Sunday, February 27, 2011

Cultivation

After a big argument with DB, I always wonder what it is that lead up to it. More importantly, what we can both do different to make sure it does not happen again. Despite the best intent on either side, there is always another one. I am beginning to realize lately, that I found in DB potential to be an amazing dad to J and that quality about him drew me to him. As a single mother, my priorities in marriage had changed - I was willing to subordinate what I sought for myself to what my child needed. The marriage was no longer all about me - I knew we would all be miserable if J and the man I married did not get along well. 
DB has surpassed every expectation I had of him as a father and for that I am very grateful. When we first met, I saw in him a kind heart, generosity of spirit, willingness to change anything about himself that would make the relationship better and the ability to accept his failings. The fact that J adored him from the very beginning was only more affirming. We got into this relationship based on attraction,affection and the ability to completely natural with each other. On most days, we do well given that the marriage has all its essential ingredients in place. 
When we argue, it becomes evident that I had never allowed myself to think about what I wanted for myself in the marriage. This is something I am learning every day. Instead of being upset and disappointed, DB suggests that I "cultivate" him to be who I want him to be. That and patience according to him will give me what I want from him. He is kind of person who will work slowly towards his goals - one small step at a time without any visible signs of progress. I on the other hand want everything right now because time is running out.Unless I see big signs of progress and hit milestones  quickly I get frustrated and call it a lost cause. I am beginning to appreciate what Shirley MacLaine once said "There is no such thing as a crash course in serenity"

Friday, February 25, 2011

Strong Women

I met my friend M for lunch after three years. M to me, embodies the strength of a woman at its finest. She is exceptionally good at her job while spending an incredible amount of energy in raising her special needs child with a couple of challenging medical problems. She balances all that with being a wife and a daughter-in-law. 
Amazingly, she does well at everything. She has a warmth of personality that sets everyone around her at ease. The smile is disarming and she laughs without holding back. Thanks to her efforts, her child is one of the rare success stories and on her way to leading a normal life. Just that is an incredible achievement. Meeting women like M is a very humbling experience. I have had my share of adversities and overcome but compared to what M does everyday, it is nothing. 
There is value is being reminded of that - of the difference in order of magnitude of life's challenges, of the true value of what I do have and tend to take for granted. Women like M are also a tribute to our sex - they combine immense strength and tenderness in a way only a perfect woman can. They are not chic, fun and bubbly, oozing "femininity" from every pore but when it comes to being  the yang energy that soothes, comforts and nurtures they define the height of femininity - the yin.Women like M, demonstrate what is possible from a feminine interpretation of things "typically" considered masculine - being the primary provider for the family, being able to decouple emotion from decision making both at home and work and being the steady hand the guides the family at all times. The understated Chanel bracelet and French manicure completely become her.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Fire Meets Ice

DB's need to plans things to the nth degree drives me crazy. Similarly, my completely random ideas on what we can do at the spur of the moment stress him out. For instance, he will like to plan a three day vacation months in advance with every last detail accounted for - nothing left to chance. I on the other hand will find out on a Thursday, that I have a day off on Monday and will pick a random place in a two to three hundred mile radius and tell him "Let's go there". 
In the past, DB has responded to these arbitrary requests with a complete meltdown and I with anger at him for raining on our parade. This weekend has been the first time that fire met ice in a way that magic was made. We were able to take a sudden vacation to a small beach town we had never heard of. We took long walks on the beach as long as the temperature allowed, J and I collected seashells that held potential as jewelry - DB offered help and critique in equal measure. For the first time, J tried shellfish and loved it. We drove around the quaint neighborhoods, checked out a beautiful aquarium and an island. We did not have the days planned - we slept in, started late, walked, ate local or cooked, walked some more and returned to the home we had rented. 
When I first suggested taking off somewhere, DB got stressed as he is wont to do and I clammed up and told him to "Forget it". That is exactly how things have been thus far. This time, DB made an effort to work with me and when I saw him try to work out of his comfort zone, I came forward to help him plan like he needs to. He told he that he loved my spontaneity and was glad I asked to go at short notice and that he'd love to do this more often. Thanks to observing how DB does things, I  have a much greater appreciation for the virtues of planning ahead - something that simply does not come to me naturally.
I realized this weekend that DB and I may have married because we are ice and fire. We argued passionately after we got together because we are so different and we were not able to negotiate our own space in the relationship without feeling displaced and dominated by the other person. It does not help that we are both fiercely independent and don't like giving up things that are important to us. Almost a year into the marriage we are beginning to learn how we can meet each other half way and nurture our marriage with the qualities that drew us together in the first place instead of allowing our differences to become the flints with which to strike disagreement and discord.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Lessons From Cupcakes

DB bought me a super soft throw a few days before Valentines Day. He does not care for surprises and is bad at keeping them. I got my gift ahead of time and liked it better that way - the de rigeur lovefest of February 14th is not my thing at all. Now that I had been given a gift for to mark the occasion and the first one since our marriage, I felt compelled to reciprocate. 
Knowing that he has a sweet tooth, I had in mind a couple of super fancy cupcakes from a cupcake boutique that is new to our neck of the woods. They are as decadent as they are gorgeous. Apparently everyone else in town was thinking just like I was. I decide to swing by after work, pick up what I liked and head home in time for it to be a surprise. Sadly for me, they had a note posted on their door apologizing for being out of cupcakes. Had I ordered ahead, I could have picked up as many were doing. 
For someone who does not believe in Valentines Day or the celebrations that go along with it, I was extremely anxious to pick up something that was close to what I had intended. Rescue came in the form of ice cream cupcakes from another store down the road. Though not nearly as exclusive as the offerings of the cupcake boutique, they were good enough. 
I felt strangely wistful driving home. DB takes the time and energy to think about what he could do different or better in our relationship. Him going out a few days ahead to pick out the perfect gift for me is one of many examples. I try to do as much as I can in as little time as possible - often without a lot of planning. 
In the many years that he was single before we met, he cultivated qualities that enhance him as a person and a partner. For my part, I focused on running a tight ship - with parenting, career, finances and yes even the tentative forays into relationships. I have possibly regressed on the interpersonal and relationship aspects in the last decade. 
Now that we are married, the difference in our personal growth over this period of time manifests itself in big and small ways all the time. 
The failed attempt to secure bespoke cupcakes on Valentines Day is a small but telling example. Each time something like this happens, I think to myself "I did not used to be this way before" Before - a long time ago, before my first marriage or until my divorce. I would plan just as meticulously as DB does. I had an abundance of imagination and creativity - I used to do the things DB does for me for my R (my ex) - a man who most decidedly did not deserve that generosity.
I want nothing more than to restore those traits that have gone dormant in me to the point that I forget they ever existed. I want to be fair to DB - be able to give to him like he gives to me.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

On Doodling

I can't last more than a couple of minutes on a conference call before I reach out for a notebook to doodle. I feel guilty about this habit and always make sure my doodling is  hidden away - I do not want to come across being a slouch. Some of my doodles are pretty enough to be considered artistic but again I am not supposed to be making "art" while at work.
It would be hard to explain that doodling actually helps me focus on the discussion instead of becoming completely disengaged - that I am being more productive mentally because of it. Doodlers are generally viewed as disinterested in (or bored with) the activity of the moment not to mention mentally lazy. It was most gratifying for me to read this article on doodling - vindication at last ! The author concludes her case for doodling that would be music to the ears of compulsive doodlers like myself :
Like infants and dynamite, the doodle is deceptively simple. A staggering number of scientific, mathematical, and business breakthroughs have come via the act of making inelegant marks on paper. The beauty of the doodle is that it requires no educational degrees, no financial status, no training. It only asks that we unleash it and let it do what it does best: help us think.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Speaking On Cue

My friend S has more life experience than most people I know. The story of her life thus far and as it continues to unfold on a daily basis could give any prime time soap opera a run for its money.Talk about truth being stranger than fiction. We were chatting one evening - we both needed a friend to share our thoughts with. S isgoing through hell as she tries to help her severely depressed and unemployed brother get his life back on track. 

I was on that day having challenges with DB even if of a very different order of magnitude. I advised her to do the best she could do as a sibling without jeopardizing her own family life - to determine a timetable in which to affect (if possible) positive changes in his life. Beyond that there was not much else for her to do. She needed to define a tight boundary around her responsibility for her sibling and not allow guilt to keep expanding it constantly. She told me I had given her good advice.

Her insight about what was going on between DB and I gave me pause for thought. Her marriage is over ten years old and they had dated a few years prior. They make a wonderful couple, their energies balancing each other out in the most harmonious way. As I talked with her, I realized that I had forgotten how to support a man as a woman must. I was going about it without any finesse and DB was responding badly. 
While my intent was great, execution was a whole different matter. I was like a dancer with two left feet trying to tango with a partner who expects me to match step with him. Not only was I an shabby dancer, I was constantly stepping on his feet making what should have been a fun experience a painful one. S on the other hand had tangoed a long time and was as sure-footed as she was graceful. The advice she gave me flowed effortlessly - she practiced what she was saying every day. There was that quiet confidence in her tone that only comes with true conviction.
Always the eager student, I decided to put one of her easier lessons to test right away. It bombed seriously. I was now that actor who begins their part on cue, does not immerse themselves in the character they are playing and most definitely do not have their lines committed to memory. Without S to prop me up, I sank without a trace when DB responded a little differently than expected - I did not have the improvisation skills to continue what I had started. 
What comes so easy to S will take me years to master. In the meanwhile, I would be lucky to be able to put some of her wisdom to use in my marriage. S would not give me a failing grade on my first attempt - the fact that I tried, that I even cared enough to put myself in a situation that was inherently uncomfortable for me because I care about DB, would in her book be an A.