A little bit of this, and a little bit of that

If there’s one thing the incessant rain has ensured, it’s a quiet Diwali. I don’t remember Goa being too big on noisy fireworks to begin with. In all my years here, I haven’t ever faced the sort of noise levels that I did, and one continues to face, in cities like Bangalore. But this wet, wet, wet Diwali ensured that even the little that usually happens, probably didn’t. We didn’t hear a peep, or see any signs of festivity up until yesterday morning. City centres, away from us, probably had their fair share of Narkasur shenanigans with the whole hog. No rain will ever really dampen that spirit, I suspect. But it was a nice quiet weekend for us.

I’m constantly underestimating the niceness of people around us. Or maybe it’s just that I don’t expect it, that I am surprised so often. Our neighbours came over bright and early on Saturday morning, looking bright eyed and bushy tailed, all freshly bathed and in crisp new clothes, wit three boxes in hand. One with hot, homemade gulab jamuns, and two others with some traditional poha-based sweets they apparently make here in Goa.

VC and dragged himself out of bed to get the door when they came a knocking, and then dragged me out — braless, teeth unbrushed and still in our night clothes — to come wish them and say thanks. Late in the morning, THE SUN CAME OUT, FINALLY. And it was really interesting to see how it instantly gave me life. I sprang into action, setting the house back in order like I usually do immediately after I arrive here. A day or sun also meant I could finally get out into the hitherto out-of-bounds terrace and tend to our plants that are now in varying stages of flourish. It’s super fascinating to see how they’ve grown, some literally since babyhood from nearly a year ago, and others from different heights and stages of fullness. We got out and shopped for groceries, brought ourselves mithai — the only thing we did to mark Diwali here at home — and ate a home-cooked meal of dal.

Finally it felt like Diwali by yesterday evening as we drove over to D and UTs, Goa was lit up, and we got to an absolutely resplendent home that was aglow with lights. Another night of cards, food and cheer ensued.

The kind of night that’s gentle and easy, but so fun, things got a bit blurry. For humans and doggies alike.

***

As of today the skies have officially cleared, the neighbours all have their Diwali lights strung out finally. The sun is doing its October magic. The street dogs around are making themselves heard again. The pao wala is zipping by twice a day, after not making an appearance ever since we’ve arrived.

The house isn’t in a state of being taken over by soggy, musty laundry, perpetually wet bathroom has had some respite and the kitchen is inviting again. Life as I know it here has resumed. And it has been particularly chill, easy, with flow, than ever before.

I was telling S this morning, that for me, the realisation that I must really slow down has been such a central part of this transition. Even after slowing down so much over the past many months, there seems to be more to do. Getting away from normal life in Bangalore seems to really enable that for me. I’m not surprised at the timely getaways now. And I am getting better at noticing what’s being asked of me — to be with the slowness and the now all the time — and allowing myself to take the liberty.

***

I have been sitting with some latent fear that’s constantly making its presence felt, in the subtlest way. It’s strange to be witnessing it, without it having a grip on me. I began writing about it one week ago, and I am aware I have avoided going back to the draft to finish it ever since. I’m watching even as the desire to articulate my thoughts comes up and goes even before I can act. I’m observing how I’m not sure if this is also a part of slowing down and letting go of the need for perfectly pickled, framed, articulate insights — I really don’t need them as much as I used to — or if it’s some sort of avoidance and denial. I’m interested in holding this space for things to just come up and flow out in their own time, when it’s right, while my need to rush in and do something about it abates by leaps and bounds.

Gratitude for S today, and the numerous chats we’ve been having constantly. It has been such a relief to have someone on the same journey as me, doing the same learning, traversing such a similar path, that they get exactly what I am on about when I share and express myself. God knows this has been much needed companionship during this time when I have felt even more distance from most of my closest friends simply because beyond a point I can’t explain what I am going through in a coherent way. Except with someone who has shared that experience closely, and journeyed with me.

***

Two years ago: More Goa postcards: Yellow
Three years ago: Soloism

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Victory

There’s an air of victory I’m feeling, all round. I woke up to the realisation that despite the challenging, oftentimes dark and daunting nature of this year’s course, I’ve actually come full circle. This has been a first, true experience in regulating and managing myself through the entire cycle — from meeting trauma, sitting with all that it threw up, working through it even in the face of the urge to fight or flight, finding ways to have my needs met, dipping into my resources and persevering through to the finish.

I started not knowing why specifically I wanted to do the course, and going with it purely because I felt drawn to the work in a deep way. And I am nearing the close with clarity about how specifically I see myself putting the work into practice.

This feels like victory. Because the perseverance hasn’t been the cognitive sort I typically resort to. It hasn’t been mind over matter where I push against the grain. It has come gently from within, taking myself through the periods of discomfort slowly rather than pushing through it. Getting my needs fulfilled, and being my own keeper of safety has been such a new development. I’ve been slow, very gentle and keenly present to everything that I have experienced and felt, every step of the way.

I haven’t merely taken myself through the rigmarole. I have found alignment for myself where none existed. It has been challenging and one of the most difficult things I have done in my adulthood.

So it really feels like victory of a very different kind. And it is sweeeeeet.

The realisation made me super emotional this morning. I felt on edge and very raw and vulnerable driving to class this morning and I covered it up with a bright blue dress and bright red lipstick. And then I wondered why I needed to hide any of it at all. The emotions rising to the surface or the undeniable victorious feeling.

And so I let it go. There were tears of joy in the first hour of class. A rush if emotions and a front of true stepping into an aspect of myself that is such new territory, I’m not sure what to do with it yet. As I ease into this newfound power and presence, I wish for gentleness. With myself and everything that may arise from all the newness and unfamiliarity I am experiencing.

***

I’m grateful for good timing, providence if you want to call it that, for the way things have unfolded in such a relevant and timely manner for me this past year. It’s really affirmed my faith in that something bigger and beyond us.

One year ago: And you pray that one day you’ll be seen between the shadows
Two years ago: On being present
Three years ago: Love, loss and what we ate

Rest easy

Thinking of this glowy winter morning from last week as I woke up late today, having given myself the option to sleep in. Just a bit.

I wanted to take the opportunity of the day off in this busy week, to sneak in an outdoor run seeing as how the last time I got any exercise or running was nearly two weeks ago. Somehow time is flying even as in the moment, from one day to the next, it feels slower than ever. It’s only when I pause and look back at things like this that I register how much time has actually passed.

Sunday, we drove back eight hours from Manali. I drove most of the journey and while I enjoyed it, it was taxing and had left me quite tired. We stayed Sunday night with T, VCs best friend, and and J his wife, who were in Chandigarh at the same time. So our time was spent catching up and socialising rather than relaxing if we had been on our own. On Monday, our travel began early at 10 am, returning our rental car in one end of town and driving to the airport at the other end. A five hour flight with a stop over on Mumbai without getting off the flight and multiple inordinate delays at every step of the way had us get home only at 10.30 pm. I jumped straight into unpacking and doing two loads of laundry because I knew the days ahead would leave me with no time. VC has had his own plans too so I didn’t want to pile it on him.

This didn’t leave me with enough time to unwind and rest. I went straight to class early Tueaday morning and spent the next two days in intensive learning and practice. This usually leaves me quite physically exhausted.

Today, I have a days break and two more days of class again. Then just a single days break again before I pack and head out to Goa next week.

I’d have liked to do absolutely nothing today, and I realised how much blissfully easier it is to do that when one is alone. VC is around, my dad arrives tonight and I myself am quite sick of eating out so I had to get myself out of bed to check the state of the kitchen and cook us some lunch and dinner.

This morning as I stirred, I felt a sense of overwhelm from the pace of the last couple of days catch up with me and cause a churn in my chest. So I turned off my early alarm, threw the blanket over my head and went right back to sleep for another couple of hours.

I just cannot seem to be on the run and hustle anymore. And I’m fighting the urge to beat myself up over it and whip myself into action. There are always options, to getting out and being on the run myself and I’m trying more and more to give myself allowance with that. Outsource, make do without that little something extra, order in, luxuriate when possible, rest even when it’s not time to rest.

This need to keep doing is so, so, so, deeprooted in me. And even as I gain better comfort with letting it go and learning to be, rather than do, the vestiges of that old self keep creeping in from time to time. Just to test if she can still appear and make her presence felt. She’s a tough cookie.

But this restful me is tougher today than ever before. I’m grateful for the day off today. It is just the break I needed. To sleep in, eat home cooked food, veg out with VC, catch up with S, and also meet my father later tonight.

One year ago: Some would say I was a list man in a lost world
Three years ago: 
Mondaze

Like hitting reset

It’s really been a satisfying week away (VC puts it aptly here): quiet, contained, overwhelmed by the nature I’ve seen (this was my first time in the hills in the north), peaceful, unhurried, easy, slow. All the many cups of great adrak chai (tea in the south of India isn’t a patch on the north!), the many, many meals of paranthas, the forest walks, the babbling river, the astonishingly good apples fresh off the trees, being constantly watched by the mountains, the smiling faces and pink cheeks. And yet, there’s so many little, little things that have happened that remain with me and that I am slowly processing. Some experiences, some moments, an epiphany or two, some special moments (like being given gifts by hosts of both our airbnbs), some coincidences, some conversations, the two books I read, driving for a majority of our return journey witnessing the changing light and landscape.

I feel so full. And I’m ready.

The hills have been unexpectedly special and I would be lying if I said these seemingly empty and slow few days haven’t touched me in a deep way. I feel somewhat changed from this past week alone. Maybe I will get down to talking about why and how in the days to come.

I feel a new lightness and freedom as I go into a penultimate session of class for this year, with an all new level of unpreparedness. Letting go of something old, another layer of control and perfection, and testing something new out for myself. It has been freeing so far, and the fear I anticipated would kick in, hasn’t as yet. As serendipity would have it, I will be the first to present tomorrow, in just twelve hours after returning from holiday where I’ve been deliberately cut off from all forms of prep. In a way it means I can finish on my own terms, before I even allow anyone elses presentation to affect me with standards that aren’t mine, but it also means I have little time to warm up.

I’ve hit reset, I think.

I’m going headlong into this. Blind like I should. Open like a child. Small like a fresh bud. With no desire to perform or outcomes to live up to. And it is an absolute first for me.

***

Grateful for access to therapy today. For N, for how safe and accessible she has made this journey. For how therapy is down the road and a short walk away from me. For the ability to have a session over skype. For the gentle and judgement-free space that it has been.

There are some days, when I look back, wayyyyy back, and I realise how far I’ve come. So far, I almost feel like a different person. Today is one such day and I realise I couldn’t have done it without therapy and learning.

Three years ago: New eyes

Meditate

Been devouring Devotions and I can’t help but think this was the right time and the perfect place to lose myself to the full force of Mary Oliver like it engulfs you in this book.

On Meditating, Sort Of

Some days I fall asleep, or land in that
even better place — half asleep — where the world,
spring, summer, autumn, winter —
flies through my mind in its
hardy ascent and its uncompromising descent.

So I just lie like that, while distance and time
reveal their true attitudes: they never
heard of me, and never will, or ever need to.

Of course I wake up finally
thinking, how wonderful to be who I am,
made out of earth and water,
my own thoughts, my own fingerprints —
all that glorious, temporary stuff.

The more I learn about mindfulness through my own experience, the more I want to discard everything that it’s become in its modern Internet-ivised form and the less I want to rely on anything at all that I’ve read about it online.

The more I experience this zeroing in to the present, no matter where I am and what I’m doing, the more I value my own keenness to discover and deepen it for myself, in my own way.

Mary Oliver has a gentle, unaffected way of putting the loftiest ideas in words so simple, the melt into your skin and slip through the pores reaching that spot only you have ever gone to before.

***

Yesterday while VC climbed over rocks and streams to get to a vantage point to take his evening picture, I found a rock for myself. And then I just sat and stared at the river for nearly a whole hour. It was easy to just do nothing, watch a bulbul dip in and out of the icy water, listening to the continuous roar of the water as it gushed over the rocks stopping for nothing, and watching the glistening surface of the water change as the sunlight changed. But it was also really hard to resist pulling my phone out to snap pictures to instantly share with my family and some friends. It’s just so easy to slip out of the moment like that. And it took some effort and deliberation to come back. And just breathe.

Gratitude for words, silence, breath and presence today.

One year ago: September
Two years ago: Things change
Three years ago: Shifting gears

Alone time

I’m learning what it means to take time. To make time for myself. These are things I’ve been slowly easing into. And I’ve watched my comfort levels with doing this go up and down, observing where I am comfortable doing it and when I am not. It’s all so telling.

Beyond the obvious lessons in putting myself first and boundaries, I’m suddenly seeing how this goes right back to a deeper process of individuation and growing closer to the needs of an inner self that doesn’t always have a loud, expressive voice to say what she wants.

This is the first time that despite having VC visiting, a rather full weekend and the usualy overriding temptation to abandon everything and be with him, I got out willingly, easily, and made it to the workshop I’d signed up for weeks ago. Instead of rushing home, I went over to Koshy’s and had lunch by myself, after.

I’ve been doing this solo thing for literally years now. Long before solitude and activities for one were cool hashtaggable millennial concepts, I’d watched movies and had meals alone in Bangalore and really enjoyed it, when I was merely 22-23 years old. In Goa, being self-employed and largely deprived of my kind of friends, doing things by myself really became a way of life without much thought or choice even. But this feels different. Of a deliberate choosing, not coming from rebellion, minus any guilt, not as a fall out of some rejection or another. But from a place of a deep and simple need that has shown up, asking to be seen.

The gifts of solitude, whether in an indulgent, luxurious getaway of some kind or simply enjoyed eating rasam-rice out if a bowl in bed — you do you and choose what you will — are seriously underrated. And somewhat lost, and just diluted in what has become the predominant narrative around self-care these days. It isn’t about buying stuff and experiences and consuming more to feed the capitalist machine that’s profiting from our angst and collective efforts to discover ourselves.

Ultimately it isn’t about the meals and drinks consumed alone, or the spa dates or tubs of ice cream. Even as I started there, unknowingly, it has only now become about feeling enough in my own company. Of feeling safe, held and sufficient. Of feeling steady, still and solid in and of myself.

As someone who lamented the lure of loneliness that always lurks in my life, this feels different. This feels new.

On my way to Koshy’s, zipping through traffic on MG Road, thinking these thoughts, I was gobsmacked my a bright blue butterfly that flew right through the auto I was riding! In through one side, fluttered around attacking my face, and out through the other, all while we were scramming through moving traffic in the middle of the city!

If that isn’t a sign, I don’t know what is. This feels like all new growth. And this too is new.

***

Happy and grateful to be in a good streak, physically. Waking up early, feeling energetic, feeling the urge to use my body for more than just getting around, challenging and stretching myself outside the limits I am comfortable with. I said to D this morning, that something has clicked into place for me as far as understanding exercise and what it does for my body goes. And he put it perfectly by saying maybe I have pivoted. Haha.

I think it’s true, though. And it’s what I am grateful for that shift in understanding, because this time around it seems to have come from deep within. Not motivated by only fitness performance alone, or only aesthetics alone. There has been minimal deprivation, plenty nourishment in a mind-body kind of way.

This time around it feels like the outcome of a deeper connection with myself. I’m grateful for this.

Three years ago: Too many words, so here’s a copy out

All heart

23 kilometres run this week.

An important, excellent therapy session.

A morning dipping my toes into authentic movement and expressive arts to explore what’s held in the body.

Ten hours of extremely satisfying practice and study with S and V.

A day spent with S.

VC is home.

An afternoon at Koshy’s by myself, writing letters.

It’s left me feeling fresh and pulpy perfect as a greener than green slice of avocado. Light as a balloon ready to set off floating aimlessly into the clueless sky. Open like a just bloomed sunflower chasing the sun obediently.

Happy, like me.

***

Happy and so grateful for the metro today. I know I’ve said this a lot lately, and S joked saying I should be the poster child for the Bangalore Metro, but it has been a truly life-changing shift for me. To go from thoughtlessly jumping into a cab, to now always making sure I have fifteen minutes extra to make it to the Metro, more often than not, has altered a lot for me these past few months.

One year ago: It’s just another ordinary miracle
Three years ago: Sticky trash

Eyes that see, eyes that speak

I’m at such an interesting juncture — a point where enough healing and self-work has given me new eyes to see the world differently.

I’ve become so present to just how much the way I see has changed. The way I see the world, what I take in, what I am willing to let slide, and how I react even without words.

It’s in the eyes. Those same eyes that are more able to see difficult truths, than avert it. Eyes that are soft and willing to be shown when I am wrong. Eyes that are porous so things can seep in, come and go, slowly. Eyes that are sharp and unafraid to call a spade a spade, but benign in the face of love. Eyes that speak louder than before, eyes that hide less behind them. Eyes that are vessels of as much information I take in, as I now allow to be put out. Eyes that are flexible and always ready to be surprised.

Still, what I want in my life
is to be willing
to be dazzled—
to cast aside the weight of facts

and maybe even
to float a little
above this difficult world.

— Mary Oliver

***

Today I’m grateful for the opportunity to learn. The means that have been opening up for me. Technology, and how much it enables through providing channels, connections, communication over distances and so much more that I have leaned on so much this past year to buffer and bolster my learning.

One year ago: It doesn’t matter, put the phone away
Two years ago: Just do the next right thing, one thing at a time. That’ll take you all the way home
Three years ago: September

Let it blow through you, don’t let it move you

I had a brief exchange with someone a couple of days ago that brought up in full force a latent feeling of hurt and disappointment with people. Specifically of a set of people I felt used me during the Goa years of my life. People I mostly knew online, but who slipped from the virtual into the real in the name of shared interests. People I mistakenly called friends. People I opened my home and life to so (maybe a touch unnecessarily too) willingly. People I realise now preyed on the usefulness of knowing someone who lived in Goa. People who picked my brain effortlessly — for work, for contacts, for information, for inspiration, for help, for connection, for friendship. People who took it all so easily. People who have benefited from my hospitality, my openness, my willingness, my warmth.

People who needed me then, more than they do now. People who dropped me like a hot potato when that phase — and the usefulness — of my life ended.

Because, what use am I now when all I do is blog about a largely personal journey? Only speaking in vague circles. Not posturing at an audience. Not sharing details of any particular interest to anyone. Not giving enough meat to build a steady voyeuristic habit on. Not possessing much coolth by way of social media currency or giving anyone any reason to engage with me. None of the above.

The exchange, and the hurt that followed, didn’t leave me pining for the oddly confused/lost connections (as such situations once did), as much as it made me feel sorry for the naive and simply trusting person that I have been. For being at the receiving end of this, too often for my own liking. For mistaking my own loneliness and need for diversity as the right receptacle for new connections. For mistaking some of those new connections to be something real connections. For trusting. For being used. For feeling hurt.

I’m glad that exchange was quickly followed up with a solid day spent (in a saree!) with S. I chatted with her about this, blinking back tears at one point. Because it reinforced so much about where I’m at, what kind of connection I want and will welcome, and just how impossibly ungrateful people can be. And even as I feel my world expand, my heart open wide, there is a simultaneous bitter truth about the number of people who make it in to that inner world getting smaller and smaller.

I feel grateful for the friends I have at this point in my life. Close friends, acquaintances and everyone else in between. I’m grateful for what I have learned from experiences past, and the ability to now call shit like this out. Even if to myself, even if in retrospect. For knowing what I simply will not stand for anymore.

The more I see how shit people can be, and the ways in which they have exited my life, the more I appreciate those that have remained. Those with whom my relationship has evolved and strengthened. Those who have given me room to be who I am, through the ups and down. Those who watched me go and grow through the last two years either silently from the sidelines, or cheering me on front and centre. Those who have made me feel I have the space and liberty to take as much as I give. Those who allow me to take, even when I don’t have much to give. Those with whom the relationship is larger and way beyond what I am good for or what I have to give.

***

I was talking to S (a different S ahaha!) yesterday and telling her how even though I am in a phase where I feel solid physically and mentally, I seem to be at my most “unproductive” best. My reluctance to do anything at all has reached an all time high, and my inclination to work (actually, to do anything at all beyond the bare minimum required of me right now) is at an all time low. And she echoed it — telling me how her experience was exactly the same during the time of this same course that I am in the thick of.

The more I think about, the more I feel glad for a life that allows all of this. The luxury of staying off work commitments, the choice to dip in and out of family commitments knowing I have their support and backing, a roof over my head that I don’t have to hustle for, a structure and routine that has my space and solitude at the heart of it. It’s enabling a lot more than the obvious.

***

Ran a smooth, steady 7km in the park today. A good pace, a new route, bumping into S after 7 months since I trained with her last. To have her look at me and immediately notice OMG, you’re running! and then to take off and run with her for the rest of the time. Such a good start to my day. I’m grateful for the park, for bumping into S (that’s yet another S! I realised recently that I am surrounded by them!) who took my run from a regular run to a milestone run. My longest outdoor run yet that ended at 7.1km.

One year ago: Warm days filled with sunshine
Two years ago: Boooooook post
Three years ago: 109 kms done

Take the time

I took the time not to run today. To walk, slower than usual. To not ace the targets I’m always unconsciously building up in my mind.

To savour the milestones I’ve reached for longer, before I set myself up for the next one.

To be in the present more. To meander. To stop. To laze. To feel.

I took the time to be average at the gym today.

No need to hurry. No need to sparkle. No need to be anybody but oneself.   

— Virginia Woolf

Pretty much sums up the current point at which I am in my tussle with inner demons. If only it were as easy as VW makes it sound — simple, flat, within reach, like a few uncomplicated words strung together. But I do know that like with all things lately, small, incremental, seemingly insignificant movements do stack up and amount to something significant. Over time.

I am going to take my time.

One year ago: Snap back to reality, oh there goes gravity

Finding flow

I had a deeply moving and powerful experience practicing with S yesterday. It was stormy out, and we almost didn’t make it. Until we actually did, and after cups of chai and much quiet talking, when we finally got down to it, something came over me.

I’m noticing how different I am in the presence of people with whom I have a level of comfort that uplifts and energises me. I see how my pace and flow changes and how my demeanour is different. I have a feel of what it is to tune in, but let go. To be present, but not control that in any manner. To hold space, to facilitate the healing.

And that was a powerful experience for me. I felt moved just doing the work with and for S.

The session left me thinking so much about how the burdens and traumas of the past, of past generations, of women who came before and laid down the path for us, is still so present in us. This, even as we are the generation that is significantly challenging so much of the old, and so determined to figure out an all new way. We’re the ones really pushing the boundaries, even while we have so much of us so steeped and conditioned by what we’ve grown up with.

I see this in how I am exploring redefining what work, ambition and success is to me. I’m finding I need to find a new measure and means to what excellence is to me. VC and I are constantly, sometimes unconsciously, re-evaluating the shifting equations in our marriage. I am still steadfastly convinced about going childfree.

S called us the twilight generation. An apt term, I thought, for us lot with one foot in deeply held by all the conditioning we’ve come from, so aware of how it has helped us get this far, but also simultaneously ready to question the status quo, push back at tradition, find new balance and meaning in a way that seems fit for where we are now and what we want from the world the way it is today.

I slept like a log last night. So sound and deep, unbroken, that I almost missed gym today. But I pushed through and came out at the other side better for it. Deep sleep seems to be my reaction to any kind of intensity these days. I seem to be processing things in a much quieter, restful way than the active, restless way that I used to not too long ago. And I woke up hyper aware of my privilege. To be in a place and have the kind of life that is facilitating this. To have the opportunity to allow for this deep rest when I need it.

I thought back to the practice session, and realised how much of it was me at work, and how much of it was something more, something beyond. That inexplicable flow that comes from an inner connectedness that is fleeting and completely not in my control at the moment. When all the right things align, for a brief time I experience the flow and that complete syncing of inner and outer worlds. It is blissful and so powerful. And then it is gone.

I was at a screening of an excellent documentary made by Premjit Ramachandran along with his architect brother Bijoy Ramachandran, on the life and philosophies of Architect BV Doshi, last week. And there was a brief presentation at the start of it, which featured this handwritten letter Doshi once wrote to Bijoy.

It speaks of flow. It speaks of that something beyond that takes over when there is flow. And it spoke to me again of how we are mere vessels, and our job is to find connection — with ourselves first — and the through, out in the world. No matter what the nature of our work, this is the only way to find meaning.

He talks of architecture and the act of designing a building, but it spoke to me like it could very well have been about the work of life itself. In fact, it spoke to me of grace and divinity, and their place in our lives.

The building itself is as integrated as a human being or an animal or an insect or a plant etc

What one needs to do is to understand the flow

To know the flow, you have to be in contact with YOURSELF and the material which is used as a medium

I have days when I wonder why I ever embarked on this totally consuming journey. I wonder if I have lost balance. Then there are days like the day I watched this film, or like yesterday when I had that impactful experience practicing with S. And there are flashes where the lightbulbs come on, when fleetingly, I have a moment of clarity about what this deep and burning need to get to know myself is fuelled by.

One year ago: Walk with me for a while (Amsterdam. Day 2.)
Two years ago: On letting go of what is meant-to-be, and enjoying what-is
Three years ago: I am eager

Mediocre

I’ve been sitting with thoughts of what it might be like to be average, mediocre even, at being a practitioner of this work since some new developments earlier this week. N brought it up, gently suggesting What might it be like to just let it go and be mediocre and as we discussed it and I processed it in some manner, I feel something has eased up within. It’s given me permission for some space and distance, some allowance for embracing my own pace in how I engage and assimilate this learning.

It’s become severely apparent to me that even as I set off no this learning this year, with no outcomes in mind, feeling the full flush of learning for learning sake, something about my group, the structure and the way in which I have engaged with it all has triggered the deeply help beliefs of perfectionism, performance and excellence. I realise I have always shied away from overt excellence. When things come easy, I have taken it, but when I have to work hard towards something, I can’t seem to do it with ease, without the pressure of a positive outcome.

Sub-consiously speaking, being average has never been an option. Internally I’ve always been wired to strive to always do exceedingly well. Go all in, all the performance pressure and all (and I’ve silently suffered for it many times right through various stages of my life) or back away completely. Black and white. Fight or flight. It’s the same story.

As I’m now learning, these hardwired responses are invariably trauma responses. And I am absolutely flummoxed as to where they may have come from. I didn’t grow up with the pressures many children in my generation did — pressure to perform, be academically excellent, be engineers/doctors, etc. In fact, I had an upbringing where we were encouraged to just be. So I have absolutely no answers, but I hope to unpack this and understand better over time.

It’s amazing what a mere conversation can sometimes do, because that conversation earlier this week, and a startlingly illuminating conversation with S this morning, triggered by some thoughts post our practice session on the weekend, settled some of these truths in me today.

I feel a deeper dropping into myself, a peeling off of yet another layer I didn’t know existed. And I feel ready to re-embrace the idea that there is no deadline, prescribed timeline, and most importantly of all — no desired outcome of me. This was so crucial because I have been struggling with how the pace and stretch of the learning has been sometimes at cross-purposes with my own slowing down. The two have collided more than once, leaving me confused, sometimes guilty for not doing enough, and fearful about a possible consequence.

Today’s conversation was important in reinforcing the idea that I am in this for me. For however and whatever I choose to make of and do with this learning. That I can breathe and take it slow. And so if that means there’s a possible fall out in terms of not meeting a deadline, a “stellar” outcome or a level of excellence, I finally feel ready to see what that might be like.

I know I’ve talked a lot about being mediocre, but I realised this week I don’t know jack about being mediocre. I simply like the idea of it, from a distance. As I get closer to actually practicing it, it is terrifying as fuck. But the good news is I am more willing to give it a try than ever before.

***

I am continuously amazed and thrilled by how never-ending and loopy self-development is. A deeply personal journey that has so many points of resonance with the world I engage with. A constantly unravelling scroll, revealing newer nuance and deeper detail as we go along. This process of dropping deeper within, discovering myself in such an intimate way. It has been so, so, so enjoyable. I’ve reached a place where therapy is now exactly that — an enjoyable path of discovery. Sure, it’s pock marked with many downright frightening discoveries, lots of tears and snot, opportunities to dive into the deep end. But it has never been so exciting.

Earlier this week after therapy, when I was marvelling at the beauty of this constantly deepening journey with so many wins and milestones and success, but no apparent end, I was reminded of this Cheryl Strayed quote from an essay in Tiny Beautiful Things (that essay is also where this powerful sentence that’s impacted me so deeply came from):

Your life will be a great and continuous unfolding. It’s good you’ve worked hard to resolve childhood issues while in your twenties, but understand that what you resolve will need to be resolved again. And again. You will come to know things that can only be known with the wisdom of age and the grace of years. Most of those things will have to do with forgiveness.

And to that last sentence, I want to add, of yourself first.

One year ago: Take a deep breath (Bruges. Day 3.)
Three years ago: Control issues

True

This past week, and weekend, I’ve been so taken by an emerging spontaneity that is slowly but surely creeping out of me.

It’s fresh and zesty and so unlike anything I have ever experienced before. There is a lightness about me, the way in which I am connecting with people and events and the implicit way in which no reaction seems unfit.

Everything seems to fit suddenly. And I’m noticing it all from a distance, but feeling it all intensely.

I am so enjoying this coming to life. This breaking down of some parts of a lifelong persona. Every small highlight or glimmer of the authentic self beneath it all showing up and gaining shape, size and strength.

Some highlights of spontaneity:

Attending the Bangalore efforts towards the Global Climate Strike and feeling overwhelmed, charged and like I belong. To be in the midst of almost a 1000 people united for a single cause was all kinds of empowering.

An overwhelmingly beautiful pink sunset that I caught while zipping across town to make it to a movie screening I randomly decided to attend. My father joined me too and we made an evening of it.

An unplanned pre-birthday dinner with my father and my sister and sharing a table, food and many laughs.

A new black dress, a belt cinched at the waist in most uncharacteristic fashion (for me), new pink shoes and the willingness and energy to go from one party to another in one night, only to get home close to 2.30 am.

 

Going with the flow and allowing myself the space and permission to honour my pace, my needs and my state of mind on Sunday morning, over what needed to be done. Choosing to sit that round out, despite the discomfort of being critiqued for it.

***

I realised this morning that I’ve been unintentionally, unconsciously brave a lot lately. And when I say brave, I mean this newfound energy that’s allowing my real self to be seen more often than not. Without realising it, I’ve been looking out for myself in a deeply personal way, like I haven’t known before. Those are mostly the moments where my true self shows up. But I don’t always realise it or give those moments, or myself, their due. But, I think this is what being comfortable in one’s own skin feels like. What an absolutely exciting place to be, this is!

One year ago: You’re still young and that’s your fault (Paris. Day 4.)
Two years ago: Joyful
Three years ago: Moarrrr books

Step up

I’ve been discovering how much of my modus operandi when faced with a challenge swings between extreme energy and force to move forward and fight, and retreating silently — and all variations of these two extreme states.

Recent experiences that have felt like the universe sending me invitations to explore this area (which for all of us, goes back to how we’ve faced even the smallest trauma in our childhood) in the form of situations ranging from the overwhelmingly demanding kind like facing a bully insistent on raining on my parade, the very interesting difficulty of meeting an authority figure from a place of my own power, to the very simple like demanding peanuts on my noodles that were supposed to come with peanuts rather than meekly making do with none).

It has been a journey of slowly owning my own power, stepping into the very exciting and overwhelming area of knowing my full potency. I realised recently that I am at an interesting crossroads in my journey of self exploration and moving forward is going to be impossible unless I own my own power fully, and for that I absolutely must step into my potency. This requires the simultaneous growing of a healthy, resourced part of myself that I have felt pulsating and slowly coming to life, and consistently leaning on her as I meet old traumas. It means knowing and owning the safe, compassionate and strong haven of vulnerability I carry within myself. And the more I do this work, the deeper I walk into these murky waters, the more I find the willingness to stay with difficulty and distress. As I am. Where I am.

The more I do this, the more I see the old modus operandi of fight and flight slowly fading away (but not without a fight). The more I feel that old urge to run right after I have been very vulnerable and naked, slowly lose a grip on me.

It has taken going to places of extreme vulnerability. At many levels, in front of audiences, in spaces I consider impossible to be vulnerable in. And when I expected these experiences to make me shut down, what has emerged is the urge is to stay and not lose what I have come for.

I have tasted a tiny nibble, a drop, a touch of what “strength in vulnerability” is and I see how crucial it is for me to deepen this experience. I feel willing and capable of doing this, as I see clearly the difference in how I am now operating from a place of resource and strength rather than the unconscious triggering of old trauma.

I am still caught off gaurd by moments of doubt and fear, but the difference is immense. Even as I feel fear and doubt, I also feel a readiness to go forth, to explore and find a way to move, not shrink away as has always been my pattern. It has never come naturally, of course. Flight has always been my preferred alternative. But no more.

Every day, as I wake up and breathe, I feel a strong invitation to step up and in. In every single way.

One year ago: Some things will never change
Two years ago: Back to base

It was all yellow

Even though VC made a trip to Bangalore to be with me on our anniversary, it was the most mundane, regular day we could have had.

My favourite kind of day, really. The kind I am sorely missing having more of with him, and the kind I am desperately looking forward to having more of when he returns for good.

There were yellow flowers. Of course. (Like so, and so, and so, and so.) We began the day super early, for a Sunday, at Cubbon Park. D and I, for the customary walk, and VC roaming around with his camera and pocket tripod, taking pictures. This was followed by breakfast at Airlines, post which we got back home and back into bed. to stay there for the rest of the day. I’m not even kidding, slightly.

We lazed around, chatting, watching Netflix, doing our own thing, I may have even doxed off a couple of times. We only got out of bed to fix ourselves some lunch, and eventually only at 7 pm, when we couldn’t push showering and leaving the house any later. We had dinner reservations at a hip new Chinese bar house in town that I have been dying to try. I couldn’t decide if lure was Chinese food or the cocktail menu. Maybe it was both.

Yellow seemed to be the colour of the day, really. And it gave me a lot of joy to wear a newly made blouse, in a really old saree of amma’s to dinner.

Dinner itself was a strange 50-50 combination of amazing and underwhelming. The cocktails we had were outstanding (I had a plum G&T which was OMG), one appetiser and the noodles we got were exceptionally good, but two things — one main and the dessert — were strictly meh. We giggled about how that was even possible. But I want to go back for a second shot, to assess things better. And have some more cocktails. They were to die for.

Aside from stepping out with VC and having more beer than I normally do on any given week, the rest of last week — Tuesday onwards — went by in a blur of mostly trying to fight the bug and only succeeding in keeping it beneath the surface till it fully took over on Thursday. So I cancelled the rest of the week fully, in favour of staying in bed.

On Sunday morning, I took myself out to a talk on What next for Kashmir. I feel a greater sense of keenness in understanding my world and what is shaping it, a desire to listen to more narratives than the mostly unidimensional ones of my very privileged world, and a greater responsibility in how I engage with my world. It was a tremendous talk that has stayed with me and left me with thoughts circling my brain even today.

Since I was feeling almost 80% better, and since the talk was all the way in town, I carried a book along with a plan to take myself out for a solo lunch somewhere, while I read. I had no plan or specific place in mind. But I bumped into S at the talk and was so happy to spontaneously have company over lunch. As usual we ate well, a shrimp roll for me and a pulled pork sandwich for her, as usual we yakked nine to the dozen, and as always I came home charged, energised and inspired.

There’s something about getting out to play, at play in my life. Slowly the pieces are coming together and things I have been making meek, small attempts at for months finally seem to be finding some direction and purpose.

I feel a greater sense of allowance, for and of myself. Quite unknowingly, I am giving myself permission to do things, to move in certain ways, to make choices, to present myself in a certain way, to allow space for expansion, in ways that I hesitated to, or didn’t think I was worth, or believed I wasn’t ready for, or waited for “good reason” for until now. Whether by way of indulging in a good meal, several mid-week beer, an extra kilometre on the treadmill, that new book spontaneously bought, a tailored dress, or whether it is to listen to my body when it’s asking for rest, spending three full days in bed if necessary without fretting, doing nothing for no apparent reason, pursuing the smallest things simply because I feel like. This is very new for me.

I genuinely feel my life blossoming because of it. This past weekend I realised this in full measure. My body hasn’t taken ill in this way in over a year, but in giving it rest as soon as it needed it and not resenting the illness like it was something to fix, I watched how I bounced back miraculously, and in record time. There is without a doubt a certain fullness I am feeling in my life, a genuine expansion and a blooming in full measure. There is so much to live and give and my cup, it runneth over. Over and over again.

One year ago: One breath leads to another
Two years ago: Grow
Three years ago: Empty