Togetherness

I will hold your hand tight,

And walk by your side.

I shall not ask where we head,

Does it even matter?

I may talk too much on the way,

But if I do, be assured that all’s well.

I talk when I’m happy.

It’s when I fall silent that you must worry.

I may ask hundreds of questions,

Sometimes even before you have answered the previous one.

It’s my inquisitiveness you see,

I want to understand you inside out.

I shall tell you when I’m tired,

When my feet give in.

Wait for me to take some rest,

Or keep walking without me. I shall join in.

And yes, let me know when it is me you are tired of.

I shall not judge you.

I shall disappear, only to meet you again,

In the same place, asking the same questions,

Starting from where I had left last time.

Remember – in our quest for each other,

There are no shoulds and musts.

It’s just you, me and our desire to be together.

Together as we walk, and even in our decision to part.

Image taken from Google images

Autumn, you and I

Let me take each step with you,

Let me walk each journey with you.

Walking with you doesn’t feel as such,

No matter the number of miles we cover.

In fact I feel like I’m flying,

As I observe the world around me from at a safe distance.

Your presence takes me into a meditative stance,

Where I care neither of my past, nor of the days that lie ahead.

My racing breath reminds me of where I am,

In this present moment.

It’s never about what you do for me,

The ‘doing’ barely matters.

It’s about how you make me feel,

About myself more than anybody else.

In your company, I feel like a princess,

Only to become the Cinderella after your departure.

If i could choose now, I would choose to spend all seasons of the year in your arms, watching the trees turn from green to yellow and eventually red, gracing the roads for us to walk. Our red carpet of natural joy!

Let me take each step with you,

Let me walk each journey with you.

Image taken from Google images

His desires and hers

She sat and stared mindlessly at the middle-aged woman in the bright pink swimsuit, who floated effortlessly in the giant swimming pool. Next to her sat her husband, a handsome young man, in his early twenties.

They had tied the knot only two weeks ago and thanks to the social status of her husband’s family, they sat by the pool in a cool, elegant bamboo structure in one of best luxury hotels in Western Europe.

The evening wind blew, carrying with it the intoxicating smell of jasmine trees that lined the pool area, rendering a rather romantic feel to the place.

The startling sound of the swimming woman’s splash brought her back to reality.

She looked at him once again in supplication. He avoided her gaze in irritation.

‘Please baby’ she said, no louder than a whisper.

‘Again? Don’t you understand once?’

‘But baby, this is Europe. I understand your concerns about my security, but women swimming here are a very common sight.’ She said, tears beginning to swell up in her eyes.

‘Your time to do all that is already over. Now focus on other responsibilities in life.’ he said bitterly.

‘But baby….!’

‘Just shut up!’ he snapped, cutting her off. ‘And by the way, don’t even think of comparing yourself to these white women. Remain in your senses.’ he said, turning his head to one side in contempt.

She quietly wiped her tears and began to look away, at the woman in the pool.

Why couldn’t she too swim like that? First her father hadn’t allowed her to take swimming classes in school, calling it an ‘obscene’ sport, and now here she was, facing similar judgement at the hands of her ‘modern’ husband. Was the liberty she had grown up believing in a mere sham? Does it not exist at all, or was her case unique?

Her doting, yet helpless mother would always wipe her tears at nights, assuring her that things would be better as she grew up. She would promise a better and more independent future, that would rely on greater self-judgement than external validation.

She laughed out in contempt, at her own lack of self-esteem. Did she have none at all? After all what was it that she was begging her husband for? To do what she wanted to do, without causing harm to anyone else?

Did she need to seek permission to pursue her hobbies?And would this mental captivity ever end? Today it was him, and after few years, it would be her sons telling her how to behave and what to speak. When would she pursue her passions?

Her self-loathing came to an abrupt end with her husband’s lingering touch on the back of her palm.

‘Let’s go to the room honey’ he said in a husky voice, barely audible, as he traced his index finger across her lips, moving it from side to side.

The sun sunk deep in the massive cloud underneath, as if in shame. The woman in the pink swimsuit splashed in glee, as the young woman followed her husband to their honeymoon suite.

Image taken from Google images

Recognizing Emotional Abuse

“In a healthy relationship, vulnerability is wonderful. It leads to increased intimacy and closer bonds. When a healthy person realizes that he or she hurt you, they feel remorse and they make amends. It’s safe to be honest.

In an abusive system, vulnerability is dangerous. It’s considered a weakness, which acts as an invitation for more mistreatment. Abusive people feel a surge of power when they discover a weakness. They exploit it, using it to gain more power. Crying or complaining confirms that they’ve poked you in the right spot.”

–  Christina Enevoldsen

In the recent times, more and more people, especially women have recounted incidents of emotional abuse, perpetrated against them for long periods, by parents, care-givers, spouses and sometimes even close friends. They talk about the debilitating impact of prolonged abuse and what it does to their sense of self.

Unfortunately, the prevalence and impact of emotional abuse cannot be demonstrated through bleeding wounds or dried scars on your body. In fact, this form of abuse is so subtle in its nature, that it involves neither physical force, loud speech, or use of swear words. You will be surprised to know that it can also be accomplished even without speaking a word! While it may not leave your skin black and blue, it certainly has the potential to shatter your self-esteem beyond repair, before you even know it.

Emotional abuse rests on emotional manipulation and invalidation from someone you trust and depend emotionally on – spouse, sibling, colleague, or even ‘friend’. When we have faith in someone’s words and actions, we often fail to recognize such patterns in their behavior, feeling confused as to why we end up feeling drained out around them or after even an innocuous conversation with them.

Here are some signs of emotional abuse that I managed to recognize:

1 Invalidation of your feelings: The abuser often ‘invalidates’ or minimizes your feelings and emotions about things, instead of recognizing them and hearing you out non-judgmentally.

For instance, imagine this:

You: “I feel very bad today. My boss at work humiliated me in front of the work-team.”

He/ she: “It’s normal. Bosses do it everywhere. You are not unique. You should not be feeling this way.”

Of course, it’s healthy to make our near and dear ones understand that they are not alone in such situations or that such events are indeed common place, but such responses on a regular basis end up silencing the victim who may choose to not share her feelings anymore, out of the fear of being labeled a fool or ‘over-sensitive’ to things.

2 Turning the situation against you: Some people in an attempt to undermine your confidence, may take any situation at hand that has ended up hurting your feelings and use it to shift the blame on you.

For instance, in the example above, you may hear something like “You must have done something stupid at work. I have never had or even heard of such an experience in my 20-year old career.”

Where you expect a pair of non-judgmental ears and a person who can simply tap your shoulder and say “I understand”, you end up feeling like a bigger fool than you did when your boss humiliated you, because your own belief in your stupidity has been validated by someone you trust.

3 Not letting you choose for yourself: Have you ever noticed people who make suggestions that must necessarily be ‘obeyed’? People who threaten you with consequences that you might have to face ‘without them’ if you choose to not accept their piece of advice? This could relate to relationship or financial matters, or even simple day-to-day decisions such as doing groceries from one supermarket versus another. If we say X and they Y, they get upset, making the simple choice a rather personal issue.

When we are not vigilant, we may fall into the trap of doing exactly as they say, in the fear of being left alone if our original choice were to backfire or go wrong for whatever reason. The result: loss of confidence in the self, which perpetuates into lower and lower self-esteem over time. Not only this, our dependence on such people rises and we find ourselves incapacitated to function without them and their ‘intrusive’ advice. Think of how many times we may have disregarded our own best judgement in the fear of the dreadful words ‘I had already told you!’

4 Drama, drama and drama: Has anybody ever threatened you with a public tantrum or an embarrassing spectacle in the event of non-compliance? Have you ever felt like walking on eggshells? One step wrong and boom!

This is a very subtle form of emotional manipulation in which the abuser is well aware of what really scares you and may threaten (even without use of words, for instance, by merely rolling his eyes in a certain way) you with potential drama if you do not do as said. This is a very dangerous pattern which keeps you walking in a straight line even when you may wish to turn. It is not so much the drama itself than the fear of such drama that ensures compliance out of unhealthy fear.

5 Making a public mockery: People who tend to abuse emotionally often take pleasure in mocking or belittling you before friends and family, or anyone whose opinion you care about. It may look like perfect humor, for instance “Oh she’s always so filthy” or “Carelessness – he was born with that” etc. The problem with this approach is that even when they may be having fun at your expense, you may sub-consciously begin to believe things that are said about you, over and over again. Since you trust this person’s views and judgment of you, you do not tend to question such behavior. Instead, you may feel guilty for ‘feeling’ bad about such jokes, instead of contemplating raising this subject with the concerned person.

6 Asymmetric behavior in praise and ridicule: Emotional abusers are difficult to please. You may spend all your energy in doing things you believe make them happy, only to be disappointed over and over again. Even when a hundred joyful things may attract a few lines of appreciation (if you’re lucky) or merely dry acknowledgement, they are very generous with ridiculing you when the smallest of things may go wrong. It’s almost like reaching the count of 100 on a counter and being reset to 0 for a small error that you may make. Everything should be perfect or nothing counts at all (all-or-nothing thinking).

7 Beating about the bush: In emotionally abusive relationships, it is very hard to showcase one’s pain by speaking about what really hurt us in someone else’s behaviour. If you try to do that, the abuser will take you on a roller coaster ride of a thousand words and will beat about the bush, completely rubbishing your claim. He will spin careful webs of creative words, talk about the same thing over and over again, make you repeat your grievance and in the end, when you are completely exhausted in making your point, deny everything you said. Finally, there are no solutions, only more problems relating to probably the way you expressed your concerns, the words you used, the tone you spoke in, or the very fact that you ‘thought’ so and so about him.

Emotional abuse can be very dampening for your mind and body, leaving you confused and self-questioning without any apparent cause. Research documents that victims of prolonged emotional abuse completely shut themselves off emotionally and even face difficulty in feeling simple emotions such as pleasure and joy, and even anger. They begin to seek assurance and validation for making even simple life-choices. In fact, often times, they may also begin to doubt their own sanity – whether they ‘should’ feel what they really do.

Also, with this article, I do not claim that people who tend to behave in such ways do so deliberately or with bad intentions. I do not know of the ‘why’, but merely the ‘what’ and also of ‘what happens after’.

Also, the purpose of the article is not to suggest leaving the company of people who abuse you in this manner, but merely to help you recognize unhealthy patterns and accordingly transform your relationships into healthy, synergetic ones. This not only protects your self-esteem and dignity, it makes the relationship more rewarding and fulfilling. I strongly believe that parasitic or painful relationships can be re-wired through clear communication and appropriate boundary-setting, if both parties have the drive to do so.

So the next time, you feel small or doubt your sanity, do care to look around! It’s always not about you!

Image taken from Google images

Problems? Who cares?

Of what problems does the world speak of?

Those trivial concerns that you convert into fun, merely with your presence?

Things that ordinarily make my thoughts churn,

Turning my hair grey at the edges,

Seem like Sudoku puzzles that we often solve together with our morning coffee.

Like curious children, we fight to plug in numbers,

And clap wide-eyed at our own abilities.

One number here and the other there,

And the puzzle is solved.

“Seriously?” We look at each other with eyes full of surprise.

It’s almost like crushing tiny mud castles with our feet,

As we giggle in ecstasy,

Asking for more on our way.

What problems does the world talk about?

The things that we solve together, hand in hand?

Why can’t we have more?

After all, they are just one of the things we like to do together.

Image taken from Google images

Princess Diana – the imperfect fairy-tale

“I like to be a free spirit. Some don’t like that, but that’s the way I am.”

                                                                                                                                            – Lady Diana

I just finished watching a documentary about Lady Diana, Princess of Wales, on Netflix. After regaining composure (I cried like a baby. Thank God my son is sleeping!) and organising the thoughts in my head, I finally sat down to write this piece.

Lady Diana (or Lady Di) as she was often fondly referred to, was my favourite youth icon in my teenage years. Smart, rich, beautiful, elegant – you name it and she had it. I loved her golden, cropped hair which she jerkily put back in order every now and then and the never-too-old-to-wear string of white pearls she confidently carried with almost every dress she wore. Since I lived in India and she was a British princess, our news channels were almost always full of coverage of the royal family – the Queen’s health, the Buckingham palace, Lady Diana’s issues with her husband, her travels around the globe, and of course more.

As time passed, I aspired to be more and more like her one day – well-dressed, powerful and influential, till one day the news of her tragic road accident in Paris was broadcast. It was a black day for us, for no particualr reason. May be because she died too young, or may be we had begun to associate immortality with royal blood. But her death felt like a personal loss too – someone who smiled like an angel and a woman who had given me goals for the future, had died.

Lady Diana, born Diana Spencer, was born in the English royal family of Althorp on July 1, 1961. She spent a rather turbulent childhood with three other siblings and witnessed her parents’ divorce when she was only 7. Following the divorce, bitter battles of custody between her parents began and the children, including herself, shuttled between the separate residences of the parents, till her father won sole custody for Diana. She recounted incidents of physical abuse from her father to her mother, in the midst of the children’s presence.

Eventually, Diana, who had been home-schooled in the early years of her life, attended formal school (an all-girls’ one) in London and finishing school in Switzerland. She returned to London and began to live with three other young women in an apartment, gifted to her by her mother. She took up odd jobs such as those of a nanny, party hostess, and even a kindergarten teacher. She mentions how she always felt so different than other girls her age. She says “I knew that something profound was coming my way and I was just treading water, waiting for it. I didn’t know what it was. I didn’t know where it was. I didn’t know if it was coming next year or next month. But I knew I was different from my friends in where I was going.”

She met Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, when she was 16. At that time, he was dating her elder sister, Lady Sarah. Gradually Diana began to attract more and more of the Prince’s attention and even received an invitation to visit him and his family at their Scottish holday home in November 1980. There she was well-received by the Queen and other members of his family. She had begun to sense what was coming next.

The Prince proposed marriage to her, and after much deliberation, she agreed. It was a big moment for her family to have an alliance as powerful as the Royalty of Wales and also for Diana, who had never seen the feminine and royal side of herrself. The royal alliance took place on July 29, 1981 and Diana was officially declared ‘next in line to be Queen of England’. She often remarked “I’d like to be a queen in people’s hearts but I don’t see myself being queen of this country.” This was an intuition she could never explain.

She bore two sons to Charles – William and Harry. The rebel that Diana was, she chose the princes’ names, dismissed the idea of a royal nanny, chose one herself, spent time at play with her children and even took them to school, whenever time permitted.

Despite all the glamour and sheen that surrounded the palatial life, Diana’s life was more than dreary. Marital issues with Charles, thirteen years older than her, had set in within the first few years of marriage itself. Charles, sure of himself, was charming, had the gift of the gab and also the knack to handle the intense media attention that being Prince, he always attracted.

On the other hand, Diana, only 19 when she married, was timid, unsure of herself. She kept her gaze low around the cameras and the superficiality of the elite on occasions she ‘had’ to be present in, irrepsective of her own choice. The intrusive media glare pierced her sanity and she was often seen breaking into tears in public.

The documentary reveals that on her honeymoon trip itself, she had come to know of her husband’s relationship with Camilla Parker-Bowles, his married ‘friend’. Despite her jealousy and his dismissal, she was required to attend polo matches and lavish parties in the company of this woman.

Eventually, the much-hyped marriage had begun to show signs of disintegration. Diana attributed this to the birth of her second son Harry, which ended up disappointing Charles, who desperatly hoped for a daughter. For both sons, Diana suffered from severe post-partum depression and attacks of bulimia (compulsive eating, often associated with anxiety). She was judged for her illness, for no one in the royal family had never had these issues before. It was also said that her illnesses came in the way of Charles’ happiness and their more-than-perfect royal marriage.

Finally, after much speculation, the couple parted ways in 1996. By this time, Diana had significantly turned herself around in terms of self-confidence, making herself known for being associated with charitable causes around the globe (without the aid of her former husband) and her ability to connect with her children, ‘without feeling trapped)’.

Soon after began, her expedition to find herself and find love in a man who could ‘love her like a father’. Names of Dukes, a British cardiologist and subsequently, Dodi Al Fayed popped up, and so did rather private images of Diana on boats and beaches.

Her life came to a tragic and untimely end on August 31, 1997 in a car crash in a tunnel in Paris, while she was  with her boyfriend Dodi Fayed.

Some things about Diana’s life that really strike me as amazing and inpsiring are:

1. How she had to deal with being a ‘to-be Queen’ even before she had turned a woman. Married at the age of 19 to the ‘most eligible bachelor’ in London was clearly not the easiest responsibility to shoulder. It seems to be like a golden cross on which she ended up crucifying herself.

2. The judgement she had to face for not acting ‘queen-like’ where all she was probably doing was acting like a 20-something woman. From selection of clothes to spending time with her children, she did not seem to fit the royal standards. In one of her interviews, she clearly mentions how she was rebuked for not doing things well at the palace, but there never came any appreciation, of things well-accomplished. She admits that she had made it the mission of her life to please the Royal family, albeit at her own expense.

3. The repurcussions of marital discord she had witnessed as a child, between her own parents, never really left her mind. She mentions how she had been ‘numbed’ by those experiences and how she could best describe her childhood as ‘unhappy’. The only pleasant childhood memory she could recall was the smell of her stroller, which smelt of hot plastic in the sun. She also mentions that her brother Charles, spoke to her about how the results of the marital tensions between their parents had become evident to him only after he himself got married.

4. Lady Diana’s story clearly brings out the importance of healthy attention that we can expect to get only from family and close friends, versus that which is unhealthy, superficial, and unreal. While the former boosts our self-esteem and keeps us going, the latter comes from glorifying the lives of others, forgetting rather naively, that their problems and challenges are no different from our own. They too rejoice at accomplishments and don’t sleep when stressed. Diana’s recorded sessions with her psychotherapist reveal how she resorted to having her  husband’s attention by mutilating her arms and legs and once, even by deliberately throwing herself down the stairs while pregnant with William.

Diana’s story to me is a story of courage and incredible strength. It is the story of a woman who lived, who loved and who refused to give up. It is an epiphany of a common woman with a crown, who laughed, cried, made mistakes and each time, pulled herself up.

It is now only a question of imagination and creativity, as to how this woman could have changed the Monarchy and the definition of humanitarianism, had she lived longer.

Rest in peace Diana! You were more loved than you ever knew!

Image taken from Google images

Sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diana,_Princess_of_Wales

https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/2859627.Diana_Princess_of_Wales

Diana: In her own words (Netflix, 2017)

 

It’s all in your eyes my dear

Look at me with love and compassion,

And unlock the angel that lives within me.

That bright soul that lights up the world around her.

Look at me with perpetual disdain,

And unleash the turmoil that hides beneath my surface.

And then complain not at the horrendous sight of your own creation.

It’s all in your eyes my dear.

Image taken from Google images

Beauty versus certainty

The choice between the beauty of life and the certainty it offers is always hard – one often can’t have both.

However, if I were to choose, I’d rather go for a beautiful future which is risky and uncertain, than an ugly, certain one.

Of what certainty can I even talk about, when I, as all living beings, may not even wake up to see the next sunrise!

But yes, to have a joyous, rewarding life is something I deserve. To Hope is my right, and why shouldn’t it be, if it keeps me going?

Image taken from Google images

The day I snapped

You played with me as you liked,

Pulled me and stretched as you pleased.

You felt strong and powerful,

much more of a man,

As I groaned in excruciating pain.

I tried my best until I snapped,

Between your fingers, limp as a fish.

And you still remain upset – this time that I caused you pain.

And that I gave in too early.

I think some people like me, always cause pain,

And some like you, who must always complain.

Image taken from Google images