By the end of 2014, the world had started spinning. That’s not a metaphor, because I mean literally, spinning. A friend and I had decided to commemorate our favourite place of 2014 by bringing in the new year drinking 450-rupee pitchers of beer at Alps. Alps is so awesome that I’m hesitant to even mention it, for fear that all of you will go, it will become crowded, and therefore less awesome.
In any case, we got to the street below my friend’s building when I discovered I couldn’t really walk. Or I could walk about as much as anyone can on a tiny boat on a choppy sea with the tsunami on the horizon. She looked at me in calm terror (I seriously commend her for the calmness) as I leaned against a car (not ours) and she made the decision (again calmly) that I refused to face: we weren’t going anywhere.
We went back upstairs. I lay down while she proceeded to pour us beer and lay out a sheet of newspaper on the single bed between us. We ransacked the fridge, something we’d been doing together since about age 5, and she spread out the best it had to offer: smoked salmon, cheese, Korean noodles, and chips. I was propped up against four pillows, the room continued to mildly spin, but we brought in the new year laughing.
I’ve been plotting several chronic illness essays in my phone notes, so I won’t give away any exciting details apart from the spoiler alert that I was very, very unhappy for a lot of the year. And that if, like me, you are perversely interested in the details of other people’s flailing bodies and minds because they reassure you that you are not alone in your mess, you can Google ‘ME/CFS’ and try and guess which of the 7473 symptoms I have.
I spent 2015 in bed. I missed my ten year school reunion. I missed four weddings (no funerals), two of which I felt seriously bad about. I didn’t go to RightsCon, the IGF, or to university on my Chevening Scholarship. The list is as long as it is sad, so please join me in the comfortable delusion that it’s not real.
I also spent 2015, for the first time in nearly a decade, with myself. I’m not saying I was alone, I have had beyond-incredible support, but that for the first time in ages I was left with myself sans my usual props of conferences-beer-dancefloors-whiskey-meetings-beer-reporting-whiskey (surprise surprise, alcohol doesn’t improve dizziness – a fact I continued to ignore for months after it became painfully evident).
But minus all the horrors that being left to your own devices leads to (stay tuned for the longform chronic illness essay that lives in the pipelines), 2015 was also the year where a lot of amazing things happened that probably wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t gotten this ill.
It was the year I read pretty much everything ever written by Margaret Atwood, who is pretty much the most awesome ever. And everything by Jeanette Winterson I could afford (because foreign editions, come on). And I ended the year on Elena Ferrante (which I couldn’t afford, but was so worth it). In other words, 2015 was the literary year of my lifetime. And I used to be a lit student.
It was also the year I made a brilliant friend online who was responsible for much of this reading list, and to whom I owe a big thank you
It was the year these guys accidentally adopted us and refused to let us go
It was the year I started growing edible plants, and we’re currently at tulsi, basil, mint, lemongrass, pomegranate, kadipatta, and aloe vera (which okay, isn’t edible, but it goes on my face so I’m counting it).
It was the year I co-founded Deep Dives with a friend (who was also my first employer and is still one of my biggest inspirations, so when I casually say ‘friend’ I am actually dying of happiness inside), where we worked with incredible writers on stories I think were pretty incredible too.
It was the year that I attempted to do some art after a ten year self-doubting gap (only in pen, because buying paints seems like too big a step).
It was the year I learned to cook without Maggi (my thiyar saadam is now at boss-level)
It was the year I learned that love not only endures a lot of shit, but makes it less shitty. And that if you miss your best friend’s wedding, she’ll still love you exactly the same.
It was the year I finally realised that ‘the book’ is not going to write itself
But mostly, it was the year I learned that even without the things I loved (especially whiskey), there is still some worthwhile stuff inside me. It’s not easy to dig up and I’m still learning how, but I live inside an incredible two-person-two-cat unit that reminds me of this truth every day.
Speaking of which, these guys have seen viral fever, sprained legs, neutering surgeries, neurological damage, and are still shiny, growing, and accounting for a lot of Goa’s overfishing.
And as I write this from my bed, they are my biggest reminders (seriously BIG, because they’ve gotten fucking huge) that 2015 somehow ended up being the year everything happened.