Lessons From Grief: Learning Worthiness and Priorities in My Career

Contributed by: Michelle Malawer, owner of Dating by Danya. Twitter: @MichelleMalawer @DatingByDanya

Two years ago, on August 5th, 2014, my mother died. It had come suddenly, a slow descent over what happened to be five months.

After a rocky start to my career, everything was finally in order I thought: I moved from D.C. to Philadelphia for a paid internship at a web design firm that would turn into job. Moving and housing arrangements were hastily made and I left to greet my future. But two weeks later, I had a choice: I could stay at the firm or come home. My mom was dying.

It had started as an emergency visit to the ER: my mother couldn’t breathe. It turned out a tumor was pressing on her trachea. She had stage 4 lung cancer. She needed a tracheostomy, then a ventilator, then chemo. Everything happened so quickly. She was in the ICU for a month, then a step down unit. It was not only difficult to know what to do, but difficult to know what she wanted to do: The cancer had paralyzed her vocal chords. She could not use her voice.

There were conversations. Several groups of doctors explained to us her options were rehabilitation and physical therapy or hospice. It became clear, however, hospice was the only compassionate answer.

There was no tug, no pull, no question that I would leave the internship in Philadelphia even if they could not hold it for me. It felt natural, and right, I should return home. Not that my mother and I had a smooth relationship - we didn’t. She always wanted to be closer to me than I allowed her to and at the time I didn’t respect her. But somehow I felt guided, and supported, by the universe - there was no doubt in my mind I was doing the right thing.

No matter how tough each day was - there was the day the hospice almost let her suffocate and the day she almost fell on her head - it felt like I was a higher version of myself and that I was plugged into the divine order of things.

It surprises me, but the most difficult part of everything was not her dying, or giving the eulogy, or standing at the burial. It is the aftermath. Building my life, and career back, day by day. Because I quit the web design, I needed to find another job. I found a job ghostwriting profiles that was remote and part-time. For a year after she died I allowed myself the luxury of working part time in order to spend the other half healing in the comfort of my home. Then a cousin suggested I start my own business ghostwriting online dating profiles and that’s what I’ve been doing for the past year.

The last five months I spent with my mom taught me important lessons, most notably that life happens outside the office. It showed me I would be best served with a flexible job so that I can show up to the important things in life, a key motivator in deciding to start my own business. It also taught me that unless I make a conscious, concerted happy to be happy, my mood will rarely be “pleased” or “happy” or “contented.”

And most importantly, though, it taught me that the universe has infinitely better plans for me than I can possibly come up with.

Building my business is a series of saying “yeses” even though I don’t know the outcome. It is highly uncomfortable and I don’t know whether I will succeed or fail. But I need to try because my mother taught me, in her dying, my worthiness. That I cannot deliver mediocrity, and unhappiness, any longer.


Being Still IS Worthwhile WORK

I have fully embraced this concept of just sitting or laying in silence.

Really, it has changed me, and my ability to help others.

Call it whatever you like, meditation, quiet time, or staring into space. I wholeheartedly believe being STILL and QUIET is THE most productive thing one can do. Feel overwhelmed? Think there are too many things on your to do list? Tired? Confused? ... the remedy is this.

We all have multiple facets to our lives, we all have a billion things to keep track of and to push forward with our goals, but knowing WHAT and WHEN to pour energy into WHICH is MAJORLY important.

I found my mind wandering and that feeling of "eh I'll put that off till tomorrow" settling in. 10 minutes of laying still and being quiet and the right question entered my mind for the day, "where does your energy need to go next?" and so did the answers, now I have clarity.

A dear friend of mine introduced me at a speaking engagement the other week as "she can somehow complete 48 hours of stuff in just 24 hours every day". Friends, I am telling you, this is how. By being still, by intentionally taking time every day to be quiet, to figure out where to direct my ship and who to ask to jump on it.

If the FEELING and the PEACE OF MIND wasn't enough, this video popped up on my newsfeed days after I wrote this on my facebook page. I had no idea that Oprah had shared this sentiment with people as well. So if you don't take it from me, that is ok, take it from her.

Redefining Health LIVE Panel Discussion January 2016

Event starts at minute 12

Facilitator: Meghan Enriquez

Panelists from left to right:

Monique Washington Jones of Karate4Girls in Columbia MD; Sarah Bofinger training to qualify for 2020 Olympics in Swimming; Kimberly Kandra of Kimmotion Pilates Studio and mother of 5; Dr Joseph Gennusa III author of Average Joe, Registered Dietician and Research Director at Johns Hopkins

Let Go of Finding Your "Purpose" Mama

The song lyrics to Tim McGraw’s “Live like you were dying” haunt me every other second of my life as I am in the tussle and bustle of young mom life. Whatever song or scripture or lesson you attribute it to, you know what I am talking about. The idea that we are not supposed to lose ONE day to mediocrity and that we should be finding our destiny and pursuing it with every ounce of our being.

Then you look around yourself. Your toddler is yelling things like, “Stop asking ME to put on my shoooooes” and your baby is poking himself in the face with a spoon that has last night’s dried up spaghetti still stuck to it. Oh and your baby has a food allergy so you hope to goodness your epi pen skills will not be tested today. You think, “Shit, I failed again. There is no way THIS can be my purpose, my destiny. I am wasting yet another day.”

Now there are some parents out there who are simply meant to be amazing parents. They are the ones who I used to be jealous of; they loved being pregnant, they adored staring into their sleeping babies’ faces while they rocked them to sleep at 3am, and they continue to oooh and ahhh at every stage of their children’s life saying, “this one is better than the last.”

The rest of us, well, we are meant to be parents, but I wouldn’t say it is our ultimate purpose on this Earth. It is however, part of the plan of finding out how we should contribute to the betterment of society. Without having children, feeling the pains , trials and tribulations of it all, you may not have ever come about your purpose.

As a good friend reminded me, “Trust that you are exactly where you are at exactly the right time for a reason and a purpose. Maybe it wasn’t a fruitful path but what you learned in that path was worth taking the scenic route.”

Dr. Carol Phillips, a world renowned chiropractor and creator of Dynamic Body Balancing, shared with me that she remembered feeling that during the years she was a parent to two young children were “unproductive” in terms of her life purpose. However had she not had her children she never would have discovered the benefits of chiropractic work and created a 30 plus year career out of it. It was her daughter’s health that eventually introduced her to this discipline, a calling that was completely not even on her radar when she was struggling with “being productive.”

So I leave you with this. Know that “THIS”, this phase, this stage, this feeling of unproductively, THIS is what is propelling you even closer to your purpose, and it is ok if you do not know what it is.