I Found My Voice

If you were a regular reader of This Rubescent Life, then I offer my sincerest apologies for my radio silence. If you’ve recently discovered my site, then I welcome you with open arms. Whatever the case may be, I am glad you’ve decided to stop by on this day in particular.

The last year or so has been wrought with many changes. Though I’ve not captured every shift in my personal existence and the public sphere, I remained an active storyteller. Challenges discussed on this blog continued to make their regularly unscheduled appearances, but I surprisingly saw dreams come to life. Hospitals, doctor’s offices, and pharmacies are all connected through what seems like one large revolving door, and those standard doors? Well, strangers keep holding them open, inviting me to walk through and enter the land of opportunity.

 

Journal.jpg

Being a full-time caregiver and a writer (or content creator… or storyteller — whatever you choose to call it) has been my narrative for the last few years. It seems only natural that I would eventually marry the two and create something possibly powerful. After all, the proverbial and invisible “they” say to “write what you know,” right?

 

 

For a long time, I ran from regularly writing about being a caregiver. Why? Because it’s not interesting. Dementiastock.com It’s depressing. No one wants to read my tales of wound care and woe. Recounting for readers my journey through the search for acceptable and affordable Assisted Living Facilities is wildly unimpressive.

 


 

IMG_1391
Aisha in front of the official #BlogHer17 sign and topiary.

About two weeks ago, I had the distinct privilege of attending the nation’s largest women’s content creation conference, #BlogHer. My boss informed me we were attending back in December and I’d been slowly but steadily about to burst!

This event boasted incredible and inspirational keynote speakers ranging from living tennis legend Serena Williams to American political royalty Chelsea Clinton, feminist comedian Margaret Cho to president of Planned Parenthood, Cecile Richards. Powerhouse voices were in the house!

As much as I loved hearing these amazing speakers, I believe I most greatly valued the connections I made during down time and breakout sessions.

I met so many creative makers and innovators who inspired me to put myself out there. But among all of those cool connections, some of the absolute coolest connections I made were during the breakout sessions.

Intimate Writing Line
Aisha (far left) in line, waiting to ask a question at the “Intimate Writing: How to Balance Your Private and Public Personas” breakout session.

These ninety-minute meetings offered advice from the experts on subjects from how to increase your social media views to engaging in daily mindfulness. The sessions that impacted me most greatly are those with the subject matters closest to my heart. Sessions like How to Navigate Mental Health Issues Online and Offline and Caregiving, Including How to Integrate Self-Care Into Your Mix of Responsibilities were no less than amazing, and I truly consider it a divine appointment that I was there to bask in the wisdom and warmth of these speakers.

Activism
Activism for the Part-time Revolutionary: How to Make a Real Impact panelists: (L to R) Carolyn Gerin, Jamia Wilson, Erica Mauter.
Intimate Writing
Intimate Writing: How to Balance Your Private and Public Personas panelists: (L to R) Quiana Agbai, Shireen Mitchell, August McLaughlin

Not only did I learn a wealth of helpful information on these topics, I found community in their presence. Interacting with people who understand and can relate to our personal hardships makes such a difference in the life of caregivers and those who battle mental illness. Attending #BlogHer17 provided me with the support and courage I need at this particular time in my life to take a major leap of faith.

Next month, I will unveil a brand new blog and some new projects I have under my sleeves…

I appreciate your support in advance and cannot wait to share the excitement with you!

Stay tuned for more details over the next couple of weeks…

Advertisements

Teardrops & Tealights

Moist, wrinkled chicken drumstick in my hand, snot pouring from my nose. I try to steady my shivering haFrench trlnds and focus my blurred vision through hot tears. Careful not to draw my own blood as I prepared the poultry meal, but overcome by a wellspring of pain.

A quiet touch on my shoulder attempts to comfort me, but the sobs only grow deeper, longer, louder. My father calmly says “I love you,” and I return the sentiment between intermittent gasps for air. I begin to list off all of the reasons he has found me in such a state.

For the third night in a row, I’ve watched as some aspect of my mother’s declining health was on full display. Delusions of betrayal, revolving trips to the restroom at all hours of the evening, continuous pain emanating from multiple parts of the body at once.

It hurts. I hurt. My mother is suffering and watching her pseudo-exist in this state is draining.

While in Barbados, my mother made marked improvements in her health. She was more active, more relaxed and the most alive I’d seen her in years. But almost immediately upon return to the United States, we have seen a steady regression and the results are discouraging.

Being back Stateside has had its ups but lots of downs. We went from living a life of relative comfort (and even enjoying relative luxury) to crashing with family and searching for new ways to survive.

It’s not to say that we are without blessing or that every day is shrouded in defeat. But the days are long and the nights are longer. My mind is weary. My body is tired. My light is dim.Tea Light

But I still have a light. Some days it shines brighter than others, but thank God… it is still here. And I refuse to let sickness and circumstance snuff it out. So I will shine. I will glow. I will burst into flame above the eye of any storm I meet.

I am more than a conqueror.

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8: 37-39

Life Lift: The Take-Away

Take Away

My first series, Life Lift, has come to a close. I thank you so much for joining me on this journey. Sharing the things that I have done to help improve the quality of my life is truly a project of my heart.

I called the series Life Lift because I strongly believe that so many people are living life at a lower elevation than our ultimate destiny. Suppressed by our past experiences, current circumstances, and defeatist mindsets, we can find ourselves simply existing instead of truly living.

At the end of the day, this series is all about treating yourself right. So many people live stressed out, frustrating lives because we fail to check in with ourselves and make sure we are okay. I know this notion can be particularly challenging for parents; while I do not have children, I am a full-time caregiver for my mother and I understand how easily and unintentionally caregivers can neglect themselves.

Me and Mommy

About four years ago, when I left my job in healthcare to be with my mother full time, my health quickly began to deteriorate. I dedicated every moment of my day to my mother’s care — doctor’s appointments, medication gathering, physical therapy, occupational therapy, bathing, feeding… loving.

If I ate, it was a couple of bites of a McDonald’s cheeseburger and half a Coke to keep me awake. I began to lose weight, but not in a healthy way. I suffered severe migraines, chronic hives, and digestive challenges due to stress. I knew something had to change. If I was going to be there for my family, I had to be there for me.

So I began to pray and ask God for guidance. I asked for help getting healthy and staying positive. Although the daily stressors of being a caregiver remained, I began to see progress in my own life. I began getting regular exercise and made sure I ate every day. I even took the opportunity to read a few inspiring books.

This message is not intended to be some sort of “pull yourself up by your boot straps” lecture. Quite the contrary. Maybe you have no boot straps. Maybe you really are hanging on and feel like life is dragging you by the hair. But I encourage you to do all you can to care for yourself amid the chaos.

Life may not always be the party you imagined, but it may not have to be as overwhelming as it is right now. Whether it is five minutes every day or a 24-hour per day commitment, you must to determine that you are worth the time. Once you have made yourself a priority, and begin taking care of yourself, you never know what the results may be.

Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.3 John 1:2

Forget Comfort

StarbucksHolidaySpiceFlatWhite_RedCup
Starbucks’ Holiday Spice Flat White

My family and I have been Stateside only a couple of weeks and already I miss my new home. Sure, it’s nice to breathe in the crispness of late autumn air. With the holiday season in full swing, I love to see the tree-lined streets illuminated with thousands of little lights. I enjoyed my tall Holiday Spice Flat White from Starbucks this afternoon. Visiting with friends I had not seen in awhile is good for the soul.

I suppose I thought that when I got here, I would fall madly in love with the place I called home for 16 years and find it difficult to leave. To my surprise, my feelings have run neutral on the matter.

In fact, the longer I remain on U.S. soil, the more I realize just how conducive island life is to the person I hope to be. The weather is warm, the sights are breathtaking, the food is refreshing, the people are… interesting. A warm countenance. A breathtaking compassion. A refreshing attitude. An interesting story. These are all characteristics I hope to possess as I mature into the woman God made me to be and I believe the Caribbean is an ideal place to cultivate these fruits.

Of course, a lifelong walk on the beach is not my sole motivation for returning to the island. I also see the evident progress my mother has experienced in the picturesque settings of Barbados. There is a constant stream of pure, uncut Vitamin D which shines through our glass patio doors. Every drive along the coasts offers stunning views of the Caribbean Sea to our west or the Atlantic Ocean to our east. Trips to markets provide access to the freshest fish and the most perfect produce, aiding in beneficial dietary changes. Every weekend, there are tantalizing cultural exhibitions that stimulate the pathways and neurotransmitters of a weary yet determined brain. The peace and contentment that washes over my mother as she watches the waves wash ashore beneath the setting sun is worth more than all the supposed comfort that familiar faces and fast food restaurants could provide.

I breathe a sigh of relief as my father relaxes in the peacefulness of a country where his ebony complexion is neither disdained nor revered, and different cultures are shared and celebrated. Invaluable is the ability to breathe and be as a man without the whispers of dissension and separation playing on 24-hour news channels as a broken record in the recesses of his mind. Comforting is the idea that his wife and daughter do not have to worry about him as much when he makes a late night ice-cream run. Reassuring is the limited access to guns and appreciation for a slower pace of life. Simpler is the new life his family leads. Exciting is the prospect of sharing his sunset years beneath a vibrant painted sky, conversing with diverse peoples from diverse lands, holding the hand of his beloved.

So with all due respect to the friends and the family that I love, I must confess that I am not torn between two lands or confused about what I want for my future. My heart is not divided by land and sea. Barbados is my home for the foreseeable future. It is where I live. It is where I thrive. It is where I belong.

The Unintentional Nomad

Map
Original image credit: Spoonflower

As I sit here in a hotel room outside of Atlanta, my head spins. Sure, I may still be recovering from the madness that is JCPenney on Gray Thursday, but my disorientation began long before yesterday. Last week my parents and I found out that we would need to return temporarily to the U.S. to take care of some things. My emotions were mixed, but then the anticipation of seeing friends and doing some clearance shopping made the idea of a last-minute pilgrimage more enticing. For every stunning and star-studded event I would miss in the warmth of Barbados, surely an afternoon lunch with a gentleman friend or a night out on the town with high school buddies would make up the difference. I thought that perhaps I would be able to spend a few days released from the perpetual mental challenge that is caregiving and have a little millennial holiday fun.

But of course, my days have not been spent on lunch dates with dapper Dans and my evenings have not involved getting turnt at the club. I’ve shared how my fair-weather attempt at shopping went. My caregiving duties have been magnified under the illumination of instability. Even attending church on Sunday looks like a possible impossibility. In fact, very few of my tokens of contentment for this unexpected return have come to pass. Any opportunity I saw for fulfilling these pipe dreams seems to be slipping from my fingers as we just found out that we will be making yet another journey the early part of next week.


Some people thrive on the adventure of unpredictable travel and would love to have such a hectic schedule. I question whether I am one of these people. I thought I could be, but in just a few short weeks I am beginning to realize that I am not a nomad. While I love seeing new places and meeting new people, relationships are my oxygen. I need roots. I need to connect and develop and grow.

We’ve all heard it said that home is where the heart is. But what do you do when your heart is scattered across state lines and oceans?

I guess you learn how to breathe in this new atmosphere. You learn to give more than you take. You spread light wherever you go. You leave your impact on the hearts of everyone you meet, that their roots would be strengthened and their hearts would be filled.

So, as this holiday season gets into full swing and my coordinates are yet to be fully determined, I will do my best to seek out opportunities to make a difference. To shine a light in someone else’s life. To help make their lives rubescent!

Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.
Galatians 6:10

 

Reality Realized

As National Poetry Day comes to an end, I wondered if I should post a random obligatory poem to my social media accounts. You know, FOMO and such. But I felt this gesture would be disingenuous and trite. I have far too much respect for the art form that is poetry to simply reference a masterpiece so dismissively.

Beyond missing a movement, I had hoped a piece of prose might inspire a blog entry, sparking a heartfelt monologue with imagery and allegory woven throughout. Just when I thought I missed this opportunity, Langston Hughes’ famous words came rushing to the forefront of my mind.

"Harlem" by Langston Hughes
Langston Hughes, “Harlem” from Collected Poems. Copyright © 1994 by The Estate of Langston Hughes.

Though I have read Hughes’ renowned work entitled “Harlem” many times, tonight is the first time this poem caused my heart to physically ache.

As I read these words, each line resonated deep within my soul. This dream to which the author refers is the very one I sometimes feel I have watched slowly slip through my fingers over the last few years. Is graduate school my raisin? Marriage and family my festering sore? Home ownership, simply a syrupy sweet?

Is my legacy a heavy load?


Caregivers are called upon to make quiet sacrifices every moment of every day. We do so fully and willingly. Trading our lofty, futuristic ambitions for tangible, immediate impact. We provide and do and try and give, for indefinite amounts of time. Our movements slow to warp speed, as we set aside goals on kitchen tables and chests of drawers. I will revisit this later, when… When.

After graduating college, I could have pursued the quintessential millennial happily ever after. Bungalow in a gentrified neighborhood, wayfarer glasses, rescue pup, startup job with a super cas’ dress code. All of these things are impressive in social media form, but the effect is not lasting.

The persons we love cannot be replaced or repaired like the newest technology gadget. Rather, we must love them here and now, right where they are. Unlike the most recent model of the iPhone, our friends and family cannot be delivered to our doorstep in 6-8 weeks, nor will they be held on store shelves until you arrive at the head of the days-long line.

So yes, dreams deferred may evolve into rancid realities. But what happens to realities deferred? Do they too, explode?

I hope not. I hope my reality, my objects of ambition, will always be there, waiting to be pursued with passion and gusto. I hope that when my very important work in this phase of my life is complete, my reality will spring up like a sprout from the ground, and flourish like a flower in the sun.

Healing Waters

One year ago, my mother was in a near comatose state. Doctors and nurses alike braced us for the absolute worst possibilities. She had been diagnosed with dementia for 3 years and Frontotemporal Dementia for just over a year at that point and her condition was declining dramatically. Unable to walk, eat, drink, sit up, or speak, she was bedridden, my father and I performing every task on her behalf to ensure she was as comfortable as possible. Eventually her physical state progressed to include a major bedsore (due to her inability to move unassisted). Everyone we talked to told us we should admit my mom to hospice and prepare for a rapid death.

Everyone except our primary care physician. A man of both faith and medicine, he ordered home healthcare and provided us with the following prescription:

Prescription for Prayer.

We have always been a family that believes in the power of prayer. This encouragement from our doctor was simply a reminder to keep with it. So, he ordered home health services and we continued to seek treatment for my mom. Daily nursing care and a one-room apartment transformed into a triage center became our new normal. Things looked bleak at the start, but we did our absolute best to remain hopeful that one day she would regain function of her faculties and that we would indeed have more precious time to spend with this beautiful woman.


One year later, we are living in Barbados and my mother is not only living, but thriving! Her speech is clear, concise, and comedic. Her eyes are luminescent. Her laugh. A laugh once wilted and listless has returned to its hearty fullness.

Perhaps the biggest blessing of all is that the woman who put the “precious” in Precious Poundcakes (a baking company she once owned) has reentered the kitchen. Since settling into our new home, she has blessed us with delicious meals comprised of our favorite comfort foods from the United States.

While her stamina is not what it once was and she still struggles with short-term memory loss, my mother’s progress is leaps and bounds above and beyond anything anyone expected at this time just one short year ago. As a family we have transitioned from my father and I making funeral plans outside of Atlanta, Georgia, to my mother, father, and I making weekend plans by the beach in Barbados.


No one knows how long any of us will be on this earth. Worldly longevity is guaranteed to no one. Conversely, a diagnosis is not always a death sentence and doctors are not the final authority on lifespan. Treasure the current moments with those you love. Do not give up hope. Determine to seek peace in all circumstances. Take nothing for granted.

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18