Photo by Rachel Hadiashar
And Living Strength
This past summer after my sister & I found our mom has cancer, we talked about the future. “You know, Ab when it’s time I’m probably not the best one to take care of Mom." I said something like that to my sis. "I’m just not good with all the medical stuff.” At the time, we thought my sister would be the care-taker. Or my brother. Since I'm the oldest and the default dysfunctional care-taker of our childhood, wouldn't it be healing if it weren't me? That's what I was thinking at the time. Except my sister has three kids. It’s just not logistically possible for her to be here. Even if she is better suited as her doula, midwife-minded self. And my bro, he was here with his sweet wife. They were rocking it for a good 3 months at my mom’s house. Visa logistics unexpectedly brought them back to Korea. My siblings are here in spirit and will be back with my mom when they can be.
And 7 months after her diagnosis, here I am in NY. Just where I am meant to be. It is healing being one of my mom's caretakers. Just where I am meant to be. Alongside my step-father and 20 year old brother. Sometimes a present, nurturing care-taker I am. Holding my mom’s hand. Helping her down the stairs. Cooking her meals. Watching her walk as my son says, “like a fish out of water.” It’s painful. And an honor. Hardest thing I've ever done. And beautiful too. Some days, like yesterday, I am a distracted, avoidant, crying, overwhelmed, or frustrated care-giver. Juggling my son's needs, my mom's needs, and temporarily relocating my business here, well some days I am graceful at it all. Some days it's a disaster with everyone ending up with unmet needs. Then I breathe deep and send some love to us all. Try again tomorrow. More presence & patience & deep breathes beginning before I even walk through the door. It goes like that.
My mom’s biggest thing is she doesn't want to hold up her children’s lives. Doesn't want to burden us. Thanks, mom for thinking of us. You always have put us first. But service to my dying mother is no burden. I told my mom a long time ago that I would never want to put her in a nursing home. I just didn't think so soon it would be like this. Neither did she. A friend who lost her husband to cancer a few years ago texted me, “It is an honor to share this journey with your mom.” Yes, it is. And sad as can be.
I know in my heart this is where I am supposed to be. Here in Utica, N.Y. Because I’m getting back me, too as well as caring for my mama. Oregon is home. My life is there. My future, I imagine. But central NY is also home. My past is here. My roots are deep. Families are so strong here. I need that right now. Throughout the day, I go back and forth. One moment secure in being here where I grew up. Helping my mom on this journey. The next moment not quite sure how it's all going to work out and the details overwhelm me, and the anxiety that one day my mom won't be with us, and so much mourning over certain aspects of my childhood. For....
There’s my mom having cancer.
There's relocating back home for a bit, both personally & professionally.
Then there’s my unresolved childhood stuff.
Each weighs heavy in its own way. I do my best to focus where I can make positive change. Have faith in the peace & closure that is part hard work, part grace. Last week I was swimming in the grief of my unresolved childhood. The early life stuff that shaped me, but on a good day doesn't rule me. If I only had the eraser. If I could re-write my childhood, my mom & dad’s reality, and the generations before, that would be cool. My life would be easier, for sure. I couldn't shake the sense of abandonment that my mom was now "off the hook" from providing more understanding about my childhood. Yes, I do feel big twinges of guilt for writing that. But it's part of my work and the healing. Coming to terms. This is the time for closure & healing, so I can truly forgive. Give my mom that gift.
“I guess I won’t get any of the answers about childhood from my mom. It’s not possible now. Gotta give that up. Just be a grown-up,” I said last week through tears to my mom’s dear friend. She looked at me with her usual passion for life and said to my soul, “You’ve always been the grown-up. Your mom has said that since you were little.” Oh, yeah. Thanks for the reminder. That was my role. It's not just all in my head.
Part of this mourning is for my mom dying, part of it is for my lost childhood. “You had many wonderful experiences. Time in nature. Friends. But you bore the burden….” And then that was it. Poof. My mom’s friend was called into the other room. I went back to the dishes. Crying for that little girl that is locked inside of me carrying burdens, I scrubbed. Just needed to feel that. To honor my experiences, my life, my journey, my work.
The past is the past. It’s done. Leave it behind. Step into now. My truth. Me. My friend's wise mother said something just like that. Wish I could remember exactly what she said, but her words are with me. It’s done. I did it. I made it to the other side. I am strong for what I experienced. So live the strength. I might have to fight a little for it, but I am already there. Where I want to be. Now live it.
I’m here to care for my mom. And I’m here to care for me. And for my son. Ultimately, to nurture all the families I am honored to work with in my practice. As I care for my mom and establish my practice here, I am soaking up that part of me I left here almost 20 years ago. The girl with the big dreams. The vision for humanity. The girl who worked so hard for her causes. For children to have a good future.
No one said it was going to be easy. But it is a blessing. I nurture my mom in ways I still need nurturing. I care for her. I care for myself and that little girl inside of me. And I have lots of love & support along the way, on both coasts. I am grateful. For the past is the past. Today is today. And we build our own tomorrow.
Hi friends, I write from the heart to tell my life story, and the story of those in my neighborhood called life. Research shows that our children's emotional & mental health is contingent upon us parents being able to tell our life story, or "coherent narrative." This is my coherent narrative, my life story in the making, with some of what I love in life too. My goal is to share my life in a way that is real, uplifting & positive- sometimes serious, sometimes fun. In my practice, I inspire parents to empowerment through reclaiming our life stories and learning respectful discipline. My work is my offering to our children- our future. Wishing you all a happy family!