Writing this next blog has been tough for me. I have had many questions in my mind. What do I want this community for women to be? How will it work? Will people be interested? In what way? Can I write everyday – or almost everyday? I thought it important to now share how and why this idea was born well before I moved to New York and the importance of my reaching out to all of you to make this work.
Nearly four years ago, my mother passed away after a 10-year battle with non-small cell lung cancer. This was a pivotal moment in my life because leading up to this, my family was falling apart. Sadly, we did not do a good job of the old adage, “if you can’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of others.” No one was taking care of anyone, and I was off in my corner trying to be perfect. The details don’t matter. Let’s just say that six months before she died, I had this horrible epiphany that my family was like the ones you see in the dramatic Lifetime movies. You know, the one where you discover all those horrible, dark secrets. In my case, they weren’t secrets. I just did not want to see what was truly before me.
Being the eldest daughter, I fell into the roll of staying strong and taking care of everyone, even though I was hundreds of miles away. This was by choice and probably by nature – “eldest child syndrome.” During the last weeks of my mother’s life, she was in hospice because I kidnapped her. Let’s just say being at home was causing great detriment to her life and even her doctors were concerned, so we devised a plan.
When she arrived at hospice, she cried, and I thought, “Oh great. I screwed up. Maybe she wanted to be at home.” Yet once she spoke, I knew I did the right thing. She wept with her head in her hands and cried out, “Oh my goodness. I am being taken care of.” Anything mom wanted, she got. Morphine. A prayer blanket. Ice cream. But you see, this is what she should have had – at home. You may think, “Why didn’t you move there to take care of her then?” My response is that my life would have been in greater detriment if I had. Remember, if you can’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of others – financially or emotionally.
Mom gave me rights to speak for her when she could no longer speak for herself. This turned out to be a good thing because when she reached her final stage of the life, she could not speak as she was practically comatose – from the drugs, the cancer, and who knows what else. My father stood over her crying and begging her to go to the hospital, but I knew she was ready. The nurses said her body was now filled with fluids and if she went to the hospital, rather than die peacefully, she would be at risk of heart failure because of the additional fluids doctors inject at the hospital in hopes of saving her. Either way, she would not make it. Given the torture she went through those last months of life at home, I knew she was ready. Even her body said so.
My father was escorted out of her room as he was causing such disturbance to my mother who, for once in her life, needed peace. I told the nurses to do what they needed to do in order to make her feel comfortable. Even if that meant more morphine. This was the hardest thing I have ever had to do, but I knew without a shadow of doubt that I did the right thing. It was incredible to have my grandmother and a few of mom’s friends there supporting this decision.
On March 18 at about 1 AM, she died. The nurses woke me up to tell me she just passed. The first thoughts that came to me were ‘freedom!’ I felt to guilty about this. However, I had ten years to prepare for this day, and the torture I was being put through by family dynamics exacerbated by my mom’s illness was just too much. My mom was finally in the peaceful place she deserved to be and I could live my life. For the first time in my life, I did not have to worry whether she was happy, taken care of, or healthy. I could just be…..anything!
While my mother and I did not have the best of relationships, giving birth to me well before she figured herself out and was not ready to take care of another life, she was my mother. And she was an incredible woman. Who else could battle a stage 4 cancer for so many years. Oh the stories I could tell! In many ways, though, I felt like her caretaker, even as a young girl. I grew up seeing how co-dependent she was on my father. She had a network of friends who seemed more ridden with their own drama for her to be her best self. Watching this made me determined at a young age to get out of the house and make it on my own. However, I did not do it alone. I had an incredible support system, which made me believe I could do it.
I struggled for years, and often struggle today, with society’s definitions of people’s roles and responsibilities. Mother should be like x, father should be like y, friends should be like z. In my case, most of this did not apply. I have had to re-wire my brain and work to accept people for who they are and not push them to the role I once hoped they would play. Instead, I focused on building the best community I could around me, and still do so today.
We can’t go back to our childhood where we were so innocent, everyone was young and healthy, and life was, well, easy. Those are fond and distant memories. However, today, we can live the best life we can to be our best self and can do it most successfully with a community.
Why women? “Community” does not mean women only, however, I do believe women have a different bond to each other than men. We have a different way of interacting and share more common needs. We also are a gender that instinctually feels the need to take care of everyone, often to the detriment of taking care of ourselves. I see this so often, especially with friends who are mothers. They are worn out. They are the ones who say, “I can’t go for a girls’ weekend,” while I often see the husbands going away for boys’ weekends without a second thought. This is not to say men are bad. Instead, I think women deal with a great amount of guilt when not taking care of others.
Therefore, it is my mission with Second Tuesday to create a community of women who will work together to encourage each other to be their best self. We will help each other balance taking care of “self” versus “other” so that in the end, all are taken care of in the most optimal way.
I can’t do this alone. It will require us working together. Meeting for dinner or coffee. Emailing. Sharing stories.
Over time, First Tuesday will evolve, and I look forward to sharing this journey with you.