When we’re ashamed, we can’t tell our stories, and stories are the foundation of identity. Forge meaning, build identity, forge meaning and build identity. That became my mantra. Forging meaning is about changing yourself. Building identity is about changing the world. All of us with stigmatized identities face this question daily: how much to accommodate society by constraining ourselves, and how much to break the limits of what constitutes a valid life? Forging meaning and building identity does not make what was wrong right. It only makes what was wrong precious.
What do we do with the worst things that has happened to us?
Live with shame? Lose ourselves in what could have been? Live with a lifetime of regret, anger, hurt, shame, betrayal, inability to trust?
Or could you take all that and build for yourself something more – something that is bigger then what could have been, had ‘it’, the hurt and pain, not happened. What do we appreciate more? The things we easily achieve, or the stuff for which we have had to struggle for long and hard?
Rebuilding a life anew from the ashes of one in which I had sacrificed and lost everything that I thought gave meaning to my life, I am no stranger to struggle or building new identities. Some days I still wake up and have to remind myself that ‘today is all there is and tomorrow is promised to no one’. Each day comes with 24 hours and each hour comes with 60 minutes. It’s a deposit in your bank that you cannot save for tomorrow, neither can you borrow from what’s to come – so all you really have are these moments in which you are still alive. What we do with that is really who we are choosing to become.
Our words shape our narratives. The one we play on a loop inside our head. The one we verbalize or project to others. Instead of worrying about what could be or what was, the question that plays the most in my head is “am I doing the best I could do in this very moment?” Am I being who I want to be? consciously and unconsciously do my words and actions align with my core being?
We humans have searched for meaning through out time with the most basic question of all “why do I exist?” and in this beautiful talk Andrew presents some brilliant insights into how we come to be who we are – by persevering through all of life’s ups and downs.
Writer Andrew Solomon has spent his career telling stories of the hardships of others. Now he turns inward, bringing us into a childhood of adversity, while also spinning tales of the courageous people he’s met in the years since. In a moving, heartfelt and at times downright funny talk, Solomon gives a powerful call to action to forge meaning from our biggest struggles.
Babe was my 14 year old germanshepherd who passed away on the 5th of June 2014. I wrote about some of her qualities and the things I learnt from her which has stood me in good steed last year here: https://corporateskirts.wordpress.com/2013/06/15/life-lessons-my-dog-taught-me/
Her passing away has not been a great shock, she had significantly slowed down and slept a lot more. She was too tired to play and could barely muster enough energy to stand around anymore. In this heat and humidity I didnot think that to be odd. She had grayed around the muzzle and the chin, her eyes had the glazy look of blindness setting in. What she has spared me though is the agony of having to make the choice to put her down to sleep. She passed away peacefully, mid morning, with full dignity. She had never troubled anyone in life and in death she was equally considerate.
I don’t know what I felt more when I heard the news. Loss. Grief. Lost.
I have been thinking of writing this post for 2 days now. I finally forced myself to sit down with it. But I have no words for how much she meant to me or what her loss really amounts to. All I can think of is the last time I met her, the last time I hugged her, what she looked like when I brought her home at seven week’s of age 14 years ago, her funny walk, her soft fur, she had the wettest licks, the warmest hugs with the patience of a Saint to boot. That is how I will always remember the one who taught me how to be a better mother, a better person, a loyal person.
There’s quite a few lessons that my dog taught me – my 13-year-old germanshepherd named Babe. She was originally named Lady-D because she’s such a proper lady but over the years she’s turned more into a ‘Babe’, the ultra loving, sexy, confident superwoman who can do anything and everything.
Lessons I learned in being a better mother:
1. Always be patient and loving AND it’s always possible to be patient and loving under ANY circumstances: even when your ear has been accidentally snipped with scissors in the hand of a 3-year-old. The human mother would have snapped and perhaps even swatted it off but the fur mother was more concerned about the fear that the 3-year-old experienced at the sight of blood.
2. Make clear in no uncertain terms that certain things are non-negotiable: If something is not good, it is non-negotiable. I was lenient, while my GSD was far more strict on the things that my son simply could not get into.
3. Motherhood = 24/7 watch-dog session: I fell asleep, I slipped in my duties. Babe was always there, always watching, always ready to drop everything to attend to her baby first.
4. Mom’s RULE: establish the Alpha status, rule with a kind but firm hand, always look out for those you are in charge of, end of the day – mom knows best.
5. Compassion and empathy will get you further than anything else.
6. Loyalty starts at home with your most loved ones. When you place them above everything else, everything else falls into its rightful place.
7. Do not trust anyone with the child (barring the skin mother & grandmother). Doesn’t matter how well you think you know someone, if they are with your kid, you better have eyes in the back of your head watching.
8. Take short naps throughout the day. It helps you to keep up with a toddler. Restores your energy and certainly helps in keeping your patience during tantrums.
9. The little things in life are really the most important things in life. Every action of love and expression of love is important, a hug, a scratch behind the ears, lots of licks and Babe allowed him to use her like a sofa, a bed, a cushion, a teddy bear, anything he needed, she was that to him.
10. If someone hurts you and apologizes, accept the apology, forgive them. Even your most loved ones will hurt you at some point in time, accept that they have made a mistake, forgive completely and move past that episode.
Lessons I learnt that helped with my career:
1. Be friendly. A little friendliness never hurts, it shows people that you are approachable and you are far more likely to have an easier time finding allies in the corporate world.
2. Be loyal. Loyalty is not over-rated, even in the corporate world where lay-offs can happen anytime. There may not be monetary perks to loyalty but this is a highly sought after quality. What am I talking about? Don’t bad mouth your company, your clients, your company’s product.
3. Don’t bite if a growl will do the job. Translated into human context – don’t over-react. However, if you are not pleased, do not fear showing your displeasure.
4. Do show when you are pleased. Accept praise, lavish praise.
5. It’s more fun to play in teams. Share the ball – share the reward of a job well done and give due credit to your team members.
6. But ALWAYS keep your eye on the ball. If you have a career goal/ambition, don’t let anything distract you from it.
7. Accept the things you cannot change but do not let that take away your ability to dance in the rain.
8. When things are not going your way, take a break, then come right back to it. Keep at it until what you want is accomplished.
9. Don’t hold grudges. If someone yells at you, maybe they are just having a bad day. Give them some space and then go back to be friends again.
10. Know your people. Do not be fooled by what’s on the outside. It’s the little things, the smallest gestures that show you what a human being is like.
Well that’s it from the top of my head right now.
Babe is currently recovering from a tumor removal surgery. I brought her home and she’s stationed next to my bed so I can keep an eye on her 24/7. It’s been little over 24 hours and while the post-op bleeding has stopped, she is still not interested in eating much. For dog lovers out there, please send her some positive thoughts. My baby girl needs it and we (me & my son) REALLY need her to make a full recovery.