Call Me:

For all everybody says, there is something inherently unnatural about marriage. We’re all so taken with the idea of finding one person and so desperate to be saved from our loneliness, that we’ll take anything. All our lives we are made to believe that the holy grail of living is the attainment of love- a true love (whatever that means). A love so true it can overcome everything. Every struggle, every poverty, every bipolar depression, every mistake. True love will come trotting upon its golden chariot, we imagine, and regardless of who is actually beneath its coat of armour, we must grasp the opportunity, sit on it, lock it down, put a ring on it and then celebrate to the tunes of our own desperation. Well, its not all that. Its really not. Im not only talking about the times you want to throw your hands up at bills, at moods, at inconveniences and quit from the exasperation of it all. I’m talking about the conclusions you come to if you sit down quietly, and begin thinking about yourself in a seemingly perfect equation of love: the family. I have a decent husband and two children who I am proud of. Why am I not a happy woman?

Aunties from Al Huda have told me I am ungrateful, and it is the absence of God in my life. Aunties from NGOs have told me its the lack of meaningful work. Aunties my mother talks to about me have declared its because I don’t have more children. Give a woman enough children and that’ll distract her from the illusions that haunt her. That’ll show her whose boss.

For my part, I refuse to believe that the albums and albums loaded on Facebook with photographs of marital bliss and children’s birthday parties, are stuffed full of women and men who are truly content. May be they’ve all agreed upon some artificial kind of contentment- the kind that comes from suspending the heart and all the things it ever wanted for itself. There should be a club where people can be honest with each other about these things. There is so much pressure on married men and women to appear happy, to upload cosy photos, to compete at every level. We’ve all got friends in terrible marriages, and we feel bad for them. And we’re grateful we’re not getting beaten up or abused. But God damn it... does this mean we’re happy? Okay sure, it means we should be happy. We should look around and be overflowing with grateful happiness. Still, thats not the way the heart works. I wish it was. You can be in a perfectly decent place and still hate it. I’m sorry, Al Huda aunties. I’m sorry for my blasphemous heart.

There is no cure for this breed of ingratitude, I know. Perhaps its true and I should have had more children. Perhaps I’m turning forty in three days and I’m afraid that life has slipped between my fingers already. I never lived enough. I never loved enough. I never tried hard enough to get the things I really wished for.

It would be some comfort to know we’re all in this strange unnatural place together. But nobody else seems to be talking about it. Everybody’s got something to complain about, but nobody stands up in a middle of a room obsessed with appearances and says, “Hey! I’m deeply unhappy, and there’s no reason for it.” Though really, there is a reason. I think its loneliness. Just another kind of loneliness; the loneliness that comes from surrender, from having left yourself alone, from having ignored your dreams, and the small and big things that were important to you. It is the loneliness of your own thoughts, and it is inherent. It is a fundamental cog in your machinery and nobody can save you from it in the end. You can  look for (and find) sustenance in other people, in other men and other women for a little while, but really, its attached to you like a limb. Even when its numbed down, its still right there. The only way to save yourself from it is to indulge in your dreams. If the biggest dream you ever had was to be loved a certain way, don’t let that go if you can help it. And don’t wait until your fortieth birthday to talk about it.

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