synchronistic encounters: part iii

I wrote about my synchronistic encounter with a long-lost friend in synchronistic encounter: part ii and wanted to share my aha moment.

To be honest, a part of me wanted to say so much more, to reply charged with emotion. I wanted to win the argument, have the last word, or at least get even. I struggled with it and it was so hard to resist, but in the end, I realized that none of that matters. (Plus, the satisfaction from a snarky remark would be momentary, only to leave a lasting sentiment of regret.) By creating distance, removing emotion, and seeing our shared past as it was, not overwrought and blinded by emotion, I felt like I gained power over it.

To admit even further, I think that part of me sought one-upmanship. I wanted to feel superior, to validate my meaning over hers as wiser or more meaningful. How foolish of me. If I’ve come to understand and made my meaning of my past, of course, she has, too, just as firmly. How weak and insecure of me. I don’t need to take the bait of outwitting, I just need to stay strong and keep my eyes on me, on my path.

Meaning is relative to the individual and this profound truth resonates with me. It’s meaningless to seek validation of my meaning over hers. Rather, such an attempt is counterproductive, an interference and regression from my own path.

My meaning is meaningful to me, all on its own; its validity and gravity doesn’t depend upon approval, acceptance, or even acknowledgement from others. My meaning is all that really matters to me.

Relinquishing labels and relational hierarchy from my youth, I feel more grounded and connected to the heart of who I am, who I aspire to be.

LOVE, NO MATTER WHAT

I came across this insightful and thought-provoking TED Talk and wanted to share this with as many people out there as possible (and with Mina when she’s older, of course)!

You don’t have to be a parent to find his talk moving and compelling, only human. “Diversity is what unites us. … [T]he experience of difference within families is universal, as are the struggles toward compassion and the triumphs of love.”

Another quote with profound meaning to me: “Love is something that ideally is there unconditionally throughout the relationship between a parent and a child. But acceptance is something that takes time. It always takes time.

This distinction he made between unconditional love and unconditional acceptance was an aha moment for me.  This distinction is something I knew by experience, by living through the pain of nonacceptance from my family; but something I was never able to make sense or articulate.  All I managed to do through it all was LOVE.  “LOVE, NO MATTER WHAT,” as his title says.  Yes, indeed.  And in the end, almost miraculously in my eyes, my parents have come around to accept me and my family for who we are.

Now, seeing that fine line and separating the two gives me an odd sense of security and relief.  I’ve arrived here: a calm understanding and compassionate resignation that acceptance from those unwilling will take time, on their time.

There is a lesson here for just about anyone willing to listen and give the next 23 minutes a chance.  Profound meaning is here, wherever we are; but only found to those who are open and present.  Both his books, Far From the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity and The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression are on my reading list now!

“Andrew Solomon’s newest book, Far From the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity, tells the stories of parents who not only learn to deal with their exceptional children, but also find profound meaning in doing so. Solomon’s startling proposition is that diversity is what unites us. He writes about families coping with deafness, dwarfism, Down syndrome, autism, schizophrenia, multiple severe disabilities, with children who are prodigies, who are conceived in rape, who become criminals, who are transgender. While each of these characteristics is potentially isolating, the experience of difference within families is universal, as are the struggles toward compassion and the triumphs of love Solomon documents in every chapter.  Woven into these courageous and affirming stories is Solomon’s journey to accepting his own identity, which culminated in his midlife decision, influenced by this research, to become a parent.”

Andrew Solomon Bio on TED

andrewsolomon.com

what they think is none of my business

In my previous post, RB’s life lessons to revisit daily, I highlighted a few of RB’s life lessons that serendipitously resonated with me.

29. What other people think of you is none of your business.

So simple, so profound. The power of words truly amazes me.

Personally, I can live by this life lesson when “other people” refers to acquaintances and strangers, but it’s dawned on me that this “other people” encompasses even loved ones, anybody that’s not “you.” I’ve always cared deeply about how my family viewed me and valued my choices. Probably too much for my own good.

“You’re probably seeking their approval subconsciously,” he says, smiling at my frown. My husband knows me so well.

I really hate to admit it but there must be some truth to that. I guess we all seek approval from someone or validation from something. Mostly, I hate that I’ve allowed them so much power over me, family or not is beside the point; without this acceptance I can’t get beyond my search for approval.

What they think of me, what they think of us, is really none of my business. What a relief.

All my life, I’ve taken everything so personally, so deeply to heart. I’ve been draining my emotions on things that have nothing to do with me, only with them. They point their fingers, I carry the blame, burden myself by finding faults where there were none.

I feel empowered and I need to let it all out.

I own.  I am in control.  I take back my control.  I won’t let others conveniently disrupt my peace of mind, and shove me back into their vicious cycle of self-righteousness.  I won’t stand by the sidelines as they insult my integrity. I take offense.  I am insulted.  I have every right to be.  I take a stand.  I take back my right to be equal. We’ve perpetuated this power structure in our relationships and it stops now.  No, I won’t go along with it.  I won’t play along.  I make my own rules, rules I value and live by. It’s who I am. It’s who I’m proud to be.

Nothing I do or say can change anyone else. Change can only happen in their own time, on their own terms. It’s really none of my business anyway. I can only wish them well and good luck. Of course, I love them and I’m always here for them unconditionally.

I give myself permission to stop seeking, to walk away.

Everything I need is here; within. My only business is me.

onlies or siblings: my dilemma

Pregnancy and motherhood brought with them many unexpected thoughts and surprising ponderings, like choosing to keep the gender of our baby a surprise until the birth. I just wanted to keep every step as natural as possible; meaning minimal intervention and letting nature take its course. To me, finding  the gender from a medical device felt artificial and unromantic but I wasn’t confident I’d have the patience to wait 9 months either. Then my husband and I had a thoughtful conversation and I didn’t want to know anymore, I wanted to wait. He shared with me that he didn’t want to have any preconceived notions about the baby based on gender; that wasn’t fair to the baby. He wanted to have a clear slate, a fresh start from the moment he met him|her. I had never thought of it this way and this notion hit home hard. I didn’t want to prepare his|her room (not that we did much to the nursery), buy his|her clothes, and inadvertently, get attached to the idea of him|her I created in my mind. I, too, wanted to start completely fresh when I met him|her, so waiting wasn’t hard at all; I felt it was the only right thing to do. Plus, it was fun and kind of poetic to keep it a surprise.

Being the youngest of 3, I often imagined having 3 kids, too, but I knew that would be difficult in more ways than one; so as a convenient compromise, in my mind, I always wanted at least 2 kids.  This was before I had Mina. Now, I’m not so clear. A part of me wants another child, to experience one final time the phenomenal feeling of carrying another life in my womb, and most importantly for Mina to grow up with a sibling; but I’m realizing that it’s not that simple, it’s far more complicated a reality with layers of convoluted thoughts, desires, and doubts. At least for me. So I needed time to unravel and examine the intricate mess in my mind.

Before having Mina, all I had was my imaginary world, those hopes and dreams I’d carried for years. Simply an abstraction. After having Mina, everything is real, everything is consequential. Completely concrete. So there’s this other part of me that is all too aware of the difficulties, challenges, responsibilities, and risks that come with having another child. Some days, I feel adamant that Mina should have a sibling. Other days, I feel content with Mina being our only child. Then other days, I just feel really sad.

Then, I had an aha moment. It dawned on me that I need to stop forcing my desires from an imaginary context onto this current reality. My desire to have 2 or more children existed only in my mind, without any context, but I was free to dream in my mind. It’s different now. This is not a dream, we exist; and in this existence, there are certain truths I need to face and embrace.

Truth #1, our financial reality. I want to be able to offer Mina all that she needs (and some that she wants). I don’t think we’d be able to do that for Mina and another child. My heart aches just to imagine having to say no to something she wants to do like taking ballet or piano lessons. If we can’t live comfortably as a bigger family, if we have to struggle month to month, counting the pennies, then I don’t know…I don’t know if I could be truly happy.

Truth #2, my husband’s age. He’s in his early 50’s and with that comes higher risks for complications with his health and the health of our next baby. He’s also had 2 kids from his previous marriage (they’re both in college now) so Mina’s not the only child for him. Deep down, maybe he doesn’t want another child. Maybe it’s unfair for me to force this desire onto him. I also have to face the possibility of raising Mina and another child all on my own. This thought scares me.

Truth #3, my age. After 35, risks for genetic mutations increase exponentially (for both men and women). If I’m going to have another baby, I have to be ready to face this reality. It may be a very small percentage, but that possibility still exists and to disregard or ignore this elephant in the room would be irresponsible and unthoughtful. If it happens and I’m not ready or able to accept it, then who do I have to blame but myself?

Truth #4, my doubts about being as good a mother when raising not one but two kids. Honestly, I’m not confident I can be as patient and compassionate with 2 little ones (I already feel my patience being tested with Mina alone).

“Oh, everything will be just fine!” “Everything will work out, don’t worry!” So easy for people to say and I know they mean well but when everything is not fine or everything doesn’t work out, then what? We’re the ones living our own reality; nobody else. To think that everything will be ok and magically work out, I think is naive and irresponsible. I know this is a very personal decision, a decision I need to make together with my husband, and nobody else can make it for me. I just wanted to share.

In the end, I recognized that being stubbornly attached to my desires was not only immature but also probably unhealthy; unwilling to let go of the fictional future I longed for, created, and invested in over many years, I was simply fleeing from reality. This moment is all that truly exists, is all that I have. I needed to take a hard look at this context, my reality, and reassess what I really want for Mina, for me, and above all for us as a family, because our happiness depends on it. I know we can’t have it all. Everything is a give and take. If I want another child, I have to be willing to take risks, face challenges, and make sacrifices as well as compromises. How badly do I want a second child? Is it solely for Mina to have a sibling in her life when we’re gone? Then, aren’t her half-siblings not enough? What am I willing to give up for a second child?

I never thought I’d be in this position to decide between onlies or siblings. Before Mina, having an only child was out of the question for me, but as Pema Chödrön says, “This very moment is the perfect teacher,” so I need to listen, pay attention, take notes, and learn. I don’t have an answer yet; all I know is that I never want to regret this decision we’re going to make, so we’ll take our time, turn over every stone, ask questions, wander and wonder, until we can say we know what we want.