Thursday, June 30, 2011

Horsing Around & Getting My Goat

I came home yesterday and was talking to Karma when he stopped me to say, "You look like a horse....or maybe a goat, but only a goat that hasn't been neutered." (What?!)

He was referring to the length of my bangs, which are a bit out of control, I must admit. (I keep curling them in an attempt to prolong the time until I get them trimmed.)

I chuckled, walked into our bedroom closet to change for the gym and he grabbed our laundry basket and pretended to coax me out like it was a food bucket for a horse. I almost died laughing.

These moments are the saving grace of our relationship that I soak up.

It reminds me that despite our cultural and personality differences, we have a lot of fundamental things in common. AND, the fact is, some jokes can transcend culture...or I can laugh at my husband's interesting references and they instantly become jokes. Either way I end up collapsing from laughter exhaustion.
This is in my top 3 favorite things in life.

Since returning from camping things have continued to get better. I had an incredibly busy work week last week (we're redoing our website), tension and anxiety were in high-gear in the office (aka my boss and I, alone and coo-coo pants), BUT I maintained this incredible sense of groundedness through it all. I didn't have a meltdown, cryfest, panic attack (it's a miracle!), nor did I make any stupid or impulsive moves (like snapping at my boss or husband). I'd like to say it's my incredible meditation practice that carried me through it (I have been sitting shortly most mornings these days), but it's most likely my hormonal/chemical imbalance (set off by oral contraceptives) is beginning to relevel itself...however level it normally is. Whatever the case, I feel like I'm in a mental/emotional space that I've been longing (and praying) for. *Whew*

I've been prioritizing have more social connection with my friends and Karma has followed suit, hanging out with friends both during the day (since he's out of school) and in the evenings. We're starting to live together, but more independently (not in an awkward, distanced kind of way). It's most definitely contributing to my PMA (positive mental attitude) these days.

Karma went to see a friend on Sunday in San Francisco, which happened to be during the Gay Pride parade. What should've taken him about an hour, took about 3 1/2 and he was in LOVE with the whole festival. He declared that he is going to march next year IN the parade and will be "gay Karma." If any other partner of mine ever said that I might actually be worried.... I also shared on Facebook that he was buying a ticket for the MUNI, a public transit system within the city, and received a Sacajawea coin as change (the gold $1 coin). He'd never seen one before and asked me if this was "the gay money" in honor of the Pride festival. I laughed about that one for awhile...

He showed me photos and video he took on his new iPod touch (one of his friends gave him). He seemed pretty intrigued with lesbians kissing (not too surprising considering most of my straight guy friends are). He also had a few pictures of a girl dancing around in her bikini in the subway station. Remember, he's only seen a handful of women in bikinis EVER. He thought the fact that people were going topless and painting on their nipples was great. His overarching statement was "This is a VERY good celebration." I have a feeling we'll be in the city for Pride next year (which I would enjoy and will do my best to get him to go in a costume with me)....

I finally went back to my Tibetan class, which was tonight. I finally feel motivated to start studying again and it felt really good to be back in class with all my classmates and with Rinpoche. Some really cool things are starting to unfold, we may begin translating a major text together (we have to be approved by a committee overseeing a larger project first). Regardless, I feel I'm back in the saddle again (in keeping with the horse theme) and I have a few things brewing about my studies/career (more on that as they unfold).

We're leaving for Virginia in one week and we're both really excited. Karma will have Tibetan friends in town from all over the US for HH Dalai Lama's big teaching and my dad's side of the family is coming for a long weekend, family reunion (which was my idea to put together). I haven't seen some of those cousins in 4 years--I'm very, very happy about this reunion!!

Life is good and for the first time in a long time I'm not waiting for them to go sour again, I'm just enjoying it.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Feeling Fired Up after Salt Springs

Who is this glowing woman, you ask?? It's Caroline when she's in connection with the Earth, her body, Dharma sisters, s'mores, and given the mental and emotional space to see things a little more clearly.

This was taken Day 3 of an amazing weekend camping trip to Salt Springs Reservoir in Pioneer, CA. 9 of us total from my young adult, women's Dharma group went last Friday-Sunday and it was like hitting the "reset"button on my emotional state and space of mind.

Being in nature is not something that I grew up learning to love (mom, I do not blame you for this). I did play outside a lot and get dirty, but overnight camping outside wasn't something I did, minus a weekend church getaway in the 7th grade when it rained the whole time. Needless to say, I LOVE it. My mind and body love it. I don't mind being dirty and without modern conveniences--I relish in it. I also found myself feeling more empowered, less whiney and getting into a rhythm...pushing myself outside of my habitual patterns I carry more in the comfort of my everyday environment.

I also enjoyed the time and space away from Karma, although I was really excited to go home and see him (a good sign!). I'm feeling more motivated to be present with whatever is coming up and also feel reconnected to wanting to study Tibetan! Yay!

While I was out in nature, I reconnected with the Truth. I felt this way when I was in India, too. Without the superficiality and material things that come up for me more and more as I'm wrapped up in my life here, I can see what's in my heart. I know what I want to do as a path and how my marriage with Karma is all connected to this. This is also how I felt in India. I know that the Dharma and Tibetan language will be more of the foreground of my everyday life now, even if it's only my intention and I'm not studying or practicing every day right away. The intention feels more like fire in my heart like it did before and it's making me feel alive and reawakened. What an immense blessing.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

There is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in.

I'm really humbled by the number of people who have contacted me after my last post. Your Facebook comments, texts and calls really mean a lot! Thanks!

My last post was really a review of the last couple of months as I'm coming out of this dark mental state. These last few weeks, and this week in particular, have been really great. Karma doesn't read my blog, although he knows about it, he does sometimes read my mind (I swear!). 

I posted last Friday and then later that night when we were laying in bed he started talking about how he feels like he doesn't really know how to be a regular guy. He's been observing the guys at his school and sees how rough they are with each other, hanging out smoking and hitting the bars on the weekends. He's seeing this as the "normal" behavior of young guys (I'm taking a guess that they're probably in their early 20s) and that after all his years as a monk he just doesn't know how to be rough mannered. 

He also has observed (and thinks) that me (and my friends) are in the "bardo" (like the name of my blog)--it means "the in-between state." He's referring to the fact that I'm not like a lot of Americans,  being on the buddhadharma path, being sober, not seeking a lot of material things, etc... These are all things that I struggle with--I swear, having a husband is like facing a mirror of neurosis (one of those magnifying mirrors that show all your pores)--and having them pointed out can be a very vulnerable experience. Anyways, this is a story of opening, not anything negative. 

So Karma's been thinking about what it would be like to not be an "in-between" person. To just go for the American way and to be a club-going, beer drinking guy. Amidst his explanation he kept referring to the fact that I would never let him do that. This got me to do I give him the space to be and grow as he wants and needs to all the while keeping boundaries (i.e. not being married to someone who drinks every night when I'm trying to stay sober). It's a toughy. I'm not bogged down by this question, more just holding it gently (and talking to my therapist about it). 

I brought up that we were going to a party the next night and that he might make some friends there, but he brushed if off and said that people would probably be friendly and then he'd never seen them again. It didn't turn out that way, though, he made two new friends, both guys who are studying meditation and buddhism and who were very excited to meet him. It just goes to show that you never know. He was joking that it was because he had a glass of champagne. LOL

So here I am, lingering in the in-between state, but right now I"m seeing it as a spacious place, rather than feeling like I'm floundering....after all, it's all about perspective. 

Tomorrow I'm heading out to Salt Lake Reservoir with 9 of my Dharma sisters to camp for the weekend. Karma is staying home and has some plans already. It's our first weekend away from each other since he got here and I must say I'm really looking forward to it...and also really hoping that I miss him, that would be a good sign. :)

Friday, June 10, 2011

Progress, Not Perfection from the Jewel of the House

This month has been hard. Not as hard as last month, but either way, I finally feel like I'm seeing some light in what has felt like a heavy, dark, existential cloud looming around my heart-center.

It's hard to know what's been due to hormonal imbalance and what's rooted in grounded concern. This fact has made it unbelievably hard for me to trust my own feelings. In Buddhism we're taught not to really "trust our feelings" anyways because they are ever changing, but there's a level in which your emotions are telling you something...something so grounded in your body that at a most basic level it gives you the will to live, to strive, to survive. There were times this past month that the wind was so lost from my sails that it looked like getting out of bed, simply surviving, wasn't much of an option.

I started taking a birth control pill two months ago, along with my knee surgery, which kept me out of the gym for almost a month, so there were a lot of factors. Karma was also having health issues, including having all 4 of his wisdom teeth pulled, then getting severe food poisoning 4 days later (with blood, fainting & an emergency room visit). On top of that, Karma had his immigration interview last Friday, so there was an underlying anxiety leading up to it. The wonderful news is that he was approved, although the interviewer didn't tell us that in person and left us wondering if he would be. I'll get to that in a minute. (I've put a subhead down below if you'd like to skip the depressing stuff.)

Karma and I celebrated our 6-month wedding anniversary last week and the honest truth is that I felt more like questioning the decision, rather than celebrating. What a shitty feeling.

I've been told that the first marriage is hard, but add to the language barrier, cultural differences, financial dependency, surgeries, sickness and, well, it's a recipe for a Caroline meltdown of epic proportions. On the simplest level, the good news is, I didn't drink (can't say I didn't think about it). The bad news is, it's not over.

Karma, of course, has his own waves of mind and sometimes chooses to share them with me. I know my behavior towards him has been unwelcoming and, at times, harsh, but he continues to love me through it, which is sometimes surprising, but definitely admirable. There are things we will have to really dig into once he's been here longer and his English is better, like deep cultural beliefs that feel stifling to me. He truly believes that a wife is the "jewel of the house" and when she spends a lot of time outside of it it feels empty. I can see where he's coming from, especially for families with children, but it's such a patriarchal point of view that my body has such a strong reaction to it. My vitality comes through human connection and social contact and I have been trying to curtail that in an attempt to make him happy, but have dampened my own liveliness and love of life in the process (which, in turn, does NOT make him happy). *Doh* Anyways, I've started to connect to my social life a bit and already feel better.

I have had the space of mind (and am currently feeling groovy) to start seeing light, opportunity and hope within all this. I do realize that my perspective has EVERYTHING to do with how this will turn out. When I'm feeling triggered, do I choose to go down the rabbit hole of anguish, or do I hit my knees and pray? Do I settle myself down comfortably on my little pity pot, or do I reach out and ask for help? Do I continue to list all the things I think are "bad" or are "wrong" in my life, or do find the good? You get the point.

This week seems a little better, perhaps due to my actually sitting down to meditate after a few months hiatus (yes, I realize my insanity could be a direct correlation). I've had some guilt around not sitting, but so much aversion that I just couldn't bring myself to do it. I think my resentments towards my relationship and how connected that is to the Dharma had a lot to do with it. Whatever the reason, my aversion has lifted around that. I'm hoping it will lift around my Tibetan language study so I can start that again, but I'm being patient.

I'm blessed to have an amazing village of support and grateful that even in the lowest of low times, I picked up that 100lb phone and called some of them. Instead of trying to control & "fix" things, I'm slowly learning how to surrender to what's happening and staying present with them. S.L.O.W.L.Y. "Progress, not perfection."

7:45 a.m. in San Francisco last Friday (my grandma & grandpa Netschert's wedding anniversary date 6/3). We left the East Bay at 6:45, hit no traffic and were there, through security and waiting by 7:25. I hadn't been blatantly nervous much leading up to it, but started getting nervous the night before and was in full force that morning. Karma, of course, was as cool as a cucumber. It helped balance me, for sure. We took along a Tibetan friend to translate, which was a must, or Karma wouldn't have been able to complete the interview.

The interviewer was a small, fierce woman who immediately made me uncomfortable. Her energy was so intense, so severe and so antagonistic. I immediately became subservient in my body language and demeanor. I haven't been around many government-type officials and I realize that there is a level of straight-forwardness, professionalism and power that they must command, but it was very overwhelming (especially given my recent mind state).

She asked him a series of questions, including our address, which Karma messed up (twice!) and then focused her attention on me. She was like a machine gun of questions and my heart rate was up to pace with them. They were mostly questions about his family, but she questioned my birth certificate (my parent's names aren't on it...Why? I have no idea.), my health insurance card (they told me that Karma wouldn't get a card with his name on it and when I explained this she said she had the same provider and they do issue separate cards). She said she needed more time to "follow up" on some information and that they would send us a letter in 2-4 weeks with an answer. When I left there I was shaken, worried that he would get denied and ruminating that it might be my fault. Thankfully we received a letter of approval yesterday, less than a week after our interview, so we're majorly relieved!

I want so badly for everything to be wonderful for Karma and for us as a couple. I want to ride these waves with patience and open-heartedness, no matter what happens. There is light in this journey and some lightness in my chest. A very, very good feeling.

*Side note story
I planned on ending this post with the last section, but just can't leave out this story. We watched the movie "Grown-Ups" with Adam Sandler (not so great) and there was a character whose 5-year-old (ish) son was still breastfeeding and all his friends were giving him grief for it. The next day, Karma says he doesn't understand why everyone thought that that was such a bad and strange thing. I told him that most people only breast feed their kids in the US until they're about a year old. I know that this is vastly different from many other countries, mainly because I know my aunt raised her son in India and breastfed much longer and it wasn't considered strange. When I asked him how old he was when he stopped his said around 7 or 8...but sometimes did when he was 10, 11 and even 12 (on a relaxing afternoon when everyone was just laying around in the grass).
Wait, what?
I asked him if there was actually breast milk and his reply was, "No."
I was immediately judging this (aren't you?). I asked him if it was in any way sexual and explained that most boys at 12 (in America) are thinking about touching boobs, but not their mom's.
He was totally grossed out that I would even suggest that and said it's not uncommon.
I don't really know how to end this story, except by saying that this is a prime example of HOW different our cultures really are and where we're coming from in perspective.
I would like to say that I will NOT be breastfeeding our children until they are 12. =)