(‘***’ is indicative of a shift in time, place, or part of the story.)
Finally, the long and heavily anticipated October had arrived. It’s not so much October itself I was waiting for, but rather the end of the Summer. I leaf through the back of my mind to try find a single word for someone who strongly dislikes Summer as I fry my usual morning eggs. Nothing comes to mind. I always found that I enjoyed the Winter to a much larger extent than I enjoyed the Summer that preceded it.
Summers were always expensive, and throughout this supposedly joyous and bright season, I often found myself exhausted and sad. I didn’t have anything to do; there was no routine to follow or schedule to work around. No lectures, no job, no hobbies. So it made very little sense to me that I was always so fatigued during the Summer. I just sat beneath my mother’s roof and watched the cursory days passing by, having achieved somewhere between ‘very little’ and ‘nothing’ by the end of each one of them. I suffered a great deal of ‘summertime sadness’ each year. But it struck pretty hard particularly this year and the last.
I found myself idle and unmotivated, trying to give a name to this alien emotion which I remained convinced that no one else had felt yet. (It was one of the handful of emotions and feelings which I thought only I’d experienced and no one else had ever felt). It was a strange emotion; the only words the English language could lend me to describe this feeling were discontent and deep-seated longing for the unknown. But this was barely scratching the surface of conveying what I really felt.
I add a splodge of tomato ketchup to my steaming eggs, and pour myself a fresh glass of cranberry juice. Tame Impala’s Lonerism album plays loudly from my room. Every Summer I felt as if I were fading into the background of life. Time glided furiously through me while I glided nonchalantly through time, and I never really felt alive. I didn’t feel. I constantly felt as if I’d been transitioned from a living, breathing, active person to an item. A finished book left on the window sill. A nearly empty, lukewarm bottle of Volvic water forgotten in the backseat floor of a car. I felt sad maybe because I wasn’t doing anything, or perhaps I felt sad and so didn’t want to do anything. Who knows? I read books, skimmed through half-written blog post drafts, watched old movies and cleaned. I very rarely spoke to anyone from outside my house.
I didn’t like the idea of barbecues, going to the beach, spending time with friends or anything of that kind. I just wanted to be left alone to wallow away in my unavoidable sadness and nostalgia. I’ve never liked making memories. ‘You might have Cherophobia’ a girl I used to chill with the Summer of last year always used to tell me.
*** 14 months earlier ***
“That’s bullshit. What kind of person has a fear of being happy? It’s not that.” I say, playing with two pebbles in one hand, holding a half smoked cigarette with the other. “Don’t be so quick to dismiss the idea. Okay, I explained it wrong – Cherophobic people don’t have a fear of being happy, my bad, but rather they are scared of something bad or tragic happening to them as a result.” She pauses briefly and looks up to a cloud with her eyes slightly squinted, as if trying to remember if that was the exact medical definition. At a loss, I say nothing and cue for her to continue her explanation.
“They believe that life and the Universe work like that; to keep everything fair, that when it’s right, something has to go wrong.” She had these funny hand gestural movements whenever she was trying to explain something. She was reasonably intelligent, and this always took people by surprise at first. They didn’t expect her to be as wise as she was, with all those piercing stationed in various places around her face and body, a half shaved head and tint blue hair colour. She spoke carefully and made sure to articulate almost every word neatly and fluently when she spoke, but this commonality of hers failed her whenever she got high.
I didn’t know her all that well, but I knew her father was a Psychology lecturer.
“So, what about people without homes or food, or families in war-stricken countries? Does the Universe ensure they, too, have a harmonic balance between life going right and wrong? ”
“It’s not a theology, it’s a psychological illness. If you’re that keen to understand cherophobics, read up on ’em.” she answers, to which I say nothing and toss the end of my cigarette to the side.
It definitely wasn’t Cherophobia. I had no fear of being happy, but during the past two summers, I just found myself incapable of being content. There was always this strange feeling of discontent and yearning I could not quite ignore. Like a sore on the inner side of your cheek or an itch at the back of your knee. After I finish my small breakfast I light a cigarette and smoke it while flicking through yesterday’s paper.
I tried to dissect the issue of my summertime sadness and figure out the psychological logistics to why I experienced it. But all my hypotheses remain fragmentary. I turn to him and ask him for help. I’ve approached him many times before with the same matter.
I remember once speaking to a family friend I referred to as ‘Uncle’, he told me that it’s very key to be able to be honest with yourself more than anyone else. “Reflect, be completely transparent with yourself, and often ask yourself the question ‘why’. In the same way you look at other people and question why they do things and wonder what draws them to make the decisions they make, also do the same with yourself.”
Undeniably, this resulted in being one of the most profound principles I had applied in my life. It’s become a habit to look deep into myself and question my own decisions and actions. I ask myself why, and answer myself without an iota of dishonesty or shame. The answer I give myself, from time-to-time, is rather embarrassing (surprisingly, it doesn’t take much for one to embarrass one’s self. A little bit of reflection with absolute honesty and you’ll find yourself shaking your head in shame at your own self. But you must be completely, entirely honest).
We don’t really take the time out to think about and study ourselves and the actions we take, so much so that when we do, with absolute honesty and shamelessness, we can be quite taken aback at what we discover about ourselves. There’s a certain way we like to look and think of ourselves, which, more often than not, doesn’t match how we really are, or how others perceive us.
When I say “him”, I’m really referring to myself, the honest, transparent self. The subconscious self which stands back and observes as I do the things I do and say the things I say. He knows why I do these things, He knows me better than I even my know own self, but somehow, he is still me.
I turn on the shower while undressing, thanking God for allowing me to carefully reach yet another summer’s end. I hope to myself that the summertime sadness will ease itself out of me, just like it did last October, and that I’ll find some genuine happiness and feeling as the trees shed their autumn leaves.