Life Lessons

I’ve come to the conclusion that everything that happens to us in life is a lesson. All the loss, the heartache, the betrayal, the boredom, the feeling of loneliness, the struggle to figure out your purpose, it comes along with being human. Just like there are times in life where things feel new and exciting. We experience many moments, perhaps even periods of happiness, of belonging and being around people who love and accept us for ourselves. And then unexpectedly, someone we love passes away, or a friend or family member disappoints us, sometimes it even breaks our heart. But we heal and hopefully we learn. If we don’t learn the first time, life takes us on a path of repeating the same mistakes over and over again until we do learn. Sometimes you don’t even notice that you are repeating the same negative patterns and when you finally do, it is like an awakening.

I’ve learned that no amount of tears will bring back a loved one that has passed away. The only thing we can do is to live our best life without them. We honor their memory in that way. They never really leave us, they are always in our hearts, but we do have to move on. Everyone has a different timeline for grieving and we have to also respect and accept that. Everyone has their own process and journey through the dark, empty hallways of grief.

I’ve learned that although I love my family, my friends and people in general, I don’t care to have disingenuous relationships.

LIFE can only be understood backwards;

But it must be lived forwards.”

soren kierkegaard

I’ve learned to accept and love myself for who I am. I’ve learned that certain traditions that were the fabric of my family no longer serve me, but that there are others that will always be apart of me. I’ve learned that I have deep faith in a higher power and the ability to achieve anything I set my mind on. I’ve learned that sometimes things that hurt you the most teach you the greatest Life lessons.

Spend some time self-reflecting, what is it that you have learned during your most difficult times?

Grief

Today is the third anniversary of my mothers’ passing. My dad had passed away after battling cancer, just four months before. I know that witnessing my father being ravaged by cancer killed my mom little by little. Like me, she was an empath, a person who experiences a great deal of empathy, often to the point of taking on the pain of others at their own expense. I know that my mother died of a broken heart, but I also believe it was her time, nothing happens by accident. It’s all in the hands of a higher power, but it doesn’t make losing them any easier.

My mom and dad the year they died. 2017

Three years is a long time not to hear her voice, look into her beautiful eyes and not to feel her embrace. My mother had the ability to make me feel like I can overcome anything in life. She was always the wind beneath my wings, my supporter, my cheerleader, my protecter.. She was petite, only 5 feet in height, delicate, intelligent, worldly and a force of power. I know everyone thinks their mother is special but mine was one in a million. She had such an enormous heart and she loved with every fiber of her being. She could have a conversation with anyone and make them feel special, that is a gift not many people have. Although she is physically not here anymore, her love continues to live within each of her children and grandchildren. I feel her presence all the time, sometimes I can smell her perfume. She told me once that if there was a way to let me know she was ok when she passed, she would, and she has, many times.

That first year after she passed is a blur, I don’t recall anything at all, only bits and pieces of memories. I remember being at my father’s funeral, and his burial when he passed away, but I remember nothing of my mothers’ funeral nor her burial. I guess it’s because it was too much for me to endure, one parent dying after another, so I blocked it. I’m not sure I’ll ever remember, but that’s alright, it’s not something I really want to recall. I do remember being so worried about my little brother, he had such a tight bond with our mother. He is a decade younger than my sister and I, so he feels more like our baby. I think I survived her passing because I was on heightened alert, worried about him and the rest of my siblings and our kids, the grandchildren.

I now know that we have no control over what happens in life, we just have control over how we react. Unfortunately, death is a part of life, today is all that we have. There are times that I find myself driving towards my parents’ house, passing by, slowing down, looking into the kitchen window, searching for my mother. I used to drop my daughter off at school and then walk to my parents’ house, they had moved just minutes from me. My mom and I got into the habit of having coffee together most mornings. I can imagine her making coffee, waiting for me. Then I realize that was the past, they are gone and I head home with my heart literally feeling like it is in pieces.

My mother was magic, pure love a positive person. “You can do it love, you can do whatever you set your mind on, nothing is too big for God.” She was kind, lovely, eloquent and really beautiful. She was always put together, her clothes, make-up and jewelry always on point. She was regal, with the softest most beautiful olive skin. It was like silk to the touch and she always smelled amazing. She was devoted to her family, her faith, and proud of her Afghan heritage and culture that is filled with hospitality and family. She taught us to love it too. She taught us by her actions on how to take the higher road in life. She would say, you come from greatness, it’s important that you retain your manners and your dignity.

Mom with her sister.

She had the ability to love and be loved like no one else I have ever met. My mother is gone, life does indeed go on. Yet never in the same capacity it once did. What I have struggled to articulate to those around me is the difference between coping and moving on. Grief will always be a part of me now, sometimes I feel nothing and other times I feel EVERYTHING. Coping means I get through each day and I smile, I laugh, I enjoy myself, but there will always be a nagging thought in the back of my mind, she isn’t here anymore, and I want to share this moment with her.

My grief is not your grief. Please don’t tell me how to grieve. For someone who has a lost a loved one, grief isn’t just sadness about them being gone. It’s a whole mountain, with each rock on the path being a new experience without them. It’s an ocean, each wave crashing with a new emotion. It’s waking up and putting one foot in front of another each day in order to face the loss head-on.

You care so much, you feel as though you will bleed to death from the pain of it.”

J.K. Rowling

There are days I physically and mentally cannot get out of bed because I don’t have the energy or the willpower because my grief is so painful and overwhelming. Days I am irritated and sad about everything, angry I don’t get my mother in my life anymore.

So many of us have lost loved ones this year, many are dealing with this unbearable pain. If you know someone who is struggling, let them know that you are there for them. I can’t stress enough how lonely grief feels, and when you are in the deepest, darkest waters of grief, you are unable to ask for help. If you know someone who is in grief, send a text, make a call, just let them know that you are there for them. My husband, daughter, siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles share my grief, they understand my pain. Without them, I would be pretty lost trying to navigate the oceans of grief. Unfortunately, I have friends who have lost parents, they are the ones I lean on, sometimes we cry together, other times they help me forget the pain for just a few hours. It’s a nice reprieve.

Unfortunately, grief has no time limit. There’s no easy button. And there’s no way to fast-forward through the individual feelings you have to work out. I’m not sure that grief gets easier with time, but it does change.

If anyone tried to put you on a timeline in dealing with your grief, they’ve most likely never been through it themselves. Everyone grieves differently, and needs to be allowed to do so. You have to do what works best for you.

Grief is different for everyone, but it’s a shared human experience.

A Different Thanksgiving

Growing up we celebrated Thanksgiving at my uncle’s house. That was probably the only day that my Afghan-American family would actually make turkey with all its fixings and “Afghan Food” on the side, for those of us who didn’t really want or like turkey.

Between our families, relatives and friends, we were easily a group of 20 or 25 people. It was loud, fun and filled with love. Life changed, as the years went by, my uncle passed away and I took on hosting Thanksgiving. My parents always enjoyed being at my house and praised my husband for his cooking. We were a smaller group, but we were grateful for one another. Three years ago, my parents both passed away, and for me Thanksgiving, became difficult. I started going away for the holiday, avoiding their absence.

This Thanksgiving is a very different kind of holiday for all Americans, as the covid-19 virus surges and public health and government officials are calling on us to resist gatherings. More than 250,000 lives have been lost, with a thousand more lost daily because of the virus. For those families, who may not have even gathered to mourn their loved one, there will be no Thanksgiving gathering. I think that we are all grieving what the virus has done to our lives. Yet still, despite everything that life throws at us there is still plenty of reasons to be thankful.

I’m grateful for the food, shelter, and that a vaccine that is on the way. I’m grateful for all the people that I have in my life. My family and my friends, that connection is everything to me. We will get through this together. Life will return to a new kind of normal and this will one day be a memory. There is a silver lining, crisis brings out the best in people. It reminds us why it’s important to celebrate every day and share our love with family, neighbors, and friends. It reminds us of how lucky we are and how important it is to take care of ourselves, our communities, and our planet.

 

Survive & Thrive

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 If you are feeling overwhelmed and anxious you’re not alone. This is a time of unrest and uncertainty for most people in the world. No matter how you feel about the status of your life, wake up each day and be thankful that you are alive. Someone, somewhere else is fighting just to survive.

Look at life with a grateful heart and spend time with people who make you feel good. Make it a daily habit to sit still and meditate. Spend time by yourself and express your feelings in a journal. Do some sort of activity everyday to move your body. It can be yoga, dance, or just a walk around your neighborhood. When you exercise, your body releases endorphins, which triggers a positive feeling. You will learn to love it so much that you will rarely miss a workout. Life is all about ups and downs, this is a fact and it doesn’t get better, you get better. Pay attention to the words that you use both to yourself and to others.Let go of what you can’t control, work on your reactions, that is something you can control.

Self Talk

Our experiences influence the trajectory of our lives. The parents we have, the friends we make, and the thoughts we have about ourselves and about others. Sometimes we keep repeating the same patterns in life. You may have friendships that end up hurting you over and over again, relationships that end up with the same negative results. If you step back and notice that you are going through the same type of pattern in life, making the same decisions and ending up making the same mistakes, ask yourself what it is that you are supposed to learn?

Until you learn the lesson you are meant to learn, you will continue to be on the same exact same path.  One of the things that we need to have in order to be happy and whole is self-love. You need to know that you are worthy of a good life, that includes a comfortable home, great relationships, friends who are there for you. You deserve to do something in life that motivates you and gives you a purpose.

One of the best ways to work on self-love is to pay attention to your thoughts. What you tell yourself is far more impactful in your life than anything else. I recently was listening to a podcast, the host said something that really made me stop and pay attention. He said, “what your mind repeats is what your mind believes”. So, when you keep repeating negative thoughts about yourself you start to believe it. Only you can be the change you want to see and that starts by paying attention to your self-talk.

Replace Fear with Gratitude

In this time of fear and uncertainty, I want to express my gratitude. I’m grateful that I live in a safe country, in a comfortable home, with plenty of food in my fridge and pantry. I’m grateful that my family and I are healthy and that we have access to good doctors and hospitals. There are people all over the world, and right here in the United States without many of these benefits. Right now, we are all in fear of this pandemic, and fear spreads faster and wider than any virus. Fear will cause anxiety, which will cause stress and that will cause you harm in the end. All we can do is be vigilant and do what experts say, keep your distance from others. Stay home and be grateful.

During this time, we get to enjoy the company of our families. We need to be present and calm. Our uncertainty and fear overflows to our children, for them and for ourselves we need to focus on the good and practice gratitude. Take advantage of this time and teach your children to meditate, practice mindfulness, get organized, learn to cook, sketch, or just read a book or two. Take a walk as a family, watch movies together, take an online course and have virtual discussions with friends and family.

We are lucky enough to have the ability to see and communicate with one another. It can be reassuring to be together virtually. Recently I saw a birthday video that was created for a close friend of mine. It was messages from her loved ones about what an amazingly positive source of love she is to them. How wonderful that they were able to extend their love and celebrate her birthday virtually.

Don’t listen to people who believe it’s the end of the world. Choose to see the positive in your situation. Do whatever you can to feel in control of the situation, like frequent hand-washing. Boost your immune system with healthy habits and activities, such as regular exercise. Stock up on food just in case the authorities order you to stay indoors for a while. That’s all you can do. You can choose to see the glass half empty or half full. Your choice. Be safe and grateful. Thank you for reading my perspective.

Essential Oils 101

If you’ve never used essential oils, it can be somewhat overwhelming. A friend of mine recently asked me to give her a list of my “go to” essential oils, so this is for her and for those of you who want to learn how to use them. Here are four essential oils that I recommend you start with.

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1) Lemon, The cleansing, purifying, and invigorating properties of Lemon make it one of the most versatile oils, it can be added to your diffuser to freshen up a room. Lemon essential oil is used in many natural cleaner recipes as well as beauty product recipes. You can always add a drop to your water for taste and health benefits. And, it’s probably most well known for removing sticky residue. There are so many ways to use this essential oil but I’ll focus on just a few.

Directions for Use

Diffusion: Use three to four drops in the diffuser of your choice.
Internal use: Dilute one drop in 4 fl. oz. of liquid.
Topical use: Apply one to two drops to desired area. Dilute with Fractionated Coconut Oil to minimize any skin sensitivity.

You can use a drop or two of lemon essential oil on a microfiber cloth to clean the surface of your phone.

Add 5 drops of lemon essential oil to a 4 ounce glass spray bottle filled with water and you can clean tables countertops and all other surfaces.

Add a few drops of lemon oil to a spray bottle and fill it with olive oil, spray to clean, protect and shine wood.

Add a few drops to a soft cloth to polish your tarnished silver or other metals.

Add a few drops to your to a box of baking soda and place in the fridge as a deodorizer.

Add a few drops to a basin of water to wash away chemicals and grim from produce.

Add a few drops to your diffuser to uplift your mood.

2) Frankincense is called the king of essential oils. That’s because It has so many health and wellness benefits. It’s great for your skin and hair. Frankincense is also used in a lot of beauty products, and supports your immune system.

Directions for Use

Diffusion: Use three to four drops in the diffuser of your choice for relaxation or for your morning yoga practice.
Internal use: A drop of Frankincense under your tongue to promote overall wellness.
Topical use: Apply one to two drops to your moisturizer to give your skin an extra boost.

If you are feeling under pressure, you can use a drop or two of Frankincense essential oil along with fractionated coconut oil and rub it to the bottoms of your feet.

Use as toner by putting a few drops of Frankincense in 11/2 oz of water and use a cotton ball to refresh skin and tighten pores.

Apply to cuticles and nail beds to maintain healthy looking fingernails.

It can help with acne, just take one tablespoon of Jojoba oil mix 2 to 3 drops of Frankincense essential oil with it, apply it twice a day on the area concerned.

Take a tablespoon of Argan oil add a 2-3 drops of Frankincense oil and apply it to your skin twice a day . This helps tighten skin and reduce the appearance of pores.

Take one tablespoon of coconut oil and add 2-3 drops of Frankincense essential oil and apply to scars. It works on the cellular level to repair damaged skin cells and stimulate the healthy regeneration of new cells to fade away scars and dark spots.

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3) Lavender is probably my favorite essential oil. Not only does it smell amazing, it’s also great for inducing sleep, reducing anxiety and soothing skin irritations. It’s a must have for essential oil beginners!

Directions for Use

Diffusion: Use three to four drops in the diffuser for relaxation
Topical use: Apply one to two drops to your moisturizer for a stress-relieving massage.

Use with bath salts for a relaxing spa bathing experience

Lightly apply to soothe sun-exposed skin

Mix a drop or two with Fractionated coconut oil and apply to the bottoms of the feet of a restless or agitated child

Use to calm and soothe occasional skin irritations by adding a few drops with a carrier oil like coconut oil.

Place a few drops on pillows to help induce sleep.

Calm sensitive skin and soothe pores after hair removal

Apply a few drops directly on rashes and insect bites

Apply a few drops to cuts, scratches and scrapes.

Put a few drops in your shampoo to help with dandruff, and use with Peppermint essential oil for a healthy scalp massage

Add to lotion for a stress-relieving hand massage

Place a few drops to on cloth or laundry dryer sheet to freshen laundry scent and naturally deodorize.

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4) Peppermint is another great essential oil to have in the house, it can be used aromatically, topically and internally. It’s well known for helping with allergy, digestive and energy issues. I love to add a drop in my water for a little energy boost and it tastes great.

Directions for Use

Diffusion: Use three to four drops in the diffuser of your choice.
Internal use: A drop of Peppermint essential oil in 4 fl ounces of water.
Topical use: Apply one to two drops with fractionated coconut oil to dilute it.

Use a drop of peppermint essential oil with lemon in water for a healthy refreshing mouth rinse.

Dilute with a carrier oil and rub on your stomach to relief occasional stomach discomfort, or put a drop your in water and drink it.

You can also use it topically with a carrier oil to get relief from itching, muscle pain, and headaches.

I’ve been using essential oil for the past eight years and I’ve learned that all essential oils are not alike. So don’t be fooled, many oils being sold today are synthetic. Your body processes synthetic oils as a toxin so that’s not what you want. Please do your research before purchasing essential oils.

If you need any help I would be glad to share what I know.

Cautions

Possible skin sensitivity. Keep out of reach of children. If you are pregnant, nursing, or under a doctor’s care, consult your physician. Avoid contact with eyes, inner ears, and sensitive areas.

State of Mind

A few days ago my daughter and I landed at JFK after traveling through four countries in Europe. It was a wonderful trip, a beautiful time reconnecting with family, meeting ones we had never met, and bonding with one another.

My husband met up with us for a week of Paris and London, his arrival was the icing on the cake for our daughter!

The trip was both magnificent and educational for my daughter. She was able to practice her Farsi with family, pick up some Italian and French, as well as learn a bit more about art and history by visiting museums. I am fully aware of how fortunate we are to be able to travel.

Yet, returning home was bittersweet. I have always been able to count on my parents for both the big and little things in life such as picking us up at the airport. When we landed I found myself searching the airport for my father’s face, but he was not there, and it hit me that he will never be there for us again. We took a cab home, my mother was always the first who would call when we returned home from vacation, this time, our house was silent. She too would never be there to call me again, a devastating realization. Needless to say it was a rough first day home, I turned in early. The next day I decided to put my focus on my vegetable garden, because being in nature always makes me feel peaceful and close to my source. I collected an abundant amount of herbs and vegetables from my garden.

I found myself smiling and having a feeling of abundance. I felt relief and joy which lasted for a bit but then the wave of sadness came back. Right then, I had an awakening, I knew that I would always experience waves of sadness. And like always, I knew that I would always fight it by looking on the brighter side of life, the same way my parents survived all that they lost.

If you have feelings of sadness taking over, just know that you are not alone, things will get better, you will be ok. Just keep on moving forward doing things that bring you joy and help someone else. We rise by lifting others.