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 10.19: This Heals Me

A Reverb10 that I like. Maybe I’ll do this once in every couple of days, considering they’re all so close to each other. Then each post in that day gets easier to do.

December 19 – Healing.

What healed you this year? Was it sudden, or a drip-by-drip evolution? How would you like to be healed in 2011?

(Author: Leonie Allan)

Exactly two things healed me this year – love and friendship. I’m sorry that’s so cliched but it is true. The boy brought in new ideas, a new way of being and new ways of relating. He also brought in support, warmth and a feeling of being cherished. It’s what I was desperately missing in the first half of the year.

The other half of it came from conversations with friends. Frantic long-distance phone calls to P, random-but-insightful emails to NTGND, 3a.m. chats with Samir, coffee-and-hugs talks with Sumanth and wine-soaked conversations with E Vestigio. I do get by with a little help from my friends. That never changes.

Drip-by-drip? It was a word-by-word, hug-for-healing-hug process. And why would I want that to change? It’s the most healing therapy in the world!

Reverb 10.18: A New Dream

Short and possibly repetitive, it looks like the rest of Reverb10 is going to be. After all, I guess how many introspective questions can there be for an aspiring writer?

December 18 – Try.

What do you want to try next year? Is there something you wanted to try in 2010? What happened when you did / didn’t go for it?

(Author: Kaileen Elise)

I’ve wanted to live in my own place for years now. I first tried it five years back, a little after I had finished my education and started working. My office was clean across town, took about 90 minutes to commute to and another 90 back home at the end of the day. Most of my colleagues were from out of town and rented flats close to office. I figured out an arrangement with a colleague who I got along with. We even went looking for places together and found a few we liked. And then I broke the news to my family. It was a mess.

In sum, it didn’t work out and resulted in my spending more and more time in commuting and m office hours getting extended too which meant I had practically no time or energy left to do anything else. I didn’t really spend much time in the house either and I hated feeling like a prisoner trapped between four walls, only exchanging one controlled environment for another at the start and then the end of each day.

Five years later, things have changed in more ways than one. The financial implications of moving out are scary. On the other hand, it looks a lot more possible now than it ever was. I’ve crossed the magical 30 mark and hopefully laid to rest notions of my whole life being within the largely male-dominated control of other people.

I am a neat person though I don’t know how tidy I’ll be able to keep my own house. I’m generally well-organized, reasonably independent but I don’t know how self-sufficient I’ll be in reality. I’d love to find out. Maybe next year will be it.

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 10.16: Getting By With A Little Help From Friends

An easy Reverb10 prompt and a predictable one but it’s the season to be jolly after all. :-)

December 16 – Friendship

How has a friend changed you or your perspective on the world this year? Was this change gradual, or a sudden burst?

(Author: Martha Mihalick)

Of course I’m going to have to say at first that I can’t name everyone in my (lucky me!) mani-populated life. I’m going to focus specifically on people who changed my life tangibly in 2010 (as opposed to the gradual-but-significant changes others like my parents and best friend have been making over the years).

In the order in which they’ve begun making their impactful and earth-shaking presence felt in my life, my top 3 influencers of 2010:

  1. Adi – My book is a better one to write and to read, for having felt the Adi touch. Adi opened me up to new books and new ways of seeing stories. Also, new ways of thinking, of feeling and of being with people and myself. Truly 2010 and my life have been a better place for having had Adi for a friend.
  2. The boy – He contradicts me for the heck of it, he teases me to frustration. He challenges my insofar secure notions of men and relationships. He questions my beliefs on religion, politics and the world. He pushes me outside my comfort zone. He’s not always comfortable to be around. But yes, he makes me a better person.
  3. E Vestigio – is not the galpal who’ll cluck in sympathy and say ‘Jerk’ when I whine about someone. She isn’t nice to me when I’m grumpy. She forces me to sit up and take a good, hard look at myself and my own excuses. She’d be the one that’ll say, “Okay, enough with the drama. Lie still and I’m going to yank your foot out of that sprain. It’ll hurt like hell and you’ll see stars in daylight. And then you’ll feel better. And I always do. She’s the bitter-tasting but very much needed pill of reality. Heh, but you know what? The bitterness is that of old wine. It gives me a high and so does she. :-)

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 10.14: Freedom Appreciation

Very quickly, the next Reverb10 prompt:

December 14 – Appreciate

What’s the one thing you have come to appreciate most in the past year? How do you express gratitude for it?

(Author: Victoria Klein)

Freedom! Freedom from schedules, from having to be nice to people I think are lower on the evolution scale than amoeba only because it’s ‘professional’, freedom from having to answer to the very constrained, tight-fitting notion of what a good Tamilian girl should be like. This has been a year of breaking ground and breaking barriers. It’s been a year of upheavals and fights and anger and tears. But it has been a year of breaking free.

I appreciate it by enjoying every guilt-free, let-it-hit-me minute of it. From reading to singing to cooking to eating what I like, when I like to dressing as madly as I care to going out with whoever I want to, it’s a heady ride. The way to appreciate wings is by flying. The only way to pay for a good moment is to enjoy it. And I’m jolly well doing it all!

Reverb 10.13: ListMaker

A dozen Reverb10 prompts later, I decide to go with brevity. Freedom but in short. So my posts are going to (try to) be quick bites and not twenty-course meals with seconds. Here goes the first.

December 13 – Action

When it comes to aspirations, it’s not about ideas. It’s about making ideas happen. What’s your next step?

(Author: Scott Belsky)

I’m full of ideas. I’m IdeaSmith, after all (duh..). Actions? No, I’m not too bad in that areas either (sure, hate me, I’m wonderful!). It’s the sustaining them that I find difficult (okay, are you happy now?).

Lists have been my personal penicillin, wheel-style revelation. They help me keep my harum-scarum self organized. They remind of things that tend to slip out. And they’re like the lovely security deposit of ideas I have when I’m running dry. So the answer is, when I have an idea, I usually make a list (haven’t you noticed even this exercise is in a list?). I break the idea into broad zones/aspects, I detail tasks, I note down people to be connected with and what I need from them. List-making is usually an exhaustive exercise but it has the wonderful gift of making everything and anything seem manageable.

Oh, I forgot to add – crossing off things on the list is an integral part of enjoyment of the list. And that’s done and as short as I can get on the first try!

Reverb 10.12: One With All

A health-related Reverb10 prompt. I guess it has its place. I’m doing this on the run before I rush out to meet a friend on this uncharacteristically cold December evening in Mumbai.

December 12 – Body Integration

This year, when did you feel the most integrated with your body? Did you have a moment where there wasn’t mind and body, but simply a cohesive YOU, alive and present?

(Author: Patrick Reynolds)

A few weeks ago, the boyfriend decided to pick on his fitness regime again. After a round of the local gymnasiums, he signed up for a membership at one of them and has been regularly working out, working day or not. I can’t understand that. Few things feel as boring to me as repeating the same action over and over again, whether it is running in place or moving an arm up and down or doing crunches. And yet, he seems to really enjoy it.

I realized then that a fitness regime has to be personalized, not just according to the bodily needs but also the person’s requirements. Gymming is not for me. But a lot of other things are.

A lot of my contemporaries find yoga really boring. I’ve been exposed to yoga when I was a child and I can see how that would be an unimpressive experience for most people. But I started a tri-weekly yoga routine five years ago and I revelled in the experience. Not only did I love how I felt later, I really enjoyed every minute that I was actually doing the asanas too. That’s what a good exercise routine should feel like.

I was aided by the fact that I have a very good yoga instructor. She doesn’t just demonstrate and teach the asanas, she also explains the spiritual associations and the relationships of the body’s movement and state to the emotional well-being. For example, when I started the class, I was plagued with chronic lower back pain and stiffness. She explained that a lot of my stress was going straight to my back and what’s more, I had literally made myself more rigid to deal with the situation I was in. I pondered that and I realised that I really had accumulated ego, envy and pride as if they were necessary tools to compete in the corporate world. Through the asanas, she showed me how to release them and let them go.

“Attitude is the most important thing in yoga, not the physical asana itself.”

was her adage and it really worked. I also learnt to empty my head of the various conflicting thoughts that clamoured for attention and focus my mind. It brought me peace, resolution, clarity and confidence.  A few years later, she was describing my body type as extremely flexible which made me :-).

The yoga sessions have stopped in the past few months as my schedule doesn’t match my instructor’s. But on her advice, I took to another exercise that I’ve enjoyed almost as much and for even longer – swimming. I swim 2-3 times a week. Working for myself means I have the liberty of a 5p.m. swim in a virtually unoccupied pool.

I try and do 20 laps crosswise. I usually start with a freestyle with my face in the water, which means I reach the other side out of breath. Then, instead of stopping, I flip onto my back and float back to the other side. The 90-odd seconds that this takes is a time when I feel like my ego, my worries, my ambitions, my pride…everything that creates barriers, problems and structures for me, is easing away. All there is the core, the very essence of me, that can’t be bounded or contained any more than a beam of light can.

That’s integration with myself, my universe and my body.

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)!

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