The Anti-Flinch Discipline

It takes a different kind of strength to just stand there and not do something.

I’m on a self-imposed Flinch Reaction ban. It’s so scary. It is always exhausting in that undramatic way that discipline always is. But I really cannot live with any more regrets, what-ifs, emotional minefields or acidity. The world is changing, the world is inadequate and I’m coping but I’m okay. That’s what surviving a flinch instinct without flinching teaches me.

No Flinch Reacting means no instant break-ups, no violent lashings out, no dramatic declarations, no angry last words. It also means no sarcasm, no defensiveness, no boundaries, no excuses. I am tired.

I know this sounds contradictory considering I have also done this in the last week. But those did not feel like Flinches. They felt like long overdue actions that had not been taken because I was so muddled up with the Flinching – mine and other people’s. I am still coming to terms with those decisions (goodbyes are always big decisions for me and linger on after I’ve said them). But I do not think of them with regret or doubt, the way I usually do with my Flinch decisions. Flinch Reactions are misplaced punctuation and clearing them away involves putting in full stops where they may not have been, before.

Flinch Reactions are also very impersonal, very big group things. They’re one’s default mode based on what works on most people. They’re bad because every human being is special and every one of us wants to be made to feel that, regardless of the nature of the relationship. Your Flinch Reaction robs the other of their personhood. It’s basically saying you’re not important enough to me to think of you, individually and relate to you in a way that is uniquely you and me.

I am a marketer and I’ve spent a sizable part of my career looking at broad patterns among people, turning them into facts and figures and strategies to sell more. I have no regrets in that. But my personal relationships are not my customer base. And for me to apply the same logic (a.k.a. Flinch Reaction) renders them no more meaningful than figures on my balance sheet.

And finally, saying No to Flinch Reactions is also being respectful and kind to yourself in the same way that saying No to drugs or alcohol is about being good to yourself. I will value my own emotions, instincts and reactions more than things to just toss out in a general template to the world at large.

Yes, this is all good. I’m not complaining. I just don’t know if I have the strength or courage to see this through. And I’m really, really tired in my bones and the mind of my mind. Sleep the sleep of a mind that has not flinched once today. Goodnight.

 

 

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*Images courtesy Pixabay

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My Kind Of Life? Going Away And It’s Not Bad, Just Terrifying

I had an unpleasant epiphany this week. When is an epiphany ever pleasant? It involves losing a belief you’ve held close for a long time and watching the others that are built atop it crash. KA-BOOM.

I have a new person in my life. He is nice. He listens. He offers advice when I ask for it. He stays quiet when I don’t (which is almost all the time). He reminds me of how wonderful I am, how successful, how popular and in general, how right I am, when I forget (which is also quite often). He is not my partner, my fuck-buddy, my lets-do-that-dangerous-dance-of-feelings-and-act-like-it’s-fun. He’s not a label. He’s not even an I-don’t-do-labels. He is just THERE. He feels strange and unfamiliar. Good doesn’t sit easily in my life.

I got embroiled in another cat-and-mouse texting game with this other person. And I felt the familiar panic, the helplessness, the feeling like I’m not good enough, at fault etc. etc. And it felt right and familiar. This is how I’m used to feeling around romantic partners or the potentials. It feels a lot like that fourth drink that you know you’re being an idiot for picking up but you’ve picked it up now and who puts down a glass without taking a sip? I found the epiphany rise up like bile from a stomach that’s been starved too long and then drenched in alcohol. This is the kind of boyfriend (“I don’t do labels”) I’m supposed to have. This love life feels familiar.

Luckily for me (and tiringly so), I also spoke to the new person. I have to keep telling myself, that it’s okay to have someone like this and all he represents, in my life. What a cliche that sounds like when I verbalise it but – I deserve to be treated nicely and be happy too. Why is this epiphany so hard to accept?

When I met Reema over three years ago, I had a year of similar sinking realisations, except about friendship. I kept oscillating back to my then ‘Best Friend’ and others who took me for granted, were selfish and judgemental about my choices, who felt entitled to call me at all hours with their problems and finally, who believed it was okay to lie to me. Reema was a breath of fresh air which is usually a good thing, except in this picture, I was a fish. I choked, I panicked. Reema was very scary. I kept waiting for the axe to fall, for her to show her selfish side, for her to use me as a stepping stone, for her to throw the label of FRIEND on me so she could whine to me and then tell me she was busy when I needed help. It didn’t happen. I’m still waiting (sorry Reema, I’m trying to get past that paranoia but it goes hard).

In this time, I have also made other friends who have repeated all these aforementioned patterns. Poets who casually toss out the label of MANHATER on me while blaming me for calling them out on it. Colleagues who try to use my work and tell me I am no good when I ask to be paid for it. Smug marrieds who judge me for my love life (lack of it) while also needling me for details for their vicarious pleasure. Event organisers who freely exploit the networks and resources I’ve built and throw barbs at me, when I ask them to respect my time and beliefs. These feel familiar. They feel like the kind of friends I was meant to have.

In the midst of these awfuls that I’m only starting to see as awfuls in comparison, there are surprises. A gentle fellow poet who stands by me with sweetness, even as the poison in the community wears her down. A colleague who hasn’t even met me but recommended me to her client, because she’s going on maternity leave and thought my work spoke well of me. A friend from my college days, who sets aside her busy maternal life to stand in solidarity with me in my protest against this attack. Complete strangers who follow my poetry and who offered their support when I called out a troll and got slammed for it.

I know I should feel very glad that there’s finally some light at the end of this horrible tunnel of people who’ve populated my life for all these years. Finally, there are a few people who don’t see me as a wallet, a network, a machine to be used but an actual human being. How do I learn to make this my kind of life when it’s been the other kind for as long as I can remember it? I’m petrified. I don’t know how to deal with love and being loved.

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

Trust. Friend. Forgiveness. Truth. And Some.

I haven’t written in over a month. And the first quarter of this year is almost over already. Well, it hasn’t actually been bad. Not if you refuse to think of “May you live in interesting times” as a curse.

One thing that I did this year was to stop trying to control everything and let myself trust more. The tricky bit of this is figuring out how much of it is trust in the universe and how much of it becomes laziness. As any control freak knows, there’s always a hidden lazy bum ready to slouch out and take over your life. But I’m learning.

I made a new friend. That is a big thing because my sociable personality and persona notwithstanding, there are very few people I actually feel a connection to. And this connection is exactly the same as falling in love. I fall in friendship. Talking to this person every day in a way that feels non-threatening to me helps me reflect on who I’m becoming. Know that feeling? No? It’s rare because people like me, we’re so busy falling into people and glorying in the sheer joy of it that we forget to stop and reflect on what an amazing process it is to dissolve and have another person dissolve with you.

Someone who hurt me came back. They always do. Especially the men. We are unfinished stories and people must come back to complete them, karmically speaking or otherwise. I don’t know if I am ready to forgive. I will probably need to, eventually. I’d forgotten, which struck me as a convenient way to get around this HARRRRD business of forgiveness. But life gets the better of me and send me back into the detention room of having to face what I don’t want to and forgive those who have sinned against me.

I don’t feel vindictive, though. The people who hurt me, are poisoning the pool around me, that pool of trust and joy and relating. They influence the space they inhabit, that contains me too. And if that is possible, it must be equally possible for me to influence the space back. And I choose positivity. I choose grace. I choose hope. I choose laughter. I am yet to learn gentleness and compassion. But I’m sure someone, somewhere else in these spaces will bring those to the pool and we will all benefit. For my part, I do my part and bring the best of me to my world.

I have actually been writing, though. Everyday almost. The YourQuote app may just be my flavour of the quarter (given that I’ve been on it for over a month). But I have been posting a short picture-poem every single day. I’ve been featured a few times as part of the best selections of the day. And once those overachiever milestones have been chalked up, I’m moving on to exploring the format, the medium. I like it. I’m doing pretty words but I am also telling the truth. Go, follow me. The truth gets easier to say if you stay in one place and just like the stage, this app has become an alternate safe space for my feeling-thoughts.

This post ends here and it’s messy and meandering. But every now and then it feels good to let this part of me slither out in between the pretty poetry bits and the hard-hitting declarations. This is me. Be well, you.

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

Bit Poetry & Bytes of EyeCandy

It turns out I can do pretty poetry, as long as it’s in small doses. Sudeep Pagedar pointed me in the direction of YourQuote and their daily word prompt has been giving me a reason to post a daily micropoem.

~O~O~O~O~O~O~

You can follow these on my Instagram feed

A post shared by Ramya Pandyan (@ideasmithy) on

Or my Facebook album

Or my Twitter feed.

Here are the links again: You can follow my micropoetry on the YourQuote app, on my Facebook album or as they appear on InstagramTwitter or the Facebook Page of this blog.

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Aren’t You Glad I’m Not Carrie?

I tell people being an only child made me a reader because there was nothing much for a kid in 80s to do. I tell them I grew up in an environment surrounded by books so it was inevitable I’d become a reader. I say being a writer is a subset of being a reader and I’m even more voracious than I’m prolific. But the truth is, like the category of this post is called, my soulmate truly is a book. Books have appeared, like guardian angels or fairy godmothers (whichever mythical being you like better) in my life at opportune times with appropriate messages. People and situations now feel like illustrations of whatever the books I’m reading are trying to teach me.

A fortnight ago, Vivek Jejuja put out a call asking for people with whom to discuss Stephen King’s Carrie. I haven’t been a fan of Stephen King for a number of reasons I’ll explain later. But I have been dying for a book conversation and I have been wanting an inroad to get to know the magnificent Vivekisms (who is already a good friend, only he didn’t know it yet). So I bought the book.

In the same week, an old school classmate called to tell me about a high school reunion. These two events are significant but only if you know what the book is about. So if you haven’t read the book and plan to, here’s your SPOILER ALERT.

I was far from being the popular kid in school. By far I mean, the exact opposite. I know a lot of people now who lament that nobody knew them in school. That’s really not the worst thing to happen to a child. The worst thing to happen to a child is other children who know you but not as someone they want to be nice to.

I am not going to lament the tortures I suffered in classrooms. I know that children have no perspective on the future or morals. I know a lot of them grew up to be pretty decent adults. And like the characters in ‘Carrie’, many of them probably didn’t even realise what was happening and if they’d thought about it, they’d be as remorseful. The big problem with bullying and harassment is that they look disproportionately different depending on which side of the fence you’re standing on.

Last year I was added to a school Whatsapp group and I had a firsthand experience of why this is a groanworthy ordeal for us digi-nerds. My phone was pinging at all hours of the day and night with 768 notifications from people from all over the world, the messages ranging from “HELLO GM! Sooo great to see everyone here!” to selfies to “Who’s here? Oh him!” I bore well with it for 2 days, setting it on mute even as it annoyed me. I am one of those people who only relaxes when all notifications have been cleared, unread emails/messages read and responded to and so on. Then one more member was added and the string of “Hi!”, “What’s up with you?”s began before he asked the inevitable “Who else is already here?” (honestly, can 37 year olds not figure out how to go to the Members list on a Whatapp group?). I groaned at the slew of repeat introductions, repeat-repeats and interruptions that would follow. Someone said “Ramya’s here too.” To which he responded,

“What? Buck-teeth Ramya?”

I stayed on the group another hour, long enough to read people’s sniggers, someone else say, “Dude, she’s here and can read your message” and his “haha, just kidding” followed by awkward silence on a group that had been pinging nonstop for 2 days. I shouldn’t have wasted even that hour before I took myself off the group.

I have learnt that people have zero empathy. I have learnt that people like to play ‘My woes are worse than yours’ which is the death of that thing called empathy. And I can tell that that boy (if I think of him as a man, it will make thinking about the human race too sad) doesn’t even think he did anything wrong. Who is laughing at a joke about somebody’s bad teeth? Everybody. Because this is not about bad teeth, body shaming or any of those things. It’s about getting used to treating people one way and logic, empathy or even human fairness be damned. It’s about robbing a person of who they want to be and forcing them into an unpleasant role for your own entertainment.

I’ve been troubled ever since I received the invitation to the school reunion, not wanting to seem petulant, wanting to be that ‘good sport’. But I realised as I read Carrie, that this was never going to change. People who saw me a certain way as children, are never going to see me differently. They will react badly if I try to get them to do so. High school reunions are for those who were cool in school. But if their lives continue to be so wonderful, why do need to go back to their childhood/adolescent selves? And how are they going to behave in order to fulfil that need?

chool was possibly the worst time of my life and that’s counting abusive relationships, dirty politics at work, unemployment and people I know dying. I had agency in all those cases, even if only over how I could respond. I had none in those horrible years between 3 and 16. I have no desire to relive it.

I do not have Carrie’s powers and that’s a good thing for the world. It’s time life started being things that were good for me too. So on Saturday, I chose not to go to the school reunion and spent it reading Carrie instead. Thank you, Vivek, for two new friends – you and a book. 😊

Here’s my review of the book:

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CarrieCarrie by Stephen King

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have been skeptical about Stephen King for over a decade now, mostly because I read ‘Misery’ at 20 during a breakup and just when I was working to be a writer. Years later, I read ‘Dreamcatcher’ which even King fans tell me is not one of his good ones. A friend asked me to read ‘Carrie’ so I could discuss it with him, so I decided to give King novels another chance. I’m glad I did.

Much has been made about the first period experience, which triggers off the plot of this story. Stephen King does a commendable job, as a male writer, of highlighting girl/women’s trauma. Parts of it still had me thinking, “No, that’s not what a period feels like. A man obviously wrote this.”

For me, the more interesting parts were the rabid religious beliefs and the effects of toxic/abusive upbringing on a child. What set this story apart for me is that it tells of such a child who did rebel and break out of it (even if, with disastrous results).

The bullying aspect also felt realistic, not painting the bullies as bad people but just people caught up in things that they don’t think about and regret later.

And finally, there was the semi-epistolary narrative (the story switches between excerpts of news reports and actual plot). It felt like a bit too much emphasis on Carrie, the WEIRD one. But perhaps the novel wouldn’t have been as impactful without it.

I can see why Stephen King is considered one of the best popular fiction writers of out times. And I definitely intend to check out his other books now.

View all my reviews

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BOOK Review: Looking For Alaska – John Green

Looking for AlaskaLooking for Alaska by John Green

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My first John Green was ‘The Fault in Our Stars‘ which I came to reluctantly, assuming it would be soppy and shoddily written. I was wrong. Falling in love with that book led me to rush out and buy ‘Paper Towns‘. And that was a HUGE letdown (with a great title). I also bought ‘Looking for Alaska‘ but after ‘Paper Towns‘, I put it away, my taste for John Green’s neurotic teenagers soured.

I picked it up again this week, meaning to clear my unread shelf and we’re back in love. Just like ‘Paper Towns‘, the heroine of this novel is self-absorbed, flaky, impulsive and just plain bad for you. But unlike in that one, she’s glorified a little less and the protagonists are a bit more self-aware of how destructive she is for them.

The ending (or should I call it the middle, since the book is roughly split into Before, During and After) is a shock in a good way because it makes you realise just how much you care about the characters. The lines are funny and then tragic but always poignant in that teenage way where everything is intense but also true. The plot transitions smoothly too even if it takes awhile to get started.

John Green’s writing is warm and intimate and makes you feel close to the situations and characters even if you don’t like them or relate to them much.

I don’t know what went wrong with ‘Paper Towns‘ but ‘Looking for Alaska‘ gets it right in all the ways that ‘The Fault in Our Stars‘ did. If you liked the latter, you’ll definitely like this one. I’d even go so far to say this is the better book, because it manages to touch you without all the cancer melodrama of TFIOS. Skip ‘Paper Towns‘, move right on to Alaska and the stars.

View all my reviews

The Lone Runner On The Treadmill

I wish I knew more people like me. I mean single Indians who’ve made choices and made mistakes. People who have broken some rules inadvertently and others because it was the only way to survive. The single Indian bit is important and come to think of it, being female too. But most important of all, people my age who are all this.

I have a world full of great folks who are at least 5 years younger than I am. Technology and exponentially leaping progress have made this a generation gap. While I find most of my tribe in the generation after mine, the fact still remains that I’m a few steps ahead. I’m past the time of competing for things that I know now to not be important. Or fearing things I can imagine because I’ve survived worse surprises and I know your mind is nothing but a horror movie that’s scary but can be turned off. I know all this and sometimes it gets tiresome being the only one who knows.

Specifically this applies to my romantic and to a lesser degree my professional choices. It’s only someone very naive that would say,

“Why do you care what other people think? Live life your own way.”

My world is full of people mouthing such platitudes, truly believing they’re wise and strong. They have not yet realised the impact of that idea, having rarely experienced it in its true brave-brutal-hostility-face-crippling-fear-be-attacked way. This is a brutally difficult path to follow for your career and I’ve managed it. But it makes no sense to me to think of relationships this way since relationships are about caring about other people. I’m tired of the glamorisation of the single life, possibly by unhappily married people wishing they could have something that isn’t actually real.

Today I had a conversation with a friendly acquaintance, on adjacent treadmills to be sure, at gym. She’s a few years younger than I am, happily married. She charmed me at our first meeting when she said she had no intention of having children and why should be the world’s business? That’s grounds enough for a friendship, I decided. It is and yet it’s not close enough. In conversations about love lives and life choices, she said,

“But do you even want comittment? I would think you’re the kind of woman who doesn’t really want all that. You’re so independent.”

She is so young, is all I could think. And yet, I know now that most men who’ve known me, romantically or otherwise echo the same black-and-white sentiment. Why does my desire to drive things mean that I do not want companionship? Why is my unwillingness to settle for abuse, disrespect and subjugation seen as comittment aversion?

I do want comittment, but with the right person. I know firsthand what a nightmarish hell it is to be comitted to someone who does not like you, does not care for you and wishes you harm. A lot of people think that made me afraid of relationships. It didn’t. It gave me perspective. If my only choice were a bad relationship or singledom, today I know which is the better one and that’s the one I’ve chosen. But I didn’t choose singledom over a promising (since that’s as good as it realistically can be) relationship because there isn’t one on my horizon right now.

A lot of the people in my life are men. My experiences tell me that if a man is not attracted to me, he is not likely to pay anything more than superficial attention to me. He’s just not interested in my life because I’m not a goal. If he is attracted to me, even faintly, it narrows the way I can be and things I can speak about because an innate need to compete and then judge crop up. Men are such limited human beings, no thank you for the socialisation, India.

Women on the other hand, can be bright, brave creatures. I love how many 27-33 year old women I know now who are single, beautiful, brave, intelligent and confident in their lives. I was the only one I knew when I was all those ages, and surrounded by boyfriend stealers, frenemies, girls who played dumb before the boys, girls who manipulated and tore each other down. I love that there are more women I can relate to now. But, they still are younger. They’re dealing with some of the things I’m still dealing with (thanks again for the rape culture, India). But they’ve not yet had to think about the biological clock and about annual health checkups, to name just two things. They’re dealing with other things I did not have to then (“Are you a good enough feminist?”). They are not me yet. Maybe they won’t be and I hope the world will be a better place for them when they’re 37.

Where does that put me? Running on the treadmill, alone. I did not choose to be here. But in life, as in the gym, if you’re there, you have to keep moving.

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

The Showwoman Under The Paper Plane

It turns out I have a showwoman in me, once I let go of the painful things keeping me inside stage fright. Last Monday, I performed Paper Plane, my first ever piece and my guiding philosophy.

It gave me the impetus to do CoffeeShop, which people have really liked and I have a lot of fun doing. Enjoy! And thank you for the love. The only thing I love more than making people think is doing so with a laugh. 🙂

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

I Wear: Fashionista In The Wild

I managed to catch a rather reluctant Reema on camera and she agreed to stop and tell me what she was wearing. This woman manages to look effortlessly chic even in the middle of a warm, sticky summer day in a suburban mall. Well, we are not all born with Libran taste, I suppose.

If you enjoyed this style post in video, check out the other I Wear posts and videos.

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

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