More lessons from a brain tumor

It’s been a weird few months to say the least. My health has yo-yoed around almost as much as my personal relationships. So now, as I sit here with the worst vertigo I’ve had in quite some time and on a week that has held great personal stress for me, I thought I’d share what I learned. Mostly when I get really overwhelmed by the physical, personal and emotional, I turn into a greeting card version of myself: using optimistic and motivational language to shift my attitude and throw myself into work, the gym, my family and friends, or anything else. This happened again, my phone camera roll is overflowing with stylized memes that hold quotes and pictures of women longingly looking to the sky, or the sun shining on a flower. But this time, it was harder. Perhaps after a series of hardships in a row our bodies and souls cannot emerge so cleanly. Perhaps the resonances of those experiences test our optimism in the face of the next ones. This is not to say that I lost myself completely or became only the hard things in my life. I am abundantly grateful for the gifts I am given each day and the love that embraces me all the time. I have a good life, even when it’s peppered with challenges, it is a good life, and one that I love living. I did however take a blow to my confidence. I saw myself as someone who couldn’t own the challenges and allowed guilt and my perceptions of how a sick person or a sad person or a tired person or any person behaves. Living up to the expectations I perceived and placed on myself has been exhausting. Being everyone for everybody and hiding my pain is exhausting. I feel the headaches and that’s okay. I have to shatter the veneer of who I wish I was, how I wish love went and how I wish my body existed in this world, and love the incredible woman that I am and the nuanced and challenging life I have. So this, this is an attempt to shed those restraints and learn from the places I have been, to rebuild my heart and nourish my soul. And to love me, for me, Herbert and all…

Here we go:
1. Only you can make yourself feel guilty, so don’t. Make your decisions and stand behind them.
2. No matter how daunting it seems, you are in charge of your health.
3. You are also in charge of your heart.
4. Not all headaches go away so easy
5. Never allow anyone to cause you to treat yourself as less than you are.
6. Be yourself.
7. Carry Advil.
8. Never allow yourself to lose the moments that matter while worrying about other things. Even if the worry is about something important, be present where you are.
8. Love people as hard as you can and without abandon, no matter where it gets you.
9. Look at pictures of cute puppies and kitties online. Or just funny ones.
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10. Ask for help, doing it on your own doesn’t get you there any faster.
11. Nobody, not nobody can make it here alone (Thanks Maya Angelou for this wisdom!).
12. You don’t get extra points for the struggle, it shouldn’t and doesn’t have to be this hard (thanks to Ben Whitehair for this one! For more of Ben’s infinite wisdom look here.)
13. Be proud of who you are, even if you can’t pinpoint what that means to you.
14. Take the path of treatment that feels right in your gut, intuition knows more than we think.
15. Be nice to each other, it doesn’t serve us to spread cruelty, hate, or even general crankiness.
16. Be patient, healing is a slow process.
17. Don’t wear sunglasses that push on your brain surgery scar, no matter how gigantic and fabulous they are!
18. Wear a mouth guard if you grind your teeth and are already prone to chronic pain.
19. Let go of who you thought you’d be, what you wish you looked like, and embrace the beauty of you.
20. Live THIS life, live these moments.
21. Ask yourself, am I living the life I want? The life I want to share with the world? If the answer is no, make a change today. Even if it’s small.
22. Don’t let your diet ruin your day, that tiny bit of cheating won’t bring back the headaches forever.
23. Don’t punish, have disdain for, or resent your body when it is in pain.
24. Exercise, it can free your mind.
25. Be happy. Make that choice to be happy and let the chips fall where they might. If others choose not to be happy for you allow them to face the consequences of those choices. Choose joy. I firmly believe if we breathe love and light into ourselves it will extend into the world.
26. See beauty in everything and everyone.
27. Forgive and let go.
28. Use icy hot, it helps sore muscles and pain without filling our bodies with medicine. (Ok maybe me covering my neck in icy hot every time I have a headache really doesn’t do much, but it feels like something. Or use stress lotion? Or candles? Or anything. Find what makes you feel comfortable and in control and embrace it even when it makes you smell like a weird old lady!)
29. Honor your body and mind for the ways you’ve always dealt with hardship and thank it for that. But, if those methods aren’t getting you where you need to or want to go, let them go. Honor where you’ve been and what you’ve done but realize that is not the only path. Be flexible moving forward, move with the wind and see what beautiful discoveries that might take you to.
30. Read the Oprah quotes on Starbucks cup sleeves, they are just so good.

I recognize that there’s so much privilege in this list so I want to acknowledge that. I am conscious of my position in the world that allows me to focus on who I am and who I want to be despite rampant structural inequality. I also recognize the way those structural inequalities try to dictate who we should each be, behave as and what we should be defined against. The constructs of happiness, identity, sex, love and money won’t get us where we want to be. We must construct our own meanings of what it means to be a vibrant person in today’s uneven world. We’re all a work in progress, so get a head of what gives you pain, whether it be tumors, disease, physical pain, or heartache, and see who you are. Once you see yourself, love yourself. That and all of these lessons will be what I am working on.

Peace and love,

Samira

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