Performance Issues

I am a chronic worrier. I let anxiety bog me down every step of the way. Questions like: “Should I do this?”; “What will happen if I do that?”; and “Oh my god, what will happen if I don’t?!” dog every move I make. It HAS become easier as I’ve grown older, but not because the self-doubts have gone away, but more because I’ve found the mute button.

It happens with every new project. When I’m speaking to a client for the first time, the ideas flow uninhibited. I find creative solutions without thinking too much, and the conversation is sparkling. At this point, it is a purely academic discussion. Contracts haven’t been exchanged, work hasn’t begun, and everyone is still feeling everyone else out.

It is my perfect place. Because, anxiety doesn’t assail me when I have nothing to do, and I have made no commitments. Once the contract starts though, it is a whole other ballgame. I freeze.

It is the classic blank page freeze. I don’t know where to start, so I put it off. When I do make a start, the research I do points me in an unknown direction. I have to learn new stuff. Timelines start to draw closer, and I panic. The panic exhausts me, and I start feeling ill. The illness makes my head fuzzy, and I can’t work. More panic sets in, and I am left weeping quietly in the corner, feeling utterly overwhelmed and out of my depth. And everything spirals out of control.

Finally, because I have no other choice, I screw up my eyes and just start working. No research, no learning, just work. When I have finished a first draft, the panic subsides slightly. When I start refining it, and come up with a better second draft, the panic subsides some more. And finally, when I do the research, and fill in all the gaps, the panic goes away entirely.

I seem to have found a way to cope, but I wish it wasn’t when I am pushed up implacably against a deadline, and sinking or swimming are the only two options in front of me.

You’re Not Supposed To Be Invincible

As a writer and editor, my vocabulary skills are fairly well-developed. However, I wouldn’t say they were absolutely at the pinnacle of achievement. I haven’t got the best vocabulary in the world, and I doubt anyone will till such time as Stephen Fry is still alive and kicking. The man’s repertoire and eloquence is staggering.

I would say that my vocabulary was moderately good from rather a young age, say from my burgeoning teenage years. I read quite a bit back then, although it was mostly novels. Nowadays, I have more of an eclectic reading palette: history, biographies, philosophy, and more. Each book adds another voice to my head, or polishes off a dusty facet from an existing one. Ultimately, reading is what made me a writer.

Now that I have done trumpeting my abilities, [and strongly resisting the urge to add disclaimers everywhere] I recall a conversation I had with a colleague recently. He was asking how one was supposed to know how to correctly pronounce words, if they were new to him. He then went into a tirade about how complicated English was. Before I could reply, another colleague joined us, and she caught the tail end of the tirade. She mostly agreed, because as an aspiring writer herself, she felt double the pressure to be word perfect each time.

She narrated an instance where her ex-boyfriend mocked her for mispronouncing a word. She learned speedily enough that pronunciation was everything. Much like I had thought, many years previously.

When I was at school, I had a friend who was incredibly smart. When I say ‘smart’, I mean genius-level. She topped at everything she did: school work, ballet, and art are a few of the fields I can actually recall. I was a shy kid, with positive vibes and confused at best. I was intelligent, and I occasionally still show sparks of this mystical ability, but overall I spent more time confused than otherwise. I didn’t have her staggering vocabulary, but she made me feel awful if I ventured to ask for explanations of the big words she used. I learned to sew my mouth shut, because mockery was hardly a desirable outcome for a preteen.

It took me years to grow out of that insecurity, although she wasn’t the first or the last person to make me feel inadequate for simply not knowing something. Today, I stand a very different person altogether, and I have learned to be proud of being able to ask if I don’t know something. Because it means I have grown, and I am human.

I didn’t say all of this to my colleagues though, even as the thoughts flashed in my mind. I did however say that it was ok not to know all the words; or to mispronounce them. Language is a vehicle for communication, and providing the person in front understands what you mean, your words are successful. That’s the most important point.

Secondly, mispronouncing a word, but using it correctly, means you understands its import. Also, it means that you learned it while reading. A habit usually adopted by intelligent people.

Thirdly, most linguists and passionate lovers of language will say that language continuously evolves. It is only idiotic prescriptivists that nitpick flaws.

Finally, and on a more philosophical train of thought, no one is meant to be invincible or perfect. If we didn’t make mistakes, we would hardly be human would we?

Movie Review: Beauty And The Beast

I missed the juggernaut that was Disney’s reboot of Beauty and the Beast earlier this year. There are many reasons why we stopped going to movie theatres, but the chief one was that it was a thing my family did together. And without dad, it feels weird.

Having said that though, dad would have HATED this movie. Mainly because he was a pain that didn’t like animated features, fantasy movies, historical ones, and a multitude of other equally specific movies. His reasons were ridiculous, and I don’t even remember what they were as a result. But yes, I would have missed the theatre-version of this movie either way, and well, I’m rather grateful for that overall.

Story: I don’t think I really need to outline the story for Beauty and the Beast. The departures from the original Disney animation are scarce, and those appear to have been done to make the movie acceptable in a new century. [I know it isn’t that far off; I’m being dramatic.]

Review: Somehow, I altogether missed the fact that this movie is a MUSICAL! Now, lest anyone think I am an abomination, I am not all that keen on music. I like music, but find that the music blurs out words for me. So when I have to follow an entire movie in song and verse, I lose out on plot points and in-jokes. Not that I always catch them, but still I feel at a disadvantage because I tune out music.

Having said that, it is a beautiful movie, and the art direction is exquisite. I confess to being bored in bits, but that the fault of the songs [and my reaction to them] rather than the movie itself. I did find that there were some superfluous elements, which I will get to shortly.

Story: There are few changes to the previous movie, as I said before. In this case though, Belle is an only child of a doting father. She is portrayed as adventurous, and chafing at the monotony of provincial village life. The other major departure was the attempt to address the issue of Stockholm syndrome. Not quite successful as attempts go, but commendable effort nevertheless. There is the new element of an evil admirer, who is vain to a fault and delights in the misery of others. But then again, this is a children’s movie, so I imagine subtlety isn’t a criterion.

Characters: Mostly caricatured and one-dimensional. Shockingly for a Hollywood movie, the most fleshed-out character is that of Belle. She comes across as strong, intelligent, and capable. She makes her own decisions, and has tremendous courage. I loved her. Of the others, I liked Lumière most. Mainly because Ewan McGregor, but there you go.

Acting: Over the top performances, except for Emma Watson, who is a delight.

What I liked: Art direction, Emma Watson, a wonderful horse, and exquisite sets.

What I disliked: It was boring for me, but like I said before, this is probably more a reflection on me rather than the movie. Also wasn’t keen on it being a musical.

Rating: ✩✩

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Restaurant Roulette

The last few months have been manic, although I don’t really remember a time where I didn’t have piles of work to tackle. Not complaining because work is amazing and fun is brilliant, but feeling the effects of long-delayed rest setting in.

But what I thought was completely awesome in the last 10 days is that I went to several restaurants. Different restaurants! Something I’ve been egging my mother to do for ages.And just because I want to treasure the memory, I am listing out the joints I have been too in the last month.

  1. Masala Library
  2. Smoke House Deli
  3. Pizza Express
  4. Shamiana
  5. BusaGo
  6. Pizza by the Bay

And these are just the ones I don’t frequent regularly anyway. SO happy!

To Be Or Not To Be Intimate

I keep thinking that every I feel overwhelmed, things will even out, and I won’t feel like that. But the fact is that it becomes my new baseline for normal, and work and other commitments blow up some more in my face. Which is why I have the tiniest shred of sanity left, the most tenuous grip on that shred, and finally powder keg of temper underneath the surface, which is instantly triggered by bullshit. Or any horrible behaviour really.

All the above is the reason behind why I let someone get under my skin today, and why there was suddenly a red mist where the atmosphere used to be. And when I opened my mouth, red hot lava poured out. I wasn’t shouting, but I had no idea I could decimate anyone that easily with just words.

It started off innocently enough, where we were talking about our families. From there, we got into a mild discussion about siblings, where this someone [let’s call her Maria, for reasons I will forget shortly] said – I partially agreed – that it was easier for a girl to have an elder sister, as opposed to a brother. The third member of this lunchtime discussion of course disagreed. He is just one of those chronic firestarters, pedantic and inquisitive. [As an aside, also the star of this post.]

Maria argued with him, and then made the following astounding statement:  sisters and brothers always kept each other at arm’s length. Mentally and emotionally, they may love each other, but physically it would be weird for them to be close. In fact, those siblings would were prone to hugs and embraces were not normal, and just plain weird.

I was naturally flabbergasted with this point of view, but I wasn’t mad just then. I merely said that it was perfectly normal, and it really depended on the individuals in question. And if one was to look at it in that light, then mothers and sons, or fathers and daughters, shouldn’t exchange hugs and kisses, or embrace each other unless there was an occasion [her sole exception to this diktat]. Because I said this nonchalantly, expecting sense to prevail, I was stunned by her response: Yes, they shouldn’t. It isn’t normal.

Which is when I lost it.

I didn’t lose my temper visibly, but I did point out that that was a highly judgmental point of view. And that just because she found it uncomfortable personally, didn’t make it abnormal. In fact, human relationships have a degree of intimacy with actually cements the relationship further.

She argued that everyone was judgmental on some level, and while I agree that everyone is, it is based on an internal moral compass that assesses the harm in a situation. When it is about affection between two consenting adults, who is anyone else to judge? Basically, she reduced loving relationships between people and their near and dear ones to something ugly. Just because she is uncomfortable with intimacy?

She continued to say that what was normal for her forms her opinion. I agree, however what she considers normal cannot be the baseline on which she judges other people. She countered with why couldn’t it be, and I said that it is the very crux of xenophobia and discrimination to separate people into normal and abnormal.

Finally, I looked at her in abject incredulity, because I couldn’t believe I was associating with such a bigot, and said that intimacy was a integral aspect of human relationships. In fact, it is one of the things that makes the effort of working through these things worth it.

I considered sexual abuse playing a part in her mental makeup, but then I’ve been through that too. I have been through a phase where “all men suck!”, but I grew out of it. Individuals suck, and within their minds, it is their complex personalities, characters, experiences, limitations, and much more that makes their behaviour good or bad.

I hug my friends, regardless of whether they are male or female. Not all of them, because everyone gives off different vibes. But quite a few. I don’t flinch when one of them touches me inadvertently, because they aren’t contagious or impure. They are human beings. There is no malice or lust in their touch, but simple companionship. They are human beings too.

Being The Other Woman: Introducing the Characters

If you haven’t read part 1 of this post, it is OK. You haven’t missed anything. This is the post I actually set out to write, and got bogged down in the details.

There are several characters in forthcoming incidents. I deliberately obscured the ones in the previous post, because otherwise they might be recognizable to people who know us. [I am relying on the anonymity of the Internet to prevent that from happening, but the truth is I still am scared of it occurring.]

So, without further ado, the cast of characters in the following short stories:

  1. JP: The inveterate scumbag, drug dealer, shiftless work-shirker, and general malcontent, with an appetite for the good life but not for the work that goes into realising that life.
  2. AQ: The rich kid with starry eyes, and the determination to carve his niche, albeit with a little help from mummy and daddy. Absolute charmer, with movie star good looks, and the pedigree to leaving swooning girls in his wake. [Boys too maybe, I am not judging.]
  3. The French Student: Not conventionally handsome, but still arresting enough to draw plenty of attention. Tall naval officer, with a authoritative presence, and boyishness that first melted my stony heart and then broke it into a million pieces.
  4. CC: The British heartthrob. Star of his own series on my blog. The one I thought was different, but turned out to be a philandering playboy.

And then there is me.

Emotional Infidelity

I am ambivalent on the whole notion of fidelity in relationships, because I have always felt that physical infidelity is not as bad as emotional cheating. My relationships have always been high on the sharing factor, especially the last one.

Having said that, I don’t think cheating is excusable. I have been guilty of it twice, wrongfully accused of it once, and it took me ages to get over the trauma of feeling like a piece of crap stuck to the bottom of a pig’s hoof. I think I will get those stories out of the way first, as catharsis, and then get on to the real point of this post: being the ‘other woman’.

The first time I was “cheating” was not really a cheating scenario, although my boyfriend of the time made it seem like that. I sort of fell into a relationship with a bloke in college, and we dated for a few months, till I ditched him for someone who was a friend and way more understanding (or so I thought). I was a firm believer in the concept of romantic, ever-after love, and I moulded my reality many times to fit this ideal. Of course, it didn’t work. I broke up with the other guy within a month, because we were severely incompatible with each other.

All this wasn’t too bad, and I didn’t snog one while technically being with the other. But I did get back together with the first guy after the stint with the second. We dated for 3 years after that, and he never let me forget it. It was exhausting and demoralizing, and he forevermore believed that I was going to cheat on him at some point. I didn’t, for the record.

The next time, 3 years on, I was breaking up with this same dude. Every. Single. Day. And then getting back together with him in the morning, because he behaved like a twerp. It was a self-destruct cycle that lasted for months I think, and I was a ruined husk of a person at the end of it. During this insane phase, one chap at my post graduate college and I became friends. He was my shoulder to cry on, and of course I mistook all the affection I had for this one ray of light in my otherwise dark world as my knight in shining armour. And one evening we kissed. In retrospect, it shouldn’t have taken me by surprise at all, because the writing was on the wall. But yes, that proved to be the point at which I stamped my foot down, and say no firmly to parasitic boyfriend number 1.

We didn’t actually start dating, but we kind of made out a few times. He had a job off-campus and I barely saw him at all. When I did, we hid our not-quite-a-relationship. It was surreal. In the interim, I met the ex a few times, and he generally prevailed over me to take him back. I said no multiple times, but I lacked the force of conviction, and honestly a bad relationship is like addiction: you get used to the familiarity of being with a parasite who is sucking out all your life force.

Finally, the ex moved off to his placement, and the replacement was off-campus too. I was finally free. However, by this time, I was alone on the inside. I didn’t have any friends because of this ongoing saga. It had sapped so much of my will to live that I didn’t have any energy to pour into forging new friendships and associations.

Except one friendship. We started talking. Talking a lot. He had just gone through his own breakup where his girlfriend had unceremoniously dumped him for another guy, who she had been with for at least 3 months before this guy. [She later slept with this guy a few more times, while dating THAT guy. And finally married the other dude. And I thought I was confused.]

We started going out together. Coffee, dinner, movies. Because of my highly restrictive first college relationship, I demanded the replacement be very OK with any number of male friends. Or bugger off. His choice.

Of course, we eventually developed feelings for each other, and one night it culminated in a smouldering kiss. The next morning, well a few hours later, I called it off with the replacement. He was, not pleased. And went about the college explaining what a harlot I was. Because of a kiss, mind you. Oh and he didn’t hesitate to throw it back it my face that it didn’t surprise him, because after all I had kissed him while being with someone else.

True enough. While at the time, the negative attention nearly sent me to an early grave, in retrospect it wasn’t so bad. I have lived to learn that I am entitled to change my mind; I need to have more impulse control; I need to be more firm; and that there is no such thing as the perfect romantic ever-after – that shit can just go die. A perfect relationship needs commitment and work, and emotional fidelity.

Ultimately, for me at least, it wasn’t the stray kissing that broke the camel’s back, it was the need to be understood and cared for. The desire to have succour and a safe haven from the strife in life, and the other person being that haven.

I also broke up with the last guy in this story, and I fell headlong in love a few years later with my French Student.

I’m cutting this post in half, because my catharsis took almost a 1000 words to expiate. Part two coming up shortly.

The other stories have become a series in their own right. Good grief.