It has been over 4 months since I’ve blogged. As your life will never stand completely still, neither does time. You see, my chronically ill mother developed pneumonia around the time of my last post. And in her case, this can be fatal. We weren’t certain if she was going to pull through and my sister and I were made aware that it was time to prepare for the worst. We have been thrust into making some of the most difficult decisions that children can make. It has all been a whirlwind since early February. Deborah, my sister, has already made several trips and traveled over 10,000 miles to be here with us. Fortunately, mom is stable at the moment, but her trajectory for life is fragile. Nothing has prepared me for what I am facing. Nothing has prepared Deborah, either.
Since my mother became ill, her journey has been a difficult one. In and out of the hospitals, ICU, near death experiences, we have been on a roller coaster that I wouldn’t wish upon anyone. Despite all the highs and lows, my precious mother has always remained faithful and gracious, which is a lot more than I can say for myself. You see, I have learned what long suffering is about, and when you witness it first hand with someone you love so deeply, you cannot help but run the gamut of emotions. My moods and spirit have been very indicative based on how my mother’s health is. Has it interfered with my life .. most definitely! Would I choose to do anything differently .. absolutely not!!
I have prided myself on being able to get through anything that life throws at me. No, I am not smug, just seasoned in dealing with trauma and drama .. LOTS of it! I have shed many tears over the course of my 50 something years, but nothing like the last 3 1/2, as I have lived in denial that she was failing. Denial is expensive, emotionally speaking! But the little voice inside me say’s, “you can do this”! And, I believe it! Usually, it’s right! But this time it’s different. It is all about time. How much time do we have left? Do we have all our affairs in order? Are her wishes going to be fulfilled adequately? Am I prepared? Will I ever be prepared? And what will life be like afterwards?
I never thought anything like this would happen to someone in my family. But it has, and I was blissfully unaware of the pain that would come to shape the course of my life. Since that tragic day of December 29, 2014, when my mom was rushed into emergency surgery to save her life, it has felt like my whole world has collapsed on me. But, this tragedy has also shaped my life. I have come to realize that I am a completely different person than I was prior. In fact, I will never be the same. The lessons that this has taught me, I believe, will guide me to a better life.
First, everything is a matter of perspective. So, you lost an important report for work, or you tweeted something that caused a bit of a storm. So what? Let’s think about how important it really is. Are you going to die because it happened? No? Ok, move on. It’s not worth spending any of your life worrying about it. I struggle with this every day, as I’m naturally someone that worries. But it’s something I am working on now. And I’m so much happier for it. Don’t sweat the small stuff, because it really doesn’t matter. If it helps, compare the thing that’s causing you grief with something that would cause you serious grief… perspective is a beautiful thing.
Second, find people who are a light in your life, and hold on to them. Since my mother’s illness, it’s as if I put some tinted glasses on and saw the whole world differently. Your priorities change; whenever there is some stupid argument or someone is gossiping about someone else, you just don’t care. People who are self-centered or narcissistic, ditch them. People that make you feel unworthy or that berate you, lose them too! People who make you feel good, hold on to them. Life is too short to be around people who don’t light your fire. Find your tribe, and let them know you appreciate them. I constantly tell my friends and family how much I love them. Tell ‘your’ people that they light up your life, and you in turn will light up their day.
Third, do you know what’s even worse than finding yourself somewhere you don’t like? Staying there. We’ve all ended up in situations where we aren’t happy. Maybe you hate your job, maybe you’re in a bad relationship. Leave it!! For god’s sake, you have to take control of your happiness, no one else will. I’ve been there, I know it’s scary. Don’t be complacent, don’t spend your time wishing away your tomorrows. Don’t wait for a more convenient moment. Be brave, take a leap. It will all be ok in the end. If it’s not ok, it’s not the end.
Fourth, remember that thing you’d love to do someday? Do it now. Plagued by ‘what ifs’ and doubts, unable to move forward because you’re afraid. We’ve all heard people shouting ‘YOLO’ and chastising our safety-minded heads, and we laugh it away because it isn’t practical. But what my mother’s illness has taught me is that you aren’t guaranteed a tomorrow, or another year, much less another thirty. What if you spend the next ten years doing something that you hate and then die? You don’t want to have wasted your life waiting for the perfect time. There is no perfect time. But there is today, and you can do it now.
Fifth, don’t do things that make you unhappy. Sound simple? It’s not really. It takes a lot of concentrated effort to say NO to and let go of things that aren’t helpful to you, but your life genuinely is too short not to. This has been my mantra since the day I sat in ICU watching my mother being kept alive by all kinds of machines. I made her all sorts of promises, although she couldn’t hear me. And it’s not been easy to follow. I left several things that were damaging my confidence and causing me so many tears. And that was scary. Really scary. But you know what? Despite what I am going through with my mom, I’m in such a better place now. If you’re unhappy, something isn’t right. You owe it to yourself to stop doing things that make you unhappy.
Sixth, find your thing, and do it. How often have you been told to simply “Do what you love”? I know, it can sound like a load of hullabaloo. But let me tell you a secret… it’s really not. What is the thing that, like a dog chasing a tennis ball for hours on end, gets you excited? What could you pursue for hours and hours on end? For me, it was DIY crafts and starting my own consulting business. Find your thing and do it! But, if you chase that thing you love, opportunities will follow. Make time for yourself to do what you love, one day you’ll be thanking yourself for having done so.
Seventh, create serendipity for yourself. We all love those serendipitous moments, when you seem to be in the right place at the right time. It seems like luck, but you can create your own luck. Surround yourself with people who push you to do more, to be better, and who you come alive with. Put yourself out there, do something that scares you, you will be astounded by the opportunities you create for yourself. Don’t wait for luck to come along and push you into something exciting, because it may never happen. Go out there and create some serendipity! Do something today that pushes you out of your comfort zone. You never know what might come of it.
Eighth, give, give, and give some more. When I was a kid I frequently heard my parents claim they preferred giving to receiving gifts. I couldn’t believe it, what could be better than getting presents from someone else? But there was something to their logic, and now I get it. Nothing gives me so much pleasure as to see someone else being joyful because of something I’ve done for them. We all have so much to give to others: time, money, knowledge, advice. It’s so easy now to share a little of yourself with those who need it, and it makes life so much fuller. It will enrich not only your life, but the lives of those you love.
Ninth, remember to be grateful you’re alive. We all have so much to be grateful for, no matter what has happened in our lives. I have so much to be grateful for. I feel the pain of my mother’s illness and her impending death so often, that at times, it’s really hard to breathe and to feel positive and keep moving forward. But I am grateful that God spared her life 3 1/2 years ago and we have had this beautiful time together. I am so grateful for that. And I am grateful for my silver lining, for the lessons that I have learned through all of this, and for the people who love me and have led me to the beautiful life I have . We can all find something in our not-so-great times that we can be grateful for… a lesson learned, a new friend, a newfound strength. Don’t ever forget how powerful that is.
And finally, my mother, who always said to me as a child “life isn’t a dress rehearsal, live each day to the fullest”, boy, she has truly taught me what that statement means. I have witnessed it through her beauty and her pain. She has always been sincere and authentic with no pretensions and she is loved beyond measure! I am blessed!