The Age of Insecurity/Misery.

I was thinking of how to write this while pondering over the conversations and experiences for the past week, when this brainpicking article came up on my social media feed. The article, nor the quotes do not belong to me. Opinions are my own. 

***

I have come to the conclusion that we are all drowning in our own little hellish whirlpools of insecurity and misery.

It doesn’t seem like much of a conclusion, but it has been one that I’ve not been able to get my head around for a while, and now, I think I understand it a little better. I think I have some kind of context to why this is happening, and why we are trapped in this “age of insecurity” as Alan Watts so eloquently describes it.

We are all pretty miserable, aren’t we?

Miserable because we’re running some kind of race against time/others/time/others/others/time to gain some measure of this all-elusive success/wealth/love/havewhatyou/yourdeepestdesire etc. Miserable because we’ve gotten so damn caught up in the running, that we’ve all kind of forgotten about the living.  Miserable because we are trying to prove  something about ourselves to someone out there (I’m still not quite sure who this “someone” is, educate me if you can) about how “good” we are, how “worthwhile” we are, how  “productive” we are, how “powerful” we are, yada yada yada, blah blah blah.

I’ve had the utmost privilege to encounter many such people throughout my life. I’ve also had the utmost privilege to be sucked into this whirlpool of wants and desires and always feeling “not quite good enough” or “never quite there yet” more often than I would like.

I’m not entirely all too sure if this will change anytime soon.

Regardless, it has taught me some things; mostly, about context.

The context is this: deep seated insecurity breeds some form of unhappiness that manifests in this modern day and age faster than you can say “ebola”. People become grumpy;  jealousy becomes the new black;   person a bitches about person b to person c and person d feels the negative externalities of it all; people produce and consume at a rate that is in no way proportionate to the happiness/joy that they could get out of enjoying what they produce and consume. Misery becomes the normcore, the default  emotion, and the basis to which the rest of life sort of happens. It doesn’t have to be this way, but it is.

And I suppose the penultimate reason for the above is that we forget the utter temporal nature of life.

Alan Watts explains this much more  lucidly than I ever can in the article linked above, but  in simple lay-man terms, I guess what he is trying to say is: this universe is bigger than you and I, the I is mostly a myth, and more importantly, the I isn’t going to be around  for too long a time anyway, so why don’t you/I just let the fuck go of things? Enjoy the present, cos that’s the only certainty we have, mate. Let go of all the worries that things are not going to last because….the truth is, they aren’t.

“To understand this is to realize that life is entirely momentary, that there is neither permanence nor security, and that there is no “I” which can be protected.”

Amen. Amen. Amen.

It doesn’t mean all of life is meaningless. On the contrary, this just increases the value of every single thing that we do; makes every single encounter and relationship that much more precious; teaches us that if we’re going to laugh, scream, cry, get angry, fall in love, make love, we should do everything with our whole hearts and nothing less, because right here and right now, that is the only certainty we have.

“To put it still more plainly: the desire for security and the feeling of insecurity are the same thing. To hold your breath is to lose your breath. A society based on the quest for security is nothing but a breath-retention contest in which everyone is as taut as a drum and as purple as a beet.”

I guess what I’m trying to say is: don’t be that person who is ‘taut as a drum and as purple as a beet’. #notetoself

 

 

 

 

A love letter.

Sometimes, you need to tell him you dreamt about him.

***

Dear You,

I dreamt of you the other night.

I know, I know, I should be telling this to you over the phone, or over a cup of tea so that I can see your breath quicken and your lips turn up in a teasing grin, and your fingers tighten, almost imperceptibly.

Maybe some other time.

This dream deserves a white canvass, and a space that you can return to again and again, and a form in which you can relive it over, and over. (It also gives me the guilty pleasure of writing it, slowly, languorously, perfect for a soft, Sunday afternoon).

It was the first time I was in your apartment. You had wanted to eat outside, but I had insisted that I wanted something simple, homecooked, and just a quiet space to spend time with you. I didn’t have much time in the country, and I wasn’t a fan of being in crowded places.

You understood; you graciously allowed me into your safe space, into your sanctuary. When I had entered, the space was filled with all kinds of smells. Mouthwatering.

Let me help, I insisted. My mother has taught me better!

You didn’t respond; instead, you laughed it off and poured me my first glass of red. Sit down, let me take care of this.

I ended up in the kitchen with you; I’d forced you to have a glass of red yourself. I helped to slice the okra, the chillies, while you pottered around the stove, tossing, sautéing. We were quiet.

I had told you before that I liked quiet the most; it was my favorite mode of conversation. You understood.

I reached around you to get a sharper knife, my arm brushed against your side, and your heat was like a soft murmur, a consolation. I think you felt it too.

I didn’t want to find reasons to touch you. I couldn’t help myself.

The dream has moved. You know how dream-time is. Sometimes, excruciatingly slow; seconds last for hours, light travels sedately. At other times, years pass by swiftly, lives are lived in a few frames.

I was stretched out on your couch. I was on my second bottle of red, I think you were too. Everything felt, smelt, tasted mellow. Even in dreams, alcohol was intoxicating. You were seated near my feet, reading out loud. It was a book of Ghibran’s poetry, something I had gifted you when we first met. I had told you the book saved my life. You had said you had lost your copy, and you had been meaning to get one for some time. I had been happy.

“But if you love and must needs have desires, let
these be your desires:
to melt and be like a running brook that sings
its melody to the night….”

Your husky voice. Soft night light. The lingering smell of fine wine.

My skin twitched in anticipation as you continued.

“To know the pain of too much tenderness.
To be wounded by your own understanding of love;
And to bleed willingly and joyfully.”

The heat from your neck meandered to my foot.

I sat up, looked over your shoulder, read the last lines together with you. The heat from your neck breathed stronger. Your voice had a deeper catch to it; it might have been that my breasts were pressed against the side of your arm, or it might be the glass of wine that you’d just finished.

“To return home at eventide with gratitude;
And then to sleep with a prayer for the beloved
in your heart and a song of praise upon your lips.”

Silence. I sighed.

You cleared your throat. Once, twice.

I was still looking over your shoulder.

If I don’t kiss you now, I might never have the courage to do it, I say.

The side of your face, first. Then your lips. Your hands found my hair. You were slow, and you took your time. We began over, and over. Maybe it was the way dream-time worked. Maybe it was just you, and me, and the way we were meant to be.

My glass of wine continued to glisten in the light.

I wake up, gasping.

I send this to you with trembling fingers. Keep safe.

Love,
Me.

A Dream-Memory

There are some dreams worth writing about. Especially if they could have happened to you sometime before, in the yesterday.

***

I can’t remember very well anymore. Some years ago, I would have told you that this was my greatest wish, to forget, to un-remember, to leave the past where it belonged, along cobbled roads and tree-lined parks.

Now, I can’t say the same. After all, all that is left of our stories are the memories we can remember, no matter how hard the story was to live through.

This dream-which-may-have-happened came in flashes; in dream-time, eternity is but a second, and yet, people and places and words and colours move so slowly.

I was asleep; you had just returned home. I hadn’t seen you in a few days, you had gone for a holiday with your friends, a holiday you had been very excited about. I was happy you were finally traveling after all those years in the country. I hadn’t expected you back at that time, or maybe, I had – you always kept me expectant and eager, and that was what I loved most about you.

You came into the room, everything in my dream-memory is colored golden; this could be my romanticism manifesting itself, or it could be the light from your night lamp which I had left switched on.

I began to wake up; you had crawled into bed with me, and you were smiling, and I was probably smiling too, even though I was still half-asleep. I was all bed-hair and drool, but you didn’t care.

Maybe that was love, this acceptance, this coming-home-to phenomenon, this together-even-though-we-are-apart.

Maybe, you had missed it the few nights away. Maybe you hadn’t.

My dream-me would never know.

I exclaimed sluggishly, incandescently, that you were back. You smiled, and then kissed me. Something in me, my dream-me came unlocked.

You told me about your trip; I was mostly listening, still a little asleep, in awe at how happy you were. You kissed me again, I laughed. I might have fallen back asleep as you continued your stories; at some point, I told you what I had cooked that night, and you said you wanted what I had made.

I think it was 1am. I was telling you to help yourself.

The next moment, I am waking up.

There is golden light in my eyes.

Pune Hill: Reaching the summit

Nepal has gifted me with many stories. Let me begin in the middle. 

***

It was the third day of trekking. It was  4 or 5 in the morning, and we had been woken by the tinkling of a singing bowl, and steaming black tea, sweetened with homemade honey.

(I will write a poem about the honey in Nepal – it is the closest that I have come to tasting ambrosia, this coming in second after some sweet wine that I had in a winery in Hungary)

We were going to catch the sunrise atop Pune Hill, and this was sort-of-the-climax of the trek that we had been working towards. At 3210m high, Pune Hill was the spot to see the rising sun, and a range of the Himalayan belt displayed in all its glory – the Dhaulagiri Range, Himchuli, Machhapuchhare, Gangapurna, Lamjung Himal, Manasalu & Annapurna South, 1st, 2nd, 3rd whole Ranges.

As usual, I plodded and trailed behind my trekking mates as we began the ascent. My two Nepali friends (who had helped to carry our bags during the trek) followed me, patiently waiting as I caught my breath  every 15-20 mins,  and massaged my aching knees. They would give me cheeky grins with a “are you okay?” to which I would beam widely, nod emphatically, and continue my state of plodding up, up, up.

(Sidenote: nothing is as revealing about the  effects of age as this aching knee syndrome.)

We met many who were also trying to hit the summit before the sun rose –  mostly, elderly trekkers, who were probably the biggest source of inspiration for all of us. Seeing older folks, who were so determined to continue experiencing life to the fullest, was a big reality check for the jaded likes of yours truly. I huffed and puffed along with them, exchanging exasperated looks at how the stairs were never ending and muttering encouraging words as I continued uphill (mutter because I didn’t have enough energy to speak any louder).

And finally, finally, one step, two steps, n steps later, the terrain flattened out, the sky grew lighter, and I walked up to the summit.

As promised, the clear sky at  6am in the morning meant that the mountain ranges were in full view.

Many have written about this whole “I’m so thankful to be alive” phenomenon, and though I’ve questioned it time and again, at that moment, at that place, near the clouds and surrounded by the mountains, that was exactly how I felt.

Reaching the summit might not have been a feat for many, but considering my previous trekking experience – where I’d crawled to the summit on my hands and knees when I’d attempted Snezka in the Czech Republic – this was a marked improvement, and a personal success. This was a running theme during the trip for me  – it all just boiled down to me, and what I wanted out of life, and for myself. Not what another person was doing with his or her life, not an achievement that someone else had attained before I had, not a “success” that I thought I should work towards just because everyone else was doing the same.

I was sitting on a ledge, people watching and sunrise watching;  I saw an old European lady take that last step to reach the summit. She headed straight towards an elderly gentleman (whom I’d met earlier, and who was presumably part of her trekking team) and exclaimed “I’ve done it!!” before promptly diving in for a hug. He was smiling and congratulating her, she was laughing ecstatically, the sun was shining bright and I had a steaming cup of masala tea in my hands.

This was what it was all about. Rejoicing. Being grateful for all that is and all that isn’t. Sharing the love and joy with others who feel the same, who understand your journey.

This was what it was all about.

DSCF1113
Taken at the Pune Hill Summit, Nepal, October 2014. (#nofilter)

(Of course, then we had to go downhill. That’s a story for another day.)

This Love Thing.

Sometimes, it’s a little scary to think about this love thing.

***

Sometimes, it’s a little scary to think about this love thing, isn’t it? It opens up a can of worms, brings back memories you think you’ve forgotten, reminds you that for all the hardness you wear on the outside, you’re still all pink, and soft, and a little sore on the inside.

Yes, it’s definitely a little scary to think about this love thing.

A recent conversation:

“This love thing, it really isn’t that complicated, is it? You find someone who can add to your life, someone who drives you to be better, not just for yourself, but for your other. You  win some when you’re in this love thing, you lose some when you’re in this love thing, but when you lose, you lose it so that the bigger-than-you bit, the us bit, wins. It really isn’t that complicated, is it?”

No, it isn’t. Yes, it is.

You brush shoulders with people you could do this love thing with throughout your life.

Sometimes, the person is right beside you, but something happens, or something doesn’t happen, and you continue on your way, a little happier, a little sadder.

Sometimes, the person is your first,  your first heart-opening, your first heart-breaking, and you carry this person  around in the underside of your tongue, the name that is never said; he’s the habits you recognize, like how tea has to be the perfect shade of red, or jeans have to be folded twice over, never more, never less. Everything has changed; you aren’t the person who got into this love thing years ago, and he isn’t the person who got into this love thing years ago, but the love thing remains, as the first love thing, as the thing that never saw the light of day, the thing that still continues to illuminate.

Sometimes, the person is so utterly far away from you, states away, but everything else is perfect – the conversations, the thoughts, the words you find for each other, the words you don’t have to say. But even then, this love thing isn’t enough because there are bills to pay, and dreams to run after, and the problem of finding a common land space for you to meet. You part, but you don’t really; there is always that email waiting to be read, or the message that was sent three days ago, or that Facebook Like that sets your heart racing.

You move on, but not really, you’re still a little bit in this love thing with that person, but you’re you and, he’s him, and life is a little separate for the both of you.

Or sometimes, this love thing becomes bigger than all of it put together, the states, the first love things, the dreams,  the bills, the egos, the miseries, the burdens you carry, the blemishes and the scars you wear,  and that’s that.

All of it still exists, the hardships, the distance, the memories, the worries, but this love thing pulses a little stronger, and today becomes a little easier to deal with.

It also gets a whole lot scarier when you think about it.

So, you don’t think. You do this love thing, sometimes on your own, sometimes with your love, and you work on it  from one today to next. The hardness on the outside gets a little softer, the soreness  on the inside gets a little less painful.

And so, it goes on, this love thing.