Tag Archives: Friendship

Stars Under The Rust

I haven’t said much these past few months, have I? Most of my time and creative energy has been taken up in the shows that SXonomics has been doing on various themes of gender sensitivity. It has been intense, time-consuming, demanding and emotionally draining. I also fall into habits of writing a certain way and in a certain rhythm.

I remember when I first chanced upon 55 word stories and took to them with such passion that all I felt about to produce was them. I had to push myself to say things with more words or less and stop myself from counting if they had gotten to the exact 55. Something similar happened when I first started writing fiction and I found myself unable to write the poetry that I’d spent most of my writing life producing. Now, three years ago I started performing and more recently gender-politicised commentary in a witty form. It’s proving to be difficult to come back to blogging, this way.

Reading ‘Rust and Stardust’ recently helped. This book is a chronicle of the true crime story that inspired Nabokov’s Lolita. In 1948, a 52 year old Frank LaSalle abducted 11 year old Sally Horner by telling her he was the FBI and was arresting her for stealing a notebook from a shop. For the next two years he travelled with her, posing as her father and repeatedly raping and abusing her. The book actually begins earlier, chronicling Sally’s hard childhood with an embittered mother, herself a victim of a runaway husband, then a suicidal second husband and painful arthritis. Sally is literally starving for affection, attention and validation, not to mention a fundamental right to live. Her sad tale of neglect, abuse and prolonged torture was hard, very hard to read. I spent 5 hours reading through it in one go and crying at regular intervals. I told myself I was reading for research and because I had to review the book.

But also, in this emotion-searing act of reading, I found myself tapping into parts of myself I haven’t accessed in a long time. A place that feels deeply and profoundly. Writers and other creative people exploit their own traumas and personal tragedies for their art and gain, yes. This means as one, I also need to frequently clean out the internal machinery and remind myself to honour the emotions and experiences and not just run them through the creative mill to churn out material.

I’ve already written a review of the book itself here. But it brings up so much more that I don’t feel able to articulate in words. I relived my own intimate tragedies while reading Sally’s story. I lived through the moments that felt like I would not be able to breathe again, experienced anew the situations that held me down choking and I thought I would never see light and the world again. The despair, the desperation, the anguish — all of it sprung forth again. And then, they faded. Do we keep picking at our scabs or do we keep sifting through the mess of our insides trying to make better sense of it? I don’t know.

But today has been better. I met a friend for lunch. We met when we were both 20, through some acquaintances. We lost touch but she found my blog almost a decade ago and we’ve had intermittent conversations on social media and occasionally in person when we’re in the same city. It’s a delicious adventure examining who you were and how far you’ve come, along with another person. From the 90s down to today, we talked about love, about selfies, about the writerly identity, about toxic masculinity, about accents, about personal expression. I told her about being in love at 20 and in devastating heartbreak around the time she met me. Later she said,

“Why did you put up with it? You are so much more intelligent than he is.”

This is a question I’ve answered to myself several times so I had the response. And in its telling, I found a bit more of myself. I hadn’t lost these pieces of me. It’s just as though they had been sleeping (or maybe I was, if it is possible to be partly asleep within the context of certain memories and abilities only). Parts of me felt like they were waking up.

Last week, The SXonomics Show performed its season finale of its three month run. It’s been an exciting, gruelling experience. And in all this growth, all this living, I’ve put my head down and worked hard so as not to get derailed by the hostility, the hatred and negativity around me. Several people I know came to the final show — a teacher who changed my life, a friend who I didn’t even know was a friend until she asked me to come to her mother’s funeral, a former love and a couple. This couple have been my people, as individuals and as a couple, for years now. But I seem to keep forgetting all these people, that they exist in only goodness and goodwill for me. It meant so much seeing them there. Another room in my head opening. It’s been there all along. I didn’t even realise when it shut firmly.

What's next for me?

A post shared by Ramya Pandyan (@ideasmithy) on

 

I guess I’m just glad these doors are opening and I’m waking up again.

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Being The Story

Yesterday I ran into a friend. The last time we met, this friend visited me at a new home I was building. I was also newly engaged. So obviously, that would be the starting point of our conversation, a picking up where the thread dropped off. I rolled my eyes wryly and said,

“So much has happened since then. I don’t live there anymore. I’m not engaged anymore.”

My friend’s immediate, almost urgent reply was,

“My good friend is close to him so I will not comment.”

I have navigated hundreds of such conversations in the past six years.

I had a (somewhat) public relationship. Given that I write about relationships and the fact that they form such an important part of my existence, I found it hard not to. Shutting up about that would essentially mean to quit blogging, which would be akin to losing a kidney, a limb and maybe a few other vital organs. But my partner was not an open individual (quite the opposite) and I felt I had to respect his privacy too. So I have never mentioned him by name and I have only sparingly offered details of our relationship, while trying to be honest and open about my own feelings and thoughts (these are mine and I’ve never felt the need to have anyone else’s permission to share them). This has been the trickiest juggling I’ve done in all my adventures with anonymity since I began in 2004.

I didn’t have a chance to think about how this would turn out, if we parted ways. And given how suddenly everything crashed, I barely made it out alive, let alone with enough stability to think clearly. The thing with sudden disasters is that you don’t get time to stop and collect your thoughts. The world hits you with life, even as you’re still lying on the ground with your heart ripped open, bleeding from wounds you didn’t even realise had opened up and were being systematically poisoned. You just learn to cope and hope to heal on the fly, as you get carried along on the rollercoaster ride called life.

In six years, I have run into, got back in touch with and in some way reconnected with possibly hundreds of people. Most people in my world have some connection to my narrative through my blogs, my work and having interacted with me on digital. I have tried to keep my narrative as true to myself but it has to be a filtered, edited one, for reasons of safety and respecting the privacy of other people connected with me. This includes exes, even the ones who have behaved in very, very bad ways.

Last year a friend screenshotted something my ex had put up and sent it to me. I wish she hadn’t. I was not even thinking about him and seeing this forced me to remember his existence in an unnecessarily immediate and close way. She said she thought it would make me feel better but it didn’t.

A few months ago, somebody else told me about someone who liked my ex. They said they were concerned about this person and that they were making a terrible choice. I get that concern. But I don’t get what I am supposed to do in this. This story has nothing to do with me.

Now…

“My good friend is close to him so I will not comment.”

I felt knocked for a loop by my friend’s statement. Because I was starting a conversation and their response was a very clear iron-curtain style wall. The last thing that was called that was part of something the world knew as Cold War. Why did my friend feel the need to rush in with that statement when I had not even asked for comment? Possibly they thought I was seeking validation, asking for them to join me in bashing my ex. I wasn’t. I was just telling my story.

But, in the very act of writing this down, I feel my balance restore itself to normal. I cannot fault my friend for not thinking this through. After all, they haven’t seen me in years. I can also see the good intentions behind the actions of the other friends. They were offering commiseration in their own awkward ways. They were also trusting that I would act with sanity rather than viciousness and while that is overwhelming, it is also inspiring. Maybe I can be that person if people think I can be. I write a narrative that is one that inspires me. And I can only write it if I live it. I am so glad to be a writer.

 

The difficulty in writing your own story is having to explain every word and every edit. But maybe that is also the best thing about it. Remembering the story, that’s all that’s important. The story of me.

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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.

 

Stage Fright And A Lily

I found gratitude in February. Here are all things that were life last month.

A conversation on safe spaces – One of Mumbai’s performance/art spaces and Shamir’s former employer hosted a discussion on safety in performing spaces. We shared experiences, fears, ideas and some hopes for this landscape that we are all committed to.

SXArena: The Third Wheel, UnValentined! and Digital Dil – We decided to try a new format that included poetry, conversations and some simple games to explore ideas of sexuality and gender. The topics of our day were polyamory, relationships outside the primary romantic one, love in the times of hookup and connections beyond the commerce.

The SXonomics Show: Touch Me Not – We were invited to conduct a gender sensitisation drive for The Habitat. We rolled this out as a series of 1 hour shows that combine comedy, satire, music, poetry and dramatic performance to address hard questions. Our first show addressed sexual harassment. It received a good response and this very encouraging review. We have since done one more show on gender (im)balance and have another four coming up (every alternate Monday at The Habitat, 7:30PM).

We, The XX Chromosome: Women’s Web and SheThePeople hosted a two day Women Writers’ Festival 2018 and invited us to do a show themed ‘We, The XX Chromosome’. Our 45 minute performance addressed gender stereotyping, the casting couch, rape culture, outdated fairytales and consent violation.

I started a new friendship and that person came to one of our events just as a show of support. Their presence and their ideas expanded our world view on gender, sexuality and love.

I wasn’t nearly as good at the old friendships. I think after 2017, I found it hard to remember that there were still people who liked me and wanted to spend some moments of their lives with me. But friendliness came knocking in gentle, sweet ways. I went to another old friend’s birthday party without a gift because I had just had no time to get one. But on the way, I stopped and picked up a lily because it reminded me of her. She thanked me so many times, I felt bad that I had categorised our friendship as needing the commercial validation of a store-bought gift. And yesterday she told me that the flower had continued to bloom and spread its fragrance all across her house. This is so lovely.

We were featured in the press several times (1, 2, 3, 4). Ironically right after I posted this poem:

Let me just say life is mischievous at times. 😋

There are days when I fear getting carried away and that this will all crash land. I do love how much I’m learning, though. After a recent show, a member of the audience told us that she had seen one of our early performances and we had come a long way from that. That just feels so, so, so very good.

Every now and then, Ishmeet says or does something on stage and I marvel at how a mind can work and how a gesture or a facial expression can be used to convey an idea. It’s like learning a new language and I’ve always enjoyed that.

I am still awkward in my transitions on and off stage. But stage fright does not cripple me as badly now. I’m learning to enjoy even the mistakes I make, laugh at the times I am clumsy. And that’s the same lesson as life itself, isn’t it? Look up at the stars but also find time to laugh when you trip over the stones. And always, make room for the flowers.

Here’s a handful of SXonomics laughs coming your way. This is our first video.

What does the future hold? Well, Aadhar card linkages and income tax returns. But also four new SXonomics shows, SX-on-Mics (our first community event on Women’s Day) and more videos. And a lily or two.

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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.

We Need Witnesses. We Are Witnesses.

I received a call from an old college friend. It went the way you’d expect such calls to go. A lot shrieking, plenty of laughs, some quiet introspection and a lot more “I am so happy to be talking to you.”

I really am. This is more than nostalgia. We spend our 20s running smack-dab into life and learning to deal with adulthood. It’s jobs, marriage, economy, kids, loans, new homes, first health scares. The 30s have been less frenzied but also lonelier. Slowing down to catch our breaths, realising we’ve taken on wounds that won’t heal unless we do so. It’s chronic ailments, debt, cheating, divorce, career changes, addiction, depression, suicide or at the very least the thought of it. I’m not completely out clear of this decade yet but I’m on the last leg.

My friend talked about some the struggles of the past decade, personal, professional and health and also how people never really understand. My friend thinks he is the only one. Maybe because I always did things on different schedule from my peers (the first dropout, the last one with a boyfriend, the last to get a job, the first sabbatical, one of the few as yet not married, an early entrepreneur), I understand this at some level already. But I frequently forget.

Recently I’ve found myself dropping off revived friendships and conversations, because I don’t feel like explaining a broken engagement or a rising corporate career quit to follow a creative dream. My life feels like such a mess compared to other people. I terminate before it can get to the dreaded question,

“Why can’t you be more normal?”

It is there, if not in words, then in people’s eyes hanging with questions they are too polite to ask. Or in very tense silences when neither I nor they know what to say, and we’re both thinking back to when conversations ran free in a way that we didn’t even know freedom could be.

Yet, as my friend shared, I realised, we’re all living through lives that look very different from the Adarsh Balak posters. Maybe it’s a generational thing, maybe this is real life. We’re surviving (or not) situations that we are unprepared for and for a number of reasons, we assume it’s our fault. We assume that these situations are aberrations from the perfect life, rather than the life itself. We also forget and keep forgetting that all things pass, all things change. And most importantly, we forget in a spectacularly isolating manner that we are not alone. Maybe we go on so long with nobody actually seeing us as we are, that we start to believe the universe does not want to see us. Reconnecting to someone who saw us, at least once long ago is a reminder that we are not insubstantial ghosts. We are. We bear witness to each other’s lives.

In this same group, I pinged someone who used to be a dear friend with ‘Remember me?’. Her instant reply –

“The first feminist of our batch!”

This tickled and charmed and befuddled me in so many ways. Was I? Did I even know what feminism was? I was just muddling through the daily stumbling blocks put in a teenager’s life in the best way I could. Did I carry XX Factor and Sexonomics in me long before these ideas were even conceptualised? Did the people around me see some ideal in me that I couldn’t see? And wonder of wonders, does how I turned out seem ‘normal’ to them? Does my life actually make sense to some others even when it doesn’t to me? This is a profound realisation. Also one that leaves me a satisfied sort of tired. We are not the sole witnesses to our lives.

My friend told me that he reads my daily poetry and that it helps him go on, some days. I can only feel immense gratitude for the technology that allowed my friend to feel my support, even when I was absent in every way. I’ve heard a few people say this before and perhaps my reaction has not been gracious. But to be read is to be welcomed into a person’s mind and heart. It is a privilege, an honour given to me. I should only be grateful. And now I am.

So for all the friends I’ve ever had the good fortune to meet in person and those of you who welcome me into your lives without my ever having seen you – thank you. You bear witness to my life and I am very grateful. If my words mean anything to you, please consider it my way of bearing witness to yours. You are not alone.

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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.

Thank You For The Ghosts

I spoke to her today. It wasn’t as unthinkable as I imagined, over a year ago. She told me the email I sent her a fortnight ago sounded like I did not want to hear from her. I said, that was probably true.

“When things happen, I deal with them in a certain way. I go into a shell. In time, I am ready to look. But not be looked that. That takes a little longer.”

She said she would need sometime to understand that. And that’s okay.

This would probably have happened in some way or the other. As it turns out, how it happened was that a common friend told that that I was being to her, how someone else is being to me at this moment. I’ve spent the last few weeks thinking about ghosting and gaslighting. These are things that we do, while also universally acknowledging that they are horrible actions. But maybe we do these because we really can’t do anything else at that time.

Match this with our superegoistic belief that everything that happens to us is our fault (because we have to feel like we can control everything, right?) But this is not true. Sometimes people are not thinking about us when they treat us badly. Sometimes they are not even seeing us, blinded by their own lives. Maybe this is nothing more than a bus running over tiny creatures in its path, its riders not intending to hurt but not really seeing or even being able to care about the casualties of their journey.

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

Last month I spotted another ex friend who had ghosted me. After dozens of conversations about life, love, work and existential angst and wine, she didn’t bother to invite me to her wedding. I found out about it when a stranger contacted me asking if I was still in touch with her. I passed right by and sat down at the table next to her for half an hour before I noticed who was next to me. It was awkward for awhile but maybe that’s just me. Perhaps I am dead to her for reasons I will never know. Perhaps I never existed in her world. Maybe people can achieve complete erasures.

But I think that’s only possible when your mind is so crammed with so many things that you block out the view of what is right in front of you. Well, that’s okay too. I love airy, wide spaces but I live in a city that thrives on cramped quarters. Each to their own space. And mindspace.

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

I attended a funeral today. This was not someone that I was close to but they died of unnatural causes and very young. So I’ve had a chance to mull over a profound experience without being overrun by it. Maybe life is kind in ways we can’t quite see.

I’ve always abhorred the living’s reactions. Loud, emotional scenes scare me. They make pain and grief into larger-than-life monsters. I dealt with the first death in my adult life (my grandfather’s) by being efficient. I saw to visitors, I answered questions, I made people eat and drink water, I tended to the cleaning and putting away of things. I was punished over and over with accusations of being cold and uncaring by the very same people who I was helping. I stayed angry for a long time over it. The same people playing that wretched game of ‘My sad is sadder than yours’ do not live with the heavy burden of feeling like they haven’t done enough. I do. They have the luxury of theatrics, holding the world to ransom with their tears and shrieks because someone else is willing to pay the price – the price of holding the world together while they bash away against it.

I realised today that this is my way of coping just as the theatrics are some (weak, selfish) people’s way of coping. Being efficient makes me feel like I can control something. Death, no matter how distant, shakes our foundations and reminds us of how little we have control. What does this have to do in a post about ghosting? It is all about the sudden shock of distance, isn’t it? And what’s more shocking and distant than death?

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

Someone who discarded me two years ago is waving furtively to me with likes on social media. I am not ready to go there. Well, actually I don’t want to. But what if I don’t have a choice? If people will go away without my being able to control it, maybe I also have no control over people coming back. It’s a horrid thought that life at large, has no concept of consent. I hate that the future is not a clean, straight line but may involve zigging and zagging and backtracking and U-turns and what not.

I am feeling my age a lot these days. 38 sounds like a very large age to be. But another part of me is relieved that The Thirty Diaries are drawing to a close. I think I will not do a Forty Diaries, counting off the milestones when my life map is so chaotic.

Maybe all we all need is time. If nothing else, time allows runaway emotions and stray ideas to settle. Time lets us reflect and clean our minds if we so choose. And time gives us perspective and clarity. And then, it’s up to us to choose what to do with a brand new day – a new possibility or even one that we thought we lost awhile ago. I wish us all the stillness that comes after we’ve regained peaceful breaths.

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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.

Unfriends

Friend, I’ve lost my way to us and I am angry with you. Wasn’t it your place to guide me back when the current of life carried me away from friendship? Isn’t that a friend’s job?

Friend, I don’t know if I’m made for friendship. Everyone who has called me friend, has turned away. You’re the only one who looked back. But maybe that’s just your roving eye.

Friend, love is spelt with four letters. And it means whatever you shape it to mean.

Friend, that’s a nice word and I can’t think of anything to rhyme with it or anyone to fit it. So I’ll just turn it over and over in my mind. After all, who’s a writer’s best friend but a blank sheet of paper?

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The Nature Of The Current

The birthday month has come and gone and I can only feel deeply grateful. It was the kindest thing to happen to me all year. I felt like myself in my own skin again. I felt home. And what else is more important to a Cancerian?

Several people who have been very important to me, are no longer a part of my life. April to June was spent reeling from the shock of realising – they do not love me anymore. Maybe they never did. Maybe it was all pretence, under the garb of diplomacy, avoidance of conflict yada yada. Maybe they loved the idea of me. Maybe they loved in a different way from how I see and define love.

But July, July was kind. July allowed me my dignity, my space and that thing unique to all Cancerians – the ability to feel so much and be completely overrun by emotion while never losing sight of who we are and what our life’s path is.

Every one of these people in some manner or the other tried to make it sound like my fault. One has been blaming everything from their relationship problems to their health issues on my ‘depression/thing’ last year. Another has abruptly (or maybe it was a long time in coming; I just didn’t see it) decided that I’m on a ‘complaint cycle’, that my references to astrology and numerology are me hiding behind crutches when I’m to blame for everyone else’s troubles. Someone else laid bare their secrets to me and then stabbed me in the back. How can a person bear to do that? I could never wilfully wound someone I’ve seen asleep. This has been the hardest thing to bear, made worse by the fact that these very same people have also been the ones to see the troubles on my horizon before I did.

On one hand, I was deeply grieved by this gaslighting. There is no other way to describe it. Gaslighting is making a person believe that their thoughts and perceptions are wrong and somehow they are to blame for the world around them. It turns out it happens in relationships other than the romantic ones too. And yet, all I can think is what horrific hell each of them must be in, for them to turn so monstrous in nature. I’ve been grappling with ‘but I never did this’. Until July made me realise that doesn’t matter. I am who I am and I deal with things, good and bad and love and mistrust the way I do. And other people do it the way they do. There is nothing more to be said in this.

“Because you are a mirror”

has been the rallying cry from more than one person clawing at me in the past few months. There must be something to this. Do I set out intending to make people feel bad about themselves in my quest for truth? No, I think not. But to love a person is to love them boundlessly, above the flaws and the nicks and cuts and sharp edges. Not to love them blindly. I cannot help but see the tiny indentations and the quirks that make a person, them. It’s what happens when you see them up and close. That is the way I love and I will not apologise for it. I guess it’s not necessarily comforting to be loved in that manner. And I must accept that, just as I want the universe to accept my loving.

I went for a dance therapy workshop hosted by a friend. July allowed me a chance to savour my loneliness instead of being crushed by it. I drift along, pretty okay on my own, without a real thinking plan but somehow, dimly, intuitively into experiences that are healing, pleasant and welcoming. I don’t know why dance, why in this way. But it was there and I could so I did. It was different, in a quiet sort of surprising way. I have dance coiled away in nooks and corners of my body, that my friend’s guidance was able to unlock in some way. And then I also have some kind of barriers, boundaries or safety valves against dance in the most surprising of places – my feet. I don’t know what that means but I’m letting that understanding drift about inside me and do as it will.

I rediscovered food. I go along blithely unaware of life’s experiences as they relate to me, the deep core fundamental ME because so much of my experiencing is about making the people I love, happy. This is not necessarily a sacrifice. To make someone I love happy, joyful or even pleased keeps me in a state of warmth. But when there isn’t someone to love, then suddenly that is replaced by a different kind of hunger which is uniquely and entirely only me. How much I crave sushi. How lustfully I imagine the warmth of liquid chocolate oozing from a warm croissant onto my tongue. How wonderfully the beef chilli from Sneha’s would fill my mouth, my throat and my entire body with the summer of Kerala. This month, I ate. Sushi on the day before my birthday with a new slight friend. Peaches and pears smothered in chaat masala. Full English breakfast as brunch with Manisha on my birthday. A pasta with very little cheese and a lot of fresh vegetables dancing on my tongue for birthday dinner with family. Hot tomato soup that is just sheer goodness. A garlic-cheese naan with chicken kolhapuri. Sausages slathered in barbeque sauce. Perfectly shaped omelettes that I learnt to make, myself. I ate.

Someone pointed out a person from my past and likened the two of us. It was insightful. I hold no grudges against that person from my past. But life has moved forward and I feel like I’m too far away and I’m swimming in some other direction now – onward and upward. I wish them well on their journey but it is not mine to move towards them right now. That’s just the way it is. The friend said that I was to some people as the people I’m trying to let go of this month are currently to me. I’ve been struggling to understand why they don’t love me anymore. Maybe it isn’t that complicated. Maybe it was just the nature of the current.

Exactly a year ago, I wrote this. I am so thankful to have writing to bring me these lessons and to remind me when I’m in the danger of forgetting.

A lesson in letting others live out their crashes. A lesson in not get hit and run over. Lessons of goodbye. Lessons in silence. Shh.

I’ve been writing, of course. Trying to fish out my truths from the seas of emotion, cradling the discarded pearls that come up, setting aside the dead shells with love and putting it up in bits and bobs I call Micropoetry or picture-poetry. There is meaning, there is truth. I’m swimming alone. July made it feel like a good thing. July made my body and my life feel like home. August is here now and I think of it as the Leo month, a sign I always approach with some shyness but trust and joy. Kindness helps you find who you are, when you’re losing your way. And when you know who you are, it helps you treat the world with grace. August, I welcome 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.

Drink To That

Follow my writings on https://www.yourquote.in/idea-smith-qor/quotes/ 

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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