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. =)

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