On Marriage

Truth Byte #69: It’s the little things that hold us together.

As Spring arrives, so does wedding season. So many people get so excited for their big day, spend lavishly, dress scrumptiously, and gather together friends and family to witness this lifelong commitment.

But what happens after the dust has settled and the humdrum of regular life kicks in?

This year is my lucky 13 in marriage, and while I still consider myself quite the infant when it comes to married life, there are some things that I have picked up in this last decade that may be useful if you are newly married or struggling with a marriage that doesn’t feel like what you signed up for.

WARNING: I know that some readers may be annoyed by this post because marriage actually didn’t work out so well for them, and I understand that perspective. But even those who have been through horrible endings, once they have had a chance to allow the wounds to heal, will likely seek out a long-term companion. Whether married, common-law, live-in, deeply committed, or some other label, I know about some things that are actually working for people in monogamous relationships. So if that’s you, it still may be worth the read.

What does it take to remain content and connected as a married couple?

When I scroll through my social media feeds, I see married couples on fancy holidays and picnics in the park. I see birthday bashes, sporting events, daddy-daughter dates, and girls’ night out.

But what I don’t see is what actually sustains us in marriage.

What we don’t see is the daily connection, the interrupted conversations, that sweet touch on the small of the back, that look of adoration. What we don’t see is the tightening of lips and shoulders when someone puts down the one you love in front of you. What we don’t see is the teasing hug good night before bed because she wants to stay up and watch mindless tv, and that’s okay with you. What we don’t see is him making your mom feel better when she uses the wrong pronoun.

These little moments are what keeps a marriage afloat during stormy waters.

No one ever told me about the power of these little things when I was a newly-wed. We committed our lives to each other after living on our own terms for a decade.

Suddenly, our lives were expected to blend together seamlessly.

There were times I felt so lonely and confused, even though my partner was lying right next to me in bed. I guess I thought marriage was going to be like a series of dates, each one more thoughtful and surprising than the next because as time went on, he would get to know me better, right? And for the first couple of years, it was.

We played house, had a baby, figured out how to include each other in our families of birth, and paid all our bills on time.

But as time marched on, our calendars got busy, we had another baby and suddenly date night was not easy to pencil in. As my partner loves to say, we became two ships, passing in the night. We decided to attend a 9-month training program to learn about the dynamics of intimate relationships, and finally we started to see how the ebbs and flows we were experiencing were part of the maturation of our bond. We learned about the stages and phases of love, and how authenticity and commitment would always bring us back to each other.

We learned that our marriage was something we had to mould and tend to, otherwise, in a very short time, and without warning, it would wither away.

We watched as that withering happened to some dear friends around us. We watched as they let each other go in search of greener pastures, while their children, parents, friends, and extended family tried to figure out how to reconcile this new normal.

We wondered if it was just a matter of time before we were that couple that drifted away from each other. Neither of us can look at our own parents and say, “Now there’s a happy couple”, so we had no role-models to look up to.

So we studied relationships, grew together while remaining strong in ourselves, and we looked for mentors, people who had the kind of marriage we wanted to someday have.

And we found them!

This older couple that we know just go together like peanut butter and jelly, like milk and cookies, like saag and roti. They get each other. Each of them makes the other seem shinier. They are also not afraid to ask for what they need and disagree (honestly and respectfully) on a regular basis. They have surrounded themselves with other people who believe in marriage and are willing to fight through the storms holding hands. They are the two rocking on the porch at the end of a life well-lived who the neighborhood kids call Grandma and Grandpa.

The two essential ingredients they have cultivated are: mutual respect and a deep, abiding friendship.

So that’s what we hold on to now: mutual respect and deep friendship. When things get heated I ask myself if I would say what’s about to come out of my mouth to a friend. He asks himself if the respect he feels for me is strong enough to stand up for me when it counts. We keep coming back to each other, no matter how far away our ships sail in the night.

We invest in the little things.

Sometimes we go to bed angry, because that works for him. He always wakes up feeling better. Sometimes we hash it out, because that works for me. I can sleep soundly then. So yes, there is give and take, and unfortunately, I don’t really get to be a brat and get my way all the time (though I SOOOOOO want to sometimes!). I have to show up as an adult and treat him like one too. No matter what the conflict, the marriage comes first, always. Before the kids, before our jobs, before our extended family obligations, before finances, our marriage is first.

So those are my thoughts on marriage, and how it’s actually the little things that keep us together. I am someone who loves to learn about myself and the people around me, and if you are too, here are some books that have helped us along the way:

If It Hurts, It Isn’t Love by Chuck Spezzano
Mars and Venus in the Bedroom by John Gray
The Female Brain by Louann Brizendine
I Wish He Had Come With Instructions by Mike Bechtle
How Can I Be Your Lover When I am Too Busy Being Your Mother? by Sarah Dimerman & J.M. Kearns

Listen to our podcast and join my husband and I as we journey through marriage and parenting, and adulting in general, and let us know if there is a topic you want to hear us talk about.

On Beauty

Truth Byte #68

“Beauty shines, no matter what.”

 

When I was a little girl, I would look at those blonde-haired, blue-eyed dolls lined up on the shelf at Toys R’ Us with an ache in my heart. That was back before the days they realized little girls with dark skin and black hair may need a doll that looks like them to feel normal. I looked nothing like those perfect, pink dolls, and I wondered how I too, could feel pretty.

 

Luckily, those pirated Bollywood films my parents enjoyed on our living-room TV on Saturday nights gave me an alternate version of beauty that I clung to into adulthood. To be beautiful (in my parent’s culture) you mostly just needed those big, beautiful eyes that spoke of love and longing and brimmed to the edge with tears every so often.  Lucky for me, I had inherited those exact eyes from some sexy, demure grandmother in my lineage. Long, thick, black hair and light skin helped too, but the focus in those old-time black-and-white movies was always those eyes, ringed with black eyeliner and full of mystery.

 

I have spent years wondering if I am beautiful.

 

Then this weekend, I delivered a TedX talk called “People matter more than things.”  As I looked at myself in the mirror before going on stage, I realized that when someone is walking their talk, when they are sharing their heart with no walls up, when they are being real, the beauty shines through. Sure, a cute haircut and well-fitted clothing may help, but real beauty is simply undeniable. We don’t have to look a certain way, we just need those eyes – those eyes that reflect our souls.

 

Today I plead with my sisters – let’s celebrate beauty, in all it’s forms.

 

So much of my childhood pain around beauty came from other girls and women, from a look, or a giggle, or a face turned away. My so-called friends would mock my clothing choices, not realizing that I had little influence on which hand-me-down outfit happened to fit my always-growing body.  My cousins, fairest of them all, would encourage me to stay out of the sun because I had a “problematic complexion”. Women that knew my mom would poke my extended, pre-pubescent belly, pinch my cheeks, and chuckle.

 

They all fed into the Toys R’ Us standard, and I truly didn’t fit it.  And though no one directly told me I was ugly, each of these moments made me go a little deeper into my shell, dimmed my shining light just a little bit more, until in my mid-twenties I found myself obese, bald, and stuck in the hell that is also known as self-loathing.

 

My mom was different though. As a child, she always pointed out my eyes, my hair, my heart. She taught me how to dress elegantly, and how to enjoy bright, bold colours. She promised me that one day they would all see what she did, and she stayed the course, even when I was feeling my ugliest.

 

Finally, that day has come.

 

Mothers, protect those precious little girls, let them know that their beauty will shine even while their bodies change and grow and feel alien to them. Aunts, cousins, be kind to each other. It’s not a contest. There is enough room here for all of us to shine. If we do, it simply makes a brighter, more beautiful world.

 

It’s your life, and only you can live it.

 

Ten Years and Counting

Truth Byte #67

Your love matters.”

 

Yesterday was a busy day. I had five clients, two conference calls, one free consultation, and a job interview. Plus, I made three breakfasts, three lunches, and four dinners, made sure kids were brushed and washed and happy and looked after. I even squeezed in two calls to my sister and a text to my mom. And let’s be honest, I checked social media a few times and read a chapter in my book and watched some tv.

 

A busy day.

 

In the middle of it, I got a call from a number I didn’t recognize. I eventually the reached the person, who was looking for a counsellor. After a few minutes, it became clear to me that she was looking for free counselling services, which I am not offering anymore. It was hard to be on that call, because I knew she was not going to get what she wanted from me, and yet she was keeping me on the phone….right in the middle of my very busy day. Read More

The Empath’s Guide

Self-care

Truth Byte #64

“Avoid energy zappers.”

 

I am an empath. That means I feel deeply what other people are feeling, sometimes even when they aren’t directly experiencing the feeling. It also means I can see into people’s emotional landscape even when they have spent a lifetime perfecting their masks of “everything’s fine.” I don’t know if being an empath is an official thing, but it’s an idea that has helped me understand and cope with my incredible sensitivity and often-debilitating compassion.

 

For much of my childhood, this made me seem like a crazy person. When there was tension in the room, I would feel it in my body, and my eyes would well up long before voices were raised. Read More

The End of an Era

Truth Byte #55

 

“Everyone changes, even you.”

 

For a long time, I used to wonder whether people could change.  I would have late-night debates with my friends from university about whether lasting change is possible, or if people just put on a show to win whatever life goal they are grasping for without ever really changing the fundamental fabric of who they are.

 

What I learned last weekend is that everyone changes, even me.

 

And I learned this lesson in the most unexpected place: on the ski hill.

 

But wait a second, let me back up a few years.

 

When I was in fifth grade, my eldest cousin took me and a gaggle of other little cousins up to a ski hill.  For an immigrant child, skiing was about the most “Canadian” we could get (besides drinking beer and eating back bacon, neither of which were culturally sanctioned for me as a nine-year old Muslim girl), and maybe playing hockey, a sport that was way to expensive for a “working-three-jobs-each-to-make- ends-meet” parental budget.
Read More

Finding Fun in Food and Paint

Truth Byte #54

 

 “It was always supposed to be fun.”

 

When I was a kid, everything was so much fun.  Whether it was playing in the forest behind my house, late-night-hide-and-seek with the neighbourhood kids, or Disney movie marathons, my life was so full and rich and fun.  Even the summer I spent with a cast on my leg was fun as people wrote messages of hope in their first grade printing and my little brother devised secret contraptions to help me deal with the itchiness.

 

Being a kid was fun, and yet I couldn’t wait to grow up.

 

I see this pattern repeating with my own kids.  They love to measure themselves against my abdomen to see how much they have grown, and whenever someone compliments them on getting taller, they beam from the inside.  They can’t wait to be older.

 

But why?

 

From where I am sitting, older is often the opposite of fun.  Older means more responsibility, unavoidable obligations, and being bored or stressed a lot of the time.

 

Why would anyone want that?

 

My guess is most of us don’t.  When we were teenagers, we had big ideas about what it would mean to be a grown-up. We imagined adult-ing to be a lot like childhood, except with less people bossing us around, setting curfews, and telling us what to do.  We imagined we would be doing whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted, and thoroughly enjoying it.  We imagined we would be loved, and respected, and valued, and that our voice and perspective would really matter.
Read More

Sparkly Yet Spiritual

Truth Byte #51

“You can’t move forward with a split mind.”

 

For years, we have wanted things. New houses, cars, fancy clothes, the newest tech gadget, a happy wife, a thriving career, a caring boss, a baby, or the next child, or a pet. Some of us get these things and are thrilled. Some of us get these things and they are not enough to fill the longing.

 

Why is it that some people are satisfied with their lives while others are not? What makes some of us content with very little while others have a lot of stuff and very little happiness?

 

And the reverse is true too. There are those without all they want and need who are miserable and also those who live abundantly and thoroughly enjoy their lives.

Acquisition of things does not equate with happiness.

 

And yet we are wired to want.

 

Some spiritual and psychological traditions encourage us to be critical of this impulse to want, to learn to curb our desires and attachments and teach our selves to want less. People who follow these paths speak plainly and sometimes disdainfully about things and argue that the acquisition of things is our first and foundational problem. These traditions teach that it’s better to have experiences and relationships rather than things, and since we are all going to die anyway, none of this stuff actually matters in the long run.

 

I tried following those paths, and fell flat on my face.

 

Because I like stuff.

 

I like sparkly stuff, fancy stuff, decorative stuff, pretty things – just because they light up my space and bring a beautiful tone to my day. I like big things and small things and new things and plain things and bright things and things that make my life easier or trendier or just more fun.

 

I like stuff.

 

Going to the mall, for me, is like going to a museum. All those beautiful things to look at!

 

So when I stumbled upon the Law of Attraction, I felt like I had finally found a metaphysical system that works with my love of stuff. The Law basically says that whatever you focus on you attract to you. In it’s simplest form, the Law teaches that if you focus on what’s working, you get more of that. If you focus on what’s not working, you get more of that.

 

It even works for little things: if you focus on yellow flowers, you will start to notice them everywhere. Caterpillars? Same thing. Choose any physical object and focus on it, and it will start to appear more frequently and obviously in your life.

 

And of course, you would want more of the good stuff, so the teachings of the Law of Attraction helps us train our body/mind to focus more on the good stuff. Our spirit doesn’t need stuff, but enjoys the process of making thoughts into things, so there is no dichotomy in this system between wanting stuff and being in alignment with our own true spiritual nature.

 

So what about happiness? Well, many people think that getting the stuff is what will eventually bring happiness. But we can find hundreds of examples of how that is simply untrue.

 

Here’s an alternative approach: If we can learn to be happy first, then the stuff is just a bonus.

 

So what if we applied the Law of Attraction to happiness? That would mean the more happy we were, the more happiness would come to us.

 

And this totally works.

 

I have seen it dozens of times.

 

But only if you don’t have a split mind.

 

A split mind is where one voice in your head says, “Yes! Go for it? You can do it!” and the other voice in your head says, “That’s impossible. That will never work. You suck.”

 

Yes, you have voices in your head. We all do. And many of us believe the second voice because that is the voice that has evolved with us over centuries to keep us safe.

 

And for the masses, safety is the goal.

 

But then there are those of us that want something more than just survival. There are those of us that want richness and texture and complexity to our lives. We want adventure and thriving relationships and deep down joy. Some of us want to live loudly and vibrantly and totally immersed in this human experience. Some of us want to dance when we hear a drum beat and sing at the top of our lungs to our favourite songs on the radio. Some of us need that shiny, eye-catching centerpiece on our kitchen table to remind us that life is meant to be lived fully, not just tolerated. Some of us are willing to forgo order and discipline to be able to feel the cool dew of morning grass on the soles of our feet, or feel the gritty rhythm of live jazz pulse through our chests in a fringe club in the wrong part of town.

 

And we don’t get to live that kind of a life by listening to that second voice.

 

The only way we get a sparkly life is to believe that voice that says we are limitless, timeless, spiritual creators having a physical experience. That this life was meant to be lived to the brim, and that the only thing stopping us is our choice to believe that “life is hard” and “good things take time”. We have to believe that voice that tells us we are worthy, loveable, and unstoppable. And that life is supposed to be easy, fun, and free.

 

When we repair the split and start focusing on only that first voice, life becomes really shiny, really quickly. And while there may be moments of self-doubt, we generally move our “normal” up a few notches, and find ourselves happier. With or without the stuff.

 

Tell me about your Law of Attraction stories! When have you wanted something and it came to you quickly and unexpectedly? Leave a comment below to start the conversation or send me a note at connect@talktosaira.com

If It’s Not Fun…

Truth Byte #50

 “If it’s not inspired, it’s just busy work.”

 

I used to be a really busy person.  I rushed around from one thing to another, always feeling like I was squeezing in life between events. Even when I was with people I Ioved being around, my mind would flit on to the the next to do in my agenda.

 

Not inspiring.  Not inspired.

 

It wasn’t always this way.

 

Years ago, during my Master’s degree in California, I met a group of incredible minds.  We laughed, learned, and lived together, coming with all kinds of back stories to a space we would share for four years.

 

I remember dinner parties with these friends. 

 

They would start in the early evening, and go on and on into the wee hours of the morning.  We talked for hours about the newest television drama or the meaning of life, and everything in between. When I was with them, I was inspired.  We made art together, wrote poetry, checked each other’s grammar for essays, and personally researched the human spirit in ourselves and each other.  We participated in each other’s religious and cultural ceremonies, shared meals and gifts on Holy Days, met each other’s families, and found a home in each other. Those were days of little sleep and much reading, few boundaries and dozens of breakthroughs.

 

Those were the most inspired years of my life.

 

Fast forward twelve years.

 

I am a mother of two young children and I am an entrepreneur.  I volunteer at least ten hours a week on professional boards, and babysit other people’s children regularly. I run a private practice as a psychotherapist and also run a household. I am the one who drops and picks the little ones from all their activities, including school, and I have a thriving and full social life with my incredible husband and our friends.  Plus, I go to the gym five times a week and squeeze in a manicure and massage once a month.

 

I have a lot to do.

 

Gone are the days of endless dawdling and conversation.  These days, I am one busy woman!

 

But until recently, that busy-ness was just busy-ness, not inspired action.

 

Today, I filmed an episode of my YouTube show, Today is Your Day, and we discussed the benefit of inspired action. If action is not inspired, it simply one more “have to”.  And I hate “have tos”.  Always have.  Sucked it up and pushed through most of my life, but these days, if something is a have to, I am out.

 

And so these days, I am remembering what I learned from my friends in California: if it isn’t fun, why are we doing it? Anything from school picks ups, to client re-scheduling, to photocopying the class list, to folding laundry can be fun…if done in the right frame of mind.

 

So my challenge to you today would be to take stock of all the have tos on your own to do list.  What could you just do later? And what could you never actually do well, unless it is inspired? Your answers may surprise you.

 

Want more? Join us on YouTube for Today is your Day, or visit us on a Thursday night at The Get Happy Club! Email connect@talktosaira.com for details.