What Is Love? Baby, Don’t Hurt Me, No More.

What do you think marriage should look like?

I’m going to try my best to explain what I think it should look like. I believe that it should be a best friendship where there is love, respect, and trust with a lot of attraction mixed in. There should be understanding on an emotional level. There should be laughter and fun. There should be a belief that no matter what, you both are a team together.

So then why are there so many people out there making fun of their significant others? Why is joking about our marriage something that serves as way to bond with other people? Why is your spouse not held in the highest regard?

I understand that marriage isn’t always heaven. We show our worst to that person. Everything bad that happens in our lives will fall on the other person. They are our rock and our punching bag.

But isn’t degrading them in front of others disrespectful? Or is that just another way that people show their love towards their significant other? Maybe that is the bond between a couple, the ability to tease and make fun without resenting them. Maybe there are stronger people than I who can deal with this type of relationship.

For me, though, I can’t do it. I know that my husband and I will have to fight about things. I know that when the kids are exhausting, it takes a toll on us as a couple. As long as we can create some space to enjoy each other and continue to respect each other, I think we will be fine. But I don’t think I could survive being with someone who thinks putting me down is an acceptable form of affection. I might be too sensitive or I might just need something different.

I know we have all seen it throughout the generations and throughout different cultures. We have “husband” jokes and “wife” jokes. We hear this in wedding speeches all the time. There are stereotypes like the uptight wife or the messy husband that get reinforced over and over again. Can this change if we don’t agree with it? Why must this be the way to connect with others? Why can’t we use something positive instead?

I’d like to know what your thoughts are. I know that all marriages are different and have different bonds. I’d like to hear about what keeps your marriage strong. I’d like to also hear about what things you’ve heard between a couple that really irks you.

The Void

Have you ever been at a point in your life where something felt like it was missing? From the outside, everything looks and seems perfect but you just know it’s not. It doesn’t mean that you don’t appreciate everything you have but to be completely honest, there is a hole, a void that needs to be filled.

I know that I’m lucky. I have everything I could possible ask for and want. I have it easy on a lot of fronts. But there’s always been a part of me that needs more. It’s hard to say which area of my life needs to be filled.

This is something that we don’t talk about much. How many times have we gotten into a discussion with other people about feeling like something was missing? How many times have we talked about this feeling that something needs to change? We don’t. I know that when I have some adult time, I usually talk about the physical things happening in my life. It’s hard to express this void when everything I do have to say is already good. Maybe we talk about problems or issues we have with some part but again, it’s usually something that physically exists. This void is hard to explain. It’s hard to express in a way that others can understand. I hope I’m doing it some justice trying to explain it here.

In Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert says that “Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. And once you have achieved a state of happiness, you must never become lax about maintaining it, you must make a mighty effort to keep swimming upward into that happiness forever, to stay afloat on top of it. If you don’t, you will leak away your innate contentment.”

I have felt that happiness and inner contentment. And somewhere, somehow, it leaked. I can’t be the only one in the world searching for something. I can’t be the only one who has this need to fill this void. It took me a while to realize that I was trying to fill it with things that would never satisfy it. It’s like I have to come to terms with myself and where my life is now and find joy in that. I can also actively work to add substance to my life to help. But the void can’t be filled with superficial distractions. It won’t work.

It’s hard to keep up this effort. But my only choices are either to keep doing it to find the contentment I seek or to give up. I refuse to give up.

Why Don’t We Talk About It?

I met someone who was telling me about her journey to have her children. She was open about it which she mentioned was unusual for an Indian person.

She wasn’t wrong.

Why don’t we talk about it? I’m not just talking about things like miscarriages and infertility but also other things that we think are embarrassing or that we will be judged for in the Indian society.

Why should we be embarrassed? So many people go through things such as depression, therapy, divorce, miscarriages, in vitro fertilization, difficult births, and having a hard time adjusting to being a parent. The list goes on and on.

Why shouldn’t we talk about it? I’ve personally been through quite a few of these things and I try to be open about it because if my experiences can help one other person see that it’s normal to feel like this or go through this and it helps them figure out how to make themselves feel better, then it’s worth it.

We keep worrying about being judged by our community or society but seriously, what the hell? Who cares if some aunty talks about the fact that you had trouble getting pregnant? I promise you a fair number of the generation before us also had the same problems. So why do they believe that not looking like the “perfect” person is a bad thing?

As I said in Emotional Awareness- Yes, It’s A Real Thing, mental health is important. And as a South Asian Indian, we hide from our feelings. We try to play off that everything is always okay. Everything is not always okay. And most of us probably understand that even though we don’t share it. It’s a good thing to be able to recognize when you aren’t okay because recognizing that is a step to helping yourself.

It’s okay to not be happy 100% of the time. It’s okay to go through things. It’s okay to have physical and emotional health problems. And talking about it gives you a chance to finding a solution. It also gives you a chance to find a support system to lean on. None of these things makes you a worse person. None of them make you a weak person. Acknowledge and own what you are going through. Once you do, no one else’s judgment matters.

So let’s talk about it.

How Can I Become That Girl Who Has Everything?

Sometimes, I go through this thing where I want things to change but honestly, I don’t want to do any work to change them. Then, occasionally, motivation comes along and I manage to actually work on making the changes to help me achieve my goals. But, seriously, does it ever just seem like some people have it easier than others?

I know that everyone has a story we don’t know about. Everyone has “stuff”. It’s not necessarily the same as ours but it is there and it is valid. But still, it seems like things just fall into some people’s laps. You know that guy/girl. That one who has everything. That one who hasn’t really had a day of trouble or stress. That one who seems to have gotten everything handed to them and all the obstacles are usually more of a formality.

It doesn’t quite feel fair. Some people seem to have the looks, the intelligence, the talent, the personality. Why do I feel like I was shorted out on one or more of those things?

So what do we do? How can we make our life better? Happier? Perfect?

I don’t know for sure but I’m guessing that even almost all of those people had to work to get to where they are at. So that’s what we have to do. Work at it. If you’ve seen some of my recent posts about post-childbirth, I do talk about how I’ve been dealing with a lot of changes in my life and finding myself again has been work. I have been trying to put in my time though.

Life isn’t fair. And it’s not going to just hand you everything you want. You also have to find a way to appreciate the things that you do have. It’s so easy to see what you’re missing but, sometimes, you have so much that another person might really want in their life. Somehow, we have to learn to value these little things that do make things good for us.

Something my sister-in-law once said to me that stays with me all the time is “You are exactly where you are supposed to be”. It helps to ground me and make sure that I remember to live in the moment. Then, I don’t keep trying to watch what other people are doing and I only enjoy what I’m doing instead.

Life can be hard for most of us. It involves a lot of change that sometimes is expected, sometimes unexpected. We can only keep trying to improve ourselves and find our own happiness wherever we can. Once I start doing that, I might start seeing myself as that girl who has everything.

Don’t Let What Anyone Else Says Hold You Back

Due to a variety of experiences I had in my 20s, I got to a point where I believed I wasn’t lovable, I wasn’t good enough at choreography and dance, I wasn’t perfect looking, I wasn’t thin enough, I wasn’t the “ideal” anything. To be honest, I shouldn’t have let anyone make me feel like I wasn’t good enough. But it happened. 

It’s a hard thing to take when you feel as though the people who have seen you work hard day in and day out don’t believe in you. Being a second option or even worse, a last option makes you feel like you’re not worth anything. 

I felt like this until I decided to make my own path. I started working on projects with people that did believe in me. I walked away from situations that didn’t appreciate my hard work. I don’t know if those people ever realized how they made me feel but it was not a good place for me to be. 

I realized after I walked away that I was quite good at a few things when I had my freedom to really follow my passions. It was then I realized that I shouldn’t have let what anyone else said make me feel less than I really was. I wasn’t. I know that now. 

Don’t ever let anyone make you feel like you are worth less than you are. If you believe that you are good at something and you work hard at it, then it’s worth it. You’re worth it. 

Boundaries

Ahhh. The family life. Have many of you have heard that phrase “when you marry the person, you marry the family”? In the Indian culture, this is so true. There is no separation for the couple from the family. The couple becomes an extension of the family instead.

Now, this isn’t such a bad thing. I really like having a big family so having another group of relatives to hang out with is great.

But what happens when the family gets demanding on your time? What happens when they expect you to follow their rules of when, where, and what you should be doing? What happens when they call the shots without even considering what you need or are available for?

I’m pretty lucky in the sense that both sets of parents for me are really understanding about us having our own lives and knowing that we will make time for them as much as we can.

But I definitely am aware that, in this culture, this is rare. There are a lot of parents who expect a lot more than that from their children and their spouse. I don’t know if it’s worse if you are the son-in-law or the daughter-in-law. I think it probably depends on the situation and the relationship the child has with their parents to start with.

Let’s add one more complication. The expectation that we grow up with to be the perfect daughter-/son-in-law.

I think I was supposed to be able to cook everything, clean to perfection, have children, raise them, look perfect, have multiple talents, all while holding down a full time job after achieving a degree or two. I totally failed. I think I’ve accomplished maybe 2 or 3 of that long list. Maybe.

It weighs on me that I don’t fit the idea of perfection when it comes to being the daughter-in-law. But I know that I try my best and I keep going. And luckily, I don’t hear any problems about what I can or cannot do.

Unfortunately, some people do.

The solution to this is to set boundaries. It’s not easy by any means. It’s the only thing though that will keep you from going crazy. And if you have the support of your spouse, it will at least make it that much easier to be able to do this. Boundaries are meant to draw a line with regards to what is acceptable and what isn’t. If your parents or in-laws drop in whenever they want and expect you to drop everything to entertain them, then maybe you need to ask them about calling a day before they plan on coming over to check your schedule.

It won’t be easy. And honestly, it might be a battle on its own.

But, hopefully, in the end, it’s worth it.

Fair and Lovely

My husband found this article and thought it would be a good topic since this whole Miss America being Indian thing has generated a lot of controversy due to racist comments by ignorant people. 

Please read this before proceeding: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/asha-rangappa/miss-america-and-the-indian-beauty-myth_b_3941524.html

I like what this writer says in terms of America recognizing that true beauty really has nothing to do with the color of our skin. The fact that a darker skinned Indian woman born and raised in America won really shows how much it doesn’t matter. 

But this is just one aspect of what is being judged. Here is my issue. I’m brown. There’s no getting around it. I’m not dark, I’m not light. I’m just brown. But I also have super curly hair and curves and definitely do not weigh 110 lbs or less. So where is the discussion on the rest of that? 

When I was 18, I remember telling a friend of mine that guys only check out girls with straight hair. At this time, straighteners were just starting to get popular. It wasn’t common yet. And to be honest, I really felt this way. I felt that every guy I came across went for the straight haired, super thin Indian girl. And I can’t say that I didn’t join this crowd. When I was 21, I layered my hair and started wearing it straight on a regular basis. It’s not until recently that I actually realized that I loved my curly hair and it was something that non-Indian people tend to pay a lot of money to get. 

The reason I bring this up is because many Indian girls do not have straight hair. So why aren’t we proud of that being a part of who we are? 

Another aspect of this contest that I’m having issues with is that every single girl is usually under a certain weight. I’m all for healthy. But I’ve always been curvy regardless and even when I was at my lowest weight, I never looked like the women in a beauty pageant. 

Let’s talk about old Indian cinema. The woman in it had big fluffy hair and fantastic curves and held up her own. I’m waiting for that to come back into style. But what happened now? Everyone has perfect hair all the time and these super perfect bodies (“Perfect” is all an opinion as well). So how much of that is America’s influence on Indian’s cinema? 

I guess my point is that while I applaud the Miss America pageant for stepping out of its box and choosing someone who is truly American regardless of her ethnicity, I still have issues with the ideal look that a “beautiful” woman should have. And I think that India has been influenced by America in terms of what that ideal look is. 

When the winner is someone that I can fully relate to, I will feel like things have changed. Here is to one stepping stone at a time.