Tag Archives: Introspection

Lessons On Boundaries

I’ve been on a hiatus from the life I was leading through most of this year and the last. One notable conversation I had in this time made me realise the importance of boundaries in my life. 

I’ve always been a boundary tester, a rulebreaker, a label hater, an opposer of all things that feel restricting. But now I think I also need to learn how to define and maintain boundaries in my life. It’s very exciting to be able to flow and ebb and dissolve and rise from chaos. But it’s tiring and now it feels futile. 

I think all human beings and interactions need some kind of boundaries but most of our world is entrapped in boundaries set by other people that have become prisons. In that, I have no regrets over who I have been — in testing the world I live in and finding where I want to go, how far and in what way. Boundaries are only good when you set them yourself.

My boundlessness has caused systemic corrections like violent reactions from people, actions that feel like profound betrayals and my own sense of feeling drained and exploited. The cycles I go in are to love in a burst of passionate emotion and give and give because it just feels good to give — attention, affection, objects, time, energy, commitment. Unsurprisingly I’ve drawn takers, most notably the abusive men and a handful of manipulative friendships. 

With complete objectivity, I can see how I fit their scripts as well as they fit mine. But even someone who enjoys giving runs empty eventually. And the fellow actors in my scripts have punished me for not being perennial while having reached a point of not giving anything back. Balance off whack. And the solution? Boundaries, defined better, well and early.

All this is probably really obvious to anybody outside of me. But I can feel this understanding at a cellular level now. I’ve been figuring out what boundaries mean to me (outside of ‘prison’ or ‘control mechanisms’). I’ve been navigating the kind of emotions that rise, how many of them are remembered traumas and how I can proceed in spite of them.

So what has this looked like? It’s been about saying no to a work project, something that caused me a lot of agony because it runs so against the grain of my work ethic (kill myself if need be but deliver, deliver on time, deliver over the promise but DELIVER). I know this comes from a very early place of not fitting into the education and social systems (gender role, nuclear family unit etc.) and so overcorrecting in a bid to ‘be okay’.

It has been about getting off the stage. I needed to face my fears about the stage, I needed to break the victimhood of being gaslit, violated and hit for being visible and I’ve done it all. It was a hard choice getting off the stage once I’d fought my way to it feeling like a place of comfort. Especially so because I wondered whether I would ever get back on again and whether my entire life of performance would have to go hand-in-hand with reliving traumas. Saying goodbye to anyone or anything is always hard only because of this — because you don’t know if it’s the last goodbye. Thankfully, for me it wasn’t. 

And then it was about learning to walk away from situations and people. This was actually the easiest thing to do, perhaps because I’d done the more visible things like work and stage before this. Years of not having a choice of escaping traumatic situations, of being blamed and shamed for those situations made me have to grow a Warrior whose motto was never back down, take everything head on, offense before defense etc. It was so exhausting and it never really felt like me. Worst of all was being related to by the world as if that was my entire being, not just one facet developed as a defense mechanism in certain situations. That’s what all the harassment of last year (“Manhater”) was about. I’m a Creator, not a Destroyer or even a Warrior. Now that I know I can be the other things if I need to, I can retire them until further notice. All I had to do was walk away from some situations.

I’ve found help in watercoloring. Oddly enough, this is the one artistic medium that never appealed to me, even though I actually had some formal instruction in it. Maybe that’s exactly why — anything that came from the system felt like an imposition, an imprisonment to me. I started on watercolours after a friend took it up and shared his works with me. There’s something soothing about working with water, about the gentle brushstrokes, the undramatic (I used to think boring) colours. And I’ve resolved that this will not be one more thing that I turn into a competitive, goal-oriented thing. I’ve been carrying my kit to events, coffee with friends and even meetings. I joked to a friend that this is my new hipster behaviour. He just smiled and said, 

“It’s not a hipster thing, it’s just a Ramya thing.”

which is the nicest thing I’ve been told in a long time. I’ve been painting swatches, squiggly nothings, letters etc. Sometimes they look good, sometimes they’re unmemorable. And always, I feel accompanied, well-adjusted and complete with that brush in my hand.

The results have not been bad at all. I fell sick a fortnight ago — the kind of dark, no-end-in-sight sickness that afflicted my very soul. I couldn’t breathe sometimes and spent hours coughing or gasping or just passed out in some version of asleep. I don’t think this is a coincidence at all. An ex friend once told me that phlegm represents pain. It had to threaten to choke me before I could release it willingly. For the first time in I-can’t-even-remember-how-long, I spent an entire week in bed, not checking my email, not answering my phone, drifting between sleep and fevered wakefulness. The past week has been returning to the world and I’ve given myself permission to do it slowly and without apologising. It hasn’t been bad at all.

I’ve also been meeting friends. Yes, it turns out I do have a lot of friendships and people who are genuinely happy to see me. Some have even been from places I had labelled Trauma Points inside my head — Twitter and Poetry. But I’ve been doing all this with boundaries (as far as possible). Limiting my time, what I say, what I ask about, the things we do.

Maybe a wall can have my back too.

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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.

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.

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

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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.

Farewell, Good Monk

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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.

Mirror Maker

Mirror Maker

The person who invented mirrors knew that people needed the shock therapy of truth, daily.

*If you liked this, follow my microfiction/micropoetry on https://www.yourquote.in/ideasmithy

Hair Clip

Evolution Isn’t A Race

Falling Off The Swing

I see boredom in my eyes. Weariness. Wariness. Cynicism. An unwillingness to believe that there can be more or better or nicer or greater. This is a different sort of fear.

Does a playground stop being fun
when you fall off the swing enough times
and realise
that it won’t kill you?

Still waiting.

Love, Learn, Live

You never stop growing. Never stop marveling at how little you knew last year or ten years ago. I wonder if it’s just me or everyone feels this way sometimes. Like I’m so different now than I was a few years ago, if I went back in a time machine, I wouldn’t recognize myself. Who was that stranger? Why did she think the things she did and do all that was done?

I wrote a post, years ago about loving silently, about the agony of caring for someone who didn’t know or seem to care. One of my commenters remarked that perhaps someone felt that way about me. I scoffed, so supremely arrogant in my ability to read people, so confident in my own sensitivity.

I spoke to someone I knew years ago. I had a dim idea that he was a ‘nice guy’ who was generally nice to everyone and so also, to me. I also realized, equally vaguely that we were friends for awhile and then we weren’t. There wasn’t a fight, a grand parting of ways but I realize now that that’s not everyone’s style. Some doors shut very gently and it’s years before you realize who walked out of them.

He was in love with me. That thought should send me into a thrill of delight. After all, it is terribly flattering and comforting, knowing that someone gave you that precious emotion. But it doesn’t. It makes me uneasy, restless. It’s not that I treated him badly. It’s that I was so caught up in trying to get my life to go on plan, protecting myself from anyone or anything that could derail it, that I never realized what was right in front of my eyes, every single day for months.

I always thought of myself as a good listener, but it seems I must not be. I listen, when it’s someone and something and in a way that I’d like to hear. But real listening is unfiltered, nonjudgmental, unencumbered by ego, isn’t it? He let me know enough of times. Not in wild, flourishy strokes which may have been my delusional idea of love at the time (well, perhaps even till very recently). But in quieter but definitive ways. The message seeped in occasionally but since it didn’t fit my plan, I found a way to not make it be by focusing on what I thought of as his indifference and commitment-phobia. I don’t even know if he was commitment-phobic but should that have mattered? Knowing someone cares for you, even if it may not amount to marriage, is not the worst realization in the world. And I might have treated him more gently. I really should have.

I’m so determined, so focussed, so driven by what I want. The world tells me that’s a good thing and rewards me with achievement at most times. But I’m only now realizing what I’ve given up all the time I’ve been doing this. I don’t know how many people or situations or things I’ve missed simply because they got in the way. I have no idea how many emotions, dreams and gentle words I’ve run over in hobnailed boots because I was chasing something else on the horizon.

I told him how sorry I was but he just smiled and said it was okay, that he had enjoyed knowing me. Really, I asked him, I’m so bossy and compulsive, must have been even worse back then. He smiled, ever so gently and said, no I never thought so. Then he asked me if I remembered the walks we used to go on. Who was I back then, who was that girl and what made people fall so much in love with her?

Realizing you were wrong, that you’re as capable of cruelty is an uncomfortable realization. But it’s not unbearable. Perhaps that’s growing up. I also always imagined that growing older was like a race, where you ran to a definitive finish line and then there was no more left to run. Turns out, there’ll always be further to go on this and I don’t have to do it all running. Stopping to look around might be a good thing for me to do.

This is to slowing down. To the poetry of beautiful walks and the excruciating gentleness of people who preserved the memories I was too busy to remember. And to the richness of life, always learning, ever growing.

Reverb 10.3: Life In A Moment

Another Reverb 10 prompt that made me think and think and come up with an answer I feel is less than satisfactory. But then again, I think the purpose of this exercise is to engage in such questions and be surprised by what comes forth.

December 3 – Moment. Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year. Describe it in vivid detail (texture, smells, voices, noises, colors). (Author: Ali Edwards)

I first thought these should be the happiest moments and that gave me enough of grief (!) since there have been a wonderous number of them, especially in the second half of the year. But I realized I need to stop feeling guilty about that. Okay, so that’s the touchy-feely Chicken-Soupy bit of it out of the way.

As I started to type out this post, it also occurred to me to wonder whether happy moments are the only ones in which I feel alive. Undoubtedly the first six months of the year were shrouded largely in gloom. I felt like everything was slipping away, not just out of control but out of reach – health, family, friendship, career, creativity. Every single thing that mattered to me was vanishing into a black hole. I felt like I was being stripped away, layer by painful layer and what would be left of me in the end?

This was among the first things I talked to the boy about. He found it difficult to imagine having a crisis of identity of the sort I was describing but he was wise enough to conclude that it indicated our differences not my problems.

I don’t quite know if I felt alive in those moments. Actually it felt more like what I had thought of as my life was just flaking off, chipping off, peeling off in ugly, painful ways, the ugliest, most painful sensation being the fact that they came off so easily. I think this poem from my past captures the feeling perfectly. That time was about one person leading a crowd of others. This time, it was true of every single emotion, way of being, person and relationship. A winding down, a closing out, an approaching full stop.

And then there was life. Just as it is hard for me to understand completely what happened in my head in the first six months, it’s equally difficult to sort out what’s been happening since then.

Mornings are usually my favorite time of the day. I’ve stayed awake through nights often and the subtle start of each day is always one that lifts my spirits. It’s still an odd feeling, sometimes having to go to sleep right after that. But the glory of the moment hasn’t been lost.

Then there are specific moments when I’m swimming, a more recent occurance. I usually swim a number of laps, going one way freestyle or breast stroke. At the other side, I’m usually out of breath so I flip onto my back and float back, my legs gently pedalling and my arms loosely drifting along the sides of my body. The sky is usually a pale greyish-brown, the colour of ash as it falls off burning paper. I often see crows flying in V-formation overhead. I can’t hear the usual sounds overground, of voices, car horns and daily life. But I can hear splashing, bubbles floating by as other swimmers splash past, muffled sounds which is what water does to voices. And it feels like the water washes away the confusions and strains overlaying my thought process. Then the top of the club building comes into sight, which is when I know I’m nearing the edge of the pool and need to be careful not to bump my head. And as I touch the side and drift up to vertical place, I am ready to turn around and swim another breath-challenging lap. Or walk out of the pool into whatever waits for me next.

That’s alive indeed.

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