Starting Over

Discovering myself, my family and friends in a foreign land, second time around

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What now?

This is the post I should have published first. The reason why I thought my life, which is strangely the same as anyone else’s but still very different, was worth writing about. And it had to do with an ad on Indian TV for jewelry.

I had been a loyal Tanishq customer long before I saw the ad – the one that shows a dusky bride walking to her wedding ceremony holding her little girl’s hand. As the bride and groom walk around the ceremonial fire, the groom picks up the little girl as well, including the child in the commitment to the new life with her mother. Not surprisingly, the ad made waves in the media and in urban Indian society. It was a wonderful visual, a great statement on the changing mores of Indian society that favored fair-skinned virginal brides for eligible bachelors of all ages. How wonderful for a woman to get a second chance, to be deemed worthy by a man who is willing to accept her child as well!

A friend sent me the link to this ad, soon after its debut in India. It reminded her of my wedding, she said. I had had a wedding ceremony the month before. My 16 year old daughter participated in it. So did my husband’s 10 year old daughter. It was the second time for both of us. And so we came together, each with a “plus one”.  Our respective families and close friends attended the event, blessed us, gave us gifts. We smiled for the camera, sorted through our material possessions and started a new life in a different country.

As individuals we knew what marriage entails, what we knew and expected of each other. In India marriage requires marrying the entire family, usually implying an acceptance of parents, siblings and varying extents of each other’s extended families. But in our case, this involved our children from our previous marriage as well. As we walked around the sacred fire, we solemnly took vows towards a peaceful life with each other, vows written for first-timers. What about our responsibilities to each other’s children? And to their extended families which do not include us? As we took seven steps together as husband and wife, we also had to step up to instantly becoming a step-parent. Was there any advice for that role?

As a child, the logical part of me always questioned what happened after the prince and princess stepped into the sunset hand in hand. There were no books then for the “happily ever after” sequel. As an adult I know there are innumerable books that offer advice now for happy marriages but I can’t seem to find anything to guide me in my personal situation. Undoubtedly I am older, perhaps a little more sensible, if not wiser but have very little experience to guide me through this phase of my life. A lifelong bookworm, I have looked to books for escape and enlightenment. The Chicken soup series provides some feel-good tidbits but there are no guidebooks for this first year of married life with a new spouse for an Indian woman.

After our quiet wedding we got down to the nitty gritty of starting over –  finding a new home, moving, getting the kids out of one school and into another, figuring out how to operate a household of four. Honeymoon, you ask? Even holding hands seems unlikely on most days. We go for family movies on Fridays, outdoor treks on Sundays and deal with schoolwork and homework on the other days.

My past unhappy marriage experience has taught me one important lesson – I must prioritize my relationship with my spouse if I want to build a happy family. And that seems the hardest to do.  Each of us prioritizes what needs to be done for the family and self and as we tick each item off the list, the hours in the day dwindle. Sometimes the only time we have together is the few minutes before we sleep, a time I would have spent reading a book.

Most days I feel bereft. All I seem to do is wait for the family that I sent off to school and work in the morning to come back home. I read, send out resumes, do errands. I write, I Skype. I do yoga. And I wait. Literally and figuratively – for structure and substance, for goals and guidance, for insight and inspiration, for enthusiasm and encouragement. I know that it will not be revealed to me in a momentary flash of brilliance. After all, the fairy tale took a while to get to the point of the happy couple walking into the sunset, but ever after is a very long time.