The Process of Letting Go by Grabbing on to an Impossible “Oprah” Dream
As the inevitable was creeping closer and closer, I refused to even allow any doubt that my mother would not recover to enter my consciousness. While I had experienced depression before when I was coping with the life changes of having a baby, I had never contemplated the kind of depression that accompanied grief. At this point in time, I was not willing to accept the real possibility that I would face a life circumstance that would open the door to that kind of debilitating experience again. I did not have the luxury of preparing myself because as long as my mother was still alive, I had something to fight for.
Back when I had my first child, a good friend of mine commented that she could not understand how I had one foot in my old world without children and one in the new world with all the responsibilities of caring for a new baby. In a way, now witnessing this moment in time, I felt that history was repeating itself. I had one foot in the old world where my mother was a force to be reckoned with, was healthy and robust; I had one foot in the new, where I was helping to care for a very sick woman as she entered the last days of her life. The only difference between the time when I first became a mother and now as I was losing my own was that this time, when the difficulty of caring for my mom passed, I would have to rediscover joy as I faced the absence of her presence in my days. Not a fun task by any stretch of the imagination. This was truly a process of letting go, a kind of surrendering. And, I was not ready for the process to begin but nevertheless it had begun.
Looking back, I remembered the challenge I faced after I had my first child, my beautiful son Michael, on December 18, 2002. While I had always wanted children, there is nothing that I could have done to prepare myself for the “shock” to the system a baby introduces into your life and your marital relationship. While I had a very difficult pregnancy where I was incredibly sick with debilitating nausea for nine months, I thought that when I delivered him my husband could take more of the responsibility so that I could recover from the pregnancy and get back to my life again. I never really caught my breath. I still have not many years later. While my husband helped a lot with the childcare, the majority of the responsibility lay on my shoulders. It was a responsibility that filled my days with love; however, I grew increasingly frustrated and resentful that I lacked the opportunity to do the things necessary to take care of myself, like rest and exercise. Caring for my mother was like taking care of an infant once again, except this time she was in unbearable and excruciating pain and there was not much that we could do to help her. And once again, for me and the rest of my family, rest and exercise were two luxuries that went by the wayside.
I have always had a difficult time dealing with change. If a certain lifestyle worked for me, even when life circumstances changed, I would fight making adjustments. In 2006, three years after Michael’s birth I was sure that if I organized myself better and delegated better, things would change. But, in reality I was still doing the same thing over and over and it was not working- isn’t the definition of insanity doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result? I must have been certifiably insane because I would attempt over again to make my old life fit into my new. Instead of allowing the new to be what it was, I refused to surrender the past so that I could really experience my present. So, the result of this ridiculous exercise and learning experience was that many times I felt like I was losing my mind over and over again. I was working full time, taking care of a toddler, renovating and redecorating our small apartment while we lived in it, and trying to keep myself together. I was exhausted, I was increasingly depressed and my relationships, especially with my husband, suffered. That time of my life was not easy at all. I felt stuck in a life that took away my freedom. I felt more and more resentful as I looked in the mirror seeing a shell of the person that I once was, the free spirit and dynamic individual that had an incredible zest for life was gone, or so I thought she was.
Moving through my days in automatic mode, I did have moments of joy, but still carrying 30 pounds on me and never feeling fully rested, I truly believed that my life would never be good again. One evening, I was invited over for tea at one of my friends. We were not particularly close at that time so I was extremely apprehensive to share with her what was going on in my life. While I wore my heart on my sleeve with my close friends at work, I did not want to air my dirty laundry to more people for fear that I would be judged. But that day, I don’t know what came over me. I needed to be with this friend and I needed for her to hear me. I spilled my soul and I felt heard. This was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. She validated me and made me feel like I was normal, normal with all the feelings of desperation and loss of control. Validation is a beautiful thing. Many people always seem to be comparing their insides to other people’s outsides. That is where we all can get into trouble. While I may presume something, it may not be their truth. So here I was thinking that I was not coping well with the hand life dealt me and looking around seeing others and believing that they were handling 3 or 4 kids effortlessly. When I connected with my friend and she shared her own frustrations and concerns, I was given the permission to be gentle with myself and perhaps accept where I was with loving-kindness. And, as my friend often says and I quote “One thing is for certain, we will not die of terminal uniqueness.” As defined, I am not the only one feeling what I am feeling and the more that I open up and become vulnerable to others, I don’t have to go through the storms alone. I have always believed that the bad stuff in life is easier when you reach out for others to help. And, the good stuff in life is more exciting and wonderful when you have others standing by your side to experience the joy.
During this visit with my friend, I experienced a lot of love. I also experienced a lot of wisdom. It’s amazing the healing you can experience over the ritual of sharing a cup of tea, and thank goodness this would be the first of many tea circles. Before I left that night, my friend lent me a movie that changed my life called by introducing me to the law of attraction. I was so disillusioned at that time in my life that I thought that I would never pull myself out of the sadness and frustration that I was feeling. As a self proclaimed true Sagittarius, I was a free spirit who thrived when I could run free. I had not felt freedom for three years at that point and I believed that I was trapped and had nowhere to go. I had nothing to lose and the law of attraction that was taught as one of the concepts offered in that movie changed my life, changed the way that I saw my situation, and changed me. After I watched that movie, everything started to make sense. As Henry Ford stated, “If you believe you can, or believe you can’t – you are right.” I really was inspired to believe that I could. As I saw a way out of my self-imposed trap, I was so excited. I wanted more. I wanted all my friends to hear this simple message, you are in charge of what you attract into your life. So, if I wanted to attract love, happiness, and good feelings, then I had to be love, had to be happiness, and shift to a positive perspective with an attitude of gratitude for all the blessings in my life. It was then that I fell in love with the creative outlet called the “vision board”. I first made a list of what I wanted in my life and then I set out to make a visual representation that I could look to on a daily basis to remind myself that all was possible in my life.
With this shift, I was on fire. As I was empowered to make positive changes in my life, my attitude changed and my relationships with others changed as well. My depression was falling away. As I would repeat my affirmations each morning, I set out to change the negative thinking that I had become used to. I was grateful to God as I recognized the blessings in my life, the magic returned, and the miracle of a renewal of my spirit followed. I was determined to make a difference in my life and I could not wait to share this change with others as well. I was determined to bring what I was learning to my office and to my home so that I could have a greater impact on my immediate sphere of influence. Things were happening for me in so many wonderful ways. I was receiving the tools and knowledge that I sought because I was opening up to a higher vibration of energy.
It was during this time that I came upon and was inspired by an acceptance speech given by Oprah Winfrey for the Elie Wiesel Foundation. As I was listening to her speech, I received so many God winks that catapulted me to look at my life in a different way. I started asking the questions that she posed so eloquently, “Dear God, how do I fill my potential here on earth? Dear God, how can I be used in service to that which is greater than myself? Dear God, Am I on the right path?” I don’t think I ever thought about my life that way before. I was just moving through it, on the defense, just hoping to survive what life was throwing in my direction. Here, with these questions, it was time for me to really pay attention to the song in my soul. Oprah went on to say that we are all blessed with privilege and when we leave this earth, we will be asked how did you serve, who were you able to save, what did you do for the powerless- broken and those who suffer? Then the “Aha” came to me as she stated that we were all free agents for the divine, managers for the spiritual forces within us and we have the power to transform our lives and the lives of people who we know. That was God talking to me. I heard the message that I needed to hear. My message was I can be of service and teach and inspire exactly where I was and that I have the power to transform my life and the lives of people who I know. Wow! This was huge! I was not a victim but a volunteer; it was time to decide how I wanted to volunteer my time and myself.
And, I did just that to make a difference in the world in my own way. When I began as a young immigration lawyer with the Federal Government in 1999, I had the privilege and opportunity to mentor law students who served as legal interns within my agency. As a result, my confidence as a teacher grew. After this insight, I made a conscious decision to share my own personal mission with my colleagues. I started to believe that if I showed up in life on a daily basis and chose to bring something special and positive to that day, I could impact so many people and even change my own life for the better. If I wanted to realize my dreams and inspire others to do the same, I had to be proactive and do my best to lead by example. For example, in my office, I introduced the complaint free world bracelets by handing out over 60 to my fellow attorneys, I have gifted magnets that share inspirational quotes that I have placed on the doors of the attorneys’ offices (my colleagues have referred to them as “MEGnets”), I sent out e-mail insights daily and I extended myself as a sounding board for people to help guide them to realize their own dreams. As a result of introducing the complaint free world bracelets in my office, I was contacted by the founder of the movement who asked whether I was interested in participating in another Oprah show that was in the works. I was beyond excited because there was a possibility of actually meeting Oprah and experiencing her incredible energy first hand. While the show never happened, my dream of meeting Oprah Winfrey in person was born.
Now, how does this past experience apply to my life as I was facing the reality that my mom was no longer in remission and the cancer returned in July 2009? Well the reality was that it did not, I forgot everything as if I were experiencing temporary amnesia. Everything that helped me heal after I first had my son those many years ago, I just forgot. Or more appropriately, when I went into panic mode because I felt helpless to the circumstances of life once again and I chose not remember anything that could help me through it.
This was also the same time that Oprah announced that she would go off the air after 25 years. The other place that I would go to for inspiration was also no more. I felt completely helpless as I was facing two very real possibilities where my life would change, in a large way, losing my mom and a small way losing a dream. While I supported my mom with love and set out to keep her hope alive, I felt out of control as to the outcome of any further treatment she was undergoing. I needed to go back to what I could control to help me get through this challenging time. I went back to the tools that saved me from my depression in 2006. I modified my vision board to show my mother protected by angels as she healed and I would check the “O” website on a daily basis to see if there were any opportunities to get tickets. I put my meeting with Oprah on my vision board alongside my hope for a complete healing of my mother.
We humans are very interesting in that during times of challenge or pain, we may conjure up in our imagination the image of something that will bring hope into our lives or inspire us to keep moving forward. I felt that if I grabbed on to my impossible “Oprah dream” and it came true, then it was possible for my mother to have a complete and miraculous healing. Silly and simple, I know, but I was looking for ways to cope with what life was throwing at me and I did not want to let go. While attaining my “Oprah dream” became a symbol of hope and inspiration for me, I would submit paragraphs targeting certain topics that they would be discussing on future dates and even my friends would champion the cause by submitting their own entries as well for me. I even flew to Chicago with my best friend and sister with the intention of making the miraculous happen in that it was extremely difficult to get last minute tickets. We even took a taxi to Harpo studios in hopes that a divine intervention would happen and we gained entry into the show. We ended up spending time in the Oprah store, not wanting to face the possibility that my dream would not come true, but we never got tickets. We did have a lot of fun trying though- happiness is the journey not the destination right?
It was twenty-five years of “the Oprah Winfrey show” that showcased the tremendous endurance of the human spirit during times of challenge. I needed to exhibit this endurance now as I was facing the process of letting go of my mother’s physical presence in my life. My mother died in April of 2011 and Oprah went off the air in May of that same year. I felt defeated on both fronts. I remember sitting on my couch as I watched Oprah’s last episode and experienced the loss of my mother all over again. How strange that and intensely symbolic, the end of one chapter of my life would give rise to the birth of another- I just was not sure what that new chapter was going to look like and was incredibly scared to move forward with the love and support that I was so readily receiving before. In the end, I was left with the challenge of finding a new dream, one that would take my ordinary live and transform it into extraordinary.
Did I think that my self-proclaimed enlightenment would protect me from my present or future suffering? Perhaps I did. Did it protect me from the pain? I would say a resounding no- but am I aware –definitely aware. I was aware that I was building a brick wall. My brick wall was made of my fear. As I faced the reality of losing my mom, my prayer remained, God please take care of me and guide me towards my purpose. I had no idea at the time the profound imprint that this whole experience would leave on me. While I still wish I could change the outcome of this part of my life, I wish I still had my mother here, and to a lesser extent I wish I could have met Oprah so that my faith in the impossible could be reinforced, so much character is built upon the big issues- the drama in your life. And, it is when I faced the big issues and looked at the lessons that they offer me, that I would be free once again to look myself in the face and love who I see. Then the story of angst and heartache transforms into a survivor story. For the law of attraction still exists, I just needed to remember what it was that I wanted to attract and I needed help this time as the dark night of the soul was coming upon me. A new path was unfolding before my eyes, one where I would need the light of others, new actors on my stage of life who have gone through it before to help me remember that my own light will shine brightly and beautifully once again. Depression would revisit my life after grief took over, the question was not if I was I ready for this life challenge, but how would I face it this time around?