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Why I Might Be Happier Than You, Mom

May/14/2023 / by Sweta Vikram

My mother’s emotional well-being was always in the hands of others

An older lady preparing a meal
An older lady preparing a meal. Shutterstock

I remember my India trips when mom was alive. The minute I reached my parents’ place, she would want me to call a million relatives. If I tried to oppose her suggestion, she would turn into what ALL Indian mothers morph into when someone refutes their suggestion: an emotional diva. 

“What will people say? It doesn’t look good. Haven’t I taught you better?”

Did I want to talk to everyone? NO! Did everyone hold their breath to speak with me? I am sure not. But I am a creature who craves peace more than anything. I would make the calls because it made mom happy.

Living for Others

My mom lived a very good life and had exquisite tastes. She traveled the world and cooked the fanciest dishes. She was an extraordinary homemaker who draped a French chiffon with the same elegance as a glass of single malt in her fingers. But my mother’s emotional well-being was always in the hands of others.

My mother lived for others, which has never been my life philosophy. Mom didn’t understand the concept of honoring her own needs or pursuing what gave her happiness. She saw herself through the eyes of others. Like many women of her generation, she sought external approval. She wanted people to say what a fantastic job she’d done bringing up her kids. To her credit, when I was in India a few weeks ago, many of the elders said exactly that about my brother and me:

“Your mother raised such well-mannered and caring children.”

While my mother must have gloated in heaven and felt quite tickled, I didn’t care much about those words. Yoga teaches us to never get attached to other people’s criticism or compliments, else we become slaves to their emotions. Even as a young girl, I never bought into the notion of “winning others” over.

Other People’s Happiness Isn’t My Responsibility

I will never, consciously, go out of my way to be nasty to anyone. I treat the helper with just as much love and respect as I do my family. And I care deeply about others, the world, but also myself. I don’t feel obligated to keep others happy. Happiness is an inside job. It’s upon everyone to seek their own bliss. Be a good human being, be true to your words, stay ethical, and be fiercely compassionate. These are my mantras. My mom carried a little sadness within. I think it’s because she didn’t want to disappoint others. That’s a demanding and impossible job!

I Am Conscious of My Energy

We grow where the energy flows. Given my work and personality, I am never on the sidelines in a room. People want to share their problems, vent about big and small things, or ask an Ayurveda-related question. While I am an extrovert who recharges around people, I am also an introvert who needs a lot of alone downtime to replenish. I am aware how I function best and what nourishes my health. Unlike my mom, I am OK with not being liked by everyone. I need to love myself first.

I Don’t Desire a Million Relationships

People describe me as a person who loves her family and friends. And I will always give every relationship a chance. My network is big, but I keep my circle very tight and small. Values. Principles. Beliefs. Self-growth. Interests. Humanity. These are more important to me than familiarity. I am extremely loyal and deeply invested in my relationships, some of which are as old as I am. And I know what my friend’s helper’s son is struggling with or what keeps a cousin’s mother-in-law up at night. I will remember my friend’s deceased mom’s favorite color, flower or dish, and cook it on their birthday. You can see how I don’t have the bandwidth to care for too many people authentically. Whether they got along or not, my mother would call and meet every relative in every city she visited.

I Will Call out Bullies

My mother was a soft-spoken woman who endured what she didn’t deserve. I take after my buas (dad’s sisters) who speak their mind and own their words. I have admired this quality. My mother suffered in silence. Because she didn’t retaliate, many assumed she could be bullied. Ayurveda teaches you that your mind and repressed emotions are the root cause of all diseases. Mom’s inner healing remained raw and incomplete because she gave bullies too many chances and enabled their bad behavior. My mother died suddenly at age 66. I will not be rude or raise my voice, but I will build healthy boundaries against people who aren’t good for me or my family. My dad and my mother-in-law both know that I don’t differentiate between my family or my husband’s. But I don’t suffer fools either.

I Am Not Afraid of Saying NO

Living in New York, we have tons of visitors. I love to cook, and we love to host and entertain. Even my husband’s dadi (paternal grandmother) visited us from India once, which was beyond special.

Healthy relationships are integral to my well-being. But if I have a book deadline or exam to study for, I am OK saying NO to a houseguest or social commitments. I’d rather be up front than crib later. Aren’t honestly and mutual respect the foundation of long-lasting relationships?

My mother would be exhausted but wouldn’t say NO to any invite or guests. Obviously, she ended up being irritable with us and poor in her health. I saw her cook 20 kilos of fish at some cousin’s wedding because people loved her cooking. She’d be making halwa for 50 people at someone else’s puja. I will bend backwards if someone is in crisis, but get your own damned caterer instead of asking me to cook for your guests.

I Embrace My Priorities

When my cousins or cousin-in-laws in the tri-state ask us to stay the night, I often have to say NO because Sundays are my writing and study day. We will stay until the end of the party on Saturday night but will drive back home. Also, my husband travels a lot for work, so he enjoys waking up in his own bed on the weekends. It’s only fair. Similarly, my priority, when I am in India, is to be there for my dad and my in-laws, which means I don’t visit a lot of friends or cousins any more. I am OK with that. Because what’s important to me now is to spend quality time with the elderly. My close friends and cousins travel down to be with me, which is so generous of them.

Six months before she passed away, my mother said she wished to be more like me. She liked “the lightness” around my personality. I will end with what I told her then: “The fewer people you rely on for your happiness, the less disappointed you will be in life, and the happier you feel.”

Happiness depends upon ourselves.” ~ Aristotle


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