Rest easy

When I have adequately tended to and cared for the vulnerable parts of me, I allow the overactive parts, that work hard to numb and hide them, to rest. And when they rest, I have more life to spend on living than merely existing. My days are bright and my life feels harmonious.

Not a tarot message. Just me marking a delightfully happy evening with VC in the yellow evening light of our home, conversation and much laugher, that affirmed this truth.

One year ago: Sweet relief
Two years ago: Happy days
Three years ago: You’re beautiful, it’s true

On honesty

An ongoing effort has been to be more, utterly and completey honest with myself. I say this a lot, and practice to a great degree. But lately I am trying to get deeper with it. To lay the smallest truth threadbare. Even if just to myself. Perhaps, especially to myself. To not say even the slightest thing on a whim, without an element of conscious honesty.

I feel like doing this for many reasons, but I think what has spurred it the most is the deep realisation that I have been most hurt by people who aren’t honest with themselves. It has always manifested as a dishonesty with/at me. But my own experiences with understanding myself has shown that at the heart of this is a great degree of unconscious dishonesty with the self. What I now call a state of living like we’re sleep-walking. When assumptions and aspirations become truth before they are actually lived and embodied.

And so I think now, if I can’t be honest with myself, I definitely don’t have a good shot at being honest with anyone, in any kind of relationship. So, I want to get better at this.

One year ago: Mid-week note to self
Two years ago: Home
Five years ago: On being average

A new kind of alive

The interesting thing with difficulty and pain is it is so much easier to acknowledge it once it has passed. When in the throes of it, I’m often so focused (even if in a quiet, non-active way) on letting it pass that I may or may not acknowledge it out loud. This is perhaps changing ever so slightly. But even so, once the pain has passed, the hardness has lifted, it becomes easier to see it, talk about it, acknowledge how present it was. How hard things really were.

I’ve been in that headspace looking back at last year. Especially the months between March and October. Even as I was living life, thriving in so many ways, I was also in the darkest darkness I have been. Internally, spiritually. In retrospect, as I’ve said before, it was possibly the most spiritually rich and “productive” time in my adult life. In restrospect, though. Now, I can look back and feel chuffed at the progression, but back then it often felt like having my teeth extracted in slow motion. Like constantly walking in the dark. Like just havin no idea at all if and when the light would come.

But it did. The light showed up. It always does. When things began to shift in about November. Slowly at first, and then with a steadily building gallop. By January, I felt like a new person living a new life all over again. Even though virtually nothing about my life, on paper, had changed. It was entirely internal. Like shedding everything for a brand new world.

So bright, full and positive has it been in fact, that it was only when N reminded me at therapy last month, how very dark and bleak the days were and how challenging, roundabout and clutching-at-straws my sessions were, that I remembered that it was true.

I’ve been thinking about this since. How the lifting of pain, in this way that it does at the end of a cycle, with a heave and a ho, actually made so much room in my life.

It wasn;t literal room of course. Like I said, my life remained unchanged on paper. But this is probably what we call “expand” in therapy speak. An internal sense of opening, unfolding, stretch, limitlessness. And externally, it does manifest as a vastness, tinged with a sparkly newness that’s hard to really put words to.

The other interesting thing about it was how long this “transition” lasted. I put it in quotes because I imagine dtransitions to be long, but even my idea of this frame of time is short and brisk, compared to what these soul shifts are like in real life. And the shift is almost always preceded by immense pain.

I realise now much of the inexplicable, intangible, wordless pain that I experienced was from being slowly broken open. Like a slow hatch from the darkness and warmth of an egg where I’ve cowered and grown silently for years now.

That state of hibernation has made me go within, withdraw from my surroundings, from people around me, from friends, from groups I belonged to, from my work as I knew it, from habits, from routines and rituals, and it quite literally put me in a self-protective space. Almost as if in preparation for the tender, vulnerability that would inevitably come from it. I have longed for this coming out, but it was just not time. Until about December, when I began to feel the natural, organic shift away from the inwardness. For the first time in years it wasn’t taking effort, coaxing, willing of energy. And in the weeks and months since, I have reveled in watching the shell fall to the side.

I feel so alive. Eager. Burning with desires to move, to do so many things, to open myself up, to experience. And I am so very eager to see what becomes of this vast, wild, open unknown.

One year ago: Monday Tarot Message: Tend to your masculine side
Three years ago: Please press pause and try again
Five years ago: Seeing the sunrise

Moving ahead

One of the most gentle but impactful shifts in my thinking last year was to really shed the idea that my low points are an indication of having moved backwards in self-awareness. I realised at some point last year that this thinking was also deeply rooted in perfectionism, and holding myself up to an unreal, terribly high expectation, and worst of all — needing to have it together and be a projection of someone who consistantly “moves ahead”.

I don’t know when specifically what shifted to change this, but suddenly I don’t know what “moving ahead” even means anymore. What feels more empowering is to notice the low points and how I hold myself, react and move through them. And it is only when I started looking at things in this way that I realised how much has actually changed, and how whole and healthy I feel.

What feels like progress is knowing so deeply that I cannot judge myself for what I think or feel when I am going through a low or turbulent time. That if anything, I need to be the kindest I can possibly be to myself at such a time. It is in giving myself permission to falter as much as I need to, and instead being aware of my emotions and thoughts as I do.

It has made an enormous difference to the quality of my life. It isn’t that my life of I have changed, as much as it is that my gaze, my lens and my way of seeing my life, myself, has changed. Being kinder to myself, my mind, my body has felt like the truest act of love lately. And it moves me and fills me with an immense strength to just think about how much I can be there for myself.

One year ago: Lockdown things/thoughts/shenanigans
Five years ago: Fitter and stronger than before

Liminal

Like I said: light and shadow.

And last week, the space in between the slow transitions. The easy, relaxed, unrushed way in which the morning light shifts across that one hour I spend in bed, after I have woken up. Just watching, soaking, toasting. Sometimes with curtains thrown open, sometimes through the balmy, diffused effect of the grain in the fabric that remains shut.

As a former person of extremes, always existing in the poles — this or that, one must decide! good or bad, pick a side! lef tor right, what must I choose! — it has been a steady unlearning, relinquishing of control, of identities associated with the poles and embracing the uncertainty, unsteadiness and fluidity that the “in between” space offers.

It is at once liberating, because it is in essence a thoroughly unbound state to be in; and also unnerving because there’s nowhere ot hold on to, and everything becomes excrutiatingly slow. I identify this (and imagine) it is what Jung refers to as the “third space”. Or what happens when we feel safe to let go of the shores and swim the great unknowns of our lives. The opportunity to honour the journey from what once was and what is yet to be. Which anyone who has done any work in self reflection will know is not as easy as turning a switch. One doesn’t simply transition from one state to the next. There is a vast in-between — that offers the chance to push boundaries in our own time, to unlearn old ways of being, and trudge slowly into newer ones. the same space that is ripe and fertile to sow seeds of change will also challenge the old ways, excrutiatingly, luring you back into the past. A constant push and pull that I have after many years of trying to game, effort, fight, fix and work at, have realised requires only to be witnessed. I am not a machine, and no two days are the same. One day being nothing like the next is not an indication of having “moved ahead” or not. Nothing have beaten this fact home than my attempts to find the light. My flirtation with swimming — on my back, limbs splayed, floating in a cool blue pool, eyes squinched from facing the glare of the summer sun — in liminality and letting it take me where it must.

One year ago: Eerie days
Two years ago: Happy spots
Three years ago: Flowers in the window
Five years ago: Moved to tears

Confessions

Confession: I’m finding it hard to bitch, gossip or rant about people these days.

Which is not to say I don’t do it. I do, because I’m human, with full capacity to get petty, jealous, excited at someone else’s fuckups, etc and give in to the urge to share those moments with someone via nice thick bitch. But, lately, it’s become hard to do it without feeling pretty immediately like this path is not one I can walk very far on. Without simultaneously pulling my gaze within to notice why the gossip has been delightful, by looking at what part of myself and my worth it is fulfilling. Without checking which part of that judgement that I am placing outwards, is also being directed inwards within.

It’s a bit annoying that I’ve become self-aware about this, because it gets in the way of sharing a good gossip session with friends. And I don’t get have the words to express this to them. So in the past few weeks, I have come across as rather brusque when I:

  • questioned a friends judgement at a social media post (in my mind, to myself), but resorted to ignoring it entirely because I don’t know what an alternative response could be
  • had to really think long and hard before habitually, casually aligning with a certain judgemental line of thinking about someone just because said friend shared it lightheartedly
  • realised the ways in which finding sameness in loathing someone has been fundamental to some of my relationships
  • felt the reaction that came from me now pulling back on this way of connecting in those same relationships
  • had a major reaction of revulsion to a message someone sent, blatantly calling someone we apparently know in common (that I can’t for the life of me remember now) “breathtakingly ugly” — I just can’t deal with this language and turn unresponsive instantly

***

Confession: I validate myself and my journey by often going back to read posts from  the same day in past years. It is revelatory, fascinating and almost always a sweet ride to see my words and state of mind from the past. Because it is almost always a testament to how far I have come. We all move, slightly, subtly and gently sometimes; rushing ahead in big strides and gallops sometimes. It’s a thrill to look back on that some days, and feel good.

Yesterday, Instagram threw up a post from exactly one year ago. “My search for myself and a search for a way to belong have merged,” I wrote. It felt surreal to read those words from just 365 days. Because I know now, where I am, my current headspace and how much more belonging I feel within myself today than I have ever before. And how and what it has impacted in the outer world around me.

Looking back brought up so many emotions. Softness for the innocence of a younger me. Compassion for where I was. Happiness for how much I have moved since then. Gratitude for all the resources I have had that encouraged me to keep going, keep looking, and supported me through the past year.

If I could go back, I would tell old/past me that growth looks different all the time. From one phase to another, it’s different. One day to another, it’s different. Don’t look too hard for markers you’ve come to expect, keep going and let yourself be surprised. Growth is doubly satisfying in hindsight.

One year ago: Monday Tarot Message: Find your tribe
Three years ago: But if you try sometime, you’ll get what you need
Four years ago: What I’ve been reading
Five years ago: Telepathy

Love quiets fear

Kindness eases change.
Love quiets fear.
And a sweet and powerful
Positive obsession
Blunts pain,
Diverts rage,
And engages each of us
In the greatest,
The most intense
Of our chosen struggles.

— Octavia Butler

I have a sneaky feeling she was talking about self compassion, because I’m feeling fueled by it’s softness in a way that is making my veins burst with a life I didn’t think was possible. The gradual waning of fear excites me. The space that has oened up feels gentle, cottony, welcoming.

One year ago: Standing tall
Two years ago: Mornings in Benaras
Five years ago: No. Just no.

Sit, feast on your life

I’m reading Lori Gottlieb’s Maybe You Should Talk To Someone, and she mentions how one of the goals of therapy is to move towards self-compassion. Specifically choosing self-compassion, building the capacity to have a forgiving and kind eye towards oneself, over self-esteem, and it really stayed with me. In all my reading and studies over the last few years I have not heard it articulated this way.

Self-esteem implies an inherent value system. A measuring up in terms of good or bad. Whereas self-compassion is more fluid and open. No metrics attached. This is a frightfully accurate way of describing the movement I have made on my own journey. Away from the pursuit of measuring up towards witnessing myself as I am. And because that has been my own precious, life-changing journey, it is the stance I take when I hold space for others as a practitioner.

***

And then there was this Derek Walcott poem that also encapsulates the experience I have had on this journey. Specifically, where I am today.

There is such a loaded implication of delight in the word feast in the last line, that I find so attractive and most resonate with. The other day I said to A that I watch develoipments within me with an excitement I haven’t felt before. Even the painful upheaval that often precedes the change comes tinged with excitement. Feasting is such a wholesome word that captures that sentiment perfectly.

Feasting. On vignettes of my life. Past, present, myriad futures.

Love After Love — Derek Walcott

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

One year ago: Peace within
Two years ago: Home away from home kind of feeling
Three years ago: I still remember, when we did not know the answers

All of me

At some point last year, going to therapy became less about trying to get a handle on everyday “issues” that were challenging and in need of ways to understand and overcome them, and slipped into the territory of looking at all experiences (easy, difficult, good, bad, sad, happy, high, low) as just that — experiences, with all their effects on me. On witnessing and holding myself as my life had an impact on me.

Somewhere in this process, I realised the importance and absolute inexcapable necessaity of looking at my depth. The depth I had been digging, burrowing for, for years now. The inward spiral, the dive into the abyss. Except, for years I had held that space as a “serious” stoic place of strength and believed that I could go there easily. In fact, that I was already there.

That wasn’t an accurate understanding at all. It was, in fact a lie. A lie I believed because it was easy, comforting and helped me cope and stay afloat. It was necessary at the time.

But something about the topsy turvyness, the abject isolation and loneliness of 2020 took me deeper. And I realised that the depth that I looked at so fondly, was actually a terrifying darkness. My own darkness. The space of strength that was somehow also my biggest undoing. The depth and the darkness that were in fact the same place.

Facing this space has been extremely scary and very confusing and nerveracking. But I’ve had the greatest help and support in the form of a therapist who is perfectly suited to the way I think and understand the world, my work that keeps me rooted in this space of finding the tools to better know myself, my family that keeps me light and free, and my delightful husband who keeps it real, knocks the wind out of me when it gets to my head, props me up when I go too low and keeps me grounded. A whole team of people who knowingly and unknowlingly see different parts of me, and therefore help me see all of me.

But like I said before, sometime ago, the shift in the process last year has been in recognising that the darkness exists. It always will. It isn’t something I need to fear or be ashamed of. If anything, I need to own it, embrace it and derive strength from that wholeness. Sometimes that journey is like taking a deep dive in a dark well and not knowing if I’ll drown or come back up. Sometimes it’s like a swim in a dark lake, but on a full moon night. Sometimes it’s like dipping my toes into an inky sea. I have the capacity to choose how and at what pace I want to dig deep.

I’ve struggled with this, but I am slowly only now seeing my darkness as my strength. It took a long circuitous root to getting to this place — this deepest depth, the darkest darkness. Many layers below the depth I thought I was at. A part that I had locked away, that I needed to befriend. A part that asked for as much nurturance as the lightness in me. A part that is deserving of so much more compassion that I have given it. A part that continues to ask for and bring out from my depths, loving care, attention and intention. A part that awakened a love for life itself. But most of all, a part that I now look at with curiosity and respect.

I feel tears pricking the back of my eyes as I put these words down. It has taken a long, long, oh so long time, but it is this seeing of the darkness that has brought me to where I am today. A space where I finally feel like I have begun to love all of me.

One year ago: Soft, rested, easy
Two years ago: As Goa as it gets
Five years ago: Because I want to remember

Rewarding, on my terms

Responding to the deep ask of giving my life attention, love and observing it without judgement has been immense. It has been so nuanced, asking for so many different things of me at different times. At times it has felt overwhelming. And not always in a good way. But that too has been a learning curve. To know when I am feeling the flow and aligning with an innate readiness to deep dive into that state of presence, where everything slows down and holds meaning; versus when I my body is telling me “No, not today.” and I am able to observe that too, skim the surface, see what I need to and knowingly say, “I am not going into this today, I’ll file this away for when I feel better.”

Ultimately, I realise the summation of this entire process of looking within, healing, self-development…call it what you will.. for me, it has been about befriending myself intimately. Finding a deeper relationship with myself. Really knowing what I am about. Even when it is to see that I am not doing okay. Without attaching any more meaning or judgement to it. Knowing that that too is a part of the process, a part of who I am and how I can sometimes feel. Not making those periods/days/phases a time that needs fixing or “bettering” somehow.

I am getting so much better at riding through the days, all kinds of days, just watching and noticing the minor ups and downs in my energy and emotions. It helps me function well on days when I can, and go easy and cut myself slack and be kinder on days when I cant, for whatever reason.

In a session with a client today, I found myself speaking about going with the flow and how it holds a meaning absolutely nothing like the one I used to associate with it some years ago. I had this notion that I was a go-with-the-flow kind of person, and it used to me I was chill and easy-going. Maybe I was, for the most part. But a very large part of me wasn’t — a large part that I didn’t want to acknowledge. And noticing and seeing that part, understanding why it desperately needed and craved rigidity and control, and most importantly, looking at it with compassion and kindness, has somehow made me make space for it. Allow it. Let it be. Rather than fix it or let it go. This, is probably a truer representation of going with the flow.

It presents itself as an organic moving through with life, rather than trying too hard to shape everything in it. And of course it’s taken me years to understand that I have to find a sweet spot between working hard and actively moving towards my goals, and leaning into what is not in my control and aligning myself with that component of the process that is the flow of energy beyond and outside of me. Knowing the difference between when to exert energy, and when to ride the wave.

An analogy one of my mentors used very often was of a casual boat ride. How choosing to actively paddle, steer and guide the boat in a certain way would result in one kind of journey, while understanding the natural flow and current of the water and finding a rhythm between paddling a little and sitting back and enjoying the ride a little would result in an entirely different kind of journey altogether.

This has been coming up a lot for me lately, because I am suddenly seeing, actively, how I am working much more (in quantity) and much harder (quality) than I have in a long time — probably since 2017 — and yet the quality of my life is slow-paced, comfortable, easy-going. And I seem to have ample time to do more of the things (work and life) I want to, I feel happier and much more in the flow with life, than have to work against it, somehow.

I have always associated busyness, hard work and the like with the conventional definition of “the hustle”, only to realise that my inherent rhythm and energy cycles cannot hustle quite the way the world would like me to believe is rewarding. I had to find my own rhythm, my own idea of the hustle, my own sense of what is a good reward, and give all of that to myself. Observe, listen and loving all of this about myself has been a key factor in finding a way that is rewarding on my terms, that doesn’t feel like too much effort for too little payback, and most of all — not constantly feeling tired and holding that like some goddamned badge of honour.

One year ago: Chasing sunlight
Four years ago: Kitchen soup for the honesick soul
Five years ago: Shine one

My body knows

When I began to move from the excessive doing (working, fixing, succeeding, accomplishing yadayadayada) to being first and doing next, I noticed a soft ever so gentle, almost missable, murmur of needs my body was communicating to my mind.

I had this crushing realisation that it was probably communicating this *all along* and I had never realised, busy as I was with my plans and goals for life. Knocking things off, in control and pursuing perfection.

It is oh so easy to miss. This, the stuff beyond words that takes quiet, stillness and observing and listening without judgement. If that sounds glib and cliche, let me quickly say it was and continues to be by far the hardest thing I have ever tried to do. I’m no master. I slip very, very often. But i know what I’m looking for has changed. My gaze has shifted. And I trust that it will make picking myself up easier some.

From time to time, even now, years since I really began listening in, I am overcome by waves of grief for how unkind I have been to myself. Forcing, expecting, beating, bashing, prodding myself to move, grow and be in ways that were serving me no good.

This is where my love now lies. In the quiet wisdom that was and will always be there. Our bodies know. My body knows, and I’d like to listen to it when I can, as often as I can.

One year ago: Monday Tarot Message: Shine the light on your shadow
Three years ago: Hit the road, Jack
Five years ago: Why facebook just feels like a lot of noise

On slow living

Life has been full lately. My days have been quite packed, I’ve been out and about, I’ve worked hard and taken time to enjoy the fruits of my work.

Externally, life has been moving fast as it usually does. It is a welcome change from the collective energy of p-a-u-s-e that 2020 was. And yet, I feel slow and measured internally. My mind isn’t struggling to “keep up” with my body or vice versa. There is an unsaid synchronisation and we’re all just keeping pace gently. Like a quiet working together. Slow, mindful, peaceful coexistence that seems to be enduring, staying, becoming a constant. This wasn’t the case before. I would find pockets of this amidst the chaos that is usual life.

This is different. This is new, again.

Inside I feel pleasantly slow. My mind staying with my body most of the time. And it occurred to me that I usually associated this “slowness” to the privilege of empty time. I waited to earn that down time. Periods of no work, autumns of rest and recovery, nights of sleep. But somehow now, there is slowness within, even in what has been some of the busiest weeks of the last two years.

Slow doesn’t mean that I am not working or otherwise engaged. It has come to mean I am moving through my (busy)days, intentionally. I’m being present, and this has become a touch easier lately. My mind stays where my body is, my body finds my mind, most times.

Slow isn’t the lack of activity. It is intentionality.
Slow isn’t emptiness. It is filling me up.
Slow isn’t a luxury or privilege. It is a hard won gift.

Even when I’m rushing around, the slowness has allowed me to find moments to appreciate where I am, the beauty around me, feel gratitude for this natural change, enjoy where my life has brought me to. Even as I navigate this godawful mess of a city. Even as I dream about taking the metro again. Even as I run from one thing to the next. Even as I dream and schedule quietly, scrub dishes, cook my meals, type away on my computer.

The slowness has given me new life.

One year ago: Monday Tarot Message: Strength
Five years ago: Let go, already

Monday Tarot Message: Revisiting your past

Many of our challenges as adults — shame and guilt, disconnection and difficulty relating to others or finding a place, trouble feeling emotions as they are, anxiety and/or depression, debilitating anger/frustration — have their roots in the past. Growing up, early childhood, sometimes even prenatal experiences can cloud the lens we view the world through, as we individuate and move on to navigate our lives on our own.

The Six of Cups is about that part of the healing journey that cannot be escaped — revisiting the past. To that time of innocence where we believed, unquestioningly, that our experiences were absolute and unchanging.

The image on the card is of an older boy meeting a younger child with an offering. It is probably because of my family constellation training that I always view this as a meeting between mother and child — the relationship that has the potential to form the crux of our relationship with life itself.

To understand our challenges and find true change is to thread our way back to the roots of the beliefs that have moulded us, to integrate the pain that we may find there. This can be intimidating but going back, gently and safely, is the key to noticing how many of our adult experiences, attitudes and reactions come from a place of pain as felt by our child selves.

One of my mentors used to ask: Who is in the driver’s seat (when you feel that way)? Is it your child self or you as an adult? Going back to the origins, helps us tell the difference.

Our childhood experiences get set in stories we tell ourselves repeatedly, that we believe are the unchanging, defining stories of our lives.
I am forever alone.
People will always use me.
I’m difficult to love.
I’m too touchy, too energetic, too ambitious.
I’m too much.
And these beliefs cause us to have inaccurate perceptions: mistaking healthy boundaries for abandonment. Confusing the basic human need for connection with neediness. Labelling emotions that are basic, human and valid as wrong and problematic, in need of fixing, etc.

If you are sitting with a particular challenge or just something festering ever so slightly, unable to navigate it, this card is a reminder that maybe it is worth looking into your past. To separate early experiences of pain that you may be confusing with present ones. To re-learn basic ideas of love and the self, and to know just how worthy you are of having both as an adult. And to experience anew how embodying the two can bring wholeness.

One year ago: Shit on toast kind of day
Two years ago: Like waking up again
Three years ago: Let it blow through you, don’t let it move you
Four years ago: Roads and Kingdoms
Five years ago: Playtime

In every direction

You’re the center and you’re always free
In every direction

— Junip

This morning, while obsessing over Nicolas Jaar’s musical genius with S, I discovered he had his first album out at 21. TWENTY ONE. It’s no different for some of my other favourite artists like Stormzy and James Blake, in terms of being focused and prolific in their 20s. And I said to S, in shock, “HOW do they do it so young! I feel like my life has only begun at 32. I spent my 20s unconscioulsy figuring so much stuff out, and consciously putting the pieces together when I was closer to 30.”

And here I am today.

This is just me in a moment of happy. Doing what I love best these days. Sitting on the ground, in the sun, beneath a tree. Reading cards. Joining the dots. Soaking it up. And the satisfaction from it comes from holding the polarities — this as a route to reaching people in a way that fulfills and excites me, and this as a job that earns me my daily bread. I’m finally in a place where I don’t feel the need to shirk the value that money adds and why earning it from doing what I love is a very, very key piece in the do-what-you-love puzzle.

This has been a hardwon learning. I’ve had a meandering life path that flits and swings from one thing to another every few years, with every pursuit taking me in intensely, often makes me feel bad because I have little to show for “consistency” or “staying power”. I’ve baked for a living, cooked and food blogged, had a pretty serious stint in freelance journalism and feature writing, and also a significant number of years in advertising. At every point, each of these things felt like the thing I’d do for the rest of my life. And eventually the pressure to balance the practicality of how much I earned from it (to make it practically work) without compromising on how passionate I was and how much joy it brought me, killed the pursuit. I would always reach a point where I had to “ramp things up” to make it make sense economically, a point where I realised I couldn’t go on in quite the happy go lucky way that I had the privilege to. And it frightened me to the point of giving up, each time.

There was so much shame from having built so many things up form scratch, only to shut it all up every so often and go on to the next. Repeating the cycle all over again.

Will I ever be taken seriously? I wonder. Even now, I stutter a bit when people ask me what I do. When I realise they mean “for work” and not just “in life”.

But in the last couple of years, I’ve become comfortable with seeing myself as someone with multiple directions. Easily excited and intensely taken into multiple things that capture me. A completely new thing every so often.

And I ask myself often, “What’s wrong with that?”

When this squidggly trahectory prickles me, I ask, “What’s wrong with reinventing myself?” And I remind myself, “You’re allowed to change your mind, life path and choices, as many times as you need to.”

Because that is what it has been about. If I’m being completely honest, I know now where my commitment and perseverence shows up. I am actually very committed to, and very consistent with reinventing myself. With all the practice I’ve had I’m so much better at responding to inner calls that take me to different, divergent places, and not necessarily in one direction. And I’m getting better at letting the shame around that slip away.

I’ve only recently started to see, accept, appreciate and hold that as just the way my life flows. I build, break down, let go, move on and rebuild often. I dig deep within myself often. I stay interested a lot. This is my life, as it has come to me.

One year ago: Finding flow, and flowing with it
Two years ago: Renewal
Three years ago: You guys, I must be the luckiest alive
Five years ago: Beach bum

On play

At one of the lowest low points during the lockdown last year (jeez, it still feels so weird saying lockdown last year —  how has it been a year already?!) when loneliness was me, I noticed that what I was really lonely for, so desperate for was actually, tacticle, tangible togetherness and intimacy with people, other bodies, activities, experiences. It struck me how much I missed play.

I use the word a lot lately.

I want to play. I miss play. I want more play in my life.

I know now that what I mean is levity. And that’s a much more rounded, wholesome word for what I mean and want. Because it’s not so much about the doing, or the actual activity at hand, but a feeling I have been missing.

Lightness. Silliness. Fun.

And so I began to wonder about the feeling around fun. How does it feel to have spontenity? What does that make me feel? How does my body respond? What memories come up when I think about lightness, play, frivolity, intimacy, joy.

One thing came up strongly: a need to note the moments, in the moment they occur. To witness exactly what I feel when I’m having fun.

I don’t know if I’ve ever made fun a focus in my life. It always was a byproduct, a happy happenstance of everything else I did — whether work, life, travel or any other pursuit. I have had plenty of fun in my life, just never made an effort to cultivate it. To make a dedicated space for it, go at it with intention and method.

It sounds a bit counterproductive, I know. To want spontenity and fun, but to talk about going about it with method. But what it means to me is, after years spent looking inwards and dealing with the loss of people and experiences that come with that choice, I am ready to step out some. To embrace people and experiences again. This time, from a place of intention and knowing what I want.

It’s a big difference for someone like me.

In all this thinking about fun, I recollected (unsurprisingly) my childhood — possibly the only time in anyone’s life where making fun happen is a focused chase, with near zero distractions. I remembered weekends from my years before age 13, where I would spend all day at play mostly by myself in imaginary worlds that were amalgamations of select fragments of my real life mixed with fantasies from a world I inhabited in my head. Having playmates or company wasn’t a prerequisite. I think I was pretty self-sufficient, and I used pillows and toys as alternative characters and playmates hahaha. Later in my adolescent years, I know fun turned into spending time being lazy, soaking in a book to such a degree that I’d forget to shower and other basic everyday things. I know fun took on a different colour when I was later on in my teens, when buddies, going out, socialising was a whole new world. It was also when I realised, quite gleefully, that I also thoroughly found fun in doing things like cleaning my room, redecorating it, building a space that reflected who I was then, where I’d spend a lot of my time.

If there is one element that was consistent through all the memories that came up it was this: an endlessly dawdly space of time that lingers with no end in sight. That feeling of ease that comes when there is nowhere to be, nothing really to do. When there body relaxes and literally occupies the hours that lie stretched out ahead of me. A full body feeling of enjoyment from being unhurried.

It hit me then. That is what I want to cultivate. Spaces where I can be unhurried. Where time may slow down in my head enough so I can relax within, even if my day is busy.

It is of course a very rare indulgence in an adults life these days. It is certainly an indulgence in mine. But truth be told, I have a life that affords the privilege of making some time for it. Cultivating it, if need be. I remembered osmething N has said to me years ago that I haven’t ever acted on: pencil fun into my schedule. Tread that thin line between organised, yet spontaneous fun. There is a space in there — where I can slot out time for this meandering exploration of nothingness, but also allow for it to organically open up.

I have been shedding the “should do’s” of my life for the last many years. I am so much better today than I was in the past when I would compulsively fill every hour with things to do, and even the fun I had felt hurried, limited and like I had to grab at it before it ran out. I don’t want fun to feel like I’m cheating, or like I’m eating into a limited resource. And I am finally in a space where there is enough empty time in my life to do as I please.

I can have fun. I can drop my ideas of duty for some hours in the week to just indulge myself. And the fun and play can look different every time. I don’t need to plan it out.

I want to play, not plan. I want to operate from instinct, not obligation. I want to follow delight over duty. I want to be surprised more often.

And so this year, I am consciously going to invite, make space for, honour and receive fully, opportunities for spontaneity. To use my very flexible schedule and lifestyle to make space for as much unscheduled fun as I do for scheduled productivity, work and duties. And I’m going to try my darndest best to chase the opportunities, grab them when they come, as they come. Whether I am in the company of those who will participate with me, or I am alone.

I don’t want to sit around waiting and watch fun pass me by because I was playing too safe, or being too busy, or feeling too lazy.

Like the drive out to my parents last week. When I knew in my bones I could and had to do it all on my own, and not wait for the perfect alignment (and safety) of a co-passenger. Like the hours spent lying down on a mat in the sun in Cubbon Park, with no plan.

***

I cannot ignore that there is a voice in my head judging me even as I write this. Look at me writing about pursuing fun when the country is blowing up in flames every hour of every day. Personal joy feels so unimportant. It is something I sit with a lot these days — the vast chasm between the personal, the political, the context I exist and breathe in. The guilt has been thawing though, and I see that moments of lightness are probably what I need more than ever before. To recharge and align within, to feel able and willing again. To constantly remake the kind person I want to be in the world — someone who can hold the two spaces lightly, together. And gently flow between them as necessary.

Some questions that alsoc ame up along the way:

  1. Who gets to decide how much fun is appropriate or necessary?
  2. Why is fun always equated with a frivolity not extended to more “serious” things?
  3. At what point in the ageing process does fun lose the novelty that makes it unworthy of being pursued as we did as children?

One year ago: Regular programming ensues
Two years ago: Waking thoughts
Five years ago: Orange is the new black