying to get it together again.

It all started with Diwali, which was actually the most non-Diwali-like Diwali of all time. It was a combination of many things — pre-holiday excitement mixed with a complete lack of enthusiasm for anything even remotely social — that led to having a meh festival. But I don’t mean to complain. It was a good day, and what was telling was the completely effortless way in which not doing anything after all these years felt normal.

I was wrapping up a lot of loose ends at work and barely had any time to really post in the first week of November. So there was the recap of October, some reading I shared, and before I knew it I was off on my long-winding trip across multiple cities, continents and modes of transport.

VC and I had planned separate holidays over the same period. This was a first for us, and I realised this is the first year we haven’t taken a single holiday together, but on the other hand we’ve traveled so much, separately. While I landed in Bangkok and was able to post from a quaint little cafe with wifi, VC was in the boonies of Goa where he had cycled to. I’ll admit, despite being en route to my very own exotic location, I was a tad envious.

But it was silly being envious, because I can (and we’re already planning this) always repeat the cycling trip in Goa. Thailand on the other hand was special. I can’t say epic or fantastic in the way that one might imagine girlie-trips in Thailand could be. This was special, most of all for the sunsets, quiet company, the epiphanies, the books, and the chance to go home again.

That’s the short version. For the longer version with excruciating detail, read this post about day one in Bangkok, the almost-week on an island, and the slightly bizarre and insanely fun return to Bangkok.

After that, and the bonus of spending time at home with the parentals, something strange happened. For the very first time ever, I had a serious case of blues to be back in Goa. Again, this was very telling. With every passing day I feel the curtains closing on my time here. And in small and big ways, in moments that take me by surprise, I realise I must accept this sooner rather than later. My usual unpacked-and-back-to-normal routine was shot to bits this time. I was lethargic, sluggish and sad for a whole week during which I got very little constructive work done, aside from tending to emails, doing the bare minimum amount of work, and reading. And then my sister arrived! Which called for interruptions in programming again.

Aside from the restful holiday, the other bright part of November was coming back to an abundance of published work that had either been sitting on the bench or waiting for a publishing date. What followed was a sudden tidal wave of payments, of course. But in a surprising turn of events, this month I also had a shockingly high number of inquiries for work. Thank you, universe.

Somewhere in between, I also watched and ranted about Dear Zindagi. And about a new Instagram disease called fashionblogging.

I’m in a strange headspace. On the one hand things are moving swimmingly. On paper, I have a fantastic life. But inside, it constantly feels like a gentle storm is brewing. I have bouts of lethargy alternating with restlessness. I realise a lot of this is a by product of on-going therapy, which is also a reason why I’m acutely aware of every damned little thing I feel. Nothing passes me by as just a mood anymore, and sometimes that gets tiring.

2016 has been a lot of things. But most of all it has been tumultuous. We (I speak for VC too hear because everything that happens to me, affects him too) have struggled through some parts, over a lot of different things, questioned our motives and looked for answers and alternatives. And it’s beginning to feel like this time of guessing is shutting shop. In my gut, I feel like the end of the year is going to be the end of the transition. November certainly felt like a fitting culmination of everything that is going on. A build up to crescendo, as we reach the pinnacle of the year, before we turn the lights out on the year with a bang. The hope is that the storm settles, the mind finds a uniform swing in the step, and life mellows out a little.

Everything looks better in retrospect of course. When the heat of the moment has passed, the burning angst has settled momentarily, and the day ends with a gorgeous sunset, is when you’re able to sit back and inspect the trail you’ve left behind. Oddly, everything makes sense.

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But enough of this. To the forces dishing out juju for net year, listen up. I’d like 2017 to be well done.

Day 323: Holiday reading

18 Nov

Fear of Flying, Erica Jong
This classic, coming-of-age novel is about Isadora Wing who is in a far-from-happy marriage. Reasons for that all point to her own angst and need for self-discovery, which is what the book is about. In many ways I think I read this at the right time because I could relate to a lot of the questions she raises, the exploration she embarks on I found that her quest for “the zipless fuck” could be a metaphor for so many experiences I have consciously or unconsciously pushed aside in the years after I got married. My recent therapy has unlocked some of these realisations, making me see how much internalised conditioning is a part of marriage, and I am slowly working my way out of some trappings that I have unnecessarily, unconsciously placed upon myself.

The book is set in Vienna where Isadora accompanies her psychoanalyst husband, on a convention, where her sexual adventure begins. But through it, she explores a lot of issues that relate to us women as a whole. Things we have on our mind – age, beauty, conformity, questions we often face – about marriage, about motherhood, about work, many of our worries and fears. She really covers a whole spectrum of things we grapple with — ageing, stagnation at work, finding your creative voice, following your heart at the cost of other worldly pleasures, the seeds of conflicting sexuality, spirituality even. I really enjoyed this book because I feel the subject is never going to get old, It’s something that women will relate to for a long, long time to come, in varying degrees of change. And then you realise this was written in the 70s, which suddenly puts it all in perspective and makes you realise just how far we have come, how privileged I, and the segment of women I belong to, am.

Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, Brene Brown
In short, this is a book that explores vulnerability as the key to moving forward and through life. As a culture that constantly battles uncertainty with planning, the pursuit of security, perfection and guarding ourselves from too much emotional exposure, Brene Brown believes we’re actually killing our ability to embrace vulnerability. As a result we’re limiting our ability to live fully, make genuine connections, feel emotions completely and live creatively. Or what she calls “living wholeheartedly”.

It’s based on Brown’s 12 years of research, and I was sold on the concept even before I began the book. The book kicked my ass for the first two chapters, and I was so excited to be reading it because she addresses concepts that really spoke to me: a culture of scarcity, the pursuit of perfection, the new economy and how our inability to be vulnerable to what we feel as a result, stops us from daring to do great things. For this alone, I really wanted to like the book. Chapters 1 is about scarcity and our constant feeling of “never having enough” – which is something I observe a lot around me. Even amongst my friends, family, and online with my feeds bursting at the seams with people preening their perfect clothes, homes, lives and yet so obviously dissatisfied and feeling the voids in our lives with something or the other, unable to just sit with whatever it is we are going through and work it out. The second chapter debunks some myths about vulnerability which is a logical follow up to the chapter on scarcity, really. It talks about how we’ve built a culture of shame around embracing vulnerability. This is something I’ve woken up to recently, and the crux of my work with therapy, so it was really relevant and it hit home. I even highlighted a lot of bits from the first two chapters.

But that was it. It very quickly went downhill form there sliding into a stream of generalities. What she passes of as case studies, I found to be just very generic (and bad, just too basic) examples of everyday situations. I’d have liked some of her research to come through, or some real case studies of how she helped her clients re-open themselves up to vulnerability. What I got instead was some very basic and obvious advice that was repeatedly stated in many different ways. The crux of the book can be summed up in literally 2 sentences, and maybe I should have watched her TED talk and I could have been done with it, without having to read this book. But to have that basic premise play out over and over and over again through the innumerable platitudes that are frankly not reflective of the so called painstaking research that has apparently gone into the book was not useful at all.

I found the book very tedious and almost gave up half way, because I also realised a lot of it, like much of modern pop psychology, is stuff I have grown up listening to thanks to my parents. Most of this isn’t new to me. I consider myself lucky to have had a “wholehearted” (to use Brown’s term) upbringing that actively touched on a lot of these concepts, so to read it packaged in a far-from-original, banal way was painful. It did read very fast though, so there’s that!

I’m now reading Nigel Slater’s Toast and enjoying it so far.

What have you been reading? Any reccos?

Day 293: Stuff

19 Oct

Over the last few weeks I’ve been unable to write full, comprehensible posts. I’ve had so much to say. About women and safety, about why I’m learning self defence, about Priyanka Chopra’s utterly vapid Refinery29 interview, about her obnoxious choice of teeshirt for the cover of CNT, about her “beneath the surface” interview (I don’t know why she’s on my radar so much, and I’ve to remind myself to stop clicking on any link that has her name on it because it always makes me raaaage), about my renewed reaffirmed feelings for the girlfriends in my life, and thoughts about those I have let go of, therapy and some surprising facts that it has unearthed. So it has not for the lack of having things to say, but the funk I’ve been in. My brain has felt like it had stalled, performing on half battery for a bit now. But I realise in retrospect that it was probably just the natural course of things, of conserving energy, words, emotions, given that I had so little to spare and what little I did, I wanted to turn inwards, rather than dissipate. Anyway, long story short – it was hard to communicate, write, share. So much remains to be talked about, and maybe I will get to it. In the meantime, here, smatterings of things I’ve thought about journalling, but didn’t get down to.

*****

After absolute years, I’ve felt the need to escape my life. That theory about creating a life you don’t need to escape? Well, after many years of floating along painlessly, I’ve felt the simmering need to change things up again. Escape it for a bit. And I’m taking this as a sign that my life needs change. I’m starting by escaping temporarily. Early next month, I’m off to Bangalore again. This time en route to my holiday. S and I are running off for a week of girlfriend time. It all happened so fast and so unexpectedly. We were planning a trip to Gujarat, and I don’t actually know at what exact point it happened, but destinations changed and tickets were booked faster than I could say maybe-we-should-go-to. It started off being the four of us, and then one of us dropped out, then another, leaving just S and I. Much sad is happening at severely diminished numbers, but c’est la vie. Since our tickets were non refundable, we’re going, in the hope that the other two will be there in spirit. Spirit, heh, get it? Because we will have to drink and eat their share, I suppose. It only seems fair to represent them at the very least, no?

I’m mildly hysterical with excitement now that we are all finally booked, all hotel reservations done and ready to go. It only sank in once I saw all the confirmation emails. We’re going off to an island. We, well I have no plans, except to bum around on the beach, while S plans go diving. We then return to the big city, because it’s the kind of holiday VC and I would never take together. I needed to do it with girlfriends in tow, where the plan is to eat and drink some more. Just that, nothing else. If the past few holidays with the girls are anything to go by I have a fair idea of the shenanigans that will transpire. I realised somewhere in the midst of booking this trip that all my holidays/breaks this year, in and out of Goa, have been with the girls. VC and I haven’t even remotely entertained the idea of taking a break together. Okay, correction, I have entertained the idea, but not acted on it. I don’t think it has even occurred to VC. But that’s okay. Next year, big travel awaits us. (Fuck, did I just say next year?) We’re in that final leg of the year where everything is winding down and some part of me is already looking forward to wrapping up 2016 and moving on.

*****

Holiday aside, I’m looking forward to being home, even if it is just for a couple of days on either side of my holiday. I’m still that baby that wants to go back home to mommy when I’m having a rough time. I just want to tune out from regular programming for a bit, and be looked after. Is there any place other than home for that? I think not. The lack of a laptop means I won’t be taking my work with me. Pure unadulterated home time. I cannot wait.

*****

Speaking of leaving work behind. Something strange happened on the weekend. I worked. I had a sudden burst of inspiration and sat down to finish some stuff that wasn’t even immediately due or anything. I finished a lot of stuff ahead of time. And I realised I’d finished most of my big commitments for the month. With one fun on-going gig to keep me sufficiently occupied for the rest of the month before I go away on my break. Somewhere, in the midst of just trying to stay afloat these past few weeks, I didn’t realise it, but I’d gathered a lot of steam with my work. There’s a clue in there, about work and play and how much of it I need, want and am willing to give myself, that I am looking at. Because it was so good to be in that kind of flow again. The flow that has eluded me for some time now.

*****

My communication woes with editors in India continue. I used to be convinced it was something I was doing wrong, but I’ve been analysing and introspecting on a few utterly bizarre situations with mind boggling communication that I’ve experienced in the last few months, and I’m that close to putting it down to just our Indianness. Too many people at our disposal, we have no value for personal interaction, for giving someone the time of your day, for reaching out just a little bit beyond your call and duty, for preserving personal connections, for being humble. There’s nothing to lose, I realise, one writer moves on, there’s so many more in line. Perhaps editors have nothing to lose? I’m just wagering a guess here. The funny thing is some of these communication trails have been open for almost two months now, and remain unattended. And I’m waiting to see how far this will go before someone gives me a clear answer on each of these.

As an experiment, I haven’t pitched any fresh work with Indian publications in about 6 weeks now. For a while, based on the stark contrasts I find between the work ethic and general level of professional communication styles I find between Indian and Non Indian publications, I’ve feel like this is just the space that we have a lot of learning and growing up to do. And I’m talking about everything here – response time to emails, the tone in which emails are written, the urgency to get work done and out there, the alacrity with which payments are made, a sense of responsibility in fixing a wrong when there is a problem, a complete lack of power play – everything seems to happen with a lot more purpose overseas. People give a shit. I know this sounds like a generalisation, and maybe it is. I am aware that freelancers like me working overseas have their fair share of woes and a lot of them echo the kind of problems we face here, but in my experience so far, which has been fairly wide and varied, I have observed this.

So I’m testing it out with this experiment. Unfortunately, so far, my worst assumptions are coming true. And it is all kinds of disappointing.

*****

This week I had a massive flash from the past and traversed a lot of music from the good old days. Yesterday I went down the Seal-Guns N Roses-Bon Jovi-Def Leppard-Aerosmith trail and when I landed here, I got stuck. Good and proper.

Day 292: Love, loss and what we ate

18 Oct

I picked up Love, Loss and What We Ate, by Padma Lakshmi last week, to break a the lull that came over me towards the end of last month that made me so incredibly disinterested in everything. First, a bit of a ramble about the lull: For approximately three weeks I’ve been unable to function normally, an unnamed kind of anxiety manifested into a physical lethargy. Everything felt and seemed tasteless. I didn’t get out much, save for a meal here, a coffee there, which took a great effort on my part, to feel upbeat and excited. Coincidentally, I had a break with my workout because my trainers were on holiday. It proved lethal, because I’ve realised even when all else fails, exercise injects me with a little dose of energy to keep going. I was barely keeping my head above the water, getting just the bare minimum done, to get from one day to the next. My therapist says this is the by product of therapy, when one is keen and positively moving forward in working through issues. I certainly felt the shifts – distinct and drastic – in the last couple of weeks. From feeling beside myself with worry and a mind that is a tizzy with thoughts, I have felt like I am coming back to feeling like myself again, emerging from the haze that had descended over me. I realised last Sunday that I had made close to zero progress on the book I had started three weeks ago. I had lost interest not just in the book, but in picking up my kindle altogether. Last weekend, as I was packing up to go for our overnight stay on assignment, I wanted something to read, and starting a new book from scratch was the only way to go. This one appeared on top of Amazon reccos, and I just clicked buy without thinking twice.

Second, about the book. I heard folks call it a food memoir. But really, its just a memoir with food in it. It has many moments with luscious descriptions of food, traditions, food-related rituals, Lakshmi’s foray into cookbook writing, TV and eventually Top Chef. Yes, food is a major theme, but it’s hardly the primary theme or the star thread in the book. That said, I enjoyed the book. It’s certainly not a work of impeccable literary value, but it does its job as a memoir. As someone who barely knew anything about her versatile life, this book was fascinating, purely as a read about a life that is rich in experience and varied in overcoming hurdles to accomplishment. To read about her difficult childhood had been not just physically but emotionally and psychologically, the number of times she’s switched gears to choose things that made sense for her, the way in which she straddled her life of difficulty with the privilege, was most interesting. It touches on the emotional fall outs of being a migrant, a person of colour in a country so far form one’s own. There are bits about abuse, her mothers multiple and difficult marriages and the effects it had on a young girl growing up and trying to find herself. She goes into graphic detail about her life in modelling and the eventual destination she found in TV. The bits about her fight with endometriosis touched me the most, for some reason, as much as her fawning over how motherhood somehow completed her, irritated me. It’s a life dotted with a multitude of experiences, ranging from the very difficult to very glamorous, and she traverses them with equal intensity.

It has some feminist undertones in part, especially as she navigates the multiple contrasting parts of her life – her Indian heritage with her life in America, her background in theatre with her eventual career in glamour and fashion, the role models in her fiercely independent mother and grandmother with her constant search for a man in her life which eventually led to more than one relationship with high-profile men, and how each of those relationships eventually crumbled or failed to solidify. The writing itself is nothing to write home about. It doesn’t have any peaks and troughs, and maybe that also explains why I just breezed through the book. It has fleeting promise in certain phrases, descriptions and some segments where it feels very evident that she is writing from a place of authenticity and not wrapping an event very neatly in words. There are bits where she reveals herself as an almost unlikeable, narcissistic person. And then also gives you a peek into her softer, vulnerable sides. She straddles the two – what she is at the core, and what she struggles to be on the outside with such dexterity – that it’s what ultimately makes her a very relatable, real person. For that alone, I’d say this was a good memoir to read.

Day 274: For every down, there is an up

30 Sep

There are good months. There are meh months. And there’s various kinds of meh. Professionally, it means that sometimes I haven’t received enough responses. Sometimes it’s that I’ve received so many responses, but I haven’t successfully converted as many of my pitches into stories. Sometimes it also happens that a story I expect to turn around really quick, drags out painfully. Sometimes I turn a story around in record time, and then the editor sits on it for an impossibly long time (seven months has been my longest wait, no jokes). Most times, I only get paid when a story is published. So, to take the story that was 7 months in waiting, it really does feel like what I’ve eventually earned is a significantly shredded amount, given the effort and time (including the wait) that has gone into a piece of work. Sometimes I send a story per a commission, and the editor ghosts me out. It happens, sometimes for legitimate reasons too, and then you can’t even be pissed.

The good months can be all kinds of awesome. I’ve had months when I’ve knocked it out of the park with my energy to pitch relentlessly. I’ve also tasted what its like to hit that sweet spot of having a high conversion rate. Some times I am able to knock the stories out as per the schedule. On extra good months, long pending payments come in, to tide me over until the work I’m now doing eventually pays me. The wait is long. The struggle is real. In an ideal world, the balance is a part of the routine and rhythm of this freelancer life.

I am far from that world. I swing from extreme highs to extreme lows of energy, commitment and digits in my bank balance.

But I am also slowly realising that the best months are the months in which I have sustained my routine, and my discipline and the months where I have let that slip, it shows. It shows in my work, it shows in my state of mind, and it shows in how I deal with what I am feeling. September has seen me all over the place, agitated, restless, sleeping badly. But every time I hit an emotional downer this past month, I’ve had a reality check that has made me question my perspective about some of my beliefs to do with my work. Eventually, I had an epiphany that I thought was a crucial breakthrough in the emotional tussle I am going through. It made me take myself to therapy this week, to address it. It’s all you need sometimes — a conversation with someone completely removed from your reality. It’s definitely what I needed, for starters, because it has caused a shifted in my brain.

I’ve been mulling over everything we spoke about at therapy for the last two days and this morning, I found a strange but timely affirmation of it all in a conversation with N. Later she posted a status message that had a sentence I needed to read;

Productivity and following plans is great when it happens but it’s not everything. On a day like this when life wants me to realise this important fact, I’m glad I took the bait and listened.

She’s talking about her life, and her important facts, and unproductive day, but I could completely relate. September has been a strange month, as you’ve probably already figured. I started with such gusto, and then slipped into a sea of self-doubt immediately after (if you received my first newsletter you’ll know, because I talked about it there). Then just as I got going again my laptop died. And here I am today, a week from that horrible day, realising it’s the end of the fucking month already. Part of me wants to cry and scream for the days that have gone by in a blur. But a larger part of me has this strange resigned acceptance.

I haven’t got nearly not as much work as I planned to do. I haven’t done nearly as much of it as I’d have liked to. But for the first time in months, I’m telling myself that it’s okay. I’ve been unproductive with work, but I have done the best thing I could do for myself, which was to take the bait and listen, at every point that life was giving me a cue. It’s how I had the epiphany. It’s what made me go to therapy. It’s what made me want to get to the bottom of this.

*****

If you’ve stayed with my self-indulgent navel-gazing ramble and read this far:

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Because I’ve lost some of the patience I have carefully built in the recent past, this post aptly titled Shut Up and Be Patient, really spoke to me, with sentences like,

These are all great transitions, good changes coming to a life that is slowly inching its way into its next stage. But life transitions, even when good, are always difficult, and they are always slow and gradual.

A good life is not a life without problems. A good life is a life with good problems. And so, despite the turbulence of the rocky waves and twisting tides, I can sometimes stare into the heart of my confusion and the crossed strains of joy and sadness, and smile and be grateful that it’s all there.

Did you watch the Presidential Debate? No, I’m not going to share yet another article that breaks down the obnoxious mansplaining of downright idiotic beliefs that one of the candidates displayed. It’s this interview with Chelsea Clinton that really stood out amongst a lot of the heavy post-debate analysis that has been doing the rounds.

I love that the topic of child-free-dom is seeing so much press. We’ve gone past the point of asserting out legitimate choice for a life without children, to talking about the many other ways in which those of us who have made this choice fulfil our instinct to care for and nurture people. This essay makes a lovely point about the presence of child-less women in the lives of mothers. I’ve always said I love being an auntie, and I am an auntie to so many lovely babies. This piece breaks it down so well, and while it is about alternative roles played by the child-free, it is mostly a case for building a life with community and kinship.

Remember that picture of Anthony Bourdain and Barack Obama seated on plastic stools in what looked like a tiny eatery in Vietnam, sipping a beer each, that surfaced around May this year? Well here’s an interview with Bourdain, and deets about the episode that will feature the POTUS. So heartwarming.

*****

Okay, c’est fini.

I’m looking forward to a weekend of reading, a 100km ride on Sunday that I eventually decided to bite the bullet and go through with. I have had no practice in about a month now, so I’m going in blind. Armed with dates, chikki and ORS. Wish me luck. I’m going to need it.

When Monday rolls along, I hope to feel more refreshed, ready to wipe the slate clean and take on a new month.

Day 272: I am eager

28 Sep

It’s been a difficult, heavy few weeks. The kind of difficult that quietly piles up when you’re not even looking, the kind of heavy that has manifested in ways I couldn’t understand – an unexplained lethargy, an inability to find the words to say the things I want to, an inability to engage in conversation beyond the bare minimum. It’s the kind of difficult I didn’t even notice until it had, as usual, burst and unraveled before me like a bag of marbles gone bust. When I have my mind set on something, I can keep going until something physically stops me. And in this case, disrupts my flow, and sends me flying, completely by surprise. That’s here’s the thing: when I have a goal, I’m a blinkered horse on a mission to reach the end.

2016 has been a year of monumental discovery and change of a transformational kind that I cannot begin to put into words. I’ve had some high highs, but when each of those phases have passed, I have also sunk to lows that have needed a good lot of effort to pick myself up from again.  No matter what, I always get back and get going.

I get by, mostly because I am surrounded by people reminding me of all that I have going for me. Between VC, my parents, my friends, my tribe of girlfriends, some connections I’ve made online I am able to stay afloat, get up again and get going. I am immensely grateful and I never forget.

When enough time has passed, and I have smoothed over the creases, settled into the rhythm I like for myself, I have always felt like I’ve got this, I can do this. I am worth it. Increasingly, I realise I am so easily satisfied.

So when a new situation turns up and strikes me down, I am also easily alarmed. Things spin out of control and devolve much more than they should, or need to. I am strong, but I am also easily ruffled. I’m not talking about the laptop going bust, or the uphill climb that garnering work has been this month. It’s not the self-made pressure to make that holiday happen. It’s not the niggling issues I’m juggling around the home that have kept me from working full steam ahead. It’s not the guilt I have carried around like a burden of pebbles at the bottom of heart. It’s that same old shapeless, unputdownable, nebulous restlessness that keeps raising its head. Does this sound a bit familiar? If you’ve been reading my daily posts all year long, you will know how many times I have mentioned that I am feeling restless. That I am aching for my what next. That I am ready for something bigger, but have no idea what or how to begin getting ahead. This has been bubbling inside for pretty much all year, thus far. Time and time again I have found momentarily fixes that I have used to tape over the pain. Each time I have managed to even get on with life. Things have moved smoothly for weeks on end. I have had some spectacular milestones, some amazing wins. Eventually life has caught up, work flowed in and out, abundant travel happened, friends and family visited, I got busy with the mundanities. And every day the sun rises and sets as it should, the motions of it all are consuming and leave little room for deeper thought. Until the next big upheaval strikes, opening up old wounds, making new ones, exposing raw sides of me that need looking at. But you know what: no matter what I always pay attention. I’m not afraid to do the work that needs doing, to get up and get happy again.

2016 has been like wandering in a grassy field without a map, to reach a mystery location at the other end, with no idea how far I need to go, or in what direction. I know what I need to do, I get up ever single morning and I do it. I know where I need to go, but for a large part of this year I have felt like I don’t know where I’m headed. And yet, I have been forging my own path as and when I pleased, in the only way I know. I try. I keep trying. And I move ahead.

Today I realised that I have held on to my restlessness as the spark that I must keep fanning, believing it is the fire that will eventually force me out of the current space I’m in. But the truth is it has turned into a burden. And I am done lugging it around. I am done being weighed down by the immense proportions it has grown to. I am so over giving it more space than it needs in my life.

There’s the other thing about me. Once I have put my mind to something, I turn things around. I’m willing to live through the change, I can do the work it takes. But I always turn things around.

And so I decided don’t want to be restless anymore. Instead I want to go back to being keen. Eager. And always open.