Health, Life

Asking For Help: A Message For Those Who Want To Reach Out But Can’t Bring Themselves To.

Here’s something I learned the hard way: asking for help, especially when you’re not doing so great, is a positive action, not a negative one. It is a sign of strength, rather than a sign of weakness. It is coming from a place of courage, not cowardice. While, thankfully, asking for help, has become more normalised, there’s still a lot we can still learn about this vulnerable act. As someone who has been on both ends of the stick – as one who has been reached out to and as one doing the reaching out – I have found myself in a lot of difficult situations in which solutions were not always obvious or intuitive. This post is a letter, especially for those who, on some level, want to reach out but can’t bring themselves to do so. This is the letter I wish I could have read when I was struggling years ago.

My Darling Friend,

I hope this letter finds you in good health and even better spirits. If not, that’s okay. I just hope you’ll read on, just for a bit, if you can.

Truth be told, a little birdie told me you weren’t doing so well. So, I wanted to reach out to you and remind you of some things I wish someone else told me when I was down.

Whatever it is that you’re feeling, it is completely valid. I see you struggle, and I see you try, I see you show up, even on the darkest of days. I know it is not easy to even exist some days, I know it is hard to even breath. But here you are, getting through each and every moment like a champ. Do you know how damn amazing that is? I see how much capacity for love you have, to love and to be loved. Do you know how inspiring that is? You amaze me every single day. And mind you, these are not empty words; I see you, I hear you. You inspire me with every breath you take, because you’re showing up for yourself. I’m so proud and I’m, so, so grateful that you are here.

As someone empathises with you, I also wanted to let you know that it is okay, and even brave, to reach out your hand for help. I know it can be hard, but sometimes, when people don’t know about the storm that rages within, we need to step up for ourselves and communicate. This can be painful, to be vulnerable with someone, to tell someone about what plagues us, but I promise it will be worth it. There are people out there who love you, even if it doesn’t feel like it. There are people out there who want to see you shine and feel happy, even if it doesn’t feel like it. There are people out there who would give anything to help you on your journey, even though it doesn’t feel like it.

I know it’s easy for me to just say, “just try to talk it out”. I know the act of expressing your inner thoughts can be immensely overwhelming. No one ever teaches us how to do it, how to reach out. Especially for someone who has been through a lot of trauma in their life, we spend our entire lives building walls to protect ourselves.

How do we get past this, especially on our rockiest nights?

It starts with one small act of self-love: tell someone you trust, or feel comfortable with, a tiny bit of what you’re feeling. This can sometimes be as short as “Hey, I’m not okay,” or as long as a rant that calms you down. You can communicate via call, in person, or even through a note. Whatever feels most right to you. The important thing is to connect with another human, and let them know that you’re in pain. As much as we want them to be mind-readers sometimes, the people we love and those who love us can be oblivious to what we’re going through. This is normal. This just means that they might need a little tug before they realize that you need help.

It took me years before I reached out for help myself. I was always afraid that people would misunderstand me, that they would not care. I was afraid that they would see me at my weakest and hurt me anyway. I was afraid I’d feel even more lonely than I felt then. But having confided in my friends, family, therapist and at times even strangers over time, has changed everything for me. Nobody can understand everything you are going through, just as you can never completely know what another person is going through. But what they can do is be there for you, be there with you, and help you on your journey to better self-care, no matter how fast or slow you want to take it.

If you are anything like I am, you are probably also feeling like you’re feeling unworthy or unloveable. But let me tell you this: your mind is lying to you. If you have a mental illness like depression or anxiety, your illness is lying to you. You are worthy. You are loveable. You are a beautiful, wholesome human being who deserves the whole world. It is not easy to believe this, but I know this. Trust me.

Nevertheless, when we’re stuck in the little bubble in our head, we tend to forget these things. That’s why we need to connect with people we trust and love. People who know us and want good things for us. They’ll remind us. And contrary to what we might think, this is not a burden to them. They would be more than happy to remind you. They are grateful you are in their life, that you are alive and that you love them as they love you. It’s difficult to do this, but have a little bit of faith, and no matter how difficult the storm gets, keep holding on a little longer. You are strong.

I hope this helps, my lovely friend, even if only temporarily. I really do love you, and I genuinely want the best for you. I know you shine on others when you smile, and I know you make people happy when you talk about the things you love. Just know that I’m here for you. I believe in you always, even when you feel like there is no hope at all. I pray you know that better days await you, my darling, and until the sun shines in your world again, I will be here with you in spirit always. I will stay by your side, always, waiting, until you are ready. You are not alone. You got this, my dear. I love you.

With the warmest of hugs,

Love,

Your friend.

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Health, Life, Spirituality

Remembering The Creative Being Within

When I think of the year that has passed so quickly, I can’t help but feel a little anxious. I wonder what I’ve been able to accomplish in the last year. Of course, I know I must be compassionate with myself, for the last two years have been nothing short of bizarre: a global pandemic, quarantine, political and socio-economic stressors, and in the middle of all this, the tryst with academics, work, social relationships and mental health. Whew. But that doesn’t stop the voice in my head conditioned by the omnipresent capitalism of my society from trying to measure my worth by how productive I was, and by how much outcome I have to show for it. Well, I’ll tell you this about what I produced. It ain’t much.

This is not to say I have not done any work. Quite the contrary: I have probably never worked this hard in my life to ensure stability and safety, while also managing my existing responsibilities. I have worked very hard on my mental health, on my physical and spiritual health. I have had to put in all my energies to meet all my academic and work related deadlines. But it doesn’t add up in numbers or things. I was simply living as any other being in my place would have.

How does one move past this? This heavy weight of being stuck in a system that does not care for you, this deep desire of needing to be productive, and the never-ending fight with our inner desires and the restrictions of the society we live in. How do I try to move beyond this?

I try to remember that I am a creative being. I am a creator. I produce my own value. I make my own reality.

Now, this might just sound like denial, and in some ways, one can argue that it is. However, getting in touch with our inner creativity is one of the best forms of self-care out there. It syncs you up with your inner desire to be in control, to create and make a difference. It helps you get in touch with your inner-child, and it lets you express what you hold within. It is also a reminder that we are worthy just as we are. We are beautiful, loved, capable of loving and filled with limitless potential to create. It is not how much we produce that marks our value; rather, it is our ‘being’, or our existing and being present that really matters.

My own journey has been full of highs and lows, periods of happiness and periods of excruciating doubt. Am I really a creator? And if I am, am I worthy of the title? Time has taught me that we are all perpetually creating. We are expressing our creativity all the time through the little little things we do in life, and all we need to do to bring it out more concretely is acknowledge it and systematically channel our energies in the ways we want. For me, my creativity is best expressed through my writing: novels, poetry, little notes, anything with words. I find that Instagram and WordPress are the easiest ways for me to do that regularly. I am done negotiating with myself about the little details, waiting for the best time, when I am ‘free’ or for inspiration to strike, waiting for the most perfect creation to just happen. Instead I will fight to stay committed to acknowledging, appreciating and loving the creative being that already exists within me, and hopefully inspire others to do the same (because every person is creative, whether or not they know it!)

So, what has your creative journey been looking like? Have you had a chance to get in touch with your inner creative being recently?

Following my Instagram to see me post poetry and other writing! My username is @zny_syd. Looking forward to meeting you there!

Thank you for reading. Love,

Zenya.

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Life

A Good Day To Start, Again.

Hello World.

Here I am, yet again, trying to reset my life as I usually do.

Let me explain. This blog has been evolving with me for the last couple of years. I would change up the designs, content and layout often to match my priorities and beliefs. I would often believe those changes were permanent, but now I consciously note how disastrously wrong that assumption was. This post comes an odd 7 seven years after my first one that was titled, “A Good Day To Start”. That post is now archived, and it is very possible that some day in the (very near) future, this post might be archived as well.

So, what’s happening here? What’s with all the inconsistency? Everybody knows that the key to success is discipline, consistency and smart work. Where did I go wrong?

I don’t think I’ve gone wrong. I know that our journey as creative and spiritual beings can be difficult and messy. We change, we grow. But what we forget sometimes is that the spaces we make for ourselves to do that must also evolve with us. I’m finally embracing that fully, stopping myself from trying to be picture perfect and allowing good things to flow effortlessly into my life. Such self-compassion and kindness is necessary, especially when things are hard, and given the new circumstances arising in our lives because of the pandemic, this is most relevant now.

Now that I feel like I’ve explained myself appropriately, let me begin again.

Hello World.

My name is Zenya, and I’m here to share with you my words, my thoughts, my feelings. I feel most like myself when I write; I realize things and find myself reflecting a lot more deeply than I usually do. Writing regularly is how I show up for myself. This is how I deal with difficult feelings and experiences, and each time things get hard, I gravitate back to writing in some form. It generally helps me see and appreciate the beauty and love in my life, and also helps me acknowledge and appreciate the journey I am on.

So, here I am! Thank you for reading, and for my regular readers, thank you for sticking around through the years.

Until my next post,

Stay safe.

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Reviews

The Picture of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde | Book Review

  • Quick Summary: The story revolves around the life of Dorian Gray who exchanges his soul for eternal youth. 
  • Genres: Fantasy, Moral Corruption, Drama
  • Rating: 5/5

The Picture of Dorian Gray is a 19th century fantasy novel written by the Irish poet and playwright Oscar Wilde. Drawing heavily from the legends of Faust, the novel brings to life the story of the moral corruption of a beautiful young man named Dorian Gray. Though Dorian Gray does not make a pact with the devil like in the Faustian legend, he does allow himself to become corrupt, marring his soul with his actions after exchanging it for eternal youth. 

Although this book has been on my TBR for a long time, I never knew that the novel incorporated fantasy into it. It would be hard to believe – especially considering the realistic portrayal of a society with all its hypocrisy, immorality and spiritual decline – that it was indeed rooted in fantasy. So seamlessly natural is Wilde’s writing! 

The book’s discussions about art, morality, about beauty and even love, all piqued my interest immediately. Though there were parts of the book that were a little slow, especially the beginning, I loved Wilde’s way of discussing ideas, even if some of these seemed like they were romanticized and shallow ideas – in witty and clever ways. In fact, my most favourite part about reading this book was in discovering the little epigrams, aphorisms and other sarcastic and witty remarks laden throughout the book. These are all ideas (though I have encountered them before) that I would like to revisit in the context of this novel, not necessarily because I believe in them, but because they are Wilde-ly (hah! ) curious. 

I could not choose one single quote to show you how much I enjoyed reading the novel, but one passage that I pondered upon for a long time was this: 

‘…Romance lives by repetition, and repetition converts an appetite into an art. Besides, each time that one loves is the only time one has ever loved. Difference of object does not alter singleness of passion. It merely intensifies it. We can have in life but one great experience at best, and the secret of life is to reproduce that experience as often as possible.’

‘Even when one has been wounded by it, Harry?’ asked the Duchess, after a pause. 

‘Especially when one has been wounded by it,’ answered Lord Henry.’

Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

Have you read this book before? What did you think?

If you enjoy my reviews, find more on my Instagram page: @literarytravel_

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Health, Life

Moving So Slowly That Others Would Notice

For those of you who are familiar, the question ‘Have you been moving or speaking so slowly that other people might have noticed’ (or the extreme opposite – more restless and fidgety behaviour than usual) is a common question on a lot of self-diagnosed depression or anxiety tests. They use this in a lot of mental health surveys as well, and having taken my fair share of them, I am now quite familiar with this particular question. It got me thinking, have I been doing that?

Yeah.

I could not say for sure why exactly this question is included, but I have always assumed that extreme answers (to the negative of course) might indicate brain fog. Brain fog is simply when one has difficulty with fairly basic cognitive functions like logical thinking, problem solving, or even just focusing. On its own, it’s not usually a problem; it generally happens when we are tired, burned out or stressed. But sometimes, brain fog can be one of several symptoms that indicate other medical conditions. So, if you, my dear reader, feel like you have experienced this recently, please be kinder to yourself, and take care. Reach out if you must.

I did. I reached out.

I began writing this article towards the end of November. I remember I had written the first two paragraphs and then I literally blanked out and fidgeted for ten minutes before I went and took a nap. Suddenly, ideas that I had floating around in my head for this post became inaccessible to me. I was so tired. I ended up not journalling or even writing anything properly for about two months. I didn’t have the energy for anything. Everything I did was a response to something – stressful, anxiety inducing and sometimes even pleasurable things. I needed to keep up with a world that wouldn’t stop even for a pandemic. I couldn’t slow down. So, I slept. I avoided. I cried.

The reason is clear now. I was burned out. I was stressed. I was really really tired – of everything. All I needed was a break. But I didn’t know what a break was. Was it a ten day vacation from college and work? Was it a vacation away from family? Was it giving yourself a self-care day, doing your hair and taking care of your skin? Was it deleting social media and ‘detoxing’ from the screen? Was it trying to clean up everything – my room, my work, my act?

I did not know. I was lost, and I went with the flow. Every time I tried to do something about it, I often found myself more exhausted than before. I tried a lot of things – food, exercise, even talking to people. I will admit though, these things, it worked a little, but I’m convinced it wouldn’t have worked on its own.

So what changed?

Courage. That’s what I needed all along. The courage to step back and tell myself I need a break. A real break. One that meant reassessing my goals, my habits, my friends even. I always pretended to do this before, not realising I was just beautifying my pre-existing ideas rather than assessing them. Moreover, I realized I was easily influenced by certain people, and their every mood got to me, even sometimes disrupting the flow of my own life. My own shortcomings, the little screw-ups, mistakes and regrets haunted me like it was the end of the damn world. I was way too insecure. And it was not just showing, it was affecting those that I loved. So I took that break.

It was a loud but discreet break. It brought me clarity of mind. I narrowed down, even though it is short term, what I want. I made my intention. Then, I let go.

I know this sounds very underwhelming considering what I said I had gone through. But only I know how much simpler things became. All the unnecessary stress, all those attachments, that anxiety – it dissipated. Priorities straightened out. The path was clearer and all I needed to do was just… do.

This in no way means I have no uncertainty in my life; in fact, I have become more open to the uncertainties of life, feeling like I can finally embrace them without worry of repercussions of my decisions. This means I’ve invited more uncertainty into my life in the last few weeks than I have ever before in my life. I was scared and alone in that ocean – and I remain so as I plunge into it every night – but something keeps me going. I wish I could put my finger on it, but for now all I can say is that it is an inexplicable urge to keep going.

Right now I am calm. There is no sea of sorrows, nor no pool of happiness.

I am here. Thankful.

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Health, Life

It Hurts To Talk To People

It hurts to talk to people.

Just saying this makes me swell with emotion, and I’m not sure why. It wasn’t like this before, but right now, it hurts. It hurts when someone doesn’t understand, but it’s okay. It hurts when someone doesn’t recognise the pain with which I open up, but it’s okay. It hurts when I realize that people are tired of listening, and would rather give me advice, but that’s okay. It hurts, and I’m really trying to be okay.

I wish I could move into some safe space where I could just be and not feel such dread, but the world is hardly that accommodating. It doesn’t let me get too comfortable. It keeps me on my toes, afraid and always sorry.

I realize how depressing this sounds, and I don’t mean to worry anyone. But I suppose I’ve had this problem for a while now, but I was too stubborn to admit it. I’ve always wanted to be the person who was always there for everyone, and I tried. I wanted to be the person who anyone could reach out to, and wanted no ill will with anyone. I really did try.

But I’ve had this problem for a while now. It just really hurts when I talk to people.

Perhaps the problem was in all that trying. I’ve always wanted to be useful, to be needed, to be wanted. I never jumped into anything with what I wanted, or even needed, in mind. I would be more concerned with making a safe space for the other person. I would forget that I was human too, and that I too would have my own problems. It never occurred to me that my own real feelings would ever become a cause for concern.

Come to think of it, even when I consider memories of the past, I do not really even see myself as a part of anything. At most I see myself as an observer, a passer-by come for a night’s stay, or like a foreign student on a peculiar exchange trip.

Of course, this does not mean I never had any problems or that I never opened up. Rather I saw speaking of feelings as part of the give and take of social protocol. I was sincerely detached from my feelings; they’d come and go.

But I suppose I’ve grown more miserable in the past few years. In the sense I’ve grown a lot more attached to the world around me, finding meaning, love and subsequently, pain in these attachments. It’s left me in an odd conundrum – it is always an eternal struggle of having to choose between either the odd chance that I’d be understood and loved, or feeling deeply the regret and shame that follows shortly after vulnerability. I’ll confess, my choices so far have been poor. I always feel this heaviness in the heart that makes me feel so out of place, like a black rose in a field of white roses. Right now I find comfort in silence, a passivity that consumes all. I do not explain, even though being misunderstood suffocates me far beyond one’s imagination.

But I suppose somewhere along the line we lose hope (that someone who finally gets it will come along) and stop caring. This means that for me, even being misunderstood became the least of worries (why would it matter if I never gave them a chance to understand me in the first place?) It becomes a matter of feeling safe, not just around other people, but also… just in my own skin.

I constantly test social waters, while feeling pathetic for doing so (even though I am just trying to take care of myself), revealing brief moments of vulnerability to see what would happen. Perhaps it is because I am so afraid of being hurt in that vulnerability that I convince myself that pain is inevitable when one opens up. I see now that I’ve created a self-fulfilling prophesy. I know not if I have done justice to others when they were vulnerable with me. But I know that no matter who I have spoken to, there have been very few moments, if any, where I had not eventually come to feeling regret for reaching out at all, and subsequently hate for myself for inflicting this on myself.

To make matters worse, I guess, I’ve now reached a more pathetic and awkward space in my social life: I find that more often now than ever before, I put myself in situations where I neither know how to make others feel welcome, nor do I know how to let myself feel safe anywhere, but in the depths of my own solitude.

Old friends find me in the hopes of rekindling the old dynamic I created for them; they often become disillusioned and even irritable when they realize I am not who I once was. Maybe you see why this can be disconcerting. My new friends… well, it is only a matter of time before I lose them too. It is of no fault of theirs, though. I suspect I am a bad friend: I am not regular in maintaining social conventions and I am generally very reserved even on good days.

I assure you this is not what I want. This is a temporary phase until I figure out a way out of all this. I know I will. I write this down because writing is my only real friend right now. It will neither keep expectations of me, neither will it forsake me for feeling what I feel, or for being who I am.

To be honest, recovery seems bleak in the moment but I know it is possible. Ideally, I’d like to return to my old self; the girl who loved having deep conversations about anything and everything with anyone and everyone. I want to feel the magic in the life I have been given, I want to see find the glimmer of hope in people’s eyes, I want to feel the depth of people’s love in their voice. I miss being exciting talking about the beauty of life, I miss learning and I most definitely miss loving and being loved in silence, no expectations, no friction, just deep, deep understanding.

But it is with regret I tell you that, at least right now in my life, it hurts, and it really does, to talk to people.

But it’s okay. I have faith.

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Featured, Life, Reviews

Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie | A Book Review

  • Quick Summary: Adichie writes a letter to her friend who asks her how to raise her daughter as a feminist. 
  • Genres:  Non-fiction, Feminism, Parenting 
  • Rating: 5/5 

This book is what I have chosen to begin my journey as a book reviewer. Honestly, I picked this up expecting a light read before bed. But half an hour later, I was almost done reading – so feverish was my reading, so earnest was my thirst to know more about feminism. I completed the book feeling a little lost yet oddly confident about myself after a long time. I knew immediately that this was the book to start with. 

This is my first feminist read and it was perfect: it was concise, simple and easy to follow. It made sense on so many levels, I felt understood after a long, long time. Due to some technical errors, this is the second time I’m having to write this review. I was almost about to give up when the first draft disappeared, but then something in Adichie’s words kept me going. 

This short book was originally a response by Adichie to her childhood friend who had written to her asking how she should raise her daughter feminist. It is simply a long letter that provides fifteen succinct suggestions, written in an easy to understand and almost informal way. It is aptly also called a Feminist Manifesto, because in these handful of suggestions Adichie covers the most important and relevant aspects of what it means to be a feminist. It is practical, strongly rooted in common sense and based on the premise that women matter, and that women and men are equals.

I enjoyed reading this because for the first time I felt like I wasn’t alone in this struggle for freedom, respect and dignity. The lucid way in which Adichie covered the material made me feel confident about what I’m doing with my own life. If I’m completely honest, I wasn’t so sure if I identified as a feminist – especially considering the many ways it is often misrepresented and distorted in mainstream media and by anti-feminists in general – until I read this book. Adichie says, “Being a feminist is like being pregnant. You either are or you are not. You either believe in the full equality of men and women or you do not.” That cleared it up. 

Nevertheless, it is true that modern day feminists are often harassed and taunted for their beliefs. It is hard to keep going, especially if you’ve been ‘marked’ as one in a ridiculatory manner. For example, in Kerala, feminists are often called Feminichis and this term has a completely negative connotation. As a result, many women who want to reclaim their power decide not to. But not all is lost, though. There are plenty of people out there who don’t necessarily call themselves a ‘feminist’ but are one through and through. I guess what I’m trying to say is that, don’t let a name or the mainstream debate discourage you from embracing equality and making a safer space for your fellow humans.

Coming back to the book – it is chock full of little capsules of wonderful advice that could benefit anyone and everyone. I wish I had someone who could explain all of this when I was younger, a role model who recognized the strength and beauty in me as an individual, rather than categorizing me as a girl and holding me to conventional standards of what it meant to be a girl. Of course, my family supported me in everything I did – but the patriarchy is part and parcel of the culture I come from, and so the discrimination was there, among extended family, friends and acquaintances even. Our differences make up our individuality, and the consciousness of that individuality and the subsequent acceptance of the same, is what we should be inculcating in our generation rather than patriarchal gender roles or expectations. The beauty of a system that relies on individuality rather than gender as a form of identification is in the inclusivity, equality and empathy practiced by people; they would be more concerned with how best to accommodate the needs of individuals rather than laying out conventions of a binary (and outdated, need I say?) gender system for everyone to follow. I think that would be wonderful. It means that a person can fully explore who they are and what they really want to do without being told by society what to think (I admit, though, that this is a vague and exaggerated statement. As Durkheim would have it, a defining feature of society is that it can influence its individuals through the frameworks that exist even before one’s birth. This means that society will always try to tell a person what to think – but I’ll leave this digression for another post). 

We must also not forget to think about the wildly misunderstood association of feminism with ‘gender neutrality’; equality doesn’t mean ignoring aspects of our gender or making. In fact, we try to embrace all of it while ensuring that it does not necessarily become a factor of comparison or decision making. The whole point is to respect who each of us are as individuals, and see everyone as equals in getting respect and dignity rather than making stereotypes on what one can and cannot do based on gender or identity. 

Here are two other things I loved in this book, but I have put it here very briefly: firstly, I am in love with the two feminist tools that Adichie introduces. The first one is the unbending belief that ‘I matter’ unconditionally and that I deserve respect, dignity and freedom. The second is a question, which asks “Can you reverse X and get the same results?” For example, if a man cheats on a woman and she decides to forgive him, it becomes a feminist choice only if it means that if the woman had cheated on the man, he would have forgiven her as well. In other words, “if you criticize X in women but do not criticize X in men, then you do not have a problem with X, you have a problem with women.” It is simple and powerful. 

Secondly, I loved the discussion about the implications of men and women working together. In a relationship, equality does not always mean splitting everything 50-50. Rather, it depends on individual needs. Adichie says that one way to know if the balance has been achieved is to see if there is any resentment. This hit me hard. I have noticed a resentment welling up inside of me on many occasions, like for example, when responsibilities are not shared equally at home. I used to suppress these feelings, especially if it came up in the behaviour of my friends, or even my parents, thinking I was being too crass and perhaps overthinking all of this. But now I know better. That resentment is very real. It is there because there is a basic inequality that even my subconscious recognized; the premise that women are expected to do certain things because they are women (same with men too, there is a stereotype that men are supposed to be providers of the family, and that they must do certain niceties including paying for things, driving etc. – but the responsibility of doing falls to whoever is responsible and capable, providing falls to whoever can provide).

The only way forward on this path as a feminist is to check our behaviour, and educate those around us to provide a safer space for everyone to grow and be nurtured in. This means checking our language and our attitudes to common socio-economic and cultural commitments like career, marriage, opinions, education, religion and family etc. It also means calling out those who thrive on this inequality, and helping them see why it is a problem. It means not worshipping men for simply doing things like cooking, laundry and the such, because in an equal relationship, it is their duty to do these things anyway (though, there’s no problem in congratulating them for a job well done, because that is a comment on the quality of work done, not on doing the work itself!) It also means not patronizing women and offering chivalry that is based on the premise that women are weak. It means identifying our privileges, and being aware of them in every context.

Oh, it doesn’t end there. There’s so much, so many things we can do to provide a more equal and fair environment. I am ever so grateful for this book for rekindling courage in me to keep going, reminding me that I am valid, that I matter. Though I have read very little feminist literature (but I will read more!), this is a must read for everyone, even those who are not even sure about what feminism means. It has opened my eyes, and I hope it will do the same for you.

Let me know what you think!

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Life

On Impermanence

Everything that has a beginning, has an end. Everything that is born, surely must die. Everything that dares to be, will one day, not be.

It is quite a jarring realisation, but one that will attack everyone at some point of their life. I like to console myself by saying that the earlier we realize this and the nature of attachments, the less suffering we go through.

But no, not really. I had realized the impermanent and transient nature of life early in my childhood when I lost someone close to me for the first time. No one prepares you for that. I did not know what death really meant; only that one moment you’re having fun collecting shells and and eating ice cream together and the next, you’re all alone. I did not cry. It was just a terrible loneliness. But to this day, perhaps a decade later, suffering that comes from attachment to something transient still hits me the same. Of course, I know that attachment will lead to pointless suffering, but that doesn’t mean I don’t feel things. If anything, I think I’ve become even more sensitive and afraid of loss than ever.

But that’s okay. Of course, I am finding better ways to deal with everything, better ways to take care of myself and others. But the truth is everyone, including ourselves, will hurt us at some point but what matters is knowing who is worth suffering for, who is worth fighting for. (P.S: You are worth fighting for!) Pain is important to grow and to make sure we don’t take for granted the blessings we have been given.

Whenever sorrow comes, be kind to it. For God has placed a pearl in sorrow’s hand.

Jalaludeen Rumi

So, where do we go from here? Obviously the endless cycles of life will go on, giving us night and day, months and years. In between all of this do we look for something that is permanent? Is there anything of the sort? Beliefs (and by extension religion) can be permanent if we try, but I feel like that’s not it.

What about love?

Is that somehow permanent? I don’t mean the things and people we love, instead I mean to say love itself. But what is love? Is it the act of loving someone, or does it include being loved? Is it all encompassing or is love contingent on social situations? Could love somehow be connected to our soul? Is love truly natural?

I wouldn’t know. But I guess I have a handful of experiences and a lifetime to figure it out.

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Life

On Being Impressionable, And A Note Of Gratitude To The One Who Always Had My Back.

Despite the (obviously self-proclaimed) ‘iron’ wall that I’ve built to keep me safe from the world outside, I am far more impressionable than I’d like to admit. Although I see no problem with being influenced to an extent – I will venture to say that it is perhaps even necessary for us as humans – the problem begins when one becomes far too impressionable. Under the influence of the influencer, one may find it difficult to differentiate one’s view from another. But I, in hindsight, struggled from a far more dangerous problem; I was blind to the fact that I was impressionable itself. Briefly put, I believed myself to be extremely well guarded, when in fact, I trusted far too easily and was easily manipulated by those I took a liking to. 

Perhaps it was the illusion of safety that I had cultivated over the years that did me in. I’ve always imagined myself having a wall of iron that kept me safe from everything – from people, from pain, and sometimes even from myself. I never volunteered real information about myself – things like what I really felt, or what made me happy, or even what I really wanted. Instead I found myself moulding myself fit the situation I was in. I called myself adaptable, when really, I was just afraid to take up space. I found myself automatically steering the conversation to suit the needs of the other, paying close attention to what they responded well to, and what they didn’t. This is essentially people pleasing behaviour, but I was no pushover. That is, I never changed my opinions for these people – instead I would choose the most diplomatic and interesting way I could think of to bridge both our perspectives and come to a common conclusion. This helped me learn so much more about the person and the world around me, and I was pretty content with that.

Obviously I thought I was safe from the world; sitting within my fortress peering out. My comfort zone was where I could be myself completely; I never experimented with that by letting another person. The reason is fairly simple. Like many others, I was afraid. I was afraid that I’d let someone into my personal space and be judged for what I really thought, for what I really was. I was afraid I’d be misunderstood by the person I trusted enough to see me so vulnerable in the first place.

Just to clarify, I am perfectly happy with myself and what I am, but if I ever do let someone in their thoughts will matter to me a lot. I don’t mean to say that my self worth is in their hands, no. But it is just that I’d have chosen someone who understands me perfectly – not completely, but perfectly. The boon of having such a person is that they would hardly think to say something that is unnecessary. Even if it stings a little, I know I can trust this person for the truth. They’d be able to see what I cannot and I’d be grateful to them forever for having my back.

I’m not out searching for this perfect person, I never have. Frankly, I never thought someone like that could even exist, it even sounds impossible. I know there have been many people who have wanted to dive into my world, but I could tell from a distance that they’d never understand why I think the way I do. I believed that my armour, my iron fortress, would allow me to open up randomly to random strangers without really putting myself out there. So, I didn’t really pick my friends – instead, they picked me. I chatted happily, unfazed, and childishly to anyone who came my way. Those who felt a connection would stay and open up to me, and in return I would open up just as tiny, random and irrelevant aspect of myself, just enough to keep the person guessing. I listened to them intently, finding ways to make their life better without really thinking about myself. 

It was better this way – I’d know – because whenever I’d open up to someone, I would end up trusting them way too much. This also meant, like I said before, I would end up caring too much about what they thought, leading me to change myself to suit them, essentially destroying who I really am. I’d be far too impressionable for my own good, and I wouldn’t even know it! The last time it happened to me really took a toll on me. So much that I’m still healing and teaching myself to move forward. 

But things are different today, thankfully. By some stroke of luck, I’ve found someone who has been teaching me what it means to trust. It wasn’t easy though (but mostly for them, haha). I resisted opening up an awful lot in the beginning, but only because I was afraid that history would repeat itself, and I would lose myself and hate the other person and myself like I once did in the past. I questioned every single step we took, and I fought vigorously to keep my autonomy, to keep the word ‘trust’ as ambiguous as possible. It was my coping mechanism, I now understand, because I didn’t want to lose anything like before. To make matters worse, I used words to reason out everything. The problem with words is that unless you’re on the same exact page, things are lost in translation. But still, one would think that reasoning with words is a reasonable and trust worthy way of understanding something, but now I know that it isn’t always the case. Sometimes, actions speak louder. 

I have found that impossible person, that one person who understands me perfectly – not completely, but perfectly. They had my back since day one, but me being me, I didn’t understand that they could see far beyond what I could about myself. I used words to fight, but they helped me through the little things, one action at a time, instead of fighting back. I can’t believe how patient they’ve been with me, even when I didn’t understand and refused to listen. I’ve grown a lot since I’ve opened up to them, not just because I learned to trust another person for the first time without fear, but also because they push me to find what’s best for me as well. They want me to take up space, to be my best self, and to find what I really want. Sometimes I still feel misunderstood when we use words to communicate (we are human, after all), but actions and feelings never lie. Even if it took a few months and a painful recovery to understand the true depth of real trust, I feel open and honest about myself for once. For that, I will forever be grateful. 

I am glad it was a slow process because I appreciate everything a lot more. If it was quick, I’d be thankful and be over it before I knew it, but right now (like the past few weeks) I feel like even the fabric of my existence is changing, thread by thread. I no longer think of myself as someone guarded deep inside an iron fortress. Instead, I imagine myself to be like living memory foam. Some people come and go, leaving an impression briefly until they have to leave, letting me return to my original form once they’ve gone. But some people are the stuff of dreams; their existence is as constant as the night that falls on us softly every night. We may never know they exist until we meet them, but we are pulled to them endlessly for they are not just someone who comes and goes. Instead, they are a part of our very existence, and if we are lucky, we will one day recognise they were in us all along. 

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Life

Begin Again: Note To Self

The next semester of college begins in exactly a week; I have less than 7 days to get my act together and resume life as a student again. Not that I ever stopped being a student in these past few months of quarantine, but I suppose I lost touch with everything somewhere along the line.

My face feels tired, my hair a mess. My body has built up inertia from staying up too many nights, and my heart feels numb as usual. Hunger is an odd phenomenon; if I wasn’t nagged into eating, I would just go an entire day before my first meal like today. I sit here in my unmade bed, wrapped in my blanket, typing away at my keyboard. The redness in the tip of my fingers as I tap each key, and my unrelenting thoughts are the only real reminders of my being alive.

Usually every day rolls in in this same manner, like a tape that’s been playing on rewind endlessly. But today feels different. I feel like a chapter is ending, an era ebbing into a world of silence. The struggle is not yet over, but the relief of the end being near fills me with peace. I feel thankful for everything that came my way – for all that left me, but most importantly, for all that stayed. It is true that life has been bleak and terribly slow in the past few months but somehow I’ve been able to realize a lot of things on the way, finding wisdom and courage to move forward in my life. It didn’t feel like I was making any progress back then, though. Instead things seemed slow and confusing, though sometimes bordering on pleasant. But I have always had a way of easily trusting the life that unfolds before me in the present.

And I’m glad that I took that leap of faith. Though not always rewarding, trusting the universe brings sudden moments of clarity that makes me feel deeply how blind I’d been. It makes me thankful for all that I have got, and it makes me glad to be alive.

Now, I know that I have just short of 7 days to get back on track, to prepare myself for vigorous learning and to become receptive to the opportunities coming my way. But I also know that it’s okay if it takes longer than that to get back on track. Letting go of what I got used to in these past few months is not going to be easy, but the signs are clear; it’s time to move on and begin anew.

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