Coping, Bracing, Figuring

I’m feeling the call to write, and I’m not even clear on what the topic is or should be. All I know is that I have an urge to express, faster than my fingers can write on paper. That’s why I’m here today.

Lately, I’ve been..feeling a lot of feelings. And I now realise, there’s also a lot of feelings that I am not letting myself feel. Even right now, as I clicked in through to Google Docs to write this draft out on a fresh document, I felt a wave of anxiety rising, and my heartbeat quickening. Why? I’m not sure. I think what triggered it is seeing the parent folder titled ‘Transition 2020’, indicating that I expected to be done with this limbo phase last year. And now, it’s been more than a year. And the pandemic rages on. And I still am not clear as to when I’ll have more certainty in life. There, a slight twinge of pain in the chest at that thought. These are the kinds of feelings I’m not letting myself feel in my body. And so they circle and circle, like trapped birds, in the boundaried-off corner of my brain where they are forced to live. Maybe if I just let them loose, they’d find their way out. But it’s too painful. I’m not sure I can handle it.

That’s just it. I feel like I’m running out of that resilience. Do trampolines ever weaken? Can they be strengthened back if they do? I don’t know. I feel like a weak trampoline now. But I did not last year. Last year I was able to take so much in my stride. Now I feel like it’s been a lot and it’s been enough and I’m weary. From what I’ve learnt and read, this is normal for our brains. But somehow it is still difficult to digest because I cannot share this with others for fear of judgement or contempt. After all, as my inner guilt tells me, I have all the resources. I have the time. Where is my motivation? Why can’t I get myself to do the right things?

Because I attach meaning and stories to all of these tasks and behaviours. If I work out, I’m driven and focused and productive. If I miss the planned workout, I’m lazy and useless and will-never-get-up-to-anything. When in reality, it’s just a missed workout. Or it’s just one evening of exercise. Everything is going to happen tomorrow, it feels like. And once tomorrow becomes today, then the goal is still tomorrow. Something’s going to break open soon. I can feel it. That little ball of swirling bluish white light is picking up speed inside my chest – still trapped, still zooming in circles, but getting faster, more urgent. It’s going to break open soon enough. I can feel my shoulders braced for it. 

I think I should continue to honour my wish to speak to almost no one. I still want to be connected to my close people – the ones I consider close. The others – it’s ok to disconnect. I don’t need to add to the turmoil. Until my cup is fuller. (What if my cup is always going to be running low like this?) I also need to approach my scared self from a place of love and compassion. (What if I’m not capable of true compassion?) If I believe that all people deserve love and compassion, and we all need to be ok with each other’s imperfections, then I should be able to forgive myself for my own flaws. And chill the fuck out. But the “critical voice” is the loudest, and my inner voice is taking a nap for a bit. 

The big difference last year was that – I was able to start building these habits of self-compassion that allowed me to shut out the “Other” voices and find my own balance. Find my own ways to bring meaning to my days. And build a practice of presence within myself. It allowed me to build some distance between stimuli and my responses to them. And that made all the difference. I also responded to situations with a balanced mind, not out of emotional reactivity. I was gentle with myself, and so with others.

I guess I will get some respite from bringing back that self of mine. Rather, hugging her back to awakeness after sleep. I am not the sum of my moods and personality traits. I am so much more than that. I am the vastness of the ocean, not the waves that dance and storm its surface. And it will benefit me well to remember this. My potential, our potential as humans, is only capped by our fears and beliefs. May I find the courage to breathe in/breathe out to the depth of my infinite capacity to love, and endless potential to give. 

Sharing for anyone who may recognise themselves in this. Whenever afraid, and shrinking from the next step – I hope I am able to remember, I am one breath away from growth. I am, and so are you.


~M xx

S1E01: “What Have You Been Doing Now That You Can’t Do Anything?” – 2/2

Folks, looks like this is going to be the one and only episode from Season 1 of this narrative. But I wanted to close it out with the long-promised second part to this very long-running season/episode.

I’m coming up on a year of detaching myself from society. After much reflection – the short answer to my friend’s question? Nothing. What have I been doing? No. Thing.

Please bear with the cliché: I have been trying to get comfortable with less of doing and more of being.

Stay with me: All our lives, we are trained to do – more and more, to add to our list of achievements. It starts with learning to walk, to hold a pen, to scrawl the alphabet, to recite numbers or tables of seven, to rattle off the periodic table, to get top grades, win those medals and show them off, learn to sing, learn to dance, get into the best university, get a top-paying job…..when does it ever end? No, all of this is just the beginning. And so, we head on to a life of continuing the do-ing. Of achieving. Of using productivity as a measure of success. Even for fun, we like to do as much as possible on vacation so that we can proudly say we’ve done it all.

This past year hasn’t been a great one. World over, that’s true. But the closure of the outside world gave me the space, time and stillness to bring my attention inwards. Since Facebook first asked me, I have described myself as “Spiritual, not religious” but if I’m honest, I would not then have been able to articulate what exactly that meant. This year, I took the time to explore that spiritual side and form a point of view. Reading ‘A New Earth’ by Eckhart Tolle back in June 2020 was eye-opening. My awareness has not been the same since.

I have no intention of listing every motivational self-help book I’ve read over here, as that is not the point of this post. Like many people, I have inwardly tussled with defining my sense of self throughout life – where does it come from? What defines it? At some point in my late twenties, I faced and accepted the uncomfortable but beady-eyed truth: I had been looking to external markers for defining me and my worth. As a school-going child, I unconsciously believed that I was the sum of my grades, my conduct, my appearance, my manners and behaviour. Things that people could see and judge on the outside. Unconsciously, I looked to others to judge what was within. As I got older, this only morphed form. From grades to job profiles. Titles and pay hikes. Career growth in comparison with peers. Interests in comparison with what others were up to. Before I realised it, my self-talk had become painfully negative. My self-worth was so closely tied with my output and how I presented myself, that every mistake turned into a spiral. No one berated me like I did. I took every mistake and unknowingly held it up as a measure of my own worth. “I did something wrong because I am not capable of any better” — eugh, makes me squirm writing it out.

(Because, I couldn’t be further from the truth. But we’re not there yet.)

Ofcourse, I spoke to no one about any of this. I don’t even think I was conscious of the extent of it. It was just a truth I believed in the safest chamber of my heart. An ugly truth that I had fabricated from my life experience. One that coloured everything I did and didn’t do – even if no one else knew.

So now, after leaving a job that had me questioning my motivations, abilities, gifts and worth – I had cut off some of these supposed external markers of self-worth. I knew I had to leave the country I was living in too, so I was no longer tied to a place. Snip, snip – that fell away too. I had to rid myself of most of my belongings to move countries and live out of a suitcase. Snip, snip, snip – can’t define myself with what I own even. So who was I, when I could not be defined by —

  • my role in society (didn’t quite have one defined)
  • my paycheck (didn’t have one)
  • my title (nada)
  • what I owned (they were down to bare necessities)
  • my interests (they were forming and fluid)
  • where I lived (this was changing and would keep changing)

I was still myself, so ofcourse self-hood could not be defined by any of these. So what was left when all of this fell away? What defines us when the external markers are not true indicators after all? This was the raw question, unwritten, unsaid – that guided me through this time. Little happening on the outside, so I went inwards and felt around to learn. I was guided by enlightening books, meditation and uplifting podcasts. And what a painful, wonderful, messy, insightful journey it has been.

I learnt more about the human ego, this idea of a spiritual self vs. the ego self. I learnt to recognise this true Self within me. I learnt how to be with me, how to identify the gifts of mind as well as its naughty tricks. Most of all, I learnt to cultivate an increasing sense of compassion – towards myself as to others. I learnt to be kind, to myself as to others. The biggest challenge of all – I learnt to face myself. Stripped of the excuse of busyness and distractions, I learnt to be able to look at myself for all I was – talents, motivations, values, fears, coping mechanisms..all of it. The truths I knew, the ones I made up and the lies I had told myself over and over.

So yes, I did nothing. Some days my ego wins, and puts up an inward fight at this summary. It usually starts with “But that’s not true, I did do…” before I check it. What can I say, still very human. But most days, for at least a moment, my gentler, fuller Self reigns..I recognise her, and then I feel that all is exactly the way it should be.

Cheers, and so much love. ~M xx