Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Can I Really Stop Hating the New Year?

It's no secret that I've always had a disdain for New Year celebrations, or the coming of the new year for that matter. All it ever meant to me was the end of the Christmas or holiday festivities, the end of joyous times, taking down the beautiful holiday decorations, dealing with fireworks, fire crackers and all sorts of noise I can't tolerate, going back to work or school and the whole drudgery of daily life. It means the start of waiting one more year before the glee starts all over again. In other words, new year's eve to me is one big "UGGGHHHH".

I realize that there's something terribly selfish and short-sighted about my views on this subject. I'm not particularly proud of it, don't believe I can just magically change it, but I now see an antidote to this negative thinking. 

I need to zoom out. I need to think outside myself. Isn't this true for all things if we want to cultivate more gratitude and positive disposition?

So, sincerely I wish this for the coming New Year...

May it be a fresh start to those who have lost a job, a steady source of income, lost confidence or direction. Don't write off Hope just yet. Most of all, don't give up on You.

May it offer healing to the brokenhearted, those whose hearts got deserted no matter the circumstance. Know that you are never alone and that Love always finds its way back to open hearts. Don't shut yours.

May those who have resolutions pertaining to weight loss find beauty in the body they have now, beauty in the miracle that it is and how it sustains us independent of its size, shape or weight. Shed the weight of self-hate. That is all.

May we all strive to appreciate the truth that we are all inevitably connected. Male, Female, Rich, Poor, First World, Third World, Healthy, Sick. Our shared humanity calls out to us in every interaction. Recognize it. Feel it. Allow it to make you desire to create a more compassionate world. Have Faith that it's still possible. 

Have a blessed 2016! It can just be another year, another step, more of the same. Or it can be a year when your vulnerability offers gifts of deeper connections with your self and others. No, I haven't changed my mind about the noise and the sadness of ending the festivities. But I have the strangest feeling that I'm getting a bit more excited about stepping into January 1 to see where it leads ALL of us. The New Year Grinch isn't totally incurable after all...

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

A Christmas Wish

"Peace on Earth and good will to all men."

All my life I’ve heard this greeting during the holidays and I’ve always thought it made sense to me.

May peace be with you. I thought I understood what this meant every time this was spoken. As a child I thought Peace only meant experiencing silence in the literal sense, or calm, and the absence of war in the world.

But now that I’m much older, I’m comforted that I understand more.

Peace…Yes it’s a state of calm. Yes it’s tranquility. Yes it’s the absence of war or turmoil. Most importantly, all these things apply to our inner worlds as much as it does to our external reality.

Peace is to be able to accept things for how they are. It’s the ability to befriend the imperfections that surround you, silence the irrational insatiability that haunts you, or to simply be present in the moment instead of resisting it. 

Peace is to silence the fear within you with faith as you give in to the wisdom that tells you that life is not about control, and that real happiness is not dependent on always getting what we desire. 

Peace be to you. May you embrace the imperfections of your family and practice unconditional love as much as your humanity can allow.

Peace be to you. May you accept and embrace yourself wholeheartedly the way you are now and not a future desired version of your self.

Peace be to you. May you sit in quiet comfort having faith that you have what you need at this moment.

Peace be to you. May you feel only gratitude and openly receive all the love that is available to you, no matter how flawed the source or circumstance might be.

May Christmas and the spirit of the holidays bring you true and enduring Peace!

Friday, December 18, 2015

Are You Saying 'I love you' the Proper Way?

It's the holiday season and let's face it, most of us feel festive, positive and most certainly generous even with our words and feelings. Amidst all this joyfulness is the overflowing feeling of love (hopefully!) and sometimes you just have to say it, don't you? Sadly, I don't think a lot of us are saying it right and we don't even know it. By the time we realize it, it's already too late and damage has been done, either to the recipient of those three precious words or most often, to us, the giver. 

So today I will share with you what I've learned, painfully at times, about saying 'I love you'. Here's how you do it right...

1. Choose wisely when deciding who to say these words to. 
Love is precious and powerful. Never doubt that. And so you must choose wisely who you give it to. Make sure you mean it. Make sure that when it comes to that person, you can truly be patient, kind, trusting, humble and steady. You must know what real love means before you can offer it sincerely to someone else. Love changes the source, as well as the recipient and once given, you can't really take it back. It sets in motion changes within you that you cannot undo, inasmuch as it transforms those who openly receive it. Choose wisely who you want to experience this powerful change with.

2. Say it without any expectation. Don't say it expecting it will be said back. There's no rule saying that reciprocity is a prerequisite to offering love. Think of it as a gift. When you give a gift to someone, there is no expectation that you will receive anything back. You can't even impose that the person send you a  'thank you' card and give you praises. And if silence is all you get, you should not throw a tantrum and blame the other person for not behaving the way you want them to. Remember that love and freedom go hand in hand. You give it freely and the other person has the freedom as well to receive it in the manner they want to. If you find yourself always expecting a response, then that just means you are doing it for yourself and not for the other person and therefore you need to re-evaluate your idea of Love. Perhaps You and Love need to be further re-acquainted.  

3. Since it is a gift, you cannot dictate how it should be used or received. I don't believe you can say 'I love you' and then impose rules as to what the other person should do with it. 'Tell everyone'. 'Don't tell anyone'. 'Be happy'. 'Don't be flattered'. You simply can't be a control freak like this. If you and the other person truly know each other and share a mutuality in your relationship, then such things become unnecessary. Elaborate explanations or clarifications won't be necessary. If you are still in the mindset of controlling how your 'I love you' should be received, then you need some growing up to do and again, some re-evaluation of what Love is really about.

4. Say it with a breath of gratitude. Don't cloud it with a sense of need or fear, embarrassment or a sense of lack. Let it go, let it wash over you and be happy that you have it to give. No matter what happens, how it's received, just be truly grateful that you know Love and have been touched by it. Not everyone is as blessed.

Before I end, I want to share with you three of my favorite love quotes:

"All love eventually becomes help" ---- Paul Tillich

"Love is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own". --- Robert A. Heinlein

"For one human being to love another: that is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks, the ultimate, the last test and proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation." --- Rainer Maria Rilke

Enjoy this love-filled season!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

When Grief Is Hope's Shadow

Maybe I am.

Maybe it'll be different this time. 

Maybe it's worth one more chance.

Maybe we can do it all again.

Maybe it's not as bad and draining as I envision it to be.

For a few days, I agonized. I wondered if there could be life in my womb again. Feeling scared was my knee-jerk reaction to this possibility, but what threw me off was the hint of excitement I knew I felt deep down. It might have only lasted for a moment but that feeling makes its presence known and there was just no denying it.

Finally, I gave in to the tester to put an end to my agony. There was no chance in hell I was willing to wait weeks to see whether my period would come or if I should be digging through our attic to locate my diaper genie, so I decided to get answers as soon as possible. I took a deep breath, held it in, and ended up with both a sigh of relief and slight disappointment which really surprised me.

I'm not pregnant. Only one line showed up. The unusual cramping I experienced for several nights were not implantation cramps after all. 

Maybe it was just my aging and hormonal body going haywire. 

Maybe it was all in my head. 

Maybe the specter of hope I felt was my body's recollection of Emily, my womb missing her after almost exactly five years. 

In 2010, my husband and I decided it was time to give IVF another shot. Noah was 3 years old and I was ready to go through it again. My body has had enough rest from all the hormones pumped through me, all the ultrasounds and blood draws that anyone going through assisted reproduction is all too familiar with. With the success we had with Noah, I was beyond optimistic that as long as this embryo took, everything would be alright. 

On September 2010, I started with my round two of IVF, taking all necessary medications to trick my body into thinking it was ready for pregnancy. By mid-October, my eggs were harvested, fertilized and three embryos were placed back inside my womb. By the end of that same month, we found out that one embryo took and we were declared 4 weeks and a few days pregnant!

The celebration didn't last long though because by the first week of December, just a week after celebrating Thanksgiving, I was told my baby was gone. She had stopped growing by 7 weeks. 

I still remember exactly what I was wearing on Thanksgiving Day during our annual family gathering. I still remember how everyone was telling me I had that undeniable pregnancy glow. I was happy and excited and enjoyed how everyone was hoping and betting that this time it will be a girl! Looking back now, I know that there was no real 'glow'. During that party, underneath that Merlot-colored top I wore, and the festive mood that enveloped me, there was no longer any heart beating inside my womb. My baby was gone. 

And I also still remember the initial puzzled look the nurse and ultrasound technician had on their faces as they tried to detect my baby's heartbeat. All that quickly turned into sadness and a loss for words.

And how can I forget Noah's words when I came home and stood by our door after that dreadful appointment, with my then 3-year-old saying to me "Sorry you lost your baby, Mama."

Through chromosomal analysis, I was told I had a daughter. She would be 4 1/2-years old by now had she survived. She could be in preschool. She could be playing with Noah's Legos, fighting over them and then hugging it out. She could have helped decorate our Christmas tree. She could be trying to write her wish list for Santa. 

I honestly thought I would be completely over it by now. But I had long suspected that one never really fully gets over the grief of losing a child, a death of one's hopes most of all. I still hang my angel ornament every Christmas to remember my Emily. I still hang a red baby stocking for her, right beside Noah's blue one just to honor her brief presence in my life. The wound has healed and no longer bleeds, and my heart has opened its doors to make peace with God. But healed wounds never meant complete freedom from the memory of the pain. 

My short-lived imagination of the possibility of being pregnant again this year is not about me changing my mind about being a single child parent. I think it's more about me wanting to replace an old scar with a better outcome. It's about me easing out my sense of guilt and failure through the possibility of success. It's not about wanting to replace Emily with another child but about my desire to change a painful narrative that has since defined me; that narrative that says my body doesn't work the way it's supposed to.

Maybe in time I'd be able to accept the full narrative and experience full forgiveness for myself.

Maybe in time the scar will no longer bring any memory of suffering with it but instead only a feeling of grace and Divine wisdom.  

Maybe soon I can go through the holiday season without a sense of lack or the desire to imagine an alternate reality.

Maybe soon I will truly realize that Life is not defined by the number of happy endings we get, but by the strength of our faith that no matter how the chapters in our lives turn out, everything is still bound to make sense in the end. 

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

My Real Weight

A friend of mine, MSD, nominated me over at Facebook to participate in the Glimpse of Everyday Life seven-day challenge. For seven days, I am to share something about myself that might give the reader a deeper understanding of my life or who I am. It could be a photo, with or without any write-up, something that I saw or read that might have inspired me, made me laugh or reflect, a rant or positive words that could inspire. Anything goes, really.

I shared one for today but then after writing, I thought I might as well share it here on my blog. A few weeks ago, I promised I would write as authentically as I can, and after logging in my first 'Day In the Life' write-up I felt that it's a genuine admission of a wound that I have carried for so long.

Here's the picture I shared and what I wrote: 

This terrifies me and I'd avoid it like the plague if I could. Every time I see it or 'engage' it, I'm reminded of all the self-hate and dissatisfaction I have with my body. I'm reminded of who I've never been and might never be and the whole futility of a dream. Simultaneously, I try to fight the self-hate with a dose of self-acceptance and gratitude that at least I'm still generally healthy. The numbers on it hardly change now, especially after turning 40, and stepping on it each time is like allowing myself to be mocked or shamed for what I'm doing or not doing enough of. It makes me want to smash it or throw it out the window but I know that every time I step on it, it's also a challenge to accept where I am, who I am and how I'm built. Its existence is a constant reminder of how far I still am from truly loving myself, JUST AS I AM.

I wasn't expecting it to be as cathartic as it ended up being but it's out there now and I'm glad that it is. It's not a big secret that I've struggled with my weight and my body image for as long as I can remember. I've never had an eating disorder and have never really experienced severe weight cycling. Sure I would lose and gain a little here and there but always just gradually through the years. In other words, to be very honest, I have never been 'small', 'skinny', or 'just right'. I have always been 'chubby', 'round', 'sturdy', overweight. 

And I have always been made to feel bad about it. From childhood to my 20s, I've always heard backhanded compliments such as "Oh, you have such a pretty face, if only you'd shed some weight." Or as a kid, I heard a lot of "Ah, this one was let loose in the kitchen" as other adults spoke to my parents about me. It hurt. I resented those adults. But the damage was done the moment I heard them and unfortunately, can't be undone just as easily. These wounds linger and though they may heal on the surface, the inner layers have already been compromised and can break open and bleed any moment. 

And so I grew up being unhappy with my body, dreaming of a magic number on the scale or tag on clothes to tell me I look great and should feel great about myself. 

But it never really comes. I've never really seen it. Once I see something less or smaller than before, it's still never really enough. Never small enough. Never light enough. I almost feel like I'm chasing the end of the rainbow. But in pursuit, I always end up tired and hitting a pot of donuts or Cheetos instead. 

So you can understand my aggression towards the weighing scale. All I see when I look at it is judgment. Defeat. A sense of lack.

I often wonder what I'd do once I step on it and see a number that would make me happy. Right now, I say it's between 15 to 20 more pounds of weight loss. But is it really? Can I assure myself that I would be satisfied if and when I reach that goal? I'm not so sure. 

I want to be happy where I am now. I want to accept my body for what it isplump but not curvy, straight but always lumpy in the wrong places. It's where I have always been, where I am now and maybe it'll never change. I just wish I were at peace with it and would never feel or be made to feel that I need to do more, shed more, just to be 'better'. I wish I could reach that place where a better version of myself no longer includes how I look on the outside. It's a gift only I can give to myself but frankly still don't know if I can afford it.

I know there are other real problems in the world but this is a burden I carry, the weight in my soul I don't quite know how to shed.