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On the other side of my smile

Photo of me receiving blessing from Lama Namkhai Nyingpo in Perth, Australia in 2013

Having overcome several obstacles and tragedies over the past 34 years of my life, I consider myself an optimistic person. My life has never been a bed of roses but still my failures and misfortunes hardly discouraged me to keep going. I know I have a good sense of humour and I love to laugh with people around me. Social interactions and laughter always help me forget the pain of my past and present. Even when I am stressed, I can afford to smile and laugh. That’s why my old school friends still tell me that I seem to be happy forever. But once in a while, a very strange wave of sadness runs through my nerves without any warning. I am still trying to figure out what is it all about and where it’s coming from.

When this strange wave of emotion runs through me, I immediately lose the very meaning of this life and I feel completely disconnected from the world around me. I come to realize all the futilities of this worldly existence and see myself as a total stranger in a strange world amongst strangers. I don’t even feel that I belong to any social group. My family, kids and achievements make a little sense to me. I feel as if I were floating on an open ocean, with no sense of direction and no new hopes. All types of unhelpful thoughts rush through my mind weakening my every nerve within. I think this is the state where people decide to end their lives because you do not see anything meaningful before you.

But what I should be most grateful for is that this state of emotions lasts only for a few minutes. After a while, I recover from this emotional flood naturally. It does not occur frequently either. It happens only sometimes and the last time I experienced it was while working in the office a couple of days back. I remember being struck by it frequently as a child during which I used to even cry silently. As a counselor, I have begun to reflect on my own attachment styles during my childhood and wonder if this feeling has to do anything with my early childhood experiences.

My mother was diagnosed with Tuberculosis when I was about 2 and died from the same disease 2 years later. I was told that my mother could not breastfeed me well because of her bad health and that I survived mostly on dairy milk. My father was an outdoorsman who could hardly give us time and attention. All of my six or seven siblings did not survive the ordeals of the time. I was the lone survivor. After my mother died, my father re-married my mother’s cousin sister, who too died four years later due to the same disease, leaving me a younger brother and a half-sister. In the matter of few months, they too passed away, all at home after falling sick for several weeks. They were never taken to hospital. Following this tragedy, my father did not re-marry and it was only two of us in the name of our family. I was about 9 then, already blind.

Because of all those circumstances, I sometimes feel I might have not got enough opportunities to build a secure attachment with my parents. I don’t remember my father or step-mother giving me a hug or caressing me even once. I know they cared about me a lot but I feel there was no physical expression of love and affection. My mother had died when I was too young to recall my relationship with her. So, looking at the ways I was attached to my family, I feel such gaps in our relationship could have instilled a sense of insecurity somewhere deep within my stream of consciousness, and that it tends to surface out today. I am not blaming my parents here. I am very grateful to them for their sacrifices and hard work for making me who I am today. But I am just wondering if they weren’t able to physically and emotionally hold me close enough due to numerous unfavourable circumstances at the time. Whatever it may be, I am glad that I am aware of what’s going around and I try to be strong as always.

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