Healing – a day at a time

There is a lot I want to write about Spiti, about living in apartment society and much else. But haven’t been able to find time.

But this one, I really want to put down for posterity. Today, for the first time ever, I told one of my favourite cousins – now a staunch BJP supporter – that I don’t want to discuss religion and politics with him because it triggers my anxiety. This is peak self-care and it’s two things I haven’t done before. Allowing someone to retain their political beliefs without causing it destroy our relationship or feeling the need to “correct” someone’s belief because apparently, I know better. And two, I was able to pin point exactly what triggers my anxiousness and make a conscious move away from it instead of letting it take over my life or at the very least, my evening.

This is a huge step forward for me compared to last year. If this is what healing feels like, I can live with it :)

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We’re 9!

For nine years, I have waxed eloquent on this blog about how different R and I are and how beautifully this yin and yang works out. That’s been an ongoing theme of my wedded life, a life that I sometimes don’t know what I did to deserve.

This year though, I have something else to say, something about R I’d love to emulate but I am not sure if I can. And it’s something that I think about every single day these days. Sample this. It is 2018. And R has not even for one minute felt any need whatsoever to post a meal, an opinion, a selfie, or a life or career development on social media. That’s right. He follows exactly six people on Twitter – Dhoni, Tendulkar, Harsha Bhogle, Sidin, and me. I am in august company, in more ways than one. Not that he is very bothered about any of our performative activism, politics, sports, or comedy there. He hasn’t logged in since that one hazy night in 2011 when he made that handle. He doesn’t have a Facebook app on his phone and for 9 years in a row, I have fulfilled my own people pleasing tendencies by responding to birthday greetings on his wall. He is not on Instagram, and doesn’t have any need whatsoever to click pictures of clouds outside the window because come on, they are not that new.

It is 2018 and I am married to a man who still reads news, doesn’t froth at the mouth looking at an endless scroll of 280 characters about news. He spends his time not in the dead sea of Instagram stories because apparently, Mac Rumours is better. He still has time to think and feel deeply about real, physical things around him. He is usually in the moment, looking at people in the eye when he talks to them. He usually doesn’t check a single WhatsApp forward that makes its way to his inbox, not till I read or play the ones in our common groups for him.

It is 2018 and I am married to the only person I know below 70 who rejects social media without considering it an act of rebellion or putting on a show about how “different” he is. He does it not because he isn’t interested but because the performance isn’t necessary in his world.  What’s amazing is that he still stays in touch with people he cares about. But without any obsessive need to complete cycles of pointless small talk, to please people, or to be funny and likeable from across a screen.

It is 2018 and I am married to a man who knows what’s going on in the world without flash, inconsiderate opinions about any of it. I have known him to be deeply, madly in love with his homeland, secretly shedding a tear now and then over songs about desh in another lifetime. He came down to cast his vote in 2014 and took air force exams in another lifetime. What he didn’t do was to make a performance of his desh prem on social media.

It is 2018 and I am married to the most authentic person I know. And it has taken me a good 9 years to admit that I don’t just love him for it or find it endearing. I have insane amounts of respect for him for showing me that it is indeed possible to reject pop culture and peer pressure without feeling superior about it. And that performative funniness, intelligence, cleverness, niceness are still not necessary, not even in 2018. For showing me that lives, careers, and relationships can exist, even grow from strength to strength without all of this recent unnecessary fluff that I deem so important in the name of career, activism, staying in touch and being informed.

Happy 9, R! I don’t know what I would do if I wasn’t married to you and couldn’t see you live the way you do. I will probably never fully understand it or be able to do it myself, so thank you for balancing my extremes every single day, in every single way. Love.

Posted in learn-unlearn, marriage, R | Leave a comment

On sorely missing a 3 am friend

For most of last year, I often wondered why I haven’t had a 3 am friend for ages now. I mean I have friends I have managed to reconnect with and I talk to them pretty often but usually from the other side of a screen. I have close acquaintances in town but they don’t (and won’t) know my deepest, darkest secrets. I didn’t feel the need to share deep dark secrets with anymore people than I already do, but having a close friend in the same city as me, at least once in this lifetime, would have been nice. I realised that these friends then go on to become 3 am friends simply because you see them all the time and they are 100% aware of your context at all times. I realised I didn’t have that with anyone in the same city and I thought I “should” have it. This newfound desire troubled me a lot. It made me feel lonely too, not an emotion I am very familiar with. The worst of it came after I stopped working in an office full time and could feel the missing human connection for 8-10 hours everyday. This was before I started getting out to work, or proactively building a network of self-employed folks as I do now. What was basically just a sudden drop in relatable face to face conversations with people who were in the same boat work and life-stage wise became – in my head – a gap, a personality flaw, a disadvantage.

I attributed it to how much I have moved around these last 16 years. College, years in college, work, cities – I haven’t been in a place long enough – mentally, emotionally, and physically – to grow roots, know anything for sure and have 3 am friends who are not my husband. It is not even easy to keep track of or constantly talk to and stay in touch with friends that are not in the same city, thanks to constantly changing lives and priorities, careers and locations, mine and theirs. All that moving around and change were – in the erstwhile frame of mind – a personal disadvantage. Meri toh kismet hi kharaab hai etc. Yes, I can be very dramatic in my dark phases.

But nature has a way of reminding you, making you aware of exactly what you need to know. You just need to be open enough to see it. I did, just a couple of weeks ago. We have had a plant for over two years, one that shoots up like a tree in the balcony. Well, other people’s balconies. A few months ago, it stopped growing. Then it started yellowing. Its trunk was thick and alive, we watered it regularly, but nothing changed. We considered throwing it away when we moved homes. But didn’t, fortunately. We called a gardener to help, amateur as we are with plants that have been with us for upwards of two years. The gardener told us the plant’s roots were too big, too messy, too entangled in the space it had, for it to grow. He changed the soil, the planter, cut away the fluff and the plant looks fresh as new again. And it’s shooting up! What was really just a home improvement exercise became an epiphany of sorts for me. Growing too many roots – not such a great thing after all! I am also glad that it came to me at a time when I wasn’t feeling restless, raring to go. I was comfortable, it was the kind of comfort I could get used to. So the epiphany was both a bit of comfort what I feel I was lacking and  a jolt should I get too comfortable in the new space, the new frame of mind.

If not having 3 am friends is the trade off for all the discoveries, the experiences, the personal and professional growth, the agony and excitement of change, and the relief and peace of stillness after all the movement, I guess I can live with it. I can even enjoy it because I know for sure now that it is not a disadvantage or a personality flaw. It just is. And that’s all.

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Almost scared. Almost.

Like I said, I have spent the last two years in a bit of a limbo, a state of confusion, disappointment, anxiety worry hanging in the air all the time.

And now that I have some perspective, I am almost afraid. I find myself reaching for the closest piece of wood all the time these days, so I can touch it and drive the jinxes away. Because I have been so, so grateful these last few weeks.

Grateful for the interesting turns my work has taken and the metaphoric congratulations these turns have brought along since I upped and left a job that was everything comfortable and certain and most of all, reasonably well-paying.

Grateful for this happy place I am in right now, work-wise, family-wise, head-wise. Grateful for finding it in me to find closure on things that seemed to matter a whole lot but didn’t, not really. Grateful for the rock solid support and encouragement in R. Grateful for his companionship and how my heart fills with joy when he walks through the door after a long day. I have been told that this is a shocker after almost 9 years of being married. Oh well, I was never one for cliches, so..

I am grateful for rediscovering the friendship I have had with my mum ever since I can remember, a friendship I was beginning to forget under the many layers of should-do’s, the fear of disappointing her and other forms of unnecessary baggage. I am grateful for having shed that baggage.

I am grateful for the chance to once again, spot random tit-bits about places, plan travels based on cultural trivia, and know in my heart that the emptiness of travel plans is now over and done with.

I am grateful for being on the road again. Starting next month.

I am so, so grateful that I am afraid I will jinx all of it. I really hope not. TOUCHWOOD, DEAR GOD! And thank you :)

PS: Haathitime reminded me that all that I have been feeling these days? It has a name. It’s called gratitude :)

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Coming back to life

After almost two years of being angry about being disappointed and anxious about potential disappointments (very Mark Manson style), my head suddenly feels lighter.. Like my perspective is coming back.

And one such perspective is that disappointment (or the fear of it) makes us human. It makes us feel different things. It makes us realize the important of letting go.

Is it possible to be grateful for disappointment? Because I am kind of, sort of am.

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I have to say something

For days on end, my currently actively-trigger-avoiding mind sort of blocked out the Kathua and Unnao news. I saw bits and pieces of it here and there, but something in my subconscious mind refused to comprehend it. But there is no escaping it (and that’s when you thank social media for being the outrage machine that it is).

For the last two years now, my own Hindutva supporting yet seemingly liberal family and friends have tried to rationalise their Islam-hatred with me by touching my raw feminist nerve. They pointed out how women are treated in the religion. Which to an extent I do agree with although it is hard to miss that if they have their KSA, we also have our Rajasthan and Haryana. And much of the rest of the country, families, and societies. They told me about Prophet Mohammad raping a girl. And somehow, they know for sure that Ram was born at that exact spot in Ayodhya but Prophet rape could in no way be a lie – they always know and I have wondered how it is so easy for them to believe and belong with the kind of confidence that always eludes me. They even asked me how I’d feel if they were to take over the world and make that rotten misogyny a social norm. In my mind, it already is a social norm. I pointed it out and got angry and sad in equal parts when I just couldn’t get through to them. I blamed conditioning, I blamed lack of exposure, sometimes I even blamed myself for not being able to see where they were coming from. I know now that they were coming from a strange place where fear and supremacy come together to form a mind-boggling kind of hatred. And there really are no excuses for being that person. None at all.

I see a lot of them are now pointing out that religion has nothing to do with the rapes. That it is a law and order situation. Of course it is, but saying it has nothing to do with religion? Even if that was true (it doesn’t look like it is), how do you explain minds and people that in the light of something as tragic as what has happened find it in themselves to come out in the support of a religion. It does not sit right with my values, and I know for sure now.

I am really, truly done trying to rationalise/ make an attempt to understand Hindutva supporters, “liberal” or not (usually not). Not just because their logic is so flawed that I can’t wrap my head around it but because their politics is hypocritical and very, very convenient. And just wrong. That’s all.

Posted in anger management, i judge, learn-unlearn, lessons for life | Leave a comment

When you’re exhausted and you know it

The last couple of years have seen several weak moments for my mind. From a B12 deficiency that caused year-round PMS in spurts to the endless rants and fights and tempers flying about being an adult about things like tile spacing and grouting and wood finish and bank accounts and such, there were many moments when I beat myself up for wanting closure on things that I have practically no control over. Just wanted to put in a word to say that after the experience, I know for sure that temper works and a lot of things we say are not in our control because it’s too damn dramatic to actually control them, are very much in our control. All I am trying to do now is to unlearn how I let the very act of trying to tame the madness and of having to deal with lazy, incompetent idiots get to me the way they did these last couple of years. I aced it at work a long time ago, because I had no choice in another country where “being chill” was part of the social fabric. But I seem to have high standards (pretty unwarranted, if you think about it) for desis, given how our only USP seems to be “getting shit done“. I need to channel the Malaysian in me who, at heart never really did give up on things were very much controllable, but who learnt how to tame her own wild reactions to laziness and incompetence. Once I do that, I will be good to go. It’s work in progress at the moment.

But what I want to talk about right now is not the moments of mental weakness. It’s a moment of physical weakness that I experienced a couple of days ago. The thing is, I don’t actually ever get physically down and out (TOUCHWOOD). I mean I have had the occasional flu, the occasional minor surgery, a cramp now and then and so on. But my energy levels rarely drop and I am never exactly out of commission (TOUCHWOOD). Till a couple of days ago, when my body gave up in varying degrees of giving up. First, there was a pointless meeting in the wilds of Bangalore with some lazy, incompetent people I had been nostalgic about from my last work stint in this city. The evening had me drinking 500 glasses of electral and Glucon D just to feel normal again. Then there was a domestic help hunt on the streets at 1 pm bang in the middle of the sizzling hot Bangalore sun after which, I uncharacteristically fell asleep for a good 2 hours. If it was a sign, I was clueless. The next morning, I did get out of bed but went right ahead and puked my innards out a few times, sweated out a 100+ fever after a long time, couldn’t stand, couldn’t sit, and was back in bed till late afternoon. When I did finally wake up, I finished writing an article. And that’s when it hit me. I haven’t had a break in almost a year and a half now since I started this freelancing stint. I mean I have had work travels and family travels, maybe even a weekend getaway when we could. I have had days when I didn’t do paid work of course but I was doing something that needed an outcome. Like making home-related lists, getting out for errands, and planning something of consequence. Boring things. Adult things. Things that were nothing like planning holiday travel. And that’s when it also hit me. That when you don’t have to wear work clothes and sit in a car and go to some place to work, the boundaries melt away without you even realising it. It is that fluid, that unnoticeable. I thought I had it in control but I clearly did not.

All of this just to say that I need boundaries again. Which is what I got myself yesterday when after working on a quick piece that didn’t require much work, I decided watch a crappy movie and just sit still. No lists, no plans, no work except a tiny bit of something I needed to do for my dad. Next up in the process is to have a zero day with absolutely no work. Except maybe planning a holiday. I remembered fondly how just three years ago, I actually managed to spend 2.5 months at work using work internet only to plan our Europe travel. Being of that little consequence, far too comfortable and even lazy allowed for it and it was also one of the things that made me opt out of full time employment. But I wasn’t planning on doing this much work, to be honest. Not to the point of opening myself up to weak body and brain moments. And in hindsight, those 2.5 months were pretty amazing! With bandwidth and resources to plan proper travels again starting this year, hopefully I will be able to channel some of that laziness and let go of the need to do errands and paid work all the goddamned time again. I know I need boundaries and I know how much I love doing nothing. So it can’t be that hard! I just need to remind my muscles – brain and body – that they have it in them to just bloody relax. I CAN DO THIS!

Posted in adult life, work life balance | Leave a comment