I don’t feel so raw anymore.
I don’t feel so raw.
I don’t feel so.
I don’t feel.
Tag Archives: Emotion
I don’t feel so raw anymore.
Another somewhat uninspiring Reverb 10 prompt but that may just be because I write so much about this already in my blog. So here goes:
December 10 – Wisdom Wisdom
What was the wisest decision you made this year, and how did it play out?
(Author: Susannah Conway)
This has been a year (and a little more) of reflections and insights. I had a windfall of wisdom due to me, after the decade I spent chasing all manner of unwise things. I don’t know if I’ve collected all but I’m still making sense of much of them. Wisdom seems to me like the juice of ripe fruits. The orchard spans acres and acres and I haven’t even finished on the first tree. The feasting has begun but there’s much wisdom juice to still be sucked out. Let me just instead, list some of the wisdom-rich experiences of the past year.
I’m not counting the experience of turning thirty and quitting my job and starting my book. Yes, all of that is slightly stereotyped early mid-life crisis like, isn’t it? Those experiences are already being chronicled in The Thirty Diaries.
Last year, I participated in an online study that examined the trend of people quitting their regular jobs to pursue other lines for various reasons. My participation required me to write an essay type answer each day, to various soul-searching, thought-provoking questions that the group posed to me. The questions explored my notions of success and motivation as also my life lessons and my future plans. What I discovered for myself, was that I had spent a decade and more aspiring to (and with reasonable success, living up to) a common perception of success, as it was held by my family and friends. The big change in my life at thirty was less about quitting one track and more about deciding to figure out success for myself – what it is, how to measure it and how to get going on it.
The novel was begun last year but that was more of a task. It really became a soul exercise only this year when it hit me that fiction or otherwise, this was something I was creating from myself. The emotions, the ideologies, the characters and their stories, these were all things I shaped from the raw material of my own life experiences. While my novel is not autobiographical and none of my characters are based on me, their world and them is built from the clay and bricks of my own dreams and feelings and relationships. Writing about them is quite literally like building. For that, I have to go into the storehouse of my own emotion every single time. And what I find there, is not always to my expectation, let alone liking. There are wells over wells of forgotten feelings and repressed emotions that emerge with every soul-digging enterprise. When I write about a fifteen-year-old’s struggle to fit, it irrevocably takes me back to my own awkward adolescence and forces me to face what I thought and felt and believed, back then. The mind is storehouse of every single thing you’ve said and done and felt and in so many ways, you are better off not going there. Writing is signing away the safety valve of forgetfulness that life gives us. My madness is let loose. And yet, I wouldn’t stop it, if I could. Maybe there will be some wisdom in this unabashed tidal wave.
And finally there is the relationship. I’ve been writing about dating and the opposite sex and relationships for a long time now. But actually living it is a whole new experience. What’s more, the last time I was in a real relationship, I was a different person. The very act of being with someone is stepping over into a different world and being a different person. You are never quite the same again, even after the relationship ends. Building something with another person, just adjusting to another person’s world is causing the foundations of my own careful, precise, cleanly-ordered world to crack and crumble. It’s not comfortable, in the least. But this time, I can feel me growing, quite literally. Wisdom, I await you with humble arms, wide open.
My last NovelRace update was ages ago. I can’t quite explain why there hasn’t been one in all this while. Have I not been learning? Far from it.
I’ve been reading like crazy. After an initial burst and burnout, I slowed down and prioritised my schedule. I’ve taken apart books and stories, read the way I did over a decade ago…with no regard for time or day or genre. It has been overwhelmingly enriching.
The writing has been much less. But I’ve been thinking a lot more. Long sojourns of brooding punctuated by brief frenzies of writing. I think my technique is improving too. And the wonderful Aha! moment happened a few months back when I discovered my characters thinking for themselves and taking their stories to their own logical conclusions. It hit me – I had just found my voice!
And yet, my heart has been heavy these past few months, quite unlike the exhilaration that came with the first few months. I know it could be a number of reasons. The initial burst of enthusiasm has waned, giving way to a more full-bodied, if less vibrant energy. There is also a flip side to finding the voice. Just like actors get into the skin of their characters, I find myself in the situations that I write in and feeling what my characters do. It is bewildering since my life for all purposes is petering out at the same slow pace as it has in these past few months. And yet, I find myself unaccountably sad, guiltwracked, troubled, cheerful, delighted and confused. My characters are facing these things in their stories and before I write in what happens to them, I have to feel the magnitude of each emotion to filter out the most potent bits of it into words.
I spent one entire month under sombre darkness. I wrote in an extra-marital affair and carrying the burden of the guilt, the secrecy, the injustice, the pain, the conflicts…it was too much. I couldn’t bear to look at my drafts for two weeks. And when I did, I hastily put down words to just ‘get it out of the way’. I know I will need to go back and much time and effort will be needed on the revisions. But I just don’t have it in me to face that just now.
The other thing I feel is a terrible sense of loss. Very early in my writing, I found a partner. He was working on a first novel too and enjoyed words just as I did. We became friends very quickly and the start of my career as a writer is linked inextricably with the beginning of our friendship. We talked long and often about our respective drafts. It’s difficult to explain just why this is so critical. But he opened up my mind to the world of literature and writing. He broadened my understanding of my own craft. And he expanded the scope of my story. In making a case to him when he played devil’s advocate, I strengthened my own story. My characters were shaped and nuanced by the fallout of our many discussions. And in all those emotions that I felt, he was with me. It felt like I had an extra brain to toss around all these thoughts.
That relationship has waned in these past five months. For reasons I won’t get into, I am quite unable to resume the friendship. I feel an overwhelming sense of betrayal, like he has abandoned both me and my book. We had promised each other once that the acknowledgements in each of our books would contain a lengthy mention of the other. I’ve written mine in already and I don’t know what to do with it. Should I remove it, since he’s left me mid-way? Should I let it stay since the project may never even have begun or, indeed, come this far, if it weren’t for him? It troubles me like something pricking in the corner of my eye. I can’t ignore it, I can’t seperate myself from it. And at the end of it all, my story suffers in an orphaned state.
I’ve tried to find other replacements. There have been others who’ve offered counsel, many other wonderful people who have given help and support. But none of them is him. He is after all, the godfather (as I once called him) of this book and that is not a role that can be replaced.
And I am troubled by my own dependence on him. I haven’t needed another person so much in all my years of work. But I also got away from that, in the hope that writing would be different, involve a different work ethic. I didn’t want to shield myself from other people in fear like one learns to in the corporate world. And while it was good, it was the best way to be, personally and professionally. But now that he’s gone, it brings home the reason why people hold themselves in reserve. To be let down, hurts so much, tangibly and in other not so visible ways. And yet, if the lesson in this is that one must be alone in what one does, I am in quandary. In my writing, I am my truest self and that person is not a solitary one at all. That is a person who needs company and connection and withers without it. If the only option is to be ‘independent’ then I think I’d rather get back to my old job. At least I just have to wear a facade there, not change my innermost being.
I’m ending this here because I don’t know where I stand. For the record, the novel now stands at 78,421 words. It’s nearly 80% complete in what I envisioned of the first draft. And after that, it will need considerable modification to ensure consistency of voice, grammar & punctuation checks and some major pruning down of length. I know if I leave this here it will haunt me all my life. And at the same time, having come this far, I know only how the easiest parts are behind me.
I just put aside Lord of the Rings an hour ago, having finally read it from cover-to-cover in one go. In that universe I would be akin to Frodo at the end of Book One. The Fellowship has broken and there is a long, ardous journey ahead with no hope of reprieve or return. But even Frodo had a Sam Gamgee and I don’t.
Other NovelRace updates:
I’ve had a strange relationship with music.
I remember listening to Winds of change by the Scorpions on my walkman, lying between bundles of sheets and clothes in a corner bedroom. I remember that I was wearing a pair of corduroys that seemed to be the most comfortable and yet appropriate garb for the occasion. My grandfather was dead and his body, laid out in the main hall. We had returned from the hospital a few hours earlier and were waiting for the funeral arrangements to be made. The menfolk were out making arrangements while the women, exhausted from the chest-beating and crying had subsided and wilted in various corners of the house. I remember a sense of blankness settle over me like a white blanket, with nothing left to feel, no pain, no tears, no surprise, no relief, no anxiety, no patience. I think that is one of my strongest memories of what I sometimes associated with peace. Waiting without anticipation. This is the first memory that comes to mind each time I hear the song, not the image itself as much as that feeling.
To this day, I can’t listen to Berlin’s Take my breath away without feeling my smile droop. With time, I’ve learnt to do this inside my head only and not let it show, but happen it does. Why? Because the love of my life/ex-best friend once told me that the first time he kissed his first love, this song was playing in the background. Even though I had more of him, I never really had him the way she did. I felt like a replacement, a bad replacement for her. So this song feels alien to me, like I’ve stumbled into someone else’s love story by mistake.
I realised there were some songs I used to sing so often, I could probably render them from any point within the song (this isn’t as simple as it sounds). I never even hum these songs inside my head now. These are Bairi piya from Devdas and Aa bhi ja from Sur. At least these stand out while I know there are a lot more but I’ve just hidden them away so carefully even I’ve forgotten where the key to them is. The abusive ex– liked these, particularly these two and I was made to sing them over and over on repeat. Made to sing I say, but those were the good moments, the rare ones in an otherwise very dark, destructive relationship. But to bring those songs to life with music again would be to acknowledge him as human and not the monster I last remember. I’m not in that place yet, I’m not ready to quite forgive him that much.
Speaking of singing, I have indeed had a strange association with music. I did the mandatory Carnatic music routine as a child, one I hated. All I can remember is the painful knees from being made to sit cross-legged. My one other memory is being forced, much, much against my will to parade my voice at family gatherings, strangers apparently family, ordering me to sing this and that, telling me I had potential and may one day even sing as well as my mother, expressing their disappointment that I couldn’t read the prayer books in Tamil. I hated, hated, hated it. When I was old enough I rebelled and stayed away from the spotlight.
It was a good ten years later, that I took to the stage again, all the way in post-graduate college. And then I realised I loved it. There were many, many experiences…of winning, of losing, of personal glories and defeats. And then abruptly it stopped. It wasn’t that clear to me back then but looking back I can see it clearly. The same relationship, the stain on my naivete, started when he walked out of a quiz he was watching to follow a voice he heard coming through the windows – mine, as I was performing on the stage below. I think somewhere it scared me out of the spotlight, the idea that being out there could bring out the worst kind of predators to hunt me down. I never really pursued the stage again.
It wasn’t till two years later, when I received an iPod for a birthday gift, that I felt able to touch music again. Should I say that he ruined music for me? It isn’t that. Music has never been about a collection of lovely sounds for me. It is a blinder, less mindful experience, more to be sensed with the heart and closed eyes than listened to with the ears and understood with the mind. It is who I was with and what I was doing and feeling when I heard that song. This is not necessarily the first time I heard the song but perhaps, the most poignant experience I ever had when I was listening to the song. It creates the world of the song for me and thereafter listening to the song for me, is experiencing that world all over again.
When love and hate collide makes me choke up every time I heard it. Def Leppard were crooning on the speakers of the car when we rode past the seaface at Bandra one night, the ex-love/ex-best friend after four years and other people. Our banter had ceased, each of us in our private thoughts when he suddenly broke in with, “You know, this song always reminds me of us”. I looked at him, wondering if I had heard him right and then summoning up every drop of my courage, asked, “Having second thoughts?” And he said “Yes”. The love of my life did come back to me and for a brief while entertained the notion of returning to me. He thought about it. He got engaged two months later to the girl he had been seeing. But in that brief window of solitude, us, the possibility of us was alive. ‘When the truth is like a stranger, hits you right between the eyes’. I swear it hits me every damn time I listen to it. If there hadn’t been that brief window of hope, one I didn’t take, I think I’d just have let him subside and pass out of my system like the other boyfriends did. But this song keeps alive the question of “What if I had said yes?”
There are of course the renewed joys of singing or listening to a song that has been a personal jewel.
Na Jaane Kyon brings to mind the accolades but also a rare moment of being recognized for the way I was actually feeling in that moment.
And our batch’s personal anthem and me, its singer.
The unbearable beauty of Dire Straits’ Romeo & Juliet which has been my callertune for four years and is always on my favorites list…how can I explain this? I’d just quote, “You promised me everything, you promised me thick & thin, now you just say Oh Romeo, I used to have a scene with him”. It reminds me of…love in its entirety, love as I’ve known it.
The most recent memory, a song I’ve always enjoyed but now listen to with a bittersweet longing of nostalgia. I saw The Lion King on my sixteenth birthday. And thirteen years later, I found someone who reminded me so much of the song that I personalized his phone number with it as his callertune. Each time he called me, which was at least once or twice a day, it was a serenade with Elton John’s Can You Feel The Love Tonight. I never told him and now that the relationship has been laid to rest, there seems to be no point in doing so. The heart of this star-struck voyager doesn’t beat in time with his anymore, but the song still reminds me of him.
Simon & Garfunkle’s Homeward Bound only (and yes I know this only ever makes sense to me) because of the line “..and all my words come back to me in shades of mediocrity, like emptiness and harmony..” Why? Because my name means harmony and that song is metaphorical for how I feel about the way the world receives me.
Yes, I do have a strange relationship with music. You would too, if it was like being dropped into a strange world, one that has never completely been discovered or overcome. Memory is a tricky place to get lost in.