Winning Over Anger

I was always known as the class clown who was everybody’s confidant. Whether it was an athlete’s anxiety about winning gold medals or a topper’s stress about being able to maintain her record, anybody who would hang out at my desk during break time forgot about their worries for a couple of minutes because my mirror cracking sarcasm and jokes gave them much-needed respite. All through college, I maintained my humorous streak while pursuing my academic and work-related goals. However, my fun-loving demeanour and lip-smacking one-liners disappeared in the blink of an eye when I got married.

Shortly after I got married and moved to Australia, my then-husband (an Indian raised in Australia) said: “Surprising you did not throw a tantrum when I was not able to perform last night; looks like you had all your fun during your college days in the States so maybe it does not matter to you.” I did not make much of that comment at the time thinking that his pride was deeply wounded and I just said “Well, it is not an Olympic performance, it will happen when it will happen, what is the point of plastering the culmination of love on some kind of scoreboard; we will give it some time and figure out what works for us and go to a doctor if we need help.”

When we got home, every time I asked about initiating my spouse visa or for his assistance in helping me learn how to drive, I always got a strong rebuttal from him around the lines of me somehow having some ulterior motive about gaining citizenship, but all I wanted to do was establish some foothold in my new home. While I got along with my in-laws, every time I would enter the dining room they would suddenly stop talking, making me feel as if I was probably the topic of their conversation. I thought of these issues as teething problems and did not make much of it. However, two weeks down the line my husband just suddenly came home from work and said let us move to a different apartment; in fact, I have already signed the lease and we will move on Monday so start packing. Several alarm bells rang in my head because I always got along with my in-laws and could not understand why only my husband and I were suddenly moving leaving my in-laws behind. When I tried to inquire from my husband, all he said was it will help us grow our friend circle. I felt out of sync and did not understand why we were moving at the drop of a hat.

I asked my husband to book my ticket back home to get to safe quarters by claiming that my boss wants me to train a couple of editors back home (at the time I still held onto my Indian job and was allowed to work remotely from Australia). Luckily he agreed and I was glad he was not being paranoid about this suggestion since I was dependent on him to even get me to the airport.
When I got back home, I got an email from my husband asking me not to return to Australia. Every attempt of communication either via emails or phone calls was either not reciprocated or simply resulted in a chain of meaningless accusations about me having ulterior motives by getting into this relationship. Suddenly one day my husband sent me an email saying he is coming to India and wants me to pick him up at the airport and will stay with me and my family. I did not quite understand how he was oscillating between claiming that I had ulterior motives to now saying I want to visit. Nevertheless, I made up my mind that this marriage is important to me and determined to salvage it.

During his visit, I did everything to somehow appease him. I took him to the most expensive restaurants and treated him like royalty. But every time we would go out for dinner some paranoid streak of his would leave me in tears. At the end of the week though, my husband said he is going to visit his childhood home in Delhi where his father, would join him as he will be flying in from Australia. I remember shivering when he was leaving because I knew right then that my marriage was over and he was not coming back. The next day I got an email from him saying that he has already flown back to Australia and that I should not fly back to Australia as he was not satisfied with the reconciliation process while he was in Delhi. I called my husband and my father-in-law incessantly and got no response.

I was reeling from various emotions and lost my senses for some time. Since I was given only a couple of hours to pack before I departed from Australia I had left all essential items (degrees, jewellery etc) behind. To this, I wore only the 4-5 pair of clothes I had packed and didn’t wear anything else till my belongings were shipped to me. Me wearing the same clothes over and over again and being in a state of absolute disbelief hurt my parents a lot and I did not have the guts to say what was written on the wall out loud that ‘my marriage was over’. At this point, my father had a mild paralytic attack on his face.

Every time I would call my husband he would either not answer or say please respond in writing. I did not understand why he was asking me to respond in writing and just reached out to a lawyer, who read his emails and told me that he was probably trying to build some kind of grounds for a divorce. I kept re-reading our emails over and over again and at some point I realized that he had already made up his mind a long time ago that he wanted me out of his life. I felt like dirty dishwater that would not go down the drain because the pipe was clogged. I felt like I was used to wash dirty dishes, used as a sex toy and when that did not work, I was just thrown away to rot somewhere. I was married for only 3 weeks but it felt like I had aged twenty years in those 3 weeks.

Regardless of what kind of strategies my legal counsel proposed for an amicable closure of the case, nothing seemed to be working to move my case even an inch forward because the opposing party, either didn’t answer my lawyer’s calls or proposed random amendments. Every single tactic was being utilized to ensure that my case in India got zero momentum and was stalled while my lawyer found out that the opposing party had begun parallel independent legal proceedings in Australia. While the judicial system in India requires both parties to be present in some capacity, this is not the case overseas.

During this time, I went through a range of emotions but one stood out the most, fury. My wrath of anger did not spare anybody, from the housemaid to my boss. I simply could not control my anger in daily life and spiralled in a bottomless pit of immense guilt and self-pity after every wave of outburst. Initially, I resorted to erratic spending habits to somehow materially acquire happiness. When that did not work, I found absolute comfort in sleep and isolation. At this point, one close friend of my SGI (Soka Gakkai) community told me that she empathised with my condition but I had to win over my anger because there were probably other people too in my orbit of work and family who were suffering watching me suffer. Her words resonated with me and I reached out to two members in faith (I am a practitioner of Nichiren Buddhism) and at this point; I understood that I could not use short cuts like superfluous acquisition or angry outbursts just to somehow save the day.

Every single day I reminded myself that I had the power to overcome this tumultuous phase and it was up to me to win. I was able to not only control my anger but remain calm in the most challenging situations be it at home or work. I stuck to my decision of employing only amicable means to get to a peaceful resolution, which aggravated my lawyer because he had felt the pulse of the opposing party and told me to create pressure by reaching out to the women’s cell. I realized that I had to put my faith in him and take a somewhat confrontational path even though not a single bone in my body was ready to fight. Every time a hearing was scheduled at the women’s cell, the opposing party still would not show up, and my parents would accompany me and sit outside in the heat for hours just to provide moral support. I was being looked after like an infant because my parents could sense the fear and anxiousness I was experiencing. Somehow, I felt defeated even though I had won over my anger because of the delay I was facing at the legal front. I got guidance from another SGI member at this point and she told me that if my anger was gone and my suffering was over, I had already won over my Karma and I was just a mile away from victory but since my life state was very low I felt like a victim all the time with the ‘Why Me’ questions haunting me. She urged me to understand that I had to show visible proof of victory so I could help others down the line who may go through the same situation like me and that my life state was something I needed to work on relentlessly. With this in mind, I kept working on myself.

From being fearful and angry, to shivering at the thought of going to the women’s cell, I transformed into a calm individual who did not even blink, let alone shiver when the opposing party finally showed up for a hearing at the women’s cell. Legally, my case came to a close after a while and looking back, I observed that the minute my anger dissipated like dewdrops, I was not only able to think wisely and make decisions that would move my life in a positive direction, but I was also able to bring joy and happiness to my parents. My father recovered from his paralysis and we were able to move on happily.

What truly helped me was unwavering faith which gave me the courage to face life head-on, compassion to accept not just parts of me that felt dejected and broken, but to break the walls of self-pity and widen my horizons to think of others even amidst what I then felt was a time of ‘hopeless misery’. It gave me wisdom to realise that true happiness always resided within me. The orbit of faith became my safe space, and members became my non-judgemental allies in the journey of winning over my anger and re-building a new self. A self that feels stronger and more empathetic than ever before.

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