Keepin’ at it.

These past couple of years have been all about pushing the boundaries for me. Taking risks, doing things that scare me to the bone, but going through anyway. Fighting boredom and persevering. Digging my heels into the ground, and reminding myself why I started, especially when things start to look iffy. Oh boy, some days I just want to sleep in and forget all about it. And then I manage to find that grit somehow – the sort of determination that I was lacking throughout my teens and early 20s.

Here’s something that I do differently now, vis-a-vis then. I recently joined the Toastmasters’ chapter at my workplace. Turns out the company pays for my membership if I manage to prove myself worthy and use the membership to its full benefit. I see absolutely no problem with this – I gave up public speaking after college partially because I was not getting feedback on how to improve my voice, arguments, and language. Nothing could make me lose interest and motivation faster than being told that I’m doing great. Unfortunately for me, our debating club at college didn’t have the right kind of mentors – at least, not while I was there. I won’t get petty, but our debating president wasn’t exactly well-spoken, either.

Here’s what I like about Toastmasters’ – there is a clear path to growth. There is a community to give you feedback. There are opportunities in every meeting to reveal a new aspect of yourself.

I have attended 4 meetings till date,  and am yet to be offered a membership. I have spoken on a table topic at 3, and received good reviews. Most were about my comfort with being on stage, body language, vocabulary, use of humour (wut!), and my ability to think on my feet. Here’s why I keep going back – I am usually shivering when it’s my turn to receive feedback. I can hear my voice audibly quiver when I start talking. I am never creative enough with my speech; it’s rarely, if ever, headed in a direction that I hope to take it in. I never manage to remember to use the word/phrase/idiom of the day in my speech, although it usually isn’t that hard. My use of humour is very polite and rather passe: hardly the sort that manages to get my attention when others are talking. I use ‘umms’, ‘uhhs’ and other fillers. And boy do those prepared speeches teach me so much: I can’t wait to get to deliver one!

I have realized that extrinsic motivation only motivates me so much: what really matters to me is growth and my own brutally honest analysis of it. If I’m not pleased with myself, nobody else’s praise or pressure is ever going to matter to me. Realizing that has made all the difference.

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Wanted: A rubber duck-cum-devil’s advocate

What does a rewarding relationship mean to you?

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For some of my friends it means being devoted, expressing & receiving care and affection, reaffirmation of one’s own goodness, finding strength and support in another when you stumble and are running on empty… the list goes on.

Can’t say that I don’t seek these things out in love and friendships. But what makes me seem flit-ty, is perhaps my search for a very particular breed of rubber duck.

I borrow the term ‘rubber duck’ from the ‘rubber duck debugging method’ – a concept I was introduced to by my coder- friend and flatmate. To explain it in plain language, if you find yourself stuck with an idea or piece of work or a line of code, then just talk to an inanimate object and break down the idea into smaller elements, explaining it to them until you find out the inconsistency or disconnect in it by yourself! Does that make sense? Or do I need to rubber duck my definition of a rubber duck first?

Either how, what I lack in my life is not exactly an inanimate thing, but something slightly different. What I sorely feel lacking in my life is an entity that alternates between a rubber duck and a devil’s advocate. The reason I cannot bring myself to completely rely on a rubber duck is because in the spur of the moment, I can find in myself, only so much respect for a rubber duck! Since the ideas aren’t exactly coming from the duck but from myself, it probably means I have limited respect for myself during some moments… a lack of trust in myself to solve a problem that I’m feeling stuck in. Hmm, now that’s a revelation I suppose.

The reason I need this entity to sometimes take on the avatar of a devil’s advocate is because, the best kinds of devil’s advocates usually listen and take apart your ideas for their logic and reason; or the absence of them. Devil’s advocates absorb your ideas at the rate at which you’re rambling about them, and it’s cathartic to have them argue back with you. With a devil’s advocate who’s doing a good job at being one, you are always on the same page.

I don’t just want someone who’s a good listener, I want somebody to intellectually spar with, and to sometimes do all the things that are the opposite of what a rubber duck does!

Hmm, I wonder if I made much sense to anybody outside to myself?

Hold space, there is plenty.

I can’t really put a finger on it, but I have changed since the last time I posted on here.

I have become very comfortably whole, but in a rather porous way. What I mean is, I am not whole in the sense that I have no holes, and no space to accommodate the ebbs and flow of life. My earlier definition of whole used to be akin to that of a SOLVED Rubik’s cube. No need or space for change. Thoroughly well-defined, and really no scope for anymore human interaction to be involved in anymore. And then, somewhere along the way, I didn’t really feel like I wanted that anymore. I like my periodic ‘struggles’… they have helped me unearth aspects about myself that I never expected to learn. It has put me in positions that I hadn’t ever really fathomed, and it gave me a renewed sense of wonder. Sometimes, it did nothing for me, and I discovered that ‘nothing’ is not bad either!

‘Trust your struggle’ is a maxim I have come to accept over the past few years, sometimes grudgingly so. It’s become quite integral to my being now, and in the process, I have finally gotten a peek at the reality of ‘holding space’. Sometimes, life isn’t a project. Sometimes, even the most well-intentioned advice can be ill-timed. Sometimes, what you have to offer is not what the other needs, and other times it is not what they want. And that’s ok! It’s fine to step back and move forward with those connections that are felt strongly, and it is fine to loosen your grip on those connections that seem like they are slipping through your fingers.

I recently did something for someone with absolutely no expectations, and with genuine, uninhibited affection. It was liberating! It still is. I am in awe and curious, but I think I’ll just let this be this one time. I’m letting a flower be a flower; no need to pluck it. It’s already working its magic by just being. 🙂

How does this map work?

When I was young, I thought I knew my story. My story was that of successful escape, that ended with glory. I believed so strongly in my story, that it was my map. I thought I knew what the mountains looked like, and where the rivers curved. I had barely traversed any territory, so I drew the map from reference instead.

Sometimes I feel like it was a childhood waste, for as a I grew up, little by little, I realized that my point of reference was wrong. My point of reference seemed like it was a satellite, but I realized it was just atop an obsolete watchtower. My map seemed to crumble around me, and it wasn’t long before it crumbled under me. I drove myself into the comfort of a pillow, finding the only security I thought I could retreat to. There was a life before this map – much of it was a lie, but it can’t all be.

Turned out that I wasn’t all wrong about everything. Some of the mountains were hills alright – very tall peaks, albeit. The rivers didn’t swing only in the places where they joined something called the ‘deep, blue sea’. I joined the dots again. I get this better now, I thought. I showed the map to other people, and some of them nodded. “You’re becoming a better cartographer,” they smiled.

Am I?

Only, one way to know. I set out on the greatest adventure of my life.

Seasoned explorers have told me that maps are only right about so many things. Sometimes they don’t show you the full picture. But that’s, by no means, a reason to throw it away!

Now that I have drawn a better map, it’s time to learn how to use one. Can’t stop moving though; I’ll have to learn how to do it on the move. Challenge accepted.

On my terms alone.

 

“How to get rid of ego as dictator and turn it into messenger and servant and scout, to be in your service, is the trick.”

Joseph Campbell

I’m no longer responding, or even reacting, from a point of love. I’m responding, nay – reacting, from a point of hope, from being slighted, from my ego. Here I was thinking that I had tamed the dragon, was completely aware of its movements and whereabouts, but all this time, it was simply waiting to rear its ugly head. Except now, it is a face I have encountered a thousand times. I have seen it through the lens of fear, doubt, bondage, confusion, submission, repulsion, ownership… And yet it is here again, and for the first time I look at it, with recognition.

‘What does that mean?’ I asked myself for the 1000th time. I wasn’t obsessed with the subject; my ego was. This wasn’t my curiosity – my curiosity is only concerned with my present path. I only fight the fire that stands in my way these days. This fire was not even a blip on my peripheral radar, and yet, it had my attention akin to a forest fire surrounding me. This was my ego’s attention. My ego springing into action like it had a thousand times before, except this time, under the guise of a tamed instinct – you almost got me there, kid.

I think I’m ready.

I was going through some of my old pins – I love pinning quotes and poetry verses taken out of context to suit my own taste and whim. However, what I could relate to once so passionately,  I simply couldn’t feel anymore. Don’t get me wrong – I remembered them, and quite vividly, but I felt detached from all of those feelings with a whiff of nostalgia. I do not feel as vulnerable and heartbroken as I once did. It was a glorious time as I knew that it was rock bottom, and that I would build my way up from there – I knew not how and when, but I knew that I would.

Now, I feel able and courageous and strong and in control, in many ways the way I had dreamed of it, but I feel rather un-human. Like somebody who has been taught how to live, instead of somebody who thrives, whose soul is wild as I once knew mine to be, and whose life was on fire.

Now, I know I need balance. I would never go close to that sort of life if I could help it. It was miserable and shrouded in fear. It was lived with awkwardness and reticence and fumbling.

How do I put this – I’d like something to happen out of the sudden. 🙂

Impressive Failure

I was reading an account by Joe Jonas on his life as a Jonas Brother yesterday. I used to be quite a fan of the band back in school. Their songs Lovebug, Burnin’ Up, Fly With Me, and When you look me in the eyes, were forever on loop in the background when I was around the house. It was around the time that my dad bought me my first portable mp3 player, and I think it had a folder full of their hits. Reading the story was eye-opening. Their PR machinery at the time made everything looked fortunately fateful – Nick was singing at the barber’s, got signed, and the brothers looked good, sang well, they all got signed. Some of the parts like when they were teenagers and opening at clubs for The Veronicas was heartbreaking to read – I can’t image being that young and having to deal with such a huge rejection with so many adults guiding you, and so much riding on your career, especially after they were rather tragically alienated by their church peeps. That must have made the brothers rather guarded and unsettled about how circumstances and people were. But damn, their work ethic really stood out in the story for me. The pressure to keep smiling and look like they are enjoying all the attention, all the time! But they kept it going for years, as teenagers and young adults, and that’s something.

I embrace failure. It scares me, and the slightest hint of impending rejection makes me wonder if I’m going to be friendless, defenceless, homeless, loveless. But then I remind myself that it couldn’t get worse. I have my mind, and I have curiosity, and I have the agility to adapt. I can learn, and I can make friends. I can have new conversations, and I can express. I can calm my nerves and I can calm others’. I can relax and unwind, and I can work harder and smarter than everybody in the room when I have to, and I often do. I have carried myself through the toughest of times thus far, I have fought my demons with the army that I could muster, and I have survived. I am fine. I’m alright. Failure is humiliating in the moment, but it is important to pick yourself up and move on, learning from it, adapting, and strategizing for the future. Failure is a lesson, and I love lessons because I learn from them. Failure is an option, because without being open to it, there’s no experiments, and without experiments you don’t have a single shot.

The show must go on, and I have a future hurtling at me at the speed of life!