Am I who I am or where I belong?

One wonders why this craving, longing, for identification exists. One can understand the identification with one’s physical needs – the necessary things, clothes, food, shelter and so on. But inwardly, inside the skin as it were, we try to identify ourselves with the past, with tradition, with some fanciful romantic image, a symbol much cherished. And surely in this identification there is a sense of security, safety, a sense of being owned and of possessing. This gives great comfort. One takes comfort, security, in any form of illusion. And man apparently needs many illusions. In the distance there is the hoot of an owl and there is a deep-throated reply from the other side of the valley. It is still dawn. The noise of the day has not begun and everything is quiet. There is something strange and holy where the sun arises. There is a prayer, a chant to the dawn, to that strange quiet light. That early morning, the light was subdued, there was no breeze and all the vegetation, the trees, the bushes, were quiet, still, waiting. Waiting for the sun to arise. And perhaps the sun would not come up for another half hour or so, and the dawn was slowly covering the earth with a strange stillness. Gradually, slowly, the topmost mountain was getting brighter and the sun was touching it, golden, clear, and the snow was pure, untouched by the light of day. As you climbed, leaving the little village paths down below, the noise of the earth, the crickets, the quails and other birds began their morning song, their chant, their rich worship of the day. And as the sun arose you were part of that light and had left behind everything that thought had put together. You completely forgot yourself. The psyche was empty of its struggles and its pains. And as you walked, climbed, there was no sense of separateness, no sense of being even a human being.

– Krishnamurti to Himself Ojai California Tuesday 10th March, 1983

It’s easy to confuse having a strong sense of self to the comfort of a well-established social identity. Personally, I have been grappling with this dilemma in my head. It began with reading some scientific research-based book on what it takes to succeed at dating and get into a relationship. This is something that has been on my mind a lot as my family begins to pressure me to take my personal life more seriously, and some of my best friends sign up for holy matrimony, even while others are in long-term, stable relationships.

Turns out that in the early days of courtship, once you identify your prey (that’s the language these books use :/ ), you need to showcase what you bring to the table. No sooner that I count my virtues (which include loyalty, friendliness, independence), another article tells me that there is no reason to think that these are flaunt-worthy. Apparently, this is doing the bare minimum, and any attempt at making them out to be more than that, is simply going to seem unattractive and entitled.

I’m caught between a rock and a hard place here. So, I start to wonder if my social identity is worth anything – but thanks to my peripatetic childhood, that extended a little into adulthood as well, and my parents relatively unconventional choices of lifestyle and community, I have always felt like an outsider. I have embraced it thus far, because it has given me a unique perspective into things, but apparently, when it comes to dating, people seek out the familiar.

I’m really lost here, as you can see. I think of public figures like Oprah and Obama who have struggled with their own sense of identity, carving something out for themselves, and I wonder how I am going to figure this one out in the coming months… Or if it is worth figuring out at all?

 

Can I lay by your side?

I find it funny, and pathetic that I have no control over how my day could go after a night’s sleep. This, despite all the discipline and self-control and my so-called right choices, which in the larger scheme don’t seem to be the best after all. Just a realistic dream of my beautiful, late grandmother leaves me tortured when I wake up… not because I’m reminded of her loss, but because I saw her suffer in living once more in my dream. It was so painful to think once more of the pain she died of- what a pity that we could do nothing but watch and offer sympathetic service, while she lived through it all, on medicines, on morphine. I cannot seem to let go of those scenes in my head, when she would cough, hardly able to breathe, when she would throw up, unable to keep her food down, when she was so weak and would scarcely be able to walk by herself to the dinner table. All that pain that we watched her undergo alone, comes back to haunt me in my dreams.

Those were the last dregs of my childhood; of my life as I knew it. Suddenly I find myself thrown into an unfamiliar landscape, similar in many ways to how it was before, but in many ways starkly different. It’s a different kind of isolation that I experience now. It isn’t one of never having known love, but to have loved and lost. It’s a feeling of powerlessness, instead of pity. It’s a sense of not being of this world in the present, such a sudden onset of detachment, and then after a minute, none of that – just the comforting coldness of reality. Go about breakfast as usual, smile at people you know, greet them, tell them about your weekend, go for walks, chatter over lunch, shop for groceries, text a friend, cook a meal, and try to fall asleep, knowing that your dreams can destroy you once again and you can’t always let it show. You can’t let it show because there’s only so long that you can dampen others’ spirits. You can’t let it show because to others, it is not real. It’s just very vivid memories haunting you senseless. And you are yielding to them, against your better judgment.

That was cathartic.

Sign me up for love.

Forget all the instances of affection, the gestures of care, kind embraces, sweet soothing words – they are nothing but promises, aren’t they? Promises of the love that is to come your way if you can continue to allow the world, glimpses of your authentic self.

I have been thinking about this. To be in love is such a powerful feeling, that I have been drawing my strength off just the hope of it. Someone once stood by me, and spoke in all honesty, telling me that they believed in me and that’s all that took me to believe in myself and make an effort. When I think about that instance, I think about how vulnerable and fragile we are, as human beings. I think about how truly innocent and frightened we can become, closing ourselves off to the sort of love that we come into this world, believing.

What is hard, is building a relationship. Starting as strangers, and coming away feeling bonded – it’s startling. To find the energy to do it, hoping that another soul – nay, trusting another soul, to listen without judgment, speak without hesitation, but with kindness, and to feel you in your rawness, without repulsion or fear…that’s a lot of pressure.

But, sign me up.

 

What a great time to be single!

aaeaaqaaaaaaaakpaaaajge3nddkmdbmltcyn2etndvhmc05ztgzltcyndnlnmu4zjg4mg

I’m sure there are people out there who love the dating game, and enjoy going around getting to know people, and letting it simmer until it dies out (or otherwise – in which case, it’s a whole other story), but I’m not one of those people. At all. I’ve been oh-so-very happily single all my life, and my expectations of finding love has been almost fairytale-like. One day, I will have lost my Crocs, and someone will return it to me knowing that I’m one of the few girls who buy their designs- and I don’t mean just their clogs and mules.

Then again, as with most human beings, I have an inner conflict that arises from needing to be logical. Logically speaking, if I meet new people at the rate that I am meeting new people, and go about friend-zoning or professional-acquaintancing them as I tend to, I’m gonna have to fan-base the rest of mankind. Who am I to build my empire alongside then? Oh my god, who let the histrionics out!

Jokes apart. This entire pursuit, understood in its present framework, drains me. It doesn’t interest me at all, and turns me off. I prefer being a head person. I totally tried being a heart person for the longest time, and it led me back to my head- you’re intelligent enough, it told me. And so here I am, re-wiring my brain, re-learning social cues, and navigating through all of this. I am learning to not lay too much emphasis on the slightest gestures even if they catch my attention, because they might not necessarily mean much to the other person. Reading too much into it, is inviting oneself to run in circles. Symbols are open to interpretation, and if interest is as simple as swiping right, then it doesn’t amount to much does it?

That’s right, interest doesn’t mean much. If someone returned your shoe to you, it means they returned your shoe to you. It doesn’t mean they knew what your shoe meant to you. It doesn’t mean they are willing to listen to the story behind how and why you bought it. And with that, welcome to the world of choices, where you can show interest without backing it up with the willingness or ability to invest. There are all these websites and portals and apps, and matchmakers  and dating coaches – I wonder if anybody finds anything close to magic at all. Then again, I always tell myself that magic is probably just the result of a carefully-constructed algorithm, so.

Am I coming across as too skeptical? I’m just tryna keep my head in the game, without getting over-invested, yeah?

 

Value #1: Community

community-social-media-success

I am trying to contemplate and put a tag on my values. I understand that they are fluid over the longer run, but it pays to have them nailed and labeled, while approaching life.

A sense of community is an important source of value for me. In my early 20s, I traveled quite a bit and lived in close to 3 different cities. I have met several hundreds of people – in fact, facebook tells me that I have been adding an average of 100-130 people every year over the past couple of years, and prior to that, about 60 people every year for about two years. While that doesn’t necessarily mean that I have been meeting and interacting with that many people over the past 5 years, since quite a sum ought to come from reconnecting with schoolmates from my equally well-traveled childhood, that’s still a lot of people.

Has this rendered my relationships superficial? Nope, I wouldn’t agree with that. I cherish all of my friendships, and social media has definitely helped in keeping in touch, but what was missing is a sense of community. With a single friend, you have an equation. You likely picked one another due to shared interests or circumstances, and your ideas bounce off each other to form something more coherent and realistic. It probably even shaped your identity to an extent, but depending on the personalities involved, this could also cut you off from realistic principles of the world, partly because you picked each other to create this cocoon of security and understanding, but there exists a world out there that doesn’t necessarily agree with your principles and methods.

This is where a sense of community is different from simply having a support system. The latter is a subset of the larger community. A community is a system that can cause you discomfort, angst, and frustration. It exists as a transactional setup in the background, within which you can carve out various aspects of your life- your relationships, your career, family and home, and more. Having a sense of community helps you understand and participate in the co-creation of your image – your sense of self that you don’t invest in the same way as you do in intimate relationships, while still featuring on the spectrum of accessibility.

It helps you grasp the larger picture through experiential learning, and the ability to look past your comfort zone. It creates a sense of balance- this is why people choose to complement their work lives with volunteering engagements, a social life, a family life – a layered existence.

I believe that it is important to stick around long enough to be able to create this sort of an existence. I want that. It’s not a picket fence reality that I’m shooting for here. It goes deeper than that. It facilitates reaching out, contributing to shaping a society and economy, and leaving behind lasting legacies – this is important to my identity. It is something I value, and ‘drifting’, simply doesn’t allow me that. Connectedness and deliberate engagement are key.

Communities are not necessarily just physical. As networks expand, communities are becoming virtual, and the playground is larger than ever before.

 

On travel and relationships.

image

Travel has been my one true experience of reality in the past. It was probably because that is something I felt affinity with, a glimmer of familiarity if you will. As a child, I moved around a lot. I moved schools, homes, cities, even colleges! Change was the most frequent thing, and seemed like the most sincere remedy to any sort of situation – going through puberty, friends acting strange, feeling like an outcast? Bam! New school, new people, new hobbies, new home, new dimensions to living.
Sometimes as it happened with pre-internet kids, one had little control over resources of communication, and it was hard to make sense of reality, so you drift apart thinking c’est la vie, nobody knows anybody forever, nobody knows each other’s deepest truths or darkest secrets, that’s just how it is supposed to be. Fights meant you cut people off because new people could be met, and new friends can be made, as if they were paraphernalia of convenience, the result of happenstance, product of circumstance, nothing was a choice right?
What a painful way of living. To start from scratch at the drop of hat, taking flight at the hint of trouble, never immersing oneself in a hard, cold fact because you see it as just that – a fact. Nothing more to it, no knowledge could change that. Right? But I am admitting to having been wrong. A fact may be, but the adjectives used to describe it are a figment of your mindset. A friend is rude – that is a surface-level fact. Stay with it long enough, and you will hear that she had been having a bad day. Dig your heels and show your trustworthiness, and she will share how talking about grades in front of boys make s her feel like she is under inspection and is being judged…because her mother mocks her for being boy-crazy instead of wanting to do homework all the time.
Life has a mysterious way of unravelling itself to us. It does not unfold to us in the span reality as we have it happen to us. It reveals itself in layers, through perspective and across the time-space continuum. That is both the strangest and real part of living.
Stick around and you’ll spin a new tale around it. You’ll find a new meaning. You’ll see new purpose. Just…stick around.
So what’s my most current experience of reality? Relationships. With people, in general. You – you’re in my life because I fully mean to have you around, to love and cherish you, to share, to show kindness to, to break down in front of, to make demands of, to be of help, to return favours, to argue and disagree with, to be annoyed with, to hold you as the cause of frustration, to apologise to. Let’s not romanticize love or human relationships as meeting our expectations from reality. They are rather our bridges to accepting reality, familiarising ourselves with it, and making peace with it while we continue to live out our interpretation of it. Relationships are paradoxes. They set you free from the fear of the suddenness of the new, but sometimes you might have to claw your way into one and hold onto it.
Now I don’t just want to learn about places through its people. I want to learn people through their stories, their people, their places, their view of the world. A brand new pair of eyes and sensory experience, as I am allowed to peer into the soul of another – could magic get any more real? Could reality get any more magical?

It’s worth it. It’s worth naught.

Nobody told me what intimacy or commitment was. They were words to me, that had meaning in the physical or legal realms. Nobody told me what it meant to feel them. Perhaps, not many need to be taught so explicitly… some of us do.

This time around, I can’t say that realization hit me smack on my nose. It didn’t. It is dawning on me, painfully, one day hour at a time, that commitment is like a daily prayer- a chant, a mantra – that is not supposed to be effective until you have repeated it a certain number of times. You tell yourself each day that no matter what, you will remind yourself of that one special detail because of which you got yourself into what looks like a mess right now. You hold onto the hope that you will find it in yourself to work your way out of it, and inspire the other to chip in as well. You won’t run away, regardless of how hard things get, and believe me, things eventually get hard. Some things make it easier

I have to admit, I am afraid. I am scared as hell. What do you mean I have to sign up for something that comes with that sort of fine print? How can I put my all- my emotions, my sense of sanity, on the line? There sure is a pot of gold on the other side of the rainbow, but some tell me it is mythical? Some say that the rainbow is marshy, and that it is pure quicksand? I think that’s enough to put any self-aware adult on their guard- no? No, let’s rebel. Let’s walk to the beats of our own drummer, whispers one of my particularly strong subpersonalities. But… I feel all these traditional emotions, everything about the conventions seem to ring a bell!

Tell you what, let’s give this a shot. Adventures are rarely pursued for the sake reward. Right?