Over the past few days, I have posted extensively of the things in my life that I am thankful for. Many of you have been incredibly kind in sharing your appreciation, kind thoughts and good vibes - thank you. But in this post, I am choosing to be vulnerable, and to show you a side of me that I have not showed more than a handful of people. In this piece, I want to show the importance of self-care, a process that centres around respecting yourself by acknowledging your vulnerabilities, and embracing them - a process that has made me the adult that the little girl I was, needed.
Nothing happens easily for anyone. Behind every smile and happy post you see, there are months of pain, days of grief and a LOT of pushing myself. A LOT. Socially visual happiness is not happiness. And life is not one or the other: every face has a story and every smile has a lot behind it. The jealousy of social happiness is tearing us up and making us judge others without a second thought. And that gave birth to this post.
This is me.
I fight depression that comes and goes in bouts. I withdraw into myself and do not like social interaction beyond a certain extent. I am a very loving person but I value my space and have huge trust issues because my past has made me look over my shoulder every single time. I sit under my bed to recharge, I prefer doodling and reading to making small talk that goes nowhere. This is me being vulnerable.
But I love life. I love the sound of the birds chirping. I love the sound of rain on a tin roof. I love the smell of a freshly brewed cup of tea. I love the sound of a babbling brook. I love waking up to the aroma of my mother's cooking. I love the sound of the voices of all the people I love. I love smelling books, I love laughing - laughing so hard that my sides hurt and my breath is knocked out. I love making people laugh, I love smiling, I love making people smile. This is me, caring for myself.
Each morning, it is a great, great struggle to wake up and stand up on my own feet because I was born with a condition called club foot, that has made a recurrence in my life with a force. I never make morning appointments - whether it's breakfast or coffee or even work - earlier than 11:00 AM because it is a huge task to be able to exercise my feet until I can walk. This is me, being vulnerable.
But I love to dance. I can dance a salsa, I can dance a jazz routine. I can do some very basic bharatnatyam, I can do some very rudimentary kathak. I love the feel of pirouetting, I love the fun of twirling and jumping high in the air. I love slapping my feet on the earth and listening to the resonant vibrance. I can do a mean kickboxing routine, I can do yoga and stand on my head. And I do it, because my body is my temple and I will celebrate it with all its imperfections. This is me, caring for myself.
I cannot eat in public except when I am with very, very close friends or family. I have a condition called TMJ and it makes chewing a pain, so I eat differently. Food falls out of my mouth sometimes and I use my hands to put it back in my mouth. After a classmate at school pointedly made fun of the way I eat at school, I stopped eating in public. I have an allergy to chocolate and I sneeze and sneeze and sneeze till I'm out of the space chocolate occupies. This is me, being vulnerable.
But I love food, I love, love food. I enjoy spice, I can eat chilli flakes without a second thought like one eats mouth freshener. I can tuck into a meal any time, and tell you without wasting a second how delicious it is, because food is love. This is me, caring for myself.
I am a survivor of bullying, racial and gender-based violence in my growing years. And the slightest thing can trigger me sometimes, when something intense can firm my resolve - and which one happens when is entirely out of my control. So you can find me raging at a sexist "joke" at one time, or being determined to fight back after reading about a horrific rape. This is me, being vulnerable.
I speak in public, I hold workshops, I run the Red Elephant Foundation, I write, I draw and I denounce violence and try to become non-violent in my words, my thoughts and deed. When I stand up before a bunch of women and tell them that the whole world is in their hands and there is nothing to stop them, I am telling little Kirthi that. I am telling her that it gets better and to hold on. This is me, caring for myself.
Nothing you read above is an in spite of. Nothing you read above is a despite. Nothing you read above is bravery or courage or any of those superlatives that relate.
Every line, every word, every thought is human.
Every line, every word, every thought here is born out of the union of self-compassion and self-care.