How to be Lovely

There is a Brazilian lady who comes weekly to clean the home, stale cigarette smoke a cloud around her, a beanie, black jacket, a wide smile and not a word in English. For a while we communicated over Google Translate but it frustrated me to take so long to say something like, Could you please change the sheets? So now we say what we have to say and we nod agreeing over god knows what.

She has taken to bringing me flowers every week. A bunch of daffodils, the yellow peeping out from closed buds, a bouquet of tulips wrapped in cheap plastic, their potential already in blushing tips of gold and orange. I am at my desk, unbrushed, unbathed on another cup of coffee. I protest always, too much money I say. No, no she says. Love she will say and hug me and then help me arrange them in a vase.

It is a mystery why we are loved by those who have no need to do so. When I was getting ready to be a divorcee twice over, that was surely a question. Now I would be struck off the lovable/datable/marriageable scene. Women came with invisible check boxes–virgin, fair, unblemished skin, well educated, qualified, financially independent (or has the potential to be), pliable, kitchen worthy, sexy, modest, humble, soft spoken, straight teeth…

Disbelief when I married again, picking up my divorce certificate on my way to the registry office. A direct rebuke to dictum–shameless, immoral, renegade, outcast, difficult, defiant, dangerous, impulsive, immature. Social structures will collapse. Children will run wild, hair uncombed and buttons undone, kitchen fires will burn down the house.

She will spend her entire day staring out the window at the grey and gold London skies, read a book and type a word or maybe a page on a good day. She will have eaten before her children and returned to her desk or angry with her husband, slammed the door and taken the dog for a walk or even gone to bed. She will be available and not available, she will be loving and not so much, she will be there and then she is gone.

I wonder why she still get flowers that bloom on her table on such a dank damp day.


This winter has kept me out of my skin. What I will remember are cold dark days, wet dark days, sometimes sunny dark days and me unable to rest or find a pause of restfulness in them. Being in my body has been shall we say a challenge. Panic, panic attacks are inane words of my state. I describe it as my days of un rest.

Unsafe. It can happen on the brightest of days and moments. The girls watching a sitcom, I am cocooned against their bodies, I close my eyes and I wake up scared. Their warmth and laughter and the evening dark gathering in the air outside cannot protect me from myself. Three girls, how I had kept them safe within me.

The biggest danger in my bed. It is my bed. A generous California king that can hold if needed a family of five and their dog. It leans against the window and light pours in on some winter days and tries to warm me. Or is it warn me? It, the bed, warns me to jump out of it and run. Flee like it is about to be bombed or mobbed taking me with it into a fire.

There is no fire. I know. I can see. It is a simple room. A bed side table on one side with my books and a clock, some medicine bottles, a pair of spectacles, a lamp. On the other side, my husband’s side table covered in his language learning books and wires and gadgets. On the ground near it always discarded clothes that he has stepped out of as he steps into the ones he will wear into the world. He makes it look easy. This stepping into the world. A cozy intimate bedroom one would say. Why, even I would say it.

My body does not let me rest in the room or in the bed. Especially during the day. At night I take a bunch of herbs to soothe and relax, ashwagandha and passion flower and HTP5 and sometimes a xanax or a melatonin. Passion can happen on that bed. In the dark. In the day it could have been a tent in a war zone, the way I flee it. Rest is for the wicked.

Could be that my work these days is all about mining my dark and that of the dark stories/myths apparently lit with the light of ancient wisdom and goodness. I have found hiding within them the darkness of subservience and obedience and coercion that we have been taught since the time we have been born. Sita the queen, Sati the goddess, see how they shine as they burn. You are not a good girl. See how you don’t shine.

I have come downstairs now to the couch in the living room. It is bright orange. More home furnishings meant to comfort and hold a family. Cushions, chairs, tables, a TV, musical instruments, photos laminated and framed, a piano, the back-greying dog sleeping on the purple bean bag, one eye always open like me, the remote near my feet urging me to give it up and watch something.

Noting. That is what my therapist had once told me to do. Note what is in the world around you. Make that safe corner in your home. So I try. There is a brown harmonium with a broken glass frame, a statue of dancing Shiva who went mad after his wife committed sati and he almost burnt the world down with his anger, children’s books and yoga books topsy turvy on dvds that line a shelf. Keeper of Lost Cities and Harry Potter with Anatomy of Hatha Yoga. The dvds reflection of a home I tried to make in foreign land. Bollywood movies and Bengali movies. Lagaan, Queen, Swades, Dangal, 3 Idiots, The Lunchbox. More.

Noting. I ate too much this morning. Sometimes I do it even before I think or know the fear is near. My stomach always seems to know and feeds me in anticipation. I cannot digest the eggs and nuts. The sun is in and out of the window.

The dog is having a nightmare. He barks under his breath in his sleep and breathes in deeply. The sun continues to come in and out from whatever clouds are in the sky today and my face moves from light to shadow with it. I continue to note. Maybe it will be enough for today. Sit still through the light and the dark. Brave.

Tube stories

On the tube a blonde woman in a brown muffler scanned the news.The headlines all in caps lock KILLER VIRUS TWO CASES IN BRITAIN.I went through stations I had  read about no actually watched in movies Paddington Notting Hill Victoria.Life in the tube has its own breath.Stale air fatigue impatience patience.Headphones books eyes on books eyes into space.We climb in and out of the netherworld and I wait always for the sky. Winter summer night or day. At a stop a young woman with kohl rimmed eyes steps off into the arms of a clean shaven man. I remember once waiting on a platform for the man I would one marry.Ten years since then and many life lessons later here we are in London leading or following our children.