Being Grateful

I have had a shitty week. There are many reasons for why I had a shitty week so far, the vast majority of them are trivial, except for one painful thorn in my side.

It involves my problem client again. This time, she’s managed to make my life even more hellish than normal by not depositing the tax she’s deducted on my invoices against my PAN. This means that my income is going to be considered 100% by the tax department, and I will lose a further 10% on it, in addition to the money she has held back.

Sigh. I’m trying to sort it out, but it is a painful process. The last invoice I had to get settled involved a shouting match with her husband for 45 minutes. Actually, it wasn’t a shouting ‘match’; he was shouting because he is a miserable turd, and I was trying to de-escalate the situation as far as possible. Sigh. Sigh. Sigh.

This is the worst thing that has happened this week, and in all fairness, it isn’t that bad. Worse stuff happens to people on a daily basis. This is a part of business. People suck. All this, I know and appreciate. But of course, bad stuff, no matter how trivial, takes a mental toll.

Now, the way I deal with the mental toll is to talk to my mother. She is my confidant and best friend, and she tells me all the uncomfortable truths of things which I do not want to hear but I really should. She has forced me out of my self-inflicted melancholy and abject feeling-sorry-for-myself mode countless times. This time was no different.

I explained what happened with the problem client, and we talked about it. I wasn’t upset; just pensive and trying to mentally grapple with the situation. This, in itself, is huge progress for me. I have a tendency to go completely off the rails for some time [in the privacy of my home though, obviously] and rave a lot about unfairness and unethical behaviour and the works. I didn’t do any of that this time; in fact, was not inclined to do so at all.

But, there are other things on my mind. Important things, which I haven’t been able to be so calm and collected about. And as my mother always says, it boils down to the outcomes that I want and expect for the work I put in. Outcomes, by the way, over which I have no control. So I am miserable when something I have worked for falls through with a fizzle.

And this brings me neatly to the point of this post: being grateful. I have a lot of stuff in my life that I will be eternally grateful for. What I have today is more than many people have, and I might find deficiencies but another person might find it paradisical. I AM grateful. There is no doubt about that, but my learning in all of this is to let go of what I want.

I have wrestled with the concept of letting go many times, as I have consumed article after article where people extol the virtue of hard work and graft. All of which is true, undoubtedly, but spirituality [in the form of my mother] has taught me that I can only do my best with the best intentions. I cannot control the outcomes at all. And that has been a difficult lesson to learn.

But I’m getting there. For which, I am truly grateful.

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The Practicality of Wedlock

It is a transaction, really, isn’t it? It is a transaction between two families in this crazy country that is supposed to happen at a certain point in one’s life, and meant to fulfil certain criteria, and yield specific results. The most bonkers part of this epiphany I had today is that I was blissfully unaware that this transactional model affected me in any way. But holy crap it has. It always has; I just never realised it. Till today.

I grew up with the vague idea that I wanted to marry another Indian. Same culture, similar background, a sense of belonging to the same homeland. [This, by the way, in spite of being born in another country, and being called a firangi most of the time.] I rail and rant against the “Indian male” syndrome of being patriarchal and narrow-minded and being unable to see that a woman is a being in her own right. She has dreams and desires and wishes of her own. And yet, I want to be with one of these very specimens. Strange.

In my previous relationships, I modified myself, my very identity, to conform to the transactional nature of marriage. Thankfully for my continued existence and mental stability, it never got as far as marriage. I fell blithely in love over and over again, not realising that the cookie cutter mould of a wife is what my dear exes would have dearly loved. Oh no. I thought it was ME they loved. Goodness what a bloody fool I am. [Note: present tense.]

I WANT to get married and have a family. I’ve admitted this so many times recently, because it was a revelation for me after my last breakup. I’ve said some of the things I am about say before, but there is stress pent up in my chest and I need to let it out. [A difficult conversation with mum in the morning is the root cause of this outburst.] Here is what *I* in my infinite stupidity thought marriage was all about:

Two people meet. They become friends and/or fall in love. One of those things comes first; and the other follows. The order doesn’t matter. What matters is that both things happen. You are one of those people. You are now in love with your best friend. With me so far?

You fall in love with that person. With their unique beauty of mind and soul, their heart, their thoughts, their dreams, perceptions, their flaws, their problems, and a million billion tiny and huge things that makes them who they are. You decide that life without this person by your side is not worth a second’s consideration.

Next, families come in. There are people who have perfect, loving families. There are those who aren’t speaking to their families. Families are complete, incomplete, difficult, trying, loving, accepting, welcoming, and much more. Configurations vary, but the goal is the same: be a support to your partner. They are close to their family? You become close to their family. They have trouble with dealing with their family? Stick by their side and deal with them. Support. Amalgamate. Absorb and be absorbed. Their family becomes your family.

It would be nice to have assets going into any relationship, but hey life isn’t a balance sheet is it? You cannot consider assets and liabilities when in love. Because that doesn’t make that person; it is just a thing they have to grapple with. Again, support. Be there. Just, be there.

Finally, and this is my biggest issue with marriage in India, forget what you are supposed to do. Life has no guarantees. You marry someone picture-perfect, with credentials down pat, and he turns out to be an abusive head case. She has affairs left, right, and centre. He gets mowed down in his car by a rogue truck. She goes blind. Your beautifully planned little life goes fucking kaput. What will you do then?

Yeah, so I was prepared to make compromises in myself and give off myself, because I loved that person on the other side. My partner was always my best friend. The person I looked to for unstinting support. The person, who if the roles were reversed, I would be there for with every fibre of my being.

I want to find love like that. I thought I had, the last time around, but it turned out to be an intricate web of manipulation and lies. But I loved like that. It took a long time to unlearn that love. That friendship. The desire to shoot off a text to say: “Hey. I’m sad. Just thinking of you makes me happy. Thanks for being in my life.”

Marriage is not about the wedding and the setting up of house and having children. It is all those things but so much more. Setting up your first home in a ramshackle building, with one bedroom and a tiny bathroom, but being happy. About coming home tired, and finding peace in each other’s company. About waking up in the middle of the night because someone’s parent has fallen ill, and rushing off together to the hospital with mussed hair and stale breath.

It is about cleaning your partner’s teeth when they’re too sick to do it themselves. About staying up all night when they have a report to file, just for company. It is about them paying the bills and you handling the groceries for the house, and taking over everything when one or the other is away. And being grumpy about it, but it’s ok because you are helping out your best friend.

It is about having fights about that expensive thing you bought without checking in first. And then you admitting it was wrong, and agreeing not to do it again. It is about laughing when you see someone else checking him out, and feeling pride at being his chosen one. It is about panicking about receiving a suggestive message, and him being the first and only person who you can talk to about it. It is about plugging in your ears with music, while he watches the game all through your carefully cooked meal. It is about kicking his ass, after the game is over, because insensitive much dude?

It is about all these crazy things that make you grow and him grow and you both grow together. It is about being complete with each other, and then building a family with that wonderful completeness. The joy of conceiving a baby, and the pain of bringing that baby into the world. Arguments about names, to arguments about why he should also get up in the night to feed his own spawn once in a while.

Ultimately, it is about growing old, knowing that someone has your back. My ex used to say: “I love you because I know when I grow old, and I forget to put my pants on one day, you’ll stop me from leaving the house and help me into those pants.” I would have. But I learned fast that he wouldn’t have. One sign of putting himself out, and out he would have bolted. Sigh.

My parents had a marriage like that, and I am starting to see why all their friends told my mother that they couldn’t imagine her pain, because she had a marriage in a billion.

Is it so crazy that this was my idea of marriage? Was is so insane that I never considered my single mother a “liability” like she said she was today, because I figured love conquers all? Granted with some difficulty, but yeah love still conquers.

Looks like I am destined to be unmarried and single. At least in this lifetime.

Alternative Future

I have written a copious amount about how I am happy being single, about how I never want to be in a relationship again, and about how I never want children. Begrudgingly, I have also written about none of that is actually true; it was a reaction within the healing process of having a serious relationship flung back in my face. What did it take for me to confront these untruths that I had told myself [and those around me] for years? The possibility that I was falling for someone.

However, I’m sticking a pin in that scenario for the moment, because this post is about something else entirely. The alternative, if you will. Because, even though I had proclaimed all those lies to myself for several months, I hadn’t considered what one does as a single old lady.

What does one do? Knit? Bake? Sit in a rocking chair surrounded by cats? What exactly?

So I began to think about what life would be like as a single, older lady, possibly with no one else around the whole day. Maybe days, weeks, or even months. The prospect doesn’t frighten me, frankly, because I rather suspect it will be my reality one day. After my mother passes on, and so does my aunt, there are no connections I foresee that will tether me to one place.

What would I do?

Hopefully by then, financial security will be a given. I would have a stable home, small enough for myself and a bunch of dogs, I reckon. Well, maybe not the dogs. I don’t think heartbreak is something I wish to court late in life.

I imagine that I would travel alone, something I have longed to do for as long as I can remember. Do the things that other people have held me back from doing my whole life. Not in a bad way, but just take risks without having someone to worry about my safety, for instance.

Luckily, as an older person, I won’t attract too much unwanted attention. The grey hair sprouting liberally from my temples at the moment have taken on a benevolent purpose. As I lose weight, the fat will disappear from under the skin on my face, and wrinkles will develop. I hope that fitness will become a mainstay in my life, so energy will be plentiful.

Singledom in old age looks inviting, because the family alternative seems more and more remote as days pass. And, for the moment, I am surprisingly zen with that state of affairs. So be it.

Fall in Love with the Worst of Me

I wrote before on feeling inadequate for potential mothers-in-law in a previous post. It was and is a fair representation of my state of mind when it comes to getting into a serious relationship with someone, but there is another aspect that also hamstrings me considerably.

There are a lot of things wrong with me; I prefer to think of them as flaws that I can work out eventually, but some are circumstantial. The latter, I have no control over. They are what they are. But one of my requirements for someone to be my partner is that they need to see me at my worst and still love me, before I move forward. There is background to this, so bear with me.

Way back in school, I was very much an awkward teen. I couldn’t speak to boys without stuttering and flushing a truly iridescent and unattractive shade of purple. My mother was less than amused with the ridiculous segregation that was part and parcel of living in an Islamic country, and of being in a starchy Indian school. So, when a boy in my year asked me out [through the aegis of a common friend], she drove me to accept.

Now the boy in question was an Adonis. The only difference was that he was Indian, and didn’t have the rippling physique. But oh my goodness was he gorgeous. He had brown hair, considerably lighter than the dark mops that usually adorn Indian heads. He had big green-grey eyes, set in an alabaster complexion. He was as fair as, if not fairer than, me. He was taller than I was, but not by a lot [we were young teens, so he had some more growing to do]. He was divinely beautiful, and I was not remotely attracted to him. [This story deserves its own post really, and I’ll get to it after I finish this one.]

Uday was a dreamboat, but he was a typical Dubai kid. Massive chip on his shoulder, attitude issues because despite his movie star looks, he was not a popular kid. [Our school culture placed a lot of emphasis on brashness, physique, and academics for social ranking.] His parents were separated too, which must have been rough for him, but overall he was something of snotty toerag.

I couldn’t for the life of me understand why any boy, let alone this gorgeous hunk, would be interested in me. I was the very epitome of uncool; and honestly, I still am although I am way chill with that status quo now. So when he wrote poems about my eyes [yes, really] I really had no wits about me to answer.

He asked me out on a date – again, had no idea what to do. His dad dropped me home later, and the common friend who set us up told me the next day that he had spent all his pocket money on the date. I felt terrible, but I had offered to pay my share, but possibly a timidly squeaking date wasn’t terribly convincing. So the common friend suggested I invite him over.

My mom was very cool with this plan, and she had me rent a movie, got us some snacks, and went out for a meeting, leaving us alone. [Have I mentioned my mom is a very very cool person?]

We watched the movie, and then we wanted to surf the web. Now, the computer was in my parents’ bedroom which also housed my extremely unfriendly dog of the time; a rather murderous white Alsatian. To get access to the computer, she needed to be shunted out of their bedroom into mine. She was not pleased.

There was a certain protocol that existed for this manoeuvre, and I forgot one of the salient points: remove the carpet rug off my room’s floor. Of course I forgot, and in her annoyance, my dog peed on the carpet.

Uday and I finished surfing the web, and I went to check on my dog. To my horror, I realised that she had expressed her disapproval in a rather large stain. So I had to clean it out pronto. I happened to be dressed in going-out clothes because of my gentleman caller, so I changed into home wear for the clean up.

I lugged the carpet into my parents’ bathroom to wash, and Uday caught sight of my erm ensemble. His eyebrows shot into his hairline and he sneered at me a little: “WHAT are you wearing?” At the best of times, I was not poised. At this? I bolted into the bathroom, carpet in tow. I scrubbed the thing, and dried it out in the balcony, my cheeks burning with embarrassment.

The problem was that for that instant, I looked like the help. In the social status-obsessed culture of Dubai, it wasn’t a good move. As a grown up, I couldn’t care less: Carpet > Superficial ideals. But at the time? I was crushed.

The date progressed thereafter, and I moved my dog back into her room after we were done surfing the web. We made out too, my first ever kiss [slobbery and wet] happening a mere hour or so after the carpet washing incident. [I still wasn’t attracted to him. I didn’t even like him at that point.] I just wanted him to go.

My mother thankfully returned, and his dad came to pick him up too. And I was left with a weird sense of what-just-happened.

A lot of what I have just described came back to me as I was writing the post, and it makes me want to unpack that chapter a little more for the sake of closure. But this post is about my takeaway: that I needed to be with someone who understands that life isn’t a pretty little fairytale.

Human beings are messy creatures. We have fluids oozing out of orifices, and our skins form thin layers between the eyes of the world and a mess of guts and bones. There are times when hair is all out of place, and we are covered in mud or dust or grime. Cooking involves effort, and it isn’t always prettified with a gingham apron and colourful pans. Having a baby isn’t romantic either; there is copious amounts of blood and ooze, and shit too on occasion. Vomit is a part of life too, and it sure as hell isn’t Instagram-worthy. As we age, our bodies start shutting shop. Teeth and hair fall out, and bellies flop out and skin dangles loosely in folds. Suppose illness strikes? Cancer isn’t pretty. Neither is malaria or typhoid.

Forget the messiness of the body for a moment, and realise that life too is messy. I live in a broken down apartment, with doors that have bits missing, and walls that are in parts crumbling and others losing paint. We try and keep the house as clean and liveable as possible, but circumstances have made it necessary for us to continue here. One of my exes would have baulked at the thought of sleeping on mattress in the living room, and complained incessantly of there being only one sink. [There are logistics involved with this; we are not unsanitary.]

I feel like that a person who judges me for what I look like, my circumstances, and how I manage to be happy in less than perfect surroundings is missing the point. The point is that these things are immaterial. A connection between two people, their hearts and minds, is beyond all this. It is to be able to see the goodness, the kindness, and joy within, and revel in a love that both create.

Uday was an immature kid at the time, and I don’t think, looking back, that he intended to sneer at me. However, because of my hypersensitivity to his reaction, I learned that I only want to be with someone who understands what lies beneath.

Ms. Impatience

Because, of course that should be my name.

I’m certain many of us have epiphanies about what we are doing wrong at various points in our lives. Apart from those of us who have our heads constantly stuck up our own asses, and thus find it impossible to acknowledge [even to ourselves] that we can do wrong at all. I have these moments a LOT; because I accepted a long time ago that I was exceptionally flawed, and those flaws needed acknowledgement and conscious work. Case in point: impulsiveness.

My impatience though was a little harder to pin down, because it isn’t universal. I have tons of patience for certain, usually frustrating, things like sorting out tiny things piece by piece; or listening to a boring story; or dealing with stubborn stains. You get the gist. The problem is that I had no idea that patience varies from situation to situation. And there is one area I have absolutely zero ability to wait: Life.

Hm. That’s a big topic, so I’m going to break it down a little. It does encompass my point though, but it deserves some explanation also.

Firstly, and most importantly, I am impatient when it comes to a breakdown in any relationship. This could be an argument with mum, or [formerly] a disagreement with a boyfriend. I needed to resolve stuff and get back to the original [albeit improved with now better understanding] status quo INSTANTLY. To a great extent, this is why I always make the first move after a bust up. I also am usually the one who has messed up too, but that’s another story.

Why is this a problem? Well, because people require time to process. Emotions, feelings, thoughts, anger, frustration, sadness, etc. It is hard to come through to a clear understanding without processing. And my blundering onto the scene is not helpful. It isn’t even helpful to ME, because then the processing happens AT me, instead of inside that person’s mind. I need to learn to respect that everyone needs their space and some time to process, and not be so driven to fix things in the shortest amount of time.

Secondly, I am impatient of uncertainty in life. For the big things, mind you. Not if I’m getting a taxi or something. I have constant thoughts of “where is all this going?” and it is stupid and unproductive. Countless times I have heard smarter-than-me people saying that the journey is important. But hasn’t percolated into my anxiety. It is scary to be faced with the spectre of bills stacking up, or medical emergencies, without an idea of where those funds will come from. And a multitude of things like that. Uncertainty scares me because I have no control over the outcome, but I still have to face consequences. I can work my fingers to the bone, but it might not translate to saleable commodities. Etc.

This is a problem because my anxiety achieves nothing. Whether or not I worry, the outcome remains unaffected. So basically I’m torturing myself at least one time too many. Pointless.

There are many times I have wished to know the end of my story – or current story arc – at my lowest ebb. Of course, it never happens, and yet the desire is strong. Perhaps it is the sense of an impending timeline that causes this stress, and that was the key to my epiphany.

I have been wanting something specific to happen for the past couple of months. It is partially in my hands to make it happen, but not completely. The trouble is that my actions could end this something much earlier than its time, much like overwatering a plant. The other day though, I sat down in a quiet a spot, and actually reflected on my feelings. I recognised that my impatience was because of what I thought were deadlines that would irrevocably change the status quo. And I had to force myself to accept that I needed to let things be. Not force any issues. Not get sunken into a pit of desire, anxiety, and gloom. Just let it be.

It was super hard, but I did it. I do however still hang on to hope. That’s the next on my list of epiphanies I guess.

Money Matters

Warning: Random ramble of no particularly import up ahead.

Yesterday, mom got a call from an ex-colleague of hers, way back from our Dubai days. Pre-1988, as a matter of fact. This lady, also has lost her husband, and now lives in Sri Lanka. She had reached out to mom before, just to talk, and it has been a while since that first phone call after 30-odd years.

Yesterday though, she didn’t call to catch up. She called to ask for help. Monetary assistance to be more specific. And the bottom fell out for the both of us.

It brought back many memories of our own family financial crisis back in Dubai. The days where we didn’t know what was going to happen on a minute to minute basis. The days where hope and prayer was what held our crumbling minds together. Leaving Dubai was a huge relief, what with visa issues too, but coming back to Mumbai was hellish. Living in this house with the rest of our family and the pets.

That was in 2002, and it has taken many years of hope and hard work to crawl out of that abyss. I read so much about people saying that hard work is the only way out of any situation. But what people fail to mention is that you can apply for jobs, and attend a million interviews, but an organisation would still have to offer you a job for you to apply that hard work.

Goa was a bit better for a while, but soon enough that ended too. Mumbai has been somewhat kinder, in that I was able to find work. For a few glorious years, financial stability was a reality. I actually managed to save! Ha! But that soon ended too, and dear lord finding work as a freelancer is tough: I’m expensive, because my team demands exorbitant pay. I’m a freelancer, because I work out of home instead of an office. And multitude of issues more. I try. Pick myself up [with a lot of help from the midget] and try again.

Hard work. I’m willing to do it. Whatever it takes. Whatever the personal cost. But. No takers.

There is no point to this post really. I was finding it difficult to process the phone call and all the myriad feelings it raised. In short, today I am feeling every single minute of my almost 34 years. Somehow I can’t draw on my reserves of silliness to tide me over.

Maybe a good night’s sleep will do the trick.

Female Friend Vacancy

I was pretty freaked out about that thing yesterday. But the sad thing was, I couldn’t talk about it with anyone who would understand what I needed.

For instance, over breakfast this morning, I regaled my mother with this story. In my acute embarrassment, I was grinning the whole time. The whole story was prefaced, punctuated, and finished with pleas for her not to freak out. Credit to her, she didn’t. But she did want to unpack the whole thing, and discover ways to “avoid this happening in the future”.

Which is.. great. But like I described in the post before, not something that I control at all. Could’ve happened in any public place. A discussion about this ensued, where debates about relative safety, and such and such followed.

Right.

Next, I tried pinging my BFF. He is a guy, about 8 years younger, and we work together on projects. He isn’t exactly mature, obviously, but has a heart of solid gold. He also calls me ‘mom’ on occasion, which is partially why I debated talking to him about this at all.

Which, to be fair to me, I was justified in feeling.

End of conversation.

At least I tried to tell him that I wanted to vanish into a puff of smoke. With my mum, I did talk about wanting to look unobtrusive, but we reached that point after a lot of back and forth.

The point is that neither of these people who I care a lot about, and who care about me, were able to understand that I needed to unpack my feelings about the incident. I just needed them to listen, without giving me solutions or telling me how I was being ridiculous.

The fact is I AM probably being ridiculous. I just need to talk it out of my system. Previously, this role of confidant and chief listener was fulfilled by the ex. Since then, I have found various outlets for the same sort of thing, but somehow I don’t feel completely better.

Oh, I started to tell Butterfly Dude about stuff like this, usually spinning it into a funny story. But now I feel too self-conscious to continue because I don’t want to regale a guy I may be interested in with stories about how I am constantly bombarded with unwanted male attention.

Therefore, I have come to the conclusion I need female friends. I tweeted about it too, and 3 people actually responded. Fingers crossed.