Saturday, April 29, 2017

She's a Fire Lily

This post may seem a little redundant, as I've already written about my baby girl earlier this month in honor of her birthday.  However, this is what's on my mind today, so here goes...

When I was about 11 or 12 years old, I started dreaming up my future family.  I compiled a list of my favorite names for both girls and boys (although there were a lot more girls' names than boys' there, haha!!), and created a child in my imagination to give each name to.  My eldest was to be a girl named Lalita (a Sanskrit name meaning "attractive; beautiful; charming; delicate").  I thought this was the loveliest name.  However, just in case she ended up wanting another name to use that was more conventional in the West, I also gave her the name Lily -- another one I thought was just beautiful.

To me the letter L evokes still waters.  Pure wells, placid lakes, deep reservoirs, forest pools.  Softness, soothing calm, gentleness, maturity and depth.  The mental image that the letter L has most particularly always called up for me is that of a small but beautiful pool, sheltered from prying eyes in the stillness of a deep green wood, and filled with the opulent loveliness of lotuses and water-lilies.  Especially white and blue ones: peaceful and serene colors to match the peace and serenity of the whole scene.  Since I'm a lover of peace, it's no wonder that I've always loved the letter L when this is what it represents to me.

Now that I actually have a little girl named Lalita, though, she has proven to be quite different from the eldest daughter I imagined for myself so many years ago.  I pictured a girl whose presence in our home would be as calm and soothing as the sound of the letter L is to my ear.  When I decided on the additional name of Lily for her -- it was water-lilies I was thinking of.  The famous and popular garden lilies that grace the pages of bulb catalogues in a multitude of colors did not even enter my mind.

However, I now find that, instead of a Water Lily, my little girl is a "Fire Lily"!  If her psyche could be seen, it might not look too different from this!!

(photo credit: Thomas Good / NLN)

A flaming-sunset-colored vision of beauty.  BOLD and STRONG!  Filled with energy and absolutely determined to get her way!  And yet also endowed with so much feminine mystique, charm and allure.

She's not what I bargained for -- she's way too much for me to handle sometimes -- but is she ever special and lovely in her own way!  Even when she drives me bonkers, I can't deny what a great blessing this little Fire Lily is to our family.

Thank You, Lord, for all the blessings You send, including the trials.  Please go on refining my spirit in fire if need be so that I may someday become pure enough to be of service to You.  All glory be unto You!!!

Friday, April 14, 2017

Explanation of this blog's title

I called this blog "my t(ruth)" because, of course, I wanted to share my truth with the world through it -- in all frankness -- holding nothing back.  However, I put "ruth" in parentheses because at the very heart of my truth (and also, I would argue, of the Absolute Truth; as they say, God is Love!!) is the concept of ruth, which Merriam-Webster defines thus.  (Scroll down and expand the Synonyms section so you can read all those beautiful, beautiful synonyms and related words, too!!!!  :D :D :D )  Really, there couldn't be a better word to encapsulate what defines me at my core and flavors my whole being.  (Especially because that second definition of "sorrow for one's own faults" is included as well!!  Oh, how perfectly that summarizes pretty much my entire adult life!!!  D: )

I also liked the fact that the portion of the blog title that precedes the word "ruth" is "my t"  -- which I mentally translated into "mighty" -- signifying that love conquers all!  Drops of water (the most nurturing and life-giving of elements) wear away stone!  The warm Sun in Aesop's fable defeats the blustery Wind in their test of strength!  HURRAY!!!!  :D :D :D :D

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Playing Favorites; or, My Baby Girl

Today was my baby girl's birthday.

I spoke of her as being one year old in my last post because she nearly was.  But actually, today was the day she turned one.

She is beautiful.  She is precious.  She is adored and cherished and celebrated.

She is my husband's firstborn, and she has a lot in common with him in both looks and personality.  Since she's also terribly cute, charming and precocious, it's only to be expected that she's got her daddy wrapped around her little finger.

As for me -- after she was born, I felt the natural bond of connection with and love for her that I unfortunately did not enjoy with my sweet, precious, vulnerable son.

I was 25 years old when my son was born -- a perfectly reasonable and appropriate age to give birth to one's first baby, I would say.  But I still had so many unfulfilled dreams that I was trying to work on fulfilling.  I honestly wasn't ready for a baby.  I thought I was ready enough, because I thought I would have enough time during my pregnancy with him to get the research project I was working on completed by the time he arrived, but that was not to be.  The physical misery of pregnancy took me completely by surprise.  I had imagined that pregnancy would be a wonderful thing to go through.  Instead, I discovered that I was one of those lucky women for whom the morning sickness phase never goes away.  I was sick to my stomach and throwing up food right up to the day I gave birth to him.  I was suffering so much that there was no question of being able to work on my research.  I couldn't even keep up with emptying my throw-up containers, what to speak of keeping the rest of the house clean -- and since my ex-husband was a neat freak, this traumatized him so much that it resulted in our having to separate.  We had marriage counseling visits to go to -- and of course I had a whole bunch of new, baby-related stuff to research and make decisions about.  My personal dreams and projects had to go on the back burner.

So yeah... I was not really ready for motherhood.  Luckily, we lived close to my mom.  She and I hung out at each other's houses a lot, and she helped so much in taking care of my son -- as well as of me!  I often felt as if my son was really my little brother.  He was a burden for me -- of duty more than of love.  I didn't feel like he and I had much in common.  I was an introvert, he was an extrovert.  I wanted time alone, he wanted to be social.  I had low energy; he had endless energy.  I was intellectual; he was physical.  Internally and often externally, I was always pushing him away.  Poor baby.  Clinginess and insecurity seemed like part of his nature, but I'm sure I exacerbated those traits in him by my behavior.  But I couldn't help it.  I did the best I could (in general), given the nature I had and the situation I was in.  I wasn't the best mom, but I wasn't the worst either.  I did things I regret (like exploding at him for getting pee and poop on the floor when he was a mere infant -- which of course terrified him to tears -- although it was obviously my own fault for failing to diaper him properly), but I also made countless sacrifices.  I played the part of his mom as well as I could, and for the most part I didn't do too badly.  But I never FELT like his mom until years later.  My feelings throughout his babyhood and toddlerhood were more like those of a big sister or a baby-sitter.

But with my daughter, I was ready.  My mood had evolved into the selflessly loving and giving motherly instinct before she was even conceived.  Becoming pregnant with her satisfied a deep longing in me.  I wanted a baby so much right then.  While I had never found it easy to understand my son when he was preverbal, and I was incredibly antsy for him to learn how to speak -- with my daughter, it's been effortless.  She was and is so communicative that words have been unnecessary.  I just get her.  Even when she was a tiny baby, I always seemed to know what she was feeling and what she needed without any trouble at all.  Our connection has been strong and deep from the beginning.  Despite how different she and I are from each other, it always seemed like we were on the same wavelength, speaking the same emotional language.

Although she takes after her father in many ways, he and I have a lot in common, which means my daughter and I do too.  She is clearly very much in touch with her emotions and good at expressing them.  She obviously enjoys making sounds with her mouth and voice, and I foresee her talking nonstop as soon as she learns how.  She is smart as a whip, endlessly and insatiably curious about the world and voraciously bent on learning about it as much as she can.  She is extremely independent and when told "no," will look you straight in the eye and deliberately disobey you.  Relationships are frequently treated as lower in priority for her as compared to her passion for learning.  However, that relationship-oriented side is very much present in her as well.  She knows she's loved, and she eats it up.  She loves being the center of attention and adoration.  When she's in the mood, she's a precious little cuddle-bug, and in fact she often displays a vulnerable, clingy and needy side.  With that combination of traits, I'm guessing she'll not only find schoolwork easy and fun, but will really enjoy the positive attention she'll garner by doing well, and will thus be motivated to excel academically.

She's been so much better than my son at remaining in good spirits no matter what life throws at her.  She does ride on high/low emotional roller-coasters way more than I ever did as a child, but at the same time, she has appeared in general to exhibit a cheerful, optimistic spirit.  She's physically surprisingly tough, letting minor injuries roll off her, whereas my son cries hysterically and ear-splittingly when the slightest thing happens to him.  Emotionally as well, any kind of difficulty or setback in what he's trying to do has stumped and discouraged my son, whereas my daughter has let nothing steal the wind from her sails.  Either she has kept trying until she gets what she's after, or she has easily let it go and shifted her attention to something else instead.  This trait in her of generally not letting anything get her down has been so pleasing to me after years of seeing my son make mountains out of molehills.

The marked difference in my feelings toward and relationship with each of my children has been a source of anxiety for me, not surprisingly.  When I was growing up, I never felt that my mother played favorites, but my father clearly did.  He and my older brother (who's actually a half-brother on my mom's side -- so, my dad's stepson) never saw eye to eye or had a good relationship.  My younger brother, too, took more after Mom in many ways, and he and Dad had lots of difficulties in their relationship.  I, on the other hand, had exactly the sort of nature that my dad really clicked with, so I was his sweetheart, always adored and praised by him and never, ever yelled at, even though he had an explosive temper that my mom and brothers all bore the brunt of time and time again throughout the years.

I love my brothers, and it always gave me pain to see my dad prefer me over them so obviously.  He always admitted honestly that it was hard to love a stepson as much as your own flesh and blood, and I suppose that's understandable, although sad.  But he always claimed to love me and my younger brother equally, but to find my younger brother a more difficult child to raise.  I'm sure he was being honest in saying that, as well.  But however he FELT, the truth was that his method of raising my younger brother was less helpful and more harmful compared with his method of raising me.  Or at least that's how I've always perceived it.  I believe he did the best he could -- the best he knew how.  But the rest of us felt like I was the most loved and favored one in the family.  And that made me sad.

I never wanted to repeat that dynamic with my own kids, so I have striven to treat them equally.  But when one of them is a constant strain on your tolerance while the other is a genuine pleasure to be around, how can you avoid letting any evidence of that ever slip through the cracks in your self-control?  The year my daughter was born was the hardest year we've ever had with my son.

Fortunately, since he turned seven, things have been much easier with him.  Also, things have gotten more difficult for me with my daughter.  Her constant demands and melodramatic reactions if they aren't met have really started driving me bonkers.  That, plus her ceaseless incidents of hurting me and turning the house upside down have all begun to act like corrosive acid on my tolerance levels, causing me to flinch away from her sometimes.  The other day, she was fussing so much that it was completely beyond my ability to handle.  I felt like she was a natural disaster, and I just had to cover my ears, hunker down and wait for her to blow over.

There's nothing mild about her -- I've said it from the beginning.  I'm a pretty mild person -- like oatmeal, as I told my husband.  My daughter, on the other hand, is like chutney -- which traditionally is supposed to be too spicy to endure, but too sweet to resist.  Sugar and spice -- that's my girl.  Can't live with her, can't live without her.

All I need is a little break sometimes.  It just takes a brief respite from her too-muchness; then I'm refreshed and ready to shower on her all the love she deserves once again.  What wouldn't I give for a live-in grandma or regular baby-sitter!!!!

Let's hope I can get through her toddler years with my sanity intact.  I have a feeling it'll be a wild ride -- especially with a new baby coming.  I'm scared.  But I'll hold on and do my best.

I have a feeling the woman she'll turn out to be will be a comfort and help to me as well as my pride and joy.

But oh, those days seem so far off right now.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Introduction

HI, WORLD!!!  I love you!!!

Please accept my reverent and joyful respect!

Thanks so much for being you, and for honoring me by reading my words!  ^_^

I am looking forward to getting to know you, if you choose to stick around!  <3

Here's a little about me...

I'm currently 32 1/2 years old, happily married with two kids (a seven-year-old son -- who's actually from my first marriage, which ended in divorce -- and a one-year-old daughter) and another baby on the way, due in November.

I was born and raised in California, in an ISKCON family.  ISKCON stands for "International Society for Krishna Consciousness."  It's a worldwide organization that was started by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, whom we refer to as "Srila Prabhupada," in 1966.  If you'd like to read more about it, here is a brief explanation on the organization's official website.  They need to update their page, as they speak there of ISKCON being "less than fifty years on the global stage" although our 50th anniversary just took place, but it is still a good summary description of our movement, which is commonly known as the Hare Krishna movement.  :)

The word that we ISKCON members generally used to refer to ourselves and each other (as distinct from non-members) was "devotees."  (Non-members were called "karmis.")

I loved growing up in a devotee family.  My mom and I used to watch Hindi movies (with English subtitles) about Lord Rama and Krishna (i.e., different forms of the one Supreme Lord) together since before I even learned to speak.  My favorite movie was "Sita Swayamvar" (a title now often sold as "Sita's Wedding").  God, I loved that movie -- and still do.  It is so exquisite.

I also loved our books.  Srila Prabhupada translated our volumes and volumes of scriptures from Sanskrit and Bengali into English, and different disciples of his had transcribed and edited them, painted many, many pictures to illustrate them, and formed a publishing house called the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust for publishing them.  My family had them all.  They filled a glass-doored bookcase in our living room, and I used to love opening that bookcase, taking out different holy books (the many volumes of the Srimad-Bhagavatam were my favorite!!), carrying them over to the couch and sitting down to immerse myself in the wonderful pictures.  I was so entranced by all those intriguing and beautiful depictions of the Lord's pastimes in His many incarnations, and by the stories that went with them.

From the time I could first hold pens, pencils and crayons, I was making my own pictures and writing my own thoughts about Sita, Rama and Lakshmana, or Krishna and His devotees.  The Lord and His pastimes filled my mind, and although I have since become distracted by many other things, He still owns my heart.

All my life I have known that my calling was to write (as well as to draw pictures).  I could never relate to people who didn't know what they wanted to be when they grew up.  For me there was never any doubt that I wanted to be an author and illustrator of books.  Books were my favorite thing.  Creative writing was my favorite school subject, but I also loved spelling (which came easily to me because of all the reading I did plus my sharp eye for detail and great memory), and I enjoyed doing book reports so much that I would sometimes do extra ones for fun, beyond what I had to do for school.  Each year when I got my new reading textbook full of short stories, I would devour the whole thing right away.  The library was always a favorite place to go, and later in my childhood and teens, I didn't consider my birthday celebration complete without a trip to the bookstore as part of the fun.

Other Hare Krishna children, including my own older brother, had gone through the experience of being placed in boarding schools called "gurukulas," both within the U.S. and abroad, for their schooling.  Their parents believed they were doing the best thing for their children by placing them there, but to everyone's utter horror, the truth eventually emerged that many, many of these children had undergone unspeakable abuses of every description at those schools.  My brother also had endured this abuse.  After thus losing trust in the gurukulas, my parents decided to keep me and my younger brother at home.  I was homeschooled all the way up until I graduated with a G.E.D. at the age of 16 after deciding I was tired of having other people tell me what I needed to study.  I was bursting with ideas of my own as to what I wanted to learn, and I felt that the standard curriculum was simply wasting my precious time.

Growing up with creative, energetic, fun-loving, accomplished, positive and goal-oriented parents who always encouraged and believed in me, I thought I could do anything I wanted.  Anything I set my mind to and had the intelligence, creativity, patience and diligence to achieve, I believed would be mine; it was only a matter of time.  Where there's a will, there's a way, right?  And I had so much creativity, passion, diligence, patience and determination.  So I dreamed big and fully expected to see my dreams come true someday.

I wanted to help save the world.  I was especially moved by the plight of helpless creatures unable to speak for themselves, like animals, insects and trees.  The fact that all other species on earth were viewed by most people as much less important than humans and basically existing for the benefit of humans struck me as horrifyingly, disgustingly self-centered and outrageously unfair on the part of mankind.  I wanted to save all the poor, downtrodden, underdog species from cruel treatment at the hands of unenlightened humans.  I had grown up vegetarian as part of being a Hare Krishna, and I desperately wanted to see the whole world adopt vegetarianism and nonviolence.  I wanted to use my writing to help open people's minds and hearts to the feelings and rights of others.

I also wanted to write fantasy stories and novels that would be enjoyable, and perhaps engage in other fun, creative pursuits like role-playing games, cosplay and informal drama with like-minded friends.  I loved other crafts besides just writing and drawing, and I was very much drawn to the fashions and lifestyles of bygone eras, so I wanted to learn how to spin my own yarn and thread, how to knit, weave, sew and embroider, and how to make natural dyes so that I could make my own costumes from the ground up.  I used to use quills and fountain pens, and making my own paper and ink was another wish of mine, as was the idea of making candles to read and work by after dark.  I used to dream of making my own soap, pottery, baskets, jewelry... basically, everything.  I dreamed of having a self-sufficient homestead surrounded by woods, and gathering all of my family's food from our wild environs, gardens, orchards, and dairy.  I dreamed of having horses and carts or buggies... I never liked cars and never wanted to learn to drive them.  I wanted to live a mostly old-fashioned non-electric lifestyle, but to use solar batteries or other small, eco-friendly sources of electricity to power the few modern conveniences that I felt were essential for me.

I did do some of those things... I engaged in fantasy role-playing games with my friends, I learned to spin, I could sew (by hand) and embroider, I made a few pottery pieces when I took a handbuilding pottery class, I made a little jewelry by putting together different elements that I had ordered from a catalogue, I helped my parents in the garden (and I never learned to drive a car)... but for the most part, I have had to learn the very important lesson that I can't do it all by myself.  In fact, I can barely do ANYTHING by myself, if it isn't my forte or something I absolutely love to do.  When it comes to learning something new or doing a task that feels like drudgery to me, I can do it and do it well, but I function much better if someone else is taking care of other necessary tasks, leaving me free to focus on the one I am doing -- to take my time and complete it thoroughly and peacefully.  Multitasking is NOT. MY. THING, and I am not one of those amazing Energizer Bunny people who can accomplish tons and tons of stuff every day.  Just a few things, done slowly, but well and thoroughly, with attention to detail -- that's my style.  Accepting my limitations has been a difficult and bitter lesson for me to learn.  I have poisoned myself with desperate and miserable self-hatred; I have sunk into depression time and again.  But I think I have finally learned that I am simply a small and limited being who can only do as much as God enables me to do and no more -- and that is OK.  I am still worthy of love, and I have to love myself.  I have to be completely understanding and forgiving toward myself regarding my limitations.  I have to do the best I can, and be happy with that.  That is enough -- from me.

But unfortunately that leaves my house a never-ending, disorganized mess, which I absolutely hate.  And I don't feel that I or my family should have to live like that.  So it follows that I need help.  But from whom?  My kids are too young to be much help (my one-year-old daughter, on the contrary, seems highly dedicated to un-helping with the housework; in her mind, apparently, everything -- EVERYTHING -- belongs on the floor, and she works assiduously toward this end at every opportunity).  My husband works full-time and cherishes his chance to relax when he's home.  My parents have moved to India, and though my mom does come and spend a month or two with us twice a year, I don't want to be forever waiting for her next visit to restore normalcy and livability to our household, just to have things go back to dreadful, un-livable mess again as soon as she leaves.  What I'd really like is to live next door to my best friend, so that we can help each other out with childcare, cooking and housework on a daily basis.  But that ain't happening, at least not yet.  So what to do?  I don't know.  I don't think we have enough money to hire help yet.  I'm not sure... I just know we've got soooo many places to put money and it feels like there's barely enough to get by.  I've thought of getting a job, but I was raised with "traditional family values" and I guess I still believe my rightful place is at home.  I do have friends around here, but mostly everyone just stays in their own home and takes care of their own stuff.  I've received general/non-specific offers of help -- "anything you need, just ask, OK?" -- but it is SO dang hard to call someone up and ask them to do something for you, like cook for your family or come over and clean your house, if you're not offering them something in exchange -- like money or better yet, the same type of favor in return.  But we haven't got much money -- and how can I help take care of another family when I can barely take care of my own???  I feel like I'm trapped in hell and there's no way out.  I keep on enduring the mess, day after day -- hoping I'll have the chance to get to it one of these days and at least make SOME progress on whipping this place into shape -- hating it when that keeps not happening -- seeing no hope on the horizon except my mom's next visit -- and that hope isn't a very bright one because even with two of us here, there's still more work to be done than we can ever get around to.  I groan for the days when big, extended families used to live together, and everyone generally had a great work ethic -- when there truly were many hands to make light work of the daily tasks.  I dream of living in a communal or traditional village setting, where your neighbors don't just issue vague offers of help if you need it, but actually make it their business to come over and see you, and if you need help in any way, they are there for you.  I think lots and lots and LOTS of people are really desperate for more help and support, and a more deep, true, satisfying bond with their friends and neighbors, whether they realize it or not.  How can we make that happen???  How can we knit communities together more closely again, as in olden days?

I wish I knew.  I can try to come up with ideas, but better yet would be to brainstorm ideas with others who are committed to the same project.  Alone, I feel like I have no energy to carry out anything I might come up with.  Like ideas, I believe energy is contagious when enthusiastic teamwork is at play.

I just pray that God will connect me with others who observe the same need in society and want to do something to fix the situation.