Friday, December 12, 2014

Faith Friday: Gummy Bear Hands and Being Just Enough

It was epic. It took every ounce of positive self talk and faith I had, but I did it.

Remember how in the beginning of this year I mentioned I wanted to live Bold. Brilliant. Beautiful? I wanted to take moments where I didn't live small?

Well last night, I sang a solo (that means ALL BY MYSELF) at a women's gathering in my neighborhood. There were probably 80 women there. Granted, if you are going to sing anywhere, it should be at a church at Christmas because people are usually very kind and forgiving even if your performance was not in tune, or you forgot the words or whatever. It's a good group to start with!

Over the month I had to prepare, I swore a lot. I had dry heaves. I had nightmares. I am not sure what was so scary to me but I realized I had to face down my biggest critic - me.

See I have this thing about being seen, really seen. And with singing, it's just you, your voice and the audience. There is no faking that connection or lack thereof. There is no hiding. It is raw and vulnerable.

Don't get me wrong, I love to sing. I sing a the shower, in the chorus, to the radio in my car.  Music is powerful to me and so expressive of many emotions both happy and sad. I sing a lot. Just not by front of people...

When I was in Jr. High, I had an amazing choir instructor - Mr. Hagerman. He loved music and he loved us. When I was ready to transition to high school, Mr. Hagerman also transitioned to teaching high school choir. I got 5 solid years with this amazing man. He taught me so many things about harmony, connection, timing and rhythm.

He was a big believer in me and tried everything to get me to showcase my talents - aka be musical somewhere other than in the shower or in my car. He gave me a solo part - Eliza in My Fair Lady - I came down with laryngitis for a week.

He talked me into playing the piano for the choir - Little Mermaid - I could not remember how to keep time. Seriously, my mind and consequently my hands turn into gummy bears - soft and good for nothing. How many times he started over while I sat at the piano paralyzed - I will never know.

While I loved that he gave me these, and other, chances to shine, I will say they were also embarrassing and formative for me.  I had not only let myself down, I had done it, repeatedly, in front of 100 of my peers. He had thought I could do great things...but the truth of it, no matter how I tried, was that I couldn't do what he asked or expected. I couldn't be what they thought I was.

I would go on to "fail" many more times in music over the years. They were all horrific and supremely personal. I am sure I don't need to go into detail for you to realize these experiences changed how effectively I felt I could express myself through music. I would often sing a cappella and love that - I just would not, could not, ever solo sing to music or someone's else's timing or expectation.

In practicing for this song, I got to listen to the other ladies participating. I got to hear their feedback which was beneficial. But the greatest teacher came, when hours after everyone had left rehearsals, one lady and I were still in conversation. We were talking randomly about physical healing (she's in the nursing field) and she said, "Some people aren't ready to let go of whatever is causing them pain. They aren't ready to let go so they can heal."

I know she didn't say it directly to me, but she might as well have. I went home that night and thought a lot about what I was ready to let go of, what I was ready to give away.

I was ready to give away not being what other people wanted or needed.

I was ready to give away others expectations of what I should sound like or be like.

I was ready to be messy and imperfect and only just good enough.

And so I let go and sang. 

I won't win any awards. There might have been moments that could have been better. There might have been people who thought I could have done more. But it was a solid 6 out of 10... just good enough and I am super proud of myself for that.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Girls' Education, Cows and The Nobel Peace Prize: Participate in Your Life

A few posts back I talked about our giving to Heifer International. During our conversation about giving, we talked about the many ways we could give. We could buy animals. We could help dig wells. We could sponsor a child to school. Miss S, my 5 year old girl, listened intently as we explained that in some places girls didn't get to go to school to learn their abc's or learn to read. 

"They don't get to go to school mom?" 

"No baby girl, not everyone gets to go to school." 

We finished our conversation about giving and just before we closed, Miss S, with baby doll on her lap, said, "Mom, we need to send those girls to school. School is important."

Today as I have read about Malala getting the Nobel Peace Prize, I have thought about my daughter's comment, her desire to help, about my own belief that education can change the world. I am so inspired by Malala and her determination for something so good and life-changing.

Several excerpts from her talk stood out to me.  She says, "This award is not just for me. It is for those forgotten children who want education. It is for those frightened children who want peace. It is for those voiceless children who want change. I am here to stand up for their rights, to raise their voice. It is not time to pity them."

Not only was she accepting this award for herself but for all those who still wanted the opportunity. They say that when one of us rises, we all rise together. For me, this attitude of inclusiveness, or the village attitude as I call it, is one of the attributes of a visionary. 

Another excerpt from her talk really hit me as truly participating in her own life. She decided what she wanted, an education and the ability to choose to do something beyond the four walls of her home, and then she was not dissuaded from it. She made a deliberate choice to speak up about education for girls - a topic that generated unwanted attention and an eventual assassination attempt by the Taliban. She has since recovered and says, "I had two options — one was to remain silent and wait to be killed and the second was to speak up and then be killed. I chose the second one. I decided to speak up."

Such courage and determination, I believe, create a synergy that is not easily dismissed. Today I am amazed and profoundly respectful of this women and her courage. 

To read more about her speech today, check here and here. To learn more about the Malala Fund,  to help educate girls in her region of the world, this might be helpful. And last, a good background articles on her is here.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Health in the Navel

About a year ago, my naturally get up and go attitude, started rebelling, and stopped getting up. Blah!! It's as if my body checked my ambition at the door and I wasn't sure how to proceed.

Looking back, it had been quite an interesting few years. We moved into a new home, stressful transitions from old neighborhood to new neighborhood, a miscarriage, spearheading my parents 50th weddings anniversary, juggling mine and Jed's jobs and looking after our two children.

I would often sleep 8 hours a night and wake up as if I hadn't slept at all. Regularly I would sleep 12 hours and still feel exhausted when I woke up.

In the mornings, it would take me about an hour to open my eyes, gain consciousness and get out of bed. It's as if my body was not responding to my brain saying, "It's time to get up people!" I felt like a lizard that needed to be in the sun long enough before it's body would start moving.

I would eat food regularly but immediately afterwards would still be so hungry. It got confusing about if I was really hungry or just feeling hungry.

I no longer had the stamina for all day adventures with my kids. For 8 years now, my kids and I have jumped in the car and on a whim traveled anywhere and everywhere together. Time and energy was of no consequence. Lately, the very thought of such adventures was physically daunting.

My mental clarity was clouded.

And after months of the above feelings, I cycled into not being able to fall asleep, no matter how tired  I was.

Consequently, I was burring the candle at both ends, staying up late to get things done but then trying to wake up early with my kids.

A year ago, when this all started to begin, I went to my doctor who took some blood tests. I was within normal range on all of them. Normal range on all of them. The doctor gave me a clean bill of health.

However, my symptoms did not get better; they got worse. I was referred to three endocrinologists who, after looking over my case, refused to treat me for one reason or another. I didn't know where else to go at this point. It was infinitely frustrating and confusing. Where do you go when the doctors tell you no or that you are fine when you definitely don't feel fine?

Finally, after much searching and asking around, I found a functional doctor who was willing to give me saliva tests for a range of questions I was having and also take into account my physical manifestations of what my body was  saying.

After months of testing, the verdict was twofold: First, I push on the gas, but my body does not respond. It has been in high stress mode for too long, and it simply doesn't have anymore get up and go.  I push, it turns around and laughs at me. Second, I am missing the production of a certain, specific enzyme. So when nutrients come into the stomach/intestine, my body, instead of saying, "Hey, everybody, good food here, let's get it into the cells" my body says, "Alert, intruder. Isolate! Wrap it in fat and deep 6 it - don't let it near the cells." Mistaken identity at it's worse.

While the information was not exciting to hear, it did resonate with how my body had been reacting recently. So after hours of chatting with the Dr., while he brought up some serious concerns, I felt relieved. I wasn't going crazy or had suddenly become lazy, there were actually biological reasons why I felt like I did.

Over the next few posts, I will share with you a few of the things that have helped me reclaim some of my ambition and help my body function more properly.

I chose to share this part of my journey because as I have shared it with those close to me, so many have had similar troubles. So let's work through it together for a bit shall we? Until next time...

Friday, November 21, 2014

Faith Friday - My Name Used to Be Muhammad

This week in my neighborhood book club we read  My Name Used To Be Muhammad. My friend dropped off her copy one night around 8pm and by midnight I had devoured the 288 pages. I was fascinated by this man's perspective on life as a youth in a remote Nigerian village, his schooling, his Muslim view on family and women and ultimately the journey that led him to question his upbringing and the more violent and stringent tenants of his faith. 

One favorite part from the book was when Tito was in college, studying Islam, and almost against his will goes out with some fellows Muslims to a party. Muslims, according to Tito, do not drink, smoke, dress immodestly or associate with anything that is "western" in thought or practice - music, plays, dancing, dress, etc. But Tito goes to this party and hears a Michael Jackson song for the first time...and he can't get it out of his head. He was amazed in this small apartment that all these people from different races and cultures were western music. They were having a good time together. After the party, he eventually buys some Michael Jackson music and little by little starts working through some of his own prejudices and ideas. 

I love that section of the book! First, because I love that one song from one man could end up making a monumental difference in someone's life. Second, I love that it opened up Tito to explore more and more of Western ideas. As he puts it in the book, western people he met at college and in clubs were not the kind of monsters he had grown up being taught they were. 

In sociology, there is a term called the face of the other. Basically all people are different from one another. We separate each other into groups, categories and subcategories so we can judge, manage expectations and categorize our lives. However, sometimes, we can see "the face of the other" in people - their spark of beauty, creativity, of unlimited potential. We realize that though we are wildly different in thought or deed, we are all the same. We are connected somehow and reflect each other in our best moments. And in these moments we find compassion, respect and honor for one another, individually and collectively.  I think for most of us, once we see the humanity in others, it can be harder to continue our stereotypes about them. 

So if you have a couple hours and want to learn about the practices of a small Nigerian village, the corrupt ways of an Egyptian prison and the influence of Michael Jackson - this might be a good story for you! If you have read the book, I would love to hear what you thought about it as well.