I am going to go ahead and say it ‘I lucked out!’

My husband and I had to cross several cultural barriers to start understanding each other. I may have mentioned in my earlier blogs, we had several disagreements at the initial stages of our relationship. It was mainly due to our cultural differences. One big divide was how we expressed our feelings for each other.

I grew up in a semi conservative, protected environment where voicing your feelings was frowned upon. In romantic movies, two flowers coming close together was symbolic of the intimacy shared by the protagonists. A lot of silent, amorous  messages were passed through eyes. I grew up with the romantic notion that if my partner really loved me, there would be no need for words to communicate, he should be able to read my mind through my looks, decipher my expressions and know what I mean. This notion, in my particular case, flopped. My husband, I am sure, wanted to bang his head in frustration, because he didn’t understand why I was mad at him…again. ‘Tell me, please, what did I do wrong this time?’ Finally, I realized the power of words! Now I let him have it (exaggerating a bit) , he probably wants those days of silent treatment back.

He, on the other hand, embarrassed me numerous times in front of my immediate and extended family by professing his love for me openly. My parents and my uncles and aunts were uncomfortable at this display of verbal affection. My cousins and friends loved this novelty, they were amused and somewhat perplexed at the same time. I reminded him often not to verbalize in front of people how much he is in love with me, it was simply not done in India (this was almost 16 years ago)! The poor man, a white guy from a different culture and country, was desperate to reassure my family that his intentions about me were honest. He was also trying to fit in but in the wrong way.

Although, I pleaded with him not to make comments like ”Oh she is beautiful’ when one of my cousins said ‘she is too thin’ I liked
them. I felt cherished when he told my family and his family how much I mean to him, while I still cringed outwardly. Slowly, I changed too. After being married to him, I realized it is actually a wonderful and honest feeling when I acknowledged that I love my husband. India, has opened up a lot more when it comes to the matter of heart, but when I go back I still notice some reticence in admitting ‘Yes, I am in love with my spouse. Yes, I am lucky. Yes, s/he is handsome or beautiful!’

On Facebook, some dear friends (all Indian) were discussing what qualities they love in a man. Sense of humor, sensitivity, intellect, charm et all. After going through the posts, I realized, these were
the qualities, I, too, looked for in a man when I was a young woman. And I found them all in my husband. I mentioned that in the chat. I said, ‘I looked for all that in a man too, I got lucky!’ I was subjected to some good-natured ridicule for that. I was amused at the reaction, it seemed appreciating one’s spouse was still not a ‘done’ thing amongst many.

A couple of days later, I saw a post of one of my American friends where she said how lucky she was to have a wonderful husband and how much she appreciates what he does for her and how special he makes her feel. I know the couple very well, one can see the love and friendship they share. She was not ashamed or embarrassed to let the world know that she loves and appreciates her spouse. Her post made me smile.

I come from a country which has many things to offer to the world. My country is rich in heritage which I am proud to carry and hopefully pass on to my children. I have also had the good fortune to adopt a country which has a lot to offer and teach the world. Here, I have learnt, amongst other things, to appreciate another human, my spouse in this case, and not be ashamed to admit that I lucked out the day we chose each other and decided to spend our lives together. Life is a journey, people say. On this journey we can leave that we don’t need, and pick up new lessons that will make this journey, if not smoother, at least more beautiful and joyful. What is more joyful than to admit that the one who is walking by my side on this journey is the most special person to me? Why on earth should I not say it?

Confessions of a facebook addict while in rehab!

In a moment of insanity, I decided to deactivate my Facebook account. I gave myself a deadline when I will sever my connection with the Facebook world…for a while! Strangely, I was excited and nervous about it at the same time. I was excited that I will be free of the constant desire to check on everybody’s business and sad that I will miss the fun banter and often times the serious exchange of ideas that I had grown to enjoy so much.

My trip to Rome was an eye opener. I stayed away from the internet and Facebook for seven days. Since I was spending my every waking moment exploring, enjoying, experiencing Rome, I didn’t miss Facebook. But how would it be in my real life where I am often bogged down by chores, responsibilities, decisions? Connecting with friends on Facebook was like a breath of fresh air for me. But the problem was, the breath of fresh air had become a violent storm. I felt constantly drawn to the iPad or the computer to check if anybody wrote back on my status update or how many comments did I get on my picture? Facebook sometimes exposed my follies and often times triggered my thinking brain which stays dormant mostly as I switch laundry or mow the lawn. It was a huge, happy time sucker. My folly, I realized, is vanity. I choose the ‘good’ pictures to share with my friends on Facebook. I check how many likes I got on my updates. At the same time, the non confrontational me finds enough courage online to comment on issues I feel strongly about. Facebook is like a fantasy world full of laughter and camaraderie. I started living in the fantasy world while my real world started collapsing around me.

Mother’s day morning was special. After the usual excitement of handmade cards, gifts, hugs, cuddles, Sahana, Ryan and I just sat in the living room for an ordinary chat. I didn’t have my iPad, Sahana didn’t have her iTouch. She said, “This is just wonderful. We are sitting together and looking at each other. We never do this. We are either working, or studying or at sports or on our computers/ipads/itouch. We should take at least an hour each day to do just this – chat!” Ryan was lying on the couch, he piped in his philosophical input, “I am the only free person here. Mommy is always on her iPad, daddy is on his computer and Sahana is on her iTouch. I am the only one who is free, the only one with a life!”

I left for Rome in the afternoon. But I carried little Ryan’s words in my heart. It came back to me again and again as I roamed the streets of Rome. Without my cell phone, my iPad or my computer, I was completely disconnected from the world-wide web. I was free. I came back home and plunged right back into social networking, posting pictures of my trip, writing blogs and posting them, checking often to see the comments and stats. Life resumed, chores piled up and I escaped into my virtual life, laughing, bantering, reading poetry, exchanging ideas on important issues, being armchair analyst. My virtual life was brimming with happiness and friends. My real life? Well…if a day had 36 hours, I would have been fine. But it doesn’t and I wasn’t fine. I decided to deactivate and focus on things that were important.

Resistant to change, I pooh poohed Facebook when it was first mentioned to me couple of years ago. “I am never getting on it, that’s not who I am, I am a private person”, I said. My best friend from college didn’t let go. She connected with old friends, people were asking for me. Those magical college days, those inseparable friends – I was sold. The first few months, for me, were full of new discoveries, of reunions, joy of connecting with old friends, sharing my story and hearing theirs. I was often chanting “Facebook zindabad” (long live Facebook) online and off. But without my knowledge, things started getting out of control.

So one fine morning, I chatted briefly with friends, went to my account settings, my fingers shook for a few seconds over the ‘deactivate’ button and I touched it. I felt a strange sensation of severing connection with a fantasy world where I was loved and wanted. I am loved a lot in my real world too, but in the Facebook world that feeling of being loved is quite palpable, it’s there, out in front of you, in written words! That’s paradoxical, don’t you think? Palpable love in a virtual world? I make it sound dramatic but the sense of loss was real. It was done!

I was surprised though, to realize that with the sense of loss there was also a sense of unfettered glee. Freedom from my self-inflicted imprisonment in the unreal world of Facebook. On the first day, I got so much done, the feeling of being productive was exhilarating. At night, I started missing my friends. I was sad to think I would wake up the next morning and won’t say a cheery good morning to the friends with my morning cup of coffee.

Day 2 was miserable. I was moping around the house constantly thinking of the people I left behind in my virtual world. I had forced my husband to hold a wager that I won’t go back for at least two weeks. The fear of losing out to him kept me from running to the computer and logging myself back on, but oh, I was sad! I haven’t had any experience with kicking an addiction, but on ‘Day 2’, I got a clear idea of what people go through during withdrawal. At the same time, I felt good about being strong at resisting the urge.

Day 3 was much better. Facebook was loosening its hold on me. I was thinking and focusing on things at hand more instead of rushing through chores to get back on the site. I sat and read with Ryan, focusing only on the little body nestled to me while he read. I listened to Sahana focusing only on her words and making a mental note where and when to drop her off and pick her up. She mostly talks to me as her personal taxi driver as her social life and school life is buzzing with activities. I completed my chores on time, read a few pages, wrote a few words, the ‘pre Facebook me’ was back.

This distance was important for me, not only to get a control over my addiction to social networking, but also to get a perspective on why I spent so much time on it. I still love what Facebook world has to offer – some wonderful, like-minded friends, uncomplicated relationships, heartfelt laughter, food for thoughts but it also showed me I can get on Facebook on my terms. I will go back to it, I miss my friends too much not to. But I know I can cut back my time on it. If I feel myself slip sliding back into the same addiction, I will do the same – hover over the deactivate button, my fingers shaking and finally touch it to sever connection temporarily, with a feeling of deja vu. I learnt a lesson about myself, through something as trivial as Facebook, that I actually do have self-restraint. It’s a good feeling.

Choose civility.

Most people who know me will agree that I am an easy person to get along with. Well, I hope they will agree and not call me delusional. I am polite, I hold the door for people, I always make eye contact and smile at people I know, and sometimes I think I know! I obey traffic rules, make a complete stop at stop signs, blink my lights at the other car to let it go first. You get the picture.

I just have trouble with two kinds of people, though. Sneaky drivers who try to steal my parking spot and power outlet hogs. I take my kids swimming at our local Y, and since people are very gung-ho about their new year’s resolution these days, they arrive in droves to the gym at our YMCA. Good for them, I say. Go people, I want you all to be healthy and happy. But don’t take up all the parking in the facility!  Carpool, for crying out loud. When poor, harried, often late mothers like me are rushing to get their children to swim practice, there is no parking to be had!!! So I become a stalker. I zero in on an unsuspecting soul and follow him/her around the parking lot. As soon as people come out of the gym, they flip out their smart phones while walking to their cars and start telling their facebook friends which machines they did that day and how many calories they burnt. Hey, I am not judging anybody, I probably would have done the same….. if I had a smart phone. What I am saying is, I actually have had people lift up their heads from this important task of maintaining virtual connection with friends via phones to give my minivan dirty looks. You have to admit, that’s something. Some sweet souls, however, sometimes signal me where they are parked and I bless them from the bottom of my heart. Since I always have that “Oh I am so late” expression on my face, I think other moms feel my pain. I have got that sad, frustrated look down pat! On one particular day, I got lucky. A woman, going to her car, signaled to me that she was leaving and I could have her spot. I, with a gleeful wave to her, followed immediately and put my blinkers on, waiting for her to pull out. Putting the blinkers on in these cases, is very important. It gives out the important message to other parking spot predators that you have made your kill, nobody should even think about invading your territory. As the nice woman pulled out, I saw another harried mom like me trying to sneak in to MY parking spot. Oh no, you don’t! I thought angrily! I had been circling the parking lot for at least six and a half  minutes, my kids were bickering in the car with each other and taking turns  to whine that they were late for practice, can I please hurry up and park!! Moreover, Ryan has this terrible habit of shrieking “There is one!” startling me and giving me false hope. I had already yelled at them twice. I was angry, frazzled and LATE!!! So before she could make her move I pressed  my accelerator to give it an extra oomph, charged in to claim what I considered mine. I had my blinkers on, for Pete’s sake! Once I got my spot, I immediately felt bad for her. She probably had some bickering, whiny kids in her car giving her a hard time for not finding a parking where there was none to be found! I thought I should find her and give her my advice to stalk innocent gym rats, but didn’t. She wasn’t probably too happy with me right then.

The other kind of people who bug me are power outlet hogs in airports, hospitals or other public places. There is definitely a dearth of  outlets in these places to begin with. If I find one, I almost shout ‘Eureka’ out loud. Some folks miraculously find them and go on to claim two of the elusive outlets, one for their phones and one for their laptops or tablets. While I go around from one end of the facility to another desperately looking for one so my precious kids can play Angry Birds or read e-books. In cases like these, I often feel like standing in front of one of these unthinking folks and tapping my feet in annoyance. But  I don’t. I remember the ‘Choose Civility’ car sticker I picked up from our local library and proudly displayed on my car! Instead, I run around some more!