Tag Archives: Reflection

Trust. Friend. Forgiveness. Truth. And Some.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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 10.21: Time Travel

I like this Reverb10 prompt. It reminds me of the start of a Richard Bach book I loved as a teenager – The Bridge Across Forever – where the author writes a letter to the boy he was. This is a letter to the future but I like the idea of communicating with other-time selves.

December 21 – Future Self.

Imagine yourself five years from now. What advice would you give your current self for the year ahead? (Bonus: Write a note to yourself 10 years ago. What would you tell your younger self?)

(Author: Jenny Blake)

Me in five years

I’ll be thirty-six at that time. If the bloodlines are anything to go by, I’ll retain my tall, lean frame and my youthful looks. I will probably also be beset by a number of health problems that don’t make themselves visible but make life damned inconvenient. There’s things I might forget by then, and will need to be reminded of, when I’m thirty-six.

  • I was overlooked as a kid and a teenager. Self-esteem was squashed but I had dreams and friends. In my late twenties and even now, as I enter the thirties, I’ve hit babedom. It’s brought problems, not the least of which are jealousy, sex objectification, assumptions of being stupid and my feelings being taken for granted. I might be greying, widening and not very attractive, five years from now. This is to keep perspective.
  • I might (hopefully) be in a steady, committed relationship and have been for some time. The closeness will also mean loss of mystery, onset of some ennui and personality clashes. When I’m tearing my hair out in frustration or more realistically, in the moments when I wonder what I was thinking, I’d like to be able to remember. Falling in love is a magical experience and whatever its consequences may be, live without it is just not worth it.
  • I might be a failed writer with a folder full of unfinished documents. And I may have missed every boat possible to any kind of ‘success’ destination. I will probably rue some of the decisions I am currently making. I want to remember that I’m following a dream. It’s something that takes great courage (indeed, it took me three decades to muster it and even then I’m falling terribly short at most times). It’s something I must never stop being proud of, even if it never brings glory, fame or money.
  • I may be a regular aunty-next-door who manages the household and family. I may be Ms.Respectable who babysits, whose younger friends ask for career guidance or love life counselling. But I did drop out of college for a year. I did call my placement co-ordinator a pimp for insisting I accept the job at a place I’d been propositioned at, during the interview. I did turn my back on the campus and hold my ground till I got a remarkable job, last in the batch. I did win corporate accolades, regular and some remarkable. I did walk away from a respectable job to follow a dream. And I did manage to write an entire novel (even if it is just one Word document on a computer and no one reads it but me). I’ve lived a special life and I never want to forget that.

Me in the year ahead

Breathe. That’s the most important thing. The trick is to just keep breathing.

I may fail. I may hit a wave of success. Everyone I love may die. Everyone I care for, may turn on me. I may be the most popular person on the planet. None of these may happen. But I need to make sure I keep breathing.

Me a decade ago

My dear 21-year-old self,

I know you’re not going to be surprised to read this because you imagine stuff like this all the time. Yep, I’ve been receiving all the letters you’re been writing to me, all this time. Communications across time have considerably improved. I’m glad you got the letters down and decided to worry about postage later.

What’s life like, a decade later? Well, there’s plenty of stuff that’s been invented. If you had any money of your own I’d advise you to invest it…but never mind, you don’t have any money of your own. Strangely enough, you’re great at managing it when you have little and as you get older and more money comes your way, you’ll lose that talent. Don’t stop hoarding and don’t shut down that habit you have of putting away little notes and coins in hiding places to surprise yourself later. Yes, of course I know about all of those. I found those little money-gifts, remember?

You’ve sailed over many of the body image issues that your peers faced in adolescence. You’re going to hit a biggie, in oh, about two years from now. It’s going to take everything you’ve got, even your bloody intestines and turn them inside out. You’ll be robbed of everything that can possibly be robbed from you, including what little weight you do have.

Are you still reading? Good, you always had nerve. You don’t realise it yet but you do. That’s the one thing that won’t -cannot – be stolen from you. And many, many years later, a whole lot of ‘Why did that have to happen to me?’s later, you will be able to accept that knowledge of that fact was worth all that you paid for it.

You’ve already had your horoscope drawn by an enthusiastic relative and you’ve analysed yourself on various pop-culture fronts. Have fun with it. Belief is a powerful toy, like fire but you have a strange ability to be able to play with it. Ignore what everyone says about your love life. I won’t tell you more. Just ignore it and follow your heart. It is about your heart after all, why should you listen to anyone else? Believe what they say about your talents and abilities, though. It’s true and what’s more, believing the good things that people say about you will give you the confidence to make it all come true.

Did it all come true? Well, I’m still standing here, aren’t I? Do I sound happy or unhappy to you? 🙂 I’ll leave you with just one thought. It only gets better with time. The thirties are fabulous and I’m off to a good time! I’ll see you in another ten years!

-Much love,

Me, 31

Okay, that wasn’t short but it was fun! 🙂 It reminded me of another very old post, also full of time travel.

Reverb10.20: Things I Didn’t Get Around To Doing

I considering quitting but with this post I’ve made it to two-thirds of the way and it’d be a pity to stop now, wouldn’t it? So here goes today’s Reverb10.

December 20 – Beyond Avoidance

What should you have done this year but didn’t because you were too scared, worried, unsure, busy or otherwise deterred from doing? (Bonus: Will you do it?)

(Author: Jake Nickell)

Very quickly, off the top of my head, things I didn’t manage to do this year that I could (and possibly should) have done:

  • Followed a consistent exercise schedule
  • Learnt to dance (salsa)
  • Baked
  • Grown a herb garden (I did manage a couple of basil plants and one ajwain)
  • Gone on a trek
  • Visited Vasai and other nature-rich spots in this city
  • Moved out
  • Learnt (again) to drive
  • Painted a mural in my room or on the wall outside my window

Reverb 10.17: The Inner School Of Life

Another Reverb10 prompt that I’m not really feeling. Maybe there are just too many of them crammed into a month and too similar to each other. It’s boring to keep writing about the same thing in different words.

December 17 – Lesson Learned

What was the best thing you learned about yourself this past year? And how will you apply that lesson going forward?

(Author: Tara Weaver)

It has been a year (and more) of learning. I don’t mean that in an ‘every minute we live, we learn’ way. It’s actually like I enrolled in the School of Life, taking Remedial lessons for having missed out on all the great stuff in the past decade.

The learning comes not from experiences, but from reflecting on them. And things continue to happen at such a rapidfire rate, I’m still making sense of them. What I feel I’ve ‘learnt’ now comes from stuff that happened months, even years ago.

I’ve learnt that the person I was a decade ago was a much better one than the woman I worked so hard to turn into in these past ten years. Stronger, nicer, warmer, more alive and definitely better. I’ve learnt that that girl hasn’t vanished completely. Most of all, I’ve learnt that I can’t go back to being seventeen and neither can I realistically wipe out the 10-odd years that came after. But I’m learning that I can build a new me with the best of both people since they both were, essentially me. The joy and wonder and warmth of the teenage me with the confidence and stability and independence of the adult me. I guess all the lessons I’m learning have to do with that larger idea.

How I’m choosing to apply it is to not be apologetic or sorry about who I am. There’s stuff I do and think and feel that isn’t cool or convenient or mature or expected. It doesn’t ‘fit’ with my image. But those make me, me, much more than the approval and admiration of everyone else. I’m choosing to hold on to my phobias, my fears, my unique idiosyncrasies even if everyone else in the world thinks they belong in the last century. They’re mine to nurture or work through at will.

Reverb 10.15: Five Things To Remember From 2010

Here’s another Reverb10 list-prompt! And this time with a fantasy-time travelly theme to it!

December 15 – 5 Minutes

Imagine you will completely lose your memory of 2010 in five minutes. Set an alarm for five minutes and capture the things you most want to remember about 2010.

(Author: Patti Digh)

  1. Mr.Everyday (of course!) – Specifically, I never, ever want to forget that one magical autorickshaw ride in June. We’d been on nodding and smiling terms with each other for months, even spoken on a couple of occasions. But that 30-minute ride changed the course of both of our lives, hopefully forever. 🙂
  2. The first week of October – September ended gloomy, grouchy and with no promise of better weather (which always impacts my mood). Then October came in with writing projects. A column. A commissioned article. Another writing commission. And the book, again. Magical week.
  3. The best friend moving across the world – Goodbyes are never pleasant memories for me. But this move marks an important milestone in my 16-year friendship with Lady P. She moved to a new country and a new life, one she had been needing for a long time. We fought, we cried then we made up. And true to our history, we came back stronger than ever.
  4. First draft – If I never manage to get the novel published, if I have to go back to working with that horrible tag of ‘failed writer’ looming over me, it will not take away from the fact that I managed to plow through and toil over a complete first draft. YEAAAHHH!!!
  5. Swimming.

And….there’s the timer. That’s that. Five wonderful things about 2010.

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.

A New Life

My phone buzzed with a message. It was from a classmate who had once been a friend and then done something that made me not want to be friends with him again. He said he was sorry, asked how I was doing and said he was missing true friends. I replied,

I know the feeling. It’s early mid-life crisis. We’re all going through it after the disillusionment of the 20s, so don’t worry.

When I replied, he sounded so happy that I felt bad I hadn’t done so earlier. I sat back and thought about what I was saying.

I started the 30 diaries a few months before I actually hit the big figure. A month before my 3oth, I quit the job I’d spent ten years studying and working hard, toward. And more than a year later, I still don’t know where things are going. But I’m happy, I think.

I spent a long time wanting a lot of things, very much. But I don’t really think I regret that anymore. I’ll never trade the sense of achievement I got from the highs of my career. I wouldn’t exchange the confidence I built brick by brick. And it would be unrealistic to want to hold onto these things but not the things that made them possible.

Yesterday, in a conversation that has nothing to do with this, it suddenly struck me. I had some bad stuff happen to me and it messed up my head for sometime. But those people are not connected to me by anything but the memories. Even the scars have fallen and I don’t have to punish myself by holding on to them anymore. It wasn’t my fault they were bad people (or bad actions). And that’s all that needs to be said.

I think the 20s are a maniac’s dream. Everything is available and possible. There is a slightly unrealistic shine on everything and it takes a few knocks before you realize that shiny reality is hard and uncomfortable as well. I look at my life and then all around me. There’s divorce and heart disease and death and suicide and career failure and drug abuse and eating disorders and financial crises and abortions and deadend jobs. There are also reunions and catching up with people who were close an eon ago. There are healthy diets and cutting back and exercise regimes. There is budgeting and tax planning. A decade ago, that would have sounded like boredom/settling down/old age to me but now it sounds like a new life.

Coming back, when I read this message today, I realised something. I’d become harsh and unforgiving on the world because I couldn’t cope with the insides of me feeling broken and jagged. So I turned judgemental on myself and the world. I don’t know if it is age or healing or both but I don’t feel quite so raw anymore. And it makes me think, people make mistakes. Sometimes they get lost. It happened to me and heaven  alone knows how many bad things I set in motion for other people, as a result.

It just hit me, the profoundity of the adage, “Shit Happens”. If you’re lucky, you have a chance to regret it. I say lucky, because if you realise what a mistake you’ve made, you just might be in a position to remedy someone else’s mistake. Or not; maybe you’ll just cope better the next time. There is nothing to be done about that. Except to inhale and hope that the next breath will be better.

We chatted a bit and he said he had wanted to be a blazing success but it felt so lonely at the end. I remembered that feeling too and told him I didn’t spend enough of time on the things that I now know as important. He asked what those were and I said,

Love. Friendship. Family. Good health. A body that works without medication. Food in my stomach even before I’m hungry. The safety to walk on the roads by myself.

He smiled, saying that was like a true MBA. So I replied with another smiley and said,

That’s just one more thing on my resume now, not my identity.

🙂 And what is my identity now? Who knows? I have a new life out there to discover and shape it now.

Traveller’s Tales

A young man travels in search of adventure, in search of tales, tall if at all, to tell back home. It’s a quest for personal glory. There is also romance, the search for beautiful women, for the luxuries of life and for triumph over difficult situations.

Why do we travel?

A quest, a search for someone or something? But some of us just are running away. At the end of the travels, we find just what we were trying so hard to leave behind and we realize that we’ve been carrying it within us all along. That, indeed, we’re trying so very hard to hide from ourselves and finally, that the further we go, the nearer we come to ourselves. Because a traveler knows, no matter how light you travel, you always carry your mind with you.

In a new situation, where no one knows you, you can be whoever you want. Anonymity is the opportunity to create a new identity. And then comes along someone who knows you. Some titbit of news and the opening notes of a familiar song. With it, a growing feeling of panic and relief rolled into one.

Panic as the fear of being pulled back into whatever the old identity most threatened. Relief at finding out that, uncomfortable as it was, being you is the only home there is.

~O~O~O~O~O~

Epilogue: I read this at the Caferati Open Mic event at Prithvi today. Some pieces are better read than read out aloud and I realized mine probably fall in the former.

Those of you who have been following my blog-adventures will probably see in a minute that this piece was less to do with any tangible travel and more about my own personal journey from anonymity to…identity, perhaps?

For the record, two people showed some appreciation – a good friend and a stranger who kept looking at me before I read and then asked me out to coffee after I had finished. No further comment.

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