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Friday, May 20, 2011

Feeding The Fire Burning In My Heart

     The world is bleeding. It breaks my heart. everywhere I turn if feel suffering. Everyone I speak to has a tragic story-needs a prayer. Do you have any idea how many people I hug everyday? I have spent the past 34 years teaching myself how to actively listen to people. This has been a challenge for me because it means I have to stop talking long enough to process what someone else is saying. And it means looking at the person speaking in the face and not being distracted by what color her shoes are or what song is playing in the background or is that cookies I smell? Listening for me has always been a challenge because I always have so much to say. But I have been actively working on this since I became an adult and I have to say, I've gotten pretty good at it. Maybe it's because I genuinely care about the speaker, or as my girlfriend Amina put it, I thrive on hearing people's stories, but whatever the reason, people tend to tell me everything. I know a lot of people's secrets. I know everyone's troubles, fears, birthdays, kids' names, favorite foods, religious beliefs, wifes' worries, husbands' shortcomings, parent's issues.....if you know me, I've probably shocked you by recalling some minute detail of your life that you told me in passing two years ago. And the thing is, Amina is right. I DO thrive on it. I love feeling connected to people. Bonded. 
     But lately, it seems like the world is bleeding. We're suffering. We're angry, depressed, abused, neglected, tormented, afraid, depressed, disatisfied, confused, frustrated, worried, troubled and downright sad. And all I do is worry. Funny thing is, I'm not worried for myself or Mr. Jones. We're doing just fine...cancer and all. People have said to me, "I'm so sorry to bother you with my problems. You are going through so much, and yet, when I read your blog, I can't believe how positive you are." That's when I began to understand the purpose of the blog. I have been called to write. I have been called to ease the suffering. I need to spread the love. I need to send it out through cyberspace. A message to the world that we can all get through it. With faith anything is possible. Yes, we are all suffering, but together we can hold each other up. We can carry each other through it. 
     Make no mistake. I have BAD days. The other morning I spent my drive to work fighting back tears and asking for strength to get through the day and rest of the longest dreariest week ever. That is until "Fat Bottom Girls" came on the radio and I had to rush through that last Hail Mary so I could "make the rockin' world go 'round." And while Freddy Mercury and Brian May did make me feel better for 3 minutes and 22 sec, the morning still dragged on. When I got to work I told my friend Heather how much the day was sucking and she threw her arms around me and gave me her strength. And somehow I found the drive to push forward through my first period class ,and then my second, and then my third, and before I knew it I was home on my couch with my little monkey and my angel-baby and everything was right with the world. And that's what I mean. Heather's got her own troubles and fears, but that day she gave me her strength. Another day she might need me to give her mine.
       This is what we need to do. Focus on reaching out to support each other. We can get through it all together. You know I believe in the power of love. And all I can do is open my heart and focus on sending it out. I'm sending you my strength. I'm sending you my love. In yoga practice we say Namaste at the beginning and end of practice. While it literally can be interpreted as, "I bow to you," it means so much more than that. The most beautiful way that I have ever heard it interpreted is as to mean, "When I am in this place, and you are in this place, we are one." Whoever you are- wherever you are- at this moment our lives are touching. We are one. I wish you strength. I wish you happiness. I wish you love. Reach out to someone. By helping others we help ourselves. I feel this burning in my soul to reach out and spread love. To give hope. And if you can feel it, I ask only one thing of you: Share my love, our love. Click "like" above. Click  "Share" below. Send this link in an email. Someone else needs to know you are thinking of them. Someone out there needs your strength. Lets support each other. Put your own troubles aside for a second and do something for someone less fortunate than you. As always, I wish you joy. I hope you find strength and faith to follow the path that has been laid before you. I know you can do it.We can do it. If I can, you can....Namaste! 

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Friday, May 6, 2011

Mirror, Mirror On The Wall, I Am My Mother After All...(I Hope!)

    The most challenging thing I've ever done was to become a mother. I don't remember the exact moment that it happened, but I'll never forget the day I found out. It was the last thing I expected to see, that little pink cross in the window. I took another test the next day because I was sure that the first one was wrong. Even though my biology background told me that there couldn't be a false negative, I was in such shock. I remember the terror. I just stood there in front of Mr. Jones. We stood there with tears in our eyes in disbelief. As the reality sunk in, I told him- and myself- that this was a good thing. We were married. We had health insurance. We both had jobs. There was no reason why we should worry. I thought of my sister. She had just given birth to her second son. She was (is) a great mom. She had a system for everything- I could just do whatever she did. And her boys (MY boys) were healthy and happy and developing into beautiful children. There is no reason why I couldn't do it. After all, I had her to ask for help.
     Slowly, over the next nine months I got used to idea of being Mommy instead of the favorite aunt. I went to birthing classes, practiced pre-natal yoga, read books on nursing...I was going to do it all the right way. My amazing family and friends bought me everything I needed. And then one day, in the bathroom of Macy's, my water broke.  And it really began. 12 hours later I was holding the most perfect, beautiful little angel God had ever created. I remember initially feeling like I was trapped in a Dali painting. How could this be real? Who is this little person? Shouldn't I feel like I know her? I was responsible for this tiny soul. Her life depended on me not screwing up. She could die if I did something wrong. Forget about the 12 hours of natural childbirth. That was the easy part. For the rest of my life I had to take care of this child and somehow not f--- her up. So I bought some books. Books that told me that everything I was feeling was normal. Books that told me how to be successful at nursing (something American culture makes very difficult). Books that told me when to worry, and when to call a doctor. And then there was the Internet. There is no shortage of information to teach you how to have a healthy baby. And day by day, week by week my Angel-baby and I became so emotionally connected that sometimes I wasn't sure where she began and I ended. Her every joy was my joy. Her every pain was my pain. I was no longer just Melissa any more. I was Angel-babie's mom. For the rest of my life I would be introducing myself with her name first..."It's so nice to meet you, I'm Angel's mom." I had joined the club. The mom club. Where everything in your life shifts. The focal point of the world's orbit shifted from Mr. Jones and me, to my Angel-baby. And I joined billions of other women who had all had the same experience and were travelling in orbits around their own angel-babies.
     At some point I remember marvelling at the love I felt for this perfect child. I remember thinking, Is this how my mother feels about me? All these years, I've always know she loves me, but I never realized how much because up until this point I was incapable of understanding. And suddenly it made sense. I understood how she could give up her career to take care of my sisters' and my children so that we could continue to eat. I understood how she could manage to work a full day and still make cupcakes at 11 pm becase I needed them for school. I understood how she could sacrifice buying things she wanted so that we could go to dancing school or acting classes. I understood why she was with me on every school trip, every class party, every single performance of every concert or show that my sister and I performed in. I understood why it devastated her that when I studied abroad I could only call once a week. She has given me everything. Everything I have, everything I am, I am because of the woman who she is. I felt so humbled. So lucky. So in love with my mother. I decided at that moment that there was nothing that I could ever do to repay her for her sacrifices. The only thing I could do was to never refuse her anything she needed from me. And I never do. Anything she needs, anything I can ever do for her, I do.
     It was with this revelation that I also realized how blessed I was to have her as a model. If I just did everything the way my mom did. If I am half as good as she is, my kids will be okay. I realized that it doesn't matter what the books say, I was going to model myself after the best mother I knew. Just like the generations of mothers before me. As humans this is how we learn. We don't even realize it, and unless we make a conscious effort to be different from our parents, we will have the same successes and the same failures. I think about this as a mother. I learned everything I know from my mother. I sing the same lullaby, tell the same bedtime stories, cook the same dinners. I can't tell you how many times I've said, "Don't you dare!" and I hear her voice echoing in my own. With this in mind, I realize, that like it or not, my little cherubs will someday echo me. If I speak with prejudice, they will speak with prejudice. If I act with violence, they will act with violence. If I abuse drugs or alcohol, I doom them to a life of abuse. And likewise, If I treat people kindly, they will learn kindness. If I pray, they will pray. And if I treat myself with respect-if I choose a healthy lifestyle-if I manage my stress-if I take care of myself as a woman, they will do the same as adults. And if I show gratitude and take care of my family when they need me, then they will someday do the same. As mothers, we are living models for our children. I was fortunate to have such a model whose example I can only pray that live up to. Motherhood is challenging. It comes with great responsibility. But when my 5 year old insists on hugging me until she counts to 100, or my 2 year old begs me for one more kiss goodnight, I know what is meant by the expresion "a labor of love."
      I hope you can find time this weekend to celebrate the love your mother gave you. Even if she wasn't perfect, she did the best she could. She may not have had a great model. If you are a mother, celebrate the life you've made for yourself and your family. In the end, all we can really do is our best to support out children and show them in every way possible that we love them and hope it's enough. That's all my mother did. And still does!

Happy Mother's Day!