Prelude to a New Beginning

A park near our new home, on a rainy day adventure.

A park near our new home, on a rainy day adventure.

 

For a long time I stared at this blank page and wondered where to begin, at what point of our new beginning I should start from, and I came up as blank as this page was.

But then I realized that I needed to start where one story left off. Because really, it’s why this new chapter had to begin.

My Father.

He suffered, recovered and then dealt with all that Esophageal Cancer can give. He had chemo, radiation, and multiple surgeries. He had double pneumonia. He had Liver dysfunction. He had many infections. And through it all he was his positive best.

And I was a mess. Sitting in India, waiting for a sluggish US Immigration system to finally accept that my marriage was real and give my husband his green card so that we could join my family in the US.

Finally, our struggle was over and we began packing our lives up in to 10 suitcases, purchasing plane tickets and preparing for our long journey to our new home.

We arrived at Dulles International Airport on December 19th, 2012. My younger brother came in our step-brother’s large truck to help us cart our entire luggage home. It took two hours to clear Immigration. It felt like a longer wait than the Green Card was. But finally we were cleared and with the help of a very nice attendant, got everything loaded up and was ready for our final two-hour trip home.

When we arrived, my father was in the hospital. He had edema and severe liver dysfunction. He was hospitalized for four days. He finally came home two days after our arrival. Frail and thin and with very little energy, I found that the ashy face of my father no longer the positive one I had known.

He suffered from extreme anxiety and depression. We couldn’t leave him alone in the house for longer than 5 minutes without his having an attack and calling us from his cell phone. He couldn’t get out of bed on his own and fell several times in the night. Bear and I set up a schedule where we all took turns, my Mother, Bear and I, to get up with him in the night to help him to go to the bathroom.

He began to lose weight rapidly. From the time he was released from the hospital to January, he weighed 140-145. By mid to late February he weighed in around 135 and we began new doctor’s appointments to find out the cause. He was getting B-12 shots every 2 weeks. Getting blood work. Having tests run to find the reason his Liver was leaking proteins. He had no energy and began sitting in a chair all day long, snoozing during his favorite TV shows.

By March first he weighed in at 128 and we were terrified. Finally, one of his doctors ran a fecal test and found that Dad had C-Diff. It’s an extremely contagious infection of the lower bowels that does not allow nutrients to be absorbed by the body and causes severe diarrhea.  Dad, already taking 15 medications daily and complaining bitterly about each little pill, was put on yet another medication to help clear up the C-Diff.

After two rounds on of the medication for C-Diff, he was finally deemed recovered. His weight was up to 133. After another week, they felt he was strong enough to have a biopsy done on his Liver.

Back to the hospital he went. I stayed with him for 9 hours. Through the biopsy. Through admission. Feeding him when he was hungry because the meds they gave him made him weak and groggy. Then I went home to rest. We learned from the biopsy that his Liver dysfunction is normal and due to long-term diabetes. It’s stabilized and they have changed some of his medications around to help delay any further damage.

Now he’s recovering, if but slowly. He’s going to physical therapy to help gain back muscle that he lost and to a psychologist to help gain back his mental strength as well.

He’s driving himself again, if only for small trips. We no longer have to have someone stay at the house with him. He’s fine being left alone again. He’s able to get up in the middle of the night on his own. This last one is in no small part due to Bear.

Bear spent every moment with my Dad, watching him and analyzing. He came up with ideas to help Dad eat differently (and not get so tired or choke while doing so). He found a way for Dad to lay on the bed that would enable him to get out by himself. He encouraged Dad to use his arms for support when walking, touching the walls or furniture. He reminded Dad about his medicines or to drink more liquid.

Bear also had to care for me. I ran myself ragged during those first couple of months back home. We lived with my parents for some time to help them get strong again and to give my Mom a break from caring for my Dad 24/7. I ran up and down steps 6-8 times a day. I made three meals a day. I cleaned and then cleaned again. I did laundry, washed dishes, vacuumed, changed bed linen, washed the tub, picked Dad up off the floor and then got up to do it all over again the next day.  I began seeing ways that my Dad was taking advantage of this. If I was there to ask, then he would…knowing I would do it. But then it robbed him doing it for himself and showing that he COULD to something to himself.  We began to argue. Me begging him to do things I KNEW he could do and him crying that I just didn’t understand what he was going through. Guilt.

And so I landed in the hospital myself. I was in the ER for 8 hours while they checked to be sure that I wasn’t having a heart attack. No, it was a severe panic attack. And so it was that I too was put on anti-anxiety medication.

But Bear. My loving, considerate, intelligent, patient, wonderful Bear. He was all our rock. He was stalwart against any storm we brewed. He took care of us all. Even while he spent hours a day applying for a job, he would drop that to go when Dad or I called.

My husband is perfect. Have I ever mentioned that? Yes? Well…it never hurts to remind someone.

So now, Bear has a wonderful job that he is very happy with and only 30 minutes away from my parent’s home. We moved into our own home the first week of April. We’ve moved to a lovely and very small town 5 minutes away from Bear’s work.

We can hear the birds singing, church bells chiming and the water in a small brook behind our home.

It’s clean and peaceful and the air smells like fresh-cut grass or newly bloomed flowers.

Everywhere you look here, it’s a painting. A picture of perfection and beauty waiting for you to behold. We never get tired of looking about us and thinking how good life is. How peaceful. How serene.

So that’s it.

That’s my story up to date. It may be a little thin on the details. Never fear, I’ll get around to telling those soon enough. The joys of packing a life into 10 pieces of luggage with weight restrictions and nothing but a body scale, for one.

But I wanted to take a moment to check in with you all and let you know that I haven’t forgotten about this blog or any of you, faithful readers.

I just need some time to settle in and calm down.

But rest assured the time is coming soon that I’m going to have some tales to tell.

 

©2013 Gori Rajkumari

 

 

 

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Wedding Madness!

clockSo I have like….what?  Three days left?  Counting today?  To get stuff done?  Not even that actually as I can’t really do anything on Saturday because that’s when everyone is getting together for our Haldi/Mehndi ceremony dinner thingee.

Baprey.  (Meaning “Oh God…help me”)

I’m so tired I can barely stand, but I have a few hours this morning to rest so here I am, not resting.  My mind is going a million miles a minute.  So I figured that I would sit down and write to all of you about what’s been going on.

Sidenote: I sat here for a full five minutes with this blank stare on my face trying to remember what all I’ve done since last time I wrote.  There’s so much I think I overloaded my brain for a few minutes.  Reboot was required.  System crash.  Full restore in progress.  Restart in 5…4…3…2…

1)      Last Thursday I went with my friend S to pick up my Wedding Sari and Top from the tailor.  The work she did was absolutely stunning and I couldn’t have asked for better work to be done.  It was at Poshaak in Artesia.  If you’ve ever in town, stop by there.  They are kind and carry excellent quality clothes.  Little expensive, but if you have the money, definitely the better purchase.

2)      Friday I ran a bunch of errands, including paying for the Decorator.  She usually only does weddings that are $25,000 and above but she liked Bear and I so much that she is decorating on a small scale for us for around $1000.  Check out their site here.  They are called Ethnic Essence and their decorating skills for Indian Weddings are AMAZING.

3)      Saturday and Sunday Bear and I ran around trying to take care of a million things at once.  We bought his shoes (see below) and picked up a few things that the Pundit asked us to gather for the wedding, like the Sindoor (this is red powder like substance that Bear puts in the part of my hair to signify that I am a married woman).  I still have more that I need to get, like the Paan leaves, puffed flattened rice, small red dupatta (to tie me to his dupatta, it is done right before we take our walk 7 times around the fire…it signifies that we are together in all things), a coconut and a few other things (there is a nut that we have to get too but darned if I remember it’s name without going and looking at the paperwork and I’m too tired to get up).   Also, my friend S took me to buy things for my hair…decorative pins and the like.  Bear and I also were up till 2:30 in the morning cleaning his apartment and throwing away things left behind by other contractors who once stayed here.

Indian Shoes

4)      Monday I don’t remember what I did.  Oh wait, yes I do.  I ran my butt off finishing the cleaning of this apartment.  Going grocery shopping.

5)      Tuesday morning I went to the airport to pick up my Brother and his Fiancé.  I took them to a rental car place which was in the most inconvenient area imaginable.  Then we drove back to Bear’s apartment so they could take a nap before driving up to San Fran to visit some friends.  I continued to clean the apartment, and then woke them up.  Then I got cleaned up and ran to the airport again to pick up my Father, Stepmom, and Aunty.  Brought them back to Bear’s apartment and Bear and I cooked dinner for them (Opo and Aloo subji) and then I drove them to my sister-in-laws house where they spent the night (got back to Bear’s house around 10:30 and passed out).

6)      Got up at the ungodly hour of 6:30 in the morning to drive my Dad and Stepmom to the rental car agency to pick up their car.  Got a call from my brother in San Fran that his rental car had broken down.  Started pulling out my hair and noticed that it was turning silver (at least it’s better than white or grey).   I stopped and picked up Darkest Brown hair color to fix that.  Afterwards, stopped at the Bakery to order the 60 plus cupcakes in our wedding colors.  Half of them are chocolate with cream colored cream frosting and little red roses on top.  Other half is vanilla with red icing and little cream colored cream frosting roses on the top.  The Bride and Groom cake is still the Mango flavored angel food cake with fresh Mango’s and Strawberries inside.

7)      The rest of Tuesday I rested man.

8)      Wednesday was my Dad’s birthday, so we all went out to lunch at Lucille’s.  We had them sing and bring Dad a birthday treat.  Also, here (yesterday – Wednesday) it was Raksha Bandhan.  This is a holiday in India where a girl gives a boy (usually brother and sister, but also cousin’s and good friends) a Rakhi.  A Rakhi is a bracelet made from colored string and beads and other things that the girl then ties to the boys right wrist.  A small puja is performed and the girl and boy feed each other sweets.  Then the boy gifts something to the girl.  He also must protect her for the rest of her life.  My friend S’s husband is my Babba (father in Hindi because he bosses me so much so I nicknamed him this to antagonize him) but mainly he is like my brother.  I care for them all very much.  So I gifted the Rakhi to Babba again this year, as I did last year.  S helped me with the Puja so this time it was done properly.  Babba seemed to enjoy it very much.  Then I came back and colored my hair.  It is now almost black with red highlights.  Very pretty but much darker than I thought.  Bear LOVES it.

9)      This morning, I slept in.

10)   This afternoon I go with S to get the food we need for Saturday night’s Haldi/Mehndi party.  Haldi is thisMehndi is this.  S will be cooking up a storm for that night and we will have about 20 people there.  There will be Mehndi music and dancing and family and food and so much fun!  And I have to sit for MOST of it!!!  Siiiiiiiiigh.  Oh well, I’ll just make Bear bring me food and drink!  LOL

11)   Friday Bear has off from work and we are going to Artesia AGAIN to get the final list of items from the Pundit (see above #3) and to give information for the Bride and Groom cake to be picked up on Saturday late afternoon.  We also are picking up fake flower decorations for the Mustang that my dad is getting to take Bear and his brother to the wedding in.  Fake because it’s cheaper and they will be on the freeway and real flowers won’t stand up to my Dad’s method of driving.  LOL I’m also going to get my pedicure and manicure done.    We then will go to my apartment to get the rest of the things that I have kept there.  My Manglasutra, his Sherwani, the Wedding jewelry (necklace, tikha, ankle trinkets, my shoes and a few other things).  Then we will go to Costco for the plates and napkins and glasses as we are cutting costs by providing disposable utensils instead of having the caterer cart his things there.  That would be more expensive and he is trying to help us cut costs.  We also have to stop and buy my makeup for that day as I need something that won’t wear off from the heat of the fire of my own crying (and I know I’m gonna…I’m getting all emotional now thinking about it).

12)   Saturday I’m doing NOTHING and this is where my friends and family take over.  They will do all the food and ceremony preparation.  I’m just gonna sit there and do nothing…for ONCE!  Hehe  Except eat.  I’ll eat.  J

13)   Sunday I’m getting Married!!!!!

Well, I hope you’ve all enjoyed reading my to-do list because that’s what this really is.  I knew I was going to forget something, so I figured why not turn it into a post so you can see what I’m up to and I can remind myself what still is left to do.

I’m including a video from one of my favorite East meets West movies.  I just like the fact that Sayeed from Lost is in that movie and I get to see him dancing in a Sherwani.  J  Plus it’s a fun song and we will probably play it Saturday night.

Till then, I probably will be going nuts.  So take care and I’ll write sometime next week!  Much love to all!  Have a fabulous Weekend!

Bhabhi Made It Better….

Swinging Sisters

Swinging Sisters

When I first started researching the issues that Bear and I would face as an Intercultural couple, I learned many things.  Most of all the resistance that his family would have to such a union.  The resistance could range from all out war, to something more of a simple disapproval.  So many blogs advised that the best thing we could do was seek the assistance of an elder in the family who approved or at the very least understood and wanted to help get approval from his parents.

And for the most part this is still very good advice.  The only problem with this is that the elder generation in India is not always going to be so approving.

At the time, when we were trying to decide who best to enlist to help us, we were thinking about who Bear felt the most comfortable with talking about his feelings or issues.  And this is still valid.  But we kind of stopped there.  We did take into consideration that this person should also be open to it, but we didn’t delve into that chosen person’s personality to make a more informed decision as to whether they would be able to accept our rather odd union (or odd by Indian standards being that I’m older than Bear).

So we went to Bear’s Grandfather on his Father’s side.  Mainly because Bear felt the closest to him, he felt that he could tell his Grandfather anything and his Grandfather would listen and try to help.  And for the most part he was right…until Grandfather learned of our age difference.  And that is where everything fell apart.

You see, the younger generation of India is a bit more receptive and open to these things than the older generation.  I had thought that it wasn’t necessarily about the generation but more about experience of seeing the world and living in it.  I thought that Grandfather would see that age doesn’t matter, it’s a person’s values and the strength of the relationship that do.  And to some extent he does, but he couldn’t get past that tradition of the man being younger and this was our downfall.

After that, relations with the entire family became strained to the point that no one was willing to listen to Bear.  Even his brother, whom he was once close to as children, was opposed and sided with the family.

And then one day, Bhabhi (this means brother’s wife in Urdu – a dialect of Hindi – in this case it is Bear’s brother’s wife) called me on behalf of the family and tried to talk me out of marrying Bear.  I took it in stride, expressed my sorrow at the family’s pain and my role in it, but reaffirmed that I had made a promise to Bear and to God to stand by him and that I never break my promises.  Every question she asked me, I answered with respect.  We debated for two hours.  And every time, my answer was the same.  After the call, I was emotionally drained and not sure how to take the call.  I had only Bear’s perceptions of Bhabhi to go on.

I had always tried to explain to him that perhaps he didn’t know the whole story, but he is his parent’s son and we are all protective of our own family.  So while he cared for and liked Bhabhi, there were some small hard feelings for her too.  I wasn’t sure what the good was by talking to her, but my feeling always has been that talking is the best thing to do in any situation.

And then Bhabhi called me again two days later when her husband was at work and Bear was gone.  And we talked some more.  And two days later we talked again.  And then I called her the day after that.  Bhabhi and I slowly started getting to know each other and realizing that we had similar thoughts on certain topics.  Our feelings were the same.  Our values.  Our love of laughing.  I found myself liking Bhabhi very much and for the first time in my life, I started to become excited about having a sister of my very own (after having 5 overprotective and stinky brother’s who would pester and pick on me unmercifully…the brats).

And then Aai (this means Mother in Marathi – in this case it is Bear’s mother) became unwell.  This happened the day before yesterday, urgent calls were made by Bear’s brother telling him that Aai’s failing health was Bear’s fault.  Bhau’s (Bhau means brother – in this case it is Bear’s brother) reaction was understandable.  He was feeling torn between the parents who he wanted to respect and the brother that he wanted to help and couldn’t.  He’s also stuck here in the US on a contract with a new child and could not go home to help his mother or father the way he wanted to.  His frustration and fear for his mother’s health reached a breaking point and he and Bear argued terribly yesterday morning.  Bear then asked me to call Bhabhi and check on Aai’s health.  So I did and Bhabhi and I talked and talked and both of us were frustrated and feeling sad and fore lone.

And at one point, out of sheer frustration and fear and exhaustion and stress, I broke down and cried to her.  “Bhabhi, I don’t know what to do!  I made him a promise I cannot break but I don’t want Aai this sick either!!  What am I going to do?”  And I cried and cried as if it had been welling in me for months and finally had a release.  And Bhabhi kept saying “Relax Aurora sweety, please do not cry, I am here, please do not cry”.

Eventually it stopped and I apologized to her for my outburst and told her that I hated that she was stuck in this position with every one coming to her bursting with their emotions when she should be the one being taken care of and loved (she just had her youngest daughter less than two weeks ago).  She told me that she is here for all of us and never feel like I cannot cry to her; she is here for me for whatever may happen.  And that was the end of the call.  I spent the rest of the day feeling lost.

What to do?

So Bear and I decided that no matter what, we were staying together.  We discussed the problems that were arising and the things that were being said and the possible outcome of our continuing to marry.  We decided that we were stronger together and happier.  We really can’t live without one another now…he breathes and I exhale…we are so close.  And then we prayed for Aai’s health.

We both spent the day a little depressed and worried.

And then, late last night, Bear received another phone call from his brother.  His brother asked him if he would be willing to speak with Bhabhi (brother’s wife remember?) and Bear agreed.

And this is where things began to change.

Bhabhi listened to Bear.  She discussed things with him.  They had an honest to goodness real conversation.  Bhabhi talked TO him instead of AT him.  And Bear realized that Bhabhi was the one person (and perhaps by extension – his brother as well) that understood best what it was he was going through.  And he learned that she felt that his relationship with me was not the horror that everyone was making it out to be.  Bhabhi had experienced American culture, had American friends, and had worked with Americans.  She saw us for what we are…diverse and sometimes crazy but also very loving with our own set of traditions just as worthy – if different – from India.  Bear’s perception of Bhabhi began to change; he began to see her in a way he hadn’t seen before.  He began to understand that she may have faced similar issues when marrying into his family, that only being in our situation now he could understand better where she had been coming from.  Bhabhi became our Soldier of Good Fortune in this war and Bhabhi essentially saved us all.

Yes, you read that right.  After talking to Bear and finally understanding what the whole family was hearing from Bear for 8 months but not LISTENING too, Bhabhi then explained it to her husband in a way HE could understand and accept.  And then HE called and talked to Bear’s father in a way that Baba (this means Father in Marathi) could understand.

And so it was that this morning, we got a call separately.  Bear from his brother and I from Bhabhi, telling us that Baba accepts our marriage.  He will talk to and get the acceptance from Aai.  Everyone now feels who cares what others say as long as we are happy?  And to them Bear’s happiness is THEIR happiness.

Bhabhi and I agreed we are both the best things that could ever happen to this family.  We will make them stronger, healthier and happier in their lives.  We will show them the love that they need and the happiness that comes from laughter and being together.  We promised each other to always work together and never give up; in helping this family become more open to one another.  In learning how to talk to one another.

But ultimately, it was Bhabhi all along who was the saving grace.  And even though she doesn’t know about this blog, I wanted the world to know what a wonderful sister I am going to have.

I’ve already told her myself.

Love to you all!!!!!  I am so HAPPY!!!!!!!!!

More to come….till then….remain happy, healthy and wise!

Best,

Aurora

You’re in the midst of a war…

Milgrain design wedding band

Milgrain design wedding band

I finally get a few moments to write another quick blog to update you all on the progress of the Wedding.

You’re in the midst of a war: a battle between the limits of a crowd seeking the surrender of your dreams, and the power of your true vision to create and contribute. It is a fight between those who will tell you what you cannot do, and that part of you that knows / and has always known / that we are more than our environment; and that a dream, backed by an unrelenting will to attain it, is truly a reality with an imminent arrival.”   Anthony Robbins quotes

Ok, so I’m not much for the self helper types but this quote by Anthony Robbins perfectly fits with my present situation.

So does…

“All hands on deck!  Battle stations!  Mr. Chekov, all power to front deflector fields!”

Eh…I’m a techie nerd.

So, here’s the skinny.

Sunday, Bear and I finally got a chance to go and get our wedding rings.  We found the perfect set at Robbins Brothers.  I can’t post a picture of them here as they are still at the store being sized and engraved.  We chose yellow gold comfort fit bands.  Mine is plain and his has the milgrain design on the top and bottom of the ring (I liked the milgrain design but it didn’t look nice on my hand while it looked perfect on his).  The rings are wide enough to allow us to insert diamonds later, which we will do on our first year anniversary.  It made me so happy to complete that stage of our wedding journey!

After that, we went to Mandir (which is a Hindu Temple in Irvine) and offered our wedding invitation to Lord Ganesha (he is the Hindu God with the Elephant head, read more about him at the link).  Ganesha is the God who is known best as the Remover of all Obstacles and in the Hindu religion he is the one prayed to before starting any important ceremony.  We also spoke with the Pundit there about the issue of our marriage occurring during what is generally to be considered an inauspicious time frame.  Hindu’s do not generally marry during the months of July, August and September.  The Pundit checked and found that between the hours of 9am and 12pm on August 9th (the day of our wedding, and the exact time no less) it was an auspicious time and that if the Jai Mala (the exchange of garlands) was performed before 10:30am it was even better.

Because we are marrying with Arya Samaj and their belief was that every day was a good day because God created every day…they were more than happy to work with whatever we needed.  So, Sunday evening we went for temple with Arya Samaj and after services we spoke with the elders and the Pundit of Arya Samaj and planned the wedding with them.  They were able to help us decide where best to set up everything and which ceremony should be performed and who in the family could help perform it.  I’ll write on the actual ceremony and the services we will be doing in another blog.

And then Sunday night, on our way home, Bear got an email on his Blackberry….from his father….addressed to us both.  Finally I was being recognized by the family!!

Upon reaching home, I found that he had also cc’ed me at my personal email address.  So I set down to read it.  And read it.  And read it.  It was quite long.  It also said all the same things that they’ve been saying all along.  He listed all the reasons why I should not go through with marrying their son.  Except this time he was more specific.  And it was because of his specifics that I realized that they truly do not know anything about who I am as a person or what I know of their culture.  Even though in the early days Bear told them all of the things they questioned.  I know he did because I was there for nearly every conversation and we would discuss it before hand and afterwards.  What to say and not say that sort of thing.  And yet still I find that they were not listening.  Which, to be quite honest, is perfectly normal.  If you are listening to something that you don’t want to hear, you do not absorb it.  That is human nature.

So I took a full day to consider how I wanted to respond to them.  This was my opportunity to let them know who their future daughter in law was.  The problem was how to do it.  Do I write an email the way I normally would write to anyone older to me in the US?  Or do I tone it down?  Or do I write the way I would write to my Grandparents generation?  What to do?  I’m generally a very open and decided person when I write.  I speak the truth, I sometimes deflect it a bit, soften it if you will, by giving examples but the truth is still there and still powerful.  Could I do that with them?  Could I write something that essentially would be pointing to them the truth while still being respectful?

I found that I could and did.

I wrote what amounted to a five page email.  I answered all their questions.  I explained pieces of who I am as a person.  What I know of the Indian Culture.  What I know I will have to face in the future.  What I intend to do about problems or issues that may arise due to our differences and life living in India.  I told the truth.  Never once did I point a finger at them, or accuse them, or tell them “Hey, this wouldn’t be such a huge issue if you had listened a little more carefully previously or been a little more open”.

But I wanted to write that sentence.  Ohhhhhh how I wanted to write some version of that sentence.  Because that is also the truth.  But I feel that in some small way, I did point that out by expressing myself the way that I did.  Here is an excerpt from that letter….

When his father questioned me on my decision to marry Bear, I answered that it was a joint decision not mine alone.  When he further questioned me on people accepting me, I answered with this….

” My father once told me that I must be responsible for every action or non action I take in life.  It was because of his guidance and that of the elders in my family and our community that I learned that my decisions will affect more than just myself.  I was also taught that one can please all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot please all the people all the time.  The great difficulty is knowing when and where to draw the line.”

Thank you Abraham Lincoln.  😉

They also requested me, again, to end this relationship.  That they were concerned for my future as well as Bear’s.  That they were willing to speak to my parents on my behalf to explain to them the issues I would face so that everyone would understand why we were no longer marrying.

And I responded with this…

“I wish I could tell you that I will make all your fears and pains go away by not marrying “Bear”, but I cannot do that.  I made a promise to your son and a promise to God to be with him always.  I never break my promises and because of this I never give them lightly.  I hope that you can understand and respect that.”

I further went on to ask them one favor, to please give me a chance.  To get to know me, the person that I am and see if having me as a daughter would be as bad as what they believed.  I asked them to trust that their son’s decision to give me as a daughter to them was a good one.  I asked them to open their hearts to me and let me show them how much I could love, care for and protect them.

And once I had read my letter to Bear and he also felt that I had said nothing disrespectful or hurtful to his family (because I wanted his opinion on that), I sent that email off.

And so now I wait.  To see if they respond again or if they contact Bear.  I don’t know what the future holds.  I know that the percentages say that they will eventually come around…after the marriage.  It’s a shame…I wish they could be a part of this day.  I know that Bear wants it with all of his heart and this is hurting him, his family’s distrust of his values, morals and intellect.

But I’m doing everything I can to protect him too.  I keep reminding him that it’s not truly that they distrust him, it’s that they distrust the situation.

Hopefully someday very soon, they no longer will be sad and hurt to have me as their daughter.  Hopefully someday very soon, I can call myself lucky to have such a large family by including his into it.

Until that day comes, I wait.

Now I’m off to address wedding invitations.  YAY for me!

Intricacies of Family

Freedom

Freedom

Freedom of Choice.  That is one of the few laws in which God and Congress agree on.  That we all are free to chose.  However, in most cases this freedom comes with a price and that is if you disagree with what someone else’s beliefs or wants…there will be consequences.  So are we really as free as we think we are?  Or are we only deluding ourselves.

One of the biggest issues with any relationship, be it intercultural or not, is the issue with family.

Definition of Family:  parents and their children, considered as a group, whether dwelling together or not.

It is somehow ingrained in us, whether it is a learned behavior or a genetic one that we must feel a sense of obligation to the people who bore and raised us.  The people, who clothed us, fed us, comforted us and cared for us.

Somewhere along the line though, we loose the understanding that we are also obligated to ourselves.  As individuals, we have a tendency of feeling guilt or selfishness if we set aside the needs of another in order to better fulfill our own needs.  And then when the time comes that we start asking “What about me???” we suffer through the feeling of being ill-used, taken for granted and misunderstood.  We continue to feel that way until someone is in need of us and the cycle begins all over again.  Perhaps before that last cycle, we even start doing little things for ourselves…but then the consciousness that sounds so much like our mother or father…speaking to us in our own thoughts…pipes up and tells you how ashamed of yourself you should be.  Aren’t there starving children in China?  And yet you are buying some elaborate food that you know you don’t need.  There are children with no clothes and you are spending money on a jacket you don’t need?  There are children with nothing and you are getting a pedicure?  Or perhaps, you overhear a “well-meaning” friend who says (just barely out of earshot) how selfish you have become…you didn’t even invite her to go with you for the pedicure!

Either way, we almost always find our way back to the cycle and begin it all over again.

And there seems to be a master manipulator in every family.  You know the type I’m talking about…that one person in the family who seems to have gotten their Masters and PhD in Manipulation and Guilt Trips.  Every family has them.  Some have more than one.  In my family, it is my Mother.  My parents stayed together until I was out of the house leaving just my much younger brother to fend for himself until my father finally decided to leave and my brother went with him.  But to be quite honest, I started asking my father at the age of 8 or 9 whether or not we could divorce mommy.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my mother very much.  But I swear that if, when I “grow up”,  I am in any way, shape or form like her in her bad moments, I will commit myself immediately and take whatever mood enhancing drug they put in front of my face.

My mother would make her life seem far worse, the people that she knew were far more ill, her life was far harder, whatever it took so that when she “competed” against other people in the pity party department…she could be assured of winning.  And also, she would look like either a Saint or a Martyr living her life as she did.  Nothing was ever…EVER her fault.  It was my fault.  Or my father’s fault.  Or Grandma’s or Grandpa’s or the neighbor’s or the dogs….ANYBODY’S fault but HER’S.

But her personality was a beautiful one and when she was in a good mood, she could be great fun.  She always came up with the best games or the best ideas for places to go.  She was always willing to try something new with us kids.  She wasn’t afraid of a little dirt or a big mess.  Then again…getting her to clean up that mess afterwards was sometimes a bit of a chore.

Over the years, my mother also learned to become the greatest manipulator this world has ever seen or will ever know.

Note:  this is obviously the opinion of someone who had to live with her…I’m sure everyone feels the same way about their own family manipulator

Being that I did not, have not and will never, do well with authoritative behavior, with demanding and controlling personalities, my mother and I did not get along very well.  So I spent more time with my dad.  With my dad, I learned about football, spark plugs, fixing cars and building things with wood, mowing the grass, changing oil or playing golf.  I would much rather throw my hair back in sloppy pig tail and take off on my trusty blue silver steel monster ‘Traveler’ (my trusty metal horse…which was actually a boys dirt bike which my dad had put a girls seat on for me), than to sit around in the house learning how to put on makeup or curl my hair.

My mother couldn’t seem to find a balance between teaching me things and letting me be ME and because of this, she had a hard time finding reasons for us to spend time together and bond.  However, my father did…which made an even deeper wedge between my mother and me.  I know, eventually, she didn’t feel she understood me at all.  When I finally started becoming interested in ‘girl stuff’, I didn’t ask for her help.  I asked my dad.  The poor man would stand in the makeup aisle at Woolworths’ or Roses and stare at blue sparkly eye shadow or pink rose lip gloss and wonder what planet he had landed on.  I remember one time; he brought me home green eye shadow, green eyeliner and green mascara.  When I asked him why…he said that he knew green was my favorite color and this way I could match.  I wore that stuff three days out of the week…and yes, all at once.

My mother on the other hand, would try to make me a fashion plate, but HER version of fashion.  She read that colored jeans and cowboy boots were ‘IN’, so she ran right out and bought me a teal and yellow stripped Izod shirt, banana yellow jeans and a pair of suede, teal colored cowboy boots.  She proudly showed this outfit to me and was actually mad at me when I said that I liked all the pieces…but SEPERATELY.  I could never wear them together for God’s sake.  Oh, I forgot to mention that she also got a two for one deal on the boots, so I got a pair of puffy iridescent purple high tops.  Those things glimmered ok?  Picture a purple shimmery version of the shoes Mork from Ork wore and you get the idea.  Can we say Shazbot???  I knew you could.

Note:  HELLO???!!!!!  We are talking about the 80’s…these things were at least semi-cool back then.  Today they would have gotten me killed.  But I also had bangs that were two feet higher than my head.  I could go to bed for three nights running and not have to do more than give a quick re-tease to my hair to have it back in 80’s high fashion.  Plus, I invested in Lacquer Hair Spray…which only hairdresser’s could get and my mom is a hairdresser.  I know you’re jealous!  😛

When I lived at home, it was easy for my mother to control me, as I didn’t have any other place to go and she knew it.  I couldn’t move out and I could only appeal to Dad so much for intervention.

But even at a very young age, I began learning that while being respectful to my mother and her wishes was important, I still needed to be true to myself.  I began arguing with her.  I began disagreeing with her.  I began openly going against her if I felt that what she was asking or requesting of me went against who I was as a person.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about chores or things of that nature…sure, I was a teenager and I didn’t like doing that stuff…but I still did it even if I grumbled some too.

But my mouth would get me into trouble, and my balking at her absolute and authoritative rule did not go far in winning me over with her.  We had some tremendous fights.  I learned to start defending myself and saying NO to certain behavior.  I started protecting my brother in the same way.  I began taking my grievances to the higher authority (Dad) and then paying for it later when he wasn’t around.  When I finally left my parents home, I told my mother that she would never again have that much control over my life and that the sooner she accepted that, the happier she would be.  It would take her three more years to finally come to terms with that and in some ways she still never has.

So, while my Dad totally understood me, or at least tried to, my Mom was busy trying to make into a mini-version of her.  Reliving her misspent youth through a daughter that was nothing like her.  I feel sorry for her actually, I was never as beautiful or girly as she was, I tripped at fashion contests, I sang beautifully but refused to wear makeup or foo foo dresses at talent contests.  I thought boys were for beating up; anything else gave you a serious and possibly fatal case of the cooties.  My mother started dating when she was 14.  I waited another 4 years beyond that until my first date.  My mother is blonde and blue eyed.  I am green eyed with reddish brown hair.  My mother is fair.  I have olive skin tone.  About the only thing we have in common is that my mother is short and I am short.  But I still love her and I still respect her and now that I’m older I do have more in common with her than I ever did growing up.

And there lies the problem.  Now that I am older and more interesting to her because we finally do connect in some ways…she is trying harder than ever to hold on to me.  Keep me in reach of her, within visiting distance.  She sends me job opportunities for my home town and state.  She talks to people about me to see if they have something anything that I could fit into.  And she’s been doing this since before the economy tanked.  She’s been trying to get me to move back home for the past three years.  I’ve explained to her over and over again that the job market back home was never in my field of expertise and it hasn’t changed much since I left.  Did she really want me working in a position that was beneath my skill level?  In a job that bored me?  She would always respond “Of course not Aurora” (she uses my name in order to add emphasis to the tone that she uses which IMPLIES STRONGLY that I am misbehaving and disrespecting her by even asking such a question).

She’s gotten a little less manic about it over the past year, actually ever since I told her that I had finally met “the one” and after years and yeaaaaaars of thinking that I would wind up an old spinster, I was finally engaged.

The trouble started when she learned that this might also lead to me moving to India.  And that is when the proverbial shit hit the proverbial fan.  Accusations, Guilt Trips, Threats and Demands…OH MY!  They started up right away and to be quite honest, I finally started to get sick and tired (I can hear Bill Cosby saying this in my head as I type it) of being treated like I was a teenager still living in her house.

So, I laid down the law and explained to her, in no uncertain terms, that she needed to treat me with the same respect I give to her, and to knock off the condescending tone of voice that she was using.  To which she hung up on me.

Note:  This is classical and text book, when  you become a mother, you will get the revered text book that tells you these things…if daughter/son does this then you do that, it is guaranteed of 90% return on guilt and depression in which the child will back down and 75% do what you say.

Anyway, I called her back and asked her if she liked being hung up on and when she responded no, that is was disrespectful, I told her I felt the same way and that is why I’ve NEVER done this to her.  She hung up on me again.

So I called her back and asked her if she was going to continue this behavior because if so, please just let it go to the answering machine so I can finally say something without hearing the dial tone.  She hung up on me.

So, I called her back and left her a message.  And in it I did something that ate at me like acid through metal.  I told her that until she could show me respect, until she could recognize that I was an adult, until she could accept that I was going to make my own decisions in life and she no longer could control me with either threats or emotional black mail, until these things happened, to not contact me again.  And if that meant that she wasn’t a part of my wedding, that’s what it meant.  And then I hung up.

I also sent her a five page email explaining all the same things in more detail that I had said in the voicemail.  I explained that I had been raised by two amazing people who had instilled in me a level head and the ability to rationalize and research any issue before making a decision.  Did she not trust her own upbringing of me so much that she felt she had to go to these extremes?  To alienate me?  To hurt me?  Or was this not about me at all?  Was this about her and what she wanted?

Who knows, I haven’t heard from her in over a week.

Sure, she started this fight over her concern for my moving to and living in India.  But she brought up old reasons that I had already explained away for her (misconceptions about India, her own prejudices due to ignorance, etc).  She brought those up like I had never even talked with her about them.  I asked her if I was going to have to explain this to her each and every time, if I was going to have to ‘win’ her over each and every time, to PLEASE let me know now so that I can start saving up my energy.  And it wasn’t just that she had concerns, come on….my father and step-mother have them as well (heck…I do, I would be crazy not to).  It’s the WAY in which she expresses them.  When she starts with what my brother and I used to call “THE TONE”, we knew hell was on the way.  She is a master with tone and inflection…but mainly it’s the combination of the words that she uses and the tone of voice that goes with each statement that can drive one mad.

As an example:

…but if you are so far away I’ll never see you again, I’ll die an old woman without seeing her one and only daughter ever again.  And what if something happens to you over there?  How are we supposed to be able to afford to get you back home?  And you know that you are going to be a servant over there…they aren’t going to let you work.  And what about the terrorism?  Did you think about that?  That you could die in a bomb blast while shopping for groceries?  I hope you aren’t planning on letting him take out a life insurance policy on you Aurora Coda, because then anything is possible.  I just don’t UNDERSTAND why you two can’t move here, he could get a job, you could get a job, you could both live with me until you found a home…I just don’t UNDERSTAND.

Even though I’ve explained a million times WHY we couldn’t do that and that we HAD looked into the possibility, I was still getting the same thing from her four months after telling her the first time.

So, what am I to do?  I could sit here all sad and depressed and missing my mommy.  Feeling like I am the most horrid and disrespectful daughter in the whole wide world.

OR

I can understand that this is not my problem…it’s hers.  This isn’t about me moving to another country.  This is about how it will affect her.  This isn’t about my happiness.  It’s about hers.

And why on earth am I going to sit here and allow myself to be affected by someone else’s issues and problems?  I’ve already done everything that I could do to help her feel easier on this situation.

NOTE:  in all actuality, she will see me more once I’m married and in India, than she ever did with me living right here in the US…I’ll be able to come home at least once every two years and for more than a month each time…now I’m lucky if I can afford to take off 1 week and fly home every three years.

So, there you go, I just dumped all my dirty laundry right out here in front of you.

Why?

Because maybe it might help you.  Maybe it won’t.

What my goal here was to show you that you have to live YOUR life.  Not someone else’s.  If they choose to disown you or stop talking to you because of your life choices (I’m talking marriage or moving and the such…not deciding to do drugs or any other illegal activity), then that is THEIR issue…not yours.  It is their decision, not yours.

You are no more ”making” them do something than they are “making” you feel a certain way.  You are feeling a certain way because you are allowing that to happen.

Isn’t time we stop that vicious cycle?  Isn’t it time that we stop allowing other’s to live or rule our lives out of what we think of as obligation to that person?  Isn’t it time that we stop making ourselves and our loved ones miserable?  Isn’t it time that we started living our lives?

I know it’s time for me.  That’s why I’m letting my mother sit in her little stew of negativity and throw her big bad “Ohhh poor me” pity party.  I love her, I’m open to talking to her, but the ball is in her court now.  She has to make the next step.  And if she tries the same old games again, I’ll do the same thing all over again.

Because, this is my life. I am free to live it as I wish.  I will live it.  And by golly, I won’t feel bad for it either!

PS:  I’m testing AlphaInventions by putting this link at the bottom of the post just to see if what they say is true…that you get more readers by linking to their site.  Let’s test this theory.  http://alphainventions.com/life.xml