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Misery With An Ocean View

“Are you sure you saw it? It is rare.”

At a child’s birthday party, a parent is questioning whether I actually saw a green flash at the beach this evening.

“Yes, I live on the beach and see them all the time,” I say, as if living close to the ocean in San Diego is a special qualification. Our beach rental, a short-term reward for staring at Manhattan alleys for fifteen years, is my training ground – spotting the flashes is the biggest cerebral challenge I have now. I take pride in my new talent.

Yet, this conversation becomes another reminder of how uncomfortable I feel in my new world.

Doubt creeps in. “Have I really seen one?”

Lasting only a moment, a green flash may appear as the last peek of sunlight dips below the horizon and creates an emerald blip over the ocean. When I first saw one, I was amazed at the transformation of the sun’s rays at the fringe of the Pacific. A small but beautiful miracle.

To me, seeing one was equivalent to receiving divine approval for the heart-led move.

In one simple cross-country flight, my life changed into a different one. I went from urban-frenzy, taxi-hailing and interviews on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange to suburban-lazy, beach bonfires and toddler classes. Here, I had to learn how frequently to water a lawn and to fall asleep to silence and not to sirens. I was de-urbanizing.

My hectic New York life was once precisely the life I desired. As a young, chubby, brown girl with glasses growing up in Oklahoma, I daydreamed of escaping and accomplishing great things to compensate for how uncomfortable I was with myself. Over the decades I had checked off my major goals: marriage to an Indian man, a TV job, a Harvard MBA, and having three children. Yet, this was not enough to rid me of my dissatisfaction.

I yearned for more.

But for more what? A focus on my marriage, family and slower living was added to the checklist.

“I’m avoiding lectins now,” a mom-friend shares at a La Jolla party. Her face is youthful thanks to brimmed hats and the latest breakthroughs in dermatology.

My new peers had been dairy-free and gluten-free for years and are on the growth-edge of wellness, yoga and spiritual trends. There is little discussion of power, money, or work.

It is like they speak a foreign language –

“I switched my B vitamins because I am an MTHFR carrier. You should really get gene tested, Shibani,” a new friend wearing the latest Valentino studded sandals suggested. It was a puzzling combination shared by many of my new, wealthy and healthy friends.

“Yes, totally!” I say, thinking that the acronym was something from the urban dictionary – like WTF. Months later, I too switch my B vitamins and begin watching my lectin, gluten and dairy intake.

These cocktail conversations only highlight the drastic shift between my old life and my new. I pretend to be comfortable talking about topics like spiritual retreats and connected parenting instead of mutual business school friends and professional identity. But I am not.

The truth is I am in a new world where I am a series of past tenses and cannot let go. I wear black clothing to the beach, which only intensifies the heat. I clinge to my pedestrian ways, walking my kids to school while classmates honk while driving by us. I crave Chinese food at 11pm but it is too late for delivery. I am a stay-at-home mom who used to work on Wall Street.

It is my private misery with an ocean view.

I do not blame others for my choice. I encouraged my husband to transfer to his firm’s west coast office, escaping a life in Manhattan or the suburbs of New Jersey, which was an increasing possibility. I felt stretched by my roles as a TV anchor at Fox Business and mother of two, so I left my on-camera work to focus on my family. It would be the panacea for the increasing discord in our marriage, as well.

I was privileged to be in this position. But the realities of life spare no one, eventually.

I turn to words of Picasso: “every act of creation is first an act of destruction.” The grand experiment for a better, happier, calmer life would begin with a process of destruction that would ripple into all corners of my life.

Created in New York, the space between my husband and I was growing as fast as the third child in my belly. We were peers in NYC with the same MBA degrees and friends. We would flirt over email, sharing our favorite Wall Street Journal articles during the workday. “Thought of you ;)” I would add to an article about interest rates or when an energy headline crossed my newswire. Our similar interests and careers and mutual friends were the glue of our relationship.

Now, in San Diego, my husband focuses on making partner at his firm. He travels every week. I am now the full-time CEO of the household, but my new C-suite responsibilities are starkly different from those of the executives I had once interviewed in the Fox studios. My professional duties are endless. They include dishwashing and managing babysitters, nap schedules, emotional breakdowns (many of them mine – only some fueled by pregnancy hormones).

Gone are the cute interactions between my husband and me. Our conversations have succumbed to the inevitable and necessary: “Have you picked up snacks for the game tomorrow?” I would text. No emojis included.

The only adults I speak to regularly are those I pay in some way – a caregiver, my therapist, or the nurse at the OB/GYN’s office who checks my blood pressure and weight, though I don’t like her much because she always rounds up in her report.

The highlight of my social life: Children’s birthday parties, but they always bring uncomfortable questions, like –

“How are you liking it out here?”

“Great!” I fake smile. “So much more relaxing than New York.” I justify: “I can really enjoy the kids, this pregnancy, and family time together.” I impress: “I might teach. I have been asked to join the board for two organizations.” I back track: “Surfing is something I will try, after the baby arrives.”

I want to tap the right mix of likeability, ambitiousness and chill.

I am gifted at responses when put on the spot. I was an on-air-personality at the “No Spin Zone” network.

And I have much to hide:

My panic. My loss. My regret. My longing.

My loneliness. My fear that this will not be enough to save us.

Every night, I sleep alone in bed, no matter his travel schedule.

I am pregnant, sleepless and unable to ignore the revolving question in my head — “Was this a huge mistake?”

Without any answers, I turn my focus to the green flash.

I plot my next day around the event, as if on a hunt for an omen –

“When I see it, I’ll know.” And it will deliver to me the answer.

CategoriesEssay Family