Today

Today was a day I will not forget for a long time. It was one of those days when you really want to go into a storage room at work and cry alone but cannot afford the luxury because you just don’t have the time.

It began like any other call day. I woke up with a jolt at 4 am realizing I had completely forgotten to finish my clinic notes from yesterday – was supposed to do them after the gym last night but had a long hot shower and crashed instead – it had completely skipped my mind! Well, good thing I had my laptop near my bed from last night’s The Office binge. I stayed under the covers and finished all three notes within the next hour and a half. My mind was surprisingly fresh. I remembered all the details from the previous day – I gave Ms A her Flu shot but Mr B refused to get his Shingles vaccine. Ms C was due for her colonoscopy – but she wanted to think about it. I put in a little reminder note for when she comes in next. It was great. I finished by around 5:40 am, and then snuggled back under the covers for twenty more minutes. Then it was the hustle of the morning – a blur of eggs over easy, coffee, trying to use concealer on my bruised upper lip in vain (don’t even ask) and searching for my ID in frustration while Alexa played Honest by The Chainsmokers in the background. Ahh, my life was so hot and perfect.

Walking into the ICU sign-out room at 6:55 am with my usual ‘hey guys’ I plopped myself down, a little giddy.  This had been my favorite rotation in my entire residency. I find myself actually looking forward to the uncertainity of my days in the ICU. Soon, the night team walked in, a little too solemn for having just finished their shift. Before we could ask, J said, ” I have bad news… Bed 12 passed away last night”. I was briefly disoriented. For a moment I wondered if he was talking about someone else. Wait, what?! Bed 12, who had just last evening laughed and joked with me? Bed 12, with the amazing girlfriend of 20 years I had bonded with – ‘I’m gonna marry him now, she had said..I had cold feet the last time he asked me..but now I know for sure..I have to marry him the minute he gets discharged’. I had been delighted at their story – they had met in Kindergarten and reconnected many years later (yes, like V and I). I remember thinking she was so lucky – he had coded twice in the cath lab, and had been succesfully resuscitated, and had improved so much in two days that he was  sitting up in a chair and joking around, eager to go home. Only he never got to. And she never got to marry him. He possibly had another clot in his LAD, they said. I couldn’t believe how fucked up this was. I sat through sign-out trying to focus, but my mind was already numb.

Well, I couldn’t afford to stay that way much longer – it was barely 8 am and my pager was going off incessantly.  The ER attending was calling ICU consults with a vengeance. I wasn’t rattled though. I shrugged and got to work. I downgraded the less sick patients to a regular floor/Telemetry, and worked in earnest stabilizing the others. As I went through my day I marveled at how much my efficiency and confidence in my clinical decisions had improved over the last three years. I could almost do this in my sleep now.

Around 1 pm, I had finally almost caught up. The anion gap had closed and sugars were under control for the young newly diagnosed Diabetic patient with Ketoacidosis. The 91 year old with COPD exacerbation was now off BIPAP, saturating well on nasal cannula at 5 L. Labs were cooking for my post op patient in Room 13. He had had a hernia surgery, with small bowel resection, developed a post op anastomotic leak, had that repaired, and then developed a retroperitoneal bleed , with wound dehiscence, and was taken to the OR again today. I had started him on some sedation and pain management as my attending had advised. He was hemodynamically stable. Maybe I have a minute to finally start working on my consult notes, I thought, ignoring my pangs of hunger. I had barely sat down when my pager went off again. CODE BLUE IN 32 SOUTH, the overhead announcement repeated. I ran, 32 South was the ICU. I burst in through the doors when R directed me to the back of the unit. ‘It’s 13′, he said. Fuck.

We coded him for 20 minutes, and then finally got a pulse. Barely. He had become hypotensive and acidotic once he got on the unit while I was down in the ED, and my attending had been working on keeping him afloat, putting him on three pressors and pushing bicarb. His systolic blood pressure was still in the 70s. He was bound to code again. We called the family, asking them to come in as soon as they can. They wished for us to try all we can until they got there. We obliged. He coded again. We resuscitated him again. He held on until the family got there. My intern had his first go at the difficult conversation. Would they want us to continue to try and resuscitate him, when that may just prolong his suffering? I did not expect them to know the answer. And they did not. We decided to give them time. Meanwhile, we called the Chaplain for them so he could get his last rites.

But time is elusive. It slips by before you know it. CODE BLUE IN 32 SOUTH was called again. We ran over, to find 13’s lovely nurse N waving her arms indicating NO. They did NOT want us to pound his chest anymore. He was DNR now – Do Not Resuscitate. We let him go.

N was hugging everyone in the family tight. Tears were rolling down all of their faces. I blinked back mine. He was a good man, the wife said. We got them a bereavement tray  – I truly do not know what that entails – some food and other things to provide comfort, I was told. I hope it helped.”I have to get the fuck out of here’, the son said in anguish before walking out of the room where his father lay cold. I called my intern over. ‘Have you ever done a death exam before? Come, let’s do it together’  I told her the steps. He was not responding to verbal or tactile stimuli. His pupils were dilated and fixed.  We each listened to his heart and lungs and checked his pulses. We flashed a light in his eyes. We checked his reflexes. Time of death: 16:30.

ER paged again. My second COPD patient who had his blood CO2 level so high it was unmeasurable, was having second thoughts about his code status. He wanted a tube now. The Catholic in me secretly rejoiced – it has been a constant struggle for me to be the one who has these conversations with patients – I wanted them all to want to live! ‘Protect life from conception till death – my Catholic medical school had taught me. This whole DNR business was new for me. I explained his options to him again. I am always careful to start these conversations reiterating that this is something I am required to ask every patient in the hospital – asking them their code status does not imply that they are going to die the next minute. But in this case it could go either way. He was alert and awake at that CO2 level. COPD patients sometimes live at these higher levels of CO2. I truly could not predict his prognosis in the next 24 hours. But naturally, that is what the family wanted to know. What do you think his chances are? I tried to explain the facts while trying to not make the decision for them. The daughter tried to get her father with mild dementia understand the question again. She began to repeat my explanation to him, and then broke down unable to continue. I got her a tissue and rubbed her back pathetically.

The rest of the day was a blur of similar emotions. I know I did good today. I actually played doctor. I helped some people through their worst nightmares. I was efficient, effective. I got the job done. “You guys were terrific today’, the ICU ACLS coordinator said to my intern and I. ‘Thanks’, I smiled feebly.

It is 8:30 pm. I opened the door to my apartment, switched the lights on, took my coat off. Then I crumbled to the floor, sobbing.

 

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

Dear guys on Bumble…

  1. Please don’t post shirtless mirror selfies.
  2. In fact, please don’t post mirror selfies at all.  When we don’t have much to go on other than your profile in the initial stages, mirror selfies basically tell us two things: i) You are likely too much into your looks. ii) You probably don’t have any friends who would take a picture of you.
  3. Same goes for gym selfies. We appreciate when you take care of your body. Not so much when that’s all you do/think about.
  4.  Ghost all you want if you are not into us. We do it all the time too. But please don’t lead us on for a week before doing that. That’s just a dick move. In most cases, you should be able to figure out if you find a person attractive in under ten texts.
  5. If you are proud of your nature-given height for some reason by all means put that on your profile. Just know that it is a potential turn off for a quality woman who may not be on the taller side.  Your loss.
  6. Posting a picture with an attractive blonde does not make you come across as in demand and more attractive. For us, that’s basically a red flag.
  7. We definitely don’t mind splitting the check or even paying for the whole dinner. Just know that deep down we appreciate chivalry and are judging you for not even offering to pay. Do the damn check dance, for heaven’s sake.
  8. Please respect our time and effort and take it offline as soon as possible. Nobody wants a textlationship.
  9. Go ahead and sext if the girl initiates it. Just keep it classy.
  10. Bumble takes the effort of the initial hello away from you. That is fine. We know how nerve wracking it can be to approach a girl. But please do your part in guiding the conversation/ asking us out after our initial hello. Making us do all the work just makes you seem lazy/dull. Your move, fucker.
  11. Please mind your grammar and write like an adult. Your is not the same as you’re.
  12. Humor and intelligence can take you a long way.  So can warmth, honesty and decisiveness.
  13. Make sure the interactions are not mostly one sided. A great relationship is one where the back and forth is balanced.
  14. Write SOMETHING on your profile. Give us at least Education and Employment. Pretty will only take you so far.
  15. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable once in a while. Sometimes that is more attractive than the cool aloof persona you present to the world.

Most of all, know that we are glad you exist. Excellent cuddles at frequent intervals are what makes us thrive after all:)

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.

A rant

This is nice. I find myself looking forward to writing daily. Like I can’t wait to tell the internet how my day went. Which is also kinda sad as clearly I am compensating. Well, who cares? Survival.

The thing I realized about getting over somebody is that one needs to build a life that does not contain that person. I think my breakup affected me so much because that relationship was the only thing I knew.  We went to the same classes, spent every meal together, studied together, basically spent every waking moment together. We had the same set of friends, had similar dreams and ambitions and similar values. And it was all fun. I have had so much fun in my twenties with S that I must have been seriously blessed. He made me laugh. There was that constant back and forth, the fun banter. I was entertained constantly. I lost all of that. And that happened when I was in a whole new country with a whole new, stressful job, away from my friends and family. I never got to go get drunk with my friends, lamenting my breakup. I never got closure. It did not help one bit that the people I was exposed to initially during my time here were not even close to the kind of people I would have allowed in my life if I had a choice. I clung to my memories and my life back home for dear life. But now, things are different. All the bad guys are no longer in my life. I have been fortunate to have met some genuinely nice people since. People who have actually managed to make me laugh for the first time in a long time. I am yet to let anyone in, but at least I am happy when I am with them. I finally feel like I am ready. To start moving on.

My friend and mentor Dr V once told me she used to make a list of all the things she did not like about a guy when she had a breakup, and that always helped. I always hesitated to do that because as it must be obvious to you by now, I tend to justify everything S did. I always found excuses for his behavior. When he could not commit even after 7.5 years, I thought it was because we were too young to get married. I often wonder now, was it all even real? Was it all in my head? Come to think of it, he had wanted to break up with me at least three times before. He even did once. Ok. I don’t have the energy to go into all that right now. Bottom line is, I should stop being blind in love and be an adult.

Honestly, I love my life otherwise. I have nothing to complain about. Work is good. I enjoy what I do. The future holds promise. I have hobbies again. My skin looks great.

Jokes aside, I hope this feeling lasts. I hope I don’t fall back into old patterns again. It is hard though. Like this morning. I woke up confused. I was dreaming. I think whoever makes dreams is so cruel. This one was cruel, and weird. It was about how S and I had a child, and now that we were not together he got custody. In the dream I was terrified about someone else becoming my child’s mother. Wtf. I mean, where did that come from? I did not know I was ready to have a child. But apparently my subconscious thought I did. We were on a bridge. It was a boy, and he was adorable. I remember that, although his face is kind of blurry. S and I were on either side of him, holding one hand each. We were doing some kinda amicable co-parenting shit. It was a bad dream but I woke up and realized I preferred it to my reality. At least S was in my life. I could see him. He was not in a different city. We had a baby. God. I am sounding like a crazy person even to me. But you see my point about it being fucking hard to build a life without him, when even if you forget, your fucking dreams remind you of what you lost?

Fuck. I am angry and exasperated. I am tired of this, really. I think I need to tap into that part of me that gets angry at S sometimes. P says even she thinks it is time he came around. It has been two years for heaven’s sake. If he even cared an ounce about me he would have made an effort by now. He knows how much I struggled with this. He knows that by not giving us a chance he is throwing away almost a decade of both of our lives. And a lifetime of happiness. Well, I guess he does not care. So that’s that then. Its all on him from now on. I have done my part. I fucked up, but I made amends.  I am going to stop beating myself up now. I don’t think I have any more left to give this relationship. Surely I have better things to do. And better people. So help me God.

 

Facebook.

C silently apologizes to those five people who kindly decided on the basis of her handful of posts that her blog was worth following. She hated following up such an uplifting post with yet another one stemming from heartache. But that is why she was here in the first place, after all. She did not want to sugarcoat her feelings. She wanted this to be a place where she could to be raw, honest and herself.

It started out as yet another day of happiness in solitude for her. Work was good. She liked all the new people she worked with. She managed to finish her tasks for the day at exactly five pm. She had helped a lot of people. And done that well, she thought. She managed to do some reading as well. She came home, with an entire evening ahead of her without any pressing tasks. These kind of evenings were hard to come by in her life. She switched on the TV. She loved watching the news nowadays. It amused her how much she enjoyed this one thing that she used to think was boring as a child. Must be a side effect of growing up. She was pleased at herself. It was raining. She loved the rains. Perfect, she thought. She ordered some Ramen for dinner.

She settled down on her couch, and pulled a throw over her bare legs. She loved that warm fuzzy feeling of winter. After about an hour spent between a new book, Instagram and Grey’s Anatomy, she finally logged in to Facebook. And there it was.

The details would be laborious and unimportant at this point. But it involved his first Facebook post in along time. It also involved what could be construed as flirty comments from a girl he had mentioned was interested in him. It was good that C was alone at home, so that no one had to witness the full blown panic attack that ensued. She had sobbed uncontrollably, gasping for air. Why was she saying that in public? Are they dating? They must be dating. How could he? She couldn’t breathe. It was so strange, seeing another woman talking to her man like that. HER man. What was this strange world she was trapped in? Is this a nightmare? God, please let this be a nightmare!

She couldn’t stop herself from texting him about it. He brushed it off, like he had done every time she had asked him if anything was going on between him and the woman he cheated with. They exchanged a few texts back and forth, and then he said “Sorry for being curt, but I don’t have the time for this right now”. That stopped her in her tracks. She put down the phone, curled herself into a ball on the sofa where he had once held her tight, and cried her heart out.

She was not crying because some girl made an inconsiderate post on her ex boyfriend’s wall. She was crying because his callous comments reminded her of every single time a boy had treated her with disrespect in the past two years. The one who had ghosted after getting what he wanted from her career-wise, the one who had done the same after getting what he wanted, not career-wise. V, who had pledged his heart and soul for life to her, only to find a new girl in the blink of an eye to do the same for. “Sorry”, he had said too, “but that pretty little girl is waiting for me”. It made even less sense when he was the one who still pursued her. “Sorry”. It was interesting how a word that is meant to convey care and respect, can cause such humiliation. She could not fathom how these men who apparently had loved her, could be so unconcerned about the effect their words would have on her.

Through her tears, she texted her friend, P, who was back in India. She was among the few wonderful friends who had stuck through it all with her. “You need to get your life back”, she had said. “You have come this far in life and achieved so much…you deserve more”. God bless her sweet heart. But C knew all that already. She had tried and failed at getting back her life. She had decided she was never going to get over S, and that that was ok.

She had a vision of her old age, alone. She saw sick old people at her job every day. She knew what the deal was going to be. Old age is hard as it is. But to add loneliness to that, to have no one to witness her life?  Jesus. Was she really ok with that?  Was she ok with this, her life right now, being it? She pushed the thoughts away.

Don’t get her wrong. Neither the men nor the other women had tainted the self-esteem that she had developed at an early age one bit. She was thankful to her parents for that. She knew what she was worth. Question was, did they? Did S ever really love her? If he did, why couldn’t he give her the forgiveness she had once given him? She would never hurt anyone who loved her like that. All the time when V had feelings for her that she could not return, she was gentle with him. She never blew him off once. She never let a text go without a response. Did she not deserve the same dignity?  Is there going to be a day when all this erodes on that precious self-esteem, finally causing her to wither, and give up?

One thing her self-esteem had never quite figured out was how she rated on attractiveness. She knew she was incredibly blessed terms of intellect, talent and heart. But how did she compare to these women on physical beauty? Surely she was not one of the pretty ones. Those same parents who had praised her intellect every chance they got had never once called her ‘beautiful’ growing up. Or a princess. Or <insert other adjectives bestowed on little girls along with story after story of happily ever afters>. It might go to her head, they must have thought. Consequently, she had never really thought of herself as one of the pretty ones. But then years later the boys from her school had told her how back in high school almost every boy in class had a crush on her. She could not believe it at the time. She was popular in high school?! Damn. She wished she had known. She apparently had lived a completely different life in her mind compared to what was actually happening. Other instances came to mind. The first and only time she had gone to a club in America, four different men had tried to hit on her. But that probably happened to every girl in that room. Her hairdresser always told her she was pretty. But she probably said that to all her customers. That one time her friend J, who always teased her for her shortcomings, got drunk and then told her how hot he thought she was? Well, the guy was pitch drunk. S of course had told her a million times that she was pretty, hot, cute. But isn’t that what boyfriends are supposed to say? Part of her wanted to believe them all, even though most of her did not dare to.

She comes back to the present. She tries to reason with herself. Was she actually as much a victim as she was making herself out to be? S had not even replied to the flirty girl. At least not in public. Did she have any right anymore to ask S about what he did in his own time anyway? Probably not. He had every right to flirt with or date whoever he wanted to. But they were not like other couples. They were S and C. They had a once in a lifetime love. The kind of love that matures and grows over time. Din’t they? These were all questions she did not have answers for. All she could do was write.

And so she did.

P.S. Did she mention the flirty girl was a model?

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.

Bread.

Today is the 26th of October, 2017. Nine years ago today, sometime after midnight, ‘she’ had ceased to be. ‘Us’ was the only existence she knew since then.  Even now, when he no longer wanted any part of that.

She smiles through the pain at her memories. They were all she had. She held them close. They would always be hers, after all.

One of her most precious memories happened when they were in Sweden together. It was four years ago. As blessed as they were to be able to do an exchange scholarship together, they had had some of their worst fights in Sweden. They were all about the other woman. This was just a few months into her finding out. She was prone to angry outbursts, sobbing late into the night, hating him and loving him all at once. They fought for their love every day. He was determined to make up for what he did. Still, she was hurting, filled with doubts. About his love. About their future.

It was the end of April, the beginning of summer in Scandinavia. She had always wanted to check out the lake. And he was devoted to doing all he could to make her happy. So here they were, barbecuing. They were a long bus ride away from their dorm. But the setting was worth the hike, exactly as she had imagined it would be. It was a beautiful day. The lake was flanked by woods on all sides. There were barbecue tables set up in a clearing at the lake front. A group of music majors from the University were playing their violins nearby, as if they were a part of the forest.  Children were running around, screaming in glee. Retired couples were walking the forest trails, hand in hand. He was cooking. She was chatting away, forgetting all their troubles for a few moments. It was idyllic. And then, they ran out of bread.

Not a problem. She had remembered seeing the local ICA store on their way to the lake. She told him she would be back in no time. She ventured out on foot, like a dutiful girlfriend. Now this was back when Google Maps was not really an everyday thing.  So naturally it took her a while to find the store. Once she was there, she took her time selecting the best bread for her man. Some things, she reasoned, she could still make sure were perfect. She paid for the bread and started walking back. By then of course, her phone had run out of charge. No big deal, she thought. She had barely been gone half an hour. As she walked back through the woods, she hummed a song to herself. She was almost there. And then, she saw him. He was…running.

He was running towards her. Through the crowd. Like a madman. People were watching him. The music majors had stopped playing. For a moment she was puzzled. Why was he running?

As he scooped her up into his arms, she suddenly knew why. To her utter disbelief, she  realized that this grown-ass man, who was so tough that most people would think their life choices over before saying a cross word to him, was worried sick for her. This man, who had always hated making a scene of any sort, was unabashedly declaring his vulnerability to the world. She was his priority. She was his weakness. SHE was the love of his life.

At that moment, all of her doubts vanished.

A Sky Full of Stars

Yellow was the first Coldplay song she had ever heard. It was early on in their relationship.  They were both nineteen at the time, sitting at their favorite steps on campus one night after dinner. It was before she had opened up to him completely. She was introverted like that when she first met someone. Once she knew you for a while though, she would talk your ear off.  For now, he was doing all the talking. She racked her brains trying to think of something witty to say.  Nope. Nothing. Just awkward silence. She mentally cursed herself. Why couldn’t she think of anything to say like a normal person?! Aaarghh! And then he did the most unexpected thing.

He broke into song.

“Look at the stars…”, he sang, “….look how they shine for you…” Her heart swelled. She sang along. She smiled, knowing then that she had found something special. It was a magical night.

Years later, one cold February in Chicago, she found out that Coldplay was playing at Soldier Field the next summer. She was ecstatic. This was before S had made it to America. And his prospects were not looking good. She bought two tickets anyway, as his birthday gift. She knew in her heart of hearts he would be there by July.

She was right.  He made it. Only, she had broken up with him in March.

She had planned to sell the tickets, but her mother convinced her to go at the last minute. It was a beautiful night. Coldplay provided Xylobands during their concerts to everyone. Millions of glow bracelets that lit up with the songs. It was indeed a Sky Full of Stars. She is certain it was magical. Only she wouldn’t know. She was back at the steps the whole time.

The Flight. 

She looks out the tiny window of the airplane at the universe, earphones in her ears, exhaustion in her eyes. Her loneliness feels poignant from this vantage point. As if this is a story and she’s the protagonist. She keeps playing the same song over and over, so many times that it feels like the background score of her life. The interview trail has meant a lot of time spent on flights lately. She always picks a window seat. It gives her a chance to go into her cocoon, where it’s just her and the universe. Also, that way she doesn’t have to look at all the young happy couples with their adorable babies. Why do all Americans marry so young?! She feels annoyed. The sitcoms she grew up watching were so misleading! Nobody falls in love at work! Yeah, you can stop looking for your Jim Halperts and Derek Sheperds girls. They don’t exist. The dearth of desirable single men in her everyday life has been so profound that she would now be very surprised if a cute guy did not say something like “so my wife and I moved here two years ago.” She had tried signing up for Tinder and it’s likes, only to always end up deleting her accounts in frustration. They simply did not work for her. The best place to find a mate was in college, she realizes. Men and women who are intellectual equals put in competetive environments for extended periods of time? Sparks are bound to fly. She imagines the subconscious drive to be something like “Oh you and I got into Harvard so we must pair up immediately so we can make ultra successful superhuman genius babies.” Like when she met S. It wasn’t his looks or charm. It was his intelligence, wit and talent that made her weak at the knees. Well she blew that, so thanks for that again universe. She scowls at her reflection in the window. As for the old school going to a bar hoping to get picked up? Well, that was another thing her Indian Catholic upbringing had not prepared her for. The fact that she was in a committed relationship during the ages of nineteen to twenty six did not help either. It might sound unbelievable to the average American but she simply did not know how to respond when she was hit on.  Her responses have involved a lot of incoherent sentences, fumbling and the dropping of things. Besides, what if they were a serial killer? A great comedy show she had recently watched at the Second City had commented on how women repeatedly put themselves in physical danger in the hope of finding their Prince Charming. Maybe we don’t need a Fucking Prince Charming was the much applauded conclusion. The show had left her all goosebump-y with inspiration. Well, for a while at least.  Before she had to come home to an empty apartment and Chinese takeout. S used to cook for her so much. He would have elaborately baked chicken dishes waiting for her when she came home after a long day.  And wine.  There was always wine.  And comforting hugs. And slow dances around the kitchen. Yeah, the boys on Tinder never stood a chance.