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The Goodbye Warrior

I started this year facing up to something I have feared all my life – the word GOODBYE. I let go of a lot of people. Each of them was big in my life for some reason: a long running friendship, mutual dependency stemming from longtime favour-bartering, a because-we-never-had-a-fight relationship. The list goes on and I can see that even while listing, it starts with fondness and then devolves into reasons to not be fond anymore. That’s exactly how those relationships went and I finally summoned up the energy to amputate them from my life.

One of them kept coming back to me. Phone calls I wouldn’t take. Messages that I tried to ignore. WhatsApp messages that I refused to read so they wouldn’t even see the blue tick and feel like it was a response of a sort. “Assume I’m dead! Assume I never existed!”, I have wanted to say to them without having to speak or even see them. Because, that’s what I’ve done. I’ve realised that goodbyes are the same as deaths. Rip the band-aid off, make a clean break, however you want to call it. It’s over when it’s over and you walk away without looking back. That’s all.

This person’s persistence both annoyed and scared me. What did I have that they clawed at me so desperately? Should I walk about in fear that this unknown treasure would be looted from me? More than once in the past few months I’ve had to take a deep breath and stuff away a panic attack. There’s nothing as scary as other people’s fears.

A friend mentioned that people from smaller towns seemed less inclined to walk away from relationships. This is usually used to support notions that paint metro people as cold, unfeeling machines. I pondered this for weeks. I live a crowded life in a packed city in an overpopulated country. There are 7 billion people on this planet, a statistic that I’ve recalled to mind often. None of us is indispensable. Life goes on, regardless of deaths, natural calamity, marriage, relocation, failures, successes and other things. We adapt, we cope and we build new lives constantly. We lose people frequently and we replace them with others, just as we are being replaced in other people’s affections and situations too. Where is there need to panic when a relationship doesn’t work out or if a person makes you deeply unhappy? There will be hundreds of others to explore and experience and thousands of other lives to touch. I guess being a metro person makes me constantly aware of that.

This does not make me cold or insensitive. Months after letting go, I still find myself struggling to cope. My life feels light and airy, just like the insides of an old tube that is riddled with holes. People-shaped holes. I frequently find myself wanting to run back to one or more of them. It takes all my willpower, ego and escaping into work to do that. Because at those times, all I can remember is the good times at the start. Memory deludes you that way. But like everything else, discipline helps and now I find, shortly afterwards I’m able to also recall the lying or the taking for granted or the incompatibility or whatever else was a reason to say goodbye. This is feeling a lot. ALL THE TIME. It’s like being the sole survivor of a plague that killed everyone else in your world.

I had a disagreement with another friend recently when he didn’t respect my time. Later, he asked whether I would have let him go over an incident like that. I told him,

“I can never get back that lost time. When you don’t value my time, you’re saying that you don’t value me. And don’t you agree that a person who doesn’t value you, should be let go, of?”

He agreed. But he also said that he would try and work it out with the person, instead of cutting them right out of his life. I thought about that and I realised that’s exactly what I believe I’ve done for years. It has been a wasted effort in a lot of cases, throwing in more time and energy into already bad situations. Especially but not limited to my romantic relationships and these times have left me not just with wasted time but worn threadbare of joy, self-esteem and good health. I’m afraid to take that chance on most people now. It seems like the less brutal of the two evils to just walk away. So I mercy kill the struggling moments in my life and I walk away. I’m the Goodbye Warrior.

Science tells you that a drop in pressure sucks in air from outside. Similarly I find the clearing that has been created in my life (that I’m still trying to settle into) is attracting all manner of things from outside, similar things. Needy people, desperate relationships, negative spirals. I don’t know how to deal with them. I haven’t yet learnt how to say, ‘No, enough’. Goodbye has been such a big lesson to learn.

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

UnknownI find some kinship and perhaps some direction in the Osho Zen Tarot card ‘The Rebel’. Of this card, the book Tarot in the spirit of Zen says,

“The rebel is renouncing the past. He is not going to repeat the past; he is bringing something new into the world. The past has destroyed the beauty of the word responsibility. People have made it almost equivalent to duty; it is not really so. Duty is something done reluctantly, as part of your spiritual slavery.”

Reverb 10.11: What I Don’t Need In 2011 (And How I’m Avoiding Them)

A list! I love lists! And that’s only the first reason why this Reverb 10 prompt has me singing.

December 11: 11 Things

What are 11 things your life doesn’t need in 2011? How will you go about eliminating them? How will getting rid of these 11 things change your life?

(Author: Sam Davidson)

Fooo…..yes, I was all enthusiastic and eager and ecstatic (and other good-sounding ‘E’ words) at the thought of a list. But having discovered the list is (again!) about things that one has to bid goodbye to, my E stuff feels D’ed (dampened, defeated, disgusted, demeaned, disillusioned, devastated…).

11 Things My Life Does Not Need in 2011 (why not and how I plan to get rid of them):

1. Writer’s block:

I’ve faced this enough of times in the past year and can testify to it being the vilest, most horrible, uncomfortable, lonely, sickening feeling ever. It’s like being constipated for days on end and watching everyone else eat sumptuous tasty meals. It’s like being pregnant for eighteen months, watching your belly bloat to alarming proportions and wondering if the only way out will be for you to burst. *Shudder* Never, ever again, please.

I don’t really have a plan to get rid of the possibility of this but I guess I can keep my proverbial medical kit handy. Good friends, other career options and enough of distractions to tide me over till it passes.

2. Financial worries:

I’ve never been poor. But there have been times when money has felt a little stretched. Add a generous dose of good South-Indian girl guilt to that. That’s when if the outgoing includes items that are not mind-enhancing and matrimonial-prospect-inducing, they’re considered wasteful. Incoming has got to be a steady, predictable flow, no windfalls-followed-by-empty-periods for this one.

Considering I’ve chucked up a sensible, respectable career for a newfangled, alien venture like writing, am well past my sell-by (as prescribed by the Southern powers-that-be) date and show no signs of making up for it, pressure is high. Much of this of course, is self-induced which is the beauty of any childhood-implanted guilt. The recording plays on inside your head, long after the originators of the voices have fallen silent. Anyway, I really do not need the cringing self-doubt of dwindling savings with no albeit tiny-but-definitely-incoming money flow in sight. I don’t believe I have the nerve to go through with being footloose and income-free for very long. Which just means, I’ll run back to the safety and uninspiring boredom of a respectable job, again. And that’s the end of my writing career, my dreams and my self-worth.

How I plan to keep this wolf at bay is by thinking ahead and keeping open to income-generating options. Naturally, I have my pride and conscience and I don’t intend to resort to get-rich quick schemes. But I have chalked up a number of things that I can do and do well. There’s writing of course (all kinds) and also number-crunching, business analysis and a number of other things I’m still discovering. It’s still a tricky thing for me, marketing them in a way that doesn’t sound like I’m full of myself. But very simply, these are retailable skills. Money earned for work done is a simple enough mantra. And fingers crossed that there will be enough of takers for what I’m selling.

3. Emotional distance

One of the first things that I decided I wanted to do, when I quit last year, was to go back to being the person I was a decade ago. Starry-eyed, idealistic, passionate, uncontrollably alive. Also unfashionable, socially outcast and totally uncool. But I wanted that and I wanted it all, no exclusions.

A big revelation happened over the course of the year (through the novel and many wine-soaked conversations with E Vestigio and long distance phone calls with P, L and others). I cut out sarcasm. Then I whittled away at cynicism. I chipped off bitterness. And I’m gnawing away at polite behaviour.

The results are that I’m exploding more than once. I’m often caught at a loss for words or saying the most horribly inappropriate things at the wrong times. But I feel so very alive! The sense of being weighed down is going. Even though I’m actually a few kilos heavier than when I had a rigourous daily schedule, I feel lighter.

I’m not completely there yet but I intend to keep at it. Emotional distance from people and experiences is what I thought kept me sane. But it also kept me stifled, tiny and mostly dead. I’m letting go. Be warned, much madness up ahead but it’ll all be authentic, 100% me.

4. Poor health

Rheumatism. Spondilitis. Diabetes. All things that doctors have been threatening, are creeping up on me.

Malaria. Gastroentitis. Low blood pressure. Vitamin D deficiency. Weak bones. All things that have already made their presence felt in my life.

I was always a skinny kid but also a bundle of energy and I recuperated quickly. The most ironic thing about my health in the past decade was discovering that I was overstressed and vitamin-D deficient. On asking what I could do to get better, I was told to work less and play more!

That seems like wonderful advice to follow (even doctors say nice things sometimes). So I intend to worry less, laugh a lot more, eat well, run around like crazy in the sun – and hopefully live not just longer but better.

5. Unhealthy weight gain

As mentioned above, I was a skinny kid and I grew up into a lean adult. But shortly after I quit my job, I discovered that I was alarmingly fleshy for my snugfit jeans. I ended up getting a new wardrobe (of dresses and skirts) but that niggling belief that I was bloating hasn’t left. Of course I’m duly grateful that it’s only a little weight, that actually does look good on me. But I’m alarmed by the idea that it could just inflate (pun intended) out of control. What’s more, I really don’t want to add cholesterol, heart disease and other things to the repertoire I’ve listed above.

What I plan to do about this, has actually already been set in action. I signed up for yoga six months ago and did follow the regime for a good while. But the schedule didn’t suit me and I fell off the bandwagon. Mercifully for me, I also started swimming, an activity that brings me even more pleasure than health benefits. The weather has gotten a little too chilly to enjoy the swim much but I still managed to get into the pool 4 days last week and complete around 15 or more laps before shivering my way back to the changing room. Maybe I’ll sign up for a dance class too.

Persistence and patience are my friends and I don’t intend to let those sneaky kilos get the better of me.

6. Boredom

The killer of all things creative, happy and joyful, who would be scareder of boredom, than a storyteller (an entertainer)? Thankfully for me, the world is a treasure trove of interesting things and people and experiences.

I’m not going to deaden this by putting a schedule on it. Suffice to say that when something occurs to me, I explore it. A new hobby? An interesting person? A novel idea? I’m a sleuth for interesting experiences and each one I pick up only leads to bigger and greater delights.

7. Control

This is the other card in the evil side’s deck, supporting the first card of boredom. Control by family, by employers, by social norms, by stereotypes. It kills the spirit, it kills my soul and it damages my creativity.

I don’t have a plan to avoid every instance of being controlled by another person or entity. But when I do face one of them, I intend to stand my ground and not cave. Enough died, already.

8. Other people’s problems

Egos. Insecurities. Complexes. Weaknesses. Negative sentiments. I’ve had a strange affinity for all of these from other people. That, coupled with the ability to absorb and expand on all, I feel like I’ve been quite a bundle of other people’s nerves.

It’s rather tricky detaching oneself from these things without imposing emotional distance from them. I don’t get it most of the time. What’s more, standing up for myself has never come easy (no matter what the image may dictate).

No plan on this one either. Just the will to oppose it and hope that practice will make perfect.

9. High bills on clothes, makeup and socializing

This I really, really don’t need. I am no shopaholic but after a decade of denial, I decided to indulge. Now I think, enough of self-pampering and now for some balanced restraint.

This is the other aspect of keeping away financial worries – curbing the unnecessary outgoing along with building the possible incoming. I don’t really have to have expensive shoes that only last a month. Mumbai roads make dust of everything and none of the big shops guarantee any quality on this terrain. High-voltage partying has never been my scene and mercifully the social circle I move around in, doesn’t really cotton to it either. Mostly I am now okay with saying that I can’t afford it and so I won’t. Out with the fabulous lifestyle, in with some peace of mind.

10. Goodbyes to people I’m close to

This is more a fearful wish than an intelligent item on the planning list. Six months of 2010 were spent in trying to cope with saying goodbye to good friends, to notions of loyalty, to dreams of greatness. I know I learn from each of these experiences. But I’ve had a rough, really rough enough ride of it. I’m not sure I’m ready for another dose, just yet.

I can’t think of anything to put under 11 so this is going to be a list of 10. That’s my bit for letting go of control (even my own OCDness)!

Reverb 10.5: Saying Goodbye

Yesterday’s Reverb 10 prompt made me cringe when I read it. My first instinct was to yell (inside my head, of course…writers do everything in their heads), “What’s that got to do with writing??!”. And then I stopped and realized it touched a raw nerve. Of course, that’s always a good thing for a writer, isn’t it? Hold a pen to a nerve and write, after all. So here goes…

December 5 – Let Go.

What (or whom) did you let go of this year? Why?

(Author: Alice Bradley)

I have always had trouble with this. Goodbyes, seeing the finish line, letting go. Why oh why do people ever say Hello, if only to say goodbye later, I cried in anguish. That part of me has since been wiped and powdered and prettied up and mostly hidden away. But it has never vanished. This prompt was like stumbling upon it behind my old clothes, during spring-cleaning. Howdy stranger, how are you? Oh no, not again.

I’ve already written about how the first half of this year wrenched away many things I held dear. I think by May, I had settled into despair. It wasn’t acceptance but resignation. I gave up on joy, on happiness, of ever reaching my dreams of writing and finding love. And of course, life, that crazy bitch handed it all back on a platter to me, exactly one minute after that realisation.

I gave up sarcasm, for one. This was an insight courtesy my often condescending, sometimes wise and always delightful E Vestigio. “Sarcasm”, she said, “is a habit of the weak. It’s negative and cynical and not good for anyone.” She hit a sore nerve especially since she threw in one of my hate-favorite words (“weak”). I handed in my icicle-sharpened tongue right there and then. I’m not saying I don’t let my temper run away with me. I don’t claim to watch my words. If anything, I do it much less. Several people, including the boy have been subjected to my wrath recently. But it is the sort of undignified, red-hot, burning, unvarnished emotion that I believe is the root of all that is human and creative. And it blows by leaving nothing in its wake. Quite unlike sarcasm that leaves resentment, bitterness and insecurity behind like poisonous weeds to continue the destruction. I’m equally grateful and self-satisfied for letting this one go.

I’m letting go of control. This is still in progress and I can’t say I’ve got it all under control (ha, indeed!). The control-freak in me manifests itself in minute scheduling, meticulous organisation and fastidiousness. It also shows up as in compulsively rearranging everyone and everything else and being a crank in general. It makes me grumpy, sour, unhappy. I feel unable to write, laugh or see joy in anything. And it makes me feel empty in a way I’d never, ever want to feel. The only thing that shows any real result in this battle against fastidiousness is that simple but true adage – BREATHE.

Goodbyes & Other Wounds

Not a good time. Not a good mood. December always gets me down. Even though the fabulousness of my life must make me seem like a crank for complaining. It’s too many people, too many expectations, too much to consider and keep track of.

They say a man (person) is known by the company he keeps. Personally I always thought that was a tad unfair. After all, I enjoy the company of a wide variety of people, across age and interest groups. What does that say about me? That I’m fickle? Or that I like variety? But I realised when I was screaming my heart out this week, what that really came to. There’s warmth in this friendship, genuine warmth, at least I thought so. And yet, more than once I’ve had a chance to be pained by the people she hangs out with. Are some people natural filth-magnets? I surely don’t want to be part of such a circle. And so I resign. Even though I have no problem with her as such, I certainly have a problem with the riff-raff she chooses to hang out with and forces me to rub shoulders with, at every conceivable social occasion.

Goodbye dear friend, I’m sorry for running away this way but your ugly world scares me.

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

Another adage – a man is alive so long as he is remembered.

The Best Friend is moving overseas, the visa approval finally having come through. Somehow I feel like a part of me is drifting away forever. The last connection I have to my distant past, the person I used to be before this cynicism and visibility. The person I was before the fractured dreams, before those dreams were even conceived…all of them go with her. If there’s no one who remembers what you really sound like, do you have a voice anymore?

Goodbye dear friend, carry my cherished self with you. I know you’ll take care of it well. This is not a world for that gentleness anymore.

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

I snapped at another friend for calling me a name I didn’t like and I told him not to pick on me in my rare moment of emotion. He replied,

This isn’t a rare moment of emotion for you. Its a rare moment of this particular emotion of helplessness. And, I’m not enjoying you feeling so.

You know why that was striking? Because he pinned down the exact thing that’s bringing me so much agony. I hate this, hate, hate this feeling. Helplessness is not a place I’ve ever been comfortable in.

What am I doing? The writing is not going well, not at all, I’m afraid. I don’t want to know that I’m good, all I care about is that I’m not good enough. It may just be a matter of time but I’m afraid I don’t have that time. Or perhaps I do but I don’t think I can live on these shifting sands for much longer. I need terra firma beneath my feet and if that means I bury my dreams and sell out, I probably will.

Goodbye dreamer-girl, there’s no place for you in this gritty world. Your wings are no substitute for the strong legs I need to stay put. I’m going back.

Friends Are For Telling Secrets To

I am there if you ever need to talk. And remember, I can keep a secret!

She smiled a warm goodbye thinking,

Yes, I would trust you if I had a secret
In fact I almost wish I had one right now,
Just so I could share it with you

What an appropriate welcome gift!

Hellos and goodbyes

The poet’s walk

Hello, hello
Don’t know why you say goodbye, I say hello

“Looks like you don’t have much to say today”, he said.
And I said “Lots to say, but this just isn’t the conversation for it”

How can you bare your soul to someone who doesn’t even know what you’re doing?
How can you hate someone who’s trying but just not making it?

I hate goodbyes, god how I hate them.
I’d rather not say a hundred hellos then have to say a single goodbye
And yet, even if I keep mum, there will be others who speak to me
And try as I might to stay silent, eventually I must return the greeting
And that’s the start of the conversation
A conversation that goes on and on
Each time I try to end it, there’s another thread left hanging
To bind me to the other person
And I just have to come back to tie it up
And another and another and yet another one
Till all the threads have been tied up
And there is this whole great tapestry woven between me and the other person

How can anyone bear to rip that fabric apart?
How can anyone want to say goodbye?
There are no goodbyes without hellos
Why the hell do people say hello at all?

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