Playlist: Women of Pop

One of my favorite things is long car rides listening to music, on earphones if alone, blasting on the stereo and singing along if with friends.

J is away for a bit. He had to go back home to LA for a family emergency. I decided to give him some time and space away. It would do us both good I think. He can come back whenever he’s ready. Part of me wants to be there for him, support him through this. But I get the sense that my current stance is preferable. I told him I’m here for him if he needs anything at all. Besides, it’s given me some time to focus on me a little, indulge in some reflection on long car rides over music.

Content and peaceful. Those are the words that come to mind thinking about my mental state these days. I’m okay, after 28 somewhat tumultuous years. I’ve found my footing, it feels like. Of course, it took a lot of hard and painful life lessons to get here, but they’re what got me here, so I’m okay.  I’ve made peace with the past and the future. I’m truly living in the moment, as cliched as that sounds. There’s no dream I’m trying to achieve, for the first time.  I’m exactly where I want to be, personally and professionally.  Anything good that comes along would of course be appreciated, but in a natural course of things way. Anything bad will be seen as life being life. Humblebrag is the only way to say, I really like who I’ve become. I only wish I had gotten here sooner. Lots of cringeworthy moments with S especially come to mind.  I’m not really surprised he did not propose all those years anymore – for the first time, I get my past imperfections. But I’m definitely not beating myself up about it – I was just working with the life experience I had until then. It would have been nice to have someone just teach me all the hard lessons as an eight year old.  But I guess that’s not how it works.  Well, I’m gonna try anyway when my kids are eight,  if I have any that is.  Until then, I hope to continue to work, read, write, sing, dance, go to spin class, do yoga and be kind. There’s no white picket fence I want anymore.  There’s no academic laurels I want to earn anymore. I just want to live and love the best I can.

I guess that’s a good note to go back to Spotify on.

Until next time,

S

Rules

Like anything else, dating is a skill. While there was a time when I would have scoffed at any rules in love, apparently there are some.  Now that I’ve got my feet wet by actually going on a couple of dates, I’m beginning to realize, and be amused by this. I guess my naivete comes from an utter lack of experience.  I’ve never technically gone on a date before this. I have only fallen desperately in love. With S, that was one of the things I really loved about the early parts of our relationship – there were never any ‘games’. We were both intelligent, attractive people secure enough in ourselves to not have to play hard to get.  It was so easy and natural. I like you. I like you too. Simple.

My trainer J who has also become a close friend was telling me this the other day. She said, you should be with a guy you can text ten times a day if you want to without any qualms. I was like,  I know!!  I miss that! Both S and V were that kind of guys. She was also like “You are queen. You have all these options. You pick. Not them.” I was blown away.  Woah. The kind of badass confidence that statement inspired was long overdue. And I’m still riding that wave.

I cannot deny that what has also helped me achieve that is becoming somewhat hot again (Hot and dangerous, per J:D). When all the sexy dresses in your closet that weren’t fitting in your fat period fit you beautifully again, you’re like, yassss, bitches! Tina Fey once said, every woman needs to have a fat period in her life.  I couldn’t agree more.  Its humbling.  Its life experience.  It also makes you more understanding of the next girl struggling with her health. As a doctor, this has really helped me guide my patients. I can recommend things with conviction because I know they’ve worked for me.

The same goes for mental health issues.  My interns marvel at my knack for dealing with people suffering from depression and anxiety.  I laugh it off, saying it must be something about my face that makes them open up. What they don’t know is how close to home those issues are for me. To every single mother,  abused girlfriend,  and IV drug user that I come across, I want to say, I know how it feels! I was there! I know how it is to feel stuck,  helpless, hopeless! But I hold back.  Instead I hold their hand, tell them there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Tell them there’s hope. I hold back because for all the advances we’ve made, there’s still stigma associated with mental health issues, even among healthcare providers.  Every day I see my co-residents bemoaning their suicidal patient.  Its unfortunate,  but is nobody’s fault. Its just one of those things that society has yet to catch up with. As a medical student, I remember sitting in for the psychiatry clinics silently judging most patients who were seeking help. Come on, get over it! Its not that bad as you make it out to be, I would say in my head.  Now I know they just can’t help it.  And they need all the help they can get.  So while my career choice is  Infectious Diseases, which I absolutely love,  I am hoping to find an avenue for helping out patients with mental health issues. Maybe there’s a volunteer opportunity somewhere. I should do some research. I have so much to give on this front.

So that post took quite the detour. See? It’s not about boys anymore.  But that’s all for now.  I gotta go.  I have a date:)

S

Thanksgiving

I know I haven’t written in a while. No, I haven’t given up on yet another blog. I just wanted to make sure I had something quality to say every time I wrote. Something that wouldn’t make an older me cringe a few years down the line. Also, I use this as a platform to work things out in my head and I have been fortunate enough to not have any pressing concerns in the past couple of weeks.

Yes, it has been an unusual period of bliss-ed out contentment for me. One that I am very thankful for. I figured it would be appropriate to take a few minutes out of a day off that happened to fall on the eve of Thanksgiving Day to log my gratitude.

A lot of things have factored into this joy. I am doing well at work. I love my patients. I have found enjoyment in studying Medicine again. I am excited about my future. I have learnt to appreciate my family for how absolutely wonderful they are, and not take them for granted. I may have finally found my clan in Chicago – a group of smart, funny, decent Malayalees around my age who I met at a Meetup event, almost all of them having lived in Bangalore at some point in their lives! – can you sense my excitement? Now it may all fizzle out but I am OK with that possibility. I have learnt not to have lofty expectations of people. I have spent lot of time in the past dwelling on being disappointed by friends. Now I realize that is probably because I hold them to very high standards.  Most importantly, for the first time in my life, I am not looking for love. I really really like myself and seem to not mind not having constant validation of my worthiness.

Now this may seem to be contradictory to that statement but I recently went to a Dabble class on “How to attract with allure and approachability”. Yes you are allowed to laugh at me now. It was something I had signed up for before this whole I don’t-need-a-boy emancipation came about. I decided to go anyway, and boy, am I glad I did! It was a small intimate gathering of of five single women sharing their stories of love over wine at the host’s apartment. All the while our wonderful coach gave us eye-opening tips on things that must be holding us back in love. It was as delightful as it sounded. What I liked best was how honest everyone was with their vulnerabilities. It was interesting how even though we all might have our individual hurdles, the common theme was self- doubt. It was yet another instance where it was evident that we as women, tend to put ourselves down so much in our heads, that we might be really really far from our truths. I came out realizing a lot of my mindsets that must have been holding me back for years in situations that I could have taken to my advantage. Oh and guess what? We enjoyed each others company so much that we ended up exchanging numbers and making plans to catch up again this Christmas.

Don’t get me wrong. I am terrified that this will all come crashing down come December 6th on Fellowship Match Day. I like to think this time around I have enough maturity and wisdom to approach this period of uncertainty with balance and grace. I hope I can manage to keep my sense of hope and purpose in case things turn out unfavorably for me. I really struggled the last time during Residency Match two and a half years ago. In hindsight, things really did work out for the best. But I was young and naive and used to winning all the time at the time. I have learnt to forgive myself and others for my perceived failures. The fact that I said “perceived” in itself is a revelation to me of a change in mindset. I now have a mindset of acceptance and pride in myself and all that I have achieved. And I am finally happy to just live in the moment, doing the best I can each day, not agonizing about what people think of me, or what the future may look like for me. I am paying my bills on time. I have a 401k. Going to the gym daily has become a habit. I am reading, listening to podcasts, watching the news, making conversations with strangers, going out of my comfort zone. I am also making time to hang out by myself in my living room that I so lovingly decorated two years ago but never used much as a result of being too high-strung all the time to just relax on my couch. Thank you, Whoever is making all this happen. Please make it so that I am this happy come what may for the rest of my life. And please help me keep my feet on the ground while I am at it.

After rock bottom.  

It was another Sunday alone. She could go on about that but she was not going to. Instead she reflected on her journey through these tough times. She had come so far. One year ago she struggled to get out of bed every morning. Now, for the first time in a long time,  she could say she was genuinely somewhat happy.

She never thought she’d be one of those people who said this, but her healing had begun through Yoga. It was December last year, when a friend asked her to go with her to the Yoga studio that was just a few steps from her place. She did not think much of it. Her mother practiced every day, but she herself was definitely never a smoothie-drinking, yoga pant-wearing kinda chick. But her friend wanted company and she had a hard time saying no to people so she agreed to go. But it turned out to be her first step towards the self-care that she desperately needed. It was a slow progress, with definite setbacks. But now, finally, she was at a place where she could look forward to her days. Days that she had filled with art, culture, learning and self-growth. And accomplishments.

She decided to make a list of her accomplishments in the past year.

1. Pased Step 3 USMLE boards with a good score.

2. Earned laurels at work.

3. Learned to dream about the future again.

4. Decided on a future career path.

5. Managed to complete the fellowship application procedure in a timely and effective manner.

6. Managed to bag over 80 interviews across the country.

6. Found the drive to travel and attend interviews at her top choices.

7. To the best of her knowledge, did well in those interviews.

8. Developed the grace to accept the outcome of the application come what may.

9. Read four books in the last month.

10. Started listening to music again.

11. Became interested in her work again.

12. Attended church regularly, without expecting anything in return from God.

13. Started following the news.

14. Learned to switch the TV on to a news channel when she found herself lonely or brooding at home – focusing on things larger than herself.

15. Went to her first meetup group and decided to return.

16. Started a skincare regimen. And stuck to it.

17. Started getting monthly massages.

18. Started getting monthly facials.

19. Paid every single bill on time.

20. Improved her credit score.

21. Signed up for a Volleyball game.

22. Developed restraint in her social media postings.

23. Bought herself flowers regularly.

24. Started having breakfast daily.

25. Stopped beating herself up for her mistakes.

26. Started really loving herself, for the person she was, and not for her achievements. Stopped caring about what other people thought of her, like completely.  She knew she was kind and good and special. That’s all that mattered.

27. Started listening to podcasts on long journeys, on her walks.

28. Stopped feeling sorry or self-conscious about going to places by herself.

29. Finally found not one, but three perfect shades of lipstick for her skin (Sephora ColorIQ is an amazing tool ladies)

30. Learned to curl her hair, for the first time in her life.

31. Learned to contour (Sorry boys, this is another girl thing. You don’t wanna know).

32. Started developing female friendships, for the first time in her life.

33.  Discovered who her real friends were. Forgave the rest for abandoning her in her time of need.

34. Started this blog, to turn her grief into art.

35. Accepted that S was the love of her life. And that she would be happy with having had the chance to spend seven beautiful years with him.  Accepted that she would never find it in herself to love anyone else, and that that was ok. She would love him unconditionally from a distance, without ever expecting anything in return.

She smiles in relief. She still had a long way to go,  but her heart was already full.