It’s nice to look into the eyes of your partner and know that you have found a safe haven, a person who accepts you for just yourself. That you have found someone who will never play a game of tit for tat with you and horror of horrors, start keeping score on your relationship.
Well, I hate to say it. I don’t know when it all happened during my marriage, but at some point, I became an avid score keeper. Relentless.
At first, it wasn’t like that at all. There didn’t seem to be too many things to keep score over. Early on we found our cadence over things both simple and hard. We easily figured out how we would split holidays amongst our families and how we could support each other at work. Work travel schedules were tightly coordinated and in the absence of children and any really big problems, we could afford to be generous with the leeway we gave each other.
Who was keeping score? It certainly wasn’t me.
Until, well… Something shifted. If John went out for a few drinks with some of his friends, or played soccer in his indoor and outdoor leagues at night or went away for a guys’ weekend, I would slowly start to build these resentments. Over time these resentments were full on earthquakes of fury. We weren’t in a position where both of us could do these things at the same time. Someone had to be responsible and hold down the fort. So I started to simmer. And when he came home from work to tell me that he couldn’t hang out because it was his fantasy football draft night, you might understand why I wanted to throw the lasagna I had raced home from work to cook in his utterly confused face.
His confusion could have been caused by why I seemed so angry. Or it could have been about why I was yelling like a crazy woman over the lasagne instead of just eating it like a normal person would do. Regardless, he was rightfully confused.
I could start to feel my foundations shift a little and the nuggets of resentment I harbored made way for the beginnings of some basic score keeping. But like a faultless martyr, I held on to these toxic resentments. When I communicated about my feelings, I came off as irrational because allthesefeelings were just so hard to explain to my happy go lucky husband who seemed to be able to do it all.
And then the babies came. Well, first one. Then another. And you should have just bought be a scoreboard right there because I was no longer living a life in which points weren’t being wracked up against me. Though we both worked, I often felt that when something happened with the kids, it was my duty to drop everything and run, even if it compromised my position at the office. With the limited time we now had, girls nights out with my friends became a rarity as did a lot of my extra-curricular activities. I’m not saying, he didn’t give up things along the way to make things work for our family, but in my mind, it felt like he was making less sacrifice and I was carrying the burden of his now frenetic travel schedule, increased demands on his time with coaching both our kids’ soccer teams and all the things I feel like he signs us up for.
He doesn’t get why I don’t want to run from a flag football game to a soccer game to another soccer game throughout my Saturday. He doesn’t understand why he has lost major points in volunteering to coach both our kids’ teams which also involves mid-week practices, something which I feel we barely have time to acknowledge, much less help run.
So that’s where I am. I am in a place in my life where I alternate between being reasonable, simmering, deducting points off a non-existent scoreboard for all the ways in which I feel like I have been wronged.
Healthy, isn’t it?
It would be alright if it all stopped there and I was just tallying score someone innocuously, with a running tally to show my true martyrdom. But the reality is far different. I keep score and I get angry. I snap. I snarl. I sometimes say really ridiculous things that make no sense even to me. But the truth is that I do find myself angry. Snapping and snarling is not where I wanted to be with my husband.
I’m coming to realize that my marriage is not a Weight Watchers diet and all this point counting and taking is doing nothing productive for John and me, because we are ultimately on the same team. My points are his points and his points are mine. Until we recognize that, I’m probably going to continue to take score. We need to realize how to balance things so we both feel like we can be individuals without having to take score every time we feel a little bit of our individuality slip away from us.
So for now, I am granting John amnesty from all the points he has accumulated over the years against him. I am sure he is ecstatic. Maybe happy enough to go out for some drinks with his friends.
But that’s ok, this time, I won’t be counting.
When I was so little, that I could hardly see above the kitchen table, I viewed the world as good. I believed that my parents could keep me safe and that if I did what I was supposed to do, that I would be alright. The world seemed to make sense and when I went to bed at night, I took comfort in the harmonious balance of good around me.
When my eyes could see over the table, or maybe sometime around then, my views started to change. I started to realize that you didn’t just get treated a certain way because you did the right thing. I started to realize that the way people saw each other dictated how they processed their actions. Two people could do the same thing, but the lenses people used could distort the actions of one of those people, especially if they didn’t like the look of that person.
I started to realize this because I was different. And I was treated very differently. And maybe that’s a good thing, because it always made my eyes see.
When my eyes were mature enough to read a book about Martin Luther King, I cried. I cried because this fight that this amazing man had fought, did not feel so foreign to me. Yes, it happened before I was born, but it didn’t mean that it was long ago. It didn’t mean that the hatred that made those atrocities possible during the Civil Rights Movement had been eradicated. That hatred was still there, often hidden under a veil of civility that could be threatened if the wind blew in the wrong direction.
My eyes could see that hatred was there and that civility was sometimes tenuous at best.
And so my eyes turned to the news. And year after year, the incidences of cases of mistrials against young, black men seem to increase. The statistics on the number of black men who received exaggeratedly harsh sentences in comparison to their white brothers who committed similar crimes seemed inflated. Let’s not even touch on the number of black men who have died and will die under the death penalty in comparison to their white counterparts. This is not South Africa during apartheid, I would think. This is not the time of the esteemed Martin Luther King. These things can’t be happening.
This wasn’t his dream.
This is a nightmare, in fact.
Ferguson is a town in Missouri and it may seem very far away from many Americans. The reality is, Ferguson is not that far from any of us and what is happening there epitomizes America to it’s core. You can’t take a country and look only towards the good and not acknowledge the massive, bleeding wounds that can be recreated in any number of cities across this it. What’s equally scary about what happened in Ferguson is that these incidents are becoming all too familiar to America.
“Another black boy shot?”
“Oh, not this again.”
Yes, this. AGAIN. And AGAIN.
Except this time, the full horror of hearing that a boy was shot execution style by a police officer even after he put his hands up in the air, couldn’t go ignored. This is America. Michael Brown was an American boy. Americans cannot sit back and allow this kind of injustice to take place if we want to believe we are a country that respects and protects freedom for all. There is no way that this young man should be lying in his grave for whatever crime they are looking to connect him to. A pack of cigarettes, my ass.
There was a time when this young man couldn’t see over the table and hid behind his mother’s skirt as he navigated a roomful of strangers. There was a time where he went to bed at night believing that the world was good and kind to those who did what they were supposed to. Before he learned that he would be judged and looked at and sometimes dismissed by the color of his skin, he believed that he was special, because he was.
The protesters who are out there today are saying what I hope every American is fighting for in their heart. While this includes a plea for justice for Michael Brown, it also encompasses the hope that we do everything we can to prevent another boy from becoming the next Michael Brown.
And the hope that every child can believe as long as they can that the world is a fair and safe place.
Today’s post was written by a friend of mine, fellow blogger Sheryl Parbhoo, who you can find at Southern Life, Indian Wife. According to Sheryl, she is “born and bred in the South, I am as American as they come. My shoulders burn after 30 seconds in the sun, I love fast food, and the only language my ancestors ever spoke was Southern. I am also the wife of an Indian man, who is paradoxically as Indian and as American as they come. His arms turn black after 30 seconds in the sun, he loves fast food and his mom’s food, and speaks or understands five languages, including “Redneck.””
I asked Sheryl to come and bring her voice over to Masala Chica to share it with our readers over here. I hope you enjoy her authenticity as much as I do. Today she asks if any mom can have it all, inspired by Pepsi CEO Indrani Nooyi’s recent musings on the subject.
Can any mom have it all?
I recently read online Why PepsiCo CEO Indra K. Nooyi Can’t Have It All, where Nooyi admits her own faults as a mom trying to balance career success with motherhood. What she said made the insecure stay-at-home mom in me doing a little mom-jig. She may be wealthy and successful, but she isn’t a great mom, either. All the years of insecurity about missing my calling as a career woman faded. I haven’t had it all, but she hasn’t either.
Fifteen years ago, I stood in a mall elevator with my four small kids, smiling back at a middle aged woman next to us. My newborn twins napped in the double stroller, my older kids held onto the side of the stroller as instructed, and I rummaged through the diaper bag for my phone.
Elevator woman gazed benevolently at the babies, “Aw, how old are they?”
“The twins are six weeks and,” I patted my son and daughter’s heads, “five and three.” The woman nodded politely and gave a little wave to my daughter who peered from behind her new stuffed puppy. Then, my son started banging on the buttons, my phone rang on full volume and both babies screamed awake. As I searched for pacifiers, the doors opened and my son and daughter bolted out.
Elevator woman said as she held the door for me, “Wow. Better you than me. If I were you, I’d shoot myself in the head.”
Yeah, she really said that.
Needless to say, the choice to stay home and raise four kids came with judgment from a spectrum of elevator people, movie theater people, waiting room people, neighborhood people, and even family people. And, to really give grit to people’s comments, we went and had a fifth kid! That really crossed the line. Deep down inside, though, I judged myself right along with them. How could I do this many kids and myself justice?
The answer is – I couldn’t.
When we got married twenty two years ago, my husband and I agreed that I would stay home to raise our hypothetical two kids for the first few years. But, after graduating with honors from college, I felt pings, and sometimes stabs, of regret being stuck at home pregnant while my friends went to graduate school and built careers. Still, I knew the end was in sight. I would go to law school soon, then our neatly packaged life would commence.
The wrapping on that package fell off when I set foot in a law school classroom. During lectures and readings of case briefs, my mind wandered to nursery rhymes. I knew someone else was nuzzling my baby girl’s fuzzy head while she took her bottles, and someone else was reading Dr. Seuss to my toddler son. So, I put the legal dictionary I’d just purchased at the university bookstore on the shelf, and went back to play dates and nap time and rolling out Play Doh snakes in the afternoons.
Just one more year with the kids, and then I’ll reenroll.
Then the twins happened, and the package completely unraveled. And the comments began:
Four kids? Wow. Are you Catholic or Mormon?
Did you plan this many kids?
Haven’t you figured out how this happens yet?
Not wanting to get arrested, I kept my fist to myself and ignored strangers. Family, though, I couldn’t escape.
My husband is Indian, and true to a stereotypical Indian family, nearly everyone our age is a health care professional of some sort. His Indian friends and cousins had semi-arranged marriages to good Indian wives. Both worked, and the guys’ parents took care of their one or two kids. At family dinners, men and women alike chatted about medical or dental crap that I could care less about, while I silently spooned spicy daal and rice into my mouth. When I was younger, people asked me when I was going to finish law school. After the twins, I think they benignly wrote me off. Not only was I white, I wasn’t a professional something-or-other.
Or was I just judging myself?
I’ve thrown myself into raising my kids, and until recently, forgot I was a person outside of being a mom. I’ve been room mom, field trip chaperone, classroom helper, chauffeur, and room mom. I’ve spent entire mind-numbing school days at driving around town to find the right soccer cleats, and shopping for the perfect teacher appreciation gifts. I’ve been bored, stressed, and craved conversations about something other than my kids. I’ve yelled at them, I’ve nagged them, and I’ve cried when they’ve told me they hate me. But, I’ve also gotten the good stuff.
When the school nurse calls me about a sick kid, I am the one that gets to hold a cool cloth on their foreheads when I bring them home. When they come home from a long day of middle school drama, I am the one they share their frustrations with as we sit at the kitchen counter and eat a bowl of popcorn. And when they forget a major research paper because they were up all night typing it and forgot it on the printer, I get to save their butts and bring it to them at school.
My kids are now 20 and 18, with the twins at fourteen, and the youngest is seven. I’ve found myself once again now, not as a lawyer, but as a writer, and I crave the excitement I feel crafting my own future on the page. Would my kids say I was a great mom to them because I stayed home to raise them? Hell no. I guess they get to have it all, either.
Who gets to have it all? I don’t think anyone ever does. Fulfillment is different for the Indras of the world, for the cousins and friends, for the elevator people and all the rest. And that’s okay. I just do my best to accept and be peaceful with all the little choices that add up to my life. I love as much as I can, and like we all do, I always, always search to create something sweet to look forward to.
A few months ago, I was talking to my father on the phone. He asked me how I was doing and as I am programmed to do, I said, “I’m fine.” But he knew I was NOT fine and he pushed a little harder and asked me why I seemed so distracted and not like myself. Because apparently, I am usually a fine tuned and effervescent bubbly thing.
And so I told him about some things that were bothering me. Some uncertainties that had crept into my life which had made me doubt myself. I wouldn’t say that I was having a pity party for myself, but … ok, I actually WAS. It was pitiful how much self-pitying was happening at this really not fun party. To which I had invited nobody but myself. It felt only right to finally extend an invitation to my father.
I expected my father to tell me to snap out of it. At times like this, he likes to talk about God and believing in God’s plan, and as someone who is not very religious, he will usually lose me here as my eyes glaze over and I listen to how I am supposed to put my faith and trust in G to the O to the D.
But that’s not my belief system and so at times like this, I usually find little comfort in my father’s words.
But on this day, my father surprised me. He didn’t talk about God. He didn’t ask me to pray. He didn’t even tell me to meditate, which is another one of his favorite solutions for my problems. On this day, he shared with me one of his own stories of feeling grave uncertainty in his life.
I have written before on my blog that my father is nearly blind. Most likely as a result of the intense malnourishment he suffered as a child, he developed several cataracts, glaucoma and an illness called Retinitis Pigmentosa at a very young age, before he was even 40. The cataracts and glaucoma were bad enough but Retinitis Pigmentosa is a degenerative disease which basically starts on the outsides of your eyes – think your peripheral vision – and slowly starts to work its way inward until you become fully blind.
My dad didn’t know how long he had until the Retinitis worked its way completely into his eyes. He knew he had to stop driving though, because he was losing vision at such a rapid pace that it was frightening.
At the same time, my father was scared. He had to earn a living and he had to support his family in America and help those he could in India.
As things turned out, it was during this time that my father learned that he was laid off from his job after several staff cuts. He wasn’t sure what he was going to do. Not only was being unemployed a challenge, but he now had this handicap that could prevent him from being able to find a job. In addition, he didn’t know how long he had until he lost his eyesight.
I think about how scary this time must have been for my father. I think about the uncertainty that he was living with everyday and am amazed at how positive he remained, for I recall him during this time and had no idea of the burden that he was bearing on his shoulders. He did not share his fears with me as a child, and I am grateful because I don’t know if I could have handled seeing that fear.
My father ultimately found a job – one in NYC which he could commute to by public transportation. He had to make some compromises to make it work, but he did what he had to do with the situation he had been dealt.
My father shared this story with me to remind me that we all go through times where things look bleak or our options feel limited. That everybody has to go through some uncertainty in life. Sometimes there are no clear answers or solutions waiting for us on the other side of our uncertainty.
But there is a way. There always is a way.
On that day when I was talking to my dad, I wasn’t ready to embrace the positive or hopeful that could be around the bend which I couldn’t see or touch. Instead, I was focused on the negative which seemed so much more real in that moment. Hearing my father tell me his story made me realize how different things would have been had my father only chosen to embrace the negative, which he was getting pounded by. How different would his life be if he had let himself be defeated by a diagnosis that assured him he would be robbed of sight before I graduated from high school? (FYI – he can still see today. It’s limited, but he can see more than any of the doctors anticipated).
My father may be nearly blind, but he was able to see the possibility in the positive, something which many people with sight, myself included, often overlook. And I am so grateful. So freaking grateful that he did.
I recently switched my therapist. The last one was nice enough, but I think that was partly it. She was way too nice. I want to leave therapy feeling challenged and introspective and not just have someone validate everything I say by nodding their head at me the whole time. I mean, it’s nice to have someone tell you you are right about everything, but that’s not therapy. That’s just friendship for hire.
And even my friends never tell me I am right about everything right away, so, as I scratch my head, I still wonder what you call therapy where you just talk to someone who tells you your shit doesn’t stink. I don’t know the technical term, but I think I can at least say it’s a big waste of my freaking time.
A few weeks ago, I read a post online that had gone viral called, “My Wife is Not the Same Woman I Married,” by blogger Matt Walsh. As with other posts of his which I have read, this one started with him getting angry at something a stranger in a grocery store said to him, which makes total sense because I love picking fights with people I don’t know next to the candy section of the checkout line.
It’s apparent to me that the way to become a viral blogger is to start by looking for material by starting fights at Target and Walgreen’s.
I read the post, because I wanted to know what all the fuss was about. In it, he writes about his contempt for Americans who romanticize divorce and especially those who use the argument that people change. Yes, he agrees. People change and it is our responsibility to adapt to these changes if we have made a commitment in marriage.
“Divorcing someone because they change? You might as well divorce them because they breathe,” he says.
I thought about this post for a while and wondered how I felt about it. On the one hand, I agree that some people may sometimes give up too easily on marriage. I agree that sometimes when marriage gets too hard, it’s easier to imagine life outside of the confines another person may put on your lifestyle or your perceived happiness. I agree that sometimes people not only grow, but that they grow in very different directions which make marriage and stability of the lives they model for their kids increasingly impossible.
I agree. Because I understand changing so much where divorce may seem like the only option. I understand because not very long ago, John and I were standing in that exact place.
Today marks our 9th wedding anniversary and I am glad to say that we decided to move out of that place and course correct.
The thing that turned me off about the post was the black and white nature of his argument. In his mind, you either roll with change or you don’t. You either support change in your partner or you don’t. You either become a serial divorcer or you stay the course and accept and adapt to your spouse.
My issue with this is that I don’t think that marriage is so neatly wrapped in absolutes. I don’t think that all change in a partner can be accepted. I don’t think that all habits of a spouse in a marriage are healthy for the other partner and potentially the children of that union. I don’t think everything can always be counseled away till the ragged edges are smoothed down to a point where the partners in the marriage can flourish.
I think about my friends who have divorced abusive spouses who smothered, violated, and controlled their partners in ways that left them demoralized. I am beyond proud that they found their courage to step out of those marriages. I applaud them for getting a divorce.
I think about my friends are spoken down to in their marriage by spouses who don’t and may never appreciate them. I think about their children, who now speak to their parent in the same way they have seen modeled by the other parent. And I wonder if divorce is not the right choice for them.
There were times in our marriage where John and I fought at each other more than we spoke to each other. We were so angry at each other that we didn’t always mute what we said in front of our children, who could have easily been the collateral damage of our anger had we not changed things. At some point, we made a concerted decision to change all of that. But we were both willing and committed to making those changes together.
But what if either John or I could not make that commitment? What if we continued to spiral down the path that we had been heading? Is that something we would want our own children to live with? Is it truly healthier for children to be weighted down by anger between parents, suffocated by the idea that it’s important to maintain a singe household? We both want our children to live in a home where their parents treat each other with respect and love and model that for them.
But what if there came a point where John and I could no longer give each other that love and respect?
Well, then. I don’t know if we would be sitting here today celebrating nine years of marriage.
There is very little that I take for granted about marriage. There is very little that I take for granted about my husband. But I am less than perfect and there are days where I falter on these points a little, as does he, but we recalibrate. I will continue to be as supportive as I can as he grows and I hope that he does the same for me.
What I can count on is that he will be the man I need to give me the support I need. He is my rock. He is my best friend. He is the laughter I need on the days when I can hardly produce a smile. He is my person. My team.
I never take for granted that he is the man that he is. I am fortunate that I made a decision to marry him nine years ago and that he is the man that he is.
But what if I married a different man? What is I made a mistake at the age of 29? Because lord knows I knew everything at that ripe old age. What if I could not foresee the kind of changes that would work their way into my future and the lives of my children?
It’s true. The people we marry change. We change. And we can ride that current of change as long as it’s healthy for our families. But when you can no longer recognize your spouse, and when the change is no longer bearable, is it a mark against your character to want to find happiness alone?
Are we so defined by our partner that we can’t sever the ties when those ties start to become destructive?
I don’t think so. I truly don’t.
So I congratulate Mr. Walsh on another post making its way virulently around the internet. But I have to say that I greatly disagree with it’s message and the shaming of individuals who choose to find their bliss outside of an unhappy marriage.
As soon as I heard that recognizable buzz soar past my ears in the kitchen, I knew we had a fly in the house. This would not be a huge problem for most people but I become slightly obsessive when a fly is loose in the house, especially if it’s loud and keeps getting all up in my business.
This one was so loud and so big that Shaila announced she thought we had a bee in the house. Well, she didn’t really announce it. She screamed it at a decibel meant only for small animals. Perhaps the fly itself.
Nico saw the fly, however, and saw a pet. Dogless, catless, hamsterless, the poor guy just wants to catch a break and have a pet to love and call his own. I don’t blame the guy. I actually understand. I remember in the 2nd grade, we had to grow fruit flies at school and I begged my team to let me be the one to get to take the fruit flies home in their little container.
I never had a pet when I was little because most Indian people in my parents generation just didn’t do pets. Pets were a luxury and in addition to saving money for their own families, most Indians were sending money back home to India. There was no space for a dog in that mix.
Now, we don’t have pets because wouldn’t you know it? Both John and I are terribly allergic. I am epi-pen allergic to cats and John is just a bloody nightmare around all animals. I keep pretending that I am not really allergic to dogs, though the tests say otherwise, because a part of me is always still hopeful.
Anyway, going back to Nico, I understood his need to connect with that fly, just as I had hoped to nurture that group of fruit flies till I was practically walking them on a leash.
“Jack!” He announced. “I am going to call him Jack,” he declared proudly.
The rest of us weren’t quite sure what to make of this announcement but decided that Jack was as good a name as any.
All morning, as the fly buzzed past him, Nico would say something witty to Jack and they would have a giggle. It was all great fun, until John walked into the kitchen and with a back a magazine, swatted Jack all the way to flea heaven.
“Jack!!!!” Nico screamed. “You killed Jack!”
I think John felt a little bit of guilt but not too much because he was literally going crazy from the sound of that bug going back and forth. Nico could not be consoled.
“I loved you, Jackie. You were the best friend ever.” Big tears rolled down his face
We said a few words to remember Jack and then went about our day.
It wasn’t as easy for Nico, who kept Jack in his thoughts all day.
Time to go to the pool, Nico. “I wonder if Jack has a pool in Heaven?”
Time for dinner, Nico. “Do flies eat in fly heaven?” he wondered
It took a while but we were finally able to say good-bye to Jack the Fly. But I’ll never forget the day that my son befriended a fly, if only so I can make fun of him about it in years to come.
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