The Swimming


I am anxious, forever rolling
In the sea of endless possibilities
The moment I close my eyes, my head
On a pillow and the lilting music of sleep
Rocking me gently, I am pulled out
By the tide of ‘what ifs?’

What if I never wake up
Never see you again or hear your voice?
What if we become a nameless, faceless love story?
Or worse- the kind that people look back on
And tut-tut to one another and say,
“Isn’t it sad how life gives and takes away?”

I tell myself, so what?
I have survived storms before
The trick is to remember that even when your lungs
Are full of water and your life flashing like a movie
Before your eyes,that nobody outlives death
And to have lived and loved is enough

But even then I cannot help but think
Think about the asteroids waiting to hit us
And the Holocaust becomes a shark lurking toward me
Looking for limbs and dreams to chew upon

It is exhausting and yet- somehow I swim along
Only stopping to marvel at the way my arms and legs
Are cutting into the water, my head barely bobbing above it
I marvel at my ability to swim- adding to the pool of possibilities
The fear that I might just forget, my arms flailing as I fall-
I am after all, always a moment away from drowning.

 

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Learning to Live (Outside My Head)


It isn’t easy- my years of lazy experience
Has made me an outcast who lives inside her head
The thoughts like little mice scurrying
Through the alleyways of my skull
Project as potent, looming shadows; and thicken
Into a cloud above my eyes

All my childhood I was told
To learn to live outside my head
Look at all these men and their flashy toys,
And beg questions off the wind!
Don’t spin strange, lovelorn tales from your bed
That is just what sad little girls do

I was bitter, fighting war on two fronts
On the inside: starved for words, colors, sounds
On the outside: longing for the romance of the woods
And to discover dampened leaf patterns upon its floor
I thought I knew better than to live outside my head

Today I am still learning, wondering:
What is it like to live outside my head?
Is it worth giving up on the kaleidoscope of nightmares
Inside; to feed perhaps my ego on miles of human concrete
And drinking games, and flashy lights, and the smoke from angelic lips

Hello fellow bloggers, followers and anybody else who might chance upon this poem! How have you been? I’ve been gone for a while now! But I always return somehow. That’s the deal. Sometimes I do wonder if one of these days all the little voices dictating stories inside my head will disappear on their own and I will have nothing else to say to blank pieces of paper- or, in most cases nowadays, to the pristine white computer screen. If experience were to be my guide, I would dismiss this thought outright. But my creative wheels do stop spinning, especially when I live in the outside world. It is a challenge- a delicate balance. Would I be willing to risk my sanity for the Great Writing Cause? I wouldn’t say no to that question because a lot of great writing does come from a healthy dose of insanity. But the remaining comes from discipline.

I’ve begun to think a little bit about drafts lately. Everything you see here on this blog is a “first draft” that is produced in one sitting, barely ever corrected for grammatical or spelling errors, let alone revised for flow. That’s what makes the blogging experience so breezy for me: I don’t let my perfectionist tendencies interfere with it because I see it as something limited- a “hobby” I pursue without rhyme or reason. If I were to promise myself a little more ambition in terms of my blog (and believe me, I have tried and always failed), the little voice dictating errors will take over and paralyze me. Anyway, I just started reading a book called Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamon. It got me thinking about the potential of using the 90% weak writing that I put out into the world courtesy of this blog, to mine for the 10% of gold which I assume is hiding within it. That’s where the drafts come in.

Anne talks about short assignments and shitty first drafts that may make absolutely no sense and be so disgustingly repulsive that you might want to throw your laptop right out the window. But she sees benefit and bravery in your attempts to just sit down every day anyway, to push these shitty drafts out of you (almost like you are giving birth to them, which you are) because that’s where the good stuff is going to come from. I think if that is true, then there lies that balance between living inside your head and living outside it that is so essential for creativity.

Sure, I can lock myself up Marquez-style. It would probably drive me insane but perhaps if I am clever enough, it might get me published posthumously. Or I could simply look for a balance between pulling crazy demons out of my hat(rack) and actually polishing them until they shine in the dark and you can see them stand out, maybe even like them just a little bit. Enough to share with friends and family?

I don’t know if any of this makes any sense. But hey, this might just be a shitty first draft with the potential for greatness, right?

Not a Love Song


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Abstract art gallery- http://www.themarshallgallery.com/2014/08/28/gallery-to-kick-off-new-season-with-abstract-expressionism/

You must be my one solace
Country, company, currency-
These are empty promises!
They will betray me
They will feed me lies and break me
Take me to the morgue
And leave me
Toothless, tongue-less, tear-less
Hurt, broken, suffering
Shrieking laments to the wind

You must be my one solace
Your pretty eyes upon me
Holding me like a baby
Like my mother did; inside me
There’s a cancer only you can kill
You will be a little late
A little torn, a little afraid
It’s okay- look at me!
I’ve lived this day over and over again

Waiting, hand upon heart and
Heart pressed against the door
You have to take me- make me new
Repaint me in your colors
Black or white- I’ll be fine
There’s something wonderful about you
You must be my one solace
Before this madness can consume me

Heart


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https://in.pinterest.com/pin/376824693796852114/

My thoughts jettison in poetry
In restless shapes and forms
You bewitched me once, you see
An edgy little fawn
And though countless eons passed
Tonight of all the many nights
I tear my paper heart

I picked up my stone-dead feet for you
I stole fingers from a corpse
I learnt to sing falsetto and smile at
the terror in my heart

I know you still remember me
in the gentleness of my prose
You mirror pain you pushed upon
the smattering of my heart

Now all these years hang between us like
A ragged curtain in the wind
I see you through its gaps; counting
the pebbles in my heart

Even as I heal my brain and soul
I see your imprints all over me
Broken beneath my skin I still hide
the pieces of that heart

Tonight of all the many nights
it doesn’t matter that I lived this long
Like all the girls before me who lift
their skirts and push
Blood diamonds into this world
I write poetry in red ink and I
tear my paper heart

Today I confronted stories of people I love- and detected a common pattern of painful submission in the lives of countless girls I know. We are all in our mid-twenties and I was suddenly stuck by the fact that we are all already broken. It isn’t just the curse of a female body to bear the cuts, bruises and tears of  her submission to nature, to man, to birth, to the good and the bad of humanity, it is often her only form of self-identity. When we push other narratives aside and become only victims in our own eyes, we suffer intermittently but sometimes that is indeed the only option we have and it allows us to revel in our femininity.

I wanted to write a poem at the interface of that female gentleness, her subjugation, and her recuperation. Here I try to capture a circular journey where inflicted pain damages body, soul and mind, but generates ‘blood diamonds’- something brutal and valuable that she must incorporate into the rest of her existence, whether or not she wishes to do so. In capturing the ‘you’, I was thinking of man but I also think of patriarchy more broadly, of nature, of the often unspoken and unknown ailments that plague a female body of reproductive age.

Disclaimer: Femininity is a much, much larger than just victimhood, of course, although it is undeniable that a certain part of it does come from the exposure of vulnerability to a harsh world that threatens to destroy it, which does not make it weak or wrong but merely imperfectly placed in its surroundings (this could often mean that the surroundings must be the ones to cave in). Femininity in that case is all-encompassing of anything a woman may self-identify with. I will not take it upon myself to even attempt to describe what it is, but by using it in this sense, I wanted to highlight one of its myriad manifestations.

Fake it until you make it and just get over it!


Or so I have been told. Is it always applicable? Some days you can be walking down the street, looking normal. But your mind is screaming at you from the inside: “Look at how clumsy you are! Everyone’s making fun of you. Can’t you see their silent smirks, those long side way glances?” And then you feel lost in a sea of people, almost like you’re drowning. You think to yourself, if only you could belong! If only somebody here would stop and listen to you, and talk to you. If only you could hear another voice, just for a little while, talk about something “normal”, something beyond the struggles of justice and equity you are trying to shoulder upon  yourself.

crazy_artist_make_up_by_pixiecold-d5g4zbi
What beautiful art by :

http://pixiecold.deviantart.com/art/Crazy-Artist-Make-Up-329437134

To save you the trouble of analyzing the above paragraph, I will do it myself: I see at least three distinct strands of thought in the “problem statement” above: there’s social anxiety which can eat away at your inside when you’re in public or even with just another person, there’s loneliness because when you’re by yourself it is more comfortable but at some point you crave human contact. And there is the plague of what I would call “critical truth-seeking” where you are trying to seek a truth that isn’t absolute, but will cater to your critique of what you think “ought to be” for the purposes of a just/equitable society that is also sustainable for a number of stakeholders, many of whom have no voice of their own (think non-humans and future generations).

When you carry all of this around with you almost every day, sometimes it is likely to get a lot, leading you to ask yourself- must I continue down this road? I can stop any minute I want and try to seek comfort in something else entirely. There are plenty of other roads I can think of taking: music, writing, blogging and crafts, for instance. But you know you can’t turn your back to something once you have set your eyes on it. This isn’t because you are stubborn (well, maybe just a little bit). It is mostly because this is a quest for something better. And although you know that these kinds of quests are mostly unending- think of the writer’s dilemma, for instance, where the process of producing something worthwhile makes her a better writer so that by the time she lifts pen of paper, she knows that she can write better than that novel she just finished and so she must go on, to the next one- you can’t help it, maybe because you are a little bit addicted but mostly because you wonder, well if not this then what? What in the world is better than the unending adventure of self-discovery and rediscovery? Nothing! And you know it.

So now that we have established that this isn’t a battle you’re ready to desert, where does this leave you? Perhaps what you need to do is fake it until you can make it and pull through. Is this a worthwhile strategy to adopt? I believe it is one of many that can help you ease those knots in your stomach. You must keep doing what you simply have to do, until it becomes easier. But there are hidden dilemmas here: sometimes it can stop you from seeking support. If you’re acting like everything is normal, others around you will just assume that it is. Soon you may find yourself caught in a spiral where you have to maintain the position of “everything is all right” for the sake of everyone but yourself, even though you do not believe in it. On the other hand, admitting that there is a problem , even to the most well-meaning of listeners (your own self, for one) will not automatically lead you to solutions.

I believe a cocktail of solutions is better suited to this purpose. Admit, but to the best kinds of people: yourself, a friend, a parent, a partner. Fake until you make it, with all others: tell yourself how confident, beautiful and smart you are when faced with moments with the potential to break you- you may actually start to believe it, at least enough to pull through with panache. And in the midst of this complex web of self-trickery and truth-telling, remember the following (these are techniques I have learnt from a trustworthy source): observe your thoughts and fears swim by but do not judge yourself (a meditative stance), be respectful and firm to your own values no matter how murky the battleground may seem, and remember to keep practicing the art of self-acceptance!

Disclaimer: None of the above tricks and tips may work for you, or a combination of these with other self-realizations actually just might. None of this is likely to be at all easy. I think the trick is to know that you’re in a battleground and that you won’t give up!

Fact: One in four people in the world are battling their minds everyday!

Explaining My Silence and Evolution


Art photo - concept of internal struggle and doubt
http://www.123rf.com/photo_27972569_art-photo–concept-of-internal-struggle-and-doubt-image-of-screaming-female-silhouette-breaking-thro.html

I know that I haven’t posted much over the past weeks, and that whenever I have posted, I have mentioned changes- transformation that has been occurring in my body and soul as I traverse through some of the biggest changes of my life.

And this is to be expected- moving to another country will open your eyes in ways nothing else will, but feeding your brain with a host of classes that teach you to think and see the world critically is like adding a kaleidoscope before your eyes which enables you to see colors and patterns you never did before. Along the way, I am cruising towards the mid point of my twenties and finding out in clearer terms what defines me. I know I will always change as I go through life but I also know that whatever happens over the next few years will recreate my personality in fundamental ways that will lay a foundation for the rest of my life.

It can be argued that this personality has already been made. ‘What were you doing for 23 years of your life?’, you could very rightly ask and I would tell you that yes, I was made but in most ways, that making was very unconscious. While I participated in my own making, I did not do it voluntarily or willingly. Now, for the first time- I am on my own and while I know that it is nearly impossible to make yourself entirely by your own design, I have started to believe in my power to fix the things that need fixing and not succumb to the forces around me. There will always be structures and institutions that will rain down upon me in a million ways but I am not entirely powerless. And in this of course, I am more fortunate than the general population ever is. With the recognition of this fortune, I am ever grateful to be powerful and open enough to my own possibilities.

I have spent time these past few months, dwelling on the shortcomings of the world that I have lived with, and why it has made me the way that I am. Along this journey, I am discovering fears that are sometimes almost paralyzing in nature but I have been equally delighted to find my ruptures slowly healing. They crack open into chasms when the times are right but by surrounding myself with the best kind of support system that I could possibly have had, I have been able to keep them at bay. I am moving towards functionality- something I have always struggled with. Mulling over how broken I have felt in the past does not make me feel helpless anymore. It makes me feel grateful to have moved on and empowered to have had the chance to be where I was. I do not think that I am entirely safe- on the contrary, I am more convinced than ever that me and everyone around me is always walking on the thinnest possible line and can tip over any second.

I have been struggling to grapple this- my own mortality, my own transitionality. I don’t feel I will ever be “done”, ever be comfortable enough to feel safe in this inherently broken world, ever be free from the curse of thinking too much about my own “self”, whatever it is, whatever form it will take. I am starting to love life, much as I have often chosen to hate it and myself. I am learning and re-learning what it means to be an imperfect human being in an imperfect world. But because I am gaining, I have more to lose and that makes me fear in a way that I might not have before.

At the same time, I want to teach myself how to be at peace, how to be “in the moment”. With every trip I take to a new place, with every ‘aha’ moment of discovery within my own soul, with every little obstacle that I find myself climbing and sometimes merely crawling over, I tell myself to remember to be happy with where I am. “If I were to die tomorrow,” I say to myself, “I will be happy because despite a multitude of unfulfilled dreams and desires, I have achieved so much more than I would have thought myself capable of a year, two years, three years back.”

With this realization, I remember to push away from this jungle of depressing thoughts that bombard us- we’re not pretty enough, not rich enough, not well-travelled enough, not accomplished enough- this is what the media tells us every day, this what our online accounts tell us every day. We strive, with our Instagram and our Facebook and our Snapchat and our Twitter to create an image of a perfect version of ourselves- a version that is untrue. This version does not contain within it the billions of tousled hair mornings we wake up to. It conceals our bleary, teary-eyes; our sore muscles; our ugly fights; our jealousy, our envy; our sweat and pain and diseases. It is a snapshot out of a hundred billion tiny moments that make up our lives.

I invite all of you in the sincerest possible manner,dear readers, if you’re still reading, to think about pushing away the competition, the pain, the agony- we are all suffering in so many ways and this world continues to push suffering onto us every single day as our ageing bodies struggle to survive. But I want to invite you all to breathe and remember to be human and remember to not give in to the hoax, even as you wish you weren’t a part of it. I want to invite you all to remember what matters to your soul and find the cracks that need fixing and to stare at yourself in the mirror as you are and tell yourself what you really believe is true, underneath all your masks. I want to invite you all to remember the messiness of life.

The End


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https://in.pinterest.com/pin/361273201330881796/

I thought it was the end
When flying over a snow-scape
I descended into a warm summer
It felt like home from a distant movie
Familiar and somewhat comforting.

I thought it was the end
When I cut the curly, spiraling cord
Like off a phone from the 90’s
I was free, I felt untainted
By the tears people cried around me.

I thought it was the end
But even though the sun shines bright
And I paint myself into motion picture scenes
Against rainbows and exotic waterfalls everyday
It doesn’t help the pain.

I thought it was the end
I didn’t know, didn’t understand
That moments come back like ghosts at night
Under covers, ready to bite
They haunt all me and mine.

I thought it was the end
But ghosts can’t die, you see
They live on in the darkest depths
They color your picture books into
The darkest child’s fantasy.

 

I Will Never Love You Like That Again


I am keeping my promise to myself. I saw some words that struck me, leading to this poem. I don’t think it is very good but as long as it keeps me moving, that is all I want for now. I don’t want to lose touch with my creative side. So here goes nothing.

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http://favim.com/image/2264619/

 

I will never love you like that again

Behind broken bridges you stand
I can still feel your eyes on me
Glasses askew and shoelace untied
You’re nothing but a shadow to me

I lit the match and watched it die
While smoke arose all around me
It was rain that finally doused the fire
Only that settling smoke left to breathe

Once we watched the night sky light up
Now I let its glow drown the sighs in me
I will never love you like that again
I am letting the rest of the world bewitch me.

I will never love you like that again
These metaphors cave in with my poetry
I’m not dancing yet, but getting there
Moving in circles with my memories

I will never love you like that again
Those days are far, far behind me.

 

Word Witness


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Words are and always will be my witness. They are special to  me, I need them because they transcend my life and allow me to reach higher.

 

Tension is gripping me again. I know I need writing to cure me because nothing else seems to work on a fundamental level the way writing here does. It is strange to write now- to write knowing that I have lost touch with a part of myself, with months of memory- data that should be on paper.

Paper is the only way I know how to heal myself. When I pour words out, it is like some sort of a miracle. My bruises start healing. My heart flutters out of its state of nervousness and into a state of calm energy and peace. Whatever it is about words that keeps me going- it is ethereal. For me, this is and always will be divinity. And as I am typing today after months and months of looking for relief and not finding any, I feel every muscle in my body relaxing, every knot in my mind unraveling, everything just fading away fast.

What happened to me? I used to write constantly every day for hours on end. I knew it was the thing that made me unique and it was the thing I valued most about myself. Now I keep words blocked behind walls of insane, torturous, intense abandon and tell myself that of course, I will return to them. Where else would I go? I have tried to push myself in many different directions whereas there always was one direction for me to push myself in- towards writing. These rants, these personal blogposts where I record my weaknesses for the world to see are my way of empowering myself, they are my way of screaming into the universe and letting others know that it is okay- okay to fall, okay to fail, okay to forgive yourself, okay to pull back up and okay to do it all over again if and when you must! It is without judgement and fear that I want to be able to exist- and without fear of judgement! A task that is not easy, at all of course but must be done because that’s the only way to not live in a cocoon of absolute misery. And that is a place I refuse to live in. I fight every day, more than many other people but less, much less than hundreds of thousands more and I tell myself that everything I am doing is for some form of temporary reason, some kind of journey. But I often forget to remember that my journey is ultimately one about writing. It is the narrative I unconsciously designed for myself when I was three years old. Younger perhaps. And I stick to it because it works. It heals me, it soothes me, it defines me. I  must find more occasion to let the stories in my head see the light of day- whether they are just stories about me! Or stories about others.

So I am pledging to myself tonight that I will write. Whether it is for 15 minutes in a day or an hour in a week- I will write. I will overcome this mountain of lethargy, of seeking perfectionism, of wanting something bigger and brighter to hit me, of whiling away my time doing things that are important (but can anything really be as important as the relief that floods my soul when I type away on a keyboard or pen my thoughts on a sheet of paper?).

There have been a thousand things running through my mind today- and they usually are on most days, but nothing- nothing helps me sort them better than if I write them down.

It is paper that witnesses my transformation, my growth and degrowth, the spiralling pathways of my life and what may feel like a pointless and random rant is actually the wonderful and very real act of my body purifying itself of all the terrifying, horrible, lurching fears that it has accumulated over a period of time. It is an act of my body telling me- it’s all going to be all right, just hang in there. Why do you have to carry the impossible weight of the world on your shoulders anyway? You have a good, good life- embrace it, live it, feel it. These words are my witness to this catharsis and they are what make my life worthwhile.

And so, if you- whoever you are, feel similar weights bringing you time just remember that not only are you not alone, you’re all right! You’re brave, you’re you- just find yourself, whatever it takes! Do what’s right for your soul. Such abstract advice can be frustrating but it drives at a much bigger truth- only you can find your bandages but you don’t need to do it alone!

PS: This was nothing but my rawest thoughts on paper, expressed for the sheer sense of relief that they make me feel. I promise to write more- I need words more than I realize and while it is easy to stay away, it melts my heart slowly until I feel like I am bursting with thoughts that can’t go anywhere else.

 

 

 

My Struggle with Perfectionism


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A few months ago, I realized: I AM a perfectionist.

The thought did NOT fill me with a sense of grandiose but left me relieved. I could finally identify myself as a human being who was full of mistakes but HATED herself for making any at all.

I traced back the lines that had led me to this realization. To be very honest with you, it was grad school that did it.

Before grad school, my ideas about life had always led me to think of myself as an idealist. I wanted to write incredible things but there was never enough time; on my good days I was fecund with ideas that filled pages of diaries and posts on this blog, but never lasted.

Grad school was like a hook that pulled me out of the rapids of a stream and brought me to a scratching halt near the stiller shores of real life. Suddenly, I had commitments, responsibilities, and more importantly, the beginnings of a vision.

As I struggled to make sense of mountains of work, all of which was compelling, I started to realize who I really was: I wanted to do EVERYTHING, and I wanted to start from step 1 and work my way to step infinity with zeal, compassion, commitment, sincerity and…perfection. And if that did not work (and it never did, of course), I would tie my hands back- I would give up or give way and produce something I was not happy with and then for eternity drag myself down with guilt. I would deny myself any form of leisure time- at first, because I did not have that sort of time to spare because being a perfectionist meant that I had to give every ounce of my energy to honing my work, and then later as a form of self-inflicted punishment for not doing a good enough job, or as a result of a health constraint that crept up amidst all this nerve-wracking back-and-forth.

It took me a semester and a half- but somewhere along the way, I began to see how hopeless life this way was likely to be. My father’s words started ringing in my head- as a self-declared perfectionist himself, he has often warned me about the perils of falling into the trap. For him, release probably comes through hours of effort which exponentially reduce the additional improvement to his work. For me, release often takes the form of hours spent with my fingernails between my teeth and my eyes on the screen of my laptop or phone, lapping up Youtube videos while anxiety gnashes at my brain cells because I am never good enough to bring anything up to the level that resides within those cells.

All that time I can be outside- walking around, meeting people, exercising, learning more and better with all those dying bits of my mind. Cooking. Blogging. Taking care of my (currently not-so-well) health.

Perfectionism is a deceptive term. I always associated it with neatly done homework, extraordinary creativity, immense knowledge. Today I know, that for me, it is only about stuffy rooms, insomnia, insurmountable lethargy, too many empty promises and dreams so vivid and colorful, they crush me underneath them.

The first step against any struggle, I like to believe, is acceptance. The second step is action. The third is iterative acceptance- because setbacks will happen. And then, hopefully, there is light at the end of the tunnel. The road upwards is a spiral and not a straight line. And through it all, I need cautious optimism.

So as summer turns into fall with August, I have to promise myself to put my health on the same footing as my obsessive, self-destructive forms of academic pursuit. Here’s to a healthier start- one that begins tonight!

PS: Fellow grad-schoolers, if you have suggestions, tips and tricks or want to share your own experiences, I would love to hear them.