Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The year in retrospect (super duper long post)

There are times when one feels one has figured out something ~ a series of events, a person, a moment in time. One rests finally, with a sense of having fully understood the matter. Then suddenly a realisation happens which makes your understanding have a 180 degree turn. Suddenly everything that made sense does not. Or what you thought you had figured out, has suddenly turned on its head. 

The last few months I have steadfastly held on and said at every opportunity that I couldn't wait for this year to be over. At every turn, this year has thrown me a new challenge. I have written about it, I have pondered about it, shed many tears and spent many sleepless nights and restless days. 

The year began on a good note. There was the promise of something big happening. Every ounce of our collective energy as a couple was spent on nurturing the new venture. January did start on a very promising note. 

The euphoria and the excitement continued through February. We had a full house with a little Dachshund joining us for a week as I pet sat him while his family holidayed. We had parties and more parties, some planned, some impromptu. A breathless excited pace that made me smile each time I tried to catch my breath. I was becoming fitter with my workouts at the gym and came to a point where the highlight of my day was the time spent in the gym. I began to enjoy the excruciatingly tough all day travels to Guntur and back. leaving home before sunrise and getting back bone tired just a few minutes before midnight. The pit stops, the conversation, the food at small towns on the way and the skyline would become my friends. Some days, I would wait to actually get away from the mundaneness of home. 

March was again a round of frenzied activity. Several trips to Guntur for work included one overnight one where I had to stay at the house of my business partners' in-laws. Working on a small budget, that night while trying desperately to sleep for a couple of hours beside a child who kept kicking me, on a mattress which still had its protective plastic sheet cover and against a wall so dirty I thought I was on a horror movie set, I realised all that I took for granted. It was a situation I promised myself I would never allow myself to be in again. I was in a mad house, where out of politeness and spread over 400 sft, I had to join in a religious celebration that had an elaborate pooja every 4 hours. It was more than I could take. In a strange town, I just walked out of the house, for almost a mile, hailed and auto and went to a crowded marketplace for some solace. The train journey back home was something that I enjoyed more than I expected. Or maybe it was the happiness of just being on my own finally. 

The end of March and beginning of April, we spent in Goa. With two other couples. This was one of the most beautiful vacations K and I have had. Sage went crazy on the beach. He and I took long walks at sunrise, sometimes in the dark much before everyone had woken & played with street dogs that got friendly and stayed outside our cottage till we left. We ate in restaurants that didn't even ask for him to be leashed. I came back refreshed, but things were not to be the same again. Everything slowly began to get edgy and K spent unending hours at work. I would barely see him for 30 minutes after he woke up and before he left for office. I missed him terribly, so did Sage who began to get very clingy. Work for me continued with more trips to guntur. I was working with a bunch of extremely unprofessional and selfish people. One threw a tantrum in the middle of a contracted job and tried to take us for a ride. Another was just so whiny that it was easier for me to roll up my sleeves and get the work done myself. It happened more than a couple of times, when I got work done this way. I had to dig deep into my being, to handle these childish people, to take the high road, to be patient when they were being ungrateful, to solve their domestic problems so that they could come and do their work. There were days when I just wanted to pull my hair out, some days I wanted to slap multiple faces multiple times. I practiced zen. I spoke softly although in my head I wanted to scream. I offered solutions. I ran a ferry service. I felt like I had reached a personal milestone. 

This was a significant realisation for me. All the while, I believed I was an unlikely candidate for corporate success because I lacked patience, I lacked focus and I lacked the larger vision to only keep looking at the result I wanted and not the means by which I would achieve it. I was always given to understand by my bosses and sometimes peers that 'my fly off the handle and confrontational nature' was the chief reason I couldn't carve out a larger niche of success when I was gainfully employed. I put myself in situations where I had to face the heat and came out of them successfully, by myself. I felt very accomplished individually. This was a huge milestone for me. 

May was when the mayhem truly unfolded. We had a 'situation'. K spent about 18 hours being disconnected with the home. He had too much on his mind and his body was being pulled in every direction possible. It took every ounce of his strength both mental and emotional to get through each day. I saw him tired and weary and so cranky that conversations were to the bare minimum, lest I step on a raw nerve. My cook left because her husband was ill. I was in-charge ~ of the kitchen, of the house, of the family (amma was here with me), of K, of Sage and yes, of myself. I cannot even begin to describe how I felt. When the rawness has healed, someday in the future hopefully I will be able to talk about it.

I have issues with boundaries. I need them, I am territorial and even something as small as leaving a bag where it does not belong, or cluttering a table gets me mad. I am territorial and I need my space to reflect that. So when encroachments happen, on my time, my space, my emotions and even my energies, I crack. The only thing that kept my sanity during this time, was my gym routine. Doing push ups and sit ups and weights and holding the plank position was where I was channelling all my energies. I would go to the gym and pound the weights! and feel good about myself for the rest of the hour, till something else erupted. And erupt it did. On a daily basis, there would be something that ticked me off. All my energy was being spent pleasing someone else, or accepting things I didn't like to keep the peace of the house. Everyone had to make adjustments. I had to too and at times I felt taken for granted by the situation. This continued into June. Those weeks and months are a blur. I cannot even believe I allowed a few things to happen. the lines between work people and friends had always been blurry for K and this time too, a lot of the shit that was happening because of ill defined boundaries.

Prisoner of my own mind, I found myself accepting behaviour I would not have accepted normally. A complete invasion of my private space, a violation of privacy and sometimes smart alec answers which would have normally been met with a stare. Too much access to personal information, too much exposure to private matters and too many discussions over a life we have protected rabidly. Finally one day, when both of us had had enough, we spoke about it and amended the situation and restored some sanity and peace back to the house.

I turned a year older in July. It was a circus at best. My best friend wanted to throw me a surprise party at 12 to ring in my new year. Poor girl had no idea of what was happening and it took K's intervention to douse some of the 'would have been' blaze because there were new equations between the people in our life that were on the guest list. I made a new friend this year, a bright, confident 22 year old woman, who I connected with. It was easy to forget she was so young. I was rudely reminded of the age gap on my birthday. Amidst a lovely time with friends whoa re family, Amma and others, I was reminded of how much I meant to this girl. So important was I that she was pretty vocal about her happiness as well as her annoyance both in the same breath. Since I was in a fragile condition already, I burst a blood vessel and a deluge of tears followed what was supposed to be my best birthday ever, turned quickly into a nightmare. I spoke about this to N my other bestie and she explained a few things to me, about myself, my friends and my friendships. The next day, I called said friend, lets call her M and told her how I felt, we talked, laughed, cried, hugged and returned to our respective lives with a better understanding of our friendship. M has played such an important role in my life this year. She has been a pillar of support and a girl who goes out of her way to help, and will brush it off as nothing. She's called me names that include 'retard' and I still call her my friend!

August is a month I cannot remember much of. I spent the time mostly mending other's fences. mending family relations and assuring them that everything will be ok when you are not feeling quite so positive yourself is possibly the most important thing I did this month. I finally confronted my business partner and got paid my share of the dues. Concluding that it was possibly the most hard earned money I had ever made, and so not worth the effort! I also took a leap of faith and injected new energy into my languishing Classes. My Culinary Escapades classes have been something I have always had on the back burner. I started them almost 7 years ago and on and off while I have taken breaks, I have never really put all my energies into them. They have always been like a faithful friend, sometimes happy to be in the limelight and not complaining when ignored. I wanted to change that up and August was the month that saw me infuse energy into them. And they blossomed under all the attention. August was a month I began rebuilding my faith in myself as an individual. August was also the month when we found out without a doubt that our beloved Sage was epileptic.

A few lessons I taught myself, that no matter how tough the going is, look inwards for strength and you will find it. This year in essence was all about knowing myself better. the strength, the courage and hard work. I realised I just underestimated myself over and over again, and yes, the year was not a good one, but I did good at the risk of sounding pompous. I think I was the best version of myself.

September was when Amma turned a year older. A beautiful if sometimes painful 75 years on this earth. She has been an exemplary role model of courage and persistence. I would have liked to add smartness, but that she is not, retaining her innocence and gullibility even now. Because of Sage's condition, we couldn't make the trip to Singapore like I had promised her. this is the third time we have abandoned those plans for various reasons. She being the sport was perfectly fine with it. I needed to do something more for her, something special to mark her life and in less than 24 hours, I had a party hall booked to celebrate her birthday with her closest family and friends. I called my brother and asked him to bring the kids and come down. That was to be the biggest surprise for Amma. She couldn't believe her eyes when they stood at the door! Through all the secret planning, fixing the menu, buying her a new saree and getting her blouse stitched, deciding on the return gifts et al, my MIL and FIL were my pillars of strength and my co conspirators. The birthday girl had no idea what was happening and cooperated beautifully to being surprised. It was a beautiful moment, she was overwhelmed and gracious and I was happy to have been able to do this for her. I think as a daughter, life came a full circle for me that day.

October was a month that I cannot remember much of. Except the weariness of the year just dragged through. I found new and hilariously like minded people online and as is my practice, I overdosed on them. the addiction to whatsapp was complete, sometimes at the cost of the people around me. Much to their annoyance, it continued. I launched a couple of more classes and saw the Facebook page spiral out of control. It was a personally thrilling time. There were times when I wanted to go back into my shell, but like M said, I was too much in my comfort zone and needed to stick my neck out. I wrote for a few local magazines, reviewed restaurants, conducted classes, dealt with all sorts of irrational people wanting to enquire about my classes, managed to come to terms with Sage's illness and find the strength through all the tears. Amma bid us adieu as she went back to Chennai for a few months.

November is the month K and I completed a decade of marriage. 10 years is a long time to be with someone. it is a huge milestone. for us it feels like a few years ago. We have seen better times than this year. And while we talked about all that happened this entire year, we both felt it has been the most testing and challenging for us. We've always been a team, that is our strength and also our pride. Realising that nothing has changed is a great reminder of why we are together. I remember not being too sure of what I was doing even as I dressed for my wedding. The uncertainty, the cloud of doubt in my head and the rest of the family was weighing my shoulders down, I was tired of trying to convince everyone. Till I said to myself, I will take it as it comes. I cannot imagine being who I am with anyone else. He is the Yin to my Yang. The voice of calm logic and reason when I want to shout, scream and throw a tantrum ( and I do throw some awesome ones).  He is the man who tells me to try the most impossible things and will fret if I need to cross a busy street on my own. He is the man who will make fun of me all the time. The man who has no cares for the future and believes in the here and now, to my complete despair when I realise how much savings other people have! The man who has quietly been the wind under my wings, when I make a big show of even making a second cup of coffee for him.

We tell each other that between the two of us, I have the better Social Interface and automatically people think he got more than what he deserved and I got less. But the truth cannot be farther than that. K has taught me to tell the world to take a flying fuck as long as I believe in what I am doing. He will question your convictions not to challenge you, but to test how much you actually believe in them. So ten years on, with none of the trappings of 'family life' and with people asking us constantly when we will 'settle down' (I'm assuming that's the way to ask if we will ever extend the family), I realise the reason we are together is simply because we want to be together and not for any other reason. The fact that we have nothing that binds or ties us together in the form of children or any other familial obligations we may have to execute together and yet, if I were to choose all over again I would choose K. That is a staggering realisation.

Through this year, I fell in love with him more than I had ever. We had the most tempestuous year ever. This year has tested us individually, as a couple and as a family. And I am very proud of how we weathered every storm. When you are young and dreamy, you wish to be with a partner who can take the tough and narrow path, you want a partner who will stand up for his principles with not a care in the world for the losses that may incur, you want a partner who is idealistic and thinks without a care. Ten years teaches you that everyday living with a partner like that is not for the faint hearted. That there will be days and weeks when the uncertainty of decisions or the future will eat at your insides. That you will have more things to worry about than have a smirk for. That living with a partner of unbending morals means a tough life. And the realisation that you could not have chosen better. That you would rather rake yourself over hot coals than choose any less a man. It has been a tough year for us, and what held us together is what brought us together. You know now more than ever, that this is a good thing.

As December rolled in, I began reflecting on the year that passed. It went quickly in the good times (yes there were a few of those) and dragged on endlessly in the bad patches. I reflected on my inner strength and ability to face circumstances that were not to my liking. I realised that while I cannot wait to see this year end, it has taught me how deep my courage is and how strong my faith. That despite being flaky, I can take care of myself and my flock.

This is the only thing that I am grateful for this year. It pained me to see K's pain and despair. Yet not one day did I see the fire ebb in him. I was so proud to be his partner, even on the days when I didn't feel particularly generous of my time or my energy.

2013 has made me draw from an inward strength I didn't believe I possessed. Like a tigress, I gathered my cubs and protected them. Sometimes those cubs were my mother, K and Sage. I drew so much courage from the quiet confidence of my MIL. She has been the biggest influence over me this year. I learnt so much from her quiet resilience. I drew strength from her as I recharged. I know I can face any adversity on my own. I know that I can take over the reins and be responsible for the mental, financial and emotional well being of this family. With Sage, I realised that there is a life to be led once the tears have dried and the fears have been overcome. I am very grateful to be able to choose to work from home while I care for him. I am grateful for being able to enjoy so many days playing with him, scolding him and whacking him sometimes when he misbehaves. I cherish every moment of our time together. grateful for the undying love and unwavering faith he has in me, even when inside I am battling self doubt.

If I had a choice, I would not want a repeat of this year ever, but I am grateful for the experience because of how we have lived it.

There have been days when it took every ounce of my grace and dignity to get over a single hour. I looked inwards and was able to be strong, for myself, for K, for Sage, for the family and for all those I call my own.

This is a year I will not forget. This is a year I have learnt to forgive. This is a year I was able to cut through the clutter and focus on the people, the relationships and the work that really really matters to me. This is the year I have believed in everything everyone told me, and nothing anyone said. This is a year I have felt alone in a crowd and strong enough to be silent. This is a year I have lived each day like no other. This is a year I was battered, broken and healed.

As I wait for this year to close, I do not want to forget these lessons.

To my readers, I wish you a very beautiful New Year ahead. May 2014 be all that you want it to be, may your heart and homes and lives be warm and filled with the love and grace of those who matter the most.




4 comments:

Swapna said...

...and I read every word... Hugs to you, darling..and wish you and your loved ones a superb year ahead...

haathitime.com said...

The worst usually churns out the best. There is that strength you talk about, and life usually saves it up for when you need it the most, taking you by surprise and unleashing it when you least expect it.

I probably dont tell you enough what fun it has been to banter, chat and get to know you. While I have been privy to some of the challenges you faced, let me tell you, it never showed. You are one awesome woman and I hope 2014 is better for you. May your culinary escapades soar to new heights, may Sage see a healthier peaceful year, may K find the balance in his work, but through all that, I hope life doesn't "settle down" ever -- I hope you remain the carefree, adventurous and strong woman that you are. Thanks for being one of the good things I had last year, cheers to many many more years of quasi-pervy conversations that make me realise that the nicest friends are usually those you can discuss poop with, without feeling like an ass. Hugs!

Raaga said...

And like I said before, this is a year where I got closer to you than before (even if I thought it not possible earlier). So thankful for your presence in my life.

Madhu Gopalan said...

What a beautiful post! Proud of you for getting through a tough year with dignity. I hope 2014 is awesome for you and your sweet family. And hugs to Sage - the first big dog I ever dared to touch :)