Posted in Agony Aunt

#4: Female Friendships

Why do you think female friendships have become so important now? Is it because we’re all fucked or because of social media?

Answer:
Historically, women have found solace in community. Often with my female friendships too, I have realised that reaching out when we need help has been the norm. When it comes to celebrating each other’s successes or walking each other through our failures, we have sought each other out.

I realised only very recently that this is not a gendered reaction.That means it is not restricted to women alone.

It comes from the idea of seeking a community with people who are just as oppressed. And God knows, women are. Women across the board and spectrum know what it’s like to walk into a room full of men and feel relieved at seeing another woman, because it gives us a sense of community and safety.

Disclaimer: Of course, my oppression is much less pronounced than someone from a marginalised caste, class, religion, POC, or someone from the LGBT+ community, for example.

In the last three years, especially, women have found this community on the internet. Whether it comes to memes encouraging friendship, bonding over the hatred of a white male narrative, our periods, or even when it comes to learning outside of our own bubbles of privilege, or talking about consent — women have found a way to connect across borders effortlessly.

The internet has made it easier for us to speak up with very little fear of consequence. In fact, in most parts of the world, women have used the advantage of anonymity on the internet to speak up against regimes and structural violence. While mainstream media stuck to male-dominated narratives, the internet offered women a chance to tell their own stories, thus helping build a network of more women across the world who could relate.

The internet has fostered a sense of sisterhood that mainstream media crushed by pitting us against each other. As the internet made sharing ideas more convenient, a lot of unlearning internalised misogyny led to women finding corners within themselves and with other women to heal from generations of oppression.

Women across the world have now just realised that building this community is only going to help set themselves free. Why be a lone wolf when you can be a pack sitting across the table from each other holding hands and saying, “I know everything sucks. Let’s bring this shit down together”?

To answer your question, the concept of friendship is not new. What is new is the celebration of it. What is new is understanding the depth of each of these friendships as a way of finding comfort when fighting against systems that were built to break us; and instead building systems that were meant to lift us up. Together.


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Posted in Agony Aunt

#3: Dealing With Bigotry In Your Own Homes

A few of you have asked me about dealing with the consequences of a fascist government being re-elected in our country. Especially in the home, where we learn how to socialise. Family is the first level of socialisation as a human being. It is where we learn how to deal with the outside world. We learn how to sit, stand, behave. We learn to respond immediately when called.

We learn to obey.

The problem is when families assume that obedience applies to even the way we think. As our socialisation expands beyond the circle of family, we learn to interact with the outside world. Neighbours, friends, teachers, acquaintances, people we meet on the streets, and even media. We learn to interact and apply our sense of justice to each of these areas. The same rules don’t apply in every sphere.

And our parents soon forget that the more we interact with the outside world, the closer we get to cutting the umbilical cord that ties us to them.

So when our parents say that we have grown far too big for them, they’re right.

You see, in most cases, our parents are becoming parents for the first time with us. It’s almost as if we raise our parents. We have to teach them how to treat us with the kid gloves that they forgot to touch us with, instead of the heavy adult hands they chastise us with. We have to teach them that we’re not a part of them, but rather a choice they made. While this seems like the most practical (and almost heartless) take on parenting, it’s the truth.

This is where the tough bit comes in.

For most of us, parents are also our first brush with affection. Assuming that most of our parents actually show us the love they feel for us, that love becomes the love we seek for the rest of our lives — unconditional and altruistic. It’s also how (and this is more so the case with desi parents) they like to make us feel guilt for not turning out the way they expected us to.

The frustration with their expectations not being met causes more conflict than anything else.

Once you understand that, you will understand how to deal with them.

So, to answer your questions: What DO you do when your parents refuse to see beyond bigotry, hate, and xenophobia (among others)?

1. Your parents were probably never told they were allowed to explore outside their own bubble.

2. Most of us are actually told that there is strength in sameness despite what the moral science books say. They’re seeking like-mindedness.

3. They cannot tell the difference between empathy and sympathy. So, even when they are aware of atrocity and injustice, their reaction is to “save” or “pity” the oppressed instead of trying to understand their struggles. The latter is what WE have to learn to do.

4. When we approach them with a concept that they may be in conflict with, understand why THEY feel the way they do about it. Usually their reasons will be related to emotion or tradition. Emotion can be fought with logic (most of the time), so BRING THEM FACTS. The latter — tradition — is what brings me to the next point.

5. Our parents are tied to tradition by guilt and shame. Sometimes, regret. But once they understand that they will not be hurt by ignoring tradition that harms them and other people around them, they will soften. They will not change their minds but they will consider it.

So, talk to them. Speak up. Pick your battles and speak when you should. This is easier said than done. There are people outside of my parents in the family who assume that I am an uptight bitch with a lot of opinions because I have never shut up about mine. Even if I have stated them with tact.

The difference is that our families conveniently forget we are adults. We are adults when it comes to responsibility and getting work done. We are children when it comes to opinions and obedience. It really boils down to that.

But, here’s what a friend told me yesterday that I haven’t been able to get out of my mind and I think it applies here too:

Courage is contagious

When you speak up in your homes and bring home the points that you have been making for years over and over again, not just will your parents register some of it, but maybe some who are younger than you will also.

A few months back, an uncle of mine made a homophobic comment at my cousin’s wedding which I fought back with as much politeness as I could muster. While I was told off by my mother and told to “keep the peace” at the time, I realised that someday it will pay off. Even if not then.

A couple months after that, this uncle’s daughter asked me for help in dealing with a friend’s mental health because she assumed I could help her be empathetic in a situation like that.

The point is that when people around us see us exhibit empathy, they will seek out solutions that require more empathy too.

All of the above aside, it is an absolute bitter truth that we cannot choose our families. There will be days when you will just have to shut out the noise and bear every attack on common sense. But, fight the battles in your home before you step out to fix the world.

After all, your world begins at your doorstep.

Posted in Agony Aunt

#2: How Do I Accept Myself After I’ve Changed?

I have been struggling with depression and anxiety for about three years now. Been in and out of therapy, medication, the works. All this while, I’ve been telling myself that the cure to my depression, is finding a way to become the person I used to be. But what I’ve gone through has changed me, for good. Almost so that I’m not the person I was anymore. But I have no idea to go about getting to know this new version of myself or loving this version of myself when a part of me is so convinced that I used to be better before.

Answer:

Here’s the thing: depression and anxiety changes all of us. No, really. Our brain literally changes when these go unchecked for long.

Depression+anxiety make you question yourself, your self-worth, your sense of identity, your whole existence all at once while also setting your brain on fire for questioning these things. Those of us who have the privilege of seeking therapy get to go to the root of what triggers us and what really pushes us over the edge to help us heal. Or rather, find a sense of normalcy when living with these furry friends in your head.

For now, though, let’s go back to the time you were the person you say you were. You say you were a better person.

But how?

How exactly do you measure better? Were you more successful? Were you thinner? Or do you think you were you fitting into society’s idea of better?

But also, were you less in pain? Less aware of your emotions? Less aware of what really pains you? Less aware of what really makes your bad days really bad?

What you were yesterday matters only to remind you that you survived the person that was. You survived the person that genuinely believed that they didn’t have a place in this world. That they were worthless and could achieve nothing. That their brain was shutting down and nothing was making sense.

Anxiety makes sure you are either constantly living in the present or the future. When depression is added to the mix, you just dig yourself a pit that allows you to wallow in either of those two phases.

The person you are today is awake. The person you are today is more present than you used to be.

You get to know this person bit by bit. You introduce yourself kindly. With a smile on your face. It’s okay to be nervous and awkward when you’re meeting someone for the first few times. This is just the beginning of the relationship after all.

Ask them questions as if you’re falling in love with someone for the first time. Ask them their favourite colours, their likes and dislikes.
Then go deep. Ask them what brought them here, what their childhood traumas are like, what really makes them mad and what truly makes them happy.

The only catch is that, unlike dating, answer these questions without trying to impress or judge yourself. The key is to be honest with yourself.

Regardless of our mental illnesses, we are constantly changing. Physically and mentally. When you promise to never lie to yourself, you are always in touch with the person you are and the person you are becoming.

So, be honest.

And never forget to write down the answers. This is not just so you remember where you came from. But also, so that you always have a record of the person you are in this moment.

And you never forget how good getting better feels.

Posted in Agony Aunt

#1: How Do I Trust Myself To Fall In Love Again?

I was in a relationship for over four years. Everything seemed perfect except it wasn’t. His parents did not approve and he chickened out. He broke up with no explanation except that he cannot stand up to his parents. I was extremely heavy back then and had very low self esteem. I thought this was the end of the world and that nobody will ever love me again. I tried to kill myself. But luckily, I have wonderful friends and family. It took me a while but I started working on myself. Two years later, 20 kgs lesser and I’m still not able to accept that anyone can love me for me. Mind, body et al. I met this wonderful guy in February. We’ve been going out on dates. But I think, somewhere, I’m not letting it go to the next level because I’m so scared of a broken heart. I’ve stopped putting myself out there.

Answer:

Two years ago, I thought to myself, “There is no way I will fall in love again.” I didn’t have a clue who I’d fall in love with again without thinking of the eyes I fell in love with as a teenager. I didn’t know what I could do if I wasn’t able to call the same man “The Love Of My Life” for the rest of my life.

I wept. I wrote in my journal. I sang sad songs at 3 a.m. I cried some more. I cried till I fell asleep.

But I’m here. Two years later. And I am asking myself the same questions that you are asking yourself, “Do I trust myself to fall in love again? Do I trust someone else to not hurt me the same way?”

For this, you need to understand that we do not love the same way twice. We do not even love the same person the same way twice. The older we get, the more experiences we gather, the more we find our ideas of self and love changing.

Imagine yourself as a house. We build ourselves brick by brick with our stories, our experiences, our pain, our joy, the people in our lives, the people we let go in our lives, and more. Sometimes, in the process of building from the ground up, we forget to add some things that are necessary. We forget windows of an open mind, or doors to let people in. Maybe it’s the kind of experiences we have. Maybe it’s the kind of people we’ve met in the past. But, that’s who we become.

That, however, doesn’t mean that we cannot add a door to let people in. We can make this happen. Sometimes, you can start with a window. You can even start with a hole to peep through. But how do we begin to make these changes?

Honestly, no one really has an answer that doesn’t involve ripping your guts out and giving it over to someone else with all the faith you can muster. Because that’s kinda what you have to do.

Take the leap of faith. Allow yourself to be vulnerable and tell this person you have been hurt before. A person who really deserves you for the love you have to offer them will listen and understand that your trauma has shaped you but is not who you are. That is what matters.

If this person doesn’t respect your fears and your vulnerability to admit to them, maybe they’re not ready for you either. And that’s okay.

Take. Your. Time.

Healing is not a straight line upwards to happiness. It’s going to be all over the place. You might find healing by falling in love with someone else. Or on your own. Whatever you do, remember to be honest with yourself about how you feel in the moment. Trust yourself to take care of yourself in moments of heartbreak even if this doesn’t work out. And, if not, ask for help. It always works.

Posted in Uncategorized

thank u, next: 2018

I’m here.

That’s most of what there is to it every year, isn’t it.

I’m here and I’m alive.

This year, though, I am a little worn down, a teensy bit wary, and incredibly exhausted. I have been seeing everyone’s highlights from the past year and I feel defeated by the wave of gratitude, lessons, and learnings.

Did I really live this year at all if I felt none of those things? How could this have been the slowest and yet the oddest blur I have lived through? I understand that time is relative, but how much?

I started this post thinking I’ll actually list the lessons I learned and the many many things I am grateful for. But, I am just as annoyed at the microsopic view of everyone’s lives I am getting on a macro basis and I almost want to save this for my journal.

Am I writing this to prove to you that I am more than my Instagram story? Or am I here to remind myself that I am more than the nights I spent crying myself to sleep? Being a child of the internet, I have spent so much time living my life out here. I gave so much of myself to the world — just to be seen. And now, I am trying so hard to not let myself show through the cracks in my words. It’s almost as if the layers have peeled too far to let you know that there is actually a person under all of this.

There is a person who dropped a toxic friendship. I also am the person who had to undo every single pattern that the friendship put me in. I am the person who cried more than she laughed this year. I am the person who projected her grief on to Ariana Grande because it’s all I thought I had. I am the person who was afraid to even tell their friends that there is more to me.

There is also the person who achieved her biggest goal for the year. There is also the kid who held on to her parents because it was the only form of unconditional love she thought she had. There is the person who slept (slightly) better because crying does that to you, I guess. There is the person who’s still healing.

This person is more cynical, unhealthier, and barely trudging towards the new year as if it’s going to change things.

But, it just might.

The past year has been a book that needed to end as soon as possible. So I’m shutting it down.

I’m here and I’m alive.

 

 

Posted in Diary

(Not) All Too Well

For the first time since the year began, I am sitting down to write about the waves of feelings that I let wash over me in the last six months. I never stopped writing. I wouldn’t have survived without it. But, addressing large emotions hasn’t been easier when I did that with as much clarity as I could muster.

I have had to fight emotions that I wasn’t prepared to feel. No one told me I was going to feel this way. And by this way, I mean betrayed by people I love, the things I love, and worst of all — my own body.

I have had good days. I have had days of absolute objectivity where I could see the past for what it was. And I could see the present and solve the problems at hand. If they could be called problems at all. I mean, I am a woman living in an urban population in a house and I am well-fed and well-taken care of.

I saw a toxic relationship for what it was. I saw that I was far more blessed than I could have imagined. I am fulfilling two of three resolutions for the year and I couldn’t be more “on course” for things than I ever have been. I am really adept at a job that I love immensely and gives me purpose that I have been seeking outside of myself.

But, it’s nights like these that makes me not be grateful anymore. It’s 1.30 a.m. on nights that are humid and there is no wind in to let the leaves on trees blow gently. When the sweat doesn’t trickle on my body anymore and just sticks to my collarbones, beautifying it, but also making me question why I love the city I call home so much.

It’s nights like these that I spent awake for someone else, probably writing just like this. But, having my words belong to anyone but me. To have complete responsibility and autonomy over the words that I say out loud, or write has been feeling new to me. When I am not speaking to be heard, but just thinking out loud. I have pages, whole diaries, and so many posts over here that I wrote to be read, to be heard — just to be seen, for God’s sake — that I have to now take responsibility for. Forgive her, Father, for she assumed she was loved. Silly girl.

My anger and my sense of betrayal with the world around me has manifested within my body. My body responding to the world outside and the voices within has betrayed me so many times in the past six months that I am not sure of the autonomy over my words anymore. I mutter affirmations to my body, hoping it will heal itself magically with potions I don’t have or cannot conjure. But, I end up much like I did today — screaming, kicking, crying — on the bed, willing myself to get better. I walked, I jumped, I lifted, I ate more, I ate less and honestly, I’m just tired of having to change my body every time there is a problem. I am tired of minor inconveniences that are veils for glaring issues.

There are genuinely, even now, days that I just want to shut my eyes and never wake up again.

We have not learnt to give up on the things we love best. We haven’t learnt to give up on what we thought gave us purpose, but what was actually just another person and seeing them everyday. What do we do when we are lied to? When we have to reconcile with the idea that what we loved dearly is not a part of our bodies anymore? What do we do when we realise that we actually considered this person a part of ourselves, enough to think that we are living without limbs without them? What do we do when our own bodies betray us?

A part of me feels like I have been here before. Many times, in many births. In many forms. I have been here and I’ve been… okay.

I hope I am right.

Posted in Uncategorized

2017

I entered the year not knowing what I wanted to do with it. Only that I wanted to end it well. I knew I wanted to make this about loving myself more than anything. But, I didn’t know anything else.

I started the year working and I worked hard all year round. The past two years have shown me that I knew nothing about hardwork. I knew nothing about really wanting my work, and the people I work with, to do well. I didn’t know what it was like to really feel success and failure, and seek it actively. My work gave me a refuge, but also gave me the confidence that I could be a lot more than my imagination. I cannot wait for the future. And that is the most hopeful I have been about my life.

I could attribute that hopefulness to the fact that I see my future very differently from when I did a year back — or even six months ago. I wanted the home, someone to love, a dog and a lot of money. That’s it. Now, when I see my future, the house has just me and the dog. Sure, I am not lonely. But, I am the universal definition of alone. However, I am not unhappy with this image of my future. I am grateful for the realisation that I don’t need someone to love to feel love. That freed me.

I am grateful to the men who got me to that realisation. I am grateful for the “no” and grateful they will never be “what if” anymore. I am grateful for the chance to unlearn what I thought was love, but really wasn’t. I am grateful for not letting myself stay deluded. I am grateful for the rules I broke and the new ones I made. I am grateful for the nights I spent crying to myself and coming clean on the other side of them, starting work all over again.

Now that I am free of all the space that love occupied inside me and over me, I feel lighter. I say this with a wide smile on my face and tears in my eyes. I took charge of my body and loved it a little more. I lost some weight and started enjoying exercise. I spent lesser time in bed and more time feeling at home in my home and my body. After seven years of restless sleep, I learnt to sleep soundly through the night. I learned to love selectively, but love anyway. I learned to care less and fight for what I care about. I made fewer friends, but I made them to keep for life. I loved my parents a little more and appreciated the work they put into raising me. I learned that while words mean a lot, they could be ridiculously empty too. Trust yourself to know better. Don’t trust others to always tell you who they are. But, when they do and if you don’t like it, step away.

I am grateful to the women who stood with me, sat down with me, lay down with me and held on to me when I couldn’t. Every single woman who taught me that I have a voice and I need to use it when I am unhappy or when I am happy or when I want to sing or laugh out loud (LOUDEST). Thank you to all the women in my life for making me realise how goddamned amazing we are as a people. Thank you for making me love my femininity more, for making me love my own company and the company of my female friends more.

But, you know what I am most grateful for? In the last few hours of this year, I am doing exactly what I love: writing, listening to music, and singing to myself.

I learned every single day, and I don’t want to stop. I cannot stop feeling the sun shine on me.