Posted in Anittha, Thoughts&Revelations

Haven’t been truly alone in a very long time

It’s 12.24 in the morning. I’ve been trying to sleep since 10.30 pm but it just isn’t working out right now. I feel a well of anxiety bubbling inside my ribs. It feels heavy. I’m trying to feel out the shape of it. But it isn’t regular – not spherical or triangular. It’s just a weird alien mass. I don’t know how it diffused into my body. I don’t remembering permitting it entry but now it’s here, getting comfortable.

Initially, anxiety was familiar only because I’ve interacted with people who have it. But since late last year I’ve become host to this very uncomfortable feeling, like an itch that you can’t scratch. When I experience it, it feels like pure adrenaline. I can feel my blood in my veins. My saliva tastes metallic. Breaths are only productive if I pay careful attention to them – a difficult thing to do since my attention span shortens considerably in these moments.

I am trying to do the things that usually help me feel better: colouring with crayons (I don’t care how odd it is for a thirty-something to have a box of Crayola sitting on her desk), reading Rumi (who is very calming and doesn’t make me feel like all of life is pointless) or writing (which is obviously what I’m doing now.)

I guess the point of doing these things is to locate the source of the anxiety. To fiddle around with colours or words (mine or someone else’s) and see if a mini-enlightenment will be unearthed.

Today’s magic wand was the Crayola: I don’t remember the last time I was truly alone with myself. The lockdown (deemed ‘Circuit Breaker’ in Singapore but I’m going to call a spade a spade) means that I’m living second-in and second-out with my fellow non-essential-services family. Though there haven’t been any arguments, I feel that I’m losing sight of my boundaries. Where there were once bold clear lines, there are only faded blurry ones. I am an ombré of everything around me. Light flowing into darker tones. I want to say blackness but thankfully, I don’t think I am there yet.

To me, being alone means Just Me. Zero external stimulation. No phone, no YouTube video. No episode of Friends (the one where Joey, Ross and Chandler play Bamboozled) playing in the background because I find their voices soothing. No dog. No music. No family. Nothing that morphs my identity or yanks out a label other than ‘Just Me’.

Perhaps it’s a collective anxiety. So strong and palpable that even the cosmos is struggling to neutralize it. It’s terrifying, thinking of how fragile this little blue egg we live on and abuse wantonly, is. I like to think that something beautiful will come out of all this…

I know what I need is to be by myself. To shut out everyone, everything and walk endlessly. Or sit in stillness. I haven’t done that in so long. Meditation doesn’t work unless it’s a practice. Getting your mind to stay clam and serene is a habit that needs to be cultivated. I can’t pull it out of my ass whenever I need a quick fix.

I still feel the thrumming in my body but it’s quieter now. I can sift through my thoughts a little better. I don’t feel compelled to pick up every single one.

I do feel pulled to pick this one up though: What am I supposed to learn in all this? I know that I’m supposed to emerge from this different. That I can’t walk out of this the same way I stumbled in. I just don’t know what that is yet. Until then, I will (try very very hard to) make this deep discomfort my home.

Posted in Anittha, Thoughts&Revelations

The Great Lockdown – because lets sack up and call a spade a spade

During the time of the Great Lockdown, I haven’t been doing anything. You might think that’s an over exaggeration, but I assure you it’s not. I’m a writer – with one book published and determined to make a living out of it. What does this mean? This means that I need to write. Everyday. I need to be figuring out ways to get better at my craft. I need to read books by other authors to learn different stylistic approaches. I need to be watching every Masterclass by every writer ever. I just need to constantly be getting better. Ideally, there will be marked continuous improvement.

But improvement of any kind is near impossible if you’re simply not doing anything to hone said craft. The biggest difficulty (a wanton lie because I know the only difficult is within not without, but I’m not ready to take a spiritual deep dive so I’m going to keep blaming things outside of me) is the amount of noise in my house. I share 1400sqft with five other humans and one beautiful dog. It gets noisy.

Before the Great Lockdown, I would write in the day at the dining table. Everyone would be out or sleeping and there will be a good amount of silence. I simply cannot write with noise. Not in the way that real writing occurs. Where you write a good thousand or even two thousand words that feel somewhat forced and then some underground well of creativity is tapped and it starts flowing. The words come out naturally and I don’t have to think. I don’t have to question word choice. It just comes out. Letter after letter, word after word.

It’s perfection, truly. It’s the closest I get to feeling the air alive around me. Thrumming along with my heart. I don’t know if it’s great or even good writing. But that symbiosis cannot be a bad thing. It just feels right. Some of my favourite things in the first book I wrote were things that just appeared in my brain. As if I had been pushed into a dark room with a flashlight and discovered words strung together, ready and waiting.

But now, with all this noise and my family around, it’s a lot more difficult, sometimes impossible to access these hidden rooms and wells in my mind. I feel stuck and it sucks. In an effort to combat this, I’ve flipped my schedule completely on its head and started staying awake at night and sleeping during the day. I’m not a fan of this way of living. For one thing, I like the sun. For another, it means I see my dog a lot lesser than I’d like. I also worry about this will affect me when the Great Lockdown is over.

I recognize that perhaps I’m just being bratty and complaining about things that are pretty benign compared to what the rest of the world is going through. After all, I have shelter, food, a comfy bed. I live in a really pretty neighbourhood with plenty of places to walk and workout in. But again, these too, are teeming with people. I think spending time with yourself is easy to do if you live alone but right now, during the Great Lockdown and living in Singapore, it feels almost impossible to get even a sliver of alone time. The only way that that seems possible is to become a night owl and enjoy the emptiness of the streets at four in the morning.

I think the point of this long, grossly self-pitying post is the recognition that this time had affected me in way that were really unexpected. I mean, we all expected to experience things that we didn’t see coming…but this was something that really feels out of left field. It also makes me question why my self-worth is so tied to my productivity.

This Great Lockdown is rudely pointing out the numerous holes in my inner self.

Posted in Anittha, Thoughts&Revelations

What is it to be free?

I’ve been thinking a lot about what it is to be free.

Like any true millennial, I turned to the 21st century’s numero uno double-edge sword: The Internet.

Underneath the steady pulse of Instagram yogis, fake tits and giant asses, the Twitterverse, the latest gut-wrenching shooting, murder, terrorist attack and the general never-ending stupidity of politicians, is a hum of individuals who are participating in the self-love movement.

I say movement because it does seem to require a seismic shift swing in the way one sees the world, those around them and their very selves.

A few similarities run between those aboard the self-love train. The list below is purely based on my observations. If you have your own, feel free to comment below:

  1. An incident occurred that caused great suffering, specifically grief – this could be anything from a heart-shattering break-up, the loss of a loved one, a terrible accident, an illness etc.
  • Deep-seated insecurities/painful memories that were formerly shoved in a corner are now at the surface and the only way to move forward is through
  • A realization that there is a big difference between selfishness and self-love
  • That the only constant thing in life is yourself

I’m sure there more factors but these seem to be the most prominent. They present themselves to broken or near-broken individuals in the form of a maze. Of course, the whole idea is to realize you’re in a maze and then start paying attention to the signs.

But let’s say you manage to get out of it. You beat down grief and self-pity and pain with your sword and emerge from the maze bloodstained, weary and awake. The sun is shining in your face and there is a path moving straight and true. No more circular pointless roads with insurmountable roadblocks. Yippee.

What happens next?

I think most people get stuck here. I definitely did. Allow me to explain.

So you emerge from the maze and you clean yourself off and you take stock of what you’ve just beaten. You took control of your life and you’d won. You sharpen your sword because you know it’s value now. You begin to take yourself seriously. You begin to realize you are worthy of love, respect and belonging.

You see this beautiful glowing change in yourself. You’re proud of yourself. But you’re puzzled and then upset when no one else seems to notice. And if they do notice, they certainly don’t care.

Everyone around you seems to be behaving in the same way. They are treating you the same. They’re still mean and hurtful. Still saying nasty things when they’re upset or dismissing your feelings.

The old you would have stayed quiet and saved the anger and the tears for your pillow or your journal.

But no. This new version of you bristles at this mistreatment. Your eyes become over bright, your nostrils flare and eyebrows arch upwards. You speak up. You tell them just where they can shove it and refuse to back down. You see the surprise in their face and you do a little dance inside your head: Victory! I have been seen.

Now you’re arguing with someone who time has shown to be impossible reason with. And as their irritation and angers rises, so does yours to match it. But you’re standing up for yourself! This is how it’s done, is it not? Do not allow others to walk all over you. If they won’t listen to your words or your reason, maybe they will to your yells and wilfulness.

So amid all the screeching and blustering, what have you become? The answer is obvious (if my writing has been clear). You are now one of them.

When I first hopped aboard the Self-Love Express, I felt this need to protect myself at all costs. That no one should be allowed to treat me in a way that undermines my value. This idea was born out years of not protecting myself. I think I was trying to make up for lost time. So, I’d argue with anger and go toe-to-toe with unfairness. But it all wore me down. You really can’t argue with idiots. They’d bring you down to their level and beat you with experience. If not, they’ll turn you into the King or Queen of idiots and what will you be left with then?

Self-love isn’t about worrying how others treat you. It’s about treating yourself and those around you with respect, kindness and compassion. The world could use a lot more of these three things but first we all need to separate what is in our control and what isn’t.

It took me a long time to understand this. Actually, I’m still working through this bit. I can’t dictate how someone else decides to treat me. I can only dictate how I respond. Reactivity of any kind only withdraws from your self-respect. Being kind to someone who is being nasty to you isn’t a sign of being a doormat. It’s a sign of true self-love. Why? Because it means you are so secure in your own value that what they say or do cannot hurt you.

Needless to say, this is much, much easier said than done. I imagine it takes practice, discipline and a steady flow of letting go exercises to remain calm in the face of someone who is trying their best to hurt you.

So, I come back to my initial question. What is it to be free?

In most countries across the world, financial freedom is ruthlessly chased after. Most of us snap on blinkers (horse blinders) and run after it without bothering to take in much of what is going on around us. In that process, we attain only material wealth.

The thing about money is that it comes and goes. It isn’t permanent. Jeff Bezos may argue with this. But then again, maybe not since his ex-wife is harvesting half his fortune.

Emotional freedom is the true definition of freedom. At least, in my book. To be able to do as you please without needing or vying for the approval of another sounds like heaven. This doesn’t mean that you don’t care about anyone else, of course. It just means you truly understand that everyone is on their own separate path and that you can be there for each other without being expectant of one another.

I’m not there yet. I have some ways to go. I would love to find someone who is emotionally free and interview them. Perhaps you know someone. Or perhaps, they’re all sitting atop the Himalayas, bald and robed in orange. Or chilling out in Varanasi, buck naked and smoking pot.

Anyway, this was my musing for the week. I hope you will keep coming back every week. Feel free to comment if you want to support or denounce. Either way, I’d love to hear what you have to say.

XOXO.

Image: Mohamed Nohassi on Unsplash.com

Posted in Renuka, Thoughts&Revelations

How old are my parents again?

Another Sunday, another frantic phone call from home about another parent being taken to the hospital.

I have another 6-ish months to go before I officially turn 30, but what I’d forgotten is that my parents will soon also face a far more terrifying milestone – 60 years on earth.

As overbearing as Indian parents can be, and as much as I have often wanted my parents out of my life in the past, their mortality is something I haven’t put much thought into.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve watched both my parents go through multiple surgeries since I was 17. My mom had a stroke and was in a coma that we didn’t know if she would come out of She hasn’t been the same since.

I’ve visited multiple hospitals in Singapore more times than I should have been before turning 30. I could tell you where you can go for a quiet space in SGH, what food is best in Tan Tock Seng, and how NUH is a lot more accessible now than it was years ago.

I’ve roamed the various corridors of these hospitals for days on end over the years, become so familiar with hospital procedures and protocols (before I started working in one myself), that I can honestly tell you, I’m tired of it.

So tired. Tired of receiving phone calls about falls, heart attacks, panic attacks. Tired of going to the hospital and home and work and back to the hospital. Tired of feeling terrified that this phone call will be the last one.

I’m worried out of my mind all the time and I’m sure I’m not the only one. And if saying that I’m tired makes me a bad person, then I’m not afraid of being a bad person.

At the end of the day, I will say I’m tired, I will get angry and upset. I will worry about my own mortality, and fret over my health. I will text my best friends, and get some relief from their supportive words.

And I will pull through for my family.

I will be there at whichever hospital I’m needed. I will ask all the questions to all the doctors and I will keep worrying about my parents.

We may not have the best relationship. My family will never make it to daytime television, with ever-smiling and overwhelmingly supportive families. But it’s all I have, and damnit, I will dig deep and pull through for them again.

Image: Hush Naidoo on Unsplash.com

Posted in Anittha, Thoughts&Revelations

Rock Bottom is Solid Foundation

Hi, my name is Anittha.

I am a writer, teacher, obsessive dog-mum, avid reader, Netflix binger, and ocean enthusiast.

Ocean enthusiast is just my really bratty way of saying that I love being in the water. Floating in it and staring up at the sky is the closest I have ever gotten to peace and tranquillity.

I am also a new entrant into the blogosphere.

In four months, I will be making my unapologetic goodbye to my twenties with my middle fingers raised in salute. My twenties were not kind to me or rather, I wasn’t taking care of myself during these exceedingly tumultuous years.

I had zero direction and somehow managed to stumble across every narcissist in a five-kilometre radius. I put everyone before me because their validation of me was more important than my own. I turned my back on my health and fitness and was fully dependant on others for my own happiness. I was truly lost. A Dora-the-Explorer-like map would not have led me to salvation because I didn’t even know I was lost. That’s what happens when you spend all your time convincing yourself that you’re okay when you’re really not.

But the heart is limited. It can only hold so much pain before it rebels against your choices and demands you take a closer look at your life. My heart staged this great rebellion a year ago. I call this rebellion Rock Bottom.

The beautiful thing about Rock Bottom is that its solid foundation. Nothing is as honest as Rock Bottom. I took a real look at my life. The kind of look that hurts your soul more than your eyes. I made a few changes.

The first one was to stop second-guessing myself about my writing. It wasn’t doing me any favours. The second one was to focus on my life only one day at a time. Tomorrow can wait till tomorrow. The third change was to reconnect and get to know me, regardless of where it will take me.

The third change is by far the most important to me. I’ve realized that the most important thing we can do for ourselves is to take time to really listen and love ourselves – and not just sexually (heh heh).

Allowing myself to say no to people without guilt, turning off my greedy phone and really figuring out what I need for my personal happiness has laid out a whole new possibility for me. For the first time, I can see a life for myself that will be filled primarily with things that add beauty and joy to my life.

But it’s not enough to see this every now and then or only when I’m in a good mood. No. I believe the trick is to show up fully in our individual lives every day. As our own cheerleader. Pom-poms in the air. Cute little uniform. Perfectly executed cartwheels.

Like Renuka, I have a bunch of things in mind that I will like to accomplish this year. But one stands out among the rest and it’s something that I’ve always wanted to do but kept putting off to some unforeseeable future date.

But I’m entering a new chapter in life where I want to attack life. In a loving way. Perhaps attack is the wrong word but I’m sure you get my point.

I want to run a full marathon. For me, doing it will be the biggest challenge I’ve set myself so far. Running 42.195-kilometres may be just another Tuesday to some but for me, it’s a testament to how much I would have grown. Preparing for something like this requires a strict training schedule, eating the right foods, stretching and getting enough rest. It means saying no more than yes to alcohol. It means saying no to hanging out late at night with my friends. It means fuelling my body properly. It means discipline. It means saying yes to myself and my goals again and again and again.

I’m determined to put myself first in my thirties. To allow myself the freedom and the joy of caring for my soul the way I care for the people I love. Crossing that finish line at the Standard Chartered Marathon in December will mean a whole year of making me happy first. An unprecedented move in my life.

I’ll give you guys updates along the way. Things I’ve learned, how my progress is going. Stuff like that. I figure since I’m going to accomplish something that’s so huge for me, I may as well have things to look back on when I cross that finish line. After all, as it’s plastered all over the Internet, the journey is far more important than the destination.

So, welcome to our blog and to our version of 2019. We love that you’re here and we hope that you check back in with us.

XOXO
Gossip Girl
Anittha

Image: _Mxsh_ on Unsplash.com

Posted in Renuka, Thoughts&Revelations

The first grey hair down there

I remember it like it was just yesterday (when in fact, it was about 4 days ago). It was a day just like any other on our sunny island – hot and humid as hell. It was also the second day of Chinese New Year – and I’m willing to bet a whole kilo of Fragrance Ba Kwa that none of my Chinese sisters were subjected to the same shocking discovery as myself on this day.

My first grey hair down there. (That sounds like a really crappy reality tv show, or the title of a rather unfortunate porno, now that I think about it.) It turned out to be just another day of self discovery – so I did what any sane person would do. I texted the full details to one of my best friends – Anittha. It was also the day I became the second honorary member of the “Grey P**** Hair Club”, whether I liked it or not.

Thus began the second month of the year I turn Thirty. I was prepared for adventure! Finally graduating! Breaking free from the corporate world! I definitely was not prepared to question my impending mortality after being forced to grapple with a sign of ageing that I had never even stopped to consider. Oh well. Life goes on.

Now that you’ve been introduced to me with a fact that even my family does not know of (I also just realised I managed to accidentally out the president of the GPH Club in that process – sorry fam), what more can I say that will even be of any interest? Let’s get down to business shall we?

When we began exploring the idea of a shared blog, Anittha and I honestly just wanted a common platform to share our voices. We have no idea where this will take us and how far we will go. The one thing I can guarantee though, is that this will be a space where we can unapologetically be ourselves and it will remain that way for anyone else who stumbles upon our safe little corner of the internet.

One other thing I wanted this blog to be was a space to document our thirties as well as a project that we each decide to take on every year. A project for self-improvement if you will. For myself, this year I will focus on self-love. It’s cheesy af, yes I know. But it’s something I have neglected for 29 years, and I refuse to let that number get to 30. This year I choose to love me, and to be grateful for who I am and how far I’ve come – for not too long ago I did not see myself reaching this age. I won’t go into details right now, but I just want to begin by thanking myself for staying strong and moving forward. This year, I want to take it further. I know I am strong – now let me use that strength to push my limits. This year, above all else – I will live by this motto:

In a society full of hate, I choose to love me.

And by choosing to love me, I’m ready to commit to doing whatever I’ve wanted to do without brushing it off with the flimsy excuse of “I’ll do it when I lose weight”. Screw that. This is the year I graduate, the year I experiment and pursue my dreams, the year I complete three 10ks, and the year I explore my spirituality. There’s so much to get done and I’m excited to get going. So stay tuned! (No, seriously stay tuned – my first 10k is in a week and I am terrified.)

Till next time, this has been your favourite tall brown girl ❤

Image: Timothy Meinberg on Unsplash.com