Marriage and Club Misery

e&mMy grandma, Eleanor, passed a little over a month ago. I wrote about her the day it happened, blessed with the image of her passing surrounded by family and love. Grammy has been on my mind daily since. Our family gathered at her home the night before her memorial service and I spent a great deal of time going through and collecting photographs. Call me a hoarder or even obsessive, I don’t mind, I love pictures. I waste hours upon hours looking through photographs, taking pictures and editing pictures. For as much as I stress to others the importance of being in the present, I spend too much time stuck in frozen images from the past.

I never met my grandfather, my sister and I even commented last month about how awkward we sometimes felt not knowing how to refer to him. I don’t really know how he was addressed by his grandchildren, so I sometimes would say “my dad’s dad,” or “your husband” if I was asking Grammy about him. She did talk about him a lot too, often telling us how he would have loved us and how much he adored children. He died of a heart attack while my dad was in college. Grammy was never interested in dating or remarrying, she already had the love of her life, she would tell us.
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And even though I never saw them in real life together I know it was true. Grammy teared up talking about him sometimes, as if the decades since he had been gone hadn’t eased the grief she felt. I knew she still missed him desperately. During the memorial service family members talked about the love they shared, how they were always affectionate and caring towards one another. I still can’t wrap my mind around how she loved to iron his clothes just because it was for him, I do try to mimic the same enthusiasm for mundane tasks – trying to appreciate the ordinary.

Even without the stories, I know my grandparents were in love through the photographs I found in Grammy’s albums. Many of the pictures have one or both of them looking at each other instead of the camera, in many pictures his arms are around her squeezing tightly. Happiness and mutual respect exude from the black and white images. Their smiles are pure joy.

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My grandparents appeared to have the marriage everyone dreams of, they managed to stay dedicated to each other and their relationship. Was it just easier back then?

On Oprah’s interview with Jamie Foxx they got to talking about marriage. Without directly quoting, she said something about having a difficult time naming 5 couples she knows who have a “happy marriage.” Of course this statement made me ponder the same idea, how many couples do I know who appear to be happily married? Why is it so hard to stay happy in a relationship?

It’s as if married couples buy into Club Misery after saying “I do” and forget it takes work to create mutual satisfaction in a relationship. Friends can get carried away griping about their spouses, unintentionally creating a breeding ground for negativity in a relationship. On top of the social acceptance for the misery of marriage we are also tainted my social media distractions. There is less necessity to correspond with the love of your life when you can connect with whoever pops up on the Twitter or Facebook feed about the appealing subject of the hour. By the end of the day when significant others finally reach each other they have exhausted the day’s news with virtual friends.

I’m frightened for the next generation of individuals hopeful of finding love and happy marriage with a significant pattern being established of meeting and dating online. Manti Te’o, for example, maybe the only national story of this kind though he is certainly not the first to fall in love with a fake profile. The MTV show Catfish highlights even more of these cases, I can’t stop watching because I am shocked at how much people will trust in the hope for love.

e&m4So part of me wonders if my grandparents had it easier with their relationship in the era they fell in love? Or did their passion for family and love stems from some early struggles long before the internet. They did get married following The Great Depression, a time when Grammy’s family lost their business and had to close their stores. My grandfather was also drafted to World War II after Grammy gave birth to their first child. I wonder if these major life events helped to shape their relationship and reinforce what really matters the most.

Without being devastated by financial loss, being separated by war, natural disasters, illness or any other tragic events, what would it take for couples to focus on what really matters? Couples need to strive to love more, to be more devoted and to demonstrate more respect for marriage, it doesn’t have to be miserable unless you allow it.

Thorns From My Husband

Last week I came up with an idea for a post I wanted to write about the irritating statements my husband makes.  It’s incredible how a short concoctions of words can send me into a whirlwind of irrational, over-emotional turmoil.

I cleaned up.

I have a surprise for you.

Are you feeling better yet?

These are just three examples of phrases I hear from him which begin a cycle of madness in my mind, how to react, what to say next, what does this mean, etc…  It sounds insane, right?  Those three statements appear to be so innocent, even thoughtful perhaps.  Well lemme just fill you in on the context with which these endearing words are uttered.

First, speaking of cleaning up is generally stated because it would be entirely impossible to know otherwise any cleaning had taken place.  I’m guessing the majority of women can relate to being the cleaner one of their couple set, with the exception of my friend Crystal.  Crystal and her husband, Buck, are equally anal about their cleaning.  I would give a sliver of an edge to Crystal since she recently had lasik eye surgery and swears she can see the cobwebs on her ceiling I could not find with binoculars.

Unless your relationship is like Crystal and Buck or by some freak chance your partner is a better housekeeper, you can relate.  For example, a few weeks ago my daughter and I went up north and left my husband with the house to himself for three days.  Upon returning home I noticed additional clutter and a distinct odor.  Maybe my facial expression gave away my disgust even though I had already anticipated needing to clean when I got home.  “I cleaned up.”  He said.

And this is where my mind begins stirring – What did he clean?  And if he cleaned how bad did the house get over the weekend?  Do I praise him to encourage this behavior or would this demonstrate complacency with a lack of effort?  “OK, thanks.”  I mutter heading to the broom closet.  Maybe I should just be thankful he didn’t wipe out the Tupperware collection like my dad did when my mom went out of town one weekend in an effort to be helpful.

When my husband tells me he has a surprise, naturally I want to feel excited.  He tends to spring this on me rather often because he enjoys watching me squirm about it.  Instead of excitement in the anticipation, I find myself being bothered with trying to imagine what it could be.  There have been times I imagined some rather fantastic surprises, special dates and lavish gifts to come home to find my favorite juice in the fridge “SURPRISE.”  Now rather than creating a spectacular surprise in my mind I try not to even remember he spoke the word so I cannot be disappointed.  He is rather thoughtful and talented with his ideas, I just wish they came without the preemptive news flash to warn it’s coming.

And finally the questions “Are you feeling better yet.”  This is not a sincere curiosity of if I am under the weather.  This question is directed at me when he thinks I am upset with him for no good reason.  It seems like a stab at my perspective in a disagreement, as if I had no reason to be bitter towards him.  As if the whole disagreement was related to my mood rather then something he contributed to.  “Are you feeling better yet,” can almost always lengthen the duration of my anger about a situation and on the rare occasion I wasn’t upset this statement can just as easily put me there.

So…  Like I said, I intended to post about these phrases and end it there.  Except earlier this week I caught up with an episode of Super Soul Sunday when Oprah interviewed the author Michael Singer.  He wrote The Untethered Soul about finding inner peace and strength.  The following clip is a segment out of the show directly related to the issues I have had with things my husband says.

I haven’t read the book, though, now I know I need to.  There are many thorns I have with people and being irritated by what is said.  Seeing this part of the interview I recognized I have been making the choice to be disturbed.  I understand for the rest of my life I could be having internal conflicts about what to say when he mentions cleaning, no matter how many times I say “Don’t surprise me,” there will likely be another surprise, and the question of feeling better yet will probably not be put to rest either.  So damn Super Soul Sunday – to point out my wasted energy on waiting for others to change around me.  It doesn’t matter who is right or wrong, joking or flat out disrespectful – it’s my own thorn.  Next time I get the sensation of being bothered, my hands sweat, my thoughts turn to irrational questioning, my shoulders tighten and I’m ready to react… I will practice making the choice not to be disturbed.  Growth is hard and no one else can do it for me.

Abode of Peace

Rabindranath Tagore was a name I had never heard of before visiting India.  Not that I know all of the Nobel Prize recipients, or have heard of all the top influential poets, and I definitely don’t recognize every major historical leader’s names.  After stepping foot in Kolkata, it’s impossible to ignore the name Tagore.  He was a philosophical and spiritual leader through his literature and later through his University and world traveling.  His influence in West Bengal is undeniable, though his lessons in music and poetry continue to ripple throughout the world.

His family’s home is now a museum in Kolkata which we got to tour early in our travels to India.  Several weeks into our excursion we took a train to Bolpur and Santiniketan.  Tagore and his family traveled this same path many times as Santiniketan was their family’s second home.  Tagore’s father actually gave the name to the town with the translation meaning abode of peace.

Visva Bharati – Banyan Tree

Rabindranath Tagore built a school, which grew into a university in Santiniketan with the principle of learning with nature – or utilizing outdoor classrooms.  He named his school Visva Bharati and aimed at joining India with the world in arts, languages, philosophy and literature at his campus of banyan trees.  Not far from his university was another Tagore treasure we got to witness.  It is a river gorge with picturesque trees and red sandy earth, a scene Tagore used to treasure to escape to write.

Visva Bharati – Sewing House

Tagore’s Prayer House on campus

Banyan Tree

Tagore’s River Spot

Rural Bolpur, West Bengal

Rural Bolpur, West Bengal

In Bolpur, our group of students met with women who participated in micro credit programs.  Our teacher translated their statements and our questions to discuss how the system works and how it has helped them.  The women appeared to be full of pride to talk about how they are given a small loan in order to create a business and better their family’s

situation.  The women work to repay their loans within a year – making small payments.  Their yearly loan amounts range depending on their experience with the program and what they intend to do with it.  Some women purchase goats and sell their milk, some women use the loan to purchase supplies for making crafts or sewing clothing.

Although micro credit is intended to empower women and allow them an opportunity to create an income for their families, many women reported how the money they received as a loan went directly to their husband.

We were welcomed into the villages in Bolpur, women excitedly greeted us and proudly displayed their business ventures.  The energy of happiness was all around despite how it was apparent that everyone had so little.  The huts didn’t have running water or electricity, they had very little space, privacy or personal belongings.  Yet, the smiles shared between the residents of Bolpur and their foreign visitors exuded joy and contentment.  

A documentary film crew creating musical masterpieces from intertwining musicians from around the world also ended up in Bolpur & Santiniketan.  “What About Me,” has been shared as a series on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday.  One of the film makers and world traveler, spoke highly of the people of this community.  In the below clip he talks about how he thinks when people are good, friendly and kind enough to reach attainment they are reincarnated and sent to Santiniketan.

Turning 25 – My Indian Birthday

The experience of being in India, seeing the sights I was witnessing and learning life lessons through submersion in a foreign culture was an uncomfortable challenge.  I didn’t regret deciding to go, even when I was sick to my stomach, sweating through my clothes and barely making it to the toilet – even the second, third or fourth time this occurred.  One moment that was really hard for me was calling home on my birthday.

My boyfriend (now husband) didn’t answer his cell phone the first time.  After several attempts I finally got connected to hear he had just gotten off the boat with our friends at Lake of the Ozarks.  My friends hollered in their “hello’s” and “happy birthdays,” then they got off the phone to drinks and card games while I hung up the phone to cry.  The previous few years and the years following I spent with those friends at the Ozarks on or near my birthday, and at that moment in my humble Indian room all I wanted was to be at the Lazy Days in Condo with my friends.

Credit to Jesi for the pic.

Lucky for me the lonely feeling passed as I shared my 25th birthday with 7 new friends and created some unique birthday memories I, nor they, will forget.  It was no secret to the group, my instructor and I had some issues the week prior to my birthday.  Seemed the heat and stress of organizing the travels had gotten to her and somehow I became a target.  I will give her credit for making me feel special on my birthday, even if it was sort of as an apology.

Our instructor told us Amitabh Bachchan was her heart throb growing up in India and one of the biggest movie stars in India. Following my trip to India I have seen him talked about on Oprah as he is the father/father-in-law of India’s hottest Bollywood couple or India’s equivalent to Brad and Angelina.

Monday, June 11th, 2007 was a break in classes.  Our instructor took our group to a mall – a seven story dizzying paradise of shoes, perfumes, sunglasses, candy and jewelry.  Our agenda was not to shop, we were on a mission to catch a Bollywood film in the afternoon.  The movie theater was on the top floor of this westernized oasis; at the concession stand they offered egg rolls, veggie burgers, ice cream and more.  We had assigned seats like you would going to a concert or sporting event.  The movie was called Chenni Kum and starred Amitabh Bachchan, it was a taboo love story about an older man falling for a younger woman.  The movie was easy to follow even in Hindi, and maybe we didn’t catch all the same jokes, though we were laughing the whole time.

Credit to Jesi for the pic.

Following the movie we ate at a restaurant in the mall appropriately named Starstruck.  We were able to order pasta and garlic bread for lunch then devoured Baskin Robbins ice cream, resemblance from home which was much needed then.  My instructor even bought a cake for after dinner, I brought my own candle (a scented, stress relieving one I brought from home) down to the cafeteria.

This is the fifth post in my series about my adventures in Kolkata, India five years ago.  Feel free to look back on previous posts or check back for on-going recollections from places visited and lessons learned from this trip.

May 23 https://inspiredlivingkc.wordpress.com/2012/05/23/my-indian-summer/

May 27 https://inspiredlivingkc.wordpress.com/2012/05/27/step-one-assimilation-to-traffic/

June 2 https://inspiredlivingkc.wordpress.com/2012/06/02/india-maintaining-sanity/

June 3 https://inspiredlivingkc.wordpress.com/2012/06/03/lessons-in-love-the-mother-teresas-homes-kolkata/


Ahh conflict!

Okay, I will admit it I am addicted to Oprah’s new channel.  It seems like every show on OWN is drawing me in and I am glued.

Oprah’s Lifeclass is absolutely amazing to me, I am so appreciative that she is spreading a message to wake up and take control of your mind.  It seems that every episode that I have caught I am immediately able to connect to a personal experience.  One message in particular I struggled with for days.  She spoke about separating yourself from negative people in your life.  This would be people who continually take from you, cause conflict or stir negative emotions.  She suggested to make an effort to disconnect from those people and even stated that you could notify them and let them know why it is necessary for you to do it.

This would be necessary and very appropriate in many scenarios, however I struggled with this in my own situation.  What if there are other variables within the conflict or surrounding the person that you cannot disconnect yourself from?  For example, if you had a horrible boss that you struggled to deal with and it was with an incredibly rewarding job that you love.  In this case it would not be okay to quit the job in order to disconnect with the negativity surrounding the boss, right?

After watching the Lifeclass I sat with a cloud of confusion about how to disconnect from the person until a second OWN show came to the rescue…

Last Sunday I caught pieces of Super Soul Sunday.  Oprah was interviewing the author of Stroke of Insight, Jill Bolte Taylor.  She was a Harvard brain scientist and had a massive stroke.  The book was enlightening and the interview was the key for solving my disconnection dilemma.  Because of where Dr. Taylor’s stroke occurred, part of the recovery process included an absence of thought.  Her left brain chatter, as she put it, was completely quiet.  And the gift of this experience was realizing that she had the power to control her mind, quiet the thoughts and influence her emotions.

What I compiled from viewing these two shows and relating it to my own experience is that I cannot control other people or the conflict that occurs.  I can make sure that it does not consume me when it is not in my presence.  It’s true for me as I am sure it is for a lot of people, we end up dwelling on situations.  We revisit thoughts of what happened, how it happened, what it means and on and on.  I learned that I need to separate myself from negative people and when I cannot remove myself completely I can choose to remove the thought from my mind.  I have been more at peace with the negative situation this week than I have been in a long time, because when I become aware that I am revisiting it in my mind I notice it and the thinking stops.

Like a candle lit in my mind, if I don’t become aware of the thought it turns into a fire of negativity.  Now I am trying to notice a flame and blow it out early.