amber rahim

Chronic illness: the parts we don't talk about


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The blessings of tragedy

Last night I had an opportunity to get to know some fabulous women a little better.

As we each took turns sharing something about ourselves it struck me that there was something we had in common: a pivotal moment of hardship. Something happened that made us re-evaluate our lives.

The result? We became women who choose what we want in our lives.

Consciously choosing to spend our time on things that give us energy.

And possibly more importantly, choosing what we don’t want.

Someone expressed what I secretly hope to achieve with my new business: “I only work with people that I want to work with”. How amazing is that? Thank you for your inspiration, this is what I want to be able to say.

As for the rest of my life, I have been working towards this too.  My life is not filled with lots of people, but the ones who are in it are important to me, that love me and I love them.

The precious time that I have, I want to use for them (and it is precious. About 25% of my waking hours are spent on being a carer).

So the blessing of my tragedy of chronic illness is that I know that time is precious. I don’t waste it. (much)

Now, look back to my 20s I wonder what I was doing with my time and I realise that a I was doing a lot of “filling it”. How tragic.

So now, like the ladies I met last night, I am consciously choosing, fitting the important things in first. And trying not to fill all the gaps in the jar with sand – but trying to leave empty spaces where the air can get in and I can breathe.

for-web-Big-Things-First

thanks Christi for the image

 

p.s while I was looking for images I came across this. Just love it.

buy the damn shoes

 


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The Art of Lego

The thing about chronic illness is that it never stops. At times it can feel like those drops of water that carve through rock. Sometimes it creates a stillness in me and words disappear. Silence. Kind of what I have wanted from my kids today (who doesn’t?).

I am also in the mood for some art this week so that’s what this post is about.  Cool art. I saw that there is an Expo starting in Amsterdam tomorrow, The Art of the Brick which is an exhibition of over 70 sculptures made from Lego.

While this is nothing compared to the amazing works of art my kids and I create together (with F usually designing and me usually being the “finder” of all those cool weird shaped but tiny pieces), there are some in the exhibition that are passable.

(And I bet the artist Nathan Sawaya didn’t need finder to dig through all the different colours and sizes for just the right piece. I bet he had them all delivered and sorted exactly how he wanted them. Yes, there is definitely an envious tone to this bit of my post. Lego hurts. When you are digging through that box and especially when stepped on).

Having googled and seen images I now have a dilemma.

A. Go the the expo with my kids and

  1. hope S doesn’t break off a piece so she can play
  2. give F grand ideas about what we can make when we get home

 

B. Stay at home and miss out.

What to do?

In the meantime, here are some that represent the kinds of creations I imagine my efforts produce (and may explain why I actually get upset when the kids break them apart after 3 days. Master pieces ruined!)

We actually had a real one of these in my parents’ shop:

lego till

This is what I think F will want to make:

lego figures

Some art that I just love. How did they do this with those little bricks?

Lego Scream

lego waves

lego girl with earring

 

 

 

 

 

 


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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

 

 


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The upside of bringing up independent kids

In March I wrote a post about the downside of bringing up independent kids and it was prompted by the fear of letting go and what ifs.

Last week’s post was about my “little leader of her own life”, F, who took charge and went off on a school trip for 2 nights. She’s 6 and a half and she packed her own bags and off she went to Elsloo. There wasn’t any of the faffing about that I sometimes do when I am nervous (do I have everything? what else should I take just in case…?) just methodical and fast.

So this is why independence is so important:

Hard truth: we will not always be there for them so they will have to get on with it at some point in their lives. Surely it is better to prepare them, bit by bit, rather than throw them in at the deep end when they are 18?

More positively: she had an amazing time! She loved it, was happy and felt confident. This is what I want for all my children.

In my work as a coach I see people who are courageously stepping up to live their lives they way they want to.  In this journey, a metaphor I hold in my mind is that in these moments of choice, we are standing on a cliff edge, looking out to where we want to be on the other side of the canyon.  It’s risky, stepping off that cliff and a great quote I heard once is this:

You can't cross a canyon in two leaps

(Photo from francis-moran.com)

Little F was resolute, calm and practical. She prepared and leapt, without hesitation, knowing that she was going to get to the other side. She now wants to move the Elsloo.

 

Update on last week:

We received this card from F last Thursday and I love it because it is full of her character:

F card from Elsloo 1

  • Fairness – everyone is included and named on the card
  • Love of patterns and order – alternating the colours of the letters
  • Love of variety – not all names follow the same pattern
  • Use what you have (my favourite) – the foam letters for her name: they didn’t have all the letters she needed so she made them herself using whatever foam letters were available
  • Accuracy!: below you can see she corrected the card when she got home:

photo

She didn’t miss us so with an exclamation “Oh no, that’s not right!” she crossed out the words “Ik mis je” (I miss you). I burst out laughing.  Sometimes this need for such precision drives me nuts but this time, it was wonderful.

She had a fantastic time and that makes me incredibly happy. She will be ok.


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Writer’s block or silenced in awe?

I’ve been struggling with writers block. I have a lot of thoughts going around in my head yet when I come to write… nothing.

So although I never intend to share photos on this blog, these photos are just saying more than I can. I think they are vague enough that you cannot actually see her face as she is now, and that is important to me.

Despite her sometimes paralysing fear of new situations, F has gone off on a 3 day trip with school.  There will not be any phone calls home and she is ok with that.

She came home from school yesterday and packed her own bag.  Using the “things to bring” list from school, she adapted it for her needs (2 pjs are just not enough so she took 4).

She mumbled that they will probably try and wash her hair and that will be a problem (that’s for a post still be written)

This morning she told us that she was going to miss us and we hugged.  She even gave me a kiss (she hates kisses).

Then she wheeled her suitcase out to the bus and off she went.

I’m in awe. So proud and just can’t get my head around this to even think about all the things I want to say. She’s 6 and a half.

png-4


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Who’s choosing anyway? Taking control of my life.

I actually wrote this last year but it feels relevant again. After this hectic last 6 months and completing my exam (for those who want to know, I passed!) I really feel like pootling for a bit.

%22You're on your own. And you know what

In the Netherlands there is a motorway that is 5 lanes wide, called the A2.    It was widened to release congestion and the speed is limited to max 100kph.

At non-peak travel times it is funny to see 3 lanes with traffic and hardly anyone is tempted to speed along in the 4th and 5th lanes.  I’m sure the traffic cameras and the speeding fines have something to do with it but I also think it is a part of human nature to follow rules and guidelines.

There is common sense in them.  Slowing down reduces congestion at hot spots.  It’s safer, you’ll get there around the same time anyway, etc.  I kept to the speed limit, I thought I was being a good citizen.

But actually, those aren’t the reasons I kept to the limit.  I kept to the limit because I liked it, it was comfortable and quite frankly, after the series of mega unfortunate incidents in my life in the last few years, I have a very great appreciation that it can happen to you.

I’ve seen death approaching and I don’t want to meet him again any time soon.

Hospitals aren’t much fun either and I have had plenty of opportunities to sample their delights on a regular basis so I don’t need a car accident to bring me there too.

So I mosey down the A2 highway and it feels good.  I’m glad they set that limit because actually I don’t want to go faster than that anyway and the government gave me permission to drive slowly.

On roads where the limit is 120kph I still only want to drive max 100 but somehow I feel pressure to go faster.

One day I was struck by how funny that is.  I am opinionated, decisive and really don’t like being told what to do.  Yet I feel like I should go faster than I want to, just because of a road sign.  That’s when I realised that the reason I like the A2 so much is that I am relying on someone else to give me permission to be how I want to be.  How ridiculous is that?

I could just give myself permission.  I do give myself permission.  Permission to cruise when I want to, to race when I want to, to stand still when I want to.

So the next time you see a slow poke cruising down the road, it might be me.  I’m not trying to get in your way or make you late.  I’m feeling good.

I’m choosing.