Sunday, March 1, 2015

Marriages and more....

When I logged back in, I realized that I am on the same topic!!! One of our close friends here - they have been our first friends in the US - we have been friends over 14 years now celebrating every happy occasion and holding each other through every trying situation. I am fortunate to have not two but seven eight couples of such friends and we are each other's extended families when we are so far away from our own. So we were beyond shocked when one day my girlfriend calmly posted on Facebook of all the places that she is getting separated/divorced from her husband of many years. This led to many phone calls and the situation turned out to be even more horrifying than the post out of the blue. It involved possible situations of mild schizophrenia for her where she thought he was spying on her, trying to kill her; she even went to the police station to lodge an official complaint. For common ordinary folks like us who spend our lives hoping to never have to get involved in the police or law systems - and she was one of us until this complete chaotic breakdown. For the past seven years she had been consistently talking about how she is tired/stressed out/wants to quit her job but never taken any steps in that direction. She was a VP at a good company at the age of forty, two beautiful kids, one cute dog, a beautiful beautifully decorated home, a husband with a great career, awesome family vacations; they were living the American Dream until these horrific few weeks end of last year when they turned into each other's bitter enemies and she proceeded to send him a divorce notice. Things are a bit calmer now with her having quit her job and both of them trying to sort things out but the suspended divorce and the trauma of the awful phase they went through looms over them; making it harder to forgive and forget.

P and I were involved in this whole drama as it unfolded and it has left me emotionally exhausted and questioning again what is love and when does a marriage actually break down??

I think it is practically impossible to always be turned on by your partner - Fifty shades of grey is really a fiction of imagination. Yes when you are newly married it will be fifty shades type lets jump into bed every five seconds but fast forward ahead - 17+ years of married life, couple of kids, struggling/demanding careers, kids activities, lean in type unnecessary expectations put onto oneself by oneself, and weakened physical conditions lead to exhaustion and lack of patience to absorb minor annoyances with your spouse or to be generous enough to forgive lapses in judgment and attention. Mostly all of us put our best foot forward at work, with our kids teachers, our kids even, with friends, slowly we are at the stage that our parents are getting older and need more attention and patience and so at the end of the day all that amazing patience explodes in the face of one minor comment/action or lack thereof by your spouse that sets you off. Some days one is so tired that you choose to ignore and go to bed just to wake up and start all over again. Other days you find yourself taking one more step away from each other.

It is so important to exercise control over your thoughts and to curb them and channel them in the right direction before it gets too late. To open your eyes and to recognize and appreciate the things your significant other does do instead of all the things you think he doesn't. And if you can't find anything to appreciate or be grateful about, at least just hug and kiss once a day. It's putting something in the emotional bank that is going to strengthen your relationship. So that one day you don't have a horrific realization moment when everything seems overwhelming and you find you have nothing left in common with your partner and you begin to think you could totally be happier without him/her.

We have one life to live and which of us even knows how long is it going to be?? We could die tomorrow or in another seventy years. But why should we live it substandard - if we cannot change our situations we can most definitely change how we react to it and I have always found that it in turn somehow then changes the original situation. Win win in any case.

I am struggling with my own demons and in no way am I spouting all these preachy wisdom because I am perfect. It is more of a reminder to myself :) I used to love this show - Downtown abbey. One of the characters once said that bad thoughts always come in everyone's minds but as long as you do not act upon them everything is fine. So do not feel guilty for your bad thoughts, indulge in them a few if it helps create an imaginary happiness for you but then also return back to reality and think about the small things you can change to make you happy and once you are truly happy the universe falls back in the right place. So take time for yourself to read and sip coffee quietly, definitely take time out everyday to exercise - ignore overachiever comments of "if you don't run 75 miles it's no use, you won't really burn any calories" and walk if that's all you can manage to do, any consistent baby step you take in the direction of your general fitness is going to be awesome, forgive yourself daily of all the things you think you should have done but couldn't, look at your partner and realize that men all over the world are pretty much the same and as long as you are respected, loved, provided for and appreciated (and maybe there are days on which you don't feel any one of these but as long as the good days outnumber the bad and you continue to voice your feelings and talk about change, it should work), and give a little more, be a little kinder be a little more loving to the one person in your life that if all goes well will be holding your hand till the end. Love yourself and others and be happy my dears :)

Thursday, August 7, 2014

What is love?

Lately there have been a spate of messed up relationships around me. I had always heard how divorces were on the rise in India but did not actually know anyone first hand who was getting divorced.

One situation is of a very dear long time friend, more like an older sister to me. She married her high school sweetheart. I am best friends with her sister and all of us friends would look up to them, stars in our eyes, with complete adoration. For us teenagers, this was what true love was, this was how couples should be, they were our role model of a couple in love and now husband and wife. They were/are both extremely attractive, fun and awesome to be around. And now they are going through a very rough period in their lives.

A good friend/colleague at work got divorced. He has two young boys - ages one and five; his wife left him with the kids and moved halfway across the country to go be a school teacher. Abandoning her own babies to go be a role model for thirty some kids of strangers. I see his struggle and attempt to be brave at trying to create a routine as a single father and internally cringe at the tough times coming his way :(

We have a whatsapp group of my high school friends and oddly one of our friend's husbands is a part of the group (my friend is not!). He calmly announced two days back via text - It is with great sorrow to inform you that M and I are parting ways. They have a nearly year old baby. This was a late marriage for both of them.

All around me I listen to my friends/colleagues complain about their spouses - some are just letting off steam, others have more deep rooted serious complaints, still others have resigned acceptance of their situation and are bound in the marriage by finances/kids etc. In my own personal life, I will not lie, there are days on which we both feel that the other person doesnt love/appreciate the other. And then I wonder what is love? Is there any such thing as a soul mate? Are there any couples that are deeply in love with each other 365 days a year? Do they always look across a room at each other and smile in love? 15 years after they are married?

In India, in my parents generation, when divorces were very rare, you just accepted your fate and went along; I have seen so many mismatched couples, so many, most of the time, women who have sacrificed their dreams/desires/feelings and live/die with the person they exchanged vows with. I wonder if they ever sat down and thought about whether their lives would be different if they would have parted ways? Best friend R pondered whether relationships have become so fragile nowadays that if you do not perform up to par like in a work environment, you will be fired (divorced)?

But then there are also those examples like another of my high school friends, she has some form of depression and is married to this extremely positive outgoing friendly guy. He loves to have friends over, loves to party, loves to travel, has this unending zest for life. And its been ten plus years of living with my friend, he still hasnt thought about leaving her. They do not have any kids yet and I wonder what ties him to her when all around there are couples parting ways even when there are so many things at stake. What binds them together?

I have realised that there are phases in your life - good and bad. If you are committed to your marriage, you just need to ride the bad phases out and try to make your relationship stronger to enjoy the good phases. It is a work in progress - this relationship, not one that you can take for granted. You have to work on it, work on yourself. Sometimes making time for yourself might be the best thing to do for your relationship. Sometimes making time for your husband might work. But it is definitely a work in progress. I am speaking from my own experience, from having married a complete stranger, a guy who is kinda opposite in terms of personality. I am not sure if this is true across the board.

I also think one person alone can never fulfill everything you need. There are different people in your life to satisfy different things. Work is for being appreciated, for satisfaction on a job well done, on earning your own money. Home and kids are comforting, loving, its safety and security. Best friends are for comfort and the exact words that you want to listen to when you are down. Eight times out of ten, your spouse is not going to say what you want to hear when you are upset, but best friends almost always will.

You have to look at the big picture and not sweat the small things. He doesnt ever take the initiative to hug you himself but spends hours scouring the internet to look for deals because you said you want to go to Mexico, okay, take it. Thats a sign of love too. Love can be expressed in different ways, accept it in whichever form you receive it and appreciate it. And on days that you are exhausted and know that every small thing is going to lead to a big fight, shut up, listen to music and dont give in to the urge to make a mountain out of a molehill. Go to bed without a fight and tomorrow is another day.

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!