The dishes clattered loudly as I threw them into the sink. Pausing for a moment, I waited to see if she responded. When she did not, I continued cleaning. I pushed the drawers shut roughly. I sighed and muttered to myself. Though I wanted to make it perfectly clear that I was irritated and angry, she didn’t seem to care. I looked at my mother-in-law from the corner of my eye. Seated on the dining table, she was completely focused on her medicines. Maybe a bit too focused. I wanted a fight and she probably knew it. I was waiting for her to provoke me. I was waiting for her to say the wrong thing, so I could pounce on her.
She knew I had a tiring day but didn’t seem to care a bit. While I normally ignored her blatant disregard for me and her excessive obsession with my husband, today I was angry. She could have kept the dishes in or helped me fold the clothes or even offered to make dinner. Nope. She had sat with a straight face watching TV, not even stepping inside the kitchen for water! How on earth did she not feel bad! She had never cared. Why should she start today?
I rinsed the dishes more noisily than I usually did. Usually I also heard some music or a talk by my spiritual teacher. But today there was nothing spiritual about how I felt. I was just angry. I noticed her come into the kitchen to refill her water glass. The water filter was right above the sink. She waited for me to move but I pretended not to notice. She said nothing. Neither did I. With a sigh, she moved away.
At that instant, it hit me. The guilt. Like a loaded gun. Boom. I could see my grandma shake her head disapprovingly. Mom’s voice reminded me, “never even deny anyone water. If someone asks for water, never say no.” Oh, how I hated my mother-in-law this moment for making me feel like this. A villain. Me who only ever wanted a loving relationship with her. And she still punishing me for marrying her son, a man I fell in love with. She had purposely come that moment. Stepping away from the sink, I called out to her. “Maa take the water.” She walked in like a lamb, waiting to be slaughtered by my ire. Her innocent eyes looking everywhere else but at me. Maybe she was doing this to make me look bad.
Then, just like that, I was angry at myself. What was I doing? What was I even thinking? I picked up the headphones and turned on a talk by my teacher. I had stopped listening to one mid-way yesterday. I resumed washing the dishes. As I rinsed the dishes, the soapsuds and my anger ran down the drain. Then I heard him say, “That is why the basic lessons are so important. You give far too much importance to your thoughts. Your meaningless thoughts are showing you a meaningless world.” I hit the pause button and stood there for a moment. The meaning of his words sank in. There was no evil mother-in-law out there but there was one in my head all the time. There was no poor daughter-in-law out there, but there was one in my head all the time with her stories of being ignored. I was seeing a meaningless world. I took a deep breath. The lump of anger sitting with indignation on my head, rose up and walked away. And then, just like that, I felt lighter. The sink was emptier. So was my head.
( If you like what you read, check out the Lessons of Love page on this website.)