I love cheesecake in all forms. It could be in one of those corner cafes where it sits quietly in the far corner, seemingly unwanted. Or the star of the show, complete with fruity sidekicks. I absolutely love it. There is nothing that can change the fact. In fact when I go out with friends, and they judge the poor cheese cake, I simply shrug and think to myself, ‘what do they know!’ Then at least one would wonder aloud, ‘How can you love cheesecake so much?’ There is disgust written all over the friend’s face. I narrow my eyes, give them a long hard stare to look for any signs of insanity and then go back to loving what is in front of me – the legendary cheesecake. It might not be someone else’s flavour. But I can’t be changing it simply to please them! Imagine a cheesecake without cheese! Some disapprove of the flavour, some can not fathom how anything of that colour could be acceptable, some find it too robust and others too bland. The cheesecake firmly stays. It doesn’t get shoved in to anyone’s face. There are no angry words exchanged. It is not tossed aside in a bid to try something else to please the naysayers. It just stays.
You have read thus far? Good for you. Now replace cheesecake or cheese with grammatically correct form of self. Make it about yourself. What do you think? Would it stay the same? Or every time someone whispered a disapproval, gave that ‘look’, you would quickly run through the checklist of what all you are doing wrong? Chances of it being latter are fairly high. We are our worst critics. The things we can’t even dream of saying to others, we throw at ourselves. Always second guessing, always trying to be some other kind of universally acceptable cake. And all this while, we are fiercely defending the smaller things like a preference for baked cheesecake as opposed to the unbaked one. Yet, when it comes to self, we coil up and let the critics take over.
Last week, some people told me that I had gained weight and others said that I had lost some, on the same day. The confused kilos stay where they are, firmly hugging the bum. Yes, the weight is a problem for my ageing knees but the good bit is that I am doing yoga, trying to eat healthy and have also started an hour long brisk, every-muscle-aching walk. The idea is to lose weight for my knees and back and not because the cheesecake needs to change. Same goes for other areas of my life. I am going easy on myself. On some days, I am entirely unproductive barely keeping afloat. It stretched in to months this year. I barely wrote. Words just slipped and slid away like the fish in the pond – always there but never near. I still let the cheesecake stay. Fretting over it, letting guilt and anxiety take precedence over acceptance will do nothing but make the cake sink. And so I decided to accept that right now is not a good time to stretch myself, or to invest energy in trying to please others, or make commitments that will further sink the cake. It is okay to be unproductive once in a while. It is not okay to question cheese.
It does get tough sometimes to not judge, to not criticise self and other fruitcakes. I struggle with it a lot. Questions like -Am I enough? Am I doing enough? Am I too enough? -keep buzzing around in the head along with the existential questions involving who and why. Now I am training my mind to listen to these questions buzz rather than joining in the ruckus. I observe. I let the voices quieten down. I embrace them and then breathe out. It isn’t easy. It is years of learning, the almost reflexive reaction of being harsh to self, and a constant lens on self that need to be unlearned, undone. Whenever that knee jerk reaction of putting myself in a courtroom trial happens, I tell myself, ‘But you LOVE cheesecake!’ And it all comes back. I leave the judges standing, the ones inside grumble a bit. But I keep walking. For I am the fruitiest, nuttiest, cheesecake there is. So you out there, do not be harsh on your self. Be what cheesecake is to me – shamelessly, unapologetically, sitting there, just being.