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To read books like this, I have to be in a certain mood. Just like any other genre, be it mystery, true crime, or forensic psychology related. I knew from the moment I was about 80 pages in, that this was going to require a certain state of mind from me to be able to finish it. So over the past month, in between reading thrillers, etc., I finally finished it.

The book was about a neurosurgeon that was diagnosed with cancer and his journey until his untimely demise. The book offers an interesting perspective into the journey of someone who’s life is cut short by such a serious illness such as cancer. There were a few quotes that stuck with me and a few thoughts that I’d like to share and understand your thoughts.

At the end of it all, what really matters? There came a point where he was diagnosed with cancer, would he return to neurosurgery—his passion? Where would he go? What would he do, and most importantly, what really mattered? I often think about my own demise, what have I accomplished, what have I not, what do I want, and what would I do but my own question of what really matters. Now that I am a mother, I have an Achilles—my daughter. Had I not been a mother the answer would be simple, what matters to me is money and my friends. Now I find that what matters to me is the ability to see my daughter grow and guide her through life. Money is still there, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to having a sordid affair with money. It is the root of all evil after all and everyone has a price, or at least I’m honest enough to own that I have one.

The book was a good read, again heavy in the content and the reflection and understanding that we all have a counter over our heads, just ticking the minutes and days away. But the takeaway is much larger in scale, because I reminded myself to take more time to myself, more time to slow down and enjoy my surroundings, more time to see and be one with nature and the things that I enjoy and love.

So at the end of the day…what really matters to you?

Here are the quotes:

“Human knowledge is never contained in one person. It grows from the relationships we create between each other and the world, and still it is never complete.”
Paul Kalanithi, When Breath Becomes Air

I began to realize that coming in such close contact with my own mortality had changed both nothing and everything. Before my cancer was diagnosed, I knew that someday I would die, but I didn’t know when. After the diagnosis, I knew that someday I would die, but I didn’t know when. But now I knew it acutely. The problem wasn’t really a scientific one. The fact of death is unsettling. Yet there is no other way to live.”
Paul Kalanithi, When Breath Becomes Air

“The tricky part of illness is that, as you go through it, your values are constantly changing. You try to figure out what matters to you, and then you keep figuring it out. It felt like someone had taken away my credit card and I was having to learn how to budget. You may decide you want to spend your time working as a neurosurgeon, but two months later, you may feel differently. Two months after that, you may want to learn to play the saxophone or devote yourself to the church. Death may be a one-time event, but living with terminal illness is a process.”
Paul Kalanithi, When Breath Becomes Air

Jessica is a full time mother, employee, and student. She works as an Immigration Paralegal and is working towards a Bachelor’s degree in Business. Jessica loves to volunteer with organizations that are targeted towards children. She recognizes that children are our future and sometimes they need someone who believes in them.

Jessica’s motto: Balancing everything is difficult but achievable.

One of Jessica’s greatest passions is writing. She says, “You have the ability to connect with reader’s in a way that speaking sometimes you simply can’t explain. I have been through a lot in my personal life and am very open about my struggles, but I live to be an example to not only my own daughter but to others.”

I always consider around Week 5 or so of school the midway point even if there are way more weeks to follow. In the past few weeks I’ve been juggling the full time schedule of 4 courses, work and crazy work deadlines, my daughters homework and my dad’s health. He’s been in and out of the hospital for the past month. In between all of that, I can openly attest that some of my work is not entirely up to par. Wendy Williams was recently scrutinized for saying that women will always have to sacrifice, whether it’s work, school, children etc. She’s right. Although we think that we’ve departed from a historical implication of roles and women, the truth is that women are the primary care takers of their children. When your child is home sick the majority of the time its the mother who stays home and cares for her child, the examples can go on and on. Wendy’s comment basically was that you can’t do it all, something will always lags and women are the one’s who sacrifice in career and marriage and she’s right. This was Wendy’s remarks:

“We can debate this all day. Every woman has a different view and there are some women who have an opinion and are scared to voice their opinion on it. But I’m not afraid to voice mine—don’t throw tomatoes.

I do feel it is difficult for men to accept really successful career women. Whether it be that we out-earn them or the marquee, our names are brighter than their own. I also feel like marriage and babies stunt a woman’s growth career-wise and they don’t understand like, once you get married and once you have kids, you can’t do all the things that you used to do and maintain this important precious thing you’ve built as a family.

So my suggestion to women, always, is to use your entire 20s…work your behind off in your career and get some ground footing, then think about meeting that guy. Even if you’ve met him at 27, don’t get engaged and don’t move to where he is. This is about you and your career. Because we are the ones that lose in marriage.

Not men! Men can have all their boys’ nights out and whenever we have a girls’ night out I’m always, ‘I gotta leave, it’s soccer practice.’ I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. I’m saying that as a woman who’s been married for 17 years, we’re still expected to empty the dishwasher and we’re still expected to maintain our household.”

You can’t work a high pressure career over 50 hours and still find enough time to be with your family, it’s give and take. You can’t juggle everything and be great at all of it, somewhere a ball is falling. We can only do so much with the best batting average. I have a daughter, and if I have to be honest with her, I will tell her the same. There are no limits to what you can do in life, but family changes you and your dynamics, because at the end of the day, your a mother first, and everything comes second to last to that including yourself. I often reminisce about my own mother, and I honestly wonder how in the world she made it look so easy! I am tired, worn down and just exhausted by the end of the day. I’d love to hear everyone’s thoughts on this.

Jessica is a full time mother, employee, and student. She works as an Immigration Paralegal and is working towards a Bachelor’s degree in Business. Jessica loves to volunteer with organizations that are targeted towards children. She recognizes that children are our future and sometimes they need someone who believes in them.
Jessica’s motto: Balancing everything is difficult but achievable.
One of Jessica’s greatest passions is writing. She says, “You have the ability to connect with reader’s in a way that speaking sometimes you simply can’t explain. I have been through a lot in my personal life and am very open about my struggles, but I live to be an example to not only my own daughter but to others.”

The last few years have been pretty tough on the family – we lost so many in so little time and unexpectedly. It almost seemed like we were cursed with all the tears and so many hearts to heal. This year was a bit different and we are all still here, and although there are those who continue to cope with different ailments, we are pretty much okay.

This year was a big one for my Nick. This year he finally “got” the whole birthday thing and he enjoyed Halloween and was the cutest Superman I have ever seen. The words started flowing and he is communicating so much better. Just the other day he said “good morning” to a neighbor who was in the elevator with us. I had to prompt him, but he looked at her and said it. I don’t think she realized what a big moment that was. He uses “I want” when he needs something and he is doing great in school. My Facebook cover page says “Words Will Come,” but I think I have to change that now.

I have met and become closer to new friends who are on the same journey as Nick and I. These women who understand what it means to raise a child with Autism. We laugh together over a meal and drinks or just talk about our children – sometimes we shed tears of sadness but mostly of joy. As an adult I can’t remember the last time I met someone who I can genuinely call a friend. I have never been the type to give anyone the title of “best friend” and I still don’t because my real friends are more like family. These new friends – and you know who you are – are a blessing to me and they are now and will always be my family.

On Thanksgiving night when we sit around the table with my family and share the amazing meal prepared by my dear mother, I cannot help but feel blessed to still have her and my father here on earth and hope that we have many more years together.

Health, Words, Family.

And for that I am grateful.

Marisol Vendrell is a life-long New York City resident and works as a legal assistant for a midsize Manhattan firm. She is the single mom to a seven-year-old boy named Nicholas who is diagnosed with Autism. She is the co-founder of the Bronx Parents Autism Support Circle, a parent support group for Bronx parents, and is a CUNY SPS student working towards a Bachelor’s Degree in Disability Studies

Carrie has been a teaching artist in NYC for 10 years and a mom for 6 months. She received her MA in Applied Theatre from CUNY School of Professional Studies in 2011. Carrie is currently working for organizations such as TDF, The Roundabout Theatre Company, and The Museum of the City of New York doing playbuilding, and connecting theatre to literacy and the Common Core Standards. Below are her thoughts on the art of mothering:

If you had asked me a year and a half ago, a year ago, even six months ago, how I would feel as a working mother, I would have said: “I love my work as a teaching artist and an applied theater practitioner. I’m passionate about theater and the power of theater to transform, and my child will be proud of me for doing what I love. What an example I will set!”

Fast-forward five and a half months.

Applied MotherI am a mom to a beautiful baby boy, a wife, and a teaching artist. But the super-mom I imagined myself to be does not exist.

Instead, I feel pulled in a million directions. The passion for my work and my students are still there but I am also passionate about my son. I have noticed that when I am working with a difficult group of students, my patience is thin and I wonder why I am not at home with my own son who is probably crying because his first teeth are coming in.  When I am planning for my next day’s lessons, I feel guilty that I am putting effort into the development of another person’s child instead of playing with my own son. I feel guilty all of the time because my passions are split and I can no longer give one hundred percent to my work.

I wonder, how long does the guilt last? How long can I keep fooling everyone—my students, administrators, and teachers—that my thoughts are elsewhere? When I’m playing Walk, Stop, Jump, Clap, can I be fully in the moment and there for the needs of my participants? When will I stop recycling lesson plans and challenge my own creativity again?

I thought the art of applied theatre was challenging but the art of mothering is a feat as well. So, I am currently working on my master’s in applied mothering. I’ll let you know when I’m ready to share my thesis.

The Master’s Degree in Applied Theatre, the first program of its kind in the United States, is a sequential, ensemble-based program for students interested in the use of theatre to address social and educational issues in a wide range of settings. The program stresses the unity of theory and practice, and is linked to the professional applied theatre work of the renowned CUNY Creative Arts Team.