I remember being extremely keen on worship as a child. I’d rope my sister into some peepal tree worshipping scheme, or be picking up hibiscus flowers for my work-in-progress altar. I also had a brass bell that I loved the look and feel of.
I was a kid full of joy, growing up on Air Force bases, happily playing in the mud and riding my cycle around the campus. Moving to Delhi flipped this idyllic vision on its head and suddenly I was unattractive, awkward village bumpkin in a school full of too-short skirts.
From then on, life wasn’t about the fun thing I could do, but about being an outsider trying my best not to further alienate myself.
I have talked a fair bit about what our first six years do for our attachment styles. But perhaps it’s important also to acknowledge the role that our adolescent years play in shaping our romantic destinies.
Being a gawky, goody-two-shoes kid in an anachronistic hair-do, I was never the recipient of male attention. This got to the point that I would use this lack of attractiveness as a shield to further my sexual isolation. A boy in my class wanted to say he thought I was the prettiest girl in the room, on a dare, and I interrupted him and said: “ya, you’re going to say Damini is the prettiest.”
I want to say that my first decade on the planet was a blissful and extended pre-mirror stage experience. I say this because my sheltered world out there was benevolent, known, I saw in it what I was taught to see in myself because the two fed into each other.
I was born of and for the Air Force life and until I came to Delhi, it’s like I had never left her womb. Delhi was the first mirror to me of the world out there. The mirror that forced me to see my separation from the world out there. Arguably, the mirror that forced me to begin the process of delayed individuation that I have written painstakingly about before.
Delhi was also, then, questions of faith, questions of identity, of worth. I spent 4 years trying to be a normal girl in senior school in a class with two stunners that everyone crushed on. Then I spent 2 years at a radically different school where my merit and smiling face made me more popular.
In this time, there was no cycling, there was no pagan worship, there was no aimless wandering. There was the real world, and our attempts to make it in that world.
In class 6 I had a prolonged fight with a group of girls that didn’t want to associate with me because I was too much of a Harry Potter geek. Or something.
That experience set me up for a pattern of friendships where I’d invest, then get frightened of being dumped, get panicky and clingy, and get dumped hence creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. The last of these was in class 12 when I broke up with perhaps the dearest friend I’ve ever had. I took my board exams in a haze of that grief.
So by the time I got to law school, I was seriously starved of attention, acceptance, and admiration. That could also be a reason that when I met my first boyfriend, and once we got close, it was terrifying to let him go even when our relationship had become suffocating and toxic.
Then followed a series of short, intense friends-with-benefits/fuck-buddies/lovers that taught me a lot about sex, my body, relationships, and my needs. Of these, the last was an emotionally abusive relationship where I experienced the most intense limerence of my life.
This piece is about how I worked through the limerence and arrived at Mira bhaav.
After I finally went no-contact on my last boyfriend, I had to exorcise him from my mind every time I thought of him by chanting a paudi from the Jap Ji Saab, which is a foundational prayer for Sikhs.
It was like always being in manual or rather spiritual override. What I want to say to you is that if you’ve struggled with attachment anxiety, you are so used to a state of high arousal that it will be years before you can teach yourself to relax and go with the flow like your hippie neighbor.
And you probably will be unhappy without having someone to crush on, be obsessed with or craft yourself as good enough for.
Here’s a thought.
Become like Mira Bai. Channel your inner Dante and let God be your Beatrice. After all, the oceanic state of pre-existence you seek to regress to with romantic partners is the same oceanic state of bliss that the bhakti or Sufi traditions speak of. Or is the same oceanic state as death.
Toxic boyfriend, invisible but constant benevolence or a botched suicide attempt from your last toxic relationship – you choose.
I’ll be over here training myself to pay attention to the here-and-now every time I think of my current crush. Yes, he’s tall. Spirit is taller.