This September, I am trying on my new authenticity shoes. The ‘look them in the eye and be honest’ shoes. It has made me realize that so many people (including me) are afraid to have a real conversation about stuff that hurts. Maybe these are the kind of relationships I have surrounded myself with because it keeps me from having to face too much hurt as well. I remember acutely the time when I was telling my flatmate about being racially verbally assaulted on a London tube and no comfort came from her. Nothing that acknowledged the gravity of the injustice I was feeling. I also deeply regret the time my parents told me about their racial discrimination experiences and I could not come up with words of comfort and acknowledgement, so lost was I in my own anger and hurt for them. It’s hard to face the people you love when they are hurting.

This September, I told an old ex-friend exactly how I felt about her actions and why I wasn’t her friend anymore. I had given her 2 years to explain herself and she never did, so I finally broke it off. She couldn’t face me. I didn’t have much too lose because we weren’t really friends anymore anyway. On the other hand, I shied away from telling another nest friend the excruciating detail of how I had spent the afternoon writhing in pain, hopelessness, and frustration. How I wished I could have a more normal and active social life. How I hated being disconnected from my Geneva life and how much it meant that she was coming to visit me. How her visit was what I had been holding on to to get through this very strange weekend of deep deep loneliness. Why it felt so wrong to be cut out of our plans together because of my disability. What it feels like to live a muted life, made dull by a lack of variety of the experiences I reveled in before, but sharpened by pain.

This September, I had a very close friend visit my home for the first time in the U.S. It was the best day ever. It was like my heart was full and bursting and overflowing all at once. I showed her my hood, had salad for lunch, went to town on my route, went to a museum, walked around a park, came back to eat my home-cooked dinner; then we sat down to watch a Bollywood rom-com. It was perfect. I would have liked to do more and maybe we came back home too soon but aside from the pain, it was perfect.

This September, I literally positive thinked my way out of the strangest pit of loneliness. This one took my back to London, to the rainy nights and cold winds, to the feeling of having no one and that nothing could make me happy. It was like I forgot what it was like to feel connection. And what did it take? Well the desperation to pull myself out of the pit because it would be too long to wait for HD to come back from the work trip, and some passages on feeling powerless and powerful from Amy Cuddy’s book Presence. She writes how a setback in one area of life can make us lose our identity and thus make us feel powerless in other areas of life. I didn’t really get to the solutions part of her book (if there is one) but the passage was enough to make me realize what was messing me up and how it was affecting other areas of my life. It was enough for me to stop seeing myself as ‘powerless’ but just ‘normal’ in that situation. My chances are the same as anyone’s really.

This September, I finally made it to the Renwick and a saw a bit of the Wonder exhibit.



Some things I like

I collect many things. Like ideas, articles, pictures on Pinterest. I am not necessarily v attached to them but I thought it would be nice to have some sort of collection of ideas that moved me over the years. I suspect the kind of stuff I like is repetitive but it kind of feels like a wondrous discovery to me every time.

This is a link to an interview by Susan Cain. The takeaway: A good life is about finding your kindred spirit/s. How to find them? Think about you like to do and what you like to talk about and in what setting and environment. I  like to meet people one on one or in v small groups. I like to talk about human nature, ideas about improving efficiency, literature, movies and TV.

On birthdays and such

People in their 30s say that they feel the same as they did when they were 27-28. I have also heard people say that they feel younger in their head than their actual age. Before my 30th birthday (and admittedly still), I read those annoying procrastination articles titled along the lines of ’30 things to know before you’re 30’. Through this process, I have actually come across some good lists that I will share with you here.

As for me, I feel like I have crossed a river and there’s no going back. A door has very firmly closed. I do not feel 27-28, I feel like I’m just a very confused ‘old’. If I were 27 I would feel like I have all the time in the world. Those end-20s felt like a great desperate race, one that I knew I had sort of lost. I was nowhere near where I wanted to be professionally, financially or hell physically. Now that I look back I feel like the months surrounding my birthday felt like I had been thrown across a wide canyon. I am on the other side but I lost many things along the way. I think I have landed though. The changes and opportunities are coming fast and thick and really that’s what I wanted. So I didn’t make it there before 30, I hope it doesn’t hurt me later on.

Here are the best three articles I read. The last 2 are not necessarily the quickest read and actually have more depth to them.

10 Life Lessons to Excel in Your 30s

10 Life Lessons I Learned from Surviving My 20s

True Grit

It seems like the worst happened and then I realized that of course that’s not true. There is plenty, plenty left to lose… but in terms of material possessions I can say that we lost our most prized possessions – our laptops, and in terms of sheer administrative nightmares – we lost our ID documents, AND in terms of sheer discomfort – I lost my glasses. Stolen to be exact and may the thief suffer. Suffer more than me anyway, as I move about in pain trying to get on with my life.

This isn’t a post about ruminating on what’s lost though, it’s about how we get over losing and how funny humans are that they have the power to go on. It’s about strength in physical pain and it’s about emotional strength too. I cannot say that it’s all me and that I do it alone but I am grateful for all things, circumstances and people that enable to get on. As I struggled to get on with daily life with the limited mobility, I realized that this is my challenge, my marathon. I am not one who can hike for months or climb a mountain; my body will not take that right now, those are not my achievements. My achievements are getting the daily chores done everyday and being optimistic nonetheless.

A book that helped me not only pass the time but also give me purpose and courage is Wild by Cheryl Strayed. I started reading it just in time when this disaster happened and I had nothing else to distract me. I have to say that reading about her physical endurance helped me bear my load too. I too felt strong vicariously going about my challenges, even if they were more of the getting out of bed kind rather than hiking the Pacific Crest Trail kind.

The second thing I learned from it is that we humans are funny in how we can be broken emotionally and how we can let that get in the way of everything else in our lives. Like a virus on a computer we can mess up all our programs without showing any outward signs of damage. It reminds me to be a bit kinder and a bit more understanding towards others. I don’t know if we heal from the death of loved ones but I sure know it’s not enough to just attend a funeral and pay your respects. How do you go on providing and asking for support time after time, year after year?

I remembered that saying about how the worst times in your life show you who your real friends are. I suppose that’s sort of true but as always I will see many sides in to this issue. Mainly, I believe that some people are just better at certain things than others. If you need the kind of help where you just need another pair or hands because you cannot move, only certain kinds of people will provide that. The kind of friend I do find most frustrating is the fair weather friend. They are still friends though, I mean you do need the kind of friends who will always come to your birthday party, or house party, or fondue party. You may well end up forging a bond with them over brunches and shopping and you may fool yourself into thinking that you will be there for each other when really you are the only one who follows up if the other is sick or sad. You can just lie there in your time of need while the friend chooses another party over bringing you some groceries and some entertainment.

I sound bitter about that but really I am not upset. That is just the way some people are and you need all kinds in your life. Some are just pointless in emergencies but some will be surprisingly tough and resilient… like me. 🙂

Recommended reading

Here are three very interesting and informative posts from last week that I just have to link up to. The first two are on Kalsoom’s blog. One is about the Grameen Bank style approach to micro-finance in Pakistan. This is the story of providing the poor with access to credit. The second addresses a really important topic that has been on my mind from time to time: why women raise their own sons to be disrespectful to women (to put it mildly). The third post is a Q&A by Ahsan of Rafay Alam who is an environmental activist, lawyer and columnist. They discuss public transport, city planning and energy issues in Pakistan. Very very interesting.