24

It’s a cold fucking evening.

I swallow the last of my mum’s dinner and run upstairs to change out of my work clothes into some leggings, a long sleeved top and a jumper. I look in the mirror. I’m digging the comfy vibe so I throw on a scarf and a pair of trainers too. Recently I’ve taken to actually dressing nicely so it’s good to just chill out. Actually it’s good to get out of the house at all. And on a weeknight. I’ve done well so far.

I go back downstairs and down the rest of my tea before jumping into my car and driving to The Meeting House. I’ve driven and walked past this building a million times on the way to the train station but I’ve never even been inside. I walk up the flat stone steps and inside. I feel a little doubtful… in fact I’m only just about sure I’m in the right place. Inside, the building is washed by the harsh whiteness of tube lights. The carpet is green and flat, and there are doors in all directions. I look tentatively at a few people sitting around, not entirely sure where I’m going. Then I see it. ‘Zen meditation 7.30- 9.45 Room 3’. Room 3 it is then.

I walk up a spiralled flight of stairs and straight into room 3 when I realise I’m still wearing my trainers and everyone else has taken their shoes off. ‘You knob end, Gowri’, I think, before quickly retreating outside the room. I nervously peek inside. A large, golden Buddha sits at the end of the room on a table with a lit candle. A few people bow and pray to it. An old gentleman with a white beard and kind eyes comes up to me and says ‘You must be Gowri. Thanks for getting in touch’. There’s some fumbling and fidgeting and the man, Paul comes out of the room with a younger, beautiful mixed race looking woman with cropped hair, black glasses and a gorgeous smile. I am treading the water between tense and relaxed. She introduces herself as Nicola. I give them both my best polite smile as they gather together some cushions, a small bench and some more cushions and take me downstairs to a big open room, away from everyone else.

“Have you ever done anything like this before?” asks Nicola. I cast my mind back to the Buddhist Centre in Moseley with its warm lighting, the giant gold buddha, the air humid with lemon and ginger tea and the array of navy cushions splayed across the wooden floor and the people of all backgrounds coming together yearning for peace. “I’ve done a six week meditation course back when I used to live in Birmingham”, I reply. I’m not sure if this makes me any more qualified or not.

She goes on to explain to me that here, they practise Zen buddhism which has a number of differences. “We don’t focus on the breath, we simply focus on sitting” she says, casting her eyes to the numerous adjuncts she has brought with her. I play around with them until I find a comfortable position on a chair. I’m taught how to hold my hands. I’m told when to bow with my hands in a prayer and I’m told that when we meditate we sit facing the wall with our eyes slightly open and looking down. At this point, my fight or flight response gets ready to kick in and scream at me to leave but my behind stays firmly on the chair. Must keep an open mind.

“Is everyone here buddhist?” I ask.
“Most people”, she replies “but not everyone”.
“And the meditations… are they guided?”
“No, no… we just sit in silence”, she smiles.
Run, Gowri.

I don’t run. Despite my fear and my reservations I’m taken in by the beautiful warmth that Nicola keeps exuding and wafting in my direction. Buddhists, for fuck’s sake, I think. Why are they all so nice?

I follow Nicola up the stairs. We wait outside the room where everyone else is, making small talk in whispers until we hear a chime. I walk in behind her. The room is dark, bar the single candle on the altar. Everyone’s seats face the wall. I find it weird to begin with, but I settle down into my space. Another chime. And everyone just… sits.

So I sit. At first I’m conscious of every breath I take. My mind wanders to all sorts of places until I look at the wall and see a bit of paint scratched off, exposing the brown wood of the skirting board. If I squint it looks a bit like Australia. I like the lighting here. Calm. What am I doing here? Focus, focus. I try to feel my feet on the ground, my legs and my thighs on the seat. I try to maintain my hands in the position Nicola said even though my thumbs keep drooping as my mind wanders off. I suddenly become aware of the fact that I’ve seriously lost practice at meditating. I also realise that unguided meditations are scary. But as the minutes tick by, I find myself relaxing. My spine curves a little. I begin to let go. The paint scratch looks more and more like a paint scratch. And another chime.

I stand. More bowing. Lights on.

I look at the room around me. It’s mainly older men, in their fifties. One guy has a head of brown hair and a charming smile, he’s perhaps a little younger. Paul is wearing robes in the corner of the room. “Tea?” he asks.

Finally, now that’s something that I can definitely do.

Tea is brewed. We sit around a table and chat. Paul plays a talk and everyone discusses it at the end. I look around, wondering how I found myself amongst this bunch of total strangers on my 24th birthday but feeling strangely at peace. From Nicola’s initial description, I thought this was going to be incredibly prescriptive. It certainly wasn’t the same as what I’d experienced before, but there was a gentle warmth in that room that came not from the radiators but from the loving energy of the humans inside it.

Suddenly, I felt content. I don’t know how much a part of my life this will ever become but I think how happy I am to have done something purely for me for the first time in a very long time. I think this is the best birthday gift I could’ve given myself.

A year ago on this very day I wrote a post called Birthday thanks.

I turn 24 today. It’s been the quietest birthday of my life, to the point where even I almost forgot that I was turning a year older. Right now, I could not feel more far removed from the gratitude filled, abundant force of energy who warmly put together that joyful little number linked above.

So much has changed. So much has changed. I mean, I know I keep banging on about how much has changed but really, so much has changed. But this post isn’t about how I perceived a life of awesomeness and seemingly landed in a shitpile. It’s about how to create sweetness out of the shitpile. And guys, I don’t know how the fuck I’m going to do that but something tells me that this is going somewhat in the right direction.

 

 

The steamiest nights

I don’t know if you guys are ready for this kind of post but if other writers can do it, so can I.

Brace yourselves. I’m about to reveal intimate details of the steamiest nights that I’ve had this year. There have been many. They have been varied. Each one has brought me to the cusp of bliss and that’s why I’m writing about them today.

So for clarity’s sake, steamy means many things.

Like the steam that arises from hot tea that one is about to drink.

So in fact, the steamiest nights may perhaps actually be about the nights during which I drank tea and, oh, I don’t know… read a book. I like to read with tea.

Okay, it’s a 2017 book review so if you actually want to know about my sex life then whatsapp me and if we’re close enough I’ll just tell you. You’re all freaks, by the way for clicking this link. Shame on you.

NO, NO, NO WAIT, DON’T GO!

I’m sorry… you did just take part in a grand Rick rolling practical joke between me and myself and I have wanted to pull this for a while but I am sorry. But before you decide that this shit isn’t worth reading… tell me, when was the last time you read a book?

Was it Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s stone? And did you say ‘Fuck it, let’s watch the movie’? That’s fine. No judgement. We muggles have forgotten the magic associated with picking up a crisp new book and cosying up with a hot drink and losing ourselves in the words of someone else’s life. Mindfuck moment: You’re actually doing that right now by reading this. Try not to fall off your chair.

Okay, if by now, you’re done, that’s fine. Go forth. Have a good life. But if you’re up for it, we can talk about some good books. I’ve not done a book review on here before but so many of you guys requested it that I felt like it was worth it. The last sentence was literally a complete lie. No one has ever asked me to write a book review but this is my fucking page so here it is.

Some pointers first: Number one: I don’t read LOADS. I’d say I read a moderate amount. That translates to always has her head dipped in several books at once and reads at weekends because she’s too tired after work but listens to audiobooks before bed. Number two: I alternate between fiction and non fiction. I read a lot of spiritual and self help books to try and expand my mind/knowledge/seeking answers but I interject it with healthy doses of easy fiction. Number three: I’m going to be unconventional and go with 8 of my personal favourite reads of 2017.

8. We are all completely beside ourselves- Karen Joy Fowler

Meet Rosemary. She’s in her twenties, dealing with some serious fucking burns from her childhood. Mainly the fact that her gorgeous sister, Fern, was literally torn away from her, one summer when she was five years old. She went to her grandparents’ place for three weeks and when she got back to her house Fern was gone. And she stayed gone. Rosemary spends the large majority of her life trying to forget about it but it comes and bites her back. So she goes on a hunt for the truth. Where in god’s hell is Fern?

I have one piece of advice for this book. DO NOT READ AHEAD. Just wait until page 77. Page 77 will blow your little brain. The twist is so fucking good it will just compel you to finish it.

Tone: Dry, sarcastic, will make you feel things
Readability: A solid train book
Storyline: 11 out of 10. Legit.

7. The Universe has your back- Gabrielle Bernstein

Giddy up, Law of Attraction junkies, here’s a good one for you. The Universe Has Your Back is a book that’s about faith and love. Gabby Bernstein is a first class author and life coach who is well versed in A Course In Miracles which is actually a christian text which she translates well so it’s not overly preachy OR super new-agey. Thankfully, unlike The Secret (sorry), it isn’t written for five year olds with an IQ of minus 30. It’s not like ‘Just feel good and good things will happen to you’. This book teaches that essentially, no matter what happens, you’ll be okay. This book is about finding peace from within. It’s about meditation. It’s about making peace with your inner self so that the things in your life start to mirror your positive internal state. It’s Law of Attraction with a twist: rather than being focused on outcome, it’s focused on within.

Tone: Soothing AF. I listened to it as an audiobook and Gabby’s voice is like treacle.
Readability: I read this book at a testing time in my life and I got through it in a day because it spoke to me on new levels at the time.
Applicability: 6/10. There are good exercises and meditations thrown in there.

6. Milk and Honey- Rupi Kaur

Rupi Kaur is probably one of the few reasons I have left for believing wholeheartedly in God. This woman is a divine, beautiful, delicious force of nature and I want to invite her poetry into your life. I want to do this for you. She will open you up. She will prod bits of your soul that you didn’t know existed. She will make you feel things you didn’t know you could feel. She will let you into her every thought with the god-like power of her words. You will re-read Milk and Honey time and time again because Rupi’s authenticity will literally speak to the essence of your very being. Plus the velvety cover is gorgeous. Buy the book (not kindle edition), make yourself some tea, get on your sofa with a blanket and just swim in her divinity.

Tone: Raw, real, emotional
Readability: Easy reading… even easier re-reading
Storyline: Gorgeous. She splits this book into four easy sections. Rupi my darling, let’s drink tea and talk about life.

5. My not so perfect life- Sophie Kinsella

Confession of a Soph-a-holic: I love Kinsella. Yes there’s a reasonable dose of romance, yes it’s super chick-lit but this book is an ultimate guilty pleasure. Katie Brenner has finally worked her way up to everything she’s dreamed about- a job in a firm in London. She’s all hell bent on being a Londoner. But in true Kinsella style, shit hits the fan, she gets fired, she meets a guy, she moves home, plot twists and turns, happy ending, easy reading, feel good as hell- what’s not to love about this?

Tone: Funny, witty, as if they’re your own thoughts
Readability: You won’t put it down, classic Kinsella
Storyline: Very, very good.

4. The subtle art of not giving a fuck- Mark Manson

If you, like me, are guilty of having your head stuck in the clouds for a lot of your life, then trust me when I say that Mark Manson will have you crashing back down to reality… in a good way. This book highlights the most avid flaws faced particularly by millenials. It talks about how we’ve been kind of fucked over by society. How mediocrity isn’t good enough anymore. Basically it says this: problems are always going to be there in your life. Instead of constantly focusing on positive experience, learn to get comfortable with the problems, the negative experiences, the inevitable suffering that happens because we are human. This is a delightfully refreshing take on the self help industry. It stops forcing us to fart out sunshine and positivity from our backsides. It’s practical enlightenment with a healthy dose of skepticism.

Tone: Slightly patronising at times but if you put that to one side, it’s logical, scientific and extremely down to earth.
Readability: I audiobooked this one and it’s excellent for a commute… makes you think but doesn’t divert your attention from the road.
Applicability: Here’s the deal sealer. This is the kind of practical self help our world needs and I will give it a solid 8/10 for applicable.

3. The Oxford Handbook of Clinical Medicine

I ummed and ahhed about whether or not to include bae but if this is Gowri’s book review of 2017, Gowri’s most worn out book in the world is her Oxford Handbook. I wouldn’t be where I am without bae. I still keep bae in my work bag and look things up when I encounter them at work. I still love bae’s philosophical teachings (the dad with the cluster headaches paragraph gets me every time, as does Corrigan’s door). Oxford handbook is everything. Concise, easy to follow, colour coded medical literature. It’s not just for finals. It’s for life.

Tone: The best textbook you’ll every read kind of tone
Readability: The best textbook you’ll ever read kind of readable
Applicability: Put it this way. Even I managed to become a doctor. There’s a reason for that. (Bae).

2. When breath becomes air- Paul Kalanithi

If you happened to be on a train to Birmingham the other day and you saw a long haired, spectacled indian girl in a black jumper, snotty nosed and bawling her eyes out, that person was absolutely not me- let’s not be ridiculous now. (It was me). Kalanithi spoke to me on new levels: he is possibly one of my most esteemed role models for being both a doctor and a writer. Paul is a neurosurgeon who gets diagnosed with terminal lung cancer and ‘When breath becomes air’ is his autobiography. Everyone needs to read Paul’s book and if you’re a doctor… you definitely need to read Paul’s book. It’s an articulate, beautiful expression of what it is to face your own mortality. There are a few quotes from this book which, as a doctor, truly resonated with me so I highlighted them and am including them below:

“Putting lifestyle first is how you choose a job, not a calling”
“From that moment on I vowed to treat all my paperwork as patients and vice versa”
“When there is no place for the scalpel, words are the surgeon’s only tool”
“And along with shift work  comes a kind of shiftiness, a subtle undercutting of responsibility. If he could just push it off for a few more hours, I’d become somebody else’s problem”.

Tone: Refreshing, smart and such incredible manipulation of the English language
Readability: Incredibly easy reading, you’ll finish it in one night
Storyline: Beautiful, moving, poignant, sad and frankly, necessary to read.

1. One Indian Girl- Chetan Bhagat

Guys this was my number one book of 2017. I’m not a fan of CB’s every book, not by any means but I have profound respect for the way in which he, a man, so effortlessly eased himself into the brown skin of a young indian woman and wrote from the heart. I’m just going to provide you with the blurb:

Hi, I’m Radhika and I’m getting married this week. I work at Goldman Sachs, an investment bank. Thankyou for reading my story. However, let me warn you, you may not like me too much. One, I make a lot of money. Two, I have an opinion on everything. Three, I’ve had a boyfriend before. Okay maybe two. Now if I was a guy, you would be okay with all of this. But since I am a girl, these three things don’t really make me too likeable, do they?

The instant I read this blurb, I was drawn to this book. Radhika will tell you every painfully sexist part of her story with insurmountable wit, humour and relatabilty. You will love her. You will understand her. And for every indian girl reading this, on some level at least, you are her.

Tone: Witty, hilarious, relatable, you will root for her every step of the way
Readability: Easy as hell reading and you will not put it down, I assure you.
Storyline: Genuinely, the best CB novel so far in terms of storyline. You don’t know what’s coming next. But more than anything, I think all indian women need to read this book. Indian girls need to read this book and then give it to their mothers to read. This book highlights elements of every day sexism that you too have probably lived with. It will speak to you and I hope it will also change you.

Okay so it turns out I just poured my heart and soul into this book review and I do not regret it. If you’ve made it this far, I’m not only happy for you but I’m rooting for you. Be inspired to go pick up a book, maybe one of the ones I have mentioned and throw yourself in there. Only goodness awaits.

In the meantime, to all the authors that I have promoted, I know this blog will mean a lot to you but I promise that you’ve given me as much with your writing as I will have given you with mine.

You’re welcome, sweeties.

2017

A chuckle escapes me as I can only anticipate the flurry of blogging activity that is about to ensue this New Year’s Eve. It’s quite nice actually. Thinking of all the writer folk in our enigmatic world sitting in their writing holes with their mugs of tea, musing and reflecting and pondering and poring and threading words together like beads on a necklace crafted from the bits of their souls carved out by 2017.

Time as you and I see it is very much a man made construct that allows us to make sense of this world. From that construct we derive feelings of fresh starts and new beginnings and gym memberships and false promises and hopeful resolutions. Although ‘new year new me’ has turned into a statement that we scoff at, I can’t help but feel that there must be a fragment inside all of us that just relishes the idea of starting over.

My new year started the minute Christmas ended (mostly because I’m on-call on New Year’s Day #doctorlyf) and to be honest, guys, it’s with ginormous relief that I put 2017 to one side and say ‘thank fuck that’s over’.

On paper, this was a year that went spectacularly. I took part in a dance contest and was on the winning team which was a huge feat for my confidence (may I take this moment to extend my thanks to Praveena, truly amazing friend, choreographer and team captain extraordinaire for her undying faith in me). I graduated from medical school and became a doctor after five years of some sweat, lots of blood, gallons of tears, many sleepless nights, more early mornings and a vat of caffeine. I met the person I want to marry and fell so hard and fast in love that I didn’t realise it was even happening until it happened. Before I knew it I was standing in the middle of his kitchen, drunk as a skunk at 4am, cradling a mug of water in one hand, the other arm hooked around his neck going ‘say it, just say it, I don’t want to say it first!’ He said it. I moved back home with my family, I started earning, started saving for a deposit, I was working out every morning and going out every weekend… life was good.

But you lovely folk, you who read the constant crap I generate right here are aware of how little the paper version matches up to the grim reality of it all.

2017 broke me.

2017 uncovered the shitstorm that lay beneath the layers of confidence, positivity and idealism that once entirely formed my personality and delivered the essence that this page was once built upon.

2017 tore me open and unleashed 23 years of shitty belief in my own worthlessness.

2017 revealed to me that one’s mental health is perhaps not as robust as one thought and denial is not just a river in Egypt.

It’s become kind of fashionable to talk about mental health these days. Lots of people write about it too, myself included. It’s true that this page has become my safe haven where I can fearlessly express the pain and consumption that 2017 has inflicted upon me, especially in that arena.

I have, so far, been reluctant to label this period of my life… mainly because I don’t feel that it requires a label. PHQ-9 will tell you that for a long time this year I’ve had ‘moderate to severe depression’. A psychologist will tell you that I display some classic symptoms of anxiety, low self esteem and perfectionism (actually, my own therapist has said those words, more on that later). I for one, do not call it anything. Let me tell you why.

I have found that in this culture, where it’s become kind of cool to talk about mental health but there’s also crazy levels of stigma attached to it and people clutch on to diagnoses. People clinically define their pain, sadness, anger, grief and anxiety and then they hide behind it for comfort because the world is too scary without the diagnostic crutch. Everyone is different. For me personally, even as a person who displays typical features of certain mental health disorders, I do not wish to be diagnosed.

Initially, this was a huge issue. Flat out denial is not an effective way to approach a problem, and boy was I denying. I convinced myself that the marks on my skin were just scratches. I told myself that I was too strong for this. People who have actual mental illnesses are far worse than I am. How fucked up is it that we equate resilience and strength to the ability to deny our problems and ‘just get on with it’?
In any case, that was never going to end well. 2017 showed me that. It made me realise that unless I made an active decision to change, I would forever be stuck in this static mess.

Some time in November, I took the plunge and started confronting my biggest demons. I read practical self help books (not The Secret), I started seeing a therapist, I started letting myself actually feel the feelings I have, I began to manage my expectations about self improvement (NOT recovery) and I became much more open in my relationship. The sparks of hell that ignited 2017 cooled to ashes from which these baby phoenixes of victory quietly arose.

For a long time, I’ve not had faith in myself. I used to make up for it with my faith in God but I’m still figuring that one out, so it’s not a reliable source of faith anymore. I have learnt, the hard way, that life just isn’t all that glorified. It’s not like books or movies. Not only are we not perfect as a human race, we are all deeply flawed and our biggest flaw is thinking we are right all the time. There are these amazing, mind blowing, 4am- drunk- in- the – kitchen moments… but mostly, life is just full of rainy Tuesdays. Happiness is not about the good bits but about fixing our thinking so we don’t freak the fuck out during the shit bits (like Gowri in 2017). It is the midpoint between Mark Manson and Oprah Winfrey… accepting the shit that comes at you and cultivating the ability to cope with it whilst also being so exceptionally present and grateful in the moment that every hot cup of tea feels like a mini-miracle.

With gladness, I close the book on 2017, knowing that a point will come where I see it as the best thing that could’ve happened to me.

I no longer live life screaming positive affirmations and craving eternal bliss. 2018 will be rough too. It’ll come with its own set of monsters. The difference is that this time, they won’t tear me down and knock me off my feet. With a healthy dose of skepticism, acceptance and relief, I am welcoming the new year, and the ever-improving me.

*Fade to silence*

My best friend 

It’s not an abstract title. This is literally a post about my best friend. 

It’s largely inspired by the fact that I’ve seen her for the first time in about a year and our conversations are so sporadic that we fully miss the intricacies of each other’s lives. I have known her over a decade and apparently she drinks tea now, which is actually quite a huge deal for her. Bizarre as it sounds, this was a shock to my system. Shit, I thought. We just don’t talk, do we?

The single reason for this almost extreme lack of contact, despite it not being difficult or even particularly inconvenient to stay in touch better is that we have such deep, unshakeable security in our friendship that is now thirteen years’ strong that utter complacency takes over. 

In fact, I look at all the people in my life- including my parents, my sister, my boyfriend and all my other exceptionally good and important friends and realise something profound: she is the only person with whom I am truly, wholly, completely myself. With her, I’m not afraid of anything. I don’t fear losing her. I don’t fear growing apart. I don’t fear her not liking me. I don’t fear her not understanding any part of me. I don’t have any expectations of her whatsoever, so she can never let me down. And most of all… I don’t feel afraid to tell her what I honestly feel. She is the only person who I will comfortably chuck out at 9pm because it’s past my bedtime. Yes, even when I’ve not seen her in a year.

And it does make me ponder.

Am I just a massive fake? Well no, that can’t be. I just have minor day-to-day insecurities that make me put pressure on myself to keep up with my other friendships because in reality, they simply aren’t bound by the unbreakable bond I share with my best friend. This is neither good nor bad: it’s simply factual. I don’t put all my eggs in one basket. I gain so much from all the relationships I’ve ever forged and what I gain from my best friend is just different to what I get from other people. That’s all.

The liberation I feel in being with her is something I long for in a more permanent setting. How else may I achieve it, I wonder? Quite simply, I think not worrying about what other people think. I look over the years that shaped the clay of our friendship and I recall that I’ve never once been threatened by her, competed with her,  envied her and we have been such different people our whole lives that a clash was near impossible. Consequently, I’ve never once worried what she has thought of me. We love each other deeply for exactly who the other person is.

I remember when we decided we wouldn’t get each other presents that year. It was easier. It happened the following year too. Now I don’t remember the last time we got each other a gift. This serene lack of expectation in any given aspect of us drives us to be as comfortable around each other as we are. This is unconditional love. Why do we put conditions on everything? I think of how it would feel to strip my relationship away from expectations. To relinquish control. Let go. Surrender. Stop worrying about whether my boyfriend loves me or whether I deserve his love and instead just let it be exactly what it is. Society loves to tell us what we should expect from relationships. But if I applied this approach, I would soon realise that I already have everything I want because quite simply, I’m loved, cared for and respected. That’s all my best friend gives me. And actually… it’s kind of all I need (and sex, I need sex).

Finally I think of how I can lie on my bed whilst she lies in it, wearing my sweater, eating my cough sweets (she’s a bit sick, but I’m more concerned about whether she’ll infect me) and we can point blank open up about our biggest fears. She tells me she’s afraid of her own indecisiveness and uncertainty and she wishes she had a plan for everything like I do. I tell her I am afraid of everything from being late to work in case people think I’m lazy and incompetent, to my boyfriend leaving me because he thinks I’m as worthless as I sometimes think I am and how having a plan for everything is simply my way of exercising control over a life I have no control over.

And in that moment I realise I don’t need control over this. Over us. We just are who we are. She freshens my perspective and makes me feel less apologetic for being myself. She strips me of fear and replaces it with curiosity, disinhibition and happiness. Whilst I just glow with pride when she tells me she now washes up her dishes straight after using them. My girl has finally learnt the real way to live.

When I dropped her home 3 minutes before my bedtime, we said we should really meet more. Try harder. Not because we need to but because actually, hanging out with each other is really good. For both of us.

Live inspired,

G

X

Writing

There’s a writer who goes by the name of Sherry Ashworth. She wrote the kind of teen fiction that you read on your sofa and not your toilet seat. (I read a lot of Cathy Hopkins on my toilet seat). I have to confess, I’ve only read one of Sherry’s books. It’s called ‘Paralysed’. It’s a short book, about a 16 year old boy who was a rugby captain at school who has an accident and ends up paraplegic and the story weaves between him, his best friend and his girlfriend.

The reason I bring up Sherry is because she visited my school once. Think 2007. Motorola slider phones, side fringes, The X factor being quite good. I was in Year 8. A flyer went up on the kind of noticeboard that only nerds like myself looked at. Advertised: A Writing Workshop with Sherry Ashworth. First question, who’s she? Ah… the one who wrote ‘Paralysed’. How to sign up? A writing competition. Easy. 10 or so entries would get picked and those people would have the chance to attend a writing workshop with Sherry. So I wrote my piece. I made it the workshop which in reality was just few uniform clad tweens gathered around a couple of large oak tables in the school library. Still… it was exciting. This was a real author with real books that were published. You could buy her labours of love in print. Is there anything more spectacular than holding your soul in your hands in the form of three hundred divine, gorgeous, clean pressed, fresh pages? Wow. I can practically smell the paper and I get heady at the thought of it.

We were all handed note paper, we teased out our pens from our pencil cases and we followed instruction to write, what I believe to have been something along the lines of an introductory chapter of a story. Clock ticked, paper rustled, whispers, time flying, uniforms shuffling and Sherry, poor woman, probably standing in the middle of it all wondering what her career had been reduced to. I paint the picture for you, lovely reader as if I am even aware of my surroundings when pen hits paper. For the record… I am not.

Despite whatever may have gone on in dear Sherry’s head, she still asked if any of us wished to volunteer to have our pieces read to the rest of the group. Then she could give those people feedback. My heart raced and I could feel it like a lump in my throat but I looked around the room, swallowed it back and my skinny little thirteen year old arm herniated through the hot library air.

Sherry walked up to me, took my paper and read my writing. I don’t remember what she said but I remember glowing from when she said it. There have been few defining moments in my writing but that was, sure as hell, one of them.

What I recall almost ten years later isn’t what I wrote, what this writer said or what really happened that day. It was, more than that, the impenetrable confidence I had in my ability to turn this world around me into words on a page. That my pen always was, is and will be both my sword and my shield, my pusher, protector and most of all, the one thing that can’t be taken from me.

It’s no secret that I can be a little sensitive, averse to criticism at times but when it comes to writing, I possess a certain delusional quality. This is what I do. I do it well. And you can tell me I suck at it but I will look you in the eye and tell you that you’re wrong and believe it.

So where did it all go, Gowri? The young lady, on the cusp of teenage angst in her school uniform, with big round glasses, unrefined eagerness and a hand in the air in the middle of the library choosing courage over anxiety… where is she now? She’s there. Oh she’s there. In fact, she’s right here. She is Gowri’s page. She is the definition of ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’.

It’s hilarious. Some days I feel like I’m being eaten alive by my lack of self esteem in so many areas of my life. Yet, here, right here, in my beautiful safe space, I brandish my heart for the world to see and judge if they so wish but for some reason, here, it doesn’t matter. In fact, I find that my best pieces get written when I forget that fear was ever there. When I write like no one’s reading.

I’ve got a little smile brewing by the corners of my mouth because this piece began life as something totally different but that fond memory plunged into my consciousness and brought me here instead.

Such is the fucking glorious nature of the written word.

Love

Gowri xo

The Chinese Cat

It is way past my bedtime. I’ve thrown one window open and the fresh December air is washing out the stagnant remains of the day from my room. I can hear the rain outside. Its notes are super soothing. My eyelids are heavy with a welcoming exhaustion. I can barely type but much like the green tea leaf scented candle flickering by my bedside, I too have been burning with a three day long itch to pen something down.

Two days ago, a parcel arrived in the post. Inside it was a gift from my medschool sister- Rhi. She bought me a graduation present. This graduation present was related to a story I told her, well over a year ago when we were on elective together in Samoa. I have to admit, I don’t totally remember the exact details of the tale but it goes something like this. A friend of a friend got a chinese cat. You know the tacky, golden battery powered cats with the creased eyes and the single arm that oscillates. Myth or legend or whatever has it that a person writes a wish on a piece of paper, puts it under the chinese cat and then has to think about the wish all the time. The wish is supposed to come true. And for the friend of a friend, there was an elaborate story, laced with romance and theatricality and sure enough, her wish came true. Like I say, the details are patchy in my memory. Three such wishes exist. But the catch is this: you can’t buy yourself the chinese cat. Someone else has to buy it for you.

So on Tuesday morning, chance would have it that this was the last day of my first job as a doctor… in Psychiatry. On the cusp of what the doctors call ‘changeover’, the dreaded Wednesday that rolls round every few months, where we all rotate into new jobs, I receive an adorable, tacky, golden wish machine. My first feeling is pure delight. Fucking hell, Rhi. As if you remembered that anecdote from all that while back and ordered me such a thoughtful gift, you incredible human. The second thought was… what the hell do I shove under my new cat?

And it dawned upon me quite instantaneously that the cat might not be able to give me what I want because I don’t want much that I can’t get without the cat.

What do I want? I want to be happy. No, it’s genuinely that simple. I really want to be happy and do as much good as I can for other people. If I had a mission statement for my life it would be that. Any cat-wish will only bring me temporary happiness that fades with time. I mean, temporary happiness is great but what about the deeper thing? Fulfillment? Lack of fear? Living a life driven by love? Is it just me that feels like I’m on a constant search for something real to fill a void that can’t be filled by the love of another person, the fun of intoxication and nice things exchanged for little chunks of my bank balance?

The being happy part, I’ve had to accept, doesn’t come that naturally to me. I care about lots of stuff- mostly other people’s opinions. I also worry. When I was in primary school (one of many), I once told a teacher about how I always think of all the poor people in the world who don’t have as much as me and I worry about them. I was told by said teacher that I worry too much. Or care too much. I am also extremely self critical, but in ways that aren’t totally mentally healthy. So yes, being happy is somewhat of a challenge. And in order to face that challenge, I’ve set apart a small portion of my wage and am engaging in weekly sessions of cognitive behavioural therapy. Appealing to my analytical side, CBT has turned out, so far, to be scientific and effective. I have begun to understand how I have become the way that I have become. Accepted that it’s not really anyone’s fault. And I am in the process of learning how to, quite honestly, let go of some of that shit and become happy. I have words for everything, most of the time- but I don’t have words to tell you, reader, how badly I actually want this. It took me a very long time to realise that wanting to physically hurt yourself simply for being yourself is drastic and unhealthy. The moment it clicked was, for me, the moment I stopped feeling empty. CBT empowers me because I do not want to make my sadness clinical. I don’t want a diagnosis or an excuse. I just want to be happy and I wish to do whatever it takes to get me there. I would move mountains to feel good about myself and to like myself, hell, even to love myself. If I was flexible enough, I’d bend over backwards to feel confident in who I am.

Can I fit all that under the cat?

Gowri xo

Interdependence

In meditation I had this vision that I will transform into poetry like an alchemist turns lead into gold.

Interdependence

You are sitting on a hard wooden chair
steeped in darkness
you cannot make out the floor from the walls
is there even a ceiling?
is this a vacuum?
The laws that govern the universe say
that a vacuum contains nothing
not even light
a void
abyss
with just you,
the chair,
you on the chair
with your head in your hands.

 

I see you from another space but why can’t you see me?
Has the darkness convinced you
that you are blind now and
your eyes no longer work?
I stare intently
at your white T-shirt
stretching over your arched back.
look at me ______.
Look at me, I’m here
right here.
You are so engulfed by the forcefield.

 

Yet from where I am
around me is a vast expanse
of meadows and trees
basked in liquid gold sunlight, which dances
like a pixie ballerina
toe-hopping from treetop to mountain to river to me
to my heart ‘til it fills me and I set a foot forward
into the darkness
one metre, two
I kneel next to you
I am taking your hand
Look at me________.
I’m here, right here,
please look at me, darling

 

I prise your hand open and take it in mine
You stand up, confused
disorientated
How long have you been there, my love?
Take one step,
Now two, now, three
Let me show you the place I just came from…
I think you’ll really like it.

 

Leaving the black behind we walk
like we’re in Narnia: another dimension
of light and love.
My light, My love.
Oh darling, let me do this for you
let me look at those wounds
let me pour all this love
that’s weighing my heart down
and open the dam
and flood what you don’t even know
is hurting
since you’re so used to the pain that
you think it is you
I tell you, it’s not.
Come here, my love
You won’t even feel it
anymore.
I’m here, right here
Where I will always be.

 

I thought this was where the story ended-
I was wrong.

 

We are running in the light
I look at your eyes,
at their blackness and whiteness,
then I can’t feel my legs
or my body
and I’m being ripped away
and you can’t hold on

 

fuck
where am I
Am I blind
I cannot make out the floor from the walls
is there a ceiling?
Is this a vacuum?
Am I dead?
I can’t be
I’m conscious
I can hear myself think
I can’t even remember where I was before this
is this my reality, is this
all there is?
I’m engulfed by this darkness.

 

I’m not sure how long I wait.
Does time exist in a place like this?
I am confused
disorientated
so that when you get there
I can’t really see you
but I know the roughness
of those hands
the hairs on the back
the strength of that grip
as you pull me somewhere else
a little brighter

I see your face
as I’m drawn into the heaven you just came from
and you are so beautiful
the most beautiful thing
I’ve cast my weak eyes on.
I cannot help but delve into your arms
I thought I was the one to guide you
I could not be more wrong
your strength is mine
I am moved to tears
and we dance.

 

Written word

If you know me… try and read it like I’m saying it. No. Performing it. Love, Gowri x

The voice without words

This is not a poem
or a piece of spoken word
or a shard my heart
penned down to be heard
by you
for you
about you
or any of the others
who cracked me open
‘til composure was broken
These words are the crumbs
that have fallen off my soul
so the universe may fill
the remaining hole
with light.

 

It all starts with love
which flows as rivers, doused
in your essence
and yours… and yours
through my infrastructure,
sheer pressure of its tears
forcing out my eyes
until I am blind
and I fall to the ground
on all fours, feeling
for whatever is around
to help when I am helpless
and whilst on my knees
I stay
I pray
and receive nothing short
of clarity, solidarity
and the deep seated knowing
of my inner guide glowing
what Rumi called
the voice without words
was no longer quiet
she screamed.

You are whole
you are one
you cannot break
they cannot break you
they have never come close
they never will
you great thing of beauty
you phenomenon of love
you model of integrity
you are what is right
you are the light
they only see your worth
when you are gone
they crave your presence
when they’re crushed by your absence
it’s your calling, my dear
to see it now
revel in it
live in it
love in it
do not apologise, my dear
for you are so strong
so very complete
that another repeat
of life’s rock bottom
is a place of peace,
of pure release
where the outcome of surrender
favours you above all.
Go forth without fear, my dear
for there is nothing to be afraid of.

 

-Gowri Nair

 

Don’t leave my side

Don’t leave my side baby,
Pull me in closer and wrap me
in the love I should give myself
Hold me as I am too afraid
of me

What happens when I venture
into the dark depths of the hotel room
Alone?
Where the demons and monsters prey on my vulnerability
pouncing,
poking fun,
saying things
about uselessness,
worthlessness

And then the rush
from recalling the scratch
of a small blade across my upper left arm
inner thigh
burning with intent,
but this hurts more than that.

Baby please don’t go,
I know fun is merely yards away
I know where you want to be
but the inner sense of okay
is absent, buried
deep, deep down
and I can’t find it.

I’m stripped of my armour,
you are my only shield
Baby, just five more minutes.

Please.
– Gowri Nair

Writing myself better: Chapter 2

After coming back from holiday in Cyprus, I made the decision within myself to turn things around for the better.

Last night, we landed back in Manchester and my eyes were glazed over with a happy exhaustion. When we got home, I ambled into my bedroom, unpacked a few clothes, lit up some incense, took a hot shower and sat in front of a small station that I’d had set up on the corner of my desk with a scented tealight and three small idols. I sat in quiet stillness for several minutes.

As the gorgeous silence washed over me, I felt much anxiety come and go, in and out of the pit of my stomach. I slowly started to release some of those feelings in the tranquility of meditation. When I cleared the space of fear-driven clutter, I asked my intuition a question, something that I was wondering about on the flight home. I asked “How do I keep someone interested in me?” Context: I’ve spent the last three months treading an ocean of my own ‘not good enoughs’ and chasing opportunities to prove myself to everyone. To my boyfriend, my friends, my colleagues and worst of all: to my denial-drowned, ego-traumatised, reticent self.

I felt a peaceful awareness rise from the bottom of my chest, like a phoenix from the ashes. I got my answer. It was authenticity.

As the day has gone on, I started remembering more long-forgotten facts, all related to authenticity.

I remembered how I like to watch the same movies time and time again. How I will probably never get into Game of Thrones. How I want to throw fairy lights on everything. How I read lots of Sophie Kinsella as a guilty pleasure. How I absolutely love writing and it makes me feel at one with the universe. I remembered that there was a time when I was vegetarian and spent my spare time looking up reports on the internet of where I could shop ethically. I remembered the times where I spent days in a row in solitary confinement, studying relentlessly for pre-clinical exams. I remembered when I fell recklessly in love with a person from a different religion. I remembered that I quite like alcohol but don’t really like drugs. I remembered that my whole life I’ve surrendered to a God of my own understanding. I remembered how I love indian clothes more than any other clothes because they make me feel so feminine. I remembered how I love to dance even though I’m so un-coordinated. I remembered the time when one of my patients, a gorgeous, old lady hugged my arm tightly and shouted ‘I’m so happy to see you. Keep me warm!!’ and how I felt such incredible, profound joy in that moment. I remembered how the single thing that lights me up more than anything else is caring for someone like that and just being appreciated in return. 

These are all things that made me ‘interesting’ in the first place and I totally turned my back on them in a fixated attempt to be more fun, cool and interesting for other people. I think it’s true that sometimes you need to really lose yourself to find yourself again. I recall writing in a previous post that I’m jealous of people who are unafraid to be unapologetically themselves. When I was unapologetically being myself, I attracted things into my life with such ease. I was more relaxed. I was happier.

I let go of all of that when my ego led me to believe that everyone else was better than me. I felt that people whose personality traits were opposite to mine were better than me because my personality traits sucked. I felt like opinions that I had were of low value and the opinions of others had to be the ‘right’ ones.

I already feel a massive weight lifted off my shoulders. In fact, today is the calmest I’ve been in a very long time. Just knowing that it’s okay to be myself is such a step in the right direction.

As the journey continues, I hope to draw in on this feeling more and more. There will be times where being authentic feels like being stuck between a rock and a hard place. Yet, I trust that faith and love will allow me to soulfully navigate my way through the obstacle course of life until it gets easier and I stop doubting who I am.

Furthermore… this internal commitment, the one I made to write myself better means I get to keep coming back to these chunks of my mind that I’ve bled out through a computer keyboard and remember authenticity all over again.