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Notes from the Yak Tea: Ask Ammi

Thanks to everyone who joined us for the Yak Tea on Christmas Day! We had a lovely time, and we hope you all did too.

One of our segments was a live advice column with my mom called “Ask Ammi”, which we had attendees anonymously send questions in for ahead of time, and she answered them in person during the Zoom call. Ammi has generously shared her notes and given us permission to share them with the world, so I’ve put together the questions and a lightly edited version of her answers below. We hope that her words of wisdom might provide others with comfort, the way they did us, especially during a time when many of us can’t be with our families.

Question: Hello! Thank you to Anisa for sharing her mom. =) Here’s my question for Ammi: I’ve always been told that growing old alone would be the worst thing and so I should make every effort to find a partner. I’ve tried, but I haven’t found anyone I would be able to respect and love and who would respect and love me equally. I’m in my 30s and I see many women older than me who seem happy with their lives without husband and children. I am focusing on building my savings and fostering friendships that will hopefully last a very long time. At this point, I feel at peace with the thought of never marrying or having children. But the old fears of facing my most vulnerable years alone nags at me. Do you think it’s a fear I can ignore since I am trying my best to build a secure future?

Ammi’s Answer: My pleasure!! COVID has been a difficult time for many, so I hope that my words can help in some small way. So glad Dramas Over Flowers are doing this on Christmas day. There’s such a lovely and diverse group here—I just love it!

So to the question: it sounds like you have quite a sensible approach already. I’m glad to hear that you are at peace with this, because from my experience I have found that when we do our part then submit to our circumstances and the results of our best efforts, that’s when gifts come and great things happen, because we open ourselves up to a greater force.

This is absolutely not the worst thing that can happen, so don’t listen to negative people who try to tell you that! But having said that, obviously having a spouse and children is one of the biggest blessings of this life, since we’ve been created in families. So be sure to keep yourself open to meeting the right person, but don’t stress or wait around for it to happen. As they say, worry is like a rocking chair—you go back and forth but get nowhere. So if marriage is not in your destiny then you don’t want to regret that you you didn’t continue your life’s journey. In the words of Oprah, live your best life! Focus on the present.

Don’t settle, but also know that if you do find the right person, it will come with its challenges which is okay. It’s worth all of the pain and sometimes heartache because of the security, support, companionship, and other wonderful things married life brings. Having someone there to depend on and make the world a less lonely place is worth the sacrifices and compromises. Also remember that some friendships can become like family, though, so treasure those, as you seem to already be doing.

It’s also important to remember that we’re in this world for a purpose. Once we discover what that is we should pursue it—for me, it’s to remain in connection with God and use His gifts to help those around me and make the world even a little better. 

Question: Do you have some advice for the best way to deal with people you don’t respect and who don’t respect you, especially at work? They don’t know how to do their jobs and keep trying to tell me how to do mine! I need the work so I can’t quit, but my co-workers are the worst, and keep gossiping about me and trying to make me look bad. Problem is, my manager is always on their side because they’re relatives and I’m not. They’re running an unsafe workplace, and I know they’ll drop me in it if anything goes wrong. I don’t know how you can solve my work problems, but I wanted to get it off my chest!!! My life is a K-drama like a bad morning makjang!!

Ammi’s Answer: I’m really sorry to hear that, since we spend so much time at work. I would first remind you that the best time to look for another job is when you have a job—especially since there seems to be a safety issue here—but in the meantime, here are some tips to manage the situation:

  • Try to focus on the positive—maximize the learning, the work experience, improving your skills and learning from your co-workers. You can learn a great deal even from horrible people and situations, and in fact sometimes the growth and learning is even greater in such cases.
  • Sometimes people exert pressure or abuse or bully people who don’t stand up for themselves because they are an easy target, so be strong even if you have to fake it until you make it. It seems like it’s not in your nature to fight back, but sadly, with oppressive people you have to first stop caring what they think, say, or do. Try your best to totally ignore the gossiping, disrespect, and interference because if you don’t acknowledge it or react to it, it will be like it failed to achieve the intended reaction.
  • Remain positive and cheerful, and try to spread goodness and love.
  • I believe that if something is not meant for you nothing can make it happen, but what is meant for you, no power on earth can prevent it from coming to you.

Question: How can I move on from friendships that are toxic for me? I try to let the contact fade away but they keep coming back. I don’t want to lie or hurt their feelings by rejecting them, but they have intentionally hurt me before and I don’t want to let people like that get close to me again. (I have other really good friends and I want to spend my time and energy on them instead.)

Ammi’s Answer: This is a very important question, and you’re correct in deciding not to let these kind of toxic people continue to hurt you. Being around toxic people will eventually desensitize you from the bad effect they’re having on you, so do whatever it takes to remove yourself from their company, even if it means hurting their feelings or blocking their phone numbers.

You are not ever obliged to be around people who make you feel bad. I used to let all kinds of people into my life, until I realized that I can actually choose not to be around those people who pull me down, make me feel bad or don’t add anything to my life. I don’t allow anyone to have that kind of power over me anymore unless they are very, very close family. That’s different because you really don’t choose your family, and it’s worth investing time and energy because you’re in for the long haul. (But even there, make sure you set the necessary boundaries so you don’t burn out.)

But definitely give yourself permission to cut toxic people off completely. You should remain polite and kind with them when you face them but avoid them (like corona 😉). Do your best to associate yourself with people of good quality, because it’s better to be alone than to be in bad company. But when you can’t avoid toxic people, try to repel evil with good. That’s a lesson I take from my faith tradition, Islam, and I’ve found it to be powerful in my own life.

Question: Hi Ammi! I love that you’re doing this. I’ve been having a tough time recently with a lot of family stuff, and I feel like there’s too much responsibility on my shoulders, though there’s also no one else to take it on. Do you have any advice for how to manage everything without going crazy and/or murdering people? Also, how do you get enough sleep and look after your own health when you’re busy looking after other people?

Ammi’s Answer: Hello! It’s my pleasure. So sorry again to hear that you are dealing with a lot right now. This is a tough one, because sometimes life circumstances become so difficult to handle and you feel you have no way out.

I went through a very long period when things were incredibly difficult, and here is some of what I learnt that may help you manage this tough patch in your life. I wrote them in a list form since there are quite a few!

  • We are stronger, more resilient, and more resourceful than we think, and it’s only when we are faced with hardship or loss that we can reach deep inside and push ourselves to our full potential. So much growth and learning happens as a result of facing challenges in life. There are so many examples: In our Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition we have religious figures like Abraham, Joseph, Jesus, Moses, and Muhammad (peace be on them all); we can also look to contemporary figures like Nelson Mandela, who endured such a long imprisonment.
  • To feel better about your situation, look to those who have less or have it harder—for example, refugees who are suffering in the winter without proper shelter, food, heating, warm clothing, and the threat of COVID. Instead of feeling bad about our own condition, we are reminded that it can always be worse. There was a lady I knew in Dallas from South Dakota who had been sickened by pesticides and could only tolerate one kind of water: Mountain Spring brand water in a green glass bottle.
  • No time, whether it’s easy or difficult, pleasant or painful, lasts forever—it will eventually end.
  • Just do your best and leave the rest.
  • Know that we are all being tested—the one who needs caretaking and the caretaker, because the tables could easily be turned.
  • Know that when you reach your limit, God, or the Supreme Power, will send you what you need to keep going.
  • I believe that nothing happens without the will of God so if you submit to it, that makes it easier to handle. This life on earth is a place of test, so embrace that.
  • It’s okay to take time to take care of yourself, because if something happens to you then you’ll be no good to help anyone else. Give yourself permission to take care of yourself. We all know the example of the oxygen mask in airplanes—they always tell you to put the oxygen on yourself first before helping anyone else, and the reason is obvious.
  • Whatever you are put in the middle of, you can absolutely handle it, and these are usually the moments or periods of the greatest growth.
  • Don’t succumb to despair, because when you are on the precipice of hopelessness, that’s when evil forces know you are at your most vulnerable. These are the times to focus on the positive and all the things you have in your life to be thankful for—everything we take for granted.
  • Which takes me to my next point, which is gratitude. A good practice that I would recommend is that when you rest your head on your pillow at night, go over all the things you are blessed with that you are thankful for, starting with the hair on your head and the lashes on your eyelids.
  • If you are feeling drained, revive your spirit with something beautiful or pleasurable like retail therapy, beautiful or uplifting music, a touching or inspirational movie or wonderful amazing K-dramas!!
  • And Anisa and my all time favourite coping mechanism that has never failed us: When all else fails, drink coffee! And if it’s from Tim Horton’s, all the better. (Yes, we’re Canadian.)
  • And remember—you are never alone—use the power of prayer.

For me (Anisa), it’s all of the above, plus the very special community of people who surround that has gotten me through the dark times—including my K-drama friends! Thank you Ammi for sharing the pearls you’ve picked up along your heroic life, and for being the mom we all needed during the Yak Tea.

Stay tuned for another Notes from the Yak Tea on New Year’s Day, which will feature our crowdsourced list of 2020 comfort watches.

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