Happiness: A Work in Progress…
December 13th, 2011
Yes, DG has again done the Houdini act for no apparent reasons. She was gone for 3 months and three days. While she was gone GGTS turned two on October 16th and a week before that it hit the 100,000 hits mark. Few health debacles and travel trips later she is here. Lately she has been getting emails from some desi bahus combating psychological warfare waged by in-laws and few are asking, Is it possible to be happy when people are messing your life? This post was penned in Oct 2009 when GGTS came into existence but it never felt right time to post it until now.
A lot has been written about happiness, “It is in Your Head: Thinking your Way to Happiness,” “Happiness is an Inside Job,” “Baby Steps to Happiness,” “Happiness: How to Find it and Keep it” and so on. DG does not claim to devise a formula that will turn all unhappiness in one’s life into happiness. This is how she learned to claim her happiness. It was a slow journey, but it was worth it. She believes if it helped her then it will help anyone who wants to try it.
Few years ago, DG was in a situation where she was immensely unhappy and miserable. Those who loved her, asked her to be happy, and not bother herself about petty things people said to her or did to her. Someone suggested she should fake being happy, until she became happy and gradually she’ll start feeling happy all the time. That seemed so simple but it was not. How could she not be bothered when her spouse told her she was mean, because she could not keep his mother happy? She did not want harmony in the family. She was going to separate him from his family. She had no such intentions but was blamed for everything that went wrong between him and his family, to the extent of family dog running away…
She wondered what would make his mother happy. Her combing hair the way MIL wanted her to, covering her head when MIL had company or cooking the egg plant according to her recipe. She lived 11,000 miles away, but her one phone call was enough to ruin the weekend. She wanted to know what time DG woke up. What did she do all day, if somebody from her family or friends visited her, her son’s home without MIL’s permission? Who visited us, what we served them and what they brought as gifts all had to be reported to mummyji-in-law. It was like the saying “when they came, what they brought, and when they left what they gave.” She always had something to say about everything under the sun and so did her son. At times, DG thought they were more anal than anus because even rectum exhibits some control of place and time but their tongues had no bar (excuse the analogy this is a transliteration of a Hindi idiom [muhavra]).
All this was normal to them, a sign of affection. There was no concept of boundaries. At times, it felt we were three people sleeping in the bed. One time, past midnight MIL called during very intimate moments. He rolled DG aside to answer the phone, but it disconnected. His mother immediately called back, and chided him for hanging upon her. He cried, and begged her not to say that. He yelled, screamed and threw things, and went to the other room to sleep. DG stood there, like spectator not hurt, but bemused. At least this should have made a wife happy, but she felt pity for him, and wondered will she ever be happy in such an unhappy company.
At that time, DG was so overwhelmed by the emotional blackmail and manipulation in and around the relationship. The modesty taboos prevented her from disclosing it to anyone it was so humiliating to tell this is the marriage she had for love. Maybe that was the reason her well-wishers thought she was choosing to be unhappy. All that was visible to them was a big house, a husband with fat salary and the mother-in-law living in another city so why was she choosing to be unhappy. It started showing on her health. The ongoing stress messed her hormones, she suffered from insomnia, gained weight, and was unhappier than ever.
As a teenager DG spent my Rupees three diet allowance to buy her best friend a poster that read “better alone than in bad company.” She wanted to follow that quotation but felt helpless, as she could not find a way to change the situation or leave the bad company/marriage. What was humiliating then is entertaining today, it is fun to share it with the world. Why should DG be humiliated? She should have been humiliated, if she had chosen to stay in that company. DG knows, she is not alone all those who are reading this have their own share of amusing stories to tell. Yes, DG recalls Shannu telling how her MIL had the audacity to ask her if they had sex during the navratri. Nimi, DG owes it to you, remember one day you asked DG if she was so unhappy then why not leave him. DG was speechless and you said “I see you ten years latter still with him, miserably unhappy.” That sentence kept pounding in DG’s soul. Many nights she stayed awake just wondering if that was how she wanted to live rest of her life. You remember Rinky from the previous posts, she had almost given up. Her MIL created so many rifts between her and Pinku they are staying separate. Rinky has moved back with her parents and her bhabhi keeps making snide remarks. DG can go on and on we all have our unhappy tales to tell. You are aware SILs have their own agenda how to extract as much from their brother’s coiffures.
DG has read on so many desi blogs and otherwise how in-laws are the cause of most unhappiness in a desi bahu’s life. Those providing suggestions usually recommend tit for tat passive aggressive tactics. DG keeps wondering is that how we’ll live our youth fighting these old unhappy souls who are frustrated with their sexless mundane lives. Most of all DG wonder if after certain age all causes of our unhappiness are limited to our spouses and in-laws. Remember those days in the hostel we use to be unhappy about that khadus warden, unavailable thesis supervisor, that girl in the corner room who spread rumors about everyone. Guess we were unhappy all along our lives other than the time we spent in the company of our girl friends. There was something about friends when we were together we forgot about our unhappiness. When we were away we were secretly jealous of each other’s lives. Some where deep inside we thought the other was happier and I deserved what the other had (2 months ago Rinky disclosed on our 25 years together she was secretly jealous of DG coz’ she could do anything, yes, DG was Rajani of her times :) . And DG told her how at one time in her life she was jealous of her good marks, oh Atiya too has confessed she envied DG’s guts and DG was jealous of her intelligence). It felt the people we knew owed us our happiness. Together we agreed that inside can make you happy…..but fact remained that it is the outside world that makes us unhappy!!!!
Journey to happiness
Along the journey DG learned unhappiness is a sign from the universe/God to us to change something. If we don’t then, universe/God makes us even unhappier in a hope that we will change something. Even then, if we fail to change something to revert to a state of balance (happiness) then it has to take some drastic measures. Like for DG the universe had to break her legs and put her in the bed so that it could fix the things that she failed to.
DG remained unhappily in an unfulfilling relationship for a very long time. She followed whatever anybody suggested about how to create happiness. She thought buying harmony and peace by doing what her spouse or MIL/SIL wanted her to would create happiness. It was never enough within few days there was some other cause of their unhappiness. The list of causes increased in geometric progression but the principal participants remained the same. DG faked happiness in a hope it will become her reality. Yes, she did change something that was herself. She could not recognize herself anymore. She was unhappy and bitter. She exhausted her emotional resources but nothing changed about her situation.
In the second stage of her unhappiness she even lost motivation to try to create happiness. Her energies were invested in maintaining status quo. She did not want the unhappiness to increase so her best practice was to do nothing about it and wish it will go away. Go away how? May be he’ll be killed while crossing the road. His mother will have food poisoning or our plane will crash. Nothing of that sort happened rather physical abuse ensued because her not reacting made him feel he was losing control over her and the situation. Every inch in her body screamed this is not what she wants. The more she focused on the unhappiness the more it emerged in her life. She wanted out but did not know how. She was in a foreign country on a dependent visa with no job and money. That was not all her worst fear was what if she fell sick how will she care for herself, what will people say if she broke up, who will stand by her, is she even allowed to break up a love marriage etc. On and on went the list of her “what ifs….” The T-map she drew of pros and cons of leaving or staying just increased her confusion. She didn’t want to even think anymore.
Her core screamed it wants peace. She was created to be happy she married this person to be happy then how come she is unhappy. She felt cheated, used and ashamed. She lived in relationship ambivalence to leave or not to leave and most of all how to leave. Everyone around her asked me to leave and nobody suggested how. She did not want to take any action. She was tired and exhausted of fighting this unending war with someone who claimed to love her. Guess it was time the universe/God stepped in. One day she reported the abuse. She became homeless. The so called well-wishers came forward and showed sympathy and asked why she didn’t tell them they would have talked to him. For some she just became invisible and few others chose to chastise her for bringing a bad name to the community and creating legal hardships for him. All of a sudden DG felt she was socially invisible rather dead.
One day DG took a leap of faith and decided she should explore resources how to become free of him. She begged the universe/God for one chance to help her get back on her feet. She promised she’ll honor her life. She made this promise but she did not know how she’ll keep it. The same evening she was hit by a car while walking. She woke up in the hospital with no cognition of what happened. All she remembers saying was thank you lord for the gift of life. She had asked for another chance and this is what she got, as if being homeless, without money and a pariah was not enough…
Rest in the next post. Yes, DG promises it will be posted in 2011.