Thursday, September 26, 2013

Some wounds run deep..


"My dear,

You are my darling.Typing this for the tenth time todat,Getting disconnected."

"I dont think I can survive your absence now."

Words...and more words....thirty pages in my yahoo account - pages after pages of emails, I dont even know how many over the past couple of years but words and more words and a thousand "I love yous". I love yous and Darlings. And he has left me again, without another look back at me. These words wash over me like waves, like shifting sands, every day that passes takes me further away from the countless phone calls and the emails till I feel like there will come a day when I will wonder if I imagined it all. Because he has left me again. Walked away without looking back. Again.

Bye Dad. Yes, I am a wimp and I accept apologies quickly and I am quick to forgive and I have an inherent default setting of wanting to preserve relationships and my husband and best friend are convinced that I will let you back in my life and my heart if you ever decide to come back, but today I will learn from these wounds and learn from my unshed tears and my broken heart and WILL NOT let you break it again.

I am still in disbelief that a person can value his own blood so low. Still in disbelief that a man can walk away from his child again and again. Still in disbelief that someone can say and express such love and then turn their back in the same breath.

I have always seen men whose love was true, whose words meant something, who did what they said so I am still in disbelief over you and so immensely grateful for the others. My father - there is a Shahrukh Khan movie - the actress says "Tuzh mein rab dikhta hain" (I see God in you), I see God in my father. This kind gentle man who fought for me when I was a baby, took me away to live with him and gave me a name and stood by me like a rock (and still does) all my life. I see God in him. And it would indeed be a great disservice and heights of ungratefulness if I cried over you. So I wont. I will count my blessings and think of you as some evil deed from my prior life which had to be repaid in a broken heart and soundless sobbing. Because you have left me all over again. And this time you did have a choice. And you once again didnt choose me. All over again.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Life is a roller coaster ride

Its ups and downs, ups and downs...and then you suddenly realise someone would gladly trade your downs - they are super ups for them compared to their downs - you get what I mean.

I have two fibroids nestled in the walls of my uterus - my gynecologist pretty much said that we cant do anything about it, it is a tendency, they will come, cause pain and then go and all we can do right now is monitor. It is genetic and my birth mom and her mom both have had uterus removal operations at some point of time and I am destined that way too from my tendency to create fibroids :) So painful periods is what I am going through right now..

R hates her new school. She has always been a difficult child with transitions. Everyday its something different - the first day, some boy sat next to her on the bus and told her as she was Indian and he didnt like Indians, he didnt want to sit by her and just because he had no choice, he was. The next day another boy said the corn in her lunch box smelt like someone had farted and she quietly closed the lid and didnt eat a bite. The third day the same boy asked to see her stinky lunch and then spit in it, so once again the lunch box came home uneaten. Poor child! Despite all this she is happy and then breaks down and then happy again and I keep watching her unable to figure out if she is having a bad day or a good one.

P hates his work, he graduated in one thing, did his Masters in another, worked in a similar field, went back and got his MBA in a third, switched fields again and is unhappy now. Has been unhappy for the past six years and makes excuses to change his situation. I miss my husband - the one who was confident and happy. I see him now and he always seems to be overwhelmed and steps away from saying - everything sucks. I had a fight with him last night and he immediately went into "I cant make my parents happy, I cant make my sister happy, I cant make you happy, I hate my job, I wont get another job"....sighh...

There is a mountain of dishes in the sink and loads of laundry to put away. All I want to do is win the lottery and go away somewhere - be free of all responsibilities and routines.

Then when its midnight and I am crying in self pity over my petty issues, I meet a friend who is bravely facing real ones and it is like a slap to reality. Her husband is fighting blood cancer and she is one of the strongest most positive people I know. No one can guess from her FB posts of what she is going through.

And then I say another prayer to thank God for giving me petty issues to fret over and promise myself tomorrow will be better and go to sleep.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Cheers to a good visit

Yay!! My in laws left today. And no this Yay is not for them leaving but more for “We had a good visit without any big drama”. I definitely do not take sole credit for this, they also came half way to meet this goal. Especially my mother in law.

My father in law is very picky about his food, he wants it to be done a certain way, with certain ingredients etc. Many times what’s available for everyone is not good for him. In prior visits, it was me who would listen to his special instructions and get annoyed but not be able to say anything. Then I did the smart thing and transferred responsibility to my husband. He is their son after all and even if he displays annoyance or argues, it won’t cause as much pain as a single word spoken by a daughter in law. Then this visit, my mother in law coached my father in law that he was to make his own food if he didn’t agree with the common meal. And that he did, and it took away so much of the stress. Either he made his own things or my mother in law did it, according to his specification.

Then there was my resolve to not expect any appreciation from her or to ignore obvious instructions. I did not cook anything for the whole time they were here. We had a cooking Aunty come over on Sundays who prepared the weekly meals. It once again made my life easier. With two young kids, a full time demanding job and a pretty busy social life, I really have no time to cook and then to face critique for my cooking. I did miss cooking and that is one thing I have to get past for future successful visits. How not to feel bad for critique offered and stories of my sister in law’s fab cooking and not to expect anything for my own efforts? It is something I need to work on.But for the most part, it was a good visit and I am so relieved.

What had made it work is for my husband to have stepped it up. He was more involved in taking care of both his mother and his wife; in prior visits, he had dumped the whole relationship thing on me alone and stayed away, what also worked was a fervent wish for both my mother in law and me to make it work – I could see her desire for having a harmonious relationship too, what works in small ways is also to hear my parents speak well of my in laws and to give me another side – the in laws side, the older parents side of thinking about situations and what also worked was the fact that I am super busy with work and family. I am also making time to read spiritual works and attend Sunday school. To keep an open mind and to be less judgmental and more forgiving and to focus on the right things. To let go of the bad and focus on the good.

They will come back next year for my sister in law’s delivery and will stay with her for six months. Baby steps to creating harmony. Am I ready to move in with them forever – hell No, this was a month and a half and it went well, but I will take anything to help build a stronger future.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Imperfect perfection

I am happy to announce that I have finally reached a comfort setting with my mother in law. They are both also making a stepped up attempt to help out this visit. Both my girls can stay home for a month and enjoy their summer time off as my in laws agreed to watch them and spend time with them. For my part I make sure food has been cooked and they are not burdened with other chores and can only play with both girls all day, which sometimes is a big job in itself. I still continue to ignore my mother in law’s obvious advice – an example: keep wet clothes separate from the dry ones otherwise everything will get dirty (when changing my girls at the beach) (I have been married for 13 years and we have taken countless beach vacations and I am by nature very organized and handy). I do realize that it’s her inherent nature; she just has to give advice all the time. I don’t think that she even stops to think about the nature of the advice and her audience. It pops in her head and out her mouth. And I ignore, don’t even respond but carry on to other things. We have found our comfort setting and I am so grateful for it.

As I grow older, I have also realized that one shouldn’t insist on any perfection. Is anything perfect in life? Every seemingly perfect image has some adjustment. So this is perfect for me – my kids are happy, my in laws seem happy and I am happy and at peace and by default due to all this, my husband is happy. What more do I want?

My birth father has stopped being in touch. I am sure he is extremely busy and hasn’t gotten to his email. But he has a phone and my numbers and can easily afford international calls. But I have grudgingly accepted the truth – I do not matter to him. I matter to him when he is free and has free time on his hands. He will not put me on his priority list of people while I have put him right up there next to my parents. Time to reshuffle the priority listing. Again is this a perfect ending? No. But I will take it. I got to know my birth father, I appreciate my adopted one a zillion times more, I know God is watching out for me every step of my way, I cannot express my gratitude enough for blessing me with such fantabulous parents. I stand strong today because of their arms which have held me up.

Things are super hectic at work with looming deadlines. At home, both girls are home and a nephew is going to visit for a week. Between work and home and making sure everyone on both fronts are happy, the stress gets to me some days. But I am actively reminding myself of how blessed I am and shake it off and go about doing the things that need to be done with a smile.

One of my friends is due with her first child any day. And she got the worst news that any child would dread to ever hear – her mother passed away. You always need your mother but you need her critically at critical moments in life. I feel that having a child is one of those. I knew she is scared and had kept saying that she wouldn’t be able to do it without her mother and now she has no choice. Life is so cruel. This friend also lost her young brother in an accident. I sat at my desk, tears streaming down my cheeks, in shock. I don’t know why some people have to face so much injustice and so much cruelty in life.

It also brought a renewed round of gratitude and realization for how blessed I am. Whatever little annoying attributes my mother in law has, one thing is for sure;she loves all of us whole heartedly. And she is my husband’s mother and they love each other. Only for that everything else is acceptable.

Hug your kids, your spouse, your significant other, your parents, your siblings, your best friends, even your colleagues, your mailman, your nosy neighbors – be grateful, stay blessed.

Monday, July 29, 2013

80-20 rule

The Pareto principle (also known as the 80–20 rule, the law of the vital few, and the principle of factor sparsity) states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes (Wikipedia). Likewise in my life, I feel that 80% of my unhappiness comes from people who form 20% of my core support structure. I attribute undue importance sometimes to some things, situations and words.

My birth dad's son is visiting him from Canada and a piece of me already knew that he wouldnt be in touch while his son was home. But I still waited for his emails, his phone calls. I sent him my half marathon pictures, no response. I knew and I still felt bad. I know I do not have a place in his life, I am always someone he will turn to, when he has time or the whim to write and I still expect and still feel bad. What does this man have to do with my life anyways except for biologically being the reason I am here today. He has turned his back and walked away from me and our paths would never have crossed in our lives had I not gotten up and changed the course. I am done with trying to nurture this relationship, always taking the efforts to stay in touch, always calling, always writing. I give up. I accept the harsh reality that I do not matter to him. As I do not have the courage to completely shut him out of my life, I can at least change myself and stop expecting and treat it as an acquaintance relationship..

Nowadays I feel that people never change. It is very hard to get someone to change. Try to change yourself and you will find out. But what you can do is to make sure you do not allow yourself to get hurt over and over. Choose your own strategies to make sure you can stay happy and make the best of the situation.

My strategy with my mother in law is working very well for me. I do not know what she thinks or feels. But I have long given up trying to make people happy. I am actually seeing her in a new light. Once I have decided that none of her comments/words are directed at me personally, its almost like having an out of body experience and watching a movie. I have observed her and the remarks she makes and realised this is who she is. She will not change. You cannot teach a person to be at peace. For some, mental turmoil and dissatisfaction is inherent. I am also trying very hard to shed my ego. I have accepted it to be a given that she will always praise food made by someone else and I will never have a good word for all the hard work I do. I have just accepted it. Even if she might think it, the thoughts will never be transformed into words. I actually feel bad for her. I wish she had close friends and family who would steer her in the right direction, teach her how to be happy and at peace.

I have also decided to be realistic about myself, my strengths and my limitations. Everyone has 24 hours in a day. How you choose to distribute it is up to each person. Who you choose to focus on, what thoughts you allow yourself to consume with, whether you allow enough time for prayer and meditation, if you just sit down and laugh with your children; its all up to you. I am done trying to have everyone in my life like me.

My parents always say that I am an excellent child, an excellent daughter to them. We are perfectly in tune. P's Uncle and Aunt say I am a wonderful daughter in law; the daughter they never had. But would my birth mother or mother in law say the same thing? For different reasons of course. I have never been the daughter that my birth mother wanted - the obedient diligent daughter who would have agreed and listened to all her directions without a question asked. I do not regret it - even if it was the price of our relationship. I have never been the daughter in law that my mother in law wanted. Actually I am not sure anymore what she wants except for me to say "Stay here with us and do not go back to India". I think I know what would make her happy - asking her recipes, standing at the stove and asking her to direct me and cooking under her eyes, listening to all her self focused stories and appreciating them. And I am trying it in baby steps but it is not what interests me and therein lies the problem. I have given up trying to make her happy. All I hope for is to move towards a relationship where we are comfortable in each others presence and I do not get upset by her words.

Life gets hard sometimes with unmet expectations, unreturned love, politics at work, challenges with your children, the struggle to make time for your spouse, trying to focus on your own body and mind and then after all this too, sometimes I feel what have I done for my community or for my spiritual advancement, its a thousand things to do and not enough time. But it is necessary to take a deep breath and count out the handful things that mean the world to you, for which and for whom everything is worth it. And then shift your focus on them and let the others fade into the background. My husband, my children, my parents, my best friends, my siblings, my physical health, my mental health......I count my blessings and realise I am the happiest person on earth!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Saas bahu episode 1

My in laws arrived with a bang last Friday. On Friday morning, I left for work at 6:45 am, turned the corner and when the sun hit my face, tears streamed down and my left eye just refused to stay open. It was very strange and I was freaked out. I finally drove home slowly and felt wiped out! I lay down on the sofa for a long time. I had to drive out to work in the afternoon to attend some meetings. After that it was a whirlwind as usual, pick up the kids, make milkshakes for both, drive to R’s Bharatnatyam class, rush back and cook dinner. Baby S helped pick basil leaves from our garden and I made pesto sauce and sautéed some onions and red peppers and threw together some pasta for us. Made special rice and peanut curry for the in laws who were on a fast. I also cut mangoes and put out the coconut water that I had bought for their fast. As I was setting up the table, they arrived and sat down to dinner soon after.

My father in law started eating and was chatting with me about my preparations for my upcoming half marathon. My mother in law sat down and barely had eaten her first bite, all hell broke loose. She started saying “The rice is just slightly undercooked” (repeated 13,458 times) and yelled at my fil to stop eating and give her his plate so she could put it into the microwave and “correct” my cooking. Followed by “I am not saying just to criticize you but we are home and we should be able to say what we want, and why should we eat slightly undercooked rice blah blah…..on and on followed by her stories of how she had popped her perfectly cooked rice in the microwave against her sister’s wishes to cook it further as her sister is older and needs soft food and then how her sister was so happy with her. Followed by “Everyone makes a mistake, its fine!”. I just sat back in shock, dead tired and slowly the anger rose in me. This lady could not see how tired I was, or appreciate how I had taken the effort to cook their special meal and think of additional things like cutting up fruits and buying coconut water. There was no gratitude expressed or acknowledgment of my care but she just re affirmed why I know our wavelengths wont match.

Instead of creating this big hue and cry, she could have gotten up diplomatically and “cooked” her rice to whatever consistency she wanted. Also if something needed a quick pop into the microwave for under a minute, it was obviously cooked in the first place. Or she could have said “Its nice, but I need a bit more softer so I will pop it into the microwave a bit longer”. Anyways….. I was so upset – more stories followed of how she had smart ideas, how my sister in law and her husband were so happy with her wisdom and I was done.

I went upstairs and cried and cried and P came by and walked away upset and I then lay down on my bed and the room started spinning around. I am mighty embarrassed that I have turned into one of those feeble women that they show in old Hindi movies where the doctor advises the family members to treat her delicately or she will have a heart attack. Its my resolve to strengthen my mind against such incidents now. Later on, she came over and started crying and said how I was like her daughter and she didn’t want a repeat of last visit and that she thought she should just say frankly etc etc.

I thought about it later – there is no one bad here. Its what you think. For my mother in law and I am sure my sister in law; this incident is me being extra sensitive and getting annoyed for being told “frankly” that my rice was not up to par. For me, it was a situation of bad manners and an attitude of entitlement and zero appreciation and wrong use of words. I never tout myself as an expert cook, all my dishes are a hit or miss, sometimes they are incredible, sometimes too salty or just blah. But one thing I do not lack is care and concern. And all the people I know and love, appreciate it. Whenever P’s Uncle and Aunt come over for dinner, Aunty always is appreciative of the fact that I rush home from work and whip together a meal for all of us and serve it with love. Another important thing is that you can give five women three potatoes each and same ingredients and they will end up cooking five differently styled potatoes. And you could have them swear to their own dish being the “only” way to cook it and perfect.

The next day I woke up and spoke nicely to them, even offered her to accompany me on my grocery store visit because I know how much she enjoys going out. But I have realized that our wavelengths do not match at all. Most of our conversation is incredibly one sided with her telling me stories of either her own smartness and expertise in cooking or my sister in law’s. My sister in law is definitely a good cook. I do listen to my mil’s stories and praise her but I cannot go beyond 15 minutes of conversation, beyond 15 minutes of saying non stop “Oh how nice, that’s a great idea, you are good!” etc. Now I have decided to ignore or simply not respond when I receive unsolicited advice that is so obvious that I feel – why is she even feeling the need to tell me this. And because of the way she delivers her words, they sting everytime.

Just a simple silly example is – I oil my daughters’s hair every weekend and I had sent R into the shower and was running around gathering her clothes and other stuff. Its our routine, she loves the shower and she happily sings in it and gets all drenched and then I go put shampoo in her hair. My mil accosted me on the way and accusingly scolded me “What!!! She is taking a shower by herself!??!! Arent you going to go put shampoo on her hair, she is not old enough, how will the oil come out??” Ignore and walk away is what I did. R is 6 ½ years old and has had countless head baths since she was born and I have an IQ slightly above average and have managed to keep my family alive (and oil free) on my own. I need not answer that outburst.

So now we are all in a peaceful harmony as much as we can manage. I do not respond to advice or questions that I think are completely ridiculous or condescending but I do not shut down conversation. I chat about other topics, ask them how their day was and make sure everything they need is bought. I have also told P to step up and assume primary responsibility for his parents.

One baby step at a time to a better relationship….

In other news we ran the half marathon again, more on that in another post…

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Love yourself

I have two little girls - two beautiful little girls. My six year old is already in the fragile self esteem phase - checking herself out in the mirror at every opportunity, hating her naturally wavy hair. If her hair will be straight in the morning or not is the biggest stress she has before she goes to bed. And did I say she is six?

All through my childhood I was considered to be pretty. My best friend who is a stunning beauty always said that I had the most beautiful skin she had ever seen. My parents always praised me and it was a given that any color would look good on me given my fair complexion etc. Beauty is indeed in the eyes of the beholder. I used to have my front two teeth overlapping each other. Uptil the point of meeting my in laws and P, everyone I knew raved about how my smile was so natural and sweet. My father always said our quirks made us unique or we would be all the same.

On my in laws side both my husband and sister in law have perfect straight teeth thanks to orthodontic treatments rendered in their childhood. My father in law asked that I get braces done after we got engaged/married. This point was brought up in every conversation that we had. My mother in law told my mother and a close relative that she had asked her son - do you want to marry this girl? Her teeth are not straight, she has some problem with her eyes (I have a slight Shashi Kapoorish squint) and she is adopted and that her son said Yes, I want to marry her. I don't know if this was supposed to be a compliment or a slap or both or one disguised in the other. Over time I have realized that my mother in law is not the best communicator - maybe she doesn't mean some things but they come out wrong.

Newly married I looked at myself through my husband's eyes and had the first huge hit to my self esteem. My teeth bothered him (many years later I got an expensive orthodontic treatment done and now I have a perfectly aligned teeth smile), my weight bothered him and does to this day - his mother and sister are size zeros and below; they both barely eat a roti and me, eating with gusto was a shock to him, my wavy hair bothered him. My self esteem took hit after hit. I was so confused - I thought I was great - my friends and family say so then why don't I have a husband who is dizzy crazy in love with me. He was/is in love with me, don't get me wrong but it wasn't the blind throw yourself in love kind of love. It was measured and always realistic and critical and full of recommendations for how I can improve myself.

Down the years we also had to face many many tough situations and he unfalteringly stood behind me and held my hand and had my back as required. I also realized that this is who he is and this is how he is brought up. His mother is also prone to seeing the bad in situations and people - they are not simple satisfied happy people. There is always something that nags them stresses them. Roses have no smell, something is not sweet enough, grandchildren are not affectionate enough, there is no curry in the meal - the list goes on and on. My father in law on the other hand is always at peace. He has his own world but he keeps himself mentally and physically occupied.

As we try to coach our older daughter who has inherited most of these qualities to always see the good in people and situations, to appreciate and be grateful and to express affection and contentment; it's a revision of all these thoughts for us too.

As women, I feel that we are prone to self doubt, guilt and emotions; I will make sure my babies first and foremost learn to accept and love themselves and believe in themselves and not ever rely on any other person for it. My dearest children, I will always be in your camp cheering you on, saying that you are the smartest, prettiest , awesomest girl ever but I need you to believe it yourself and not ever let anyone bring you down anyday.