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

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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

Your home should tell the story of who you are and be a collection of what you love.

Sorry I didn’t write on here sooner, but it has been a busy couple of days I guess! With a math midterm and reading up on some of the things I’ve missed while I was away to see my family and trying to get enough sleep in, it was hard for me to find a moment to just sit down and write. Today was nice and quiet, so here I am!

On Monday I came back from a lovely couple of days in the Netherlands that I’ve spent with my family and love. In a previous post I wrote about how hard it is for me to go back and how the days leading up to it always end up being incredibly anxiety inducing for me. However, whenever I’m there, it feels like coming home, truly. We spent most of the time at my sister’s, as she lives close to Schiphol Airport and the rest of Amsterdam and since my boyfriend has never been in the Netherlands before, I thought it’d be a great opportunity to be a tourist in my own country and show him around a bit. We had a blast. Amsterdam really is a special place.

We also celebrated my grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary, which took place in my hometown, so we decided to also spend a night at their place, so I could show him where I’m from and where I grew up. This idea in particular scared me at first, as I’ve only gone back there two or three times ever since my mother passed away. But I felt like it was the right thing to do. I showed him the houses I grew up in, the schools I went to, my poem that ended up winning a competition and actually ended up being put down in tiles on this big square in my neighbourhood and lots of other things. It was quite something.

It was special to me, because to me it felt as if I was walking through a photo book as I was reminiscing all of these memories. But it also made me think.. I realised that for the most part of my adult life, I’ve been running away from my old life back in the Netherlands, just trying to get ahead and create something new. Ever since I’ve moved to Denmark, I’ve been doing something. Be it learning the language, getting to know new people, getting a job or studying, I have always made sure to do something, so I wouldn’t have to doubt anything or be sad about the life I no longer have.. This trip however made me feel weird inside. I felt homesick, truly homesick for the first time in well… ever? It was just eyeopening how the conversations I had with my grandparents, father, sister and other family members made me feel less empty in a way. I wouldn’t say I’m this super unhappy person in general, but my struggle with depression makes me feel very empty inside. But whenever I’m with them, the feeling disappears. I know the grass isn’t always greener on the other side, it never is actually, but it does make me wonder whether I’d be happier over there or not.

For shits and giggles I actually decided to sign up for a bachelors degree in Biology and Medical Research over there and see if I get in. I want to give myself a year to figure out if I’ll feel better and if my situation will change, but if not, I might just go back home. That would also mean that I’d have to give up my dream of getting into vet school and I’m not quite sure if I’m ready for that yet, so we will see. The idea of researching a cure for cancer, especially since my mom died from it and I know a lot of people who have been sick from it, sounds like a very exciting thing to do. But at this point it’s still all out in the open. I guess that’s the fun thing about life, the uncertainty of it all.

I just find it funny how this trip opened up a whole new can of worms for me. I didn’t expect to end up not feeling like going back to Denmark, but luckily for me I have a lot of kind people over here as well. In the end, home isn’t really a place for me. It’s the people that fill up that space. It could be at the other side of the world, but as long as they’ll be there, I would be okay. It would be home.

Where do you guys feel at home?

I would love to hear about it!

– Naiyee

50 years of love: Things my grandparents taught me about love

This week my grandparents celebrated their golden marriage, something that seems to be a rare occasion nowadays. Growing up I never had parents to show me what a loving relationship looked like, since my parents divorced when I was only 6 years old. But luckily for me, I have grandparents who are the living breathing example of what a loving marriage should be like. They have faced some really difficult challenges, but fought through it all. They really live up to the ”for richer or poorer, for better or worse, in sickness and in health” part.

I never really knew what it was like to live in a household where both parents truly loved each other. My parents got together under weird circumstances and their divorce really didn’t come as a surprise. I often spent days over at my grandparents just looking at their daily routines and observing how they interacted with each other. They bicker a lot and my grandmother always has to correct my grandpa whenever he’s telling stories, but when you look past all that, it’s obvious how much those two love each other. I’ve asked Opa often how he did it. How is it possible to stay with the same person for decades? And he gave me some pretty great advice..

”A marriage is a give and take type of deal, but you ALWAYS give a little bit more than you take. And a good partner does the same thing for you in return.”

He told me that you shouldn’t want to be selfish in a good relationship, since you are in this together. Of course it’s okay to be selfish every once in a while, but you should never do things where it would only benefit you. In the end, the goal should be to make this person happy and only thinking about yourself can ultimately damage your relationship.

”Choose each other, every. single. day.”

My opa and oma have had their fair share of health issues. My oma has had a bad functioning body for as long as I can remember and my opa ended up with a really bad back injury three months into their marriage. He was bedridden for months and Oma took care of him, without complaining. It was a rough time financially though, since Opa was the one bringing home the bacon, but he couldn’t work. They made the best of it though and despite all of this, they still look back on it as the best years of their marriage and a period of growth. Opa took care, and still takes care, of Oma because she can’t do as much. Many people have criticised and berated him for staying with her, but he stuck with her, and still does till this day. When I asked him about it, he simply said that the easy way out isn’t always the most fulfulling and that he wouldn’t have it any other way.

”Have fun. Lots of it.”

My grandparents like to joke around a lot. Whenever I’m there Opa likes to crack lots of jokes about how small Oma is, or how she can’t do anything to him anyway, since she can’t run that fast. He’d have to duck though, since she has no issue throwing her slipper across the room. But they always laugh a lot. They have these funny little inside jokes that only they can laugh about. The kind of jokes that would raise eyebrows if they would be said out loud in public. And I love them for it. Lots of bellyaches have occurred in their living room from laughing too hard.

”Stick together, even when times are rough.”

They’ve experienced the one thing every parent out there fears. The loss of a child. The past four years have been really tough for them, but they fought through it. They still struggle with it, but they raise one another up when falling down. They hold each other when the days are tough and they make it through anyway. They could’ve chosen to lose optimism and succumb to that downwards spiral, but they didn’t. They make the best of it and try to spend their time doing things they like doing. Together.

”Communicate. Don’t ever go to bed angry at each other.”

One thing that Opa and I talked about a lot, is the fact that you should never go to sleep when you are mad at one another. You never know if you’ll wake up the day after. Talk through your grievances, even if it means that you’ll be sitting there until sunrise or if it means that you’ll end up fighting. Sometimes it needs to get bad before it gets better. But it’s never good to let small annoyances or frustrations sit there and fester. These small things combined can lead to something nasty, so why not just solve it by talking it through the moment it bothers you?

”Don’t stop falling in love with each other”

And with that I’m not talking about the happy sappy cheesy ”get a room” honeymoon kind of love. I’m talking about kissing each other on the cheek while they’re doing the dishes, or putting your hand on their knee as they’re sitting next to you on the couch. These small and subtle little gestures you can barely see, but that are there. I feel warm inside when I see those tiny little things as they go about their day. It’s so obvious that they’re still crazy about each other after 55 years of being together. It’s sweet and adorable.

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My bonus mom actually gave them an AWESOME surprise. She got a wedding cake made for the occasion and they were just so happy.

I really admire the way they handle things and I can only hope that if I get married one day, that won’t be the kind of love you read about in fairytales, but the love my grandparents have for each other. It’s real and raw and it hasn’t always been pretty, but it also shouldn’t be. My opa and oma are from the generation where you fixed things when they were broken, instead of throwing it away. And I’m a firm believer of that as well. Obviously, if it no longer works you have to let it go, but problems that are easy to fix, should always be fixed first. I am proud to have such amazing rolemodels in my life, knowing that not everybody is that lucky. I am grateful for them and I am grateful that I got to experience their love for each other. 50 years down, and hopefully a whole lot more to go!

Do you have rolemodels like these?

I’d love to hear about your stories!

– Naiyee

Hearts are wild creatures, that’s why our ribs are cages..

So this week I’m up to something pretty big! I’ll be going back to the Netherlands for the first time in over a year to celebrate my grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary. It always ends up being pretty awesome whenever I’m down there to visit family, but the time leading up to those trips are always pretty stressful for me.

For those of you that don’t know me that well, my mother passed away only a couple of months after I moved to Denmark in 2014 and basically right after I moved here, I had to go back to be there with her. The weeks leading up to it was grueling, because she was very sick, and I knew that nothing would be the same way as I left it. But then she passed away and suddenly it felt as if my home was taken away from me. Even though I still have all of my family and friends over there, it feels as if I no longer belong. Part of me is probably also just nervous about receiving bad news again, the same way as it did back in 2014. Now I know that that is absolutely irrational and I have nothing to worry about, but still. Going back is hard for me, because it’s a constant reminder of the life I once had. A life I once took for granted. My friends moved away, our dogs have been adopted, my entire family lives in different parts spread out over the country and well.. the house I grew up in is no longer ours.

I remember walking around my hometown last year with my Opa and my sister and even though everything looked the same, the feeling was gone. It was like a familiar painting, but without the warm colours..

Whenever I do go down there to see everyone, it feels like a warm bath. It’s lovely to be surrounded by my family and friends and sometimes I really do wonder if moving abroad was the right decision, but then I look at how much I have grown and the little life I’ve established here and it made me realise that I did something right. But there are moments where I really hate being so far away from everyone I love. It makes me wish that sometimes I wasn’t so adventurous and found contentment in a simpler life, closer to the ones I love. But then I think about a quote my mom once sent me:

”Hearts are wild creatures, that’s why our ribs are cages”.

I see where she was getting at.. I used to ALWAYS follow my head and play it safe, but it also made me very unhappy. The one moment I decided to follow my heart was the decision to move countries, something lots of people in my direct circle never expected of someone like me. But I still try to protect my heart from things that may hurt it, so I keep it tucked deep within me, within my ribs. Isolating myself is a bad coping mechanism I’ve created over the years and I am not very proud of it, but it has always worked. Now that I live so far away from my loved ones it’s even easier, although I try not to. Staying away from the place that confronts me; my own bloody home, is easy, but it’s not a solution. It’s bittersweet really, because this longing for being with my family comes with this fear, this sense of anxiety of returning to my home, because of the events that have occurred there 4 years ago, not even to mention that this month marks the fourth year since my mother has passed.

So in a way, this upcoming trip has given me a lot of sleepless nights too. I procrastinated booking my flight and letting my family know if I’d be there, because of this tug-of-war in my head. However, I knew I couldn’t stay away. This is a milestone in my grandparents’ lives and they had already considered holding it off, since my mother couldn’t be there too. And I can relate to this feeling, because I’ve been there too. I didn’t want to marry or have kids if she wouldn’t be there to experience it, but in the end, life doesn’t stop because her life ended. So I’m proud of my grandparents for deciding that they’d celebrate anyway. I couldn’t say no when they asked me if I’d come too, knowing that they’d already have one empty chair at that table. I didn’t want them to have to look at yet another empty chair at that dining table. And I’m happy that I get to see them again. Spending time with them is fun. They’re amazing people and I am so grateful to still have them.

Life is strange. It’s incredible how much impact the loss of ONE person can have on so many lives. My mother’s death may have caused us to be far apart from one another, but our bond is closer than ever. I only get to spend 4 days in the Netherlands, not very long, but my loss also taught me to cherish those moments, as big or as little as they may seem.

As my favourite Disney character once said:

”This is my family. It’s little and broken, but still good.
Yeah, still good”

To all of you reading this,

Hug your loved ones a little tighter today. You never for how much longer you’ll have them..

– Naiyee

Attitude of gratitude..

Basically since the start of this year I have been trying to manifest this attitude of gratitude. It started out as an assignment my therapist gave me. I had to list three things that I am grateful for every day. In the beginning this seemed to be near impossible to me, as I have been feeling negative and low for the majority of my life, having struggled with clinical depression and anxiety for a good decade or so. But the more I made this little list, either in my head or on paper, I really started noticing a difference.

I started seeing the positive things in life again, but I also realised that the world wasn’t against me or that everyone was out to get me. When you’ve been so pessimistic all you life it’s really difficult to look at the little things and get happiness out of it. After the death of my mother back in 2014 I grew numb and cold to everything around me. I lived my life on autopilot, without any sort of goals and dreams ahead of me anymore. Breaking a pattern like that seemed like a huge mountain to climb and it still isn’t easy at times. It’s ups and downs, falling and getting up.

But after having made this little, tiny and seemingly insignificant list every single day, my life did improve. I opened myself up for good things to happen again, realising that I’m only 24, and being alive, just waiting to die, isn’t a life I want to live. I know for a fact that my mom wouldn’t have wanted that either. So I made the promise to myself and to my late mother that I’d start living again. And so I did. I had forgotten what it is like to live again or what it’s like to genuinely be happy. But I’m getting there. And I am pretty darn proud of myself.

So today I’m grateful for:

*The fact that I got to sleep an hour longer
* The fact that I actually understood things in my math class. I am not a mathematical genius, so every time I manage to solve equations or put into words why I solved something the way I did is a win in my book!
* The fact that I get to meet up with one of my best friends today.

Manifesting this grateful attitude is one of the hardest things I had to do to improve my mental health, but also one of the most rewarding. So if you, like me, are also struggling with depression or just a pessimistic outlook on life, I’d definitely recommend you’d give it a try!

Thank you so much for reading.

What are three things you grateful for today?

– Naiyee