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30 and Learning…

The journey continues

Change

4530f1d6-d5ca-4e8d-831a-83a18353dbefChange is coming…

I’m not scared of change, not anymore. I have seen more changes in the last few years than the rest of my life put together. There was a time when I was resistant to change. But it was mostly out of fear – fear of the unknown. I was comfortable with the way things were and trying to imagine life any other way was exhausting. Things can go so many different ways. There’s no way to tell which one of the many possible paths life would take, and not knowing that is what invokes fear. We all get used to living life a certain way, and the smallest change to status quo seems like a threat to our very existence. But over time I’ve learned to accept change as something good. 

Sometimes it’s good to be pushed out of our comfort zone; complacence never did anyone any good. Sometimes the change itself is good, other times it shows us what would be good. Sometimes we want things to change and when they actually do we realize that we had before was all we ever needed. Sometimes change leads us to things we never thought we’d want but then we end up loving them. Regardless of what’s on the other side, a change always serves us well.

I used to think I’d never want to move back to India. But here I am, loving it, rejecting any opportunity to leave again. I used to think I want I a fancy job, a fancy house, a fancy car… now I don’t care for those things. I’ve been there, I’ve done that, and now I know that things don’t make the soul happy, people do. I’m wiser for all the changes I’ve gone through in the recent years and I know myself better. I know what my core values are and I know what are some of the things I absolutely can’t do without. It wasn’t easy to develop this attitude towards change but if we can simply learn to trust the process, accept that what’s waiting on the other side of the change is a good thing, it no longer seems scary.

So once again, the season of change has begun. I was standing at the cusp only recently where I had to make a choice. And no matter which option I chose, change was imminent; status quo wasn’t one of the options. Hence I chose, not with my head, but with my heart. It was scary but exciting at the same time, and I was looking forward to my new life post this change. Then things changed again. The new life that I was supposed to begin relatively soon got pushed out indefinitely. Then something changed yet again and, once more, the universe is presenting me with options.

As I have mentioned in my last several posts, I recently found love and lost it forever. The very fact that I’ve been able to write about it shows that I’m doing ok. It’s been over a month and I’ve developed an acceptance for the reality, as harsh as it may be. I understand that life must go on, and as much as I miss this person I simply cannot bring him back. No one can take his place but it does not have to mean that no one else can share my life. I won’t go into details but someone hinted to me that he’s been looking for a ring, for me. All I’ll say is that I haven’t even met this person.

I was talking to a friend yesterday who asked me what I thought is the “right amount of time” to date before deciding to marry someone. I told her that I’m the kind of person who believes in love at first sight. Sometimes you just know. People make so many rules about love! Checklist of desired qualities, list of dealbreakers, right number of dates, appropriate length of time to date, to live together… as if there was a formula for love! I simply follow my instinct. So when I finally meet this person in a couple of weeks, I will let my instinct make the call.

Change is coming… I just don’t know what it’ll be. Only time will tell!

Blank Space

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.come

No, it has nothing to do with Taylor Swift…

Some days I wake up feeling like I have been buried under a massive rock that I can’t seem to move. Even before any thoughts can start flowing through the mind, even before I am fully awake, just as I am opening my eyes for the first time in the morning, I get hit by an enormous wave of sadness that washes over me, drenches me to the bone. I don’t even get the chance to understand what made me sad and there I am, struggling to get out bed, feeling like I’m carrying the weight of the whole world upon my shoulders.

There are two kinds of sadness. There’s one that we impose upon ourselves. We miss something or someone and we keep thinking about them and everything we miss about them. We are actively engaged in the process of reminding ourselves of our loss. Or we want something badly, or we think we don’t have something that someone else has and we keep indulging in deliberate self pity over what we don’t have. That’s the kind of sadness that’s easily managed. We simply need to keep ourselves busy and involved in healthy activities. We need to shift the focus from what we don’t have to what we do and be thankful for it. And slowly but surely, all the sad thoughts are replaced with happy ones.

The other kind of sadness is more pernicious. It stays in the background, rearing its head only once in a while, but it never truly goes away. It keeps gnawing at you on the inside and you never truly know the reason for it. That’s the kind of sadness that I’m feeling right now. I’ve battled with depression before so I know how to nip it in the bud. I drag myself out of bed, no matter how burdened I feel; I spend time with the puppy; I eat healthy; I do all my chores; I go to work, stay busy… in fact, I’ve been welcoming extra work so I can stay busy for longer. I am doing everything right to stay happy and healthy. I also avoid doing anything that would bring on the first kind of sadness. And I must add here that despite the sadness I feel, I’m not sad. There is a certain emptiness, a void that just stays. I doubt this void will ever fill – it will perhaps become part of my existence. 

There are things I want to share, but only with one person. That person is in heaven now, with everything that he could ever want right there. There is no room for me in that perfect paradise. So since he’s not here, I share everything with this empty space. New people will come in my life. Some will stay, others will go, but this space will never get filled. It’s a sad but beautiful thought, and no matter how weak I wake up, this thought gives me the strength to power through the day. And then the next day, I wake up happy because everything I want is right here in my heart, including this blank space.

Choices

 

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Destiny or free will?

I daresay that’s a question as old as humanity itself. Since man developed the cognitive prowess to think and reason, people have wondered why things happen to us the way they do. Is it all preplanned or do we shape our own lives? Some people believe in absolute destiny – that our lives follow a fixed blueprint that was created by some higher power long before we were born. Others, mostly those who do not believe in the existence of such higher power, believe that we create our own destiny by the choices we make.

I’ve never had a firm opinion on the matter, instead still searching for an answer. One thing that I do firmly believe in is that there are no absolutes in life. So I guess I neither believe in absolute destiny nor in absolute free will. I came across a piece recently that seemed to resonate with this idea (wish I had the link to share). What the author said was that there is a plan for all of us but it is up to us to make the choices that will allow us to follow that plan.

To look at it in another way, my life is supposed to be a certain way and yet I can alter its course by making choices that deviate from that course. Since I talked about my nameless relationship recently, I’ll use that as an example. At every step, I had the choice to either continue or run away. My heart said continue and my head said run away. There are very few times when my heart and head are in conflict but I’m a person wholly led by my heart. So I continued, and I am so happy I did, regardless of the pain I feel right now. Because knowing this love was my destiny, it just feels right. I wouldn’t have it any other way and I’d do it all over again if I had to.

That’s the other thing with choices and destiny – if it doesn’t feel right, it isn’t. And that is why I feel that it’s important to think with the heart and not head. Now obviously I don’t mean the literal heart, but what I mean is the instinct, the gut, the intuition… Whatever you want to call it, but there’s always a voice inside that lets us know when we make a wrong choice. So maybe that’s our cue – if that voice inside is not in agreement, maybe we have chosen an option that doesn’t align with our destiny.

But what if someone keeps making the wrong choices all throughout? What if someone completely silences the voice inside? Honestly, I think that happens all the time. The world we live in forces us to be logical, practical, rational – all that manmade cerebral fluff – and ideas like this are considered absurd, even loony! Yet we hear stories all the time about people on their deathbeds, breathing their last, reflecting upon the life they lived and regretting the choices they made, regretting not following their hearts. When in doubt, I wonder that if I died today, would I be happy with the life I lived or would I have regrets? As long as the answer is the former I know I am following my destined path.

And finally, someone might say that what if there are no choices. But I doubt that’s ever the case. We always have choices and whether knowing or unknowingly, we are picking an option each minute. When I had to leave the US, I thought I had no choice, I was forced to leave what had become my home and move back to India. But I had the choice – to marry someone and stay. I wouldn’t have been the first one to do that. Logical people do it all the time. But I’m not logical. My heart wouldn’t even consider that as an option. So I chose to leave instead. Leaving Izzie and Milo behind was not an option my heart would ever acknowledge either. And I am so thankful that my inner voice is so loud and clear because if I made either of those choices, I would’ve regretted them immensely. So if I die today, I would die happy, knowing that I chose love each step of the way.

Maybe that is how souls get liberated from the cycle of rebirth. Maybe people who die with regrets have to come back. I don’t know, I have no opinion on that subject either and I’m open to be convinced either way. But that’s for another time; let’s not get too hyperbolic now!

P

Relationships

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Relationships are funny business really…

Some relationships have significant labels and yet they mean nothing, and some have no name but they mean everything. I was in a no-name relationship recently, and it is the most beautiful thing I’ve experienced in a long time. We did not have time on our side or we might have given it a name. I might have told friends about it, I might have introduced him to my family – yes, it had the potential. But all of this is pointless because he is no longer in this world. I’ll never see him again, or feel his presence. I’ll never hear his voice or share a comfortable silence with him. He is gone, and yet he is always here.

One might imagine me being sad as I write this but I’m not. I’m actually at peace. I know he loved me, just as much if not more. And he still loves me wherever in this universe he is. I didn’t know that the last time I spoke to him would end up being our very last conversation or I would’ve told him how much I love him but I’m sure he knows that too. I suppose you can say that life was slightly unfair to us, but when has life been fair to anyone! I am simply thankful for what we had. And just because he’s gone doesn’t mean this relationship without a name is over for me. I never told anyone I was in a relationship before but now if someone asks, I simply say that I’m in a long distance relationship. I suppose I’m just trying to preserve his memory for as long as I can. The distance between us is something that no trains, planes or automobiles can cover but how does it matter? Distance is distance – I love him and he’s not here. No one needs to know that he’s gone forever. Sure, in time I’ll move on, find someone else to love but that wouldn’t change the fact that I loved him once upon a time, and if not for this distance, would’ve continued to love him for the rest of my life.

So that was the story of my relationship without a name. We never gave it a label and yet we loved as truly as two people possibly can.

Picture credit: Dearly departed

 

Realization

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This post has been in the making for a really long time now, since my grandmother’s death to be precise…

I started writing a post as I boarded the flight to head back home for her funeral. But that was lost. And ever since then I’ve been writing this in my head, and it has been evolving constantly. It’s as if my whole perception of this experience called life has changed ever since I bid her farewell. Everything I have been feeling since then somehow links back to the moment I saw her for the very last time, in the crematorium, her body being engulfed by flames that rapidly consumed every last fiber of an entire generation.

My grandma was the last surviving grandparent on both sides of my family. My mom’s parents passed away a long time ago. My dad’s dad, whom I was very close to, passed away over a decade ago. So for last several years, my grandma was the last standing pillar steadfastly supporting the weight of a generation, the “elders” as I call them. With her, that generation is gone. And as I sat in the hearse next to my dad and his brother, staring down at the body that was once my grandma, I realized that now my dad and uncle have become that generation, they are the elders. Consequently, I have become their former generation, the adult; I am no longer the kid in the family.

I was also the only grandchild present at my grandma’s funeral. My sister, and my uncle’s daughters, are all in the US. It was neither practical nor possible for them to travel all the way on such short notice. Before I delve deeper into my own thoughts and sentiments, I must make note of couple of things. Firstly, India is a predominantly patriarchal society so all rituals involve sons and grandsons. My family, however, going all the way back to my grandfather, never conformed to such traditions. Secondly, sons and grandsons set the funeral pyre alight as a symbolic adieu to the departed into the afterlife. In modern times cremation units have taken the place of a tradition pyre. Going back to my grandmom’s funeral, I did everything that a grandson would have. As I stood next to my dad and uncle, with tears in our eyes, hands gently resting on the handles of the gurney, gathering the strength to roll it into the cremation unit, I was overcome by the idea that I am more than an adult – I am the only adult who is around! In that moment I was more thankful than ever for the journey I’ve had over the last couple of years that led me back to India, and to that exact place and time where I could stand shoulder to shoulder with my dad and uncle, sharing this responsibility. There was another responsibility that dawned on me that day. Being the only grandchild there, assuming the role of a grandson, all of that also made me feel responsible for the future of my family’s name. There is a certain sense of narsissism associated with starting a family. I’ve always known that but it was never more evident than on that day when I felt the weight of this responsibility upon my shoulders – the responsibility to carry forth the legacy of my family’s name. Of course I have a sister and two cousins, but they are away. Their children will also be away. I am here, and I must keep this name going.

I was overwhelmed with all kinds of emotions over the next few days. As I spent many a evening with my parents and aunt and uncle, sticking together as a family, I started feeling a certain sense of sadness for them. They are now what my grandparents were. And yet, all they had was me. They were happy to have me around, they constantly kept saying it. But shouldn’t they have the joy of having a grandchild or two running around too? A generation had passed but where was the new one? I felt selfish, and yet helpless. I wished I had someone I could marry and have kids with. And the emptiness of my own life made me sadder still.

I was back in Goa after a week and change, and the sadness lingered. Then something strange happened. Someone I had known for only a little while asked me if I would marry him. I felt like jumping and saying yes! I didn’t. My fears were still bigger than my sadness, and this couldn’t have been love or my fears wouldn’t even exist in the first place. But the entire experience has left me thinking about what I want from life. Suddenly I want to get married, I want to have a family. Not for myself but for my parents. I want to make them happy. I want someone to take my family name. I am not ready to be a wife or a parent, but I’m ready to be an adult. It doesn’t even make sense, but that’s more or less my state of mind – it doesn’t make sense!

P

 

Love Will Find A Way

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Some days I want to be in love, other days I wonder if I’ll ever be ready for it again…

I’ve been having a lot of conversations about relationships lately. I think it’s because one of my friends is getting married and he keeps trying to convince me that I should start dating seriously too! But it’s been a while since I was in a serious relationship and honestly, I’m not sure if I miss it… or perhaps I don’t allow myself to miss it.

I’ve been in love several times before – with places and with people – and never has it worked out. I’m certainly not the first or the only person in this world who has gone through this pain but I’m one of those people who go on to build every barrier to never have to go through it again. While I can love easily, I’m not so sure if I’ll let myself fall in love just as easily.

I see the two things as being vastly different. The way I see love is that it is unconditional. I can love from a distance and remain detached. But being in love craves togetherness. Being in love comes with hopes and dreams that are founded on the notion of staying together. There is no detachment there. It can evolve into love but to get there requires time; and again, time spent together. I don’t know if I can want someone or something that way again.

I was in love with Buffalo. Leaving Buffalo has been one of the hardest things I’ve had to do. It tore me down, perhaps even killed a small part of me. I had built a beautiful life there that I thought would last forever. It didn’t but I’ll always love Buffalo because I got enough time there. Now I’m beginning to feel familiar emotions about Goa but I just can’t let myself fall in love. Because tomorrow if I have to leave, I don’t think I’d be able to cope with the disappointment. I’ll obviously live but I can’t imagine how long the road to recovery would be.

It is both the beauty and disenchantment of life that we move on. No matter how great the love may be, the resilience of human spirit is much greater. Loss of love cannot actually kill, the spirit endures and survives.

And yet, I refuse to fall in love, with another place… and with another human being. I have become a commitment phobe in a lot of ways. But it isn’t the commitment I fear, it is the possibility that it will not work out. Commitment, in fact, is my strength. I’m the artist-type, a romantic. When I fall, I fall hard. I give it my all. But even my all has never been enough. One might say that it’s because the other person didn’t give it his all. Possible. But what’s the guarantee that the next person I give my all to wouldn’t hold back on me like the others? That he will be just as much in love with me as I with him?

I’m not a pessimist. I like to believe that there’s love out there for me. But I’m trying to strike a delicate balance between realism and idealism. I’m not going to fall in love again until love twists my arm and forces me to. If there is indeed love out there for me, let it come and find me. Let it prove to me that it will last, that it will not leave me wounded this time. I’m going to let someone fall in love with me first before I allow myself to fall in love. I believe in destiny, so if being in love is my destiny then this isn’t a huge ask. Destiny has imposed several things on me, still does, let it impose love on me too!

P

 

 

About Last Night

So I have been challenged to write this post. Don’t see the challenge in it but here it goes…

I was hanging out with friends yesterday when we started talking about my blog. One of my friends, who actually has no recollection of it now, said, “Why aren’t we featured on your blog?! I challenge you to write about us and this evening!”. Lol.

I don’t think I need to get into the details of the evening, suffice to say that I had a great time. There were old friends and new friends. Actually, even the “old” friends are fairly new, just older in comparison to the new ones. And that makes me realize just how fortunate I am to keep finding people I can just be myself with.

I met my “old” new friends only a few months ago. But in these few months we’ve gone from being friends to best friends to brothers (yes, I’m a brother too). I don’t know how it happened so quickly but at no point did it feel unnatural. In fact, I feel like these friendships that I have found recently are the kind that stays with you for a lifetime. We are not going to be in Goa forever, but no matter where we go, we’ll always love each other.

I think the reason we got so close so quickly is that we are all romantics, idealists, some more than others, but it’s what holds us together. We all keep our guards up, again, each to a different extent. But we also let ourselves be vulnerable, intentionally or unintentionally, because we see the good in the world. And regardless of what we may say, we do wear our hearts on our sleeves; we’re transparent. We all have our share of hurt and insecurities that we carry but we don’t try to hide them. Maybe one of us made an attempt but he didn’t quite succeed – he’s not made that way! Really, we’re just open books, anyone can read us if they take the time to.

So when we had the chance to make new friends, we reached out with nothing but honesty. And we found honesty in return. It’s not easy making new friends as adults. Children are innocent, they don’t wear masks. So they make friends easily, and they take friendships seriously. That’s why the friends that we make during our childhood years are some of the closest friends we’ll ever have. The world of grown ups isn’t that simple. People pretend all the time. They hide behind masks and facades, they have hidden agendas and ulterior motives. It almost seems like a small miracle to me each time I meet someone who is not pretending to be someone they’re not or not trying to take advantage of someone.

Last night was a happy reinforcement that there’s enough good people in the world, and I am truly lucky that so many of them are part of my life!

Cheers to friendships – old and new 🙂

P

 

Expectations

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You try to guard yourself from all the hurt, and yet it manages to find you…

I’ve been hurting, but I’m not quite sure why. I feel like I have lost something but I can’t put my finger on anything particular. I’ve thought a lot and I think I may finally have an answer.

Yesterday I found out that someone lied to me, and it made me sad. I don’t really know this someone that well, nor do they hold a significant place in my life. Only we can give people the power to hurt us – I believe that. When we love someone, or care about someone, we automatically give them this power. But this person means nothing to me, or I to them. I did not give this person the power to hurt me. It’s the knowledge that I was lied to that seems to have hit a sensitive nerve within me.

The way I see it, we only lie in two situations. We either love someone and want to protect them from the truth. Or because the lie is simply convenient for us. I suppose there could be people who are habitual liars and lie for the thrill of it. But for most ordinary people, the first two conditions hold. This someone lied to me because it was convenient.

The thing, though, is that when you lie simply because it’s better for you to withhold truth you are insulting the person who’s being lied to, especially when the truth affects them directly; when knowing the truth would have changed any or all of the decisions they made. The insult may not be intentional but that doesn’t disqualify it. And I think that is what’s hurting me. I feel insulted. My pride is what I lost, even if momentarily. As much as I can help it, I don’t lie. If at all I do, it is to protect someone I love. I’d never lie to someone for the sheer convenience of it. So when I get lied to, it seems unfair. But the world is unfair, I daresay.

I’ve become indifferent to a lot of things over the years. I have come to expect nothing from people around me. I don’t judge, I give everyone the benefit of the doubt. I have become as understanding and forgiving as reason would allow. But dishonesty has no justification when the underlying intention is to fool or beguile someone. Honesty, then, is the one thing I still expect from people. And what really hurts is the thought that should I give up that too if I want to go through life unscathed? There’s hurt either way. So I’ll hold on to the honesty, and accept the hurt that comes from others’ dishonesty. At least that way I’ll know who deserves a place in my life.

Photo taken by my dear friend, Madhu!

 

The Weight of a What-if

Sunny’s death is something I couldn’t have averted but I could have loved him better…

Everyone who sees my grief tells me the same thing – that I did the best I could, that I did way more than what anyone else would have done for him. But I am not anyone else, I am me, and I know I didn’t give him my best. Love hurts, yes. But what hurts more is the knowledge that I could have loved more, and I didn’t. Caring hurts. But to know that I could have cared better, that I wanted to care better, is something I am unable to cope with.

I am an empath; I am capable of loving and caring a lot more than most people do, and I do it without any expectations. That is the detachment I wrote about few days ago. I didn’t expect Sunny to live just because he was with me. He had to go if his time came. I accept that. I didn’t expect him to stay with me had he recovered. I would have happily rehabilitated him. My love wasn’t based on these conditions. My love is unconditional and boundless but in Sunny’s case, my love reached a limit, at least that is how I see it, although it’s not true.

I keep thinking what if I had stayed with him. The vet said that he died of pain. He was too small for any medical intervention. I couldn’t have taken away his pain. But I could have been there and comforted him through the pain. Maybe he felt lonely and scared, I could have made him feel loved and safe. I cannot stop apologizing to his dead body but I will never get the forgiveness that I am seeking. The weight of this what-if, and a forgiveness that I’ll never find, how to move on from that?

I wish he’d come back to life, just for a moment, and tell me that he forgives me. I wish someone could give me this forgiveness! We are humans, we are bound to make mistakes. Mistakes don’t define our character, it’s how we deal with them. But how can I deal with this mistake? How can I do right by him? He is gone. I can only learn- there is a lesson to be learned from every mistake we make. Sunny has re-taught me the meaning of responsibility and life. Life is fragile and our days are numbered. We don’t know if there will be a tomorrow. So we must make the most of today, give it our very best so that in case tomorrow doesn’t come we may lie in peace knowing that we didn’t leave any unfinished business for tomorrow. And love like there is no tomorrow. Because sometimes it’s too late to tell someone that you love them and living with regrets is the worst kind of pain. There is no comfort, only penance.

I am going through that pain right now. And I must go through it alone, like Sunny did. Maybe that is my penance.

Sunny, wherever you are, know that I loved you and I didn’t mean to leave you alone. I hope you will forgive me

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