A few evenings ago, I stood in my kitchen making dinner when a rush of nausea and dizziness hit me. I leaned on the counter for support. I had stood too long and my body was rebelling. I left the hot kitchen and headed to my leaving room to sit down while the episode passed. By the time I had sat down, I was sweating profusely. I asked my 13 year old to grab an icepack from the freezer. I placed the icepack on my forehead and rested for a bit.
I finished making dinner and the rest of my evening was shot because I was too tired to do anything. I even left the kitchen a mess until the following morning. I was even too tired to ask my 13 year old to load the dishwasher.
Being in the kitchen and preparing meals used to be one of my favorite things. These days, my kids are lucky if they get one home cooked meal per week. Usually, dinner consists of whatever is fast on most nights. When I am able to prepare a home cooked meal that requires effort, I feel like I bring some normalcy back in our home. Or when I am able to keep up with the housework and laundry, it seems like my kids can have a normal mother. Normal is what I strive for but it is not easy and it doesn’t always work in the way that I want it to.
Despite my RA and fibro being somewhat controlled, I have learned that normal is the exception to the rule. When I try to make my life feel normal, I end up paying for it. I am a busy working mother and I am raising two very active boys and sometimes, I can barely keep up with everything life throws at me. Something as simple as preparing a meal should not be so hard but when you live with chronic illness, it is big feat. It is as close to normal as I can get.
When a person is healthy, their life and identity is built around what they are able to do and how their body helps them do it. When you are sick, you start to doubt yourself. You want some control of your life and you keep striving to reestablish normalcy. After all, chronic illness changes what normal is and most of us don’t like the type of normal or the lack of normal it brings.
I am still striving for normal even through normal can be hard. Normal is just the little things like preparing a meal that involves standing for long period without having to rest in the middle of it or after it. Normal means that I can clean my home without having to rest every half hour. Normal means that after doing laundry I can actually fold it and put it away. Normal means that I can spend the day at a park or beach with my kids without the heat or cold getting to me. Normal means that a long drive isn’t tiring. Normal means that my kids get to feel what it is like to have a mother who can do so much more than I can do. Normal means that I feel like I can do the things that others can do including creating a work-life balance despite living with chronic illness.
I strive for normal everyday and some days, it can be pretty hard. Other days, I get pretty close. And once in a while, I have a rare day where normal doesn’t wear me out and it allows me to feel like any other member of the human race. Normal isn’t my reality but I keep striving for days where it can be.
I have been through enough in my life to know that God will only give what He knows I can handle. I also know that everything happens for a reason but sometimes, I sure wish I knew the reason. In times where I find myself struggling with something that is out of my control, I start to struggle with my faith and my belief in the Almighty. I have never stopped believing in God but sometimes, I just don’t know that He knows I am here on my knees.
I have been through a whole lot in life and I know that I would not have gotten through these things without God by side. But, I just want a break from constantly being tested. I also wish that I some control of my fate. The things that get thrown at me, I wish they weren’t. For once, I just want something to work my way. I have spent a lot of years trying to convince myself that everything happens for a reason and now, I am not convinced. Sometimes, what happens doesn’t make any sense and maybe I want to know the reason that things happen as they do.
I know and I have been told that God has a plan for me and I don’t really have a say in that. However, I had everything in my life planned out. It was going to be a certain way but then it wasn’t. Then something happened and my plans were foiled. My life didn’t turn out in the way that I wanted it to and I sure didn’t get what I worked for. I tried to make it work and now I know it will never work.
I am okay that things turned out as they did because in the grand scheme of things, I was in the wrong place and with the wrong person. I knew I was with the wrong person but I did what was expected of me and I thought I could find a way to be happy. In the end, my best laid plans weren’t enough. I could have tried and tried until the end of time and the result would have always been the same. A part of me is relieved with the result and another part of me is confused.
I am at peace with what has happened of late and I know with certainty it is for the best. However, the reasons I ended up in this situation continue to haunt me. I understand I made my own choices but I made them to make others happy. In the end, I wasn’t happy and right now, I am trying to figure out how to be happy again. I keep telling myself that everything happens for a reason, that God has bigger and better plans for me, and that God will give me only what He knows I can handle. However, I am not sure that I always believe these three things.
I look back at what my life has been like for the past twenty years. I have been hurt by a lot of people and when I try to be happy and to do my own thing, there are too many people who disappointed in my choices. It has taken me a long to realize that if I continue to let others dictate my choices, I will never be happy. And now that I know that, I know that I have to make different choices – choices I have never made before. Because I have always done what I was supposed to do, I am afraid of what would happen if I don’t do what everyone expects of me. I don’t know the result and the unknown scares me. I want to do what makes me happy but what makes me happy may anger a lot of people. I am so tired of living a life where others dictate who I am and who I should me. I know I always have a choice but it is hard to make different choices when you know that the people closest to you will disapprove.
I know that my life will turn out in the way that God has planned out for me. I just want to know how do I get there quicker. I know what I want but it doesn’t always seem possible based on the obstacles I will have but it is not impossible. I consider myself a strong believer in God and even in my faith but right now, I just wish I could understand how everything is supposed to work out. If everything is supposed to happen for a reason, what is that reason? When will I know the reason? And why can’t have both the things I want – my faith and my happiness? It is hard to have it when others are dictating what these things are especially when they are picking and choosing what is allowed and what is not. No one is looking for the truth – it is about what they think is true. As for me, I am so sick of what everyone tells me is true even though I am smart enough to know the difference. Ignoring the real truth is what has cost me my happiness.
For those of us who are always sick, every day there are challenges and decisions. We have to decide what things need to get done and how to preserve our energy. We need to remember to take our medications and we also need to vigilant on what time we take them and whether we need to take with food or on an empty stomach. For example, certain medications make us sleepy so we would not take them in the morning before we need to drive to work. We would take them in the evening or if they only make us a bit drowsy, maybe we would take them once we get into the office after our first cup of coffee. Sometimes, a certain medication may make us nauseous so it helps to keep some crackers or dry toast on hand.
Being chronically ill means we have decisions to make daily. Sometimes, those decisions are small such as when and how to take our medications and sometimes they are big, such as whether we should head to the ER when we have high copay or whether we can wait to see our family doctor the following day. Daily, our quality of life is affected and the choices we make alter our lives for the better or worse.
It has been a long rough week but I am still moving forward. I have been dealing with pain, moments of sadness and depressed moods, and daily stresses of balancing my home life and work life. But I have turned my focus in a different direction so that this week doesn’t take its toll on me. I am focusing on what is right in my life right now. Doing that helps me to move forward no matter how crazy my body is acting and how stressful things are right now.
There is never enough time in my day simply because of the lack of energy. I come home tired from work and I start to think about feeding two very hungry boys. I don’t cook like I used it and sometimes, I miss that. It is hard to do when I come home exhausted in the evening. Then there are things to do such as cleaning up and then before I know it, bedtime is near and I am focusing on getting a four year old ready for bed and convincing a teen to get ready for bed. By the time my head hits the pillow; I don’t know where my day has gone. Even my weekends are busy, between keeping my home nice and tidy, running errands and helping my mom, my weekend is gone before I have even had a chance to enjoy it.
The only moments of solace I get in the evening and on the weekend are when I sit down and turn on the TV. I try to stay away from the news because of the emotional effect it has on me. I will try to watch an hour of TV in the evening and a couple hours on the weekend because it is the time where I actually get to sit down. It is also the only time where I can allow my mind to shut down and not think about the pressures that life throws at me. A simple moment but enough time to allow my mind to relax.
Between work, family, my health and thinking about bills and money, it is hard to keep the big picture in perspective. Sometimes, it is hard to know what that is or to even focus on that but it helps to notice and observe my feelings. It helps me to allow the unpleasant feelings to pass through if I make a choice to recognize them rather than to react to them. The more I practice allowing the negative stuff to pass, the more my ability to see the positive increases. Day by day, I am learning that there really isn’t a specific big picture. If I can focus on what is good in my life right now – my family, my career, my friends, and even the fact I am coping with my health challenges – the more confident I become to handling life’s challenges. My ultimate goal is feel a deeper sense of peace. I am not there yet but I am working my way towards that.
Today’s a good day for me. I have spent many months dealing with depressed feelings. Life’s challenges have thrown a lot at me and I have struggled as I have worked to deal with these things. It has been a little over two months since my doctor and I recognized that my anxieties were depression. While I mentioned on few occasions that I was dealing with new challenges, I never mentioned the depression because I was not sure how I felt about being open about it.
Today I am making a choice to be open and honest about how life challenges have affected me. This is not a “pity party” post. This is a post where I am honest about my feelings and where I show that it is normal for chronic illness and life’s challenges to add up.
Like the rest of you, I have had my share of what chronic illness does. I was diagnosed in my early 30s, as someone trying to be a good mother and a successful professional. When we are young, we take our health for granted. Chronic illness means we are sick and we will be sick forever and that really stinks. Our bodies have suddenly freaked out on us and we have lost control of the one thing we had control of. Not only that, it affects every aspect of our lives.
Accepting what chronic illness does and how it affects our lives is a major loss. It is grief and it takes time to process and it something we revisit often. Add life’s challenges in the mix and we are mourning, angry and sad – all at once. All this part of our reality. Even life’s challenges alone or chronic illness alone make life hard.
A Recipe for Depression
The chronic illness part of depressed feelings has to do with the situation itself and changes in our appearance, mobility and independence. The illness itself may cause depression. Add pain, fatigue, and the effects of medication into that mix. Last, and most importantly, the social pressure to be okay. Walla! A great recipe for depression.
For me, it was bigger than that. I had a lot of obstacles thrust upon me of late and as I tried to deal with those pressures, I found myself struggling with my emotions. I didn’t realize I was depressed until my doctor pointed it out. I thought my feelings and emotions were normal. I was crying at the drop of a hat, not sleeping at night, my mind was constantly working, and I hate to admit this, but I actually thought about death. Not about suicide or dying but the whole notion that death was better than life. Now, with medication and therapy, I am dealing with things better than I ever have. Life is such much clearer and I am not thrown down by obstacles or by life stresses. I am handling things better than I have in a long time and I am grateful for my doctor for recognizing what I was going with me.
I hesitated to write this post. I guess, in a way, it meant admitting I was weak and I was not as strong as I thought people perceived me. However, I am learning everyday that there is no requirement for me to be strong all the time. I am human and I am allowed to feel weakness. The fact is I am getting stronger everyday and I am seeing myself in a whole new light. I still have days where I feel sad but for the most part, I am okay. I am sleeping better at night and my moods are not all over the place and I am definitely a lot calmer.
If anything, I wrote this post because I wanted others to see that feeling depressed wasn’t something to be ashamed of. We associate such a stigma with depression that it forces people to hold their emotions and feelings in. It is such a stigma that 75% of those who are depressed do not seek treatment. The whole idea that family or society reacting to depression paralyzes people from getting the help they need. Unless someone is going through divorce, death or other trauma, people cannot begin to understand depression. Emotional pain in our society is seen as personal weakness and not a symptom of physical disorders, chemical imbalances or nutrient deficiency. In my case, it was a combination of life’s challenges, chronic illness and vitamin D deficiency.
Our society still has this notion that when someone is depressed they can just snap out of it, decide to stop, will it away and they try to cheer us up, thinking that it is simple to feel better. Further, many have this notion that we all feel depressed sometimes, that we should grin and bear it (most depressed persons already do this), and that we should smile even when our hearts are breaking. They make light of it by saying this like “life is hard for all of us – what makes you so special?” or they will say that the person is just trying to get attention. It is no wonder that people do not talk about depression or seek help. It took me a long time to understand what was happening to me and admitting weakness meant that I had to acknowledge what was happening.
Pent up emotions are difficult for anyone to talk about even to someone you are very close to. When we tell people how we feel, even those closest to us, we feel vulnerable to rejection and humiliation. We wonder if they will believe us or take us seriously. Will they make us feel weak, foolish or embarrassed and in the end, will we still feel alone? No wonder it is so hard to seek help for depression. Some people would rather die than admit they need help and so they make a choice to suffer alone.
What is even more tragic is that a lot of people suffering from depression don’t even know they are depressed. They blame others for their suffering and they complicate other people’s lives in the process. The handle this through general unhappiness, low self-esteem, being overly sensitive and with difficulty getting along with others. If they only knew that depression makes life and getting along with others hard. The fact is, it is hard to come to terms with these horrible feelings.
At first, we don’t really know what is happening to us and what is really going on. We don’t recognize what we are feeling and we try to push these feelings aside. We hope that if we ignore these feelings that they will somehow go away. Unfortunately, despite all the ignoring, we break down. We ask ourselves whether we are going crazy but it takes time to realize what is happening. Some people take to drinking, smoking, and/or drugs or even have an affair to cover up what they are feeling. Nobody wants to be depressed so they find ways to cover what they are feeling.
The fact is depression comes with guilt, shame and embarrassment. We blame ourselves or we feel weak for having these feelings. I would ask myself how come a strong person like me wasn’t strong enough to fight these feelings. I also wondered if it was some kind of punishment or whether I just didn’t deserve to be happy.
It’s not Personal
All I wanted was to be the mother my children deserved. In the end, I understood that depression was a part of biology and it wasn’t personal or it wasn’t my fault. I knew that seeking help was the intelligent and informed choice. Making that decision meant I was strong, smart and capable. So, I am working on making me better and I don’t care if anymore if anyone sees me as weak, crazy, or incapable. I am not. I am stronger and better for doing what I need to do to be a better mother and a better person. And, I am getting stronger with each passing day.
Depression is nothing to be ashamed of. It is a medical disorder, like RA or fibromyalgia and it needs treatment. There are plenty of influential people who have suffered from depression including actors, Harrison Ford and Hugh Laurie. Football player, Terry Bradshaw has suffered and now is an advocate for removing the stigma of depression.
If you are feeling depressed or are experiencing the symptoms of depression, don’t be embarrassed or try to convince yourself that you can just will it away. Please talk your doctor and believe that you can get the help that you need and deserve. Trust me, you are worth it.
I look at my four year old and I see how strong he is and how smart he is. Looking at him, I see me. Messy curls, smart attitude, and strong temperament. Then I look at my thirteen year old and how fast he wants to grow up, how much more mature he is than his peers and how stubborn and headstrong he is and I still see me. I am amazed by my boys and I am scared. I also wonder, was my mother amazed and scared? Did she ever wonder how all these characteristics would benefit me and also put me at a disadvantage? Did she know that life would challenge me more than it has challenged my siblings? Did she know that despite everything I would endure? Did she know that I would struggle been being strong and being weak? How about that little girl that I was – my messy curls, my smart attitude, strong temperament, older than my years – did she know?
I just remember not relating to my peers because I was a lot more mature than most of them. I was more into books than being a little girl and when I was not in my books, I was a tomboy – climbing trees, playing with bugs and dirt, and beating up all the boys in the neighborhood. I was one tough little girl and I grew up into a strong woman. So yes, perhaps, my mother was amazed and scared. I think she was amazed and still is about how strong I was and still am. I think she was scared about what that meant and what it has meant throughout my life.
The little girl I was didn’t dream of finding Prince Charming. She dreamt of having it all – a successful career, a great husband and amazing kids. When I was a teenage girl, I thought I could and would have it all. As have I gotten older, I have realized that things aren’t as easy as they seem. Having all these things has a cost. My health has been compromised, my career hasn’t moved as fast as I thought it would, and I have learned that a successful marriage isn’t an easy thing. If I could describe my life in two words, it would be, “changed plans.”
I have spent so much of my life taking care of others and I have always said that I just wanted someone to take care of me. I was reminded recently that I had to be the kind of woman that would actually accept someone taking care of me and I don’t know how to be that woman. I have been so headstrong about taking care of myself, being independent, and taking care of others that I have never known what it means to be taken care of. It is something I need to change about myself but it involves admitting that it is okay not to be strong all the time. I struggle with the notion that I can be weak vs. strong.
My brother was diagnosed with cancer and passed away and I was determined to stay strong so that my mother and kids could lean on me. When my mother had her stroke, again, I was determined to stay strong for my children and for my mother. The last thing I wanted was anyone to see me fall apart. Life has thrown me some other obstacles in the past several years and I have remained strong – not because it was the answer, but because I was afraid to let anyone see me fall apart. Maybe I learned this from watching my own mother so I am afraid this is what my kids are learning from me.
That little girl I once was – could she have ever imagined this? Could she have ever predicted that life would throw her one curveball after another and that she would just learn to swerve? Did she ever realize that by her mid-30s, she would have endured more heartache than most? Or that life would challenge her and that despite the journey, she would still triumph? Did she know how strong she would need to be in order to get through life’s tests? Did she know that she would sometimes question why she was given so many challenges while other were given less or smaller challenges? Did she ever wonder that she would question so much, including her faith? Did she ever think that adulthood would be easy or did she prepare herself with her stubbornness and strong temperament? Maybe I have always been prepared – and maybe it just has taken me a long time to realize it.
I figure that little girl must have always known and I think that is the reason she was such a strong and feisty little girl. That is why she would grow up to be a teen that had dreams of being successful and that is why when she found no one to pick her up, she picked herself up when she was in her 20s. And even into her 30s, when life threw so many challenges her way.
I worry about my boys picking up on my strength, my fear of weakness, and sometimes my lack of emotion. People look at me and think that all these qualities are good. They might be but they also take a toll on you. I am trying to be different for the sake of my own sanity and so that I can deal with the challenges that lie ahead. Mostly, for my kids. For a long time, I thought that I had to fix others but now I know that I need to focus on fixing me first and that is what I am doing. The scary part is that doing this is forcing me to see a side of myself that I hate seeing – the part of me that can be weak. But I learned that in order to be strong, we should never be afraid to be weak – well I am learning, at least.
In my last post, I talked about many of the things I have struggled with and how despite that, I always managed to triumph. A couple days ago, I sat down and started to jot down some of the things I have learned about life and how those things have contributed to the person I have become especially in the past few years.
Some of the things I have learned are:
- Bad things happen and people hurt you. Regardless, we should not use hurt as an excuse for failure or to hurt others. If we do, we only hurt ourselves.
- Forgiveness is not an easy thing. Being bitter, hateful or angry are easy but forgiveness is tough stuff. When people say mean things or do mean things, they cannot be taken back. Sometimes, forgiveness is all we have and often times, we have to forgive to set ourselves free from the hurt we have endured.
- Happiness isn’t about what you have, who you are or even what you are doing it. It is about perception and choice.
- Life is complex and it happens while we are busy making other plans. It does not always make sense and sometimes, things happen before we finish doing what we need to do.
- Life is like reading a book or watching a movie. There is laughter, tears and obstacles. Sometimes we stand strong, sometimes we fail and other times we are successful. Through every chapter, we find out who we really are.
- No one can ruin your day unless you let them. You are only as happy as you want to be. Sometimes, people can stop you in your tracks but you have a choice whether to pass them by or let them dump their garbage on you.
- Sometimes we have to stop saying “I wish” and start saying “I can and I will.” Everything is possible once you put your mind to it.
- Sometimes you have let God decide when the timing is right for any given situation – whether it is love, money or good health. We have to wait patiently but we also have to grow and be ready for whatever God has planned for us.
- Change is a part of growing up and growing into someone that you would be proud to know. I have changed because life forced me to but I don’t have regrets about the person I have become.
- Love can sometimes hurt and when it’s over, you get to cry, let go, be strong and be wiser. And when you love again, you will know how to hold on to that love. We also shouldn’t cry because of one person when there are so many others who make our lives worthwhile.
- Let God in your life. Without God, you are alone. I have let God in my life and it has allowed me to rid my heart of emptiness, hatred and hurt.
There is a quote from the book, Dear. John (I have not seen the movie) that reads: “When you’re struggling with something, look at all the people around you and realize that every single person you see is struggling with something, and to them, it’s just as hard as what you’re going through.”
There is definitely a lot we can say about dealing with struggle. The fact is we all struggle sometimes and we all find ourselves dealing with challenges and even hardship. In order to endure, we have to be willing to accept that there will be sorrow and pain and that these things are a part of life. Moreover, it is normal and perfectly okay to feel overwhelmed with we are met with difficult challenges and admitting that you are struggling doesn’t mean you are a bad person or that you won’t succeed. A struggle is a simply that.
Over the past couple years, I have to learned that sometimes it seems that others have it easier but fact is, everyone single person has dealt with some kind of struggle or hardship at some point in their life. I am not alone and when I look at others, things are not always as I perceive them. I have no idea what goes on behind closed doors nor do I know what others are feelings emotionally and mentally. What I have learned, however, is that happiness and success are a choice. We need to take our struggles, learn from them and create better situations for ourselves and those we love.
Tough times are definitely not for quitters and I have learned that I am not a quitter. Overwhelmed but I don’t cower or make excuses. I just do what I have to do. It has made a stronger, wiser and better person. I usually stand alone and I don’t ask anyone to bail me out or take over my problems. I meet my challenges head on and I am better for it what I have been through. Maybe that is what makes me so unique and I am proud to be that kind of person.
I know that it is okay to ask for help but I am a strong believer in helping myself first. I have learned that I have to prepare for the road ahead; that life will have challenges and that the only option available is keep going and not give up. I have learned that by finding the good in every situation and allowing hard times to make me stronger and wiser, I can be a happier and more successful person. So yes, I struggle and sometimes, I get overwhelmed but I am better for being able to take adversity by the horns and show it who is boss.
For a long period of time, life was tough for me. I dealt with two chronic illnesses, then financial and marital troubles, then my brother’s illness and death and then my mom’s stroke. I spent so much time waiting for the other shoe to drop that I forgot what it meant to be truly happy. My past struggles made me the person I am today. I am strong, independent, careful, responsible, stubborn, and most of all, unique. I have weathered many tough storms and I have chased some nearly impossible dreams. In the end, I always managed to triumph.
I was reminded recently by a wonderful friend to thank God for all the good that has been handed to me lately. I didn’t overcome or triumph without God my side, after all. I have for years struggled with my relationship with the Almighty. Often times, it was a result of my asking too many questions and not always accepting what was in front of me. The truth is, I still I have questions but I understand now that sometimes there are no answers. Maybe it is that I am older or maybe it is that I have seen time and again that God is by my side, but I am okay with not always having the answers. After all, I can only control my responses, I cannot control anything else.
When I reflect upon the person I was prior to chronic illness, losing my brother, life’s struggles, and my mother’s health, I realize that that person could not have handled what I have handled. I changed because life required me to. I also changed because I truly let God in my heart and into my life. So much has happened to me over the past few years and I don’t think I would have gotten through without God by side.
I am blessed because I have many good things happening and I thank God everyday for this. I am doing well in my career, my advocacy work, my kids are healthy, my mom is getting better, and my financial situation is better. Additionally, while I have had many near misses with my health, my RA and fibro are pretty well managed. But I have an upcoming challenge and while I know I will get through it, it is going to be quite stressful. But tough times call for tough people.
Here is the thing – for the first time in a long time, I feel like I am going to be okay. My kids and I – we are doing fine and we will continue to be fine. As I look at my life and I reflect upon what has been lost and what has been gained, I see a brighter vision for the future. That is all any of us can ask for. If we believe, have hope, and offer prayer, we are ahead of most. So yes, I am okay and I am going to continue to be okay.
The world isn’t fair and no matter what anyone of us do, all we can offer is prayers. I explained that to my son yesterday after he asked why some people suffer in this world. It is children starving on the other side of the globe, innocent men, women, and children dying for no good reason in countries like Syria and Burma, and even here in the United States, there are children who go to bed hungry and who are victims of abuse daily. How do you explain that to a child who has always had a roof over his head, food on his table, and everything he has ever needed? How do you explain that there are children who do not have these basic necessities? I never imagined myself having to answer these questions and people always tell me that life just isn’t fair and that I cannot allow myself to be consumed by the world’s troubles. How can I not be affected? How can anyone of us not be affected?
I don’t talk about my religious views a lot because I have never really been one to do so even though I often mention how my strong belief in God and in my faith is. Both of these things have humbled me in more ways than I ever explain in words. When my foundation was shaken and when I thought that I couldn’t make sense of the difficulties that transpired in the last four years, I leaned on God and my faith to guide me through some of the hardest days of my life. It was my faith and belief in God that helped me to deal with my own illnesses, financial troubles, marital and family discord, and the death of my brother and I thank God every day that my parents taught me about religion and God. Five years ago, I never imagined myself talking about how important my faith was but here I am living it every day.
We are getting close to the end of the Holy month of Ramadan. For those of you who don’t know, Ramadan of the ninth month of the Islamic calendar – the month in which the Quran (Islamic Holy Book) was revealed. Fasting during the month of Ramadan from dawn until dusk is one of the five Pillars of Islam. Muslims believe that he Quran was sent down to the lowest heaven during this month being prepared to be revealed by the Angel Gabriel (Jibraeel in Arabic) to the Islamic Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him). Also, it is believed that during Ramadan the gates of Heaven are open all month and the gates of Hell are closed.
What is significant about is this the dedication to faith and God. You deny yourself from food, drink, smoking, sexual activity, etc. during the daytime hours and you also devote yourself to God by praying and other performing other acts of faith, including charity. Throughout all of this, your heart becomes more humble and you start to see that there is more to life than luxury.
I am proud of my twelve year old. This is the first year he has been successful in his fasting. I never pushed fasting on him because this year the days are longer and hotter but he made this choice all on his own. That is why I wasn’t surprised when he started asking questions – questions that I couldn’t answer. I am proud of him for seeing that there is more to life than all the luxuries he has been handed but another part of me is sad that he understands that life isn’t fair sometimes. As a parent, you want to protect them from knowing that there is wrong in this world and now that he gets it, I know that he is growing up. I am also so very proud of him because he is turning into this wonderful caring and compassionate young man. He wanted to know what he could do to help others less fortunate than him. I told him to offer prayers and I explained to him the importance of charity – another Pillar of Islam.
I have learned to let go of my demons about how unfair life is. I have struggled and I have gotten up more times than I can count. I know that there is cruelty in this world but I am just one person and if anything, that is why I pray. I don’t pray for me. I pray for my children and for all those I love that they are protected. I also pray for those less fortunate and I don’t always know what I can do – other than giving to charity and helping others out who are less fortunate. In the end, that is how life works. We can put a man on the moon but we cannot find a cure for cancer. I was born free in a country of opportunity while others are born into war with no opportunity. I am blessed and all I can do is pray that others are blessed too. I can also teach my children the power of kindness, charity and prayer. That is all any of us can do. In the grand scheme of things, we are the lucky ones and we owe it to those who are not lucky to offer something as simple as kindness and prayer.
A Birthday Passed
On July 9, my late brother would have turned 33. I tried to blog about him and how I was feeling but I cried with every word I typed. The fact is that there is nothing that I can do to change the circumstances. He is gone and we are all left with an emptiness that cannot be filled. The fact is the loss of a sibling is like the loss of a limb. It is a part of you that you will never get back. The numbness and the sadness remain with you every day of your life and probably for the rest of your life.
All I know is that when Moe died, the world changed in a heartbeat. The thing about siblings is that they share a bond that is unique to them and is a part of their history. The death of a sibling shatters that bond and that history becomes a void that can never be filled. A part of me knows that my brother was once here and another part of me wants so desperately to hold onto fading memories. His being gone is reminder that I have lost a part of my past, my present and my future all at the same time and it is process every single day to make sense of that loss.
I miss my brother with every fiber of my being but I know that my brother would want us to move forward despite the blow we were dealt. I keep his photo at my desk as reminder to me how short life is and how important it is to treasure those we loves. Sometimes, it is if I see him staring back, and he seems to smile and say, “Don’t cry. I am with God and I will see you again someday.” While a part of me knows this to be true, I still want to cling on to the memories we shared. We have all changed as result of this loss but at the same token, we are still the same people we were before we lost him. The fact is simple – the more things change, the more they stay the same.
In a month, I will be school shopping for the boys. I cannot believe how fact summertime is moving. My sister from NYC and her boys are visiting so we are keeping the kiddos pretty busy. As our kids grow up, I cannot believe how fast and how much time has flown by. Looking at my own children and at my nephews and nieces, I am amazed how fast they have grown up and how fast time flies. I assume that my mother sees the cycle of life merely repeating itself. When I am grandmother, I am sure I will feel the same. After all, the more things change, the more they stay the same.
I am busy with my job and my home life. After all, my student loan debt isn’t going to pay itself. As I ventured out on this beautiful day, I thanked God for the beauty of this day and for everything that I have been given. Yes, I have endured some tough times but I have come out stronger than I ever thought possible. I don’t have any regrets and my expectations have changed.
This weekend I will be spending more time with my sister and the boys. Raising boys is a great adventure and even as they get older, they continue to be energetic. They continue to fight and to love each other at the same time. I remember growing up and fighting with my sisters and despite that, I loved them and defended them outside of our home. I have said it before – the more things change, the more things stay the same. My sisters and I are very close and we continue to get closer everyday. As for my brothers, I may not share the same bond with them as I do my sisters but I would do anything for them and I would be there for them in a heartbeat.
Where is my Break Already?
My sisters and I took the kids and Mom to the zoo on Monday. I am still reeling from the joint pain after all that walking. The kids had fun and even the wild kangaroo didn’t ruin our day. Yes, a wild kangaroo – it was like something out of a Looney Tunes cartoon. He was going too fast for me to videotape with my phone. I think some kid decided to leave him a piece of candy because kangaroos are pretty gentle creates. We were in the Wallaby Walkabout when all this took place. The kangaroo was jumping as high as he could and throughout the walkabout. When I stay throughout, I mean that he was hoping around the visitors to the zoo and through the walkways. He looked like Wild E. Coyote chasing after the Road Runner. Well maybe the zoo employees were Wild E. Coyote and he was the road runner. No one could catch him. We scurried away with the kids because were worried all the drama would share the younger ones. However, my 14 year old nephew tells me they later shot him a sleeping dart. I guess he was due for nap like a worn out toddler.
Life at the office has been pretty hectic as the quarter ended last week. One of the clowns from the construction department asked me yesterday if I was glad the quarter was over. I responded telling him my quarter was not yet over. I still had a lot of catching from all the last minute stuff that came in. I will need another week to be caught and even all the working late hasn’t helped. I changed jobs and I am still busy as a bee. Yup, the more things change, the more they stay the same. I have always worked for senior people so my workload as always been heavy and you know what, I couldn’t imagine my job being any other way.
I still want a break, however, but I know that this is the life of a working mother and in that case, I would not have it any other way. My kids will be grown up soon enough and I will have more time to myself and more time to focus on my career. I know people who talk about getting older like it is some kind of curse. As for me, I think getting old is a privilege and so many do not get that opportunity. The way I see it is I am fortunate to grow older because that means I get to see high school and college graduations, weddings, and grandchildren. I get to see my children turn into adults and I get to be proud of their accomplishments. Even when I am older and they are older, I will always know that the more things change, the more they stay the same.
There was a time in my life when I wanted nothing more than to focus on my career. At some level, I still want to be successful in my career but at the same token, I want to be successful in my parenting and I want to be able to focus on my faith. I went from being career driven to being practical. Who would have thunk it? Right now, these two things are the most important things in my life. Perhaps my thinking with change when the boys are older but for right now, I am just content being their mother. I never thought I would see myself envious of PTA mothers. Years ago, those ladies made me sick to my stomach. More than anything, I just want to be more involved in their lives on a day to day basis.
This week has been pretty challenging as my three year old and I have been sick with sinus and ear infections. It has also been a busy week at home and at the office – at home with sixth grade projects that finished up last week and a sixth grade graduation yesterday and at the office with us getting close to quarter end. Perhaps, it is just an emotional time for me but I am feeling kind of melancholy and I don’t use words like that one often. I just long for more out of life and right now, that is more time with my boys and more time to really focus on my faith. Unfortunately, my job takes precedent over both of those things.
I know that I choose my career a long time ago and I pursued higher education to get further in my career. I hold a master’s degree in legal studies and when I was desperately working for it, I wanted to be successful and now I don’t feel that same passion I felt back then. I know that life has changed and humbled me and I also know that I have been though a lot more than most people.
Having had to walk away from my daughters made me tough but it also closed my heart up. It made determined to be successful because I felt like I had failed them. Then RA and fibro, financial trouble and marital discord took their toll on me and I learned to God and my faith for answers. It was not until my brother died that my strong/closed heart could take no more. I felt weaker than I had ever felt in a long time. At the token, however, it opened my heart up to love in a whole new way. I saw my love for my family and God as the only way for me to prevail past that setback. In fact, this love has been my guiding force and my saving grace for the past year. It is that love that has forced me to see what is most important in my life.
If you have never been religious but have had some religious or spiritual teaching, setbacks like the ones I faced in my life force you to lean on the two things you can count on most, God and family. That is where I am at in my life and I don’t think I would change a thing. If anything, I wish that my career didn’t hinder me from giving the best of me to my family and God.
My second goal for 2012 was to focus on my career as an advocate and the truth being, I am far behind. There is a proposal I am considering and I have not really had an opportunity to think it through or to really discuss it with my family. However, that proposal involves furthering my work as a health advocate and putting aside my career in the legal field. I am waiting for the right moment to present it and I also be 100% certain of the choice I am about to make. If that proposal works out as I plan, it would mean more time helping others and more time to focus on family and faith. I am just waiting for the timing to be right to even suggest it. Wish me luck.
I am writing about my mother today. The reason I am is because I find myself in the middle of a health scare that involves a lot of patience. Next week, I am going in for a procedure to determine whether I will need further treatment. Regardless of the outcome, I will still need surgery to treat the issue causing so much havoc on my body right now. I cannot share this information with my mom until I have all the facts and I hate not being able to. However, I don’t want to alarm her. She is already lost so much and I don’t want to put fears in her head that may turn out to be baseless. I am writing about her because I know that as I deal with this crisis, she will still be here in everything she taught me.
Mom tried for years to teach me the value of patience and growing up, I never imagined the value patience would hold in my adult years. My mother was a Palestinian woman who married my father and came to the United States at age 23. Three years later, I was born. By cultural standards, Mom was considered old when she got married. However, if not for Mom’s age, I don’t think she would have prepared for a life of hardship in a country that was all foreign to her.
Growing up, I watched Mom take hardship by the horns but that it is not say it took its toll on her. However, in those days, I never understood where her strength came from nor did I really grasp the role that she played in our lives. My mother kept her children close by and an example would be her walking us to school on a cold snowy day in Southeast Michigan. She often told us that about twenty years ago, she had a horrible dream that she had lost one of her children. In that dream, she was frantically screaming, “I lost one of my children!” It was once of the reasons she kept her children close by and growing up, I didn’t quite understand her reasoning behind that. As a mother myself now, I understand the fear a mother feels when her children leave her side and I understand the pain when she fears for their safety.
Reading this, you may think that my mother and I were close but the opposite is true. Mom and I never saw eye to eye and growing up, I often thought that my mother never really loved me. For that reason I rebelled and my rebellion was no secret. Being part of a close knit Arab community growing up, my actions were thought to be disgraceful to my family. It was probably the reason my parents married me off so young. These days, my mother is one of my closest friends and I confide in her more than I do my best friend or my sisters. However, getting to point took a lot of work on my part. The fact is my mother never changed – I did.
The reality is that my mother and I are more alike than I ever imagined. My strength, my stubbornness and my resilience are things I get from her – I owe some of that to genetics and some by watching her. Growing up, my mother tried to teach me the value of patience and some of that was based on her religious and cultural upbringing. To me, her views were nothing but prehistoric. Being a first generation American, the last thing I wanted to do was feel less American and different from my peers. I never wanted to believe that my mother was trying to teach how to survive and how to be a strong independent woman. Without that education, I couldn’t have overcome the obstacles I overcame nor could I have overcome them with strong patience and determination.
Immanuel Kant said, “Have patience awhile; slanders are not long-lived. Truth is the child of time; erelong she shall appear to vindicate thee.” Having done a research paper in college on Immanuel Kant, I recall how difficult his work was to interpret and this is a particular qoute that has stood with for quite some time. In fact, Kant’s work is deep and complex. My professor told me that he commended me for taking on such a difficult project and for successfully getting my point across. The fact is I understood Kant’s need to be different, deep and complex. In particular, that quote was everything my mother sought to teach me. Patience was something that I had to have in order to survive but I would also prevail and even when wronged, there would always be higher power to answer.
I may have a huge obstacle upcoming and I know that like everything else in my life, I can overcome and surpass. A part of me feels restless and I just feel like I am entitled to a break considering everything my kids and I have been through. However, I know that regardless of what happens, I will have the Almighty at my side and my mother’s life lessons to get me through and I will prevail.
As I drove into work today, I thought about how fast my boys were growing up. It is like all I had to was blink and today came. My older son is 12, going on 20, and the younger one will be four in September. I was telling my older son this morning, M, to help his brother in the bathroom so that he could get a boy’s perspective at potty training. He laughed and said, “You potty trained me and there was no boy’s perspective then.” I had to laugh because he was right. I potty trained him and he did not turn less boy so what was the different in potty training my youngest, E? The potty training idea got me to think about M being that little and how many years have passed since then.
Having a twelve year old and a three year old at home is a challenge. They are different kids at different stages of their youth. That age gap seems so big now but when they are in their twenties and beyond, the age gap will not be as obvious. For now, it allows me to enjoy with E the things I miss about M being little. It also prepares me for E’s preteen years as I am currently going through them with M.
M is nearly a teenager and sometimes, I want to baby him and I stop myself because I know that isn’t what he wants. We are getting pretty close to the teens years and while the idea of him as a teen leads to anxiety, I have faith in him and me that we will get through the teen years and we will come out stronger as a result. He is getting to the point where Mom is not the person he wants to be around but to ease my fears, I remind myself and him that I will always be here whether he wants me around or not. The days of hugging and kissing and being playful are long behind us. I miss those times but as I have told by others who have raised teens, they are never too old for a hug and/or a kiss.
E is three and going a hundred miles a minute. He is smart, funny, and silly. He loves hugs and kisses and he calls me his best friend. I look at him and I see everything I am and I ever will be. He is a like a tiny version of myself. He is going through the big boy stage and he often sleeps in his own bed, I don’t mind when he decides he wants to sleep in my bed. Sometimes he wants to sit my lap or be carried and sometimes, he doesn’t.
As much as my boys drive me crazy, I remind myself that if they were not healthy, they would not be able to do that. I have been fortunate to have been blessed with healthy children and I wouldn’t trade that for the world. Despite everything I have been through, the best thing that God has given me is healthy children and I am lucky. It is okay that I am not rich or even successful in my profession, I have healthy children and I wouldn’t trade that for all the money or success in the world.
Rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia came into my life when I was 32 years old and four years later, everything that I feared turned out to be nothing but fears. I was afraid of disability and I was afraid that I could not be my children’s mother. I fight every day and I keep moving because these are the two things I fear the most. Have RA and fibro changed our lives? Of course they have but I can think of things much worse that make RA and fibro look like small challenges.
Our lives have been definitely challenged. First, it was RA and Fibro. Then, it was huge financial nightmare that has only recently come to resolution. There was also my brother’s cancer diagnosis and his untimely passing. My kids are and were part of all these events and they watched first-hand the effects of these events on my life. Then there were other events such as marital discord that I wish they didn’t have to see. I wished and I continue to wish that I could have protected them from all these events – events that I am fairly certain that my parents would have hid from me.
I remind myself that I am not parents and I made a decision to raise my children differently. I only saw my father cry once in my entire life and the only time I ever saw mom cry was when death and illness were involved. My parents hid their pain, their tears, their disagreements, and their troubles from us. That is what most parents of their generation did and that has not changed. My mom still doesn’t tell us about the issues that affect her unless she needs assistance in dealing with them and if my father were alive, we probably would be in the dark. My kids have an opportunity to see me when I am weak and when I am strong. They get to see my successes and my failures and they get to learn from that. If only parents gave me that gift, it would have my stumbles and falls so much easier to bear. But they choose to protect me to which I am grateful for but even so, I have learned all on my own how to handle life’s challenges.
I know that my boys will not be little forever and every day, I remind myself of this. I also remind myself to treasure every minute of every day with them. Sometimes, when I drop the boys off at daycare, M runs off before I ever have a chance to tell him I love him and that I hope he has a good day. I feel sad that he feels he is too old for Mom’s hugs, kisses and I love you’s and that someday, he will long for the days when he was young and when someone loved him so unconditionally and who wanted to show him daily. When I drop off E, he wants my hugs and kisses but afterwards, he will quickly scurry off to his friends and doesn’t even turn around to see if I am still standing there.
They are growing up faster than I ever imagined and every day, I am taken back by how much older they are getting every day. When my own birthday nears, I don’t think about getting older, I think about their getting older and that makes me sad. I want them to be little but I also welcome high school and college graduations, weddings and grandchildren and while it seems like we are still a long way from all these things, I know by watching my own mother how quickly time creeps up on us. For now, I know that they will not be little forever and I am going to treasure every moment I have with them and I am going to spend every day working on making those moments.