I spent so much of this year living, and doing, and feeling. Now that I have some to sit, breathe, and process, the enormity of this year strikes me like a sledgehammer. A lot has happened. Lessons have been learnt. There have been many endings. There have also been some wonderful and beautiful beginnings.

A list below, to remind myself of what this year has taught me, of what to take with me into the new year, and of what to leave behind for the better.

  1. I am not just what I do. I am not just what I create. I am not just what I make others feel.  I am not just a body or a mind. I am not just who I know. I am not just anything. I am (fortunately, or unfortunately) a sum of all these awkward bits and pieces. I am the dark and the light. I am reminded time and again, that I am a balance, and that I want to achieve balance. And this is not a goal for the coming year or the next. It is the goal of my existence. There is a tattoo on my left wrist that has the root word of karma (“karm”) inscribed in a symmetrical lotus. To always maintain balance in life like a lotus, which flowers even in the most muddiest of waters. A reminder, a reminder.
  2. My fear is a convenient security blanket. All security blankets must be outgrown with time. They can be looked back with fondness, sometimes even nostalgia. But they cease to serve a purpose over time; they become ragged and obsolete. Discard the fears that you (I) hold onto so closely because you’ve (I’ve) become comfortable with them. If life is to be lived, one has to evolve. One has to thrust aside one’s security blanket and face the outside world. This too, is part of the process.
  3. Love is easy and hard. Love is giving and taking. Love is being unapologetic and apologetic. Love is tiring and life-giving. Love for another usually is borne from some version of the love we have for ourselves. Sometimes we need to learn how to love ourselves better to love others better. Sometimes we love others and in loving them, we learn to love ourselves better.
  4. People can take many things from you but never your dignity and grace. There were several incidents this year which I am grateful for, in retrospect, for dealing with more grace than I thought was possible. This is a reminder to me that I have grown, cos the A from years ago would have behaved very differently. Gratitude and grace. Grace and gratitude.
  5. What is life without learning? Nothing.
  6. Nature always heals. Nothing is quite like being in the mountains. Be a tree. Be a mountain. Watch the relentless love a sea has for the seashore. See the magnitude of life that this universe contains and be aware that you are a tiny (but irreplaceable) part of this existence. Also be aware that in any man-made institution, you are replaceable. The world can and does spin on its axis without you. But that does not mean your existence is without a purpose. Jewish astrology speaks of the striking of the yod in a person’s life. When the yod is triggered, there is no holding back your seeking, achieving, creating. Create the yod for yourself. You are your yod.
  7. Sleep well and drink a lot of water and eat healthily and exercise. This is literally all you need to do like clockwork.
  8. Don’t be rude.
  9. Take time to be silent if you think your words are not going to be useful to you, to someone else, to a relationship, to a task. The right words will arrive when they must.
  10. Be kind.

So much of woman talk is body talk. We spend an incredible amount of time dissecting our bodies, and then dissecting the bodies of other women we see. This is not always a malicious act; most times, it is a non-passionate, objective commentary of what we find attractive in each other.

There is something intimate in the way in which women prepare their bodies. The care they take towards putting their best faces forward; the time they take to pick what suits them best. Some of my favourite memories of my mother, especially as a young child, was watching her dress for an event, brushing her hair away from her face, clipping her earrings on. She never spent too much time, but what time she did spend, was spent wisely, carefully, tenderly.

I learnt young, that body talk, in essence, is politic talk. We spend so much time talking about our bodies because it is by which we are first and foremost, assessed. It is by which, (and this is a sorry fact, but it is what it is) how we assess ourselves. Eventually, if we are among the fortunate few, we begin to understand that our bodies become our first books, pages and pages in which we write our stories, carry our experiences that we have shared with our sisters, our mothers and our lovers. Our bodies will be what draw these women and men to, and away from us.

***

I once remember a lover staring at me in the afternoon light, in the early days of our coming together. He stared at me, as if he had never before seen a woman, and I remember the wonderment in his eyes, and the reverence in his fingers. It may have been the magic of light that hasn’t settled (as afternoon light is wont to do), or it may have been the tender feelings that softly oscillated between love and lust during those early days, but I remember looking at him looking at me, and thinking to myself I could have asked anything of him, anything, then, and he would have said yes.

I did not ask him anything that day, or for days afterwards. And when I did ask him, finally, the most important question of all, it was too late.

By then, my body, like my heart, had started withdrawing.

The sweetest thing about two people becoming one, is when their lives find common spaces to embrace, overlap, then softly settle into a new rhythm.

Like when paints mix together, different colours, each striking and special on their own, and then the inevitable joining, the newness, the softness.

It is in the simplest things, the everyday. Little habits exchanged. Things you never cared about before (never knew about, even) have enormous importance in your life now. It is strange at first, and then you get used to it, and one day, you wake up and you couldn’t remember caring about anything else.

Inside jokes take a life of their own because there will always be something else to say to make it just a little bit funnier. Intonations become different. Languages meet first, then skin. Sometimes, it is the other way around. Each time, the joining is sharp, tangy, and there is a pinprick of recognition.

You are home.

I’m convinced (especially as I grow older) that the real beginning is the middle.

Not that I am anywhere close to the middle of anything – I have neither lived long enough, nor done anything long enough to truly understand the tedium of moving towards the middle.

As time passes, though, I suppose I experience more and more, the middle of things.

The middle of a book, the middle of a song, the middle of the week (Wednesdays, days of part hope and part despair, depending on which side of the bed you wake up that morning), the middle of a relationship (no one, hardly anybody talks about the middle of any relationship, maybe because one does not want to think of the end of it, but….do you have to know the end, to understand the middle?), and so on and so forth.

***
Today, in the middle of a walk – the sweet smell of a particular brand of soap used to wash clothes.

The last time I had encountered this smell was in a lover’s home; he had passed me his T-shirt to wear for the night, and as someone deeply inspired by smells, I had pressed my nose into the sweet-smelling garment and taken a deep, deep breath.

When I told him how wonderful his shirt smelt, he looked at me in surprise, and told me that it was the first time anyone had ever told him that. 

Later that morning, when I left his place, I buried my face in his chest and took a deep, deep breath, trying to memorise the feel of his arms around me, and the feeling of being surrounded by all that warmth and the beautiful smell of clean clothes. 

I didn’t know then, that I was trying hard to capture something to survive a loss.

That time, it was not the middle. It was almost the end of things. 

***

The smell disappeared into the morning air, and I continued walking, still, still, somewhere in the middle of things.

Along the way, we pick up little things.

Like what is the best time to sit by the sea so that you can catch the last dripping colours of a setting sun;

Like the best way to carry a kitten so that you feel all of her soft fluffiness against your skin;

Like how long nights can be without your lover’s voice;

Like the exact number of times you can listen to a song on loop before you get tired of it;

Like how good the first drag of a cigarette feels after a long time without it;

Like the way your lover likes to be kissed – long, deep, wet; 

Like the best bookstore in your tiny town where you always, always find a steal, even when you’re not looking;

Like how the stars look in a night sky when there are no lights;

Like the sound of your mother crying when she is sick, happy, tired; 

Like the feel of him inside you, around you, with you;

Like the exact angle you lie on a park bench on a sunny day so that you can feel the cool breeze and the warm sun on your face while you doze; 

Like the feel of the summer’s best hibiscus bloom against your fingertip;

Like the taste of melted cheese and salty fries on your tongue;

Like the smell of fresh, clean sheets after a long day at work. 

Along the way, we pick up little things.

These little things, they make up this big thing called life.