What we don’t know

This whole year, I’ve managed to make one new friend, and he just happens to live in New Jersey, which clearly is not that convenient. Our hangouts have usually been during lunch since we work fairly close to each other, yet given his 1.5 hour commute each way between home and the office, after work doesn’t work, and on weekends, he usually stays in Jersey. I’ve become like the Chris in our friendship — he has shared quite a bit with me, but I haven’t shared much with him that is below the surface.

We were chatting over Google Chat today, and I was telling him about my weekend plans for theater, making dosa, watching the Australian Grand Final (or really, sitting next to Chris while he watches it and I pretend to watch), among other things. He said to me, you have such a happy life. Things seem so good for you. I smiled when I read this. There’s a lot you have no idea about, I responded.

It’s not that I don’t agree with him. I know that overall, I do have a happy life. I live in a city that I love, I work in a buzzing industry with pretty attractive remuneration, I have a life partner who is fully here for me in every possible way, I travel a lot and pursue many different interests and hobbies, and I have friends I love who care about me.

But like the majority of us in the developed world, I have what is known as the deficit attention disorder — I pay attention to what is missing or not good. I think about my unstable mother, my emotionally void father, their dysfunctional marriage and dilapidated and cluttered accident-prone home, and our overall dysfunctional and contentious wider family. I think about Ed and how and why he died. I think about how I don’t have a living brother anymore and how that will plague me the rest of my life, and how no one really can understand that unless they’ve experienced the same thing. I actually said that to my friend the other day over the phone — “I think his death is going to plague me until I die.” The response was total silence. What kind of response am I expecting when I say something like that, anyway?

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