September

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.

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Do you feel at home?

This post is the #week1 #oprahblogchallenge from Jammie’s blog.

I have tried to let this title inspire me many times to write a post that I wouldn’t have to completely sensor and that would make sense. No wonder that when the answer to this question is no, there is not much more to say.

I want to shout that I don’t feel at home, that I don’t belong here, and that I hide myself, letting out the real me in small doses, like a wounded animal checking to see if it’s safe. I struggle – I struggle so badly when I don’t fit in and that is all I feel sometimes, that I don’t fit in. There are few moments of peace, of connection, when I forget about being an outsider, but no over-riding feeling of security.

The truth is I don’t know how to make a home. I feel at home when I am with my parents and when I am in Geneva. I let others define home for me and make me feel at home. Even my real home, I left it and went far away. I left for adventure, to be free to be myself, and to be more at home, but really I don’t know how to do that with myself. I know how to leave places that don’t feel like home. I know how to do it over and over again thinking that I will be better off where I am going but I am not. I know how to turn around and not look back and then cry when it’s all gone. I leave pieces of myself all over the place. I wind up lonely and disconnected wherever I go. When I return, I am again lonely and disconnected because what I left behind has moved on.

This is hard but I guess I need to make a home here. I am doubtful, I really don’t know if this is the right place. It doesn’t look right, it doesn’t smell right, and it doesn’t talk right, but I am learning to embrace imperfection.  I don’t have anyone like me to show how it’s done here. I don’t have a community, a group.

I have a few friends who I try to stitch together into a patchwork network, hoping they will catch me and not let me fall through the cracks. I also have HD and a cat and some plants. I have a mostly well-functioning body despite its serious limitations. There’s a lot I can do before I run out of steam. I have a kind face, a nice personality, and most people like talking to me. I have lived and loved expansively all over the world and I can try to live and love expansively and fully right here. I can build from the ground up.

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.

https://soundcloud.com/goodlifeproject/susan-cain

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.

The Happiest in the World

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As far as I’m concerned, Ramzan never started this year. Previous years I have tried to conjure up the routine, the rituals, the people even, to get a Ramzan feeling going. This year, with the NY heat, the crazy work and the guest at home, it seems impossible.

Appropriately, HD and I went to a 4th of July party last night. It was actually quite lovely even though I am not so much a fireworks person. Nonetheless, it was indeed quite nice being crammed on to a Manhattan rooftop with a view of Brooklyn Bridge and then to be crammed inside a smaller Manhattan apartment. But what can I say, it transformed unexpectedly to be a dancing hip hop party; the small space lent itself to an intimate vibe and it was perfect. The music, the friends, the cool summer breeze through the balcony, the old-time hip-hop to take us back to our uni days.

I have stopped resisting having to leave this place but as I spend this one last calm weekend here alone, I can’t help but feel that this was the best place ever. I don’t know why I think that because it is certainly wrong and I have had many other moments suspended in time that were wonderful in wonderful homes; but right now it’s this one and people are partying outside with loud music appropriate for a tropical island and it doesn’t bother me. It doesn’t bother me that I slept only 6 hours last night and got back late with the man that I love because I was telling him that I had such a good time with him.

I try to tell him to enjoy what he gets now because I don’t know what lies ahead and maybe the summer will whizz by and we’ll be apart and missing each other and I will swear to myself and God that I had never wanted it to be this way. Unless HD gets a job in DC sooner rather than later, we will learn to be apart. But nothing can change the fact that we will leave the best apartment that we have ever lived in. Looking at the pictures from last night, I can’t help but wonder if I will look back at our youthful and glowing happy faces and think that this was the most wonderful time. I won’t remember the angst and the struggle and the self-doubt and the ‘where am I goings?’. I will think these two people who go to rooftop parties are the happiest in the world and they don’t have a care in the world.

Walk with me

Why is suffering a part of making decisions and which part of me suffers? I can feel it today, the pain and pleasure cutting through me viscerally. The sun and the spring waking me, I walked the two blocks to my favourite bagel store today. A walk I wasn’t sure I’d be able to do just two months ago and today I made it without a problem. When I walked out, the familiar feeling of being on my feet with somewhere nice to go was so raw and familiar, like an old friend. What is freedom if I can’t run away? What if I don’t live and risk my own dreams?

What of marriage and being one? One goal, one vision, two partners trying to convince each other of the paths to take. So painful to compromise, I had never been one for sacrifices and it turned out I was already making them as soon as I wed without even realizing it. How I had wanted to strike out on my own – I will accept my own selfishness. It has always been about me. It took me three years to fully feel committed to this boy who did the most and the toughest things for me. We proved ourselves to each other over and over again in our triumphs and failures, making our own story. Three years to believe that our lives always better be entwined this way and I will do my best to make that happen. Yet admittedly I duck out from time to time to yearn for myself. What did I want? Am I okay?

We can’t stay suspended here in this spring. Can I carry you with me?

King of anything

I haven’t posted in ages mainly because I was trying to make this blog a more positive place and each time I felt an urge to write, it was when I was totally down. Now I’ve decided to throw that positive blog idea out the window. I write when I am annoyed and it feels most true when I am being particularly masochistic. Incidentally, the word means that I derive pleasure out of self-infliction, which really isn’t true. If I could choose – I mean really choose – I would never ever give myself a bad day. I would literally never choose the more difficult path I think. That’s just me; all else being equal, I would choose the easier way. I mean what would you do? Which brings me nicely to the subject at hand – i.e. my reactions when I HAVE to take the difficult road. Coz life kinda does that to me. I feel like it’s done that a lot.

Firstly, my ideas on being a woman and my role, capabilities and what I want out of my life, differ a lot from those around me. And here I don’t mean to say the regular tra la la about women being great and having their rights etc and being educated and allowed to work bullshit. I mean those things are a given. I mean acknowledging that I am totally selfish and I have no desire to play second fiddle to anyone. I do not put my career second to my husband’s, I do not put my money-earnings capability second to anyone’s and I do not think my financial responsibilities are any less than his. I enjoyed single life too, just as much as he did. I liked living on my own and doing practically everything myself. It was liberating and empowering to figure out ways of doing things I hadn’t done before like painting my room and moving my own furniture. I really enjoy travelling alone especially in trains. The thoughts in my own head are best when alone and my brain works particularly well when it knows it has to fend for itself. I used to carry my own suitcase.

I have never been in such a long-term relationship before, and as an adult, I have never let someone else be responsible for so much of my life. It does go both ways of course and there’s nothing wrong with it, but sometimes I do wonder where the old me is. You see, I am really bad at moving on. The person I am right now I don’t recognize and I have a hard time accepting her. I don’t have the same friends, and I don’t have the same relationship with new friends. My daily activities are different and my social activities are different. My body has pretty much protested in any way possible. For almost a year now, I have lived like a somewhat disabled person who doesn’t look disabled. It’s embarrassing because people expect me to keep up with them and help them, and there I am making excuses. Taking a big breath and telling them what’s wrong with my feet. Going gluten-free has been another hassle, but what feels worse is that people just don’t understand.  The looks they give me, and saying things like, ‘have a little’ makes me feel like they think I’m making shit up.

I moved looking for fun and adventure but I didn’t really find it. The completely selfish me is thinking, why am I not having that great time? Where is the fun and glory in all of this? Why is job-hunting so hard? Why is making it on one person’s salary so hard? I love that HD pursues his passion and makes a living out of it rather than being a typical doctor-engineer type of guy. But the reality of it is that we live in the middle of nowhere and I feel like we’re going nowhere. Why is dealing with this reality rather than the romantic notions so hard? Why is moving so lonely? I thought the space away from family would be liberating but it’s lonely.

The worst part is that it’s coming up two years now and I feel like a giant failure because I haven’t done the one thing that would make all the difference. I haven’t accepted the changes. I haven’t accepted this place, I haven’t accepted my body and I haven’t accepted my life here. I know I have a tendency to do that and I know that I always want the easy way out. I want the quickest solution. It might just be time to buckle down and work hard. Suck it up selfish me because in the hedonistic pursuit of happiness, there will be some unhappiness. Sure sages say the rocky road has its benefits, character building and emotional growth and some other stuff that you really would never choose to happen to you. But it does. So deal with it.

Happy now?

Of all things to write about, here I am writing about happiness again. The pursuit of happiness, entitlement to happiness and the absence of happiness, struggling to understand happiness. The reason is that I remember this young woman I used to know that not long ago who experienced a complete loss of happiness. She reached the point where she was so depressed she found it hard to get out or even get up and do anything. That includes eat, clean, etc. Her father had died a little while ago and she felt lost in financial worries, unemployment and responsibility for her mother. She also felt alone and helpless. People who knew her tried to help her, talk to her, get to her a doctor, get her a job. They tried to get her up and out of the house, offered to come in and clean. I was part of the team willing to clean and sort out her papers. Lord do I know about a life spent trying to sort out scattered papers. But we couldn’t. She refused the help saying she was ashamed and people didn’t feel that they could force themselves into her house to help her.

The scary thing about her situation was how relatable to me it seemed. How easily one could slip into that state of mind with no one to catch you. At that time and I silently thanked God for my pushy family in front of whom I simply could not break down. My strict Mom who would not tolerate sleeping in all day or a dirty house. So I would vacuum while she scrubbed and the place would be clean.

I read an article somewhere that many women are unnecessarily cruel to themselves in terms of what they say to themselves in their heads. In order to see how hard you are on yourself, check and see if you would say the same things to somebody else, a friend or a sister. In my case, I found out that I wouldn’t say many of these things to another human being let alone to a friend or sister. And here I am thinking these things to myself. How ridiculous.

Things have been pretty good for a while now. I believe it when people say that happiness is a muscle you have to practise using. I had a bad day within a week of coming back from Geneva and I was worried, thinking that I could not keep up my spirits despite recently having had my batteries recharged. It was the same old thoughts of feeling useless, cut off from family and friends and struggling to fit in that plagued me. But the 2nd time I started my day full of frustrations, I was actually able to move beyond it. I actually turned a day around because I didn’t want to ruin HD’s, and that showed me that I do have a certain power.

I can’t always be happy and upbeat and I’m not going to like everything in my life, but I don’t have to be useless when there’s so much to be done and I certainly don’t have to ruin someone else’s day. No matter how much I would rather have work to go to right now and derive a sense of satisfaction out of that, there is always something for me to do to occupy myself. Last month I actually made a collage. Yes that is amazing for me, I literally got myself out of a funk by cutting and pasting pictures from a magazine on to paper. Feeling like an artistic genius with no one to judge you is awesome.

So I guess those recent bluesy days just happened because I was adjusting to life back here and not because I am slipping down the well of despair. Yay!