It is such an interesting phenomenon, in my couples and family therapy work, to see more and more women (25-40 years of age), across cultures, mostly middle-class, voicing their struggles in their relationships, pushing their partners to show up better, seeking therapy, earning more than their (male) partners at work, and overall having SO much ambition and drive, while more and more men in that age group are struggling with questions like- what is my passion? What is an empowered masculinity today, and how should I show up? The wiser men are seeking help, the not so wise ones are participating in the buildup of slowly exploding pressure cooker. We are really heading toward an overall crisis in relationship durability, if we don’t invest in our growth, maturity and development urgently. Catch the train!
Why are you so scared of prioritizing yourself? Why am I so intimidated about putting myself first? Why do we shame self-pleasure, self-love and self-advocacy as a society as if it the opposite of being in relationship? Isn’t it the most selfish thing, to enter relationships with hungry, desperate, unmet needs which are so focused on what YOU can give ME? Love me, kiss me, make me feel good, tell me I’m amazing, help me heal my trauma, make me feel less alone, me, me, me, me. We all do this to each other, in one way or the other, and wait for someone to come along to make ourselves feel whole again because we think only someone else can make us feel pleasure. And we mask this self-directedness with words like care, concern, friendship and “love”. We normalize sucking the life out of each other.
However, it’s so rare for us to say to our own beautiful, chaotic, desperate and needy selves:
Yes, I’ll love you even when everyone pushes against you.
Yes, I’ll pleasure you well and discover what makes you tick instead of waiting for a person to bless me with time/attention.
Yes, I’ll make you feel whole because you deserve it, for you are worthy of it as you are. Giving yourself pleasure, respect and compassion are not some award-winning instagram-documenting worthy acts. They are everyday acts of strengthening your friendship with your OWN self.
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Healing from assault is a process of rediscovering the self. Having good, pleasureable sex is also a process of self-discovery. There’s no one who will show up at your doorstep to rescue you from your pain. A healthy relationship will support you as you evolve in your own friendship with yourself. Cheers.
In response to the #metoo movement and some questions I keep getting online, I have decided to start a video series addressing questions around sexual violence in the Indian context. The videos are for survivors of sexual violence and their friends/families- however the content will vary according to who it is specifically for.
This post was written in response to the #metoo campaign
SIX Things I do to combat Rape Culture in my everyday life:
1. Stop minimizing violence in everyday interactions. Physical, emotional, mental. I have had ex partners “push” and “shove” me in times of intense conflict, and I had to struggle against my own social conditioning to not minimize it as “Oh, it’s okay. He is hurting. I must have triggered him, so it happens”. NO.
2. Hold people (friends, relatives, partners, society) to higher standards. Test your friendships. Narrate your story of sexual violence to your existing friendships and see how you are received.
If you are further minimized, and your friend unintentionally reinforces social myths, explain and let the person know compassionately that they are contributing to Rape Culture. They are hurting you. If they freak out on you, breathe deeply and unfriend/stop engaging. The person needs to get the message that something has gone wrong.
STOP TRYING TO BE BFFs WITH YOUR ABUSERS, especially when there’s little to no repair. You are not obliged to forgive, forget or let go.
3. Be okay with people seeing you as “too much” or “judgy”. Nurture yourself with the knowing that your standards are being looked up to by some young one somewhere who doesn’t yet have the confidence/privilege/awareness to do the same.
4. See that Rape Culture shows up in small ways everyday. How you look at a body on the street to how you shame yourself for walking alone, the fear you feel on the street when it’s dark, what porn you consume everyday. Control and reflect upon what you can. Explain to those who want to understand the connections between everyday life and rape culture, leave those who don’t.
5. Call out your friends at every little sexist joke they make. If it’s not funny, don’t laugh. Don’t minimize. See point number 3.
6. Do some kind of advocacy work to counter sexual violence. Go to a gathering or read up on Rape Culture. You’ll feel less alone and more urgent. Our houses have been on fire for decades and we’ve been sleeping.
As I think about Art Therapy, Feminism, the new political year in the US and the political turmoil in India…my thoughts lead to this Kabir song I’m sharing:
Light the lamp,
and there’s radiance,
Such a small bundle,
It will bite dust one day,
It will mingle with the mud,
in the temple,
Light the lamp,
and there’s radiance
Who will awaken in the light of this utter turmoil we are facing today? Do I have what it takes to awaken?
From the Ajab Shahar Project:
“Guru shatters the pitch darkness, the lamp destroys the utter blackness, says Kabir, urging us to light the lamp in our temple. ‘Jagariya’ – literally ‘one who awakens’ – is the last name of Asariya bhai, and many of the other singers in this mandali. So it’s not surprising that their families have been in the tradition of singing Kabir and other mystic poets for several generations. Kabir is a widely loved nirgun poet of the 15th century, well known for his rude and rough rhetoric, designed to shake us out of our unconscious ways. The song casts a powerful spell as it weaves together the other voices that ‘awaken’ – Devji Asariya Jagariya and Devji Ghabha Jagariya – who are from nearby villages. As the song says, light the lamp and there’s radiance!
Asariya Khima Jagariya has imbibed the tradition of ‘aradhiya bhajan’ from a very young age from his father Khima Bapa and his grandfather. He belongs to Kharoda village in Lakhpat, Kutch in western Gujarat, can be contacted at +91-81411-73115”
What stories do you feed your lovers?
The rice has been boiling,
for over a week now,
You taste of an old memory,
a bowl of greens beside me
you tell me
But the rice has been boiling
over a week now,
The starch has started
to stain my lips,
the water is turning dry,
What stories do you feed your lovers?
Oil Pastel on Acrylic on Canvas
So I’ve been a part of a group that facilitates art workshops in prisons around the state of Michigan, as part of the PCAP project.
As an experience, of course, it has been incredibly enriching but more than that, it has been emotionally exhausting. By meeting inmates at such a close level, I not only found myself questioning the things I had taken for granted for myself, but also, found myself trying to imagine myself in their situation often.
How would I feel to be treated as almost inhuman? As an animal, all caged up and expecting to be corrected? We forget the reasons of crime and as a society enforce a punitive justice system that forces us to look at justice as revenge.
I painted, in response. A poem by an inmate published in Judith Tannenbaum’s book of prison poetry and her experience titled ‘Disguised as a Poem’ , really appealed me to me and I decided to express that visually.
The poem by an inmate named ‘Elmo’, goes:
“How can I give this thing
This thing inside of me
This thing I feel
It is a hungry thing
and my greatest fear
is that it wants to
How do I fight this thing?
This crafty thing
which moves in and out of me
like a tide
moves through me
with the force of radiation
deadly but unseen
How shall I fight thins thing?
And how much of it shall remain
when the battle
is finally over?”
Ganesha is the destroyer of fear, of evil, we believe. Ganesha, the elephant God that frames the picture with butterfly wings behind him. Darkness suppresses, threatening to overtake in the sides.
I was deeply inspired by Judith Tannenbaum, the author of ‘A Place to Stand’. Highly recommend reading about her.
Taken with a Lomography Action Sampler
I looked outside
and saw my friends
blue eyed frosted cynics
inviting me in.
As they laughed and shook
their foreign heads
Is the moment
or the person?
they seemed opaque
filtered some light in,
of yellow murky brown,
through the snow
who belonged here.
More lomography? Find some here!
I look at you, I see me
You: That is the tenth time this hour you’ve scratched a sentence out.
You’re pushing the nib in too deep. The paper is going to tear. Can’t you see the ink
flowing out of the words? What are you searching for? Who are you seeking?
Me: You’re behaving like you don’t know.
You’re looking down at me trying to capture you, aren’t you? To name you, to make you tangible in some sense? I have tried other things to get to you. You know that. Maybe the nib was too sharp to come out of. Something softer, more subtle would work to get a hold of you, I thought. Maybe you’d decide to drip onto my white canvas through the fine hair of a paintbrush dipped in water. No, that would be too slow. You’re too fast for me. A camera could work better then, I imagined. I used a film roll- looked at your imprints in a dark room to understand who you really are. But you’re too clever for me, I think. Or I’m ignoring something about you. How do you affect me in so many ways?
Why does so much of who I am have to do with who you are?
You: Started with your riddles again, haven’t you?
You like confusion. You complain about it but you find comfort in your loops, your circles of the same thoughts, the same ideas you’ve been battling with ever since you understood you wanted to apply yourself in art.
Me: And you find comfort in your questions. Perhaps questions could be your answer. I should try defining you through questions.
You: Why not? Solve a riddle with another riddle!
This is a part of another narrative I am writing- a dialogue between selves. Any ideas for extension?
Anything at this point would help!