Lana Bataineh’s highly anticipated memoir, Choosing Love is finally available at Readers bookshop. The gem of a book, at around 100 pages is published by prestigious Austin Macauley publishers, it is a deep and emotional journey into the life of mother, wife and homemaker Lana Bataineh and her courageous battle with ALS, a debilitating disease that has confined Lana to a life of little physical movement and an inability to express herself verbally. The terminal disease has been unsuccessful in beating her soaring spirit, sharp mind and passion for life.
The book, written in first person by Lana herself is an intimate conversation with the reader. The richly-worded prose takes us on Lana’s personal journey, generously sharing with the reader her wisdoms, insights and even day to day routine. The beauty of Lana’s writing is in her ability to profoundly affect the reader. Each and every one of us will take away what they need most at that very moment. The intentionally short read is meant to be read over the years time and again, each time spotlighting what we emotionally need most.
Lana is a talented writer, her words able to captivate us, our emotions oscillate with Lana’s; at times we laugh out loud at her wit and intelligent humor, at other times we feel compassion and empathy, perhaps more for ourselves than for Lana. Her writing style disarms us, unveiling our own personal struggles, and sheds a light on our vulnerabilities, gently kneading them into acknowledgement. This is a unique talent of Lana’s, one that the avid fans of her personal blog Instaloofy have enjoyed for more than 3 years now, since its debut.
We were fortunate enough to have Lana grant us an interview, this is not a spoiler to the book, but sheds further light on what matters most to Lana.
No one can ever be prepared for a life-changing diagnosis, but from your experience what advice do you have to women that are facing illnesses and even tragic events (death of children or spouse) that will alter their lives forever.
LB: You are right, no one can actually be prepared for such a moment or situation. My advice, as simple as it sounds, yet very profound, is to stay hopeful. Focus on the good things in your life, let your thoughts be filled with what makes you happy. And always concentrate on the things you CAN do, and do not dwell on the things you can not do.
You mention in your book, that often times, when people come over you are more of a listener, than a talker. With your observations, what advice can you give us on how to better lead our lives?
LB: Learn, and more importantly, practice being grateful, appreciate what you have in life. No matter what is going, there is a time and place to dwell on that. When you are visiting someone, try to disconnect from your phones and be present.
I am a true believer that the way you raised your children and nurtured your family from the beginning plays an integral part in how you were all able to cope in such a remarkable way. Statistically, families that experience traumas are less likely to continue as a healthy family, with divorce and dysfunction as likely outcomes.
LB: I can only speak to our own experience. I invested my time and effort, and love into my children and my family. As best I could, I made sure to instill those family values down to my children – I made it my life mission if you will. From way before I got diagnosed, I always emphasized to my children the importance of prioritizing your brothers always in any situation. I famously used to repeat family comes first. I believe this allowed us to function as one united unit.
I think one of the things that I found intriguing is how vocal you are about your needs, desires, likes and dislikes. I believe it has played an important part in your strong communication dynamic in the family. Culturally, we tend to remain silent (hoping that the other will read the crystal ball) or worse, they lay blame and point fingers. Tell me about this philosophy of yours.
LB: Honesty, and being open come hand in hand. That is why we’re strong as a family, no hidden feelings. I remember my sons would tell me: ‘tell us how you are feeling, what is going on, what is hurting or bothering you, what are you scared of?’ And when I eventually started writing ALL my thoughts and feelings, I found myself sharing my biggest fears – and that comes out in the book. I have had very low moments, but it is the honesty in which we approached it; allowed me, allowed us, to address them for what they are – and find a way to happiness.
‘Choosing Love’ is the name of your book, and the term love features heavily, but I feel the definition of love in your mind transcends the usual, ‘I love you’. It comes from a place of reliability, effort, compassion and empathy. Love is more of a verb.. Tell me more 🙂
LB: Hmmm I like how you put it as a verb, I never thought of it that way, but yes I guess you are right. In fact it is quite simple, choosing love in any situation is an active choice. It transforms bad to good, anger to tranquility, sadness to happiness, and so on. Choosing love is the magic potion. It is an active choice that I take on everyday, it is constant. The trick though is that I believe in the transformative power of love. It comes from a deep faith in love and all its powers. I guess God took away a lot from me, but blessed me with showing me what love can really do.
For me, Reem is the definition of love. She came into this family, with all its love and complications willingly and enthusiastically. Tell me more about Reem.
LB: Very true! When Zeid chose Reem, he knew exactly what was the most important quality in his life partner, a loving soul – just like Faisal chose Zeina.
I strongly believe that the love we have for each other is the driving force behind their choices. Reem and Zeina are the loving caring daughters I never had. They are God’s gift to our family sent to take care of my boys when I can’t anymore.
I have never known you not to have a goal on the horizon, now that you have a book, what next? Why do I imagine a podcast in the near future?
LB: Ha ha, you never know 😉 I have always set myself small targets, and achieved them step by step. For now my goal is to stick around long enough to see my third son, Karim, get married, and to attend his wedding.
I said in the prologue never in my wildest dreams did I think that I would have a book published. But I kept pushing and new doors kept opening up for me. I am as energized as ever to share my story to help as many people as possible. Let us see where that takes me.
Technology has been your reliable friend during this journey, if you were to develop an app or machine what would it be?
LB:Nice question. Yes, technology, and especially my Eyegaze has been my lifeline. It gave me the ability to communicate again, which is no exaggeration to say it gave me a new lease on life.
If I were to develop an app or a piece of technology I would create a communication device, just like my Eyegaze, but with empathy and a sense of humor.
What do you want to share that you feel I may have missed?
LB: My love for my family defies all science, medicine, and doctors.