Tag Archives: mental health

2019 is done.

I realize I have become reluctant at extemporizing what I used to call my paltry accomplishments, joys, desires, failures. I am becoming an expert at leaving things unsaid, and saying things in hinted ways. Is this what happens as one gets older? I was never for performing sociability, yet I find it helps to be just a bit more discrete, a bit more careful in my wording. But I also take shit less, and stand up for myself more. And something I thought I would never think, or say out loud, but thank god for those mercury retrogrades!

I started 2019 with no resolutions, except to keep working at my craft, keep doing my stuff, keep being lit in my own way. 2019 has been about working on my personal growth, and taking rejections in stride. When year nine of my blog’s anniversary approached in late April, I had nothing to report. I had made it to the longlist of an international short fiction contest, and had managed to submit a new dissertation chapter that I was somewhat proud of. But I wasn’t in a state of mind to write about writing. I was interviewing authors/creators on the side for Invisible Publishing, and had finished a lone book review here, two theater reviews there. But the year felt like it was moving in slow motion, while somehow, I also kept losing time.

 

Banff_2019

Back in 2018, after an experience that was meant to help me write more became the reason for my inability to write fiction, I had given up on the hope of ever completing my short fiction manuscript. The past year, the two week Banff residency with Electric Literature came out of nowhere, a gift I did not know I needed. I wrote and read and slept and talked and talked and talked. The 19 other fellow writers (now, friends) + 2 very intuitive editors from Electric Lit + the supportive Banff folks that I encountered in August reinvigorated the fiction writer in me. In those two weeks, I finished 4 short stories, bringing me ever close to finishing that manuscript draft. And how can I forget Dionne Brand’s two day sojourn as a visiting faculty; her lecture and post-lecture conversations turned out to be a major highlight of the residency! After, I returned to life, and school, and my very first term teaching my very own designed course with a freshness I did not think was possible.

Of course, not everything ran to plan. I did not anticipate the toll unbidden anxiety would take on my mind, inducing sleepless nights, or the trigger one passive-aggressive communication could become leading to that anxiety, or how eventually that anxiety would break my body down. Now that that year is done, I am glad I survived. And how!

My dissertation is on course (again), and yet, I cannot help but think, how nice it must be for those who do not have to live on crip time. After all, I didn’t choose this for myself. It could very well be my internalized ableism speaking, but I cannot help but be a little jealous. I have lost time in this process, in the past few years. There are folks in my life that I seem to have no control over getting rid of, at least not yet, who have been triggers for my anxiety. And yet, I continue to survive. I know it’s not realistic to expect compassion from every single person, and especially from those who enjoy a little bit of power, but surely it’s alright to tighten those self boundaries? Surely, I can put my mental health and well being first? I choose to believe so. And the past year has been all about that, self-drawing a rekha that has nothing to do with a mythological Lakshman, but the needs of my body. I don’t care how many people I anger in the process, or how many egos I bruise, and what narrative they choose to build about me as a result. In the end, I put my well-being and survival first.

 

with the bae_sanchari sur

Birthday dinner. CN Tower, Toronto. 21st November 2019.

 

I started writing non-fiction a lot in 2019. By “a lot” I mean, two essays (one published in Daily Extra in late June, and another that was accepted by Al Jazeera on the last day of 2019!), a flash cnf piece (currently longlisted for Room‘s Short Forms contest), and several concept notes. I have been thinking a lot about my grandparents, and their journeys, and how my own journey has been a culmination of those former journeys. Gratitude always to my partner who always seems to spot a narrative in my babbling. If it wasn’t for him, I would be writing less. If it wasn’t for him, I would have given up on the dissertation much earlier. If it wasn’t for him, surviving would be much harder. Each year I survive, I wonder how I made it. It is difficult, this surviving business. Very difficult.

No resolutions for 2020, except to keep working at my craft, keep doing my stuff, keep being lit in my own way. OH AND: TAKE NO BULLSHIT FROM ANYONE. That was always the plan anyway.

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Filed under fiction, rant, Thinking Aloud, Writing about writing

seven years strong: an ode to survival

On April 22nd of this year, WordPress kindly sent me a notification reminding me of completing seven years of this blog business. Little did it know (or, acknowledge) my intermittent growing silence. I have been quiet, most often than not, on and off in the past two and a half years. My closest friends, allies, even some foes, know why. The past two and a half years have been spent in a cloud of anxiety and depression, both triggering the other, more often than not.

My tongue has been in exile in the process. I kept telling myself if only I could convince myself to survive, I could conquer anything. Isn’t it sad how much more difficult it is to admit our fallibilities?

Finding my writing (and political) voice took letting go, took recognizing my limits, took giving up in order to move forward. The desire to sprint hasn’t left me, but the older, wiser, survived-a-battle (both inner and outer) me knows better. This reborn me knows that recognizing limits is not failure, that recognizing failure is not giving up.

It took me seven years to find my writing voice. For the first time in my life, when anyone asks me, “are you a writer?” I hesitate a little at first, and then say, yes.

I started this year with a flash fiction piece that poured out of me, “Mars in Scorpio,” which will be published in Toronto Lit Up’s The Unpublished City anthology; a project curated and launched by Dionne Brand. I will be reading this piece with 17 other brilliant writers on June 22nd at Harbourfront in Toronto. These are big deals for me. Giant leaps for little me.

I also had a provocative essay that questioned the problematic and debatable canon of Canlit published in FOLD (Festival of Literary Diversity)‘s Program in early May. The essay was accepted almost two years ago by a big publication in Canada and then revised a million times, and then rejected on some dubious reason (they wanted me to rewrite the whole thing minus the discussion of Writing Thru Race conference held in early 2015 in Toronto because it was apparently “dated”). I didn’t respond and instead submitted it to FOLD when I saw their call. It was a good decision. It was the universe sending me a message.

Finally, I have been writing a lot this year. I wrote a short story in February which is currently under consideration at a Canadian magazine. I am also working on a short story at the moment (which is taking on the length of a novella). And, I am inundated with story ideas, one of them as a children’s book. I am buzzing with creative energy, a thing that was not possible as recently as December. I hear voices that speak to me, that tell me their stories, that lead me to unknown places. I am no longer questioning whether I am a writer. I just know.

There is another part of me that is excited for the academic project I have undertaken, my big fat dissertation. My own idea, developed by me alone, with necessary input from a fine committee. The best possible committee I can have for the project I have undertaken. I am blessed. So very blessed. Sometimes, there is a negotiation, a conflict between my two worlds, but that is a negotiation I have to engage with as I go forward.

And finally, there has been this new desire in me to give back to the community. Curating and running Balderdash Reading Series has been a part of that desire. I was fortunate enough to receive a Graduate Enhancement Fund for the next year to run the series. There are other initiatives I am looking into as well that will allow me to engage with the larger community outside, perhaps even build a bridge between those in school and storytelling? I don’t know. I am exploring possibilities.

A large part of this has been possible because of a few generous people in my life. To name a few: Doyali Islam. Phoebe Wang. Jing Jing Chang. Beth Marie. Bilan Hashi. Heather Olaveson. Samah Katerji. Maggie Clark. My mother, Jharna Sur. And my love, my heart of hearts, Krishnakumar Sankaran. Thank you for giving me so much, and asking for nothing in return. Thank you for helping me survive.

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Filed under Thinking Aloud, Writing about writing