On being neurodivergent, married and lonely.
WORDS ALINA FATIMA
Valentine came and went like a swift breeze and left us once again with only candy wrappers and glitter in its wake. Re-runs of rom-coms of lonely romantics who are promised after all the trial and tribulations, that their lonely days are finally over. But, some of us are bound to it, perpetually peeking at strangers who tilt their heads close and wonder if they feel like you.
My disclaimer is this, very little in my life have I been truly isolated, and I’m certainly not writing about literal isolation, but rather the epidemic of lonely girls who wander life in crowded rooms, friendships and love with cellophane sheets between them. Lonely is a definition that is mostly self-ascribed to me, by me, and maybe my therapist. I was a social butterfly most of my life and even though I’m socially awkward and somewhat ungraceful, I think I’ve been described as having somewhat gawky and unpolished charm. I was a fearless 10, a goofy 16 and now I am a hushed 23. Yet, I’ve always been lonely, forever feeling a pane of glass between me and everyone else in the universe, never as close as I can be and always one wrong word or mistake away from ruining any relationships I’ve built, assuming the worst of others when it comes to their perception of me, always reaching.
I dissect my loneliness into parts, Pakistani Australian Muslim.
Too western for Pakistan, too desi and too Muslim for Australians, and never Muslim enough for my community. Jack of all trades, master of none, on a tightrope going nowhere.
Internet communities and high school friends filled spaces for a time, but only by the grip of youth and freedom of adult responsibilities. Then, of course, my ADHD, and its accompanying friend. Rejection-sensitive dysmorphia is a new term in my life, but I’ve been carrying it around for the past 5 years like a stone in my shoe. It’s never obvious to you that you are strange or annoying, until the moment someone lets you know. A hushed giggle in the back of the class, and now my half-urdu tongue, my forgetful, loud, off-beat, fidgety-self takes up too much space in my head for other people to fit.
I let the internet and shallow aesthetics take up space where my traditions wanted to fit,
because no one makes fun of pronunciations when they don’t hear you, you don’t feel forgotten or uninvited when you avoid people, and excuses are always for them and never yourself. When old friends describe me, I hear a stranger’s name on their teeth and wonder when was the last time we had made that long archived, inside joke.
These are things that my husband can’t fix, nor are they things he should have to. We stuff ourselves with hollow hopes and hurt where other, real and solid things used to go and, and we cannot understand why they feel empty. Getting married changed a lot of things; I feel for the first time like an individual and not one half of a relationship. I’m competing for first prize in; just a wife, daughter, friend or student. But if you’d ask if I was lonely, the answer is still yes. His love is wonderful and fulfilling, and my life is much better for having him in it. No doubt he’s lonely too, in his own ways that I can’t fix, hurt that came along well before me. Specific topics hurt us both, in different ways, and certain phone calls we avoid. I haven’t quite accepted loneliness, but I revel in sharing my loneliness with him; sitting in it together, our peculiar dinner guest.
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