Ramblings of a tired mind!

Writing, really, is a muscle (I think this is a quote by someone famous, but I don’t remember and I am not going to look it up right now) . The longer I don’t write, the harder it gets to think of things to write, and to actually sit down and write something. So, here I am, writing a post about everything that’s on my mind right now.

I feel incredibly guilty about writing this post. How can I write about feeding my soul and my first world problems when people were being attacked and murdered in Delhi a week ago. Before going further, I should say, the violence in Delhi is not affecting me or my family in any significant way. I have been cognizant of this privilege, I am learning to use it for standing up against the atrocities, to have uncomfortable conversations with my family, and to spread the news in my limited social circles. For the last week or so, I have been thinking, we are going to get back to our lives, move on to the next violence and the next tragedy that needs our attention. But there are people who have been murdered. People whose houses and businesses have been burned to the ground. People who have lost a loved one. People who have been beaten and humiliated for the religion that they practice. People whose lives have been brought to a pause. For their existence in a country they call their own. Will they be able to heal from this trauma? When they’re worried that they have lost their documents in the fires that destroyed their homes. When they are worried that government officers may be completing NPR documents in the guise of providing them support. I am starting to feel numbed by this never-ending state sponsored violence but that is not the solution. I want to keep engaging and do what I can to make people at least see that there may be a different side to the story they are not aware of.

In real life, I am taking breaks from the news cycle. But it feels problematic to share about what’s normal in my life on social media. I took a few photographs but I haven’t shared them to Instagram.

Work has been very busy and I am exhausted and close to feeling burnt out. It happens often. I don’t quite know how to take a break. It’s not that I work all the time. I do things that make me happy. But nothing feeds the soul. I feel that the only thing that feeds my soul is getting away from the routine. Going away for a weekend. And writing. Or reading. Or walking and taking photographs. And to be honest, I used to like doing these things alone. Yet, I have not been able to travel solo for almost two years now. I have planned a couple of trips, down to the last detail, but have not found the energy to travel alone and have decided to not make the actual bookings. The idea of not being able to travel alone scares me. It’s not that I love every aspect of solo travel, but it is the only time I am totally selfish and don’t put any pressure on myself to do anything. So, I think it is the time when my soul feels nourished.

Everyday life feels weird right now. I am working long hours and commuting. I am always tired and in pain. I am doing all the adulting things to keep life functional – cooking, dishes, laundry, groceries, etc. I am seeing people once or twice a week. I am reading the news on the commute and catching up on social media. I still haven’t found a balance with my social media consumption. But work being very busy right now doesn’t leave much time for it. I am realizing that I am a workaholic in some ways. I am habituated/addicted to the pressure and the crazy hours. And yet, I feel the void for something meaningful. So, with all this going on, I am still thinking about taking a course or volunteering. I don’t know how I am going to pull it off if I do. For a day or two, I have been thinking about how this is perhaps a dysfunctional pattern – my inability to slow down and breathe and find relaxing things I can enjoy. My anxiety takes over the moment I have free time and I distract with social media.

Talking about anxiety, I wonder if I actually have anxiety. Is my constant overthinking and optimizing anxiety. Or is this how everyone functions.

Okay, I think I have rambled long enough. And I should have gone to bed an hour ago. So off I go. Please excuse the bad grammar/typos in this post. I just wanted to write something here. And I am going to hit publish before my anxiety about only wanting to write coherent focused posts here stops me from publishing this. Oh, but wait, before that, I obviously have to find the right tags, etc. Okay I will stop boring you with more details.

Take care and be kind and compassionate to others, please. Until next time!

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My struggles with news cycle, isolation, anxiety, and insomnia

Disclaimer / Trigger Warning: This is a long post about my current struggles with Indian news, isolation, anxiety, and insomnia.

I wanted to write a post yesterday about January ending and that I am glad to have signed up for the blogathon. Although I didn’t write everyday, it got me writing here and I am so thankful for that. My last post (yesterday) was going to be a reflection on 2019 and what I am thinking about 2020. However, I was exhausted and went to bed early last night. Today, there are other things on my mind that need a platform and I am going to write about them.

This past week, I did not sleep enough. In fact, I have been having a hard time falling asleep many nights. I had one episode of acute anxiety that was triggered by two conversations that happened in the evening. I could not calm my mind and fall asleep until 1 am, and I have to wake up by 6:15 am for work on weekdays. The rest of the week has been better but not very great. I went to bed early-ish on Friday night (and skipped writing the post on Jan 31st) to try to get enough sleep but I was somehow wide awake when in bed and then woke up early. So, I am exhausted and very irritable right now. I used to practice good sleep hygiene practices and would like to start doing that again.

One of the things that I have been really struggling with recently are the developments in India. I am constantly following the news – in the morning, sometimes during the day, and in the evenings. I am very angry and frustrated and most of my family and friends are silent/indifferent/supportive of the current government and their communal/fascist/religious agenda. I am feeling very angry and disconnected from them and as a result isolated by myself. I also feel responsible for initiating conversations and making people think and question the propaganda – I have attempted it with extended family but I am not sure if I have done a very good job at it. I talk to my parents twice a day – I have gone from days with arguments about this to ignoring this and having normal conversations to having a very superficial dysfunctional conversation because I don’t feel like talking to them and pretending that everything is normal. Some conversations end up in “you don’t know the ground realities in India, don’t preach at us living this far away”, etc. They genuinely do believe what the media/news channels are showing them. Similar conversations with my sisters and brothers-in-law. I have not had these conversations with friends I talk to once a month or less but I am appalled at how nobody cares and is not thinking about these things. I feel angry, frustrated, and helpless.

I am unsure of what to do. I refuse to look away and not stay updated and spread awareness on what is happening. But I would also like to find ways to have some balance. I can’t seem to identify or remember what activities bring me joy. Most content I consume is either about how the world is literally burning or about personal growth and self-awareness which is also intense and I can barely focus on it these days. I am wondering if I am getting addicted to the distraction and/or adrenaline of the news cycle? I am in serious need of something that brings me some joy (perhaps some guilty pleasures?) and breaks the patterns in my head.

I also have a three and a half hour commute every day (that I am still adjusting to), so I have very limited free time. I see people socially once or twice a week – usually R (the person I have kinda been seeing) over the weekend and maybe one friend over the week. Seeing R is usually helpful. I have also outgrown some old friendships in Toronto. On top of this, I have a hard time making decisions because of my need for a guarantee, fueled by optimization/perfectionism, that I will have a good time. This often leaves me unable to decide what I want to do with the very little spare time I have – should I write/read/do chores at home or meet friends and which friends to meet. The decision making process often leaves me exhausted. Sometimes, I end up seeing friends, and at other times, I just wallow at home and either do chores or get sucked in the social media rabbit hole. While it does inform and enrich me in many ways, I would like to find ways to have healthy boundaries around social media and news consumption. Do you have any suggestions? Have you tried anything that you have find helpful?

If you made it to the end, thank you for reading and I hope you are doing well. Have a good weekend!

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Things you won’t know about me from reading this blog!

So I had been thinking for (at least) a couple of years why I write about love and heartbreak so much on my blog. If anyone were to read my blog, they would think that all I think about are relationships – new and old, love, longing, and heartbreak. People who know me in real life know that there are many other aspects to my personality. So, for the sake of my personal sanity (and maybe so that you get to know me a little bit more), I am going to write about other aspects of my personality here:

  • I have a career and am learning to accept that I am fairly ambitious. I am a scientist by training, I graduated with a PhD in molecular biology almost 5 years ago (Oh My God, it has been that long!) and transitioned to a career outside academia almost 2 years ago now.
  • I am an intersectional feminist and am very passionate about gender and social justice. Again, most people who know me in real life would definitely know this about me. A friend I was hanging out with yesterday joked that he thinks that I may one day get arrested for some sort of a political protest.
  • I love reading books and talking about them. Many of these conversations are with a long-distance friend over text messages! 🙂 I think I once wrote a book review here, and have written a few book reviews on Instagram. I may try to write a little bit more about books here.
  • I struggle with anxiety and other mental health issues. I also read a lot about empathy and supporting myself and friends through mental health struggles, grief, self-healing, and personal growth. I like to be authentic on social media and share about these on Instagram and sometimes on Facebook.
  • I enjoy photography – I like to capture unique perspectives and absolutely love reflections and sunsets. I had one photo exhibit a few years ago at the Toronto Public Library and hope to have another one some day. I also used to post more photographs to Instagram but I haven’t been doing that recently. For some reason, I have silenced many aspects of my life and am trying to break out of this shell this year.
  • I enjoy traveling – both alone and with people, although I am very picky in who I travel with. Travel is the only time in my life when I give myself the permission to just be and not put any pressure on myself and it is much needed food for my soul.
  • I enjoy writing – I have never written regularly on the blog except a blogathon many years ago. I have written some poetry, a tiny bit of fiction, and a lot of personal essays/reflections. At some point, I started writing a little bit more on Instagram. About two years ago, I had a lot of anxiety about writing anything on a public platform. After being stuck in that space for quite some time, I started journaling and it was helpful. My instagram writing reduced and I have barely written on the blog in the recent past. In my journal, I mostly free write and it often happens when I am overwhelmed or anxious. But I have missed this – missed writing on a public platform and writing coherent posts that convey something. So, I am slowly trying to get back into it.

As I was thinking about these things, I am reminded of a piece I read some years ago about how important it is to have multiple interests in life and that it helps build resilience. When one aspect of your life (e.g. career, relationship, etc.) is going wrong, it doesn’t destroy your identity and the other aspects help you survive that jolt and give meaning to your life. I have definitely experienced this multiple times. This also reminds me of Chimamanda Adichie’s TED talk on The danger of a single story, please watch it if you haven’t.

I also realize that I have different platforms where I get a chance to express these parts of my identity – on social media (Facebook & Instagram), in conversations with family and friends and with like-minded people. However, when it comes to the intense emotions I feel regarding love, heartbreak, loss, and this deep-seated longing for companionship, most people in my life are unable to understand and/or relate to it. Often, I receive well-meant advice and comments that are painful and/or frustrating to hear. So, when I feel intensely, I have found it helpful to write about it here. It helps that this is an anonymous space and I have written about some of my deepest feelings and experiences here. Over time, I stopped sharing my heartbreak/love stories here because I was projecting readers’ judgement (no external input to this effect) that all I care about is love and relationships. I am trying to make this space more representative of who I am, but also trying to come to terms with the fact that this is my space and I can share whatever I want to. And if I only share emo stories about love and loss and pain, that should be okay too. We, as a society, don’t talk enough about how much isolation hurts and how love and connection is a basic human need that seems to be unfulfilled for many people. I have a half-written draft about lack of connection and addiction that I will hopefully complete and post soon!

P.S. I think this is a good update for the “Meet Kinmin” section which has not been updated in about 10 years now! 😉

P.P.S. Do you relate to this? If you would like a tag for the blogathon, please feel free to take this up – Things you won’t know about me from reading my blog!

See you soon!

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Insecure Attachment & Dating

I was supposed to write here regularly in January, or at least semi-regularly. I have started a couple of drafts on my phone but didn’t really complete them. Most of the times, it felt like too much work to invest energy to write something. It is easier to just mindlessly watch TV or catch up on news or scroll on social media or text with friends. In my head, there are some valid reasons for feeling this way.  These days, I often don’t feel like writing about how I feel. Maybe I even avoid reflecting or thinking about how I feel. And it is hard to write if you are avoiding your thoughts and feelings. So, let me talk about one of the things preoccupying most of my head and heart.

I have an anxious or insecure attachment style, especially when I like someone. When I first meet someone, I try not to invest a lot of emotion in the first couple of weeks. I am not expecting them to sweep me off my feet or make grand gestures. All I am looking for is to see if I like them as a  person. Are they kind and respectful to other people? Do our core values align? Would I want to be friends with them? And then, if I like someone, as I spend more time with them, I start to develop stronger feelings. I care more for them and think about them and include them in planning the little things in everyday life. I start having expectations – I want to spend more time and have intimate conversations, want more expressions of love and small gestures. Unfortunately, in most of my experiences, this is the time when men start to fear getting too invested and emotionally involved. There is a mismatch of expectations – I expect the time and emotional involvement to increase, while it is often the opposite on the other side. I usually pay attention to people – their actions, their words, and their emotions. So, when things start to change, I notice it very quickly. This is also the time when my anxious attachment style goes on overdrive. Depending on the person and their expressiveness, it can go many different ways.

I am currently in this phase right now with someone I met two and a half months ago, let’s call him R. We met at the end of October and liked each other. We were meeting only on the weekends but soon enough, we were talking on the phone every evening. The transition to phone conversations and many of the calls were initiated by him. Everything felt very mutual – we both liked each other and were in this together. We spent most of the December break together, and traveled together for about a week at the end of December. We got along fairly well and enjoyed each other’s company and found a middle ground for activities and interests. Because I really like this guy and I think we have a good connection, I start to get anxious now. I am second-guessing myself and thinking what he thinks/feels about me. I want more validation and emotional expression. And he is assessing things if we are going to be compatible in the long-term. This is technically fine – we have not been together for too long. He still likes me, still does things which clearly show that he cares for me. But this anxiety is driving me crazy. Many of my recent relationships have ended at this point, which makes it harder to not think about that. I don’t even know why I am writing about this except that this is how I am feeling and have found it impossible to write about anything else. The fact that I am aware of my thought processes and emotions and can express them does provide some relief, but it is still frustrating to deal with.

It does not help that I have been feeling a little lost in the new year. I have some free time after almost a year, where there is no pressure to be working on anything in the evenings. And I have not found the energy or motivation to reflect on what I want to work towards and set some goals. So basically, I am in this weird funk and feeling blah. Weirdly enough, I have also been feeling isolated from most of my family and friends, for many different reasons. And I have tried to reconnect but it has not gone well in any of the relationships. So I feel a bit low and exhausted and isolated. This was one of the reasons I signed for the blogathon – I figured that having to write every day will force me to reflect about what I want. I am still hoping to write more regularly and getting some much needed clarity.

Alright, that’s it for now. It’s past 11 pm on Sunday night and I should have been in bed an hour ago. Have a good week and see you soon!

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Compassion Fatigue & Solutions

I was just watching the most recent episode of Hasan Minhaj’s Patriot Act. Have you seen the show? I really like it because you learn about one important issue in a 30 minute video that is also entertaining and funny. And he talks about some very important issues that we should all be thinking about. Anyway, I am referring to this specific episode from Dec 23, 2019 that was the last episode of the year.  At the end of this episode, he talks about all that’s wrong with the world and how we are all exhausted because we’re being flooded with news ALL THE TIME and we feel that we need to care ALL the time about ALL THE ISSUES. This is described as compassion fatigue and it is exhausting. He describes that as your browser being open with 50 tabs. Funnily enough, I have used this analogy often to describe my mind to people – imagine a browser window with 50+ tabs open, that is how my brain functions most of the time. I, literally, do have 100+ tabs open on my laptop, so people who have seen my laptop know this is legit!! Anyway, in case you are interested, this article provides a really good overview of compassion fatigue and impact of the 24 hour news cycle. Over time, it can lead to desensitization and a loss of compassion.

I have definitely been feeling very overwhelmed with all that is happening in the world. It does not help that I did not take a break from the news cycle over the holidays either. Some part of my brain says, how can you take a break when the world is literally burning? As the episode was ending, I was thinking, Hasan, look at all the things that have exponentially worsened even in the last 10 days. Right now, I have so many things on my mind – US attack on Iran and the ensuing consequences, CAA and Islamophobia in India, the Australian fires, climate change, plastics, the brutal violence in UP (India), and the 150+ day internet lockdown in Kashmir. Of course, this is on top of the everyday misogyny and systemic violence against marginalized communities that I read about regularly.

As I am trying to get enough sleep with my 3.5 hour commute every day and struggling to get back into a routine after a week of holidays, I have been experiencing anxiety, brain fog, and increased GI issues. I think this is an indicator from my body asking me to slow down. I can’t pour anything out from an empty cup. There’s not much I can do if I can’t even focus long enough to read a long essay.

So, what are some possible solutions? How can we find spaces to recharge, while still advocating and standing up for all these causes that matter and impact humanity on massive scales? Here are some of my thoughts:

  • To take breaks from social media and news; it would perhaps be helpful to set daily timers/schedules/cutoff times for when you will stop following the news.
  • Find things that genuinely recharge you – whether it is writing, watching a movie/show, meditating, exercising, creative expression, spending time with loved ones, etc. I have found that scrolling on social media is not helpful for me, although I use it majorly for distraction and procrastination.
  • Focusing on getting some exercise and eating healthy – this is especially relevant for me because I have been struggling with gut issues for almost two years that are worsened by stress and unhealthy lifestyle choices.
  • DO NOT FEEL GUILTY about taking time for self-care. In times of distress, finding hope and avenues for self-care is also an act of resistance.
  • DO NOT STOP ENGAGING with issues altogether, if you can help it. We are all in this together and we can’t afford to look away from the injustices in the world.
  • Hasan Minhaj suggested dropping one or two things from the list of issues you care about – not everything, just a few to give yourself some space to breathe.

Do you have any suggestions based on what works for you?

On this note, I am going to cook some healthy food and play badminton tomorrow, and read a book this weekend.

Until next time,

Kinmin

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