Sunday, December 18, 2016

Diamonds and Rust

In the last 16 years, my cellphone number hasn’t changed. I've hardly ever switched it off. I think about that sometimes. Having never been the proud owner of any kind of landline, my cellphone has been the only consistent way for anyone to reach me regardless of time of day or night. Maybe I’m sentimental, but I also do think that if anyone wants to reach out to me, they should be able to, no matter how long it’s been. 

Like Mocha did the other day. After many years of silence, except for a memorable 45-second phone-call he made from some freezing part of the country just because a song played on the radio that reminded him about me, and the diamonds and rust that we were. And then suddenly, a few years later, he called to say he was in my neighbourhood and would I like to catch up? And just like that, I dragged my ass out of bed and went to meet my first love. 

I was nervous, wondered if the years had changed us, if conversation had dried up, if disappointment that rode the fumes of nostalgia were all that we would have. And just like all those years ago, we surprised me. He looked great, and the minute he opened the door with that crooked smile on his face, I was back to 13 years ago, the in-between years becoming irrelevant. What was meant to be a quick drink lasted for 6 hours of laughter and conversation and so much yearning. Long looks and the not-so-innocuous hand holding were the order of the night, even as we caught up with the banalities. First loves are like that - they remind you of who you were and make you fall back in love with yourself.

And then you wonder why you don’t have this in your life right now. It makes you question all your choices and wonder if all those deal breakers really were that important after all. It makes you wish. It makes you want. And then when you hug each other goodbye, and there is that moment when you think, “If I just lean forward... just a little… one kiss and I could have this again, if only for a moment.” And almost immediately you think, I deserve more than a moment. I deserve a lifetime of this feeling. And then you remember why it ended. 

Regret is a powerful thing. No matter how much peace you’ve made with it, it’ll spring back at you when you least expect it. It could be a movie, a song or a line of poetry and suddenly it takes you back to La La Land and makes you wonder “what if…” And the only way out of that whirlwind, is through. 

As this year thankfully comes to a close, I’m thinking of the many things I regret. This year has been one fairly long traumatic soap opera of sorts, but one thing I don’t regret is my sentimentality. I have loved many people in my life and been fortunate to have been loved by quite a few. I am lucky to have a family and some friends that profess to adore me and, while it isn’t remotely close to perfect, I’m lucky I don’t live in a place as war-torn yet as so many other parts of the world. There are many things to be grateful for - and one of them is knowing that deep down I’m a sentimental romantic fool who probably loves me more than most people I’ve met. 

Things could be worse.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Political and Sober

Recently, a lot of my literary input has been about the chaos in the USA thanks to the Trump election and, closer home, the move of demonetizing approximately 80% of currency by the Narendra Modi government. I react to both from a place of cynicism of leaders with histories of bad choices particularly when it comes to the common man or woman. It also comes from a place of being genetically and socially programmed to stand up to bullies, who’re picking on the little guy and making him pay them to bully him further. 

I fucking hate it. 

But the bigger distress comes from the inability of some of my friends to see this bullying and respond to it as such - with rage and strength. Instead, I hear them say things like (I paraphrase of course) “it’s always been this way, chill!” or “Hey, people we know are not being bullied so relax” or even “Look, it’s for everyone's future, because the little guy will build character and we will have a strong nation in the future… If someone dies, that’s just “survival of the fittest” which is the law of the jungle…” (Suddenly, it’s okay to ascribe to the Law of the Jungle even though we live in cities built on man-made rules). All this while, the little guy cowers in the corner, his present survival taking precedence over an abstract future. 

I’m quite appalled by the lack of empathy that exists among a lot of the privileged fucks I call friends who dare to sit in their 2-bedroom apartments while calling themselves “average citizens”. I mean, there’s an entire internet available for reading, a skill that they all have thanks to fairly expensive educations and there are several credible sources on it who are leaning in on these two major issues with their thoughts, all of which and much more additional material is available to us to ponder upon. And yet, it seems for many, bullying is okay, because it’s always been around, because it builds character and because, ultimately, it’s not really affecting any of ours.

They ask me why I’m afraid, why I’m “panicking" - after all, it’s still early days and who knows what will happen in the future.  I’m panicking because I read. I’m panicking because I remember my history lessons and I’m panicking because things like “post-truth” (a disdain for facts) are becoming the norm. I’m panicking because when I look around at people I consider(ed?) friends, imagining them to have the same approach to bullying as I, I find them fielding for the bully’s team.

While I am among the privileged few that neither the US election nor the Indian demonetisation has affected in the slightest, my life has still changed. I’m furious with this nonsense because now, the number of people I could hang out with over a casual drink without wanting to punch them has plummeted even more. I'm afraid of picking up the phone and talking to someone and meeting them because sooner or later, something will be said that will put them firmly on one or other side of the conversation or worse, make them "ambivalent".

Mark Twain wasn’t that far off when he said that as much as he gets to know people, he increasingly prefers the company of his dog.

In my case however, it appears to be just me and my cat.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Airport Musings

The last two years - maybe more - has put me through the wringer. I have been forced to confront disappointments, insecurities, borderline financial crisis, loneliness and isolation. I have been through one meaningless relationship that went one step further in cementing my fear of being incapable of really connecting with another person and thus being alone forever. I have questioned my talent, my professional capabilities, my abilities to forge any kind of meaningful relationship. I have also forgiven others and myself a lot - so that’s one good thing. 

But right now, on my way to a much deserved break, I find myself sitting at an airport, hearing multiple languages being spoken around me as I sip wine and notice I haven’t uttered a word apart from ordering said wine… And I find that I’m scrambling to find an identity. Back home, my my biggest conceit is that I always have a story running through my head; fictional characters whose fate lies in my hands, so much more interesting than real people. At this moment, however, I’m hard-pressed to come up with anything remotely interesting. On the contrary, my thoughts revolve around how easy it would be to just start again - new place, new people, new job, new identity, new friends - a chance to reinvent everything I am and could be.

Barring a few exceptions, at this moment, I could disappear from my life and not miss a single thing. After so many years of living, I think that’s a terrible state of affairs.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

"Fucked Up"

I’ve been called that a lot. Sometimes, I’ve even said it to myself. And at this stage of my life, I do believe it to be atleast partly true. But just this morning, I thought about the first time i heard someone call me that. It was my first boyfriend. Have you noticed how the most terrible things that have been said or done to you have been by people who supposedly loved you? 

So, back to my first boyfriend and his usage of the descriptor that I have since learned to accept as truth. And I wonder what he saw in the 19-year-old me that would cause him to say that. Let’s see - he was my first real kiss, my first love, my first time… I was in a new city, among totally new people, no real family to speak of in the country and terrified about this whole new thing called “love”, having had only my parents as an up-close-and-personal example of what it looks like, or is supposed to… And he called me Fucked Up.

Because I didn’t trust him. 

He was right to question that. After all, I was 19! At that age, you’re supposed to be whole and unscarred and trusting and swept away with words such as Forever, Love, Together, Girlfriend, etc from a person you met for the first time 3 days ago and were going to be sitting in class with for the next two years. You’re supposed to believe that love is everything and will conquer all. 

You’re not supposed to be thinking about the Father who loved you for 12 years before he walked out the door without a backward glance, about a Mother who loved you for 19 years and used you as an emotional crutch, Parents who loved each other for 16 years and still couldn’t stop saying venomous shit about each other whenever they got the chance… After all, with Love like that going around, how do you possibly trust someone who showed up yesterday and promised a lifetime together without all that terrible stuff?

And that made me fucked up.

So when he couldn’t browbeat and harangue me into trusting him, I picked the kinder choice and left him. His parting words were, “You’re so fucked up, you don’t deserve anyone who loves you." So now, I had another person who had supposedly ‘loved me’ who believed that I didn’t deserve love. Increase fucked-up-ness to level 2. 

Boyfriend #2 believed that “Life was fucked up” and sex should never be confused with love and so what if he already had a girlfriend, we should fuck or I will just be proving to the world that I was like all those other emotionally needy fucked up women out there. 

We didn’t fuck. But it proved I was “fucked up”.

Enter Father after a 7 year silence. A father who feels bad about having left. A father who’s surprised that I didn’t turn out to be as fucked up as my mother. A father who still ‘loved’ my mother but couldn’t stand to speak to her. A father who believes that him leaving a pre-teen daughter around the time that she would be forming her enduring impressions about men, love, respect and relationships isn’t his problem. That it’s just grown up to Grow Up. That WAS fucked up, even if I do say so myself.

Enter boyfriend #3 who, no matter how many times he said that he loved me, I couldn’t quite believe it. Until one day I returned home to find him packing. 

Boyfriend #4 who was sure he could convince me to love him, and if only I wasn’t so fucked up, I’d see that he’s the best person for me. 

And so on and so forth - every person who loved me because or inspite of me being fucked up. With every damnation, with every bewildering split, with every hurtful thing done because of “fucked up”ness, I became more so, and thus even less inclined to believe the words of reassurance and love and passion spilling out of the next someone’s mouth. With every increasingly passionate appeal to my sense of affection, every reasoned argument that I should love them because after all, I wasn't so amazing, I became just a bit more removed from them, steeling myself for the inevitability of love ending, often dramatically, amidst words of hate and anger...

... and lately, with barely a whisper.

And end, it did. And each time it did, I became just a bit more relieved, cared just a little bit lesser.

 Because I guess I’ve become fucked up like that.

Monday, August 1, 2016

When Break Ups Feel Like... Nothing At All

This is it. I’ve really and truly tipped over to the dark side. I go out with someone. I tell them I love them. One day i decide that I don’t feel loved… or whatever. And I break up with them. And then… nothing. I go back to work. I give my clothes for dry cleaning. I call a few friends. I make plans of travel. And once in a while, I think of him. 

Have I become so good at break ups that they take nothing from me? Or is this me letting my inner sociopath flourish? Or have I actually lost touch with who I am and what I need that I can’t even identify it if it’s right in front of me? Or… and this is the tough one, is what I need so unrealistic that I’m doomed to live an unfulfilled life always craving for something that really doesn’t exist?

Let’s examine that for a second shall we? Need. Why has that become a four-letter word? “To need someone means there’s something missing in you. You shouldn’t need but surely want.” “Is he too needy?” “Don’t operate from a place of need - that just signifies ‘lack’” yada yada yada.

The simple fact of the matter is - I need people. Not just any people but a specific kind of people. I need people who are whip-smart, who can make me laugh in an uncontrollable kind of way, I need someone who makes love to my whole body, from my brain to my toes, whom I can have late night conversations with, to play with, to tell stories with, who’s better at friends than I am (which by the way would be anybody), I need people who know what the fuck they’re talking about when they talk of relationships, I need someone who sees me…. I need… I need someone who needs stuff and can make it okay for me to need stuff as well. And … I guess I need these things to exist within one person who isn’t a huge asshole and, in the context of this rant, preferably someone who thinks I’m awesome.

That’s all. That can’t be an unachievable list, can it?

Recently I read somewhere that intelligent people are lonely the world over. It’s only to be expected because “intelligence” is rare. But then that same person (or similar people) went on to describe intelligence as “the ability to comprehend the environment and make the smartest decisions of survival”. By that logic, I’m among the dumbest critters that exists. 

I take a good, fun guy, turn him into the most boring, serious person out there and then crib and whine about it after the fact. Or, alternatively, I make what I THINK is the smartest move, pick a guy who isn’t too complicated or too much of an overt asshole, hope like hell that he’ll find a way to help me live outside my head, and then am bored by those very qualities… Somewhere I forgot my own game plan of “normal” and that makes me very very dumb.

The tragic part is - in my attempt to find “normal”, I’ve pretty much rejected people with those very qualities I need because of minor issues like them being obnoxious assholes or unreliable assholes or just assholes who broke my heart. But sitting here, nursing my sociopathic heartless self, I feel - assholes are also people right? And who knows, maybe I’m the asshole. (No wait, I KNOW I’m one kind of asshole).

But here’s the thing. All these years I’ve been going on about “Where are the good guys?” right? And I find one. Only to discover that it isn’t a “good guy” I’m looking for, but a guy who can engage my mind and my body and my heart. Someone who makes me want to live outside my head by giving me something more fun than my imaginary friends and revolving cast of characters to think about. Someone who sees my strengths and can teach me to be better, kinder, more loving, more friendly by probably showing me the advantages of being so. Someone who, in a world filled with people telling me that I’m not enough, makes me fall in love with myself.

(Note how I make a distinction between 'loving' oneself - which one does all by oneself and one must - and "falling in love' with oneself - which is generally an other-person thing. I think.)

Ok… that DOES seem like a tall order, maybe one that even I can’t fulfil by myself for another. And yes, it does come from a place of lack, probably. And obviously, despite having spent enough time “working on myself”, it’s not something that my harshly critical Inner child has learned to shut up about. 

And yet… the heart - and an active imagination - wants what it wants. And, until one gets that (or deserves it?), maybe it’s okay for it to always be Netflix and Chill for one.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

An Unexpected Turn of Events...

You know that moment when you think you’re gonna walk right out of your plans and back into your comfort zone because that is what you have always done and you don’t expect things to become better, and you decide to cut your losses and run instead of having to deal with the inevitable guilt of being too needy or too demanding or not chill enough? 

Now imagine being stopped mid-flight with a plate of pancakes and a completely rational conversation about common goals and the need to hold on to each other. Gasp!

So here’s some unexpected good news - It seems that if you actually speak to your partner and tell them what you need and don’t make it anyone’s fault - your partner actually tries to give you what you want! (Sure, it’s our first speed bump but not bad for two people in perpetual flight mode). I know it’s pathetic how surprised and gobsmacked I am at this turn of events but… wow. 

Romantic relationships can actually become better after a fight? Who knew!

Saturday, April 23, 2016

The Real Deal-Breaker

I’m bored with my relationship. Sometimes, I don’t even know why we’re together. And I don’t know how to fix it. Could it be that we’re done? Is “3 months” my new “serious relationship”?

Historically, whenever I’ve started seeing someone, it has been for their smarts. Everyone I’ve dated has surprised me mentally and, since my sex organ has always been between my ears, it has resulted in fun calisthenics between the sheets. 

Now i’m dating someone not for his smarts but for his warmth, for his innate goodness, for his ability to make me feel safe. I am dating a person who has been a friend. it’s a whole other ball of wax. Movies have it wrong - friends don’t suddenly become someone you fancy after that first kiss. I mean, they do - but only for a short period of time before the clock strikes twelve and everyone reverts to their pumpkin shaped lives. And while in all new relationships, one has to work towards finding comfort and safety, here one has to constantly work towards finding the passion.

And I miss the sizzle-pop-sparkle of new love, and I’m not mature enough to say that I’m happier with the old-comfortable-shoe-type love I get. 

Just yesterday Aaren came over to my place and we laughed. Imagine my shock when I realised that I hadn’t laughed like that - y’know, the tickled funny bone laugh - in ages. I’ve been doing the polite laugh and the exasperated laugh and the you’re-so-weird laugh but not the oh-my-god-that-was-such-a-funny-and-surprising-take-on-the-world-and-now-it’s-just-going-to-get-funnier laugh. You know the kind where you try to impress each other with ever-zanier ideas, and both get pulled along for those breathless hiccupping laughs, yeah? Those ones.

And it’s not just the laughs. I miss rolling my eyes with someone over the shared disdain of the world, of people, of the bad jokes, over stuff that’s politically incorrect to be disdainful of but we are anyway. I miss having a common filthy secret closet where we keep all our demons and bring them out to play every now and then.

But None Of That Is Important. 

The truth is, when two people decide to be together, each one comes with their own idea of what an ideal relationship should be. Each comes with their version of what happiness and safety and freedom looks like with someone else. And the only job of both people within the relationship is to provide that fairytale for the other. Yes, that implies two simultaneous relationships going on, one real and one playacting. It’s also how people grow within the relationship, by trying out the roles their partner needs, seeing how to best feel comfortable in those roles, and working towards finding the best way to perform that role as realistically as possible. 

That’s growth, and that’s the commitment one makes to oneself and the other - to stick around to play the multiple roles the other needs and do the best possible job of it as you can. And the only time it’s boring is if both people are not bringing their A-game to that particular stage. 

I know all this.

Intellectually, mentally, yada - I know and understand all this. It does not however inspire me to bring my A-game to the table at this stage. Every day, I'm just a little bit more bored, and a little bit more guilty when I have A-game or even C - game level conversations with someone else. It just makes me feel like we're both missing out on something that could be so amazing if we just gave it a shot. Like, a real shot.

Maybe that would happen if we truly respected each other. If we truly trusted that the other had our back and that the change that is demanded of us is for us, and not only to make their impermanent stay with us a bit more comfortable.

And that's the real deal-breaker. Not the lack-of-laughs, not the monotony, but the fact that we refuse to push our boundaries wider to include them in our world and allow them to change it. 


Wednesday, March 2, 2016

... and then I dream-kissed Someone Else.

Yep. Barely two months into my romantic fugue of stability and honesty and all that crap, I'm dreaming of kissing someone else. And not telling that someone else that I'm seeing HIM. So basically, I have bounced from being this domesticated goddess to cheating on TWO people (yes, in my dream but if my brain is coming up with this shit, then it means something, right?).

So, I wake up. And I ask HIM, who's sleeping next to me, if we did go to an oceanside town (we had) on the bike (we had) where I made him walk with me in the warm rain (we hadn't). He grunted something and held me closer and I realised that my all-too-possible cheating scenario had just been a dream.

Whew! Only a dream. It didn't happen. I hadn't been a terrible cheating cow breaking two peoples' hearts and disappointing myself all over again. Yes!

But wait... It hadn't happened, but did I want it to? My brain seemed to think so. So.. what did it mean? Should I not be attempting this whole monogamous relationship thing? Am I not ready? Do I miss being single and thus free to kiss other people? Is that really what I want? And if so, should I set HIM free from all obligations and imagined commitments, while I figure out my own meandering path?

So while I lay there with HIM gently snoring into my neck, I sent out frantic SOS messages to my few people - asking them what it means. All of them are in the reluctantly-hitched category with marriages that have crossed seven years. They're also my exes and now best friends. Yes, it's all complicated, and very interesting and someday I'll write a book about it. But for now, they were my best bet for telling me "it doesn't count."

And that's the fun part. I wanted them to tell me that it didn't count, that it was okay, that I hadn't screwed up yet. Because I don't want this to end. Because if losing him scares me, if hurting him makes me feel like crap, then I'm already further ahead in the game than I thought.

And maybe that's worth fighting for despite all the strangers I'm not kissing these days.

PS: Also, online dream analysis tells me that if I'm dreaming of cheating on a significant other, it's because I'm bored. Not of the relationship, but of everything else in my life. And that is so true. Gah! Another post, another day. But I like that the Internet is rooting for me.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

So.... *ahem*

I'm seeing someone.

I typed these words and then I stared at them for a while, marvelling at the fact that these words are true for me. Again.

It's not the "let's see where it goes" kind or the "we're just hanging out" kind of seeing someone either. This is the "I'm in love with you" kind of seeing someone. The kind where someone calls me his girlfriend and I don't flinch. The type where I kiss him in public and it doesn't matter to me at all who's watching or what they would think or what he would think or if this is going too fast or 'oh god, let's do damage control preparation'. And I find myself not nervous at all.

I keep waiting for the creepy feeling of deja vu, the sense of already having been here, of trusting someone so completely that betrayal is just inevitable. But.... nothing. I feel safe. I feel centred. I feel ready.

I'm seeing someone.