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Guilt to gratitude

I have always thought that I don’t deserve to be happy. It happens when you grow up with a narcissistic parent who continuously reminds you of how insignificant you are, and then spend a third  of your life with a man who continuously reminds you of how selfish you are because you took longer when you went out for a run than you said you would, or cooked something they don’t like to eat, or wanted to do something they didn’t want to do.  

It becomes an essential part of you to undervalue yourself and feel guilty each time you are happy. That’s right, I have spent more than a decade feeling guilty when I laughed too much, had too much fun, spent my own earnings on myself, because I was trained for decades to believe that I am not worth it. My parent or my ex probably did not mean it, we are all fighting our demons, and they have their own fights.

But I am glad that I had the resilience to walk away from a life that inhibited me. It has been the hardest 2 years of my life, but I found a way to accept that their demons are not mine to fight, and it is okay for me to want to live my best life, it is okay to make mistakes, it is okay to dance in the rain, even if I have two left feet and it is definitely okay to laugh and be happy. 

I now find myself waking up smiling and saying “I love my life, and I am happy! I am loved and desired by those I want in my life”. I laugh freely, listen to music and dance goofily. I run, more than I probably should, but I run because I love how it makes me feel. I smile, all the time, I feel so beautiful, and I feel thankful for feeling like this.  

 It was not a conscious decision, and I feel grateful to the universe for helping me change my guilt over being happy and content to gratitude that I can be a wholesome woman. I can be all of it, or nothing at all! I am happy because I love me!  

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Mindfulness is so underrated!

I have a restless mind and am always doing something. My friends and family call me a photon, implying I do not have stationary mass. Whilst an overstatement, I do feel I need to learn to be one with myself without the need to be actively engaged in something physical all the time.  

I started yoga and mindfulness a couple of months ago on the insistence of a lovely young man, and that has been life changing. I am acquainting myself with the joys of sipping a cup of tea in the balcony with a delightful beautiful view I have never noticed before. I did not know kookaburras came into suburbia and that they sing so well! Australia has long been known as the Land of Parrots, but I had not noticed the beautiful bright little birds that come and sit on the trees in our backyard and sing.  

All I needed was to allow myself to sit down with my cup of tea in the balcony for 5 minutes one day to appreciate these wonders of nature in my own backyard. Now it has become an addiction. I sit here every day, sometimes more than once to allow myself the luxury of just being me. I live in a free world, yet I have spent the last 2 decades depriving myself the basics of soul nourishment.  

Do you know that if we sit motionless with our eyes closed and let our minds wander into the sounds and movements around us, just the feeling of wind on one’s face and the chirping of birds in the distance is enough to rejuvenate us?  

I sit under the sun every day, and just soak that golden warmth up, lighting up the very crux of me. That warmth can take me through the lonely dark nights. I sleep! I have not slept for more than 5 or 6 hours a night since forever, yet now I find that I can switch off early at night and wake up at dawn, feeling rested after a good 7 to 8 hours of sleep.  

My skin glows, I am smiling more, and my mind feels calm and okay with the ‘now’. I feel like I am in harmony with the wind howling on my windowpane and sound of rain falling on the metal tiles on the neighbour’s roof.  

I am finally okay with silence, and it is empowering. I do not need to constantly fill voids in other people’s lives with my energy. It is okay for me to just be. It is exhilarating to find a fraction of peace in my heart-center, and I hope I can continue my journey into self-reflection, accept who I am and fall in love with myself one day.  

Why wait for the next life when I can do it all Now?

As I lay in bed this morning, naked, admiring my body through the lens of my phone camera, it occurred to me that I have spent decades body shaming myself about the little that I did not have, and been completely oblivious to how gorgeous the rest of me is! Self-doubt and shame about the imperfections of my body have made me spend these years in misery, drawing criticism from others of course, because isn’t that the law of attraction? We draw to us what we think! But this morning as I lay in bed, looking at myself in the soft morning light, the first thoughts I felt were of how beautiful I am! I have a wholesome, fit, beautiful body and am lucky to have the energy to continue to invest in it.  

So, my focus this spring is to build on the beautiful me and do things I wanted to be able to do but never did, as I have the most precious commodity at my disposal – time!  

I have decided to spend my time learning to do things I always thought would be a “next life” bucket list! I am doing a 31-day course online to get to a handstand with this amazing Yoga instructor – Carling Harps and have enrolled in classes to build my core. So what, if I am a 41-year-old woman who has had two C-sections? I deserve a strong core and a flat tummy too! I definitely deserve to see what the world looks like upside down!  

I have created a reward chart for myself, it works for the boys, so maybe it will work for me too! I get a star each day for every positive activity – yoga, run, 15,000 steps, no alcohol and staying sugar free! It’s been a week and the data I have collected suggests we may have a problem with alcohol… oops! 

I will do the Handstand and core building yoga daily all spring and see if standing on my hands will give me a different perspective about the world this summer! I will run when I can and walk when I cannot. I will soak up the sunshine, have oodles of tea and enjoy the sounds of the birds tweeting in my backyard.  

I will remember to put a smile on my face whenever a frown creeps up, and remind myself of how positively ravishing I look when I have just woken up and the fears of “what ifs” and “could have beens” haven’t yet starting gnawing at the edges of my soul! 

I will spend more time on building myself up because I deserve to love me!  

What men want, or so they think?

We have been in lockdown 4.2 for a while now, and there shall be no mingling for quite some time. These strange times have seen us all forced into taking the pace of life down a notch. It’s like the Gods all conspired against the human race and decided to put us in time-out for our shenanigans.  

In this new normal where dating someone has become a distant dream, chatting online has really picked up. Must be hard on men who struggle to communicate with words at the best of times! But it works well for someone like me, single after 15 years, with no idea about what men want beyond the obvious of course!  

For simple creatures that men claim to be, are they really that simple? I am no expert on the intricacies of the mind that is male but connecting with someone was so much easier back in my 20’s! Now, it feels like I am traversing through multiple labyrinths simultaneously trying to find my way in a man’s world! Are we allowed to ask men out yet, I mean it is 2020? Is it okay to let them pay for my coffee, or is that too 70’s? 

Some blokes love to talk so much, they share every painful detail about what they are getting up to through the day, whilst there are some like Edward, who will go weeks without any contact and then start a conversation with “Hey, are you watching this new cooking show on channel 7?” No Edward, I am not, I don’t really watch tv, and Hello to you too!  

What I find most amusing is that almost all of them share their deepest fears, insecurities or frustrations with such ease with a total stranger. This one guy shared with me how he doesn’t like to take selfies because to do that he would have to look at himself, and each time he does that, he is reminded of all his stuff ups. Edward who I think is gorgeous can’t stop telling me how scruffy he is compared to how I look (fact, but scruffy Edward is cute)! Another one said most men don’t smile in photos as they are trying hard to look macho! 

All you lovely men out there, stop overthinking, and just be happy! When you are happy, it will come through your photos, your interactions, your smiles, and you will attract to you just the right people, who like you for who you are! I know this might sound like gypsy talk, but it really is physics. 

Be the simple creatures you claim to be, shrug away that weight of having to be the stronger, unfazed gender in the equation, accept your flaws, because your women will adore you for those very flaws! Accept yourselves as you are, and live in the now, experience the emotions you feel! 

And, for goodness sake, communicate! Just say it! What’s the worst that could happen? 

People want to wine’o’clocks with me, and I just want to run!

I am blessed to have so many lovely friends, that I always have someone or the other checking on me to see how I am going through this Iso! Really, I am the luckiest woman ever, seeing as my village is made up of all these lovely, thoughtful, kind people. Thank you all, for always being there for me, and for worrying about me, but I really am okay!  

I just want to run, whenever I can squeeze one in, that is all! Running is akin to a state of nirvana, especially after the first 4kms, when the body just moves on its own, following the momentum.  I can hear my thoughts, as the thoughts work in rhythm with my feet, and I can work through all my worries and concerns so much better, because when I run, I am unaffected by the inertia of potential hurdles and road blocks. I may even go so far as to say that I have done some of my best problem solving while running!  

So, when it is 4pm on a Friday evening after a long week of work, and it’s a choice between joining people for a virtual drink, or going for a run, I will always go run!  

What’s in a name?

Conforming to social norms always makes me claustrophobic and makes me feel like I am a potato sitting in a sack with all the other potatoes! Don’t get me wrong, I love potatoes and I feel very secure in the knowledge that all potatoes offer the same carby satisfaction when I need a potato fix!

But I don’t know how to be that potato, and don’t care much for learning to be one.
Love is unreasonable, and even non-potatoes like me mindlessly succumb to societal conformities when they are in love. When I got married, like every other good Indian woman I adopted my husband’s surname, because if that isn’t a declaration of love then what is?

What’s in a name they say, but my new surname became my identity. I was known by that
name, it gave people a picture of the kind of person someone with a name like that should
be. My husband never cared much for my grand gesture of dropping my identity to start a new life with him; should probably have seen that as a sign amongst many more that presented themselves! 12 years went by and I morphed into the new married me, until cracks started to appear, and everything went pear-shaped.
Since before the actual separation I had been toying with the idea of going back to my
original surname, and slowly changed all my social media accounts to my maiden name. But I just couldn’t bring myself to get my name changed at work, that would be a declaration of the recent change in my life and I just wasn’t ready to do that yet. I just didn’t feel ready for the inquisitive looks and misplaced sympathy.

Then one day, I finally found the courage, and asked HR to change my email, signature and the lot to my maiden name at work. It was a 2-line email, but took a lot of courage to write and send. A lot of shame, embarrassment and guilt was followed by a sense of freedom as I cut another tie from my past life, to build my new identity.
It is just a name, but as time goes by so much gets attributed to that name. I wasn’t assumed to be a wife, or a daughter-in-law or a part of a certain community anymore.

It was time to believe in my Now and start investing in who I was going to be 5 to 10 years from today.

My love affair with sunshine

COVID19 is a terrible virus that is brought the world down on its knees, but in some ways, it has changed our lives for the better. I have so much more free time now than I ever did in my whole adult life because there are so many non-essentials that I just cannot do anymore.  

I spent my winter arvos sitting in the balcony, soaking up that gorgeous sun as the wind caressed my face. This enforced solitude has rekindled my love for sunshine! Glorious, golden, warm sunlight from this angry star 152m kms away from us warms my soul up. Such an irony that the tremendous heat from this star in turmoil is the source of love and life on earth!  

When I sit outside, close my eyes and let the sunlight kiss my face, I can imagine the joy birds feel when they fly in the open sky, looking down on the busy mundane chaos of life on land. I want to soar into the potential of life, free of all conformities until the end of time. 

In that moment, I feel most beautiful, as the universe accepts me whole, with all my imperfections, and then I wonder if this is a fleeting sense of elusive contentment. Solitude is so undervalued. I think the more we practice isolation, the more accepting of ourselves and other we become. Who knows, COVID19 might just bring about peace and harmony in our world! 

The dishwasher – a symbol of my failed marriage

Every time I stack the dishwasher, I am reminded of the first meeting I had with my (then) husband, when I told him I wanted out. I sat across the table from him in a coffee shop, as I couldn’t bring myself to have that discussion at home. We discussed the impending end of our marriage of 12 years. My voice broke, I was shaking and couldn’t hold back tears, while he talked about the fact that there was nothing left in our marriage to salvage as dispassionately as one would contemplate when to mow the lawn.

It has been a while since we separated, yet it bothers me that through those really difficult discussions, as I broke to pieces, watching my dreams of a simple, contented family life disappear into nothingness, the man I spent a third of my life with did not even feel enough compassion to just hold my hand through it as a fellow human being.  

At the end, we agreed to try and be more tolerant of each other’s shortcomings and continue to be respectful towards each other as we work out the next steps. I asked him to please let me know if there were things I could be mindful of, so we can avoid unpleasantness through the transition to our separation, and he said – “yes, I hate how you stack the dishwasher, you don’t put the spoons in the right slot, can you please be mindful of that?”. 

We had been together for 15 years, and married for most of that time, had travelled continents, made two beautiful little humans together, and our marriage was in tatters. Here I was telling him I want out because there was no love, respect, intimacy or trust left in our relationship, and his biggest problem with me was that I did not stack the dishwasher properly. Is that what all relationships come down to, or were there signs I continuously overlooked over the years, until the significance of our life together dropped down to nuances of how we operate household machinery? 

I was so disgusted with the dishwasher, that I stopped using it completely and washed the dishes manually for a good 2 months. The dishwashing soap tore through my skin and gave me topical eczema, I probably burned my skin in scalding hot water daily, but it took a long time for me to forgive the dishwasher its transgressions. If I couldn’t forgive the inanimate dishwasher, what hope did I have to wash away the bitterness from my own soul and move forward? I wouldn’t go so far as to say I love the dishwasher now, it serves its purpose, but it will forever be a symbol of the failure of my marriage.  

Chris – The photographer who is a fan of women and doesn’t use toilet paper!

I met Chris for a coffee at a little bakery in Camberwell. Camberwell is a busy little suburb close to the Melbourne CBD and is known for its cafes and the Sunday market. The Sunday market holds great prospects for a plant enthusiast like me, and the warm jam donuts served there are to die for. The key is to get in early so you can get your hands on freshly fried warm sugar hits!  

As its COVID days, Sunday market was sadly closed, so no yummy jam donuts for us, but we got into the bakery. I got a parking spot just outside the bakery, and watched him walk in. He seemed to just walk right in and queue up, so I went in with a “Hope you haven’t been waiting too long?”. I was on time and that was a stupid question to ask since I had seen him arrive just then. But then, I am nothing if not clumsy, awkward and often lacking the communication charm women seem to just have. He looked at me quizzically and said, “I literally just got here 10 seconds ago”.  

We got a table and ordered our drinks. It was good to just have coffee and not be pressured into ordering food as most other cafes have been doing. It’s taken a toll on my ever-increasing waistline, the necessity to order food with drinks if we must dine in – another COVID rule.  

The first think I noticed about Chris were his arms, I reckon his biceps would be about 3 arms of mine put together and he was quite happy to put them on display. He got a hot chocolate as I got an almond flat-white. I am incapable of ordering myself an almond flat-white without thinking of Edward and him mocking me for juicing almonds to make a coffee! Even teapots remind me of him, as he cannot work his way around weird teapots. I will have to cover Edward Frankle off in another chapter, seeing as I tend to think of him so much, even when on a date with another lovely man!  

The date with Chris was good, like chatting with a friend. He was a particularly good conversationalist and was a good listener, paying attention, asking questions and all the things a woman wants a man to do.  

Chris is single, 43 never married, no kids, no plans to do either. He is well travelled and wants to travel more. He was fascinated with my cultural background and wanted to know more, which alas I can never shed much light on, given that I don’t know much about my own culture. He was very polite and wanted to know a lot about me as a person; and bonus, he did not delve into the usual online dating questionnaire set around what I want from this potential relationship, why I don’t know what I want! That always helps, as I have no clue what I want from relationships, or life in general, other than, living a happy fulfilling life! It was an easy conversation, with each sharing and listening and I had such a fabulous time.  

He dropped his hot chocolate at one point, and I did a victory dance in my head as it’s usually Yours truly being clumsy. I gracefully stood up and got him tissue and saw him check me out as I did that walk to and back from the counter. It was just a casual coffee and may never amount to much, but it felt good to be regarded as a woman after so long.  

Long term relationships have a way of killing that – the desirability men feel for women. I may never want to be in a complacent long-term relationship I thought in that moment. Perhaps I could just become a serial dater, soaking up the adoration! 

The coffee shop asked us to leave unless we were going to order. We had been there for an hour with just a coffee to show for, so we went for a walk. Chris is tall, but I was in boots and ended up being slightly taller than him on the day. I wasn’t sure if that was attractive to him, but cannot do much about that being a tall woman now, can I?  

We must have walked for about an hour, and he was very thoughtful, and kept asking me if I was okay to walk in the boots, as they did not seem to be made for walking. He was attentive, funny, and shared some delightful stories. He works two jobs doing visual analytics and is an ace photographer. Anything involving data always piques my interest, so he definitely turned out to be the pick of the day! 

As I was in just a 2-hour parking spot, we made our way back to the car, hugged and he asked if I would like to do this again. Of course, I said yes!

I went back home a happy woman, a first date after a decade and a half could not have gone better for me and I was happy he wanted to catch up again, as I really enjoyed our chats. 

I felt like a beautiful woman who made interesting conversation and was worthy of spending time with. A man holds the power to make a woman feel good about herself by just spending some time with her, mind blowing! 

He asked me out again to catch up for drinks, but Victoria went into lock-down the weekend after, so we had to put a pin in those plans! 

That one date with him built me up so much that I have seen a return of the flirtatious me from the 00’s! I am happier inside and a bit more me. May be all I need is to to feel like a woman again, is to go for coffees with lovely, gorgeous men who can communicate!

Girlfriends that call you out on your shit and hold you up through the darkness

 I have a bunch of awesome friends who have held me up through the worst time of my life. They call me out on my bullshit, they tell me when I am being unrealistic, shoot down my pointless dreams. But they built me up, they held me tight through the dark days, they listen to my insecurities and worries for hours on end and they never give up on me! 

I would not be here, being me, sitting upright if it weren’t for this lovely bunch of women from different parts of the world always being there for me. Thank you, ladies, I owe you my smiles and unbroken dreams, and for the vibrator! I did not know how important a vibrator is in the life of a working mum! All you single ladies, a vibrator will never fail you, give it a go!  

So, I am now focussing on what I want my life to be, building my life back up, brick by brick. I cleaned up all those beautiful terrariums that had been neglected, brought my plants indoors! Put up photos of the kids on a wall we now call the family wall, and let the pets roam free in the house. All these things sound basic, but for me it was liberation! Each step into the new normal feels like I am slowly crawling out of my shell, ready to be vulnerable again.  

I wake up to the sounds of the birds singing to me, my face hurts of smiling so much, and I cannot have enough of how beautiful I feel!  

One night one of my girlfriends came over for wine o clock and a sleep over. She was flummoxed to learn that in my 40 years I had only ever been with 2 men and a vibrator; and that months after being separated hadn’t even gone out for a harmless coffee with someone yet. She was obviously worried that with gravity working against my declining assets, I needed to get in the game quick! She took my phone, played on my dating profiles for a couple of hours and that was, let say the beginning! 

I finally went on my first date exactly 3 months and 29 days after my separation.