amber rahim

Chronic illness: the parts we don't talk about


Leave a comment

39 words for 39 years

Once a year I make a deliberate effort to create something that is more poetry than prose. Why? To challenge myself to do something different. And because I can.

My aim? To mark my birthday by saying something about myself in exactly the number of words that represent my age. Unlike last years creation, the title is not included in the word count this year.

 39 words for 39 years

Post baby body, the changes, the scars,

finally accepted.

Self consciousness dissolving along with my youth,

liberated.

Committed to my family yet choosing for myself,

guilt free.

Clarity of the soul blossoms though I become fuzzy around the edges

 

I think this picture sums up my approach to life right now.

for-web-Big-Things-First


Leave a comment

Sometimes we want to be afraid

Last sunday we went to a creativity workshop and open day with the girls and they loved the freedom to get really creative with their painting … and not have me worrying about getting paint on the floor. (Remember Monica in Friends? yeah, sometimes I’m like that “I want to control the fun”, keep it tidy. Shaking my head in shame).

On her way back from washing her hands F ran into a wall (in a straight, empty, corridor. I mean, how is that even possible?).

Turns out she thought she had reached the studio, turned left, her shoe flew off and she kicked the concrete wall. Hard. With her big toe. (is it wrong that I had a moment of relief at this point? the fact that she meant to turn means a lot to me)

It’s not broken. We got it checked out in the way that parents of chronically sick kids do: 4 days later. Don’t judge. The last thing we want is another trip to hospital. We do enough of that already. And it’s the last thing our kids want too. But that’s another story.

She rested up for the whole afternoon. Noone could touch it or sit on the same sofa as her, just in case they touched her (not just her toe, we couldn’t come within 1m of her).

Bedtime: the obstacle of skinny jeans

“I’ll help you with your jeans. We’ll be careful when we take them off” I said, thinking that this was a good thing. Oh, how can I still keep on forgetting who I’m talking to?

She processed this and realised straight away that this might hurt. She started crying. Really hard. This lead to one of the most beautiful moments I’ve had with her; the two of us sitting in the bathroom, she on the toilet, me on a stool.

“It’s time to take off your trousers. While you’re sitting, I’ll pull them off” I said.

“No!” she cried. And cried. “I’m scared!”

I tried to calm her down:

“I haven’t done anything yet. Please calm down. You can cry if it hurts but please don’t cry because you think it’s going to hurt.

You don’t have to be afraid. Do you know that you can choose to be afraid or not?”

She said “Yes”. (So she does listen to what I say to her).

“Do you want to be afraid?” I asked. And this is when I saw her at her most beautiful: honest, open and accepting of herself

“Yes, I want to be afraid” she replied.

So I let her. I put my arms around her and let her be afraid.

She cried some more. Then she started talking, laughing.

She let me take the jeans off her uninjured foot. Then she let me take them off her other foot. There was a lot of pausing and checking in. She was still scared, but much less so.

It hurt a little.

I carried her to bed. She slept on her back the whole night, not turning like she normally does. She told me how she was able to do it: “I kept telling myself, don’t turn, don’t turn. And I didn’t”.

This experience taught me a couple of things:

  1. Just how amazing she is. I know it, but now I see her even more deeply.
  2. We don’t need to make our children happy all the time.

Sometimes we get so caught up in trying to make our kids happy that we forget that they want to feel other emotions too. She wanted to feel scared. When we honour their feelings and their choices, we honour them. We tell them that they matter.

cropped-10202851.jpg

 

 

 


Leave a comment

Worthiness

This is the thought that I am working on this week. If you are anything like me, you totally believe it of others but somehow when it comes to you… it’s no longer a conviction but something you would like to believe.

So believe with me. I am worthy.

Worthiness

 

 

 

 


Leave a comment

Dear children, your happiness is not my goal

I sometimes struggle with being a parent, it seems so hard and kids just seem so determined to do their own thing. I sometimes wonder “what is it that I am supposed to be doing here? How can I know if what I am doing is right?”

So I did what I often do when faced with life’s big questions, I perused Facebook. Specifically, my saved items in FB that I have saved because they look really interesting and worth my time (but will actually take some time to look at so I  decide to do it later and continue with the chitchat instead).

I watched this Ted talk by Jennifer Senior on happiness for children. It’s 18 mins long and if you cherish your sanity as a parent, I highly recommend that you watch it. It is the inspiration for my post today for 2 reasons

  1. she has put into words thoughts that I have been struggling to define (and has research to back it up)
  2. I want the best for my children

So here is my attempt to explain why my isn’t my goal to make my children happy.

It helps my sanity, and certainly my anxiety, that I am naturally quite lazy. Hmm, hang on, thats not quite right; I work very hard when I believe in something. But when faced with something I don’t believe in, my response is “what’s the point?”

When it comes to parenting, these are some things I don’t believe in:

  • I don’t believe in parenting as a verb

Until the 1970’s, parent was only a noun (thanks for the info Jennifer): something we could be, not what we could do. This small grammatical change seems to coincide with an increase in the amount of work we apparently need to do as parents. So many objectives, so many goals, things we “absolutely must do” and things that we “must never do”. And that can be the same thing, the answer just depends on who you ask! Why should there be so much work? What is the point of all that running around, of the stress?

  • I don’t believe our goal, our objective, should be that our children are happy

I truly want my children to be happy but I also believe that we are responsible for our own happiness. So how can my children’s happiness be my goal? How can I make sure my children are happy? Take away their autonomy? Take away their independence? Replace it with instructions of do this, do that?

How would I even know what to do for my children when I get lost and sometimes can’t figure out how to make myself happy?

So what are my goals?

When Jennifer says “what if we aim for productive kids, moral kids, and hope happiness will come from the good they do and the love they feel from us?” my heart sings and my soul says “Yes!”

What if my goal as a parent was to teach my children decency, work ethic, love?

Well, to start with, I know what to do to teach these. I can demonstrate decency, a good work ethic and love. I can explain what it is (to me at least) and encourage them to develop their own values.

I can praise them when they practice it with a “you worked really hard on that”. How would I praise happiness? With a “well done, you are happy”? I think they would just look at me like I was a loon.

Decency. Work ethic. Love. I can work with this.

As I write this I realise this is exactly what my parents did for me. They taught me decency: how to treat others; how to behave in society so that my contribution is positive; how to stop myself being rude to the obnoxious colleague and still stand my ground.

They taught me to work hard, work thoughtfully and to be proud of myself.

They taught me how to love unconditionally by loving me and each other that way.

And you know what? I’m pretty happy. I’m fairly confident. So maybe it works after all.

Decency. Work ethic. Love

 

p.s. I am not saying that I have the answer for everyone. This just feels right for me.

This is just my response to that overwhelming feeling from society at large that I should be making sure my kids are happy and I just don’t buy it. Check out what Jennifer has to say. Think about it. That’s all.


3 Comments

It’s all about you

I have to confess, I have been freaking out about my final exam (to become a certified professional coach). I had a fantastic idea to prepare by coaching my own coach. Wow, I was so intimidated that I almost became petrified. This is what was going on in my head: “How dare you think that you can coach this wonderful, amazing woman who has been a fundamental support in everything you have done in the last year?”

I wanted the experience to be amazing for her, I wanted to give her what she has given me. Piling on all these expectations I created such stress for myself that it was almost impossible to speak. While all this was going on in my head, she was fine. She was a great client; open, daring, ready.

It was the best thing I could have done. I learnt what happens when you let your saboteur rule your life; it paralyses you and make you miss what is right in front of you.

She told me:

“It’s not about you or your exam. It’s about the client. Coaching is always about the client”.

You see our examiners are real people with real topics. They sign up for coaching, not just to assess our abilities.

These words helped me to shift my focus from a desire to prove what I know, the skills that I have learnt, into a relaxed state of curiosity about them.

Who is this person and what do they really want?

What do they believe? Is that belief holding them back?

What do they feel? What are they not allowing themselves to feel?

I enjoyed my exam. I met two amazing people and I got curious about them. From that curiosity I slipped into the coaching, like I was gliding through the air, floating. I used the skills I had been taught and some shifts occurred, some kind of transformation.

Now it was only 15 mins of coaching for each client and I will never get to follow up with them. I will never know what happened next. But my intuition tells me something significant happened for them. Now it is up to them to do something with it.

I have to wait a couple of weeks to find out if I passed my exam and I am ok with that. I am still be on this happy cloud of completion; I got here and I did it. The overwhelming feeling I have is satisfaction.

Satisfaction for good coaching.

Satisfaction that I did it. I studied, practised and I did the exam.

Satisfaction that I put aside my saboteur, that voice of doubt and criticism and didn’t try too hard. I trusted myself and my training and danced in the moment.

In this contented state I have been wondering how this event in my life is connected to the bigger picture and to all of you out there who struggle daily with chronic illness, parenting, life. All of you who, at the end of every day, can say “I did it, I lived today.” Deep in my heart is the realisation that this is what we all do: we have ambitions and challenges and we work towards a goal. Sometimes that goal is like the one above, to be competent at my job and really know what I am doing. Sometimes that goal is to get through the day without shouting at my kids. Sometimes the goal can just be to get dressed (my crazy loon friend, you know I’m talking about you again don’t you?). These challenges, pressures, make us stronger, make us who we are.

I found this on Facebook (thanks Ute from expatsincebirth) and it describes how I feel about you guys.

DiamondDedicated to Yasmine, you have always been precious.  The heat is on and we can see you transforming before our eyes.

 


1 Comment

On the Brink

Some people say that life is like a roller coaster. Mine is, or rather, what happens inside of me is like a roller coaster. One week content and satisfied and the next, not. As I journey through my life, trying to bring up confident children, trying to create a new career for myself as a coach or just manage to get through the day, I slip and slide between the two.

This week as been a “not” week so here I am On the Brink.

 

Standing on the edge of a very tall cliff.

Strapped to a glider.

Not knowing what I am doing, no one has taught me how.

Yet I am supposed to jump, leap, leave the safety of earth beneath my feet.

And my job is to NOT smash to the ground and crumble.

Stay in the air and get to my destination.

Navigate. Set a course. Live up to expectations.

I am scared to jump yet I have vertigo and standing on this edge is physically painful.

Nausea. Dizziness. Spinning.

It is unbearable to stay here and I must move.

The destination is too far away, I can barely see it.

What can I see? Right in front of me.

Focus on my feet.

Put my fancy shoes on.

Take the first step.

That is enough for today.

Tomorrow will bring another cliff.

 

fancy shoes

 


2 Comments

The Healthy One

It’s a common occurrence that us parents take more photos of our first born than of all our other children combined.

It’s a combination of novelty, the undivided attention they can get and time (you don’t realise what little time you have in a day until you’ve got more than one kid).

I am no different than anyone else in this respect. My little S is growing up so fast and yet so little of her is captured in photographs or films.

We were going to the park the other day and she was running, her arms by her side and her hands flapping back and forth to help propel her forward. Enjoying her enjoyment I thought this would be great to have on film (then you could see just how cute her running style is) but I realised I didn’t have my phone. Yet another moment that will only be stored in my personal (and dodgy) memory bank, that only I can enjoy.

It reminded me of a clip I have of F as we walked to that same park. She pushed her toy buggy with a “sick” baby doll inside. She was the carer, taking this baby out for some fresh air.

I did have my phone with me that day and I have a great short film of it. In fact I have lots of short films of all the cute stuff she did.

Contemplating the difference in me regarding F and S, I have to acknowledge that in the early years with F it wasn’t just the novelty or time, in fact her care took more time than looking after 3 healthy kids. There was also a sense of urgency in me. An imperative to catch her on film because maybe soon that is all I would have left.

Phew, that was hard to say.

It was almost too painful to look upon her directly, without the filter of a camera in between.

I have always been dimly aware that I felt this way. It’s one of the reasons I crashed so hard when she finally started to be well for more than a few days at a time at the age of 3.

So little S I am truly sorry that I do not have more photos and films of you. Please know that I am not taking you for granted because you are healthy and expecting you to always be there. Because the future is not guaranteed and the angels could take you away just as easily.

You see, I am paying more attention to you. I am trying to focus on being with you now, joining in with you, no barriers. I have learnt something from you both about being a mum. When you look at me I want you do see me, not the camera.

I see you and you are great of spirit.

A clever clown who is sweet and kind.

A tough little lady who cries when she falls off the sofa and lands on her head (seriously, how can we stop this happening without tying you down?) Who then, with determination, goes back on that edge, carefully choosing a safe spot this time.

You are vocal about your displeasure (especially at the sofa for not being as wide as you imagined) and you shine brightly and shimmer with joy when you pat your tummy and say Yummy!

I have finally put photos of you up on the wall. It’s something that you have not noticed but has been a weight on my shoulders.

I do see you.

photo copy