I have barely had any sleep in four days. I usually fall asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow at night, but recently things have kept me awake – thoughts, and emotions, and plans and worries – future ones and present ones– real ones and imaginary ones – for sure.
So there I am in the bathroom at 6 am. I’m knackered and exhausted, sleep-deprived, hair is a mess, wearing a milk-stained t-shirt from breastfeeding the baby, eyes still more closed than open. My three-year-old bouncing up and down in front of me: “Mummy, mummy, can I take this teddy-bear downstairs with me? Can I? Can I?” At that moment, some very sleep-deprived cells in my brain can’t take any of it anymore: “If you carry that teddy-bear downstairs with you, we need to throw away three others. I’m so tired – I don’t want to tidy and tidy and tidy anymore.” She stops bouncing and just stares at me. What? Wait. What did I just say? Where the heck did that come from? Keep that one – throw three others away?! Sweet lord! “I’m sorry baby,” I muster. “Of course you can take your teddy-bear downstairs. It’s yours. Mummy is just really tired,” I manage to say. Big hug. Faith restored.
My babies crack me open – they break me physically, mentally and emotionally every single day, and I love them with a love deeper and truer than I have ever loved ever before: with a wide-open, unguarded heart. So scary! I didn’t see this pain and mess, and beauty and love coming, but it’s here, it’s real. Sometimes the love I feel inside my body is so overwhelming that it spills out all over my edges – it expands beyond my body and seems to solidify in front of my very eyes into a big fat heart-shaped balloon that is about to pop and sprinkle stardust all over the whole wide Universe. A balloon so gigantic I can’t wrap my arms around it. A feeling so vast that I can’t put it into words.
I pray to God every day that my grumpy teddy-bear murdering moments won’t break my tiny babies’ souls before they get a chance to fully explore the world with all its beauty and pain. That they won’t think that I’m the mum from hell or worse, that there is something wrong with them that might have made me snap. Then at the same time, I’m thinking, “well wait – your children, their hearts, their souls, are much more potent and capable than you could ever know – how dare you fathom that you could ever break infinite spirits and their infinite souls with a ridiculous comment like that.” I know. I’m instantaneously humbled. I know people are so so capable and resilient –children all over the world have endured and are enduring famine, disease, wars, abuse, sometimes all at once, and they’ve survived. True, but people everywhere are also suffering from PTSD and need psychiatrists. So?! I’m still really torn.
There is always this tug at my heart – this desire to keep my babies warm and safe and whole – shielded from life’s horrors, tiny or real serious ones – and from “teddy-bear murdering me” mornings.
I want to protect them and be real at the same time. I want to be sweet mum all the time and yet allow myself to have shitty mornings and show it. I want my children’s world to be just perfect, but I don’t want it to be too perfect at the same time either to prepare them for all of what is “out there” and yet to come. The world is a “brutiful” place says Glennon Doyle: beautiful and brutal. I want my children to see that at times this brutiful world breaks me with fatigue, with worry, with decisions – the ones I can take and the ones that are taken for me – with loss, with death, but that it rebuilds me too – us – with friendship, with love, with support, with a random smile. I don’t want to be accountable for my children’s welfare, and at the same time, I just love being accountable for their welfare. All those thoughts and emotions – all rolled into one. I’m trying to be the very best version of me, and I am failing at it every single day. And yet I keep trying – insanity. I would have quit any other project by now under those circumstances, but this one I keep sustaining with all my might. I guess that’s what real love does. It keeps whispering into your ear to try and try again because it’s worth it. After all, you care. It makes you want to keep trying and trying and trying even if you know that you’ll always fall short – mostly falling short of the expectations you had of yourself. And actually, you know that in the end, it doesn’t really matter if you are your very best version or just any decent version of you, because this you that you are is the you that your children call mummy.
Glennon Doyle wrote something along the lines of “as long as you are in there battling, you are doing this living right.” The ones with no heart-break are already numb and dead. Well, seen from that perspective, I’m mightily alive with all those badass emotions and thoughts keeping me awake at night. I guess what I’m trying to say is that this tug at my heart and this inner back and forth leave me with no clue when it comes to being a mum – when it comes to being a wife, a friend, a daughter, a teacher, a woman, … – any and all of what makes me me, really. I’m taking one moment, one emotion, at a time and see where it will lead me – all of us, as individuals and as a family. That’s all there is to it really.
And those are the thoughts swirling around in my head at 6 am after 20 minutes of sleep all night – no coffee yet. “Damn, I can’t have a cup of real coffee, see: breastfeeding.” Fuck that. Break those parenting rules. I’ll have my cup of coffee—just one. So here’s to all the milk-stained mummies out there, to all the ones trying to be their very best – mummy or not – for the ones they love – failing and trying and failing all over again, to great books that keep you sane in the middle of the night and to friends who laugh at your text messages, also in the middle of the night, when irrational worries keep you awake, and you can’t fall asleep.
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Feel free to share if you found meaning in those words
If you are anything like me, you probably had a million plans for what you were going to do during the recent lockdown. I hope you accomplished to do what you set out to do because I did fuck all. On social media, I could see people baking bread and creating beautiful art and decluttering their homes, and I was confined to the sofa, frustrated that I had been robbed of my sovereignty. This pregnancy really hit hard, and while my previous pregnancies were all about only morning sickness, now the early stages of this pregnancy bore the title “all-day sickness.” All I wanted to do and craved was pizza and sleep, and being able to get up without fainting.
So talking about challenges and boundaries, currently being pregnant with baby number four has brought about a new level of challenges for me that I had never experienced before. I could barely get up off the couch and into the shower, for three months – now that’s confinement. During the summer 2019, when I met my dad for the first time after more than 30 years, I had one meltdown after the other for weeks – one moment I was thrilled and exhilarated. The next I was in tears, thinking about all the lies and secrets that I had been confronted with my entire life, and I felt heart-broken and betrayed. I couldn’t step out of my emotional turmoil back then, and this time around, I couldn’t fix my bodily pandemonium either. A body is so magical, and yet so fragile all at once.
– song from the movie the fundamentals of caring –
At the forefront, my pregnancy made me deal with my physical shortcomings heads on. But physical and emotional distress are intrinsically linked, so when I say that at first sight, I had to deal with my body’s issues, I have to say that I was also exposed to feelings of guilt and shame and feeling disempowered. I was so miserable those past three months – miserable because I had believed my whole life that if I’m not productive all the time that I’m a failure. Babies, when they are born, don’t contribute to a household either – they just demand care and food, and love and cuddles and human contact and genuine love and we give freely with full hearts. It makes me laugh to picture a baby lying in its crib, contemplating how unfortunate she feels for not being able to do the washing up or the laundry. It’s absurd to think of such a thing. And yet, what made me think that I am less than, because I couldn’t get up without feeling sick and fainting. I’m growing a tiny human inside my body – for the fourth time. That shit is epic, and it should be treated as such at all times. I hope that I will be able to help my babies preserve their innate feeling of being enough, of being a welcome contribution to the world. Also, I hope that all mothers reading this will be reminded of how lucky and incredibly strong they are and that they are allowed to rest whenever they feel like it, because I forgot to appreciate myself, but you shouldn’t.
you have been criticizing yourself for years and it hasn’t worked. try approving of yourself and see what happens.
louise l. hay
As much as I resented my helplessness and pitied myself, and ranted, and cried, nope, nothing could take the sickness away and restore my productivity and vigour. So I started to delve deeper and to look closely at my symptoms and the possible causes of my physical ailments – and the state of the world in general because I had plenty of time 🙂 Inevitably, the thought crossed my mind that I admire those people that have been suffering from severe illnesses and limitations for years and that are still battling on. Man, I have utter respect for you, because, at some point, I just broke down crying and thought I couldn’t take this anymore – I couldn’t take it anymore, not being in control of my body, not being able to make myself feel whole and well again.
While writing this, I am watching the news featuring the current “Black Lives Matter” movement. I can’t even start to imagine what it must be like to feel powerless and not entirely in charge of one’s life from birth on, always being afraid of prosecution, because of other people’s twisted beliefs. I honestly can’t wrap my head around the fact that there are people who believe that they are superior to someone else based on skin colour, religion, or background. And no matter how hard I am trying, I honestly can’t grasp this concept in no way whatsoever.
I know that my lack of understanding might come across as naïve and my pregnancy problems as trivial compared to what is going on in the world right now. However, I still believe that a link and universal truth are underlying all of those experiences. Our bodies instinctively and innately know how to set boundaries, when we abuse our bodies by eating unhealthy foods, or by overexposure to stress or to exercise. Our bodies sent us signals and symptoms that eventually develop into full-blown conditions if we are not listening to the subtle hints that are directed our way. Our human design makes us come to a halt and question our behaviour for us to be able to restore our natural health, which is what I have been experiencing those past few months.
When it comes to the current riots or the recent, still present, pandemic, we need to admit that there had been warning signs too, but we chose to ignore them. We chose to keep exploiting our natural resources and our immune systems; we chose to focus on our screens instead of building meaningful relationships with the people in our lives that are most important to us. We chose to engage in trivial activities like watching TV or mindless shopping, instead of taking into account how history is about to repeat itself, and how we can be part of the solution and not part of the problem. We all did it – me too. And I have to say this development scares me. And although the current political eruptions and revelations all around the world are frightening, they are also potentially healing our ignorance and restoring natural balance.
The early stages of a pregnancy feel like “nothing” and “look like nothing”, but behind the scenes, there is utter magic. I want you to remember this: we are evolving even though we might not be able to see or track our everyday growth. During the current health crisis, streets, cities, beaches in the outside world, in the visible world, have all been empty. Nothing seemed to be happening, but the people who are to the countries what our cells are to our bodies have all been evolving and growing and changing and dying and we have all come out of this lockdown different people. We might not be aware of our altered selves and still be hanging on to our habits and routines. Yet, on levels invisible to our eyes, we have undergone some substantial change, which we can either embrace and explore and develop or deny. So personal and global problems, although they might be fundamentally different, are still intrinsically linked with regards to the universal truths of boundaries, challenges, and natural balance that they carry at their core.
we are evolving even though we might not be able to see or track our everday growth
Two nights ago, when I was lying in bed, I had this awareness or this insight, and it made me cry. I was thinking about how much I love my babies and how overwhelming this feeling is at times. It isn’t something that has a beginning or an end – it just is. When you are lying in my arms, pretending to be a tiny newborn, I look at your curvy cheeks, and your long eyelashes and I see perfection in all of your features, and I am wondering how on earth did I get so lucky. Thinking of how fortunate I am, I feel for those mothers and fathers whose children were taken away from them, through the hands of all the injustices there are in this world and that are currently being revealed. My dear darling children, I hope that the future I am leading you towards will be filled with compassion and care and real sovereignty for every human being. And if I say that large-scale battles reflect internal battles, then I can say that I am not innocent when it comes to fighting battles and to contributing towards the hatred in this world. My struggles and fights are tiny compared to the global state of the planet. And mostly, I am arguing with other people inside my head, thinking about all the great things I should have said and how distraught I am because of something someone else said or did. Those quarrels in our lives might be internal, but they still contribute to the conflict in the world in their own way.
Some battles are easier confronted and dealt with than others, but we must look at what is irritating us and resolve it to contribute to a peaceful world. I can say, for example, that now I fully embrace being a mum but it took me almost two years to get to this point. No, just hear me out: you were welcome and loved right from the start, but I wasn’t ready for the isolation and confinement at home that being a mother had brought on for me. What the world is experiencing right now, I had to go through during the pregnancies and right after your birth. So staying at home with you now is not hard for me anymore. It’s what our everyday life looks like anyway – it’s peace. Isolation, over time, has turned into contentment, bliss, and gratitude for what is. Your birth and presence demanded and taught me how to stand still, observe and fully take in – serenity. On a global level, because of the lockdown, our species could observe and notice all that has been absurd for so long in our surroundings, our habits, our governments, and our leaders and rise to the occasion with stronger convictions and more gratitude, but fiercely beating hearts – could.
When you were born, I stayed home and all the diapering and feeding and doing the laundry felt so monotonous and repetitive. I observed you develop a bit more every day, and rejoiced in it, but I didn’t have many people to share my newly found wonder with. I didn’t call any of my friends, because I figured they were all busy – they didn’t call me either – I guess they figured I was busy. In hindsight, it hurts to think that we didn’t reach out to each other, but the Universe knows what it is doing, and my loneliness back then helped me grow into being comfortable with my own self, my own thoughts, my own company. And it also helped me to now come to the conclusion that I chose to withdraw into my own little world, instead of strengthening loving friendships. Remember to reach out when you feel like removing yourself from your circle of friends.
remember to reach out when you feel like removing yourself from your circle of friends
Now, after having read Dr Henry Cloud’s book “Boundaries”, I have realized that my lack of healthy boundaries didn’t allow me to “keep the good in and the bad out.” Recently reading this book has been a real eyeopener in so many ways for me. Despite my many years into personal development, this book has helped me gain genuinely new insights into why I have been and am operating in the ways I am. Feeling so sick for the past few months has made me look at my boundaries and the ones that I have and have not been setting. The barriers I had not been setting have depleted my energy, and the pregnancy has not been the reason for my physical breakdown, but just the final straw that broke the camel’s back. And in the current crisis, people have subconsciously or consciously, but still ignoring their truths, been avoiding limit setting, but now we can’t avoid it any longer. On a personal scale, there are many injustices and boundary trespassing that I have endured without saying anything. Internally, I used to get angry, but instead of expressing my anger and addressing the problem, I used to bottle it up and avoid conflict. On a global scale, what we are experiencing now is centuries of repressed anger and battles that have been fought for way too long internally instead of out in the open, where they can be discussed, cleared, and healed.
So, how do I choose to contribute to restoring small scale peace? Well, for one, I am telling myself that instead of allowing anger to fester in my guts, I am going to express it and to address those people that have crossed my boundaries. At the same time, I am willing to be more careful and understanding when it comes to other people’s boundaries, meaning that I am trying not to be offended or feel rejected when a friend of mine cannot make it to a night out or a cup of coffee. I was once rebuked for not attending a dinner and cancelling last minute – rebuked for setting boundaries when I needed to. We should remember though that it’s our healthy boundaries that preserve our sanity and allow us to steer clear of bottled-up frustration and resentment for being forced to do something. When we crave something else, like a quiet night or solitude instead of a social gathering, we should be allowed to express that freely. If we manage to respect our boundaries and each other’s boundaries, then those boundaries will add up to collective boundaries and strong internal values.
supporting people and still letting them have control over themselves builds limitless potential. it is the recipe for greatness.
the power of the other – the startling effect other people have on you, from the boardroom to the bedroom and beyond – by dr henry cloud
For most of my life, I didn’t share any of my thoughts with anyone. (read the power of the other, by Dr Henry Cloud and find out about the four major ways in which people relate to each other). I very quickly learned that when I shared my hopes and dreams and aspirations that the world didn’t embrace all of me, but that I had exposed myself to the possibility of jealousy, cynicism, or ridicule. Soon enough, I stopped talking about what mattered most to me. Probably that’s why all those words are bursting out now. While being engrossed in my little world, books and stories had become my friends. Reading and studying psychology books and all kinds of specific and non-specific literature has helped me to make sense of my and other people’s behaviour and to see how differently our psyches choose to deal with our experiences and realities. So when it comes to positively contributing to the world and keeping “the good in and the bad out,” then I feel that learning and insight aren’t of much use if we keep our ideas solely to ourselves. Let us educate each other and allow each other a glimpse of our experiences and struggles and how we managed to overcome them.
Let us invite each other in and encourage each other to shed light on our shortcomings and darkness so that together we can face our inner demons and alter our ways of thinking and being in this world. At least that’s what I hope. And I wish with every fibre of my heart that you, my babies, will be able to define your boundaries based on your core values and universal laws of love and compassion. I hope that you will manage to protect those fiercely and lovingly, contributing one step at the time to the bigger picture. I am currently learning how to do that. There will always be limitations in and to our lives – limitations because of choices we make and constraints that we can’t influence because other people or circumstances place them on us. So don’t limit yourself when it comes to the things you feel passionate about. Go and freely explore, access, and express, because you never know when some outside force might come and limit you and confront you with boundaries that you didn’t know existed, like viruses, racism, hatred, jealousy, or unexpected illnesses. Choose to set your boundaries and set them firmly and lovingly. Keep the good in and the bad out.
Feel free to share if you found meaning in those words
My grandad was lying in his hospital bed, eyes closed, tubes down his throat, shallow breathing, pale. Only 24 hours earlier, we had still been chatting. This seemed so surreal. He hadn’t been feeling well, so I had urged him to go to the hospital and get a blood count. I had taken him to the hospital in the morning on my way to work, and I was supposed to pick him back up later that day. When I arrived back at the hospital, a doctor came to see my grandad and me. He told us that they had found some irregularities and that he needed to stay the night to get some more tests run the next day. I can remember the look on my grandad’s face. He looked frightened, but he was still joking. I love him so so much. I will never forget those last days we spent together in hospital.
That same evening, quite late already, my grandma called. My grandad wanted me back in the hospital. That didn’t sound like him at all. I figured something serious must have happened, so I got in the car and drove. When I arrived in his hospital room, my grandad was fine. Or so it seemed. He talked to me, and I asked why he had wanted me there in the first place. Everything was fine. He asked me to stay – so I did. I found it odd, and I was a little annoyed too, because I had to get up really early the next day to go to work – but still.
Only half an hour later, he started to act weird. He started to say funny things that didn’t make any sense. He wanted to go home. Let’s go home. Get me home. He kept repeating those sentences over and over again. Getting out of his bed. I panicked. What was I supposed to do?! He also wanted to go to the toilet: let’s go to the bathroom, and then we go home. I rang for a nurse to come. She was quite annoyed and angry that as a visitor, I was still in the hospital that late at night. She put my grandad back into bed, shoved a bedpan underneath his buttocks and left us to it. He looked at me, tears in his eyes: I can’t go like that. He was such a proud, strong man, and this in itself felt humiliating to him. Now I tried to get him out of bed. Get him to the toilet. Allow him the dignity he deserved. At that point, he had become quite delirious.
In a dim hospital room, I tried to walk him to the toilet, but by the time I had pulled him to the edge of the bed, he wet himself. He was crying. I rang the bell once more. Please, we do need help. This time the nurse took me a bit more seriously: Is he not usually this confused and delirious? Far from it, he is the smartest, most discerning person I know. My grandad knows things before anyone else knows. He observes and comes to his own conclusions. He can read people like nobody else can. My grandad was trashing about, saying over and over again to get him home. Please take me home. I will always remember those last words. Take your loved ones home. Don’t leave them in hospitals or hospices to die. Just don’t. I have seen the fear in my grandad’s eyes, and all I wanted to do was take him home. I regret telling him to go in for a routine check. It might have been worse if he had become delirious at home. But he might just have gone to sleep and never woken up again, peacefully closing his eyes forever in his bed at home, where he was born and raised – had lived his life. But instead, he was wheeled away for emergency examination in the middle of the night, and I was left in that empty hospital room all by myself.
Take your loved ones home. Don’t leave them in hospitals or hospices to die.
Insight Number One – June 2008
You know when there has been loud noise or a fight and all of a sudden it’s very quiet – my ears were left ringing, and my head felt really light. What I remember from that night in the dimmly lit hospital room is: turn the fucking lights on. If there is an emergency: turn the lights on. Even if there is no emergency: turn the lights on. It makes you think straighter. It makes the bad seem not so bad. It takes some of the monsters away. Monsters don’t like the dark. Scary thoughts don’t either.
Leave the lights on. If it’s dark: Turn the lights on. Always turn the lights on.
Insight Number Two – June 2008
But even the light, even the brightest sunshine, couldn’t have prevented what was about to happen next; – After what felt like an eternity, a stern-looking doctor entered the room. She briefly informed me that she was the doctor, that she had examined my grandad, that we knew that he had been suffering from lung cancer and that a metastasis in his head had ruptured and started bleeding. He wasn’t going to make it through the night. If there were any family members that I still wanted to call, then they should come to the hospital now, because by dawn he would have taken his last breath. And on that note, she left. I hadn’t known.
Cancer? Spread? I hadn’t known. I was 26. I hadn’t known. I wonder if he had known. I can only guess what had happened that night. Either he was so scared being in hospital all alone or he knew what was about to happen next. Intuition? An innate knowing that speaks to us when we are about to leave this planet? Does death touch your heart and whisper into your ear: It’s time to go. I don’t know. But I had been with him earlier that day when the doctor had told us that they were not sure yet why his blood tests were so bad and that they needed to take some more tests the next day. So how was he supposed to have known? How was I supposed to know? I guess doctors have to deliver a godzillion bad news per day. And I guess they need to keep an emotional distance to keep functioning in their jobs, but at that moment I couldn’t function anymore. My brain couldn’t function. But I was left to function. I had to. I called my grandma, telling her to get the neighbours to bring her to the hospital. And while I was waiting, my grandad was wheeled back into the hospital room. He was lying in his hospital bed, eyes closed, tubes down his throat, shallow breathing, pale. Only 24 hours earlier, we had still been chatting. This seemed so surreal.
My grandfather was supposed to die before dawn that very Monday morning, but he didn’t. His brain had stopped working, but his heart kept on beating. His heart that had been beating for his family, for my grandmother, for my mum and me. He had loved us. With all of his beautiful, strong, resilient heart. I’m very sure of that.
I remember the times I went fishing with him. It had all been so peaceful. And the times we had spent sitting around the fireplace in the garden, watching the sunset. We had never talked much. But I loved his calm presence. We never needed to talk – we just knew.
I kept pleading that we take my grandad home, allow him to pass away in our home like he had asked me to. We agreed to take him home on Thursday if he hadn’t died by then. Those four days and nights, my grandmother and I didn’t leave the hospital room. We stayed with him the entire time, taking turns sleeping on the narrow guest bed and holding his hands. I will always remember those hands. Resting so peacefully on those white hospital sheets. Those hands telling the stories of hard labour, of houses being built, of babies being held or carrying his daughter to the grave when she was only 29. I was singing songs to him, hoping he could still hear us. Hoping to comfort him. To make him feel loved. At one point in his life, he had been someone’s baby – my great-grandmother’s baby – and I was wondering what she would be feeling if she could see him helpless like this. I always wonder about that when I see people: All of us are someone’s baby. What would a loving parent have to say?
I do believe that those amongst us who are dying do still hear us. They are not gone yet. At one point, my grandmother was holding one of his hands, and I was holding the other and then all of a sudden we looked at each other. He had squeezed both our hands at the same time, he was going to wake up, he could hear us after all. I rushed to get a doctor all excitedly, but when he came and checked both his eyes for any movement, he confirmed that my grandad was braindead and that we should consider taking him off the oxygen machines that kept him artificially alive. Squeezing our hands had been his last farewell. His last physical effort in this lifetime. His last labour of love.
My grandmother didn’t want to take the decision. So future events were left up to me. I was 26. Twenty-six is just a number. To a ten-year-old, a twenty-six-year-old is an adult. A grown-up. A person who has his shit together and knows what to do. But now I’m 37, and I still feel like an eighteen-year-old. No matter your age, you are never prepared to take life-changing decisions. Especially not if it means altering someone else’s reality. – I pictured my grandad: proud and strong. Pipe in his mouth, shovel in his hands, a sly glimmer in his eyes, his Dalmatian by his side. My grandad knew what self-worth is. Self-esteem. The feeling that you know who you are to the very core of your being. He didn’t allow anyone to walk all over him. He didn’t take any shit from anyone. He was the most honest, most direct, but also most tenderhearted person I know. One can tell that I loved him, and I still do. And so did many a people. His funeral was an endless stream of people wanting to say goodbye to him. People kept coming and coming, honouring his lifelong integrity.
Bearing that picture in mind of integrity, of pride, of independence, I decided to allow the machines to be switched off and the tubes to be removed from his throat. If he had to die, he should be left to die in dignity; – Die the way he had lived. I know that this is a very controversial topic, but if one hasn’t gone through days like those, one cannot really judge. All our stories are different, and so are our emotions and decisions. The plan was to switch the machines off and take him home on Thursday to grant him his last wish and to allow him to die at home in peace. In the early morning hours on Thursday, he took his last breath and was gone for good. You know the saying that dying people only leave the planet when nobody is watching, well my grandfather had waited until I had fallen asleep doubled over his hospital bed with my head resting in his lap. I had woken up with a jolt, and I knew that he was gone.
After my grandfather’s death, I went back to work straight away. I had to. If I missed more lessons of my teacher training, I could lose my job. So I returned to the everyday grind. Some months later, my tutor took me aside after my practical exam, and he said: you are very resilient. Am I? I didn’t know what the word meant. Even after 7 years of studying English, I had never come across that word. At least not consciously. You are fortunate if you don’t know what it means. Your vocabulary is telling. I didn’t think I was resilient. I figured there had been nothing else left to do. It’s my students that kept me going. I had a reason to get up in the morning. They were so kind and so willing to learn, and I showed up for them. I showed up for my future. There is no use living in the past. One of my students asked me if I was still feeling sick because my eyes were all puffy from crying. I could barely speak, choking back the tears. I couldn’t reply. What was I supposed to say anyway? Lie to them? Tell them the truth about what I had just gone through? They were thinking I had had a bad flu. I couldn’t respond. The compassion in his eyes let me know though that he understood. He might not have known in detail, but one can know without knowing.
A few weeks later, I woke up in the middle of the night, and I had to throw up. It all came gushing out of my body: all the emotions, the hurt, the anger, the pain, the disgust, the disbelief, the hospital smell. All of what had been buried deep within; my body hurtled it all out. I was lying on the cold bathroom floor of my tiny apartment, sobbing, my body heaving with tears. I had had to hold it in for too long and now it was all being released. When I returned to work the next day, I remember a colleague’s snide comment, saying: oh, that was a quick recovery. I know what he was alluding to or implying: having a nice lie-in, right. Well, far from it. It wasn’t a quick recovery. I’m still recovering. I will always remember the grief, but I learned to share it. To talk about it. To express it. To allow my body to rest when it wants to release past pain, even if it is just for two hours. Bodies know so much if we just listened carefully.
And when it comes to resilience, I don’t know about that. Am I resilient? I love my life and I am always trying to be joyful, even in the face of everyday challenges. I used to hate that I am so serious. Mostly, I don’t get other people’s jokes and I don’t think that they are funny. I’ve always wanted to be more lighthearted and more easy-going; to put my brain aside for a bit and to just be. But quite recently, I have come to embrace my serious self. It is my core rationality within my overtly emotional self that has allowed me to weather the storms that I have had to face. My seriousness has allowed me to make sense of my deeply emotional experiences and to feel my emotions and express them instead of gilding them over with jokes.
So another thing I learned experiencing my grandfather’s death is that the things or character traits we might loathe most about ourselves are maybe the ones that keep us afloat; that help us to express our uniqueness and to help us make sense of the world surrounding us. I still don’t have all the answers as to why my grandfather had to leave us that day, and in such a way. The exact same date my mother had passed away 22 years before – Mother’s Day weekend. The exact same date. We will never have all the answers as to why things happen to us, but we can decide how to weave those events into the tapestry of our lives in order to create our unique, bold, joyful canvas, despite, or because of, the hurt we have gone through.
Feel free to share if you found meaning in those words