What’s missing in her life, mused Sheila. By all accounts her life was as normal as it could possibly be. She had a decently paying marketing job that a lot of her friends envied. Her projects were moderately challenging, work hours reasonable and she even had a cab assigned from office that dropped her back to home daily. As an external observer, you couldn’t spot anything dissatisfying about such a life. Yet, right now, staring blankly at her empty inbox and sipping a mildly fragrant coffee in a cheap, plastic cup, Sheila felt uneasy and out of place.
After being in a relationship for five years, she had recently married Ajay, a software engineer with Microsoft. It was an elaborate Punjabi ceremony and many relatives and friends attended the wedding; some had come from as far away as Singapore and Dubai. Wedding was a monumental event in her life and she has fresh, sweet memories of it. She thought it was a perfectly fine wedding and obviously she now has a husband that she loves, but still… she knew something was amiss and she couldn’t locate the source of her emptiness. Sipping some more coffee didn’t help her narrow down the real cause.
From an adjacent cubicle, she could hear a jarring noise made by a photocopy machine. This single, isolated noise in otherwise silent office was distinct and she was sure that everyone noticed it, but unlike her, nobody was even remotely bothered about it. Maybe, everyone else was busy with their work. With an air of boredom about this mundane observation, she gulped some more coffee.
Sheila thought a little Facebook wouldn’t do her harm. Work can wait, and anyway there is nothing world changing that she does. The mild excitement of opening Facebook quickly turned into a huge disappointment when she realized nobody, absolutely nobody had liked her last status update. Even though it had just been 2 hours since she had posted “Bored beyond my wildest dreams”, it should have at least got a single like by now. If not by anybody else, at least Ajay should have liked it! He was her goddamned husband. Sight of zero likes or comments on her status update made her very anxious, and hence, with half-twitched eyes and love-hate feelings, she quickly scrolled through updates of her friends: pictures, videos and check-ins that shouted how awesome everyone’s life is. She sighed, and got more flummoxed that she deserved to be.
These abstract, liquid thoughts made her feel guilty not because she was unhappy – she was still unsure if the unusual feeling was of genuine sadness or simple bewilderment – but because she couldn’t grasp what they were about. All she knew was that there’s something missing from her otherwise normal life. She was secretly craving for something that was perhaps out of her reach, but nonetheless at least she should have known the object of this craving. How can she reach for something that she has no clue about? This uneasiness about what the uneasiness was about was driving her even more uneasy. A self-fulfilling uneasiness, that is.
Sheila is generally too cool to bother with introspection, but this attraction for the unknown pounced on her again and again in the most humdrum of situations. She suspected this feeling is always there at back of her mind, but it definitely intensifies when she has a swath of time to pass. At times, even the funniest of the Internet videos appear shallow and forced to her. And at other times, her usual gossip with girl friends would bore her to death. This unnatural feeling wasn’t consistent, but it was very persistent. (She rationalized that, surely, she couldn’t be depressed or suffering from a mental ailment.)
Sheila loved it when she was absorbed in work. But absorbing and challenging work was no long term solace because it meant she would be forever dependent, and it also meant work would become an escape mechanism for her. But what was she escaping from and what more she wanted, she didn’t yet know. Knowing that was her first priority. Also, as if some other self was whispering in her ear, she was doubly troubled by that persistent simultaneous thought that she shouldn’t bother with these useless thoughts. Normal people don’t care, and she shouldn’t.
This infinitesimally tangled feeling brought a slight amusement to her lips – the same kind of unnatural amusement one gets when one thinks about his or her suicide, and realizes how absurd it is — yet can’t deny the validity of such an action.
Sheila’s coffee was almost over, and she quickly spotted a few new emails. With a huge sigh, she was glad her short work-break was over and that once again she can immerse herself in dailyness of life.
And like she had always been doing, Sheila very casually postponed confronting her real self to the next coffee break.
To her credit, at least she was brave enough to entertain such thoughts.