Inspired by Feathers 

Which is heavier? A pound of bricks or a pound of feathers? Well, they both weigh the same, right? Now let’s use each as a metaphor to life’s challenges.

We all go through the same struggles. Regardless of where we came from or our individual level of success. But our ability to work through difficulties depend on the choices we make.

If you consistently make poor choices in life, you end up chipping away at the pound of bricks. Why? Because your decisions have left you with less resources and energy, making obstacles hard to overcome. But if you make smart choices, you can scatter a pound of feathers into the air. The challenges are still difficult but you’ll have better options and more strength to defeat them.

Or maybe you’re looking at your problems as a pound of bricks when they’re really a pound of feathers. 

So, if you’re chipping away at those bricks, what choices have you made that led you to that wall? How are you perceiving your obstacles? What can you change now to put you on the path to accomplishing your goal? 

My birthday

Today is another year without my mom to celebrate my birthday. I still have the last card she gave me. I keep it tucked away safely in a storage box with some of her other personal things. A few days ago I pulled it out of the box to read it. I wondered what it would’ve been like if she was still here.


Last year on my birthday, I did cry for her. But this time around, even though I miss her, it wasn’t to the point of sadness. This morning I woke up happy and grateful. Grateful for friends who went out of their way to surprise me with a birthday get-together. And grateful for family to remind me that I am loved.

My birthday turned out the way it was meant to be.

Mom,

I know I’m supposed to remember your love and not that I lost you. But it’s impossible not to. I don’t get to hear your voice every day. I can’t talk to you about things I’m going through. I will never hear your advice on how to face challenges in life as each year passes.

I see moms and daughters shopping or having dinner together. It reminds me that I can’t spend time with you anymore. I can’t hug and kiss you goodbye until my next visit. I’ll never hear you say “Be careful” as I leave like you always did. And I’ll never get to reply “I will, Mom” like I used to.

I try not to dwell on those things and refocus my thoughts on living the way you expect me to. I’m doing the best I can to find my own way. It’s so hard sometimes because I miss you so much.

It doesn’t matter how long it’s been since you died. Or the older I become. I still need you. I am and forever will be your daughter.

I love you, Mom.

Fear held me back from my true self

I learned how to ride a bike when I was about 6 or 7-years-old. I started riding with training wheels and I think I rode with them for a couple of months. I remember how excited and scared I was when Daddy eventually took  them off.

At first, he held onto the seat walking next to me as I slowly pedaled on the sidewalk. It felt strange riding with two wheels instead of four. When he let go I’d lose my balance and fall sideways. Sometimes my bike and I would end up on the ground. Or, if I was lucky I’d land on my feet.

This happened several times but each time I got back on my bike. I was determined to learn how to ride on my own. Then finally, the moment came when Daddy let go one last time and I rode my bike without falling. I was so happy and proud of myself. Daddy seemed to be just as happy too if not more.

I’m very fond of that childhood memory. It was one of the few times in my life where I didn’t let fear hold me back. I didn’t let fear stop me from performing a clarinet solo in front of judges in middle school and high school. Nor did I let it stop me from joining the military. It was something I was able to control until my mom passed away. I was so weakened by grief that the trauma fed my unguarded fears. I let fear hold me back from my true self and creative identity.

When I decided I had enough with fear, I began reading several personal development and self-help books. I wanted to write about my personal journey but I was afraid of allowing myself to be vulnerable. I was afraid of what people might think. I didn’t feel confident that my writing would be good enough.

One of the books that started me on the path to facing my fears was Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown. Daring Greatly is based on Brown’s research on vulnerability. She explains how our fear of vulnerability limits us from meaningful relationships and opportunities in life. From reading her a book, I realized I needed to change how I viewed my own fear of being vulnerable. It took a lot of soul searching but it eventually led me to start this blog.

Fear still creeps in sometimes when I write about my thoughts and experiences. But it’s power over me is not as strong as it used to be. I’m still learning and growing. Most importantly, I am grateful for this journey.

Love is worth the sorrow

The last several days were a little rough on me. I kept replaying in my head the pain I struggled through during the last month of my mom’s life. I became very moody and sometimes felt angry. It was like the light had left me for a while. I did what I had to do to get through each day.

Mom was under hospice care at home towards the end of her life. In that last week she was unresponsive and I’d sit next to her bedside every day. Sometimes I’d talk to her about anything that came to mind. Mostly small talk about the weather or what I did while I was out in town. I just wanted to talk to her like any normal day. I was sure that she could still hear me. At least I wanted to believe that she could.

One day, I just sat there holding her hand while watching her chest rise and fall with each slow, deep breath. At the same time, I was making a silent bargain with God. If he’d take away her cancer and let her live, he could take me instead. It wasn’t fair. She deserved to live. Mom was finally happy again after a tough divorce a few years prior to her illness. She had a new life, a new home, and marriage. Besides, I reasoned that my brother needed her more than me. I was willing to make that sacrifice.

Reliving the pain was emotionally draining but all I could do was work through it until it finally passed. By the end of last week, I was ready to take it easy on myself. I usually turn to music when I’m going through a tough time or just to relax. So on Saturday, I decided to put on some music while I did a few chores around my apartment.

I like all kinds of music and I was in the mood to listen to country. An old song in particular just happened to pop into my head out of the blue. I haven’t heard this song in years but for some reason, my gut was telling me to play it. While I listened to “The Dance” by Garth Brooks, the lyrics moved me to tears. I first heard this song when it was released several years ago. But back then in my early twenties, I had yet to experience a major loss in my life.

“The Dance” is a simple song but to me, it’s a beautiful metaphor for life. When you experience all that life has to offer it includes both the good and the bad. Love and happiness don’t exist without sorrow. Yet we still dare to love knowing it could end, despite not knowing how or when that end will take place.

I don’t know if my mom has ever heard the song but I know she would have loved it. It’s exactly the type of song she would’ve sung on karaoke night at her favorite bar. Maybe it was just a coincidence that I had to hear this song after my short relapse. But I’ll take it as a reminder to try and do the best I can to fully live and enjoy the dance.

 

 

mom_singing
Mom loved to sing and she was pretty good at it.

 

 

You just don’t get over grief

I have to admit I was a nervous wreck after my first blog post. I was afraid of what people might think, especially my family. I have never shared anything so personal about my life to anyone, much less to potentially thousands of people online.

I’m so used to keeping things to myself that I can be a loner even to my own family. And being vulnerable is not something I’m comfortable with. Thankfully, everyone’s reactions have been positive. Most importantly, I have amazing family and friends in my life who love and support me.

The hard part of putting myself out there is over. I feel like a huge weight I’ve carried for the past fourteen years has been lifted. It has become easier to talk about loss even if I still get teared up and emotional. I’m not so sure those feelings will ever go away.

quote-image

Perhaps some of you who are reading this are grieving right now. All I can tell you is that whatever you’re feeling is normal. There will be good and bad days. Maybe you’re not ready to talk about it. That’s ok. But if you need to cry, go ahead and cry. If you need to scream, go ahead and scream. Do it privately if you must. Just let it out.

Grief is a long process and you just don’t get over it in six months, a year or twenty years. Some may suggest that you should “get over it” within a certain time. They just have no idea or wish to avoid dealing with an uncomfortable issue. I’m still not over it. The wound is not raw anymore but the scar will always be there.

Honestly, it took me eight years to make peace with my mom’s death. Those first few years were filled with sadness and a lot of anger. I was angry at God and angry at people around me going about their life as usual. Depression kicked in too. And as I mentioned in my first post, I basically lived a life without meaning.

It will take some time to work through your grief. Everyone has a different timetable so take as much time as you need.

Be patient and kind to yourself. I hope you can find some comfort in knowing you’re not alone.

My life changed forever in one moment

Everyone has at least one moment in their life that changes them forever. It can put you on top of the world or make you hit rock bottom. For me, that moment was when my mom died of pancreatic cancer.

Losing her really hit me hard. Doctors told us she had six months. So, I should have been prepared. But the truth is you’re never prepared. You don’t know how the death of someone you love will affect you until it happens. And when she died this evening fourteen years ago, a piece of me died with her.

The moment right after she passed away was surreal. In front of me was her lifeless body turning cold. Yet only a few minutes ago I had spoken to her. “Mom,” I said, “If you’re ready, it’s ok for you to go.”

As she lay in bed dying, I kept telling her how much my brother and I loved her. I stood by her bedside and held her hand. While I looked into her eyes I tried to stay calm. But once she stopped breathing I completely lost it.

I never imagined that I’d lose my mom so soon. She was only fifty. My grandparents lived almost into their eighties and I expected her to as well. Although I was already an adult at the time, inside I was still that little girl who needed her. But there I was watching her die. And that sad memory has stuck with me ever since.

It was tough getting through the holidays, birthdays and anniversaries of her death. On those days, I’d fall into a deep depression that I tried hard not to show. To be honest, I didn’t feel like living anymore. I have to admit I even thought of suicide. But the promise I made to my mom to look after my brother kept me from actually doing it. Even the things I did accomplish in my life didn’t mean much. So, I settled into living a life below my potential.

Then about a year ago, I decided I didn’t want the pain of losing her to be the focus of my life anymore. I learned how others worked through their grief to help me through mine. It also helped to connect with friends who have been there. Eventually, it became easier to share feelings that I had kept bottled up inside for years.

To this day, I still miss my mom very much. Sometimes a thing or a place will remind me of her. While it’s still painful, my emotions of grief are not as raw as they used to be. Deep in my heart, I know she’s still guiding me. I just wish I could talk to her and hear her voice. I wish I could hug her again.

One day we will be together again. And when I see her, I hope that I have made her proud. Until then, I will work on becoming the person I was meant to be before I lost her. It’s the only thing I can do to honor her and the life she gave me.