Thursday, March 31, 2016

What Losing Myself Means

I remember in the 1990s I would often catch episodes of the Oprah Show and was always struck by the number of women expressing their despair over losing themselves. Most of the time I saw mothers painfully admitting that they no longer knew who they were, or what happened to their old vibrant selves. 

I was single, with no 'potential sperm donor' in sight and never fully understood the extent of what those mothers were talking about. I just remember telling myself that I can easily avoid the 'lost Self phenomenon' now that I know better, as if watching Oprah gave me immunity to this apparent epidemic. 

Now I stare at my face in the mirror and I wonder about the person staring back. Do I still really know her? How much has she changed? I can still see parts of the old me somewhere deep down so I know it's not completely lost. I suppose the best way I can put it is to say that it's just been dominated, outgrown by that part that needed to take over the reins, this new awareness that feels more adept at this important role and identity called Motherhood.

It's true that you lose your self to motherhood, in so many different ways, over and over...

When you become a mother, your body is no longer just yours. Going through assisted reproduction, this realization hit me early on. With all the hormones and medication I needed to pump my body with, there was a clarity that it's no longer just about me, not my schedule, not what I feel like, not how I want to look like. And as the pregnancy progresses, the womb comes to outweigh all else as it's treated like a sacred vessel, helplessly dependent on you and yet hold power over you. Its needs cry out louder than any physical pain or discomfort you may suffer from such that taking pain medication you've relied on through the years is now thought twice about, or worse, banned for at least nine months. 

When you become a mother, your time is no longer yours. Forget about scheduling your days. Give up the illusion that you can block off time for your favorite t.v. shows. Don't even think for a second you will have total control of your basic bodily functions such as sleep or using the bathroom. "At my own pace", "When I'm available", or "When I need to", are phrases that need to be stricken out of your consciousness for approximately four years, per child, at least

When you become a mother, your thoughts will never be again solely about you, not your hopes, dreams, prayers. You will be hijacked and held hostage by fears you've never known before and will also learn to grasp at Faith with strength you never thought you had in you.

When you become a mother, your desires, even when they cry out, pale in comparison to the sense of urgency that leaps out of you when it comes to giving in to what is best for your child. Living near the fun part of town is no longer as enticing as living within the best school district. Your need for white linen tablecloth at a quiet restaurant that serves to-die-for duck confit and escargot is quieted by the need for crayons at the table and kid-friendly servers who will always know when to serve drinks in lidded cups.

To say that motherhood demands immeasurable sacrifice is an understatement. Let's keep it real and admit that you will miss out on a lot, things drastically change, and at some point you will ask what ever happened to the 'You' you've always recognized. Having a child enter your life will mean the exit of all that is familiar and taken for granted. It is a death within you that requires a grief you can't put a limit on. It may ebb and flow and you just need to embrace it and make friends with it so it doesn't drown you. 

But just as much as you find a part of you slipping away or even dying, the experience also demands that you birth a purer version of your self. Don't expect the old version of you to remain or be resurrected in its exact form. That is impossible. Deep love never leaves any soul unchanged. 

Just as the journey into motherhood takes you to the extreme in terms of self-sacrifice, it also simultaneously forces you to see the need for self-nurturance, if you allow it. As with most experiences in life, motherhood will never fail to force you to seek balance in your own life. It will make you see, amidst all the giving and feeling consumed, that you will always be the vessel and that you cannot be empty if you need to keep giving; that even though there's this other being that has gained power over you, it will always look at how you give and what love should look like. And love should always come from a place of abundance, not dearth or inadequacy. 

Yes, there are days when I still reminisce about my old self. But you know what? I still end up always smiling and feeling content. My life now is a never-ending stream of stress and most days I feel sore and tired to the core. But I smile because I know that there is no experience on earth that could have brought out the most altruistic, most evolved version of myself other than motherhood. This is how it happened for me and though I'm certain there's a different road for every person, I'm eternally grateful that mine came in a cute package, with sweet kisses and warm hugs that make the grieving process for the old Me so bearable. I stare at the mirror, smile and always end up whispering, "Thank you. This JOY that stares back is who she needs to be."

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Getting Older and More Reckless?

Towards the end of the song "When We Were Young", Adele so passionately sung: "Oh I'm so mad I'm getting old, it makes me reckless...". 

I'm getting old. 

I find that I'm becoming much less patient with people. This isn't to say that old people just automatically become cantankerous, intolerant, or narrow-minded. It's because with age, one doesn't only become equipped with wisdom from experience, but also the realization that life is indeed short, as well as the increased confidence that we now know what we deserve or should put up with.

The more I think of the many connections I have on social media, real-life and virtual 'friends' combined, the more I'm tempted to let go of a number of them. Some I keep for convenience, some out of a mutual utilitarian reason I'm guessing (I follow you - You follow me type of thing), and then there are some I keep out of sentimentality, people I've known for a long time but are not genuinely friends with. For the most part, I'm not bothered and will not really put in the time or effort to cut certain people out as long as they don't annoy me. But recently, especially with the heated political discussions going on, my attention can't help but be drawn to those who are just being plain stupid and a bit of an embarrassment to be connected to.

And if there's one thing I've gotten really impatient with through the years, it's stupidity. I have a very low threshold for people who seem incapable of critical thinking. What's worse is that stupidity almost always gets packaged with arrogance. I really can't think of anything more infuriating than a stupid person who thinks she's the smartest and has the gift of infallibility. This just absolutely sets me off without fail. 

My husband always ends up frustrated with me when we get into these discussions. He insists I'm too idealistic or naive. He is frustrated that I seem to expect much of people, that I continue with my false belief that majority of humanity actually thinks or is capable of critical thought. I would argue back by saying it's not that I expect brilliance from people but just simple thinking, analyzing, weighing of options and then informed decision-making. He would then say most people are not even capable of that and that the sooner I snap out of my illusions about people's mental capacities, the happier and more peaceful I'd be. Perhaps he is right.

Recently, I asked my online friends about their criteria for deciding who to unfollow or unfriend. Majority stated that they hate narcissists, people who always brag about themselves, post a never-ending stream of selfies, or are such drama queens/kings always looking for an audience to sympathize with them. I get that and can see how that can be really annoying. Fortunately, none of my real-life friends or even A-list virtual friends fall within that category. As such, it makes it easier to cut off the narcissists in my life.  With stupidity though (and I doubt they're aware of it), it makes it a bit trickier for me, especially when these are 'friends' I have a history with. I am not a confrontational person so I know I will avoid drama at all costs. 

As with Adele's point of view, I'm not mad at all about getting old and also don't think I can ever be reckless with people's feelings. I might find myself taking more risks and feeling a bit bolder but can't see myself being reckless with other people's hearts. Getting older for me may mean not caring so much about what other people think when it comes to MY 'business', my life, my choices. But that doesn't translate to not caring about relationships or affecting another person's sense of self...unless that person truly deserves it and it takes A LOT for someone to deserve it, in my book. You must absolutely be toxic in my life for me to completely sever ties with you. (And yes, I've done this once with a friend, but that story is for another day.)

Enter the 'Unfollow' button, which we can all apply in real life. It's me saying, "I'm not completely cutting you off, we can still contact each other if we choose to, but I refuse to be exposed to your energy, your choices, and am opting out of regular interaction with you."

Social media gives us a lot of gifts and garbage, and one thing these buttons or choices teach us for sure is that we can really only control our selves, our responses to other people and not other people's characters and their ways. We don't have to confront every single human being that annoys us. And depending on your level of intimacy, it may not even be necessary at all for you to explain your choices. You can just walk away and ignore your source of annoyance.

I'm not at all sad about getting old, although I can definitely do away with the physical pains and limitations that go with it. The fact is, I'm currently indifferent to the psychological and emotional changes unraveling within me. I neither love nor hate them, although one thing is certain. I'm fascinated by them and am curious to see where they will take me. If boldness with one's choices comes with the territory, then bring it on. I prefer it though with a dash, pinch and sprinkle of sensitivity. It makes it smoother to swallow. 

Thursday, March 10, 2016

My Son's Friends Are Afraid They'd Be Deported

He said it happened during Social Studies. They were discussing concepts such as democracy and voting when one of his female classmates said

"If _____ (supply presidential candidate's name) wins, 'Ahmed' (another classmate and not the boy's real name) and I would have to move out". 

This was spoken by one of my son's third grade classmates as she spoke about her and another classmate who's also Muslim. I could console myself by saying that it's still fortunate that these two children are not discriminated upon by the other children in their class, but it makes it no less painful that these two feel this way because of the type of discourse our current politics has brought out. 

My heart sank. I felt it to be completely unjust for a nine-year-old to even feel that one person can hold that much power to drive them out of what they consider home; that their lives can drastically change all because of people's ignorance. I felt sick to my stomach at the thought of these young children getting exposed to sentiments of hate and blatant racism, feeling singled out not because of anything they have done wrong but simply for being who they are and practicing a culture they were born into. 

I felt angry that these children have to be robbed of their innocencethe belief that differences are okay, religion shouldn't divide us, and that skin color is not what defines any of us. 

I will never understand why those particular political candidates are peddling such beliefs to the masses, or the reasons why anyone in their right mind would even support that sort of candidate. For me, nothing can ever justify my choice to support a bigot. I don't care how educated, wealthy or popular you are, if you're a bigot I cannot support you. It's a line I choose to clearly draw and recognize, among others. 

I find it both hilarious and frustrating that a common response to the question of why someone chooses to support such a candidate is this: "He speaks his mind and he's straightforward!" Here's the thing. I think it's fun to get drunk with someone who speaks his mind. There's still a high probability that I would consider you an ass but at least I might consider you entertaining. However, an entertaining ass who speaks his mind is not someone I would trust leading a nation. More importantly, such a person who seems to always have the cunning ability to speak straight out of his ass is certainly not a role model I would ever want for my child. 

In our home, my husband and I are very vocal with our son about our political and moral beliefs. We tell him about our leanings and explain to him why, always going back to our values and ideas of how we want our world to be. We try to teach him about the importance of respecting differences whether it be about religion, race, sexual orientation, or social class. I know my son felt sad about the idea of his classmates being forced to move out. I sense that he doesn't fully understand why this is so and probably feels it doesn't make sense. Well he's right about that, isn't he? IT DOES NOT MAKE SENSE

It doesn't make sense for any child to be made to feel this way, that they can just be kicked out because of their color or religion.

It doesn't make sense for any child to lose friends just because they look different or practice a different culture.

It doesn't make sense for any child to be made to feel less. PERIOD.

As parents, we are very passionate about fighting parenting practices that make children feel inferior. We don't like it when adults make kids feel stupid. We don't like it when adults discriminate against children with disabilities. We don't like it when adults undermine a child's sense of self worth. 

How are those things any different from having political figures promoting ideas that discriminate against children of color or children from other cultures? These are children who are being made to feel less. PERIOD. 

It's not right. 

It is disgusting, and NONE of us should stand for it. 

Friday, March 4, 2016

My Social Media Feed Is Killing Me!

I've been defeated. I surrender and at least for now, I will accept it. 

My creativity has been completely sucked dry by all the stupid things flooding my news feed on social media. I take responsibility for not being able to stay away. I own that. But you all know how it goes. You log in to see how your real friends are doing. Then you realize you have more virtual than real friends who are active online and worse, they always seem to have far more interesting lives than those you personally know. Or maybe they're just making all that up and you have no real way of finding out for sure since you don't personally know them. But who cares, right? You're entertained. 

And then someone posts something political that angers you to the core. Then you hop on the treadmill to burn off that angry energy. After 30 minutes, you realize it's not enough and you need to attack that jar of peanut butter to soothe that anger. It works for a bit and you feel like the world makes sense once more. So you go back to checking the same stupid news feed with a false sense of calm and naive optimism, thinking that this kind of exposure will ultimately give you great material for your writing.

This time someone posts a real-life scary event that happens at a Walmart parking lot near your residence. Someone almost got mugged..or worse. But then as you read through the comments because you're a snoop and is insatiable when it comes to details, you just encounter more idiots in the form of gun freaks, commenting that this is why everyone needs to carry guns. The logic behind it all floors you and makes you wonder how some people can really just say the smartest things! WOW. (Wow, as in, I really need a drink now!)

You hop on the treadmill again. Maybe an additional 20 minutes with simultaneous cussing will take care of all this aggression and frustration. 

You keep doing this, experiencing this cycle numerous times throughout the entire day, always stupidly optimistic that the next time you log in, you shall see something inspiring that will fire up your creativity and make you write something worthwhile. 

Of course you are proven wrong and before you know it, the day is almost over and now you're too tired from all that exercise and burnt out from all that frustration and questioning of why your news feed keeps showing you the same stupid posts from the same stupid people you don't even really care about, and here you are still stuck with nothing worthwhile to write about other than this rant. 

Maybe another tub of peanut butter will soothe this angry soul, and maybe said peanut butter will show magical swirls with secret messages of what to write about next. 

Stay tuned.....