The Authentic Life: Living in the Moment
Updated: Oct 23, 2018
This is Life by the Seat of Our Pants and it’s Thrilling and Fulfilling!
A few lessons that life with a critically ill child has taught us: there truly are blessings in every situation. Below, are the ones we have come to discover and want to share in the hopes of helping others should they be looking for advice or are simply open to it.
Let me first start by saying that like most people, I am a planner… hold up… I WAS a planner! Everything in my life was planned out right down to the minute to ensure that I was doing as much as I could, pleasing as many people as I could, and being overly efficient for optimal productivity. Saying “No” was not in my vocabulary and rushing from one thing to the next barely having any time to breath, was my norm.
Then, Aunika was born…
Pulling out of our driveway on September 23, 2016, en route to the hospital for my planned c-section, I looked at Jason and said, “We will be back in this driveway two days from now with our new baby girl. Just in time for Sunday night dinner with the family.” Silly Me! Little did I know that I would not be bringing my baby home from the hospital until the end of November. 60 days later, to be exact. Even then, we only lasted a week before being re-admitted to our local hospital only to finally be released again on Christmas Eve. Living in and out of hospitals has become our new norm. In total, Aunika has spent close to 6 months of her life, off and on, confined to a hospital bed, unable to experience life like a normal baby/toddler. We have had to miss good friends weddings, holiday celebrations like Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter, as well as birthdays of our loved ones. Our life "Got flip turned upside down," as Will Smith, The Fresh Prince of Bell Air so eloquently put it.
Over the course of the past two years, my family and I have been through a crash course from the Universe on how to truly live life to its fullest. Don’t get me wrong, like most people, we thought we were living life to the fullest. We are good people who work hard and treat others with kindness and respect. It was all of the little stuff that occupied our attention, causing us worry and stress, thinking that we were living a healthy fulfilled life because of our focus and drive; this stuff would soon be slapped in our faces as very unimportant and insignificant. Here are some of the lessons we’ve learned and how they’ve changed us for the better.
What Matters – Lots of shit that we thought mattered before we realized truly doesn’t. Our list of “important” concerns went from large to quite small and wow is it ever refreshing!!
Your Tribe – Family & Friends
Everyone goes through tough times and it is in your hardest of times and lowest of lows that your Soul Tribe (Friends and family members who truly care for you and yours) will make themselves known to you. They will raise you up to help you stay afloat, and do so with pure and utter love and support. You will not find judgement or cruelty from these folks. They are the true salt of the earth. Recognize them, love them fiercely, and remind them regularly how much you appreciate them. Always hold them close to your heart.
During personal trials and tribulations, no matter the kind, you discover who is truly important and who, despite being hard to come to terms with, is not. No ill will or hard feelings towards the individuals who reveal themselves as not being the friend you thought they were to you; extend nothing but love to those folks, but also accept and respect them and the universe for revealing to you that they are not actually part of your tribe. It is such a gift and a blessing because you now know who truly cares and would go the distance for you. You also now know which individuals would not, even though you know you would have gone the distance for them. In that moment, those people fall to the wayside of your priorities. Once you are able to process the hurt of your discovery and find peace with it, you realize that you have been presented with the greatest gift… Your True Soul Tribe for Life! Invest your love and time into those individuals and wish the rest well.
I am so lucky and blessed to have so many incredible family members and friends, colleagues and community members. The love, prayers, and generosity extended towards us during our hardest of times with Aunika came from so many and left me speechless. I was in complete awe of my fellow human beings and being on the receiving end of it all brought me to my knees in gratitude. To my surprise, some members of our Soul Tribe revealed themselves in places we never even thought to look.
LEARN TO SAY NO – IT’S HARD, SO PRACTICE!
I am a person who loves everybody…to a fault. Some people take advantage of kind and loving people like myself. I by no means think I am perfect. I am far from it. But one of my greatest assets is my huge heart. That asset sometimes hurt me because I would allow people to take advantage of me and forgive them for numerous hurtful actions. For some reason, I could just never say no to them. I would be the first to stick up for other’s well being, but never my own. I come by it honestly. I have two parents with MASSIVE Loving Hearts. My empathy, however, veers to the extreme.
When Aunika was born, everything was put into stark reality and I had no choice but to focus on her, Peyton, myself and Jason. I literally had no time for anything or anyone else, and in that lack of time and high stress, I realized who and what was truly important and in doing so, how to respect my time, my heart and learned how to say NO.
Live in the Moment – Slow Down & Be Present.
Listen to me and listen to me now please…… “Slow down, be present, just breathe!!” This is a mantra I now actively repeat to myself. It initially started because going quickly allowed for mistakes to happen and, with Aunika’s medical complexities, there is no room for mistakes. Then, slowing down and being present extended to appreciating every single moment with our baby girl because we truly didn’t know how long we would have her. Similarly, appreciating every single moment continued with my amazing and stoic son Peyton as time spent with him was unfortunately lessened greatly do to such frequent hospital stays. Now, slowing down, being present and breathing is not just good advice, it is more real than reality. Every second is precious!
How did I come to realize this need to slow down, be present and just breathe? During the most “punch in the gut,” take your breath away, emotionally excruciating of times when the doctors were constantly reminding us that they did not know how to help Aunika and that she would most likely not live long enough to see her first birthday. As a family, under the most stressful and heart wrenching of circumstances, we learned how to be fully present in life and appreciate every single moment. We held and continue to hold one another up and remind the other to take deep breaths. Personally, I could not have survived in any sane manner, for as long as I have, without the love, hands on care and dedication of our parents. That includes my father in-law up in heaven, who I know has been working overtime since day one, protecting and comforting his granddaughter. Nor, without the strong bond and partnership between Jason and I.
As a family we also learned that worrying about the past and hurtful memories suddenly seemed so utterly ridiculous it was laughable. I use to care about what? I use to ruminate over that hurtful time why? It was insane how inconsequential that shit all became. Worrying about or planning for the future was no longer available to us because for the first time ever, we were at the complete and utter mercy of fate. Making plans proved to be near impossible as 95% of the time we had to cancel them anyways due to unexpected hospitalizations. I needed to learn to stop planning so much and as a family we learned how to take a step back and not make many plans. I am not saying that as a family unit we never plan at all anymore, I am just saying that we have learned the benefits and joy of just going with the flow. We make conscious choices about what events to attend and which to decline. It has nothing to do with the event or people themselves and everything to do with us. Freedom from planning and its obligations freed my mind to focus on the here and now. Before we accept any invites or extend any, we ask ourselves these essential questions: Do we feel we have had enough time together? Are we feeling overwhelmed, overworked, tired or just physically drained at all? If we answer “yes” to any of those questions then the answer must be, “no, we are sorry but we cannot attend.” As human beings we need to take care of ourselves first by recharging our batteries so we are internally happy and healthy. By taking care of yourself first, you can be the best person to others and sincerely give them your authentic self. Just like on airplanes when they tell you, “In the unlikely event of a sudden loss of cabin pressure, oxygen masks will drop down from the panel above your head… Secure your own mask first before helping others.” You need to take care of you first to be able to take care of and enjoy your time with others.
We let our friends and family know that we truly want to join them and will try but stuff comes up and they understand. We want them to do the same if roles are reversed. You truly never know what is going on in another person’s life because you are not inside their head. It is why I no longer get upset or take personal offence when someone cancels a plan with me. Instead I am happy that they are comfortable enough to be honest with themselves and are taking the time to do what they need to do…whatever that may be. Your ego is not your amigo so check it at the door, just breath, never judge, and be happy!
Once things began to calm down with Aunika’s health and t-cells were appearing, revealing to us that her thymus transplant was working, we realized that there was more of a future for our warrior girl and that we could begin to plan not just a 1st Birthday party but a 2nd Birthday party as well. Minimal planning, like birthdays, is where it is at for us. I refuse to go back to the full time Planner Lifestyle I led before. We have discovered that being present is the only way to really live to enjoy life to its fullest. By being present we have learned how to appreciate everything more. We enjoy food more, our time with family and friends more, daily activities as simple as brushing our teeth more. All of our senses have become heightened in the most amazing and beautiful of ways. We appreciate everything and no longer take anything for granted. Not even the little things, like being able to take my child outside for a walk, or trips to the grocery store. It was sad, but I took those things for granted before because why wouldn’t I? I knew no different. It wasn’t until I was unable to bring baby Aunika to the grocery store like I could with her brother Peyton (because she had to live safely in isolation away from risk of contracting viruses that would kill her), that I began to understand how blind to the little things I had been. I was suddenly the mother in the grocery store absent my child, staring with an aching heart at the other mothers with their children and wishing with all of my might that that was me with mine. I was left feeling completely ignorant having taken that for granted in the past.
We’ve learned how to just slow down and do one thing at a time and do it well. Multi-tasking is detrimental and doesn’t allow you to appreciate the beauty in the process of each thing, nor does it allow you to be fully present when your mind is being pulled in multiple directions.
Sit down and just breathe!!! Silence is beautiful. I’ve learned to love it and partake in a moment of silence each day. If you can, please do the same and while you are at it take in the world around you, fill your lungs up with the fresh air and let that same air fill your heart with a healing calmness. Send out thoughts of thanks to the universe and to yourself because YOU are an AMAZING being! Stay true to you and yours. Always be mindful towards yourself and others and always, always, always be authentically you.
Thank you for reading my thoughts and feelings for what they are worth. Take away what you want or leave it should you choose. Live your best life… and as one of my best friends always says to me, “Take care of you!”
Be Mindful - Be Authentic - Slow Down - Just Breathe