Lockdown love

We had such a peak 2020 celebration for our anniversary last night. I cannot get over how accurately a couple of hours one evening, succinctly mirrored the general progression of this year.

It began well. With promise, even, despite being locked down. VC got me yellow roses, as he did last year. As he always does. As he always has since the start of us knowing each other (see here, here and here).

We went from having no plans to deciding to treat ourselves to a good evening right here at home. I drag VC’s ass to take a nice picture of us every anniversary. Over the years his enthusiasm has gone from somewhat willing to very, very reluctant to complete disinterest, to now slightly more willing because rather than take a hurried self-timer shot on the phone, he gets to set up his camera. Last night we even got “dressed”. And by that I mean got out of our standard evening attire of pajamas and into decent clothes, I put on kajal and earrings, and we took some lovely photographs.

That lasted all of half an hour, before we relapsed back into our PJs, waiting for dinner to arrive. We even splurged a little and ordered a fantastic meal of dimsum and stirfry and flat noodles and what not. We had a few drinks, and I actually indulged and had more than my standard single micro-mini whiskey.

At some point in the midst of all of this we got into a conversation that started as just that — a conversation — but very quickly escalated into a very heated conversation and finally into a full blown debate. Both of us very steadily slipping into a spiral of incoherence, leaving the original premise of the argument far behind, veering off kilter so terribly that neither of us knew what the other was saying. And eventually we didn’t even know what we were saying anymore.

I have to say, though, that my ability to remain calm even in impassioned discussions has greatly increased and anger/rage was nowhere to be seen. I was almost waiting for it to arrive and make a loud entrance, but nope. No luck. Until the very end, when emotions were SO high and emboldened, that VC said something to me that was mostly untrue, but rather hurtful. And it jabbed me in a way that I wasn’t anticipating, thanks to the surprisingly even-flow nature of the conversation thus far.

Filled with hurt, half in disbelief and half in shock, I snapped back at him;

Happy anniversary to you too, as he slipped away to bed. And I stayed up in the living room, watching Netflix till my emotions simmered down.

***

I find that the amount of emotional labour I am willing to expend on soothing VC’s trauma, at the cost of triggering my own, has greatly diminished. I am all for building a supportive relationship, but I see how my definitions of that are so different now. Some years ago, I might have taken it upon myself to not only get my point across but also ensure that VC was feeling better by the end of it. And yes, I would have virtuously taken this on singlehandedly, despite nobody (least of all VC) asking me to.

These actions, that I thought were coming from a place of empathy, compassion and love, were absolutely not. Now, being compassionate has come to mean letting emotions flow if they must. Even if they are burning the room up around us.

My capacity to remain in that godawful uncomfortable space of stewing in a mixed-bag of very volatile emotions — and watch VC do that too, in his own way — has improved a smidgen. It doesn’t mean the disagreements are less painful. If anything, they’re worse and horribly more painful because the truth now has the permission to pounce out with no filters slapped on. Nobody is mincing words anymore. But it does mean that when the hurt comes, I am able to stand by my own side first, soothing myself, before jumping to rescue anyone else.

It’s taken twelve years of being married to finally realise that rescuing my husband is not a KRA I need to keep. Many times he doesn’t need rescuing. Many times he can rescue himself.

***

This morning though, we were back to doing the dishes together, and him sharing with me that he didn’t remember too many specific details of where the conversation veered after a point. Possibly that point of no return, which should also be the point at which one should end such conversations, or know that nothing after that is to be taken seriously, or as the truth.

In the past, painful conversations like this would have a distasteful energy that lingered for hours, sometimes days, after. But something different happened yesterday.

Ah well. Lockdown anniversary marking twelve years of marriage. I guess we had to have something different to remember this one.

One year ago: Monday funday
Two years ago: Every inch of sky’s got a star
Four years ago: Disjointed, incomplete thoughts

Twelve

Happy 12th, to the boy who doesn’t hesitate one bit to tell me how much he loves making a life and sharing a home with me. Reminding me so often, that it’s the little things that make a life.

What would I do without your unabashed, childlike, honesty?

Past anniversaries: eleven, tennineeightsevensixfivefourthreetwoone.

Life around here

Today, I had a full-on domestic day. I mean full-on, from the moment I woke up. Gloating about or feeling like the domesticity is special is so passé because, well it’s been too long now. We decided to do without domestic/household help and we have been at it on our own since April. We have found a rhythm, and we workaround energy ups and downs, lazy spurts and there is division of labour and a method to our madness. Mostly great things have come from this change, and huge realisations of what we actually need to survive, and everything else that is a luxury has made it much easier to cut back on the latter and lean in to the former.

Today’s spurt of full-day domesticity was thanks to a much-delayed pest control treatment. I first realised we needed it in April. But of course there was no pest control to speak of then, and somehow we forgot and pushed it, until it became unbearable. Probably several generations of them had spawned by then and the colonies were obviously overcrowded because the buggers had started venturing out looking like they’re in the midst of an existential crisis, in broad daylight.

Anyhow, so we had to empty out our entire kitchen the night before. The contents of which lay neatly strewn all over my dining table and chairs. The actual treatment involved deep-spraying the kitchen first, then a surface treatment, and spraying some parts of the rest of the home. It’s the worst because the creatures begin to crawl out and die slowly. There’s also chemical residue all over the house, most of all in the kitchen and I didn’t want to put anything back in order in a rush until the house had been ventilated and the stuff had had it’s time to blow off.

Also, VC was out all day in meetings, and I wasn’t going to do this all on my own. So I quarantined myself in my bedroom. And we managed with take out for a full day, eating meals in bed. It felt like the day we had just moved in when there were boxes all around the home, and only our bedroom was liveable.

So today, we had to reset and chores included sweeping up about 300 cockroach carcasses, literally scrubbing the kitchen down with a brush and soap and Dettol water, then wiping it down once again, resetting all my utensils and appliances, and throwing away a shit ton of junk in the process. And then doing the dishes, and getting to the rest of the home that also needed to be sanitised.

We were at it from 8-12. VC did his bit and went on to take some calls and get some work done, while I kept at it, taking the opportunity to spring clean and declutter some stuff that had piled up since our last such overhaul in May. It’s crazy how quickly junk piles up.

So yeah, cleaning and domesticity is really not special anymore. We’re both just found an auto pilot state of mind that helps get things done, around the other stuff we have going on in life, pitching in for each other when one of us is having a flat/busy day. I thank my stars that this has happened at a time when we’re both anyway at home, a lot less interested in being madly busy as we once used to be, and so we have the space and inclination to make this choice. I plan to keep at it until something changes and maybe other interesting things might have our fancy instead.

I even think about too much on a daily basis. Except when I realise that somehow even with being cleaned a lot less than when I had daily house help, the home is cleaner, more organised and feels more lived in. This added domesticity has been a safe haven for me, I’ve said before. And I have frequently turned to the rhythms of keeping a home, cooking our meals, gardening and sprucing things up around the house as a means to stay grounded and in touch.

The gift in all of this has been realising just how much of a homebody I naturally am. I really do thrive in keeping a home. And I mean all the allied parts of keeping a home, not just the part where the home is lovely and nice, but everything that goes into making it so. I have denied this part of myself for a very long time, even when I’ve had phases where I have dipped in and out of it many times over.

Today was that kind of day. Come down from the skies, land your feet on the ground, remember where you are kind of days. I have been floating off in an overly emotional space for several weeks now, processing many things, and generally having my mind and body a bit hijacked by it all. A full day of domesticity always gets the old gears moving back how they used to.

Somehow, the big reset moments in my mind, when I return from having gone full circle, moments that feel like inflection points of transformation, like washing out the interiors of my brain in anticipation of something new — these phases are always marked by a day or two of real-life cleaning around me. My nesting tendencies peak, I get very eager to throw out junk, strip down our lives and minimize the clutter, make our living spaces warm and comforting. It’s all very metaphoric for the inner process too, and I don’t ever take that coincidence for granted.

There have been some important and big shifts happening for me internally. But for the last couple of weeks, I was in some sort of limbo. Like I said yesterday, at a threshold of pain — having walked through the door but not yet fulling moving in, rather still tempted to bolt back out the door. But that is slowly changing. Slowly. And days like this are balm for that state of mind.

Earlier in the week I did a good load of garden sprucing up too. Watching how the old is making way for the new there too. Schefflera doesn’t sprout new leaves on a regular cycle like say, my syngonium or monstera. And I haven’t quite figured out the cycles on the schefflera as yet. But that morning, I realised somehow it’s time. The old is on its way out, the new is blooming and beaming out, making itself seen.

It’s hard not to see the parallels and feel very reaffirmed and assured by it all. Like seeing 11:11 again and again — something that never happens or happened to me.

Until this week. When it happened three times.

So yeah. Things are stirring.

***

Post title inspired shamelessly lifter from one of my favourite James Blake tracks, in collaboration with one of my favourite rappers — Chance.

Here, have a listen.

One year ago: Love actually
Two years ago: I want to thank you for giving me the best days of my life

Coming back to life, again

Taking a break from the Monday Tarot Message this week. Because, I’ve had a very challenging past week, and weekend too. Just dealing with a lot of emotions — like I said here — and trying to stay with it, rather than disconnect and float off into fantasy land where everything is changa si. Things weren’t good. But it is the way it is when you confront challenging emotions, make strides with accepting discomfort and internalising difficult realisations.

I was excessively sad. Grief is too small a word for what I was going through. And there was also anger, as I mentioned the other day. So much anger at being gaslit, and what that did to me, unconsciously baiting me in to a process I could have sidestepped.

I was on edge, irritable and lashed out on everybody and everything, very, very easily. And so to avoid doing that, I went under a bit. Incommunicado.

I’ve traversed a world of emotions in the last seven days, and with an intensity that I haven’t felt in a while. What’s more, it brought a feeling of being unmoored, which I haven’t felt since about 2016. The thing about unraveling and diving into the grief pool is that it makes everything watery and dilute. I lose sight of where I’m at and how far I’ve come. And when the present is clouded, the past takes over so easily.

The incident at class triggered something so deep this time. I confronted really old, old narratives that my logical brain knows I have moved past. And yet, there they were, dragging me down again. I had a surge of memories from wayyyyy back, like years 1-6 in school. Some that I had buried, some that I didn’t even know existed. Painful, not too pleasant ones. Worries around success and money, that I absolutely certainly have a much more flexible, soft and clear approach towards now, surfaced in their old avatar. I felt extreme lack in so many fronts. And almost all of this attacks my self-worth. Cumulatively, I went nose-first into the pit of self-pity, beating my own worth down with all I had. Between Monday to Friday, I had gradually pulled my life apart and was on the way to convincing myself it is all for naught.

Its also been excessively rainy, and while the sun comes out we haven’t had bright, sunshiney days in over ten days now. The weather has officially crossed that fine line between sexy and wonderful to downright gloomy.

When I don’t see the sun for a considerable time, I get the blues, I do. VC snapped this picture of me just hanging out in the balcony, watching the daily 4 pm rain, wishing for just a spot of sunshine. Basic, everyday comforts like chai that VC makes for me, and creature comforts like home-delivered sourdough croissants have really gotten me through.

The weekend was a good transit, a slow moving from what felt like a very unanchored and chaotic state in the days before to today which has me back on solid ground again. The coming up for a breath of air, letting my arms and legs relax after a week of flapping them around to stay afloat while a storm of emotions raged on within and around me.

The good news is my laptop got miraculously fixed, very, very easily. Leading me to believe it was but another text the universe sent my way, in what was a very..ahem..testy week. I leaned on got very clingy with VC in a way that I haven’t in a while, the poor thing. After trying to stay on top of things, and failing, all week, I took the weekend to just stay in. I did work some, but mostly we just rested, I cooked and got the house in order, which is all very grounding for me. Things I wasn’t very successful with doing during the week itself.

These days I feel the waves of emotions come and go, within my body. The more tuned into to my physical body I become, the more I see how my emotional body impacts it and vice versa. By Saturday night I felt the weight literally lift. My eyes felt bright, open and my face less pressured and compact. My breathing that was shallow, was open and easy again.

Cumulatively, it’s been upwards of two weeks since I have been wallowing in the dumps, in varying degrees of distress. It goes all the way back here and here and got progressively harder as the days when on, as you’ll recall seeing here and here.

But that was last week. And then the weekend brought fresh energy. VC and I had some spontaneous but important conversations that I didn’t know needed to be had. Some words I needed to hear, some pieces falling into place. Some reassurance, some support I needed, but didn’t realise it was right here for the taking. On Sunday, I just took the time to savour the return of energy and normalcy. We spent the day with VC’s family, which surprisingly was a good break for me.

It was only over the course of the weekend, when I relaxed and quit literally returned to my body, that I realised I’ve been feeling quite emotionally knackered the past few days. So I eased up, and went to bed with a belly full of good homely food, having spent a few hours setting up my old-new laptop again, and knowing somewhere in the pit of my being that the new week is going to be different.

Lo and behold, I was right. This morning I felt alive again. Like a butterfly that’s emerged out of a pupa. We focus so much on the flourish and beauty of the emergence, not realising that the process of coming out is preceded by so much physical distress, thrashing around, exercising new muscles that will enable flight.

I felt freedom in my body this morning, a new energy. New wings. New light. New day. It’s easy to think of growth as a peachy, honey soaked journey where you move from milestone to milestone all the better for it. Yes, we’re largely always better from our experiences of growth, but they are never without their share of stretch and deeply painful challenges.

It’s also very easy to deny myself the allowance of feeling and being challenged in this way, because of the assumption that doing self work somehow makes me immune to it. It’s a constant process of reminding myself how human I am. That in healing means opening up to feeling things more keenly, allowing for a lot more emotional onslaught, but learning to handle it with gentleness and care.

I am only human. I’m coming back to life. All over, yet again.

(Monday Tarot Messages will resume next week.)

One year ago: This way or that
Two years ago: I request another dream
Four years ago: I’m reading again, so books

On the cost of domesticity

Pulling out this post I wrote in mid-April, but never finished. It is so interesting for me to see that even between April and now, how much has changed in not just my thoughts around productivity, but the way my life is moving in an alternative way to make space for sloth, rest, repose and rejuvenation.

This is just a disclaimer to say the content still holds, but the feelings are not current.

***

One of the scripts in my family is high worth attached to high productivity, efficiency, being a woman who is a go-getter and always on top of everything. It’s a great motivator, but also a subtle killer in the long run, I’ve discovered. Productivity across the board — from applauding efficient women who run their homes and hold down jobs, hailing devoted mothers who put their families needs above their own as “good”, to admiring outward focused woman committed to “serving” others (even at great personal cost) who have the ability to just give give and give, and take on some more, even when their plates are full — is greatly admired, coveted and covertly sold as the benchmark to aspire for. These are traits that are held up as hallmarks of being good women worth emulating, worth noticing, worth embracing. So obviously, women committed to themselves aren’t looked upon very kindly.

The last few weeks have felt like an infinite loop of housework, cooking, cleaning, planning, and managing work in the pockets I can find, while also culling out some downtime right before bed. It’s made me think a lot about how first of all so much of this is assumed to be the woman’s department. Even while VC has taken over the dishes, helps by dusting while I clean, gets into the cooking, does laundry, and waters the plants etc, I find myself instinctively still reaching over and above and trying to either assist him, or offering to do his share too. He’s tired of telling me that his attempts to help me are futile if I help him back.

I stopped myself in my tracks the other — wondering why this is so hardcoded in me? And I know part of it this early and deep lesson in equating my worth with my productivity, makes it very hard, almost impossible, to gracefully and thankfully take help. And over time it has made living up to my own ridiculous standards hard enough, but also terribly run down every effort and willingness on VC’s part towards being an equal part of this home.

I only woke up to this harsh realisation sometime last year, that this is not only a sorry state of affairs, but a huge disrespect to him. So even as I have been reworking my beliefs around not equating my worth does to how useful, productive or desirable I am, it is extremely hard to stay on track.

In the constant cycle of domesticity that has consumed us these past few weeks, I see how much of a struggle it has been to cull away time for myself. Even if it is to just lie back and stare at the ceiling. There always seems to be something more urgent that needs my attention. I’ve not had as much time as I’d like to sit down and write my blog posts in peace, for example. Writing time is pushed further every day and sometimes I write out a rushed post just before bedtime. I’ve been reading and important book about money with S, convening over video calls to discuss, but after a good beginning we haven’t made any progress in the last 10 days. I usually spend a significant amount of time thinking about my Monday tarot posts, but since the lockdown they’ve been all but hurried posts banged out in the nick of time. There’s a book for my course that I need to finish, and I haven’t even gotten around to starting it. This is the stuff that creatively nourishes me. The stuff I’d happily be doing when I have outsourced the house work.

It got me to thinking about how my mother did it all. How much she put aside to tend to us kids, keep our homes and family afloat and happy. And my mother was extraaaaa. We’ve had a full childhood with a lot of hands-on family time, picnics and holidays and activities and time spent together. Very focused, dedicated, active, deliberate togetherness, that must have taken a lot of emotional and physical energy to keep at. My sister and I were challenging in our own ways, and I know we kept our parents, but more my mother, on our toes at various phases of our growing up years. I don’t actually remember a single phase where my mother wasn’t quick to respond though. To get on her problem solving, troubleshooting, go-getter hat on to fix whatever it is that needed fixing, or soothe us, feed us, cuddle us, and do whatever it took.

And it got me to thinking about what the colossal creative cost of that might have been. Especially for a professional vocalist like her.

I wondered about how much talent, creativity and potential we’ve quietly snuffed over generations by channeling energy towards chores, family and the like. For generations before that didn’t have the luxury and privilege of outsourcing as much of it as I do, it must have ben 100x worse. Sure, it made women be creative about their domesticity, and many have rocked playing that role to the T. But I think of my own mother who was clear she wanted to focus on her family, and put her career as a musician and vocalist aside till we were old enough to go off on our own. I wonder what the emotional cost of that has been. If she was frustrated from it back then, she never let it show. Or I was too young to know. And now, as an adult woman navigating the age by which she had two children to care for, I can no longer deny that cost.

But from a few weeks of having to fight for my time, sometimes feeling resentful that there seems to be so little of it these days, I’ve been asking myself, how many more would women be able to dig into themselves and the depths of their spirits and creativity, if they didn’t have homes and families to tend to? How many more successful artists would we have?

And of course, it all comes back to this oft-asked and long-unanswered question: can creative lives thrive and flourish around the central axis of families that need feeding and children that need caring and homes that need looking after? Sure, they can co-exist. I am a product of such an environment. But can they thrive? I can’t help but wonder how much more art and music and poetry and writing and cooking and whatever else we might have had access to, if women weren’t taught early not to hinge their worth and likability with domestic productivity. I cant hep but wonder how much easier it would be for girls and women thereon to then go find themselves, scratch all their passions and be their whole selves minus the angst of having waited a minimum 30 years to get to the realisation that there was something more to life that they’re missing out on.

I believe that one of the common traits successful women artists have is the ability to shake off criticism around caring for themselves. And maybe at some level it is giving up the urge to be liked in the way that society, their families, the world at large would like them to be. Maybe it is about knowing so deeply what they are made of and what is important, life-giving, and non-negotiable for them to survive, that they would not give it up for the world.

That notion of what’s likeable, it’s beyond old and tired now. I realised many days into cleaning up that the thrill of being efficient, having a schedule, having things so much cleaner than before, doing it all was so old and so boring. And when the day came when I was feeling depleted and quite drained from not having done a satisfying amount of anything nourishing for myself, I felt a smidgen of that cost I keep talking about. The price women pay. The cost of doing it all.

And I don’t know if it’s worth it. I realised that I was actually quite okay to have a slightly dusty home for two days in a row if it meant I can catch up on reading. It quickly became okay to eat Maggi for dinner, and let some veggies go to waste now and then to just not enter the kitchen for a day. I didn’t feel bad for VC for having to do the dishes on top of everything else he has to do, because er, it’s no different for me.

***

That was April. This is now, and too much has changed to even enumerate it. But reading this post in the drafts made me happy because I see how much has. We are now down to sweeping and dusting at best twice a week, mopping once a week. Maggi has become a staple like sugar and atta and rice in our shopping lists. Take out induces nearly zero guilt, compared to before. And I have enjoyed many, many, many days of lying on my back and staring at the ceiling. In fact, I was just telling a friend the other day that I think I spent much of June horizontal — and I don’t even mean that metaphorically.

I might complain about the banes of being locked in and everything that it has changed in my life a lot, but I cannot lie — it has been an extremely powerful time of change for me. And for us, as a family and a home. In claiming something very essential for myself I see what has been freed up, what has come alive, what has become visible.

I’ve been pursuing slowing down for years, but it took the world around me also slowing down, coming to a halt, to receive the much needed impetus to do the same. When I did, so much changed, so deeply and so quickly. So if I may for a moment fully own and acknowledge the immense privilege of it all: the last four months have been an extremely valuable time.

And maybe sometime soon, I will write about all the ways in which this domesticity has actually taught me to value the work itself, the invaluable contribution of people I have casually outsourced it to all these years, and why I’m trying to do without it for some time to come.

One year ago: All my worries seem so far away
Two years ago: My moves are slow but soon they’ll know

Home and away

This whole self-isolation things is beginning to feel quite like school all over again. Specifically, when I was in group projects but was always the one that did the work and shared the credit. Or the time someone on our school bus was dumping their lunch on the floor of the bus every single day and the whole bus was detained because nobody owned up, so I ” volunteered to” to shorten detention for everyone. Or that time in Sri Lanka when we misguidedly went whale watching and were given clear instructions about staying in our respective sides of the boat but everyone clean forgot when the first whale was spotted and I thought I could singlehandedly balance the tipping over of the boat by staying on my side (and missing out on seeing the damn whale!) because everyone else had clearly forgotten. This is how it feels. Staying in, against all odds, feeling all the emotional highs and lows that come with it, only to see outside it’s a party like Covid has left the building.

I don’t get it. Is it positive thinking and optimism that these folks have? Or is it blind stupidity and denial about the shitshow we are in the midst of?

Anyhow, every time that I have mustered the courage to venture out a bit, and break the isolation, something has happened that makes me get right back indoors. It’s kind of amazing.

First it was the containment zone in our neighbourhood. Then the case right in our building. Then, last weekend I was mildly under the weather and I convinced myself that it was the virus, so I hunkered down and lay low only to have it all pass in 3 days – phew. And now, we’re back in total lockdown.

In between these phases, we have somehow managed to get ourselves the new sofas, replace some essentials in the kitchen, and I got new sneakers too, and some new plants for the house. I’m glad we did, because life indoors is better for it.

I can’t say we have been totally isolated, or totally out of touch with the outdoors. There have been consistent grocery runs and shopping for fruit and veg. But for the first three months we were hyper good about staying in. Even after “unlocking” we were limiting outings, stockpiling errands and waiting for them to accumulate before getting out. We haven’t met any of our friends, except having D over a few weeks ago, and then we went plant shopping last week. But it has been 90% isolation, I’d say. I have lost track of the days, but cumulatively I think they’re touching the day 130ish mark or so. Which just feels like oh so much.

The year had just started when we got locked in, and somehow we’re past the mid-way mark of 2020. I still have moments of awe and shock when I think about the enormity of this situation.

Since we’re back in lockdown, I am enjoying the silence again. The traffic disappearing makes such a difference. But right before all this happened my sister snuck away to my folks in Kerala, and so our party of three has whittled down to two. This is a number and a space that is both terribly isolating as well as snug and cozy, if you know what I mean.

The energy certainly shifted when July began. I feel it all round. Work has been picking up steam, I am enjoying the home and doing things at home again — cooking, working out, gardening — plus there is the rain. Those frightfully beautiful misty mornings, all-day rainy days that I know many don’t enjoy. But I can’t get enough of them.

Today was one of those days. I knew from the moment I woke up that it was going to be raining all day, and I felt immediately like I wanted to just potter about my home, and not do much else. I had myself a full on domestic morning. Cooked a full lunch of stuffed baingan, rasam and rice and assorted fried things to go with. Cleaned out the fridge, re-stocked the veggies that had just been delivered. Dusted and set furniture right again. Laundry. Watering the indoor plants. Otherwise dull stuff, but somehow satisfying in these strange times. What can I say, staying in is bringing out this extra nesty person in me.

Even after all these months, I can’t decide if I love or hate this. If I’m sick of it or very used to it. Mostly, I oscillate between these two extremes. Very little in my immediate environment or life like it used to be feels like it will return to “normal” whenever that may be. On the one hand, I am thriving in the moment and everything it has brought for me, and to that extent I’m so present and all here; but I am also away a lot, you know? In my head. Dreaming of something beyond, the larger picture, a different life, after. Late night chats with these two, in their faraway worlds and homes, has kept me going.

One year ago: Support
Two years ago: Under my umbrella

Nesting

It’s been gloomy all day. Spend the day under a blanket kind of weather. And that’s just what I did. Getting out only briefly to help VC make lunch. He made us steaks with a creamy wine and mushroom sauce today, with sauteed garlicky beans on the side.

I’m happy for days like this, somehow. And I said to VC, how different this whole time might have been if he or I or both of us had full time jobs that took us outside.id have definitely missed this opportunity for nesting in the way that we have.

Something about the luxury of that has meant cocooning some more. And it has been very good for us.

One year ago: Reflections
Two years ago: I wouldn’t change a single thing

In a funk

It’s just one of those weeks. Where many things I cannot digest too easily have hit me all at once. I have days like this some times. And on those days, I choose the luxury of lying low, staying in and spending my time just being in the fullness of whatever I am feeling. This week, I didn’t have that luxury. Because after three months of a very minimal, home-bound routine, I ventured out and offered my time with volunteering to collect and deliver food to the migrants leaving Bangalore by the thousands every single day.

It was meant to be something I did for a few hours every week, but it very quickly ballooned into a massive operation that consumed me mentally, emotionally and physically. The need is enormous, the situation on ground is far worse than even the most honest media reports will have you believe. And even though I was overwhelmed from the suffering from the get go, I couldn’t get myself to step back.

I didn’t make the connection initially, because the adrenalin that kicked in from the relief efforts took me through most of the week. By yesterday though, my energy was flagging and I crawled into bed at noon, unable to function. Time-wise, I have also had to de-prioritise working out and eating healthy home cooked meals, to compensate for the hours spent working outdoors. These things are my anchors in any given day, and I really felt the effects of having to run on fumes without it.

I haven’t been able to eat a single meal in peace, thinking of the thousands and thousands and thousands of people we have been trying to keep fed and hydrated with bare minimum, collected entirely from neighbourhood mobilisation activities. I could no longer think about elaborate meals, let alone get myself to plan and cook them. I couldn’t put a morsel down my throat without feeling wretched inside.

I’ve been on the phone for more time than I have in a long, long time. I haven’t been able to relax and turn my mind off. My sleep has been shot to bits again. This past week has swept me away and put me in a strange state of mind. On the one hand I am overwhelmed and filled with hope to see how much and how quickly and large-heartedly citizens are willing to give of themselves. From contributions in neighbourhoods, to people galvanising relief efforts, to the team at the sites organising migrants, processing their paperwork and giving them food and drink and setting them off. I am beyond stoked at how much of all of this is being manned and handled by regular, average citizens. With lives and work put on hold, giving so much of themselves to this effort. But on the other, there is no escaping the hopelessness of this situation. I keep thinking how did we let it get os bad? Why weren’t we looking close enough even before the pandemic hit us? Why are we like this?

On the one hand, I feel like involving myself gave me some much-needed relief and channelised all that pent up frustration from months. But on the other, it plunged me quite deeply into a funk. Today, I felt so hopeless, I had a very, very compelling sensation of just wanting to exit my body. Just leave and escape this world. Everything feels so pointless in the face of the mammoth mess we are as a country. And no, there’s nothing, no silver lining and no bright spot, right now that can outweigh the heaviness of what I have seen this past week.

I have not been present to VC at all through all of this. I have had no mental or emotional energy to spare. I have been weepy, crabby, clingy, unreasonable for the most part. But he’s let me be all of it. And I am so grateful to have a home in him to come back to, where I can be as I am. Ugly, messy, imperfect and letting it all fall apart.

On a day like today, with clearly so much going on emotionally, internally, I don’t know what I’d do without this support. Where I can just be, not spoken to, no advice or solace needed (because there is none for a situation like this), just silence and presence. Presence.

One year ago: On boundaries: how they’ve changed my experience of friendship
Two years ago: Stop chasing shadows, just enjoy the ride
Four years ago: How blue?

All of me

Last weekend, I got VC to shear my hair off. Yep, shear. Because I asked him to take his trimmer and just go at it. No styling. No plan. Just razored it all off. Very close to my scalp. Even more than it was here.

My last haircut was in January. This is officially the longest I’d gone without a haircut, since I have gone this short. As such short haircuts need more frequent maintenance. Especially if you have thick, quick to grow hair with a life and will of its own, like I do.

Safe to say it was looooong overdue. In the interim I managed with clips and hairbands, had started using a comb after literally five years, and consuming copious amounts of shampoo, and frankly the only saving grace has been that there is nowhere to go and nobody to show my face to. By the end, trips to the vegetable vendor had started getting me strange looks. I suspect it was the beginnings of a very inelegant mullet that did that. I was contemplating just pulling off the entire lockdown until my hairdresser returns (she’s stuck in Imphal!) and I was even looking forward to this being an excuse to grow it out a bit and do something different. Something I never get to doing because I don’t ever let it grow long enough.

But no. Something snapped last weekend. And it was an entire production, quite unlike the easy-breezy job I had imagined it to be. Partly because my hair is so goddamned thick, but also it was actually much longer than I had realised. We hd newspaper down all over my living room, with me sitting right in the centre, at VC’s feet, while he sat in a chair and systematically worked on mowing the entire mop of hair on my head down. It took over an hour, and still didn’t feel like it was done. So we called it a day, and did round two the next morning.

Phew. When I looked at myself in the mirror after, I wondered why I’ve been spending so much time and money at a. hairdresser all these years. Don’t answer that, I know why. But this is just to say, I instantly felt so good, light, free.

And I also love the way I look now.

Even though I’ve had very short hair for years now, every time I have done something “drastic” going extra short, buzzing it all off with a clipper, getting the hair off the front of my face, much to the chagrin of everyone except VC and my sister, it has been when I’ve gone through something deep and transformative, emotionally.

The last few months have been a steady and slow time of deep, yet subtle and transformative shifts and changes for me. And when I looked in the mirror post haircut last weekend, it clicked. This is all of me.

One year ago: Small sadness and everyday grief 
Two years ago: It don’t look like I’ll ever stop my wandering 
Four years ago: Ten

Lovely day

Highlights:

My tuck jumps have gotten steadily better. I’ve gone from not being able to do more than 2-3 at a stretch in February, to being able to do a slippy cheat version for 30 seconds (cheating was the only way to endure the interval) on my birthday, to today doing them really bloody well for the entire interval.

I felt seriously stoked. Working out within the physical restrictions of a 4x5ish space in my living room at home has upped my game. Who’dathunk?

Vc had a light work day and so we spent it together relaxing, just doing our own thing. It is a seriously underrated luxury.

I cooked lunch today as opposed to eating leftovers from dinner the previous night, which is usually the strategy. Sindhi kadhi, methi aloo and some crispies on the side — perfect for the threatening-to-pour-any-minute-now day that it was.

Then it came down finally. It poured the fuck out at sunset and things have cooled off considerably.

I went the whole hog and made Biryani today. Friday onions, a separate meat curry cooked in coconut milk, half cooked basmati rice. Layered and cooked on the dum. It was divine and I even took a picture, which I looked at much later, only to discover it’s a perfect depiction of how good the biryani smelt and looked because I was clearly in too much of a rush to dig in.

Two years ago: There’s still time for another
Four years ago: On the calmness of being at home

Minimal

Things that excite me these days.

Before I get startled by the price for a bunch like this. 50 rupees last week. 55 this week. And yes we’re running through entire bunches in about a week. Don’t ask.

Mid-week work from home scenes. Aka: life. I have really enjoyed being locked down with VC. Much, much more than I imagined possible. And by that I mean for a simplified, pared down, minimal routine that we have had, it has somehow been richer and fuller, together. I’m not even sure how.

Blue hour that otherwise makes me slightly blue, I find bittersweet and beautiful, some days.

One year ago: Happy bytes
Four years ago: Malleswaram market things

Turning and turning

It is kind of fascinating that:

  1. yesterday, I wrote about a sense of fullness in my life — not just for me personally, but in what I share with VC. And exactly a year ago, on that same day, I wrote about our relationship feeling renewed.
  2. two days ago, I wrote about feeling quiet and contained. And exactly a year ago, on that same day, I wrote about wordlessness and feeling quiet.

I believe we’re all always going in circles. Our growth isn’t linear or upwards, but in spirals, and we find ourselves back in old and familiar spaces time an time again, feeling like we are in the same spot, but knowing deep within that it is different. Deeper, somehow.

Like seeing the sun set every single day, as I have these last almost-60 days. And knowing every single day, that even in the sameness and familiar, repetitive moving away from the sun, something is different.

One year ago: Growing friendship
Two years ago: I’ve been keeping all the letters that I wrote to you

The fullness of ease and balance

Going through another phase of really enjoying this stay-in business. Cooking, gardening, exercising, cleaning, pottering, tending to forgotten corners of the house, napping, bingeing on TV, staying up late, spring cleaning, hanging out with VC, chatting with Niyu, video-calling S. There seems to be time for it all. All the things I usually put off for “later” is here in the now.

There’s also no rush about any of it. I wake up and go with the way I’m feeling on any given morning. Energetic, sprightly? Great! A little lazy and wanting to sleep in? Let’s do that, let’s exercise later and get about the day accordingly, not doing all that I might ave planned to. Feeling downright lazy? Cancel the day.

This morning I had one of those slow days. I nearly skipped exercising altogether, because there were chores to be done and that usual toss-up played out: workout and skip chores or skip chores and workout? Except a third choice is emerging these days. One that only comes up when I’m not time-bound. So I worked out, slowly, because that’s the kind of day it was. No high-intensity jumping about. And then we got to the chores, VC doing his bit, me doing mine. And I took twice the amount of time I usually do. Going about it probably “inefficiently” — but it was okay. At lunch time VC made grilled cheeses toasts for me, and Maggi for him, while I cut up a plate of mangoes. And we called it lunch.

This is new for us. Certainly very new for me. This level of relaxation, the ease, the ability to just go with the way the day is unfolding and the way my body feels. An older me might have fretted about the slow start, the sloth in my body, and tried to whip myself to be productive and efficient. I might have felt terrible about wasting an entire morning to chores. I might have felt really guilty about VC having to make me “lunch” and a lunch of bread cheese, processed noodles and mangoes just wouldn’t cut it.

But somehow, it’s okay. There have been many days like this, and they’ve all been okay.

I have had phases of easing up like this before, and every time it has come from being very tuned in to what I am feeling. This is no different, I want to say. Except there is a difference. No previous phase has lasted this long, and been so enjoyable. Something has changed, the energy around this ease is different this time around.

It has come with a deeper connection, a newfound ability to fill out time, take space and take place, and really lean into intentionality a little bit more. Every little mundane thing that I do, feels very intentional. And I have a tiny inkling that is what has made the difference.

Our home feels more lived in, because I feel more present to every corner. Dusting, tending, prettying — because I now have to do it all and I have discovered I have the time, the patience and I enjoy it. The garden is abloom because we’re much more involved than we have been. I feel the fittest and leanest I have in a long while, because there’s so much more movement and exercise happening even outside of the scheduled workouts. We’re hanging out and conversing and enjoying things together — games, movies, silence.

Last week was a tumultuous one. For me, but consequently for VC too. I felt volatile and I erupted more than once. It was emotionally challenging. I felt and expressed anxiety that what we have had and enjoyed will not last forever, that it will be ruined. I felt torn up about that, horrible that I had no control in doing what one needs to to just make it stay. Until I realised; of course it’s going to change. Of course it’s not going to last forever. Of course it’s not in my control. 

And then things eased up again. Differently, this time. I know something very elemental has changed for us during this period of lockdown. I know things have shifted for VC, and I know they certainly have for me. Even though the physical reality of our life isn’t very different from before, something is different. Especially now than when the lockdown began.

It feels like a return. A return to connection, return to love, return to beauty and a return to ease and balance. And this feeling has really filled me up most days this past week.

The biggest difference by far though, is that I am not hanging on to it. I am not filled with thoughts of wanting to bottle it up for the future. I am just here, experiencing the balance, within and without. Witnessing the ease and flow that has made a remarkably different entry. Savouring this fullness now. As it is.

One year ago: Renewed relationships
Two years ago: April

Contained

I find myself swinging between wanting this lockdown to end so I can be with people again, but also kind of never wanting it to end because I am also thoroughly enjoying being home in this way. So much.

Taking charge of the house completely as we have has done something very good for both VC and me. It’s snapped back a connection between us and the home that as probably flagging.

Between the cleaning, the cooking, the gardening, the routine of exercise, healthy meals, work schedules, there has been joy and great benefit in being stripped down and contained within the home. I’ve become very aware of how much dissipation of all kinds happens on a regular basis, otherwise.

One year ago: Acceptance
Two years ago: Looking back over my shoulder

Life these days

In truth, my everyday life isn’t altered very much by social distancing. I do stay home for much of the time. And since VC moved back here, he does too — working out of his home office in our second bedroom. Life has fallen into a neat little rhythm. There is routine and I know it keeps me grounded to have this baseline of some method to the day. Even when I allow myself the odd day of freewheeling out-of-schedule meandering, and do wild things like or sleep in till noon and order-in a burger for lunch, I know that days like that are the exception not the norm. I take solace in some routine, and I have finally, after an entire lifetime of being a slave to routine, learned to acknowledge it’s place and purpose in my life, and make it fluid so I can move, rather than rigid so I feel caught.

Anyhow though, I’ve noticed that when things are spiralling around me, I take extra pleasure in taking my time to do the little things. Like making my bed every morning. This morning, as I folded up our blanket, stacked the pillows, stretched out and de-wrinkled the sheets, I realised I have really grown to like being at home again. Full circle.

The simplicity of this life suits me a lot. And I felt glad we have a life that hasn’t faced much disruption, where work can and has continued for the both of us, where the comforts of home with home cooked food are easily had. It makes a huge difference.

So, I’m listing down the simplest pleasures in my daily routine that I have enjoyed these past few weeks (and months) of uncertain and trying times, when what has been happening in the world has had an impact on me and my mind, and the one thing that has kept me sane has been my routine and the comfort of my home.

  1. A full nights restful sleep, waking up, turning off the alarm and going back to sleep
  2. A good home workout or a run in the park
  3. Slow, mindfully cooked lunch, most every single day
  4. Eating lunch at the dining table with VC, sharing that window of time together before we go back to our respective work/activities
  5. Sometimes catching a nap
  6. Being actively involved in doing the laundry, folding it when it’s dried and putting things away
  7. Thinking about what to make for dinner
  8. Making, or should out to VC to make us our evening tea or coffee
  9. Enjoying it in bed with a snack plate of sponge cake and sweet rusk (this has become something of a ritual in recent weeks, since we have found the ultimate source for both)
  10. Sitting in my living room at sunset, looking out the windows at my plants and beyond, it’s become my little window of absolute nothingness, where I do nothing, no phone, no laptop, no book
  11. Smelling the rain as it has threatened to come, watching glimmers of lightning in broad daylight
  12. Taking client readings and sessions (online and off), different times of day, it’s been an unexpectedly satisfying thrill
  13. Cooking up imagined recipes that have formulated from nowhere in my brain, and having them turn out well
  14. Eating fruit in bed before turning in
  15. Lying on my massage ball
  16. Regaining my lost sleep again

I have certainly been cooking with a lot more involvement than I usually do. And I have taken way more interest in home chores that I otherwise find quite tedious and just like ugh-this-needs-to-get-done. I suppose this is is the difference between staying in and having to stay in with nowhere to go, maybe? Because I know I have been doing all of this with a quiet, but furious energy like my life depends on it.

Maybe, deep down, it does.

One year ago: It’s been a long time coming   
Two years ago: Let’s talk about love   
Four years ago: On un-learning and relearning order