The bearable aloneness of being

February 10, 2009


I have always been a loner. Lone child. Shy. Older parents. Generation(s) gap. Misunderstood. It has taken me a lot of time to come to terms with this. My best and most loyal friends, till date, have been tobacco and alcohol. They refuse to let go of me inspite of my best efforts and I have more or less decided that health permitting I shall try and reciprocate their attachment to me. The rest of the world waits for the slightest affront, real or otherwise, and I am one more “friend” down. These things have stopped bothering me any longer. For an inherently lazy person like me, it is actually too much of an effort to keep these friendships going. The demands are far too many and the returns on investment (time and money) are meagre. It is not that I am any different with my relatives. The scene there is even worse and thankfully the fact that I have married out of the religion helps me tremendously here. My relatives (at least most of them) will not be caught dead anywhere near me.

What all this has done is earned me, in my opinion the undeserved, sobriquet of “selfish”. And I absolutely love this. To be honest, I am yet to come across a selfless person in my life. I have been witness to random acts of selflessness, not a whole lot of them, but enough to understand what that entails. But a selfless human being, no, not as yet. I have been kind of led to believe that human beings are social animals. Therefore anyone who prefers his/ her own company is initially labelled a queer and if the trait continues later in life as well is labelled selfish. Friends call me out for dinner and I excuse myself saying that I rather cuddle up with my rum/ vodka, cigarattes and a book and presto, I am being selfish. Not feeling upto (read feeling lazy) attending a collague’s daughters’s 3rd birthday on a Sunday and there you have, further proof of my selfishness.

I have realised that rarely do people enjoy their own company. Forget enjoying, the thought of being with oneself downright scares, intimidates and overwhelms.To them, I try and explain that there is a difference between being alone and being lonely. Not to say that one way or the other is the “right” way to be. Each to himself and I also keep reminding myself of the Yiddish proverb “If all of us were to pull in the same direction the world would keel over”. Over a period of time, all of us find our own comfort zones and as long as what we like is not criminal or illegal in nature, please let us be. The counter to this would be some pyschobabble that exhorts people to get out of their comfort zones and experience the thrill of doing something different, giving little credence to that fact that one lifetime is not enough to explore our own intrinsic construct, leave alone trying to be something or someone else.

It has taken me a fair amount of time to come to terms with myself. When I was growing up, I tended to look at myself rather strangely, unable to comprehend this disposition of wanting to be alone. It was only after I decided to accept rather than question did I acknowledge that it is fine to be different and it also helped that I did meet a few like minded people. The very knowledge of their existence gave me comfort and solace.

But the clincher has been some of the experiences that I have gone through over the years. In my book, at the end of the day (and even during it), all you have is yourself and the earlier this realisation dawns the simpler does life become. The weight of expectations from others and the subsequent, almost inevitable, disappointment that virtually crushes people can be possibly avoided with this realisation. In my own case, I can vouch for the fact that I have been all alone during the darkest periods in my life and I have survived. This particular aloneness that I am referring to should not be confused with the physical presence of people around (in our country there is no shortage of bodies to envelope you, irrespective of the situation). The reference is completely to the mindspace that is shared or otherwise.

My predeliction for aloneness is also borne out by my areas of interest. There is nothing more I like than running and running, especially of the long distance variety, is a loner’s pursuit. Reading again is best done in one’s own company. My favorite sport is cricket, which although a team sport offers the most scope and space for an individual to express himself fully and at times, “selfishly” ( we don’t need to look beyond Sir Geoffrey Boycott for irrefutable evidence in this regard).

At the same time, have I not had fun with my friends, oh yes I have. Do I lock myself up in a room all day and keep muttering and mumbling to myself, not at all. Am I a maladjusted, anti-social psychopath? I definitely don’t think so. I like myself almost to the extent of being called narcissistic (add that to selfish) and make no bones about the joys of my own company. I have invariably been let down by people close to me and the ones that have not lare the ones with whom I have no relationship. Do I need to say more about the delights of aloneness. And at the end of all this, if I do need a crutch, I have my tobacco and/ or alcohol !!

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6 Responses to “The bearable aloneness of being”

  1. Srikanth Says:

    Hey, mate, you’re going thru’ a typical mid-adulthood transition. Call it psychobabble if you will, but some random thoughts, in no particular order:

    • I don’t understand your self-angst about being a loner or your need to defend it. Each one of us has a fundamental right to be. Period.

    • As they say, if you don’t like your own company, you have no right to impose it on anybody else.

    • There is this theory of quantum duality that’s finding increasing favour among physicists. In short, it links cause-effect, origin-destination, etc, seamlessly together. Perhaps your conclusion that people perceive you as “queer” is the cause, not the effect, of your interactions / disappointments from them. You enter an interaction expecting the other guy to see you as queer – you betcha he will! At least IMHO, you come across as a reasonable, private, but engaging person.

    • Friendships do not have ROI’s. Material measurements defeat the very purpose of friendships – you’re left with shallow, impersonal, transactional relationships. Again, I challenge you to explore whether your expectations of ROI’s are the root cause of poor relational skills?

    • Let’s differentiate between self-centered and selfish. One is survival. The other is denial … You choose!

    Sorry if I’ve ruffled some feathers, but I’m sure you’re game for meaningful debate!

    And in closing, lyrics from an Oasis hit:

    “Is it my imagination
    Or have I finally found something worth living for?
    I was looking for some action
    But all I found was cigarettes and alcohol

    You could wait for a lifetime
    To spend your days in the sunshine
    You might as well do the white line
    Cos when it comes on top . . .

    You gotta make it happen!

    Is it worth the aggravation
    To find yourself a job when there’s nothing worth working for?
    Its a crazy situation
    But all I need are cigarettes and alcohol!

    You could wait for a lifetime
    To spend your days in the sunshine

    You might as well do the white line
    Cos when it comes on top . . .

    You gotta make it happen!”

  2. Gani Says:

    Thanks Srikanth. Finally a comment that is bigger than the post.

    Sure, I am game for debate, meaningful or otherwise. Here goes:

    1. Please give me the luxury of artistic license. I have exagerrated at times to make the point.
    2. It took ME a certain amount of time to realise that each one of us has a fundamental right to BE. And the fact that this was something that I realised and not something that I took for granted makes the realisation even more ingrained and evolved. It was not hubris that made me believe in this.
    3. After the chaos, emerges clarity. The angst that I went thru is a thing of the past, which is why I am not being cynical or bitter about it.
    4. I would not go to the extent of saying that I do not have any relationship skills. I think I definitely do have a certain level of relationship skills. It is only that I now choose to draw the line. I am reminded of this wonderful line from the Inheritance of Loss which goes something like this – Can fulfillment be as powerful as failure or loss. We tend to remember what we have lost as opposed to what we have or what we have gained.
    5. I believe that all relationships have an ingrained RoI element. May not be obvious or apparent but they do have. It could be emotional, monetary, edginess, whatever. But they do have. I think it is naive to believe that there are no expectations from either side once any relationship crosses a certain threshold.
    6. Self centred, selfish. I think these are semantics. You know what I am referring to, I presume. And I did not get which is survival and which is denial.

    Cheers
    Gani

  3. Vivek Says:

    Does this also mean that you keep going to your own blog often, thus fudging the hits? Because I see you have about 700 hits more than my blog has 🙂

  4. Gani Says:

    No RS. It does not mean that. And stop being jealous !!!.

  5. sony Says:

    Sorry it’s taken me a while to respond to your post…
    To me it appears as if you had set out on a quest in your blog “The bearable aloneness…” and found the answer (closing remark) in your recent blog “the burden of expectations”.
    In between these two, I have gone through a temporary setback myself with a lot of similar questions-The corollary of being alone vs. loneliness that is also an appendage to being a single woman.
    Being single has its advantages, and also comes with a price that has a toll on your emotional quotient. – harmonizing the equation of “Being able to love and being loved”
    My point being- it’s never enough for some people. And our expectations grow bigger and faster than the rate at which karma takes to fulfill it.

    ROI- Being a marketer this is my mantra at work. I keep thinking and “devising” methods to get more for the buck. The mechanics of ROI is to create a wide gap between the
    R————————————————————–O——————————————————-I.
    The objective is to invest the least and get maximum returns. I shudder to think of the outcome if I apply the same equation on relationships coz in the business world my experience and net result has always been’ YOUR RETURNS ARE DIRECTLY PROPORTIONATE TO YOUR INVESTEMENT.

    End of the day every human being is alone and selfish. Even spiritual teachers train the students to first heal thy soul first before they can go on a dissertation or discourse.
    Any expectation of selflessness from a human being is a clear case of selfishness. In fact one will be let down ONLY if you have ‘expectations’.
    Have always told my friends, in times of distress think of ME. And you will realize what you have. I don’t say this out of self pity or sense of ‘loss’ but a pure belief as being Destiny’s child-I am god’s favorite.
    One can be alone and one can be lonely- it’s mostly choice and partly karma end of the day. WE have the choice to make the most out of what we have. But what do we do with what we have?
    Its evident you are quite happy, content being with yourself-A sense of being which has been possible only with the existence and support system around you; family(mostly), friends, your experiences (good or bad), and yet the vanguard of your article ends with dismay over some or all of these influences.

  6. Mu Says:

    Good post describing a condition that I relate to. Perhaps social interactions do not often rise to the “burden of expectations” you’ve placed on them.


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