Thendral is a monthly publication in Tamil Language published from Bay Area, CA. USA. Recently I read the following letter in a recent publication of Thendral in the column that provides advice to the readers:
I am 77 years old; my husband 84 years old. We have been married for 53 years. Ours is a “Love marriage” as opposed to the traditional arranged marriage. It was rough in the early days as his parents did not approve of our marriage. He married me despite such resistance from his family. “Opposites attract” is true in our case as we are both different in our habits and preferences. I am an extrovert and he prefers to remain contained within the family. He will adjust and go along with me, even if that was not his choice. I have also adjusted myself by giving up my work life and career. He had lots of work related travels. While at home we used to quarrel and argue a lot. But in the end he will give up when I shed my tears. This is how my life continued for more than four decades.
Now that he is retired and mostly at home, he is demanding attention all the time. I prefer to go out and do some social service, while he wants me to stay home and take care of his aging health. While he seems to have a sense of insecurity, I am getting old and easily tired. The future looks bleak. Our two sons are settled and far away. My husband appears to be depressed but refuses medical attention. We are both constantly at edge and angry at each other. There is no peace of mind.
Can you please help?”
This real life letter and plea for help reminded me of a Japanese movie “What A Wonderful Family! (English title) / It’s Tough Being a Family (literal title)” that I saw with English subtitles in one of the long trans-continental flights! https://drive.google.com/drive/u/0/folders/1Tc3yRRE9pNGsv00uPuYaJ8_K7kCsvTI0 Without giving away the details of the movie, the summary of this 2016 movie:
Husband (Isao Hashizume) and wife (Kazuko Yoshiyuki) have been married for 50 years. For her birthday, the husband asks the wife what she wants for her birthday present. She replies that she wants a divorce. The wife’s request for divorce sends the entire family into chaos. https://bagikuy.com/what-a-wonderful-family-its-tough-being-a-family-i-ii/
Amazingly the details narrated by the 77 year old Indian house wife in her letter pleading for help are almost identical with the circumstances and background laid out in this Japanese movie!
Life is the same no matter where you live in the world or what cultural background one comes from!
What can be our advice to this 77 year old woman? Strangely the advice would be the same for a young or middle aged person under similar circumstances.
- In the Japanese movie the house wife returns to her peace and happiness when she finds out that despite all her apprehensions and fear she has managed her long married family life largely based on mutual trust between family members.
- This trust is restored when the husband signs the divorce paper and hands it over to the wife along with a series of reflective comments that expresses his genuine regret for taking his wife for granted; for not sharing with her his genuine thoughts of how much he loved her dearly; hence he would do anything that pleases her including the signing of the divorce paper!
- With trust and mutual respect restored in her thoughts and in her mind, the wife shreds the divorce papers and returns to her life of peace and happiness.
Trust is an abstract feeling, a conditioning of the mind that overcomes anxiety and despair.
It may be only in the movie where we find the above acceptance and resolution of differences between two people. Rare indeed is it in real life. But that does not have to leave each of us helpless and miserable, reliant only on others to remove our anxiety and despair. Instead introspection and self-reflection can be the best starting point for any situation of anxiety and despair. Self-reflection is also the beginning of self-control.
Through Self-control one remains one’s own best friend; through lack of self-control one becomes one’s own worst enemy. B.G. 6.6.
Self-control also implies disconnecting oneself from the personal nature of any activity. It creates a separation between “I” the inner person – who is reflecting and analyzing – and “I” the person who feels the suffering, misery and let down. Instead of having two individuals – the husband and the wife – we have now two different persons: The reflecting “self” Vs. suffering and seeking help “self”. While the acceptance and resolution between two individuals – the husband and the wife – may or may not happen, the resolution between the inner “I” and the external “I” is well within the reach of each of us! This discipline for internal dialogue and finding answers on one’s own accord is described as “Yoga” or union with the self. Through such internal dialogue we create a separation or distance from the questions of “What am I doing? Why am I Doing this? How am I supposed to do this? Which is right? Wrong? Why?” Instead these questions can be transformed into “What is “it” that I am worried about? How much do I understand the “it”? My connections through my knowledge, bias and ignorance related to “it”? We have described the connectors and the process of their use at: https://sipractce.wordpress.com/2011/05/25/anatomy-of-our-experiences-objectivity-the-end-result/ They are not mere hypothetical. Instead they are real and useful every day and in every situation.
At a time of crisis, if Knowledge / Understanding prevail, it transforms a person to tranquility (a higher plane of existence). B.G. 14.14.
At a time of crisis if we are driven our bias leads to turbulence resulting in a relentless series of actions (through a chain of unfulfilled wants and needs) compounding our grief and misery. At a time of crisis, ignorance shrouds a person with delusion and inertia which results in a lack of any sense of purpose or direction. B.G. 14.15.
The challenge faced by any one of us: How can we put to use such analytical frame work for enlightened living when one is in the middle of a crisis? It is neither useful nor compassionate to suggest this analytical technique to someone in crisis but who has never practiced internal or self-reflection. That would be like encouraging someone who is drowning in the swift current of a river to swim well and get to the shores safely. Instead they need a safety net to be pulled away from their turbulent waters. That is the role of the family and society at large. At the same time those who are on safe ground and are unwilling to learn and practice such analytical frame work to manage their daily life may find themselves at some point or another in their life like the 77 year old house wife and her plea for help!
Self-reflection and analytical reasoning requires a properly functioning mind. Wisdom is also required to separate anxiety and despair caused by mental health vs. issues driven by lack of analytical reasoning. Such education, knowledge and wisdom may be needed in the society at large as we grow older and also as we focus on care for the elders in the family!
Every activity is the result of the culmination of five aspects: Person(s) involved; Purpose or motive (requirements of Body, mind and Intellect and their functions); Means; Circumstances and Laws of Nature or Divine Influence. B.G. 18.15
This being the case, any person who believes – due to his/her limited reasoning – that he/she or someone else is solely responsible for that activity or outcome does not see the full picture. B.G. 18.16.