My eyes well up whenever I come across anything remotely emotional. Be it sad, inspirational, or joyous – I find it difficult to control my tears. This weird habit had put me in trouble many a times. I almost cried when I handed over my last resignation letter as I tried to explain to my manager what writing meant to me. He was horrified, at this sudden downpour of tears and I was sure he found it awkward. I have been caught sniffling on my work desk – most probably I would be watching a Facebook video. I was embarrassed by this weakness. I have always had felt that my body is plotting to sabotage me.
When I was a child, whenever my father got late to get back from office, I assumed that he had an accident. My crazy brain spun different scenarios in which he could get into trouble. I thought I was being plain pessimistic. However, as I grew old, this strange habit of my brain only got profound. When I heard a broken conversation, my brain immediately jumped into extrapolating it into a fully fledged soap opera. It mostly spun bizarre stories, gory and ridiculous ones. I was tired of all those cobwebs my brain was creating. I thought I lacked the ability to think clear.
I am a very light sleeper. I even had episodes of acute insomnia, when I couldn’t sleep for a few days. I usually lie awake on the bed, thinking about all that happened that day. If there is any remotely interesting or disturbing incident, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Invariably, I lose a lot of sleep as my brain overworked, spinning stories and analyzing situations.
Some days, even after I was awake from sleep, I lie around like a sloth with my brain whirring like a heavy machine. I knew that I had to get up, get ready and go to office. I needed to chop-chop. However, some days I just lie on the bed, day-dreaming. I cursed my reveries and called myself a lazy ass, whenever I had to run behind my office bus.
“She is a bit of forgetting type,” this was the opinion of the sweet old Tamil lady about me. I had stayed with her for three years as a paying guest. She kept reminding me of different things like cleaning up the laundry, the vessels, arranging my room. Even her rigorous training couldn’t redeem me. Even after years, even after my marriage, even after having a baby, I still remain as the “forgetting type”. I can’t remember numbers or dates. I miss wishing most of my friends on their birthdays (thanks to WhatsApp and Facebook, I am doing better). I totally rely on my husband to remember when to pay electricity, cable, insurance, news paper – and what not! However I had a photographic memory of events. I could recount conversations, place I had been to, the habits of people I met. I could remember the scenes in movies which I saw years before and memorize the dialog. However, those abilities were obviously useless for an engineer. (It only helped when I fought with my husband. Poor thing had no idea what he told a year back!)
It has not been easy as it is said. I have had a very tough time putting up with myself. I wanted to get rid of all these ridiculous habits and become an organized, efficient and well balanced person. I even took New Year resolutions to think less – but to no avail. It bothered me that I could never feel like a proper grown-up – doing sensible things, working a full time job, keeping the home clean, attending rituals, remembering to call family, remembering to birthdays and not to cry in totally unacceptable situations. My weirdness bothered me deeply. It gave me a feeling that “my brain might have a loose screw” – as they put it. The more I tried to tight them, the more miserable I became. The more I put myself on the change regimens, the more I was dismayed.
It was only after I quit my engineering job and started my life as a fiction writer, all these weird characteristics of my personality seem to make sense. I could absorb the characters and their emotions. I cried to my heart’s content while I wrote emotional scenes. I drenched like a bloating paper with the feelings of my characters. I found so easy to be inside them and feel whatever they are feeling. I laughed with them, cried with them, felt angry and jealous with my characters. My eyes welled up for my characters, but it isn’t ridiculous. It is a great boon as a writer to be able to feel the characters deeply.
My twisted brain that spun ridiculous stories suddenly seemed to be a great help. I never have trouble making plot twists and turns. Whenever I am in search for a new scene to take the story forward, my brain jumps up, raise it hands and say “Me, Me” – just like Hermione Granger in Prof.Snape’s class. Instead of a single scene, it gives me five different scenarios where the story could move forward. I no longer blame my “Soap opera” brain.
When I look back, I feel that I spend a lot of energy to become someone I was not. I thought I was weird and tried to fit myself into the social framework of acceptable behaviors. Then I learned a big lesson. Humans are called social animals for very right reasons. From the moment we are born, we are being conditioned. We are told what are acceptable / useful human behaviors and what are not – For example, knowing to count would make a person a useful human being, but eating mud wouldn’t. Every person demonstrates two sets of habits. One set I call “the common sapient traits” – something makes us useful to survive as a society. However every person possesses another set of traits that are unique to them, but doesn’t necessarily make them as a good white sheep in the society.
Developing the common traits definitely help one to get a job and make a livelihood. It helps a person to become socially acceptable. However those so called “Weird traits” are the ones who tell a person who she really is. Those are the signs that our genes give us about what we really want to become. What is embedded deep in us? Life becomes a struggle when we try to fight off those signs. We might find ourselves useless if we keep trying to adhere to the common traits. We lose harmony with ourselves.
Nurturing our common traits definitely help us survive, however nurturing the weirdness is what helps us thrive.
So much to relate to Salini… Beautiful write up!!