World Galgo Day: One of the most exploited breeds around

When I was 17, I adopted my first Galgo. I named her Falera.The breed always fascinated me and everyone who has or works with them, knows that it is a breed with a lot of pain behind them. I had known quite some people who had adopted a couple and they always went around, promoting them, telling people to adopt them because they are just that great. At the time I was working at an animal shelter who happened to have a collaboration going on with a foundation who rescue abandoned and abused Greyhounds and Galgos. I was very well aware that I couldn’t adopt just any dog I happened to like and the adoption of Falera was unexpected, but so welcome.

At the shelter, she was this quiet, timid but sweet little pup, but as soon as I took her home, she changed. She was excited, but scared of everything that would move above her. I remember taking her out for a walk in town, long after I adopted her alongside my other dog Hayley, and she completely broke down, howling and screaming, so I took her back home. Clearly she has not been socialized a lot in her early stages of development and it still shows till this day. Not only that, but she was difficult to deal with when I just got her. She and I struggled a lot with understanding each other, also because my other dog was so easy, but I soon realized that dogs are individuals and should never be treated with a “one size fits all” solution. So I spent weeks, if not months studying her. Why is she the way she is? Why does she want me to be close, but want me to leave at the same time? I observed not only that, but also the scars and traces on her body. She has this long scar running down her neck, like a cutting wound. We suspected that it could be a scar of where they cut her microchip out, since that isn’t exactly uncommon practice in Spain. Not just that, but she had her dewclaws cut off, poorly. There are still stumps left, one of which grows a very weird nail out of it and falls off again over time. But she also has scars on her hind feet, the big pads are half gone and has weird scarring on her hocks as well. I think it’s burned, either by a hot object or acid perhaps. She’s not suffering, it only rubs raw whenever it freezes a lot.

These findings made me wonder how they could do that to such a young dog. She was about a year old when I took her home and she isn’t even anywhere near as traumatized as some other pups I have seen. But then it became clear to me that this isn’t at all an uncommon thing among Galgos from Spain. Retired hunting dogs have often suffered horribly and the ones ending up in shelters are the lucky ones, because they’re still here.. Lucky may not even be a fair way to describe it, because I have seen dogs that suffered so much to the point of them having to be put down due to all the mental trauma.

The dogs are often disposed of after the hunting season, all based on how well they performed during that season. A lot of Galgos end up hanged after the season, since they are now deemed useless and it costs money to feed them in the off season, so culling their hunting dogs is the cheaper option. If the dog did well, they hang them higher up in the tree, so it’s a quicker death. If they did bad, they end up being hanged lower, sometimes to the point where their tippytoes can still reach and they end up hanging themselves just by the pure exhaustion of not being able to stand on their feet anymore. But this is just one way they sometimes dispose of dogs. Some end up being thrown down into wells, lit on fire, having their limbs broken and abandoned out in the wilderness amongst other things.

Some hunters do the more morally correct thing and surrender their retired hunting dogs to a shelter, but this also is a problem. Shelters often lack the funds and space, so lots of rescue groups take in the dogs and adopt them out to other countries, which is amazing work. Thousands of Galgos get disposed every hunting season and World Galgo Day spreads awareness about this issue. This is something you rarely ever hear about, but it is a big deal.

Galgos are excellent companions and some of the sweetest dogs you will ever meet. They are not for everyone, that is for sure, but you might just change your mind once you get to know them. I may have struggled with understanding mine, but after having taken the time to understand her, I have gained a whole lot of admiration for how resilient dogs are. Their ability to stay kind to humans after they have been treated badly is amazing to me.

If there would even be one of you out there reading this and considering to adopt a dog, consider looking into a Galgo. They need you and you may need them too.

– Naiyee

My ongoing struggle with the feeling of not being good enough.

The past weeks have been overwhelming to the point of me barely doing what I love to relieve the weight on my shoulders and resulted with me having a migraine for three!!!! days straight. This weekend I decided to my hobbies a priority, those being yoga and writing! Be it journaling or writing on my blog, writing is therapeutic to me in ways I can’t even put into words.

The new semester only started a couple of weeks ago and I am already overwhelmed. With that, the creeping fear of not being good enough popped up again as well. My exams have gone fine so far and ended up scoring pretty okay too, which for me was a confidence booster. But this semester we got introduced to some new subjects. Subjects that I hadn’t touched for a good couple of years. So getting back into them was difficult. My class consists of some incredibly bright people, the type of people that are going to make it very far in life. The more power to them, I wish them all the best! But I can’t help but compare myself to them. Comparison is poison for an insecure mind. I know I shouldn’t, but I do it anyway. I have to keep reminding myself that a lot of them have been dealing with these subjects for a while and that all of these things aren’t completely new to them.. I talked about this with a classmate the other day and she reassured me that I have nothing to be insecure about. She also mentioned how impressive it is that I am taking these very heavy science based courses in my third language after only having lived in Denmark for four-and-a-half years. I hadn’t really looked at it from that perspective and for a moment I did feel pretty good about myself.

But this struggle isn’t exactly new to me. I have always felt that I, in a way, was beneath my peers. I couldn’t really tell you why, but I just do. I compare myself too much to others and I feel like I need validation a little bit too much. My fitness journey (which I will write about some other time) is a perfect example of this. I went from 100+ kilos in 2014 to losing a good 35 kilos in the span of 2 years, convinced that I would finally be happy when my stomach would be flat. Surprise.. It didn’t. Instead I spent 2 years obsessively comparing myself to other women on a similar journey, hoping that I could be like them. Obviously I would never be like them, because I am me and that is okay too. That is just one example though, I have many more, unfortunately.

I really want to start trying to be myself unapologetically. So what if I’m not a straight A student, or the girl with a big booty and stunning abs? I’m not exactly an uninteresting person. I emigrated at 20, I speak three languages and I’m learning a fourth one, I have weird hobbies and I’m working hard towards accomplishing my goals. This however, isn’t too easy to keep reminding myself of, but eventually I’ll get there I hope.

Are any of you guys out there struggling with the same thing, and if so, how do you cope with it?

Any tips would be so much appreciated!

– Naiyee

Here’s to strong women

I grew up being raised by a single mom. My mom had been chronically ill for as long as I can remember and she managed to raise my sister and I all alone. My parents divorced when I was about six years old and it’s all I have ever known. My mom never spoke much about it, except that it happened after my father admitted to having a family with another woman. That woman ended up becoming my stepmother and yet another example of a strong woman in my life. My stepmom has two kids with my dad, my half sister and half brother. My half brother has special needs and it has always baffled me how well my stepmom dealt with all of it by herself. My dad wasn’t around much, so it was always the mother figures in my life picking up the pieces when something broke.

With that being said, I also grew up without much of a father figure in my life. My father first became an active part of my life after my mother passed away, but during my childhood it was always my Opa who showed me what a good father is like. For the longest time, and maybe still, I thought that good father figures were a rare thing to have. Many of my childhood friends had divorced parents with the dads often being absent or a passive part of their lives, only coming and going as it fit their schedule.

But thanks to my Opa and my mother figures I did not miss out on anything. When my mother passed away, someone else crossed my path. The woman I now consider to be my bonus mom and probably the strongest woman I have ever had the privilege of knowing. She is a breast cancer survivor and kept her family afloat when everything seemed to be falling apart. Not only that, but I believe she saved my family from falling apart too. She has had her heart broken many times, but like a phoenix, she rose up from the ashes, stronger than before. A woman I look up to, that’s for sure.

But as time went on, this little girl I’ve known since the moment she grew in my mother’s womb, my best little friend, my partner in crime, my younger sister now too grew into a woman with the heart of a warrior. Despite all the odds stacked up against her, she fought, pulled through and survived. I couldn’t be prouder to be her sister. I love her so much. But it’s not just her, but obviously also my half-sister. She also has had her fair share of hardships to deal with at a very young age and it has made her into a fierce, strong and amazing young woman. I love seeing how well she does, and it saddens me that I don’t get to see her as often as we used to.

I could never forget to write about my grandmother, my Oma here, even though I had not mentioned her earlier. While growing up I saw my mother and Oma fight a lot and I was never really able to understand why. But now that I am older, I do. Oma has a heart of gold and wears it on her sleeve. She is one of the most honest people I have ever known and I try to adopt her honesty, albeit it maybe with a little bit more filter.. 😉

Last year two special women in particular came into my life. My mother and sister in law, both extraordinary women. They’ve both fought their battles and stayed SO kind and strong despite all of it. And I admire and adore them for it. In a world so cruel kinder people are needed. I truly believe that it’s people like them, that make this world a better place to live in. I’d like to be kinder, just like they are.

It’s the influence of these lovely ladies (and those are just a few, I have so many amazing girlfriends as well but it would make this post even loooonger!), that I’m still here today. I couldn’t have gotten this far without their love and support.

Here’s to strong women, may we know them, may we be them, may we raise them!

Do you have strong women in your life?
I’d love to hear more about them!

-Naiyee

”How we need another soul to cling to”

Hello all of you lovely people! Happy 2019! Hope your holidays have been great, with lots of laughter, love and of course ALL THE FOOD!

Main reason I’ve been away for a couple of weeks was because of my exams, all of which I’ve passed! BUT I have also moved! FINALLY!! After I was done with my exams, I decided I wanted me some Finland and took the plane there. Being with my love and his family was lovely and Finnish winter is amazing! It was good. All of it. The Christmas celebrations were lovely, but so was the time we spent just hanging out and playing Cards Against Humanity for hours. The 1,5 week I spent up there went by way too fast and before I knew it, my love and I were back at Helsinki Airport saying our goodbyes, or ”see you soons” as we prefer to call them. ”Goodbye” is permanent. ”See you soon” isn’t. On the plane I had been spending all my time just listening to music and reliving all the lovely memories made.

Lately I have been noticing that leaving my significant other or my family is starting to take a toll on me. I cry myself to sleep for days after I’ve gotten back here in Denmark and I spend days just daydreaming about how lovely it would be if I could just be with them and not here. My days just consist of school, eating, yoga, homework, doggo, repeat.  As if I’m running on autopilot, time flies by, without me really being aware of what time or day it is. And then it hit me.. Am I lonely? I mean, I have all these great people here in Denmark, my school is going fine and well, my job is alright too.. So why is it then that I feel alone all the time, despite having a good life here?

I’ve always said that my home is with the people that I love and that still rings true. When I moved to Denmark because of love, my home was here. I had him and his family here and a family back in the Netherlands to which I could ALWAYS return to. But now I have a home in the Netherlands AND a home in Finland, neither of which are close by.

Today, while I was on the bus on my way home, an elderly woman decided to sit next to me, despite there still being seats available for the elderly (they are a lot lower and less risky to fall out of). My initial response was annoyance. She could have chosen ANY seat available there, and she decides to sit next to me. Oh well, just be on your phone Naiyee, headphones loud and ignore the lady. Then I noticed over the tunes of Paramore playing, that she started talking to me. I took my headphones off and asked if she could repeat what she said, and she said something along the lines of how impressive it was that I could type so fast on my phone, that her hands don’t work so well anymore and how her hands don’t like the cold very much. I said that I didn’t even notice how fast I was typing and that the cold really isn’t that nice for anyone, and then the woman got off the bus. Then I realised that she might be feeling the same way I do. Lonely, just wanting meaningful contact with another soul. Immediately after that interaction I felt a sense of guilt. Guilt about getting annoyed at an old lady, just wanting to have some contact, because I can relate to it. A lot.

Then I remembered a conversation I had with my mother years ago. I have always been a socially awkward kid. I prefer to keep to myself in situations with strangers and always looked down when walking. My mom never liked that much. She then said to me:

”Why don’t you look up and see the world and the people around you? Everybody is always so preoccupied with their own stuff, but there are many lonely people out there. Look around you, greet someone or smile at them. It might be meaningless to you, you may have forgotten about it five minutes later, but to them it could make their whole day. Just because you acknowledged their presence.”

That was a life lesson I have never forgotten and honestly, I’ve been terrible at applying it to my own life.

So, I don’t really do new years resolutions, but I figured that I, from today on, am going to be kinder to strangers. The world is already cruel enough as it is and smiling at or greeting another person won’t hurt anyone. In my opinion everyone should try it.

Do you greet or talk to strangers? Why or why not?

– Naiyee

The Motherless Daughters Club: Tis the season?

Well well, it has been a while.. I have to admit that with this busy exam period going on, I haven’t had much time to think about the Christmas season, but last night it just hit me. Christmas is right around the corner! Not being able to see my mother around this time of the year is tough.

Growing up we celebrated Christmas when my parents were still together, but my mom became a Jehovah’s Witness in my early teens, so after that I’d often go to my grandparents to celebrate Christmas there and it wasn’t really until I moved to Denmark that I actually started celebrating this time of the year.

But despite the fact that my mom didn’t really celebrate Christmas anymore in the last years of her life, I can’t help but miss her a little bit extra during this time. I see a lot of my peers going shopping for presents with their moms, and as happy as I am for them, I can’t help but hurt inside when I see it. Thoughts like ”Why can’t I do that?” or ”They don’t know how lucky they are” go through my head. Because I really do wonder sometimes if they realise how lucky they are. Something as simple as just calling mom to tell her how her day was or to ask her if she’s 100% sure if she wouldn’t like a tiny little Christmas present anyway is something I’d do anything for to experience one more time. But it will never be. And that hurts. The silence is loud. I want to get that phone call on NYE to wish me a happy new year, and damnit, why can’t I have that phone call?

Luckily for me, I have enough things to keep me preoccupied for now with work and exams. I’ll be spending Christmas and New Years with my Finnish family, so hopefully I won’t be feeling too blue, but I know not everyone who is part of this club is that lucky.

Tis the season to be with family and make memories for most. But for me, my sister and everyone else who lost their mom, tis the grim reminder that we’ll never make those memories again.

People often say that this loss loses its sharp edges and that you learn to live with the pain, but why does it for me feel as if the pain and burden only gets worse over the years? Because I still can’t talk about her without wanting to curl up and cry. She was still supposed to be here, she was supposed to see me get married and have kids. But she will never. And that’s unfair. It shouldn’t be like this.

To my fellow motherless daughters out there,

Stay strong during this time of the year. I’m thinking of each and every one of you out there. We got this. We can get through it.

Lots of love,

Naiyee

Exam stress: Have I bitten off more than I can chew?

Oh my, I have not been able to write anywhere near as much as I would have liked to lately. Writing is very therapeutic to me and it just feels good to get my thoughts out. Reason for my lack of time for basically everything is because I have exams coming up this month and I don’t feel anywhere near ready.

Main problem being my fear of failing. I’ve had it for as long as I can remember and it exceeds your average nervousness when exams are starting. With me it can get so bad that I barely eat or sleep. It is annoying to say the least. I have exams in Drama, Biology and Mathematics and math in particular is taking up more time than I’d like it to. You see, we get about a month off to read up on things to get ready, but since 75% of our exams have been planned in the first week of said month, it basically means that I’ve been spending the past 2,5 weeks reading and writing summaries, since I won’t have time for it otherwise. Throw the anniversary of my mom’s death in the mix and well.. Let’s just say that I am EXHAUSTED.

Taking up math again after years of not having had it was a humbling experience to say the least, but I would also have to say that it really forced me to work hard on my weaknesses, so for that I’m grateful. But I have to admit that Biology and Drama had to take a backseat because of all this. Not proud of it, but I guess I can afford it, considering these are subjects I naturally have no problems with, whereas with math I do. Tomorrow I have written math, which I don’t think I’ll have a problem with, but oral math I am not excited about. Nor the exam in oral Biology… Nor the exam in Drama. I suck at oral exams, I absolutely hate them when they’re not languages. I perform better in my written exams and well.. Bad grades in oral exams don’t help my average very much. I guess it is just something I got to get over.

It does make me wonder if I have bitten off more than I can chew though. But I guess only time can tell that one. Right now I’m just studying my butt off, dreaming of Christmas and spending time with loved ones.

Do you get stressed when exams roll around or not, and if not,  how do you manage not to get anxious about them?

Any tips are welcome!

– Naiyee

The Motherless Daughters Club: Would she be proud of me?

Today marks the fourth year since my mom passed away and it is tough.. Getting through the night and day without breaking down is difficult. On days like these I try to practise self care. I take a day off from work or school to allow myself to just be and cry if I need to.

During these four years without her, I often wonder how she would feel about the decisions that I make. Not having her around to ask for advice is still something I’m getting used to, even after four years. My life has changed a lot in this time span in so many different ways. But the one question that keeps me up some nights is:

”Would she be proud of me?”

I’m not necessarily a validation seeking person, not at all, but the opinion of my mother always meant a lot to me, which makes sense I guess.. Having lost my mom at a young age, the age where you may not be considered fully adult yet and not having to make any serious adult decisions, it is hard to imagine what type of advice she would give in certain situations. Not only that, but also what her stance and opinions would be during difficult times.

Everyone around me always tell how she would be proud and even though those words mean a lot, they don’t give me a lot of comfort, because they aren’t their opinions I need to hear in times like those. That being said, I am extremely grateful for everyone offering some kind of support and/or understanding. It is nice knowing that there are people out there who care. But I feel as if my mother’s words and advice are the only ones that can help me get through it, but she’s gone..

The best way of describing this feeling is like going all the way back to when I was small and mom and I would go shopping. When you’re small, these stores are HUGE! Imagine that and then losing your mom in that big store. But instead of having that uncomfortable and scary feeling slip away and feeling relieved when you find her again, she is gone. Because that’s what it feels like. I feel all alone in this great big world, knowing my mom won’t be there to find her way back to me.

I had to start my adult life without her, having to make a lot of really tough decisions without her. And even though in the back of my head I know that she would be proud, I can’t help but wonder.. I hope she would be. I would just love to hear her say it one more time.

Luckily for me, not all hope is completely gone. I have a great support system of family and friends who are there to pick me up when I fall and for that I am thankful. Without them I wouldn’t have made it through.

And to any of you out there who have lost their mother,

I’m proud of you for sticking through the hard times. You’re a badass and you deserve all the good things in the world. You got this, you always have and you always will.

-Naiyee

Future goals and dreams (and why they frighten me)

As much as I try to live in the now, I still often find myself drifting off, dreaming about the goals I’ve set for the future, some far into the future, others pretty near. I’ve always been pretty driven by nature, but at this point I have noticed myself getting tired. Be it study fatigue or something else, ya girl needs some hibernation STAT! Not happening anytime soon though, exams are coming up and I am BUSY.

I have dreamed of becoming a veterinarian since I was 7, after having assisted with my cat giving birth. It had a huge impact on me and I’ve never looked back. Working with animals and figuring out how they work, both inside and out, kept me busy. I read encyclopedias and other animal related books and really tried my best at school. I was a pretty bright kid. I had an easy time learning and didn’t have much of an issue getting decent grades.

The Dutch school system is a tad bit complicated. We have to do a placement test at the elementary school and from there, it’s kind of mapped out which direction you go into. We put people into boxes from an early age and even though there is an opportunity to climb up, most people don’t and neither did I.

1200px-Dutch_Education_System-en.svg.png

Allow me to explain this with this little chart above. I remember going into this placement test hoping I’d get placed into VWO. VWO is the education that grants access to uni, which is needed to study vet med. I however, got placed into HAVO. Not bad either. So I went in there, hoping I could climb my way up. My first year went terrible. I was insecure and I faced some issues with bullying, so I dropped to VMBO instead. I completed that, demotivated without any real challenges and afterwards applied to veterinary technician school. At this point I had completely given up on my vet dream and decided to be a tech instead. But as I did this education I realised that this industry is what I’m passionate about and despite loving the vet tech work I knew that I wanted more out of it. After graduation I moved to Denmark and now I’m here, currently studying to get my GED and hopefully being able to still pursue this childhood dream. I knew it wasn’t easy, anything but easy actually, but me being my stubborn self at least wanted to try.

But as I’m getting closer to turning this thing into reality, I realised that I’m getting scared. My exams are getting closer and I start doubting myself as I always do when that dreaded time of the year pops up. I don’t know if I can even get my GED. Will I be able to even get into uni if I do? What if I don’t even make it through the first year of getting my GED?

I’m the kind of person to have back up plan B, C, D, E and F ready just in case plan A doesn’t work out. This time is no different. Although I can’t really use my vet tech degree here in Denmark to get into other educations, I can in the Netherlands. So the past months I’ve been looking at universities of applied sciences and see what they got to offer. I then stumbled upon Biology and Lab Research, which sounded exciting to me albeit not animal related. I have always enjoyed lab work and I’d love to solve things and figure things out. But there’s a catch there. You see, in the Netherlands I’d rack up debt, which isn’t exactly something I’m excited about doing. I would hate to freshly get out of school and be neck deep in. So in a way it almost seems as if I am a little stuck.

I know I first get my GED in 2020 and that I shouldn’t worry, but I do. I’m scared I can’t make it through. Not getting into vet school isn’t the end of the world, but if I don’t get my GED, what then? It’d be my gateway to so many opportunities. What if I can’t even do that?

Let’s just say, that my first goal is to CALM DOWN, pass these exams this semester, and the next 3 semesters as well. Then I’d have my GED.
Second goal: Getting into vet med OR animal science
Third goal: ?? I have no clue!

As I’m getting older I’m realising that making plans that far ahead is pointless. In the end you can’t control how life goes and for me it only seems anxiety inducing. So let’s just keep it at those two goals first. I just hope I can keep myself together long enough to even be able to do that. It’ll just be a buttload of really hard work!

I guess only time will tell!

Do you guys have any future goals and dreams? Do they scare you?

I’d love to hear about them!

– Naiyee

The Motherless Daughters Club: The story of how I lost my mom

Today’s post is going to be a tough one!

Next week, on the 29th of November, marks four years since my mother passed away. Growing up I had heard stories of my peers losing a parent, but I had never really given the idea of losing my mother any thought. ”That would never happen to me!” I’d say.. Until it actually happened.

I was 20 years old, embarking on this whole new journey in my life. I had just graduated vet tech school and I had just moved to Denmark to be with my boyfriend at the time. All in all I was very excited about the start of my new life. That was until I received a phone call from my Opa. He was in tears, I still remember till this day how upset he was. ”Your mother has been admitted to the hospital and it isn’t good. We don’t know what is going on, but it’s bad news”. Those words still haunt me. I was all alone, my then boyfriend was at work and it felt like the ground was disappearing from underneath me. I tried to go about my day, phone in my hand, until Mama called me. She told me they would take some more tests, but they were pretty sure that it was cancer. Cancer. The disease that I’ve seen wreaking havoc all around me. I had seen people die from it. Heck, my mom has undergone surgery for it a few years prior, but the doctors said it wasn’t anything serious.

To hear that it came back felt like a slap in the face. No, actually, it felt like a punch in the stomach. My mind was racing a thousand miles an hour.  The following weeks were a blur. I’d try to Skype with Mama and the rest of my family as much as I could. They ended up finding out that Mama was suffering from a very rare subtype of Non Hodgkin Lymphoma. She’d keep me updated about her progress and how her rounds of chemo were going. Eventually she started losing her hair and we Skyped while my sister shaved off Mama’s hair. It was raw, it was rough and I was struggling to keep my emotions in. Mama actually sent me a lock of her hair, which I today still keep in a little box with some of her jewellery.

The chemo started taking a toll on her health. Mama has always been a bit weaker. She had been suffering from chronic illnesses for years at that point. At this point, three months in, she needed me to be there, so I hesitantly booked my flight to be there with my family. I was scared.

”Is she still the same? She looks so different.. What if I make her sicker?”

I arrived and I could tell she was filled with joy to see me. I wasn’t too happy, but I knew it was the right thing to do. A couple of days leading up to my arrival back home we found out that my childhood dog Lilo also had cancer and wouldn’t be around for much longer. A couple of days later we had to put our beloved Lilo down. It definitely was a blow for all of us. But I tried to spend as much time with my family and friends as possible. I accompanied my mom to her weekly trips to the hospital and all seemed well, until Mama started getting sicker again. She couldn’t keep anything in and the doctors decided that it’d be smart for her to be readmitted so they could run some tests and scans. The day before I was supposed to go back to Denmark I decided to go to the hospital and be with Mama. Her doctor came in and asked if we’d like to come to the family room to discuss her PET scan results and I immediately sensed something wasn’t right. I told Mama, but she seemed confident that it was all fine. I remember saying: ”But… If everything is fine, why wouldn’t she want to tell us here?” Mama shared a room with some other patients and well.. You wouldn’t bring bad news in a room full with other people. Off to the family room we went..

”I’ll just cut right to the chase. Your treatment isn’t working anymore. The cancer is fighting back a couple of times worse than in the beginning.. I’m really sorry, but it’d probably be better if you would go home and spend the time you still have with your family..”

I don’t think I have ever screamed and cried as much in front of my family and strangers as I did that evening. It felt like my world shattered into a million pieces in mere seconds. Watching Mama and Opa break down was the worst thing I have ever had to witness. They were the people who seemed invincible to me. The car ride home to Oma and my sister was long. I recall Mama trying to hold my hands, but I was completely out of it. I couldn’t look at her, it hurt too bad.

”Don’t you want me to hold your hand?”
”Fuck, Mama, what am I supposed to do without you?”

She held me and we cried on the back seat, all the way home. My sister and Oma were devastated too. And then we suddenly had a funeral to plan. The doctors couldn’t say how much longer she had. Could be a couple of weeks, could be a couple of months. The cancer rapidly took over her body up until the point where she was bed bound. Mama had decided she wanted to be put under palliative care instead of choosing euthanasia, since she thought euthanasia would be too hard for my sister and I. I’d have preferred if she opted for euthanasia, but my sister was happier with the palliative care. Only goes to show how this differs for each individual! Seeing Mama’s health deteriorate so badly was hard to watch.

Mama and I had a complicated relationship. We fought a lot as I got older. For the most part I’m a carbon copy of her, maybe not necessarily looks, but definitely personality, just minus the ADD for me. I used to see her as this invincible entity. Mama who could do anything, Mama who would scare anyone away who’d try to hurt me, Mama who would ALWAYS be there, right? Having to take of her, helping her out of bed, making her food, taking her on walks was something that suddenly didn’t seem like a chore anymore, but I actually liked it, knowing that her time here was coming to an end.. That end came sooner than any of us really anticipated.

The day she decided to be put to sleep came and we had to say goodbye, since she would sleep until she would eventually pass away. It was rough. None of us wanted to say goodbye. I still wanted to ask her so many things, go on so many more hikes, have so many more barbecues, sing so many more songs.

”I am so sorry it has gone so fast Nennie.. I really am”

We hugged, we kissed, we laughed for the last time and then she slept. Four days later she finally passed. When my bonus mom came up in my room to tell me she passed, it felt like a relief. Mama wasn’t suffering anymore. The funeral was planned and it was just the way she would have wanted it. We got a bunch of permanent markers, which people could take to write a message on her casket with and the casket transformed from a boring white casket to a casket filled with messages and flowers. It left an impression for sure. It’s funny how one person could have such an impact.  Mama was a dog lover and part of a big community of dog enthusiasts. When she was driven away to be cremated all of her friends were there with their dogs to pay tribute to her and honor her. I look back on it with a smile, knowing she would have loved it.

Having lost her also meant my sister and I lost our childhood home, our dogs and our safe space. Losing her was so much more than losing just her. We lost our old lives and suddenly had to start something new. In the beginning I was convinced I couldn’t do it, but so far, I’d say I’m doing pretty darn well.

I miss her. I miss her so much and it hurts. I wouldn’t even say that it hurts less, because I’m still hurting as much as I did the moment her heart stopped beating. I’ve just learned how to live with it..

In the end, you can’t lose someone who sits so deep within your heart to death. Their memory and stories keep them alive in a way.

– Naiyee

 

How yoga saved my life

Lately I haven’t been feeling very grounded. With school, exams coming up, trying to keep a social life and visiting family I have been nothing but busy. All of those long days and days away from home I have really not been able to practise yoga the way I want to. Not just in the physical sense, but also mentally. For the past three years I’ve been keeping my practise (somewhat) consistent, but this year has been really difficult!

I started my practise back in 2015, only a couple of months after my mother passed away. I felt very lost and as if my life had lost all of its meaning, so I decided to look for something to do.. I had been flirting with the idea of yoga years prior, but had never seriously considered it. I only saw the physical aspect of it, but never the mental aspects. The thought that I wasn’t flexible enough or skinny enough went through my mind a lot. But the more I thought about it, the more the idea of Yoga pulled me in. So I bought a cheap yoga mat and started following along with video’s on YouTube. At first it was only 15 minutes a day, but I could immediately sense how calm it made me feel.

During that period of my life my mind was racing. Thoughts about how much I missed my mother and my family back home, but also thoughts that were much, much darker. I felt the need to be in control of my life, since I couldn’t be in control of my mother’s fate.  I was yearning to find some peace in my life. Starting with yoga was scary to me. I was very insecure, having been overweight and bad with any type of ”exercise”, so this was a challenge. But I decided to face it head on and so I did. Soon I found myself on my mat ever. single. day. My practise started on my mat, but soon expanded itself into everything I do. I focus on how I breathe, how I speak to other people and take time to meditate a little, even if it is just for a minute or two. But it also made my relationships with other people better. I feel as if I have a deeper understanding of why people do what they do or say the things they say.. Before I used to be very quick to judge, not really paying people any time of the day and just living on the fast lane.

Yoga has taught me in times of stress to take a step back, reflect and ask myself: ”What is this teaching me?”. If something doesn’t serve me, I let it go. If I can’t control something, I let it happen. It has also taught me a lot about my own body too. Asana is one of the 8 limbs of yoga and asana means posture. It is what you see people do on their mats. Asana humbled me beyond belief. I used to see a pose and think: ”Wow!! I want to do it too, I’m totally ready for that!” even though I wasn’t. In the beginning that made a dent in my ego. Not being able to do a handstand or a middle split within 3 months bugged the living daylights out of me and even made me want to stop at times, but as my practise progressed, I realised that it really doesn’t matter. Sure, it is a fun goal to have, but that’s the thing. You should enjoy the journey towards those goals instead of only focus on the destination.

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This pose in particular I started practising about 2 years ago and I still struggle with it! Such a humbling experience every time I try it.

That lesson I could also apply to my real life. You see, after my mom died, I was waiting to die myself as well. I didn’t see any point in living anymore if she wasn’t there to see me do the crazy stuff I do today. I then realised that I am going to be around for a long time still, if I’m lucky. So why would I wait for that final destination, the day I die, while beating myself up about so much stuff that is not my hands? That final destination will happen, whether I like it or not, so I might as well enjoy the time I still have left. And that is how yoga saved me. It saved me from a life filled with emptyness and misery.

I might not have time or energy to practise asana every day, but you better believe I try to practise the other 7 limbs from the moment I wake up until the moment I hit the hay. And that’s the beauty of it. You are completely in charge of the way you want to practise as long as you are not forcing it.

Have you ever tried yoga?

-Naiyee