I started watching Scenes from a Marriage on HBO last week. While I was watching episode 2, I had so many thoughts and emotions. I know it’s fiction, but I think many couples can identify themselves with parts of the story of this couple. What resonated most with me is Mira’s pain. I have been there too. At a place where I suddenly believed that my life wasn’t as it should be, that my relationship with my partner was partly the problem, and that if I could only get out of it and be with someone different, I would be happy again. I remember how I would oscillate between loathing myself and loathing my partner. I felt that the version of me in the family context was unpleasant, and uninteresting. Just like Mira, I also at some point wanted to get out. It is heartbreaking to see her desperation and the confusion in her mind, and the effect it has on her husband.
While watching the second episode, I also thought, this woman is not mentally healthy. She needs help. I don’t know where the story is going to go, but what I like is that we are not expected to pick a side. Or at least, that is not how it feels for me.
I am grateful that I never made the choice to leave my husband and kids when I was at my worst emotional crisis. I don’t think this would have made me happier, I think it would have made me even more miserable because, let’s face it, who likes to create pain in others? My husband, my kids and my husband through the pain from my kids. I also believe that since I wasn’t in a good space internally, I would most probably be unable to find a good space elsewhere.
This is only one fictional story about confusion and pain, but I think we all at least know someone who at some point in life came to this kind of crossroads where you question the choices you have made and suddenly believe that if only this or that happened, you wouldn’t feel pain, you would be happier. For some, this illusion of happiness comes in the shape of the perfect job, or the perfect house, or the perfect children, just to name some.
Yoga came to my life for good when I was standing at one of these crossroads, and what I liked about it is that we are encouraged to do some serious work of introspection but leave the judgement out. We are encouraged to see ourselves face to face and accept our shortcomings, and at the same time, we are encouraged to cultivate self-love. When we are able to see ourselves with perspective and connect our pain with our views and attitudes instead of pointing fingers at the rest of the world, a completely new world opens up. A world of compassion and understanding but also of self-responsibility.
With time, I have been able to see my own confusion, and my unrealistic expectations towards myself and my husband. I also realised that going through a difficult period with three young children, wasn’t going to last forever. I understood that some of my expectations were the result of limited ideas and perceptions and that I could let go of them. I learned to be more assertive and clear.
Another aspect of Yoga that also has been very useful is the importance of understanding that our value as living beings is beyond our roles and actions. We are encouraged to play our part in life with clear intentions and a positive attitude but not attach our well-being to the results of these actions. This is both difficult to practice but liberating when we manage. Instead of aiming towards perfection and acknowledgement, we aim towards clarity. Why do I do what I do? How does it affect me and others? And when we make mistakes, we accept them, reflect on them but don’t mentally and emotionally beat ourselves down.
I have been reflecting a lot about this lately because I feel that sometimes, my attachment to my idea of who I am creates stress for me and those around me. I am so invested in meeting certain expectations I have of myself that I either end up exhausted or when I do not think or act according to these expectations, I feel awful. I feel like a ‘bad person’. I still need to work on this.
Amazingly enough, the work of self-reflection is very useful when interacting with other people. Personally, it has influenced the way I meet other people. I am less judgemental because I see myself in other people’s shortcomings. Also, when challenged, I can direct my attention inwards and ask myself if the interaction with the other person is the real reason for my distress or if it is something that comes from me (attitude, expectation, perspective, lack of clarity).
Going back to the character in the series, Mira, she has obviously chosen another path than the one I chose some years ago. This doesn’t mean that she is a bad person, or that I am wiser than her. She will get through the pain and experience the consequences of her actions, and it is going to be interesting to see where the author will take her. In real life, all choices we make can lead to growth and take us a step closer to a better inner space if we take the time to reflect and learn. Some paths might be longer because we take quite a few detours, but we will all get there eventually. This is also an important lesson from Yoga, there is no such thing as failure, we don’t win anything with drowning ourselves in regret. All we can do is lift ourselves up and keep walking.