The Serenity Prayer
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.
This is my mantra. Every day I have to recite these words to keep myself from pulling my hair out and screaming like a lunatic. Kids yelling, dogs barking, phones ringing. My husband coming home, dropping his socks in a ball on the floor, asking me,
So honey, what did you do all day?”
Sometimes I look at my life and family and ask myself what I can do to change things. How can I make things around me go my way for a change?
How can I get my son to focus on college?
How can I change my routine to make my household run smoother?
How can I get my husband to pick up his darn socks?
Marrying my husband was the best training for how to handle all of life’s big and little trials, and the reason I cling to The Serenity Prayer so tightly. Marrying out of my culture was not easy for me. As a matter of fact, it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I was young and in love, and went into marriage with the expectation that love will conquer all. Back then, my mantra was by the Beatles,
All you need is love, love. Love is all you need. (I can’t sing or I’d hum it for you).
Although I had already felt the sting of rejection in many situations by our Indian community while we dated, I had faith, and believed in my heart or hearts, that nothing could come between me and my husband. Culture meant nothing when we gazed into each others’ eyes for hours at a time. But, life happened and I smashed into the brick wall of reality. We had problems.
Here is the biggest issue we have struggled through over the years:
(I generalize here. All Indians are not the same, and not all Americans are the same. But this is what he and I were about)
Indian men put their parents and family on equal footing with their wife. American women are raised to expect to be number one, and an equal partner with their husband. Indian men do not separate from their families when they get married, and western women believe that “a man shall cleave unto his wife, forsaking all others.” Huge problem!
The reason that I am discussing these personal problems, is to give support and hope for other intercultural couples. You are, by far, not alone. And there is hope to make things work. This is where The Serenity Prayer kicks in.
My husband makes all of life’s decision based on what is best for the entire family, which includes his parents, younger brother, sister, and me, and our kids. That used to infuriate me. I would argue my side with him until I was blue in the face, but couldn’t change him. My grandparents expected my parents to function independently in their lives, and that’s what they did. American parents’ greatest joy is the knowledge that they’ve raised successful and independent kids who do not relay on them anymore. American kids grow up and their parents retire to Florida. End of story.
Indian families stick together. Many, even second generation people, here in the U.S. still get married and live with the guy’s parents. That is normal for them. Mix the two philosophies together, and you have a recipe for disaster if you aren’t careful.
Over many years of fights, the silent treatment, and gritting of teeth, we have come to a happy medium with family. God granted me the serenity to accept the things I couldn’t change. I can’t change him. It’s wrong for me to ask that. I can change myself and how I perceive things. And I now know the difference between the two.
We don’t live with my in-laws, but they are at our house almost every day. They bring us dinner when I don’t have time to cook, they play with our kids, and take them for sleepovers for days at a time. My husband mows their lawn and moves furniture for them. I take my mother-in-law to the doctor and out shopping. We need them and they need us. And you know what? My husband did the same things for my parents, and now my mother since my dad passed. He is Indian, and I am white, and the whole family is ours.
I’m glad I stopped trying to change him. And I’m glad I changed myself.
So, on days when the tornado of dirty laundry, and squealing kids, and homework swirl around me, I just say The Serenity Prayer, and have a glass of wine. I relax, look out my window at the fall leaves, then grab those socks off the floor and move on. I now know the difference and let things go.