As a young woman I had all sorts of ambitions of where I would be at 30. Successful, surrounded by people I loved (including, perhaps, one special someone), and generally on an accelerated upward trajectory towards achieving all of my dreams. I was to be wildly successful, because, like all millennials, this was my destiny.
When I actually turned 30, I was unemployed, had just been dumped by a functioning alcoholic, and was generally battling insecurity and self-doubt. I had spent the weeks leading up to it alone with painful thoughts and memories of what had just transpired.
It was Christmas time, probably the worst time to be alone in Canada, where I lived at the time. The previous four months had been messy and had pushed me to my limits, testing everything I thought I knew about relationships. I tried to get to a place of peace in order to understand it all, but it was really difficult.
I felt all alone.
This is the starting point for my story Senseless Worries, the third story in The Boundaries of Sanity. Rock bottom.
What happens when we realize that none of those things, we considered rocks in our lives – our partners, our careers, our success – are forever.
The anxiety that creeps in at times like this can be toxic. But there is also a sense of weathering the storm and coming out more unscathed than we thought we would on the other side.
In Senseless Worries, Tanya needs Amrita to need her, and this sets her up for failure, and is likely an undercurrent in all of her relationships. We see hints of tactics she pulled with an ex-husband and underlying it all there’s this anxiety that has crept in and is permeating everything she does.
Anyone that’s dealt with anxiety knows it’s an unforgiving monster. It taints everything you see and do. There is always this doubt lingering at the back of your mind, what if? And then there’s this sense of shame as you cross line after line, feeding this beast, which is never satisfied with any amount of reassurance.
You’re always wondering if there is something else that could go wrong. But then, you’re also not proud of the things you did or said, in that valiant aim of reassuring your own mind. At least this was my experience: a constant push and pull between two extremes.
It is too easy to give in to it, to slide into that downward spiral and end up in a no-man’s land where friends are lost, and relationships broken. In a way, this has already happened to Tanya. Somewhere perhaps she knows that the relationships weren’t worth saving, but her anxiety about being alone pushed her into it.
As a child, I was a largely happy solitary being. Perhaps it was in puberty, when my sense of self was a slippery thing, prone to influence from others, that I started to think I should become more social and popular.
I spent a long time trying to be that person, making plans, trying not to spend my weekends alone, always having something to go to, or someone to hang out with. It gave me short-lived satisfaction to have places to go and people to meet.
This came to its peak around 2015, and although I had some lovely friends then, I found myself physically and emotionally exhausted from being so connected all the time. I realized much later, that being a social butterfly has never been my nature. At my core I am an introvert, and I need to be alone to recharge my batteries, from time to time.
When I moved to Mumbai in 2016, I found it very difficult to meet like-minded people. I either met people who didn’t care to invest time in getting to know someone new, or I met people who were incredibly needy.
Finally, because I didn’t have a choice, and I found most social interactions draining and unfulfilling, I decided it was better to be alone and focus on reading and writing, then to try and surround myself with people.
I didn’t realize how naturally this would come to me. I found myself super happy to spend a Saturday evening working on a writing project or reading a book, or listening to greatest hits of the ‘90s, without speaking to a single soul.
The unintended consequence of this, is that I learned I didn’t *need* others, and this was super empowering. The discovery of loving my own company was the greatest gift I could have ever received from enforced solitude. Understanding that I could be content taught me that this idea of needing another was just an illusion.
Tanya is struggling with this very concept – her perceived need of others. She isn’t treated very well by these people, which is perhaps partially her own doing. But she is unable to see life without these people, who ultimately are not that great for her.
I wrote Tanya’s character based on things I have myself experienced: anxiety about rejection, a fear of remaining unloved and worries about ending up alone. But what I didn’t know then, and what she doesn’t know now, is that if we can’t love our own company, on our own terms, then what can we offer to others.
If we know that we do not need something, then we won’t be so afraid of losing it. In fact, in many cases I learned that losing someone – breakups and endings – were often accompanied by relief that I didn’t have to deal with certain things anymore. I realized that some relationships were a losing proposition from the start, and others become so over time.
I am not anti-relationship or friendships. But for me, quality is better than quantity: I am not capable of having relationships with as much depth as feels authentic, with more than a handful of people. Today I have a handful of very deep friendships and a wonderful relationship that I wouldn’t give up for the world.
But I didn’t need to covet them before I had them. I was great before, and while they add something to my life, I made sure that my life was complete without it.
In fact, these days, with our abundance of zoom communication, WhatsApp, social media and the like, I find myself craving my solitude – spending a few hours without speaking to anyone. There is an exhaustion to virtual and video communication that somehow surpasses in-person contact.
Solitude and the need for time for myself are things I protect fiercely, often to a point that others find unreasonable. But what they sometimes don’t understand is like they crave human contact I crave time without it. Two sides of the same coin.
Self-dependence has helped me a lot with my anxiety. While it is not a cure by any stretch of the imagination: anxiety is a sizeable beast that takes years if not lifetimes to defeat, in my experience, it can go a long way towards grounding myself and creating some peace of mind.