challenge accepted.

I often hear people say they want to be challenged in life, and then you challenge them and they cannot handle it. It is much like truth telling, everyone wants the truth, up until you actually give them the truth. I for one, always want to be challenged and I always want the truth.

Regularly I say how self aware I am. It is critical that in life we are mostly aware of our flaws but habits in general. Conversations or emotions can get extremely real if someone else is the one telling you about yourself. Now and again though we need someone to hold the mirror to us. Whether that be your partner in life, family, friends, whomever – but you need someone to occasionally hold the mirror and tell you like, “hey have you ever thought about it this way?” Or better yet be that person for yourself.

I am flawed, naturally but it is an everyday process to be able to look in the mirror and still love yourself. Love yourself to the point where you understand that self improvement is also a form of self care, self love. Self care isn’t always luxury but a mean for survival, and constantly working towards improving yourself is in addition to a form of self care.

I am not going to preach that it is 2018 and we need to focus on ourselves. The thing is, we should strive daily to focus on ourselves. To protect our worth, our successes our failures. Our alignment doesn’t have to be everyone else’s alignment but it paramount to recognize that healing and self care has no end point, no summation, no finish line. It is the act dedicating each day to finding yourself and loving yourself despite how cruel the world can be.  One thing I have learned through my entire existence is the importance of perseverance, that in the face of true love – yourself, you don’t just give up – even if the world is urging otherwise.

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i don’t mind.

We hear the phrase, ‘be mindful of others’ regularly. Especially with social media consuming our lives, we consistently hear people say, ‘pay attention to your surroundings, be present, be aware, be mindful.’

Growing up, my parents really wanted to embed mindfulness in to us kids. To be quite honest, it’s all they cared about. If we were sitting and someone (mainly elder) was standing, we should be mindful and offer our seat. If someone came to visit, I should be mindful and offer water, or chai. If someone was complaining about a situation we should be mindful and offer help. To constantly be aware of others needs. Growing up, my sister would jokingly refer to our mother as a social worker. Despite having three kids, she took on tasks for people like it was her job. Both my parents really. They were so kind to open their doors and have people stay if they ever needed a room or food. Literally anyone could call my parents for help, and you’d never hear a no. Never.

I am truly grateful to have witnessed such kind, extremely giving, and mindful parents. They not only taught us to be respectful to others but to always show compassion to those in need. And they really taught us to be attentive to not only others’ experiences but their feelings especially.

Desis are ALL about emotions. I mean just watch any Bollywood movie and see how we like to pull at peoples heart strings with emotional blackmail… err situations. Being mindful isn’t a dreadful thing. It’s a wonderful attribute but is there such a thing to be too mindful? I genuinely don’t think I have EVER made a life altering decision without listing the pro’s and con’s of how OTHERS might feel (and when I say others, I mainly mean my parents.) Sure, I’ve been selfish and did things I wanted but I also drove myself pretty crazy up until I made that decision.

I find my mindfulness has spread to other areas of my life. With friendships, with work. I have a hard time saying ‘No.’ Because, again my parents taught us to always be mindful of  people’s feelings.  I don’t quite know how my parents provided for three kids and were able to take on more than their share – because I find myself struggling. On one hand I want to be able to make everyone around me ‘happy’ (I say happy but I know it’s nearly impossible to make everyone happy – a general consensus if you will) but on the other hand it can take a huge toll on one’s sanity.

My friends who are amazing wives struggle between what their husbands want, what her parents want, and what her in-laws expect from her. She’s busy in her own life and of course has a voice but is also extremely mindful of keeping the harmony. I often listen to their struggles, pause and ask, “and what do you want?” The most daunting question of all time. We’re so wrapped up in trying to balance the beam. I truly believe they forget what they even want to begin with. I don’t want to make the bold statement that more often than not, women are asked to be more mindful than men, but in this case I’ll say it.

I once read a story that really resonated with me for many different reasons. A couple gets married and they make a pact for the first couple of weeks they won’t let anyone bother them no matter what. The guys parents come and they ask each other do we let them in and break the pact? The guy says it’ll be okay, they’ll be fine. The following week the girl’s parents are at the door. And of course not wanting to break the pact she convinces herself that it’s okay, they’ll understand. After a couple of minutes, she can’t take it, she tells her husband we should let them in, what if it’s something important? She opens the door. Fast forward a couple of years they have a son and then a girl. On the arrival of their daughter, the husband began to cry and the wife jokingly asked why are you crying? And he replied, “because the one who’s going to open the door for us, is here.”

I know plenty of guys who are mindful. I know plenty of women who are not. But there is something about this story that really resonates with me. The girl felt so many emotions upon opening that door. Firstly, to not want to disappoint her husband if she did open the door or feel guilty if she didn’t open the door for her parents. I often find myself at a similar crossroad. When my co workers say no to my boss for an extra task, I start to think of the all reasons why I should take the task. Mindfulness. It pops up everywhere.

For once, I’d like to be mindless. To solely make a decision based on my needs, only. We often spend our adult life fixing what our childhood broke and I’m not sure which part is more broken now.

My parents raised humanitarians, and as grateful as I am to them, I’m also upset they set me up for failure for my own sanity. The world wasn’t raised the same. The guilt that consumes me when I don’t fulfill a task that’s asked of me, will be the death of me. Many would say, this is a personal problem, and that’s feasible. Nevertheless, how is one to turn off being mindful? That’s just it though, there is nothing noble about not giving grace. It could be I’ve been on the right side all along, although for the sake of my sanity (and others like me) it’s time to fathom that No is a full a sentence and completely okay to use every once and awhile.

I do mind.

QTDNA: questions that don’t need answers.

This blog post comes from an extremely vulnerable place, and I give this topic a lot of thought – unintentionally mostly and some days intentionally. Perhaps, with wedding season in full effect or the fact I will be turning 30 this year, everyone has one burning question for me, “so when are you getting married?” And although, MOST of the time I think it comes from a good place, lets talk about WHY this question is heartless and others like it.

First off, why things aren’t happening in someone’s life, such as, “you’ve been married for one year, now it’s time for children,” is NOT your concern. Then after one has their first child, it instantly becomes about having your second… “what are you waiting for?” Basically the questions never end. People have already jumped onto the next hurdle and you’re still trying to relish in the first one.

Is there a race I am unaware of? What do we get if we cross the finish line the fastest? And it’s not just annoying aunties anymore, in fact it seems to me EVERYONE is extremely curious. Married friends and family members who just can’t seem to understand why you aren’t leaping to the finish line. I’m not even going to talk about the turtle and the hare, because we all know the cliche story, but in this case, is anyone really winning if they cross the finish line the quickest?

Listen, getting married isn’t the issue, or you reminding me that I am single. Yes, I am single and despite my disposition on marriage, when you bring up such topics with people, it can feed some undesired emotion that you didn’t even know existed. Especially with bearing children, or anything really. You have NO idea how bad this person might want the exact thing you are suggesting, and to brutally remind them of their struggles is not okay.

I’m a secure person. Certain comments always throw me off such as, “but you’re so pretty how are you single?” This is NOT a compliment by any means. We are ALL well aware (I hope) that finding a partner has nothing to do with your looks, and to normalize this in any way, speaks volumes about our society.

Let’s take this thought a little deeper. I often have really close friends or family members say, “you’re so amazing, how is that you haven’t found someone?” This is a nice claim, but let me tell what’s wrong with it. You hear it so much you truthfully start to think, “damn I am amazing why am I single? Essentially, what the world is telling you is, “you have to be doing something wrong.”  But that’s just it, relationships are not that black and white, nor is the process that simple. We’re so used to delivering cliche remarks, I honestly think people don’t even comprehend how these statements can resonate.

My mother always says, “tume apne bare mein, badi galth famiyan hain,” a famous urdu saying which translates to, “you have A LOT of misconceptions about yourself.” Basically, I ain’t shit (thank you Ruby for always keeping me humble, it is SO NEEDED.) And that’s my problem with those sorts of compliments, it cultivates this idea that we DESERVE a significant other. Look, we don’t deserve anything, you have to work hard at anything and everything you want or need in this life, and that is especially true with people. Also, because I know some really horrible people married, so personality does not dictate whether or not you get married, it’s determined by MANY other factors, clearly.

Additionally, there are those who give their unwarranted advice. Now advice can be fundamental, but to start off with accusatory remarks such as, ‘don’t be so picky, be open minded’ or ‘just be straight-forward and approach the guy yourself’ are not intelligent ways to grab my attention. In my mind I’m thinking, have you met me?? Do I need to spell it out for the guy… but that is an entirely different topic altogether.

My favorite remark thus far has been, “you’re too strong willed.” (insert eye roll emoji.) To blame the very person of why something isn’t happening, is telling the person – ‘its your own fault.’ Don’t get me wrong, I am self aware of all my faults and I am all for constructive criticism but for all one knows, that person has tried everything in their power, and you think you’re being helpful by offering unsolicited opinions? It’s cruel to be honest. In order to be an effective communicator you must embody empathy, and as a human race, we seem to be losing that daily.

I love those who advocate for marriage. They get all cliche on me and say, oh it’ll happen when you least expect it. I’m sorry, are you telling me you didn’t know you were going decide a huge life factor and it *gasps* just happened? You’re trying to tell me that you put no effort or time into something SO monumental, as society teaches us… and it just happened? That entire proposal you elaborated on instagram just happened? Please, stop with this carefree facade. Its demeaning. Relationships are meaningful and they don’t JUST HAPPEN. They take time and patience and sure, for some it is through family and the time is put in differently, but it doesn’t JUST HAPPEN. This a very careful thought out act. I for one, put thought into EVERYTHING I do, and even if meeting someone is the unexpected part, everything that follows is CAREFULLY THOUGHT OUT. So please stop telling single folk, it just happened – I know what you mean, I do, but it is not the same thing, and we have stop perpetuating these false concepts.

If you are not ready to have an in depth conversation about the PROCESS, then don’t proceed with unnecessary suggestions or comments. It is not small talk, it is literally stupid talk. No, I am not bitter, nor am I sad that my timeline hasn’t aligned with your expectations. I have no desire to constantly indulge in the reality that is MY LIFE, I do that enough with my mother, thanks. I am already quite aware what is and isn’t my life.

SO PLEASE STOP:

Asking my married friends why they aren’t having children. (Or why they aren’t as eager as YOU are for their second.)

Telling people what they MIGHT be doing wrong in finding a significant other.

Inquiring about why someone didn’t finish or start med school (God forbid someone doesn’t want to be a doctor.)

Reminding people (or in this case specifically, me) that they are single.

Maybe, just maybe we prefer it that way and if they don’t maybe they have blind faith, that when it supposed to happen, it will. I’ll leave you with my favorite hadith because it is reminder to us all to be sensitive to others and their personal lives:

“Know that if the whole community were to gather together to benefit you with anything, it would benefit you only with something that Allah had already prescribed for you, and that if they gather together to harm you with anything, they would harm you only with something Allah had already prescribed for you. The pens have been lifted and the pages have dried.”

 

too cool for school.

Everyone has a different approach on how they show emotions. Some would say exhibiting too much emotion is a sign of weakness, I on the other hand have ALWAYS believed it takes an abundant amount of strength to actually reveal how you’re truly feeling. Masking emotions is not for everyone. I, for one can’t do it ALL. I inherited my father’s fury unibrow, that scrunches and gets low when I don’t understand something. Some people wear their emotions on their sleeves, I happen to wear them on my face. I have to catch myself most days when I’m making the “are you stupid?” face-or what my friends call, “the Fatima face.” I’m 100% sure that is my face 89.9% of the time.

I absolutely despise labels, yet at times I find myself using them for the sake of explaining certain situations. Who doesn’t want to be the cool guy, or the cool girl? They portray themselves as if they have no care in the world. They’re chill and nothing bothers them. Or so it seems.

Let me tell you what I learned about the cool guy and cool girl. Things bother them, they bottle up those emotions and eventually… POP goes the weasel. Communicating is extremely vital in ANY relationship you foster. In order to cultivate and strengthen existing relationships, and new ones, you MUST communicate at ALL times. And I admit talking seems like a chore most days, but without verbal and even non-verbal communication there isn’t much we can accomplish in any category of our life.

In relationships, I’m SO the cool girl. Nothing really bothers me. You don’t call for a couple of days, I’m cool – I’m entirely too busy in my own life to really notice. Plus being clingy is NOT my thing. Time and dedication should be given freely. They hang out with other friends – who are girls, I’m cool. What’s a relationship without trust anyways?

And I don’t even think I intentionally try to be the “cool girl.” I was cool with it all. Not because, I didn’t feel the need to communicate buried emotions, because relationships are so tricky. People give different, love different,  and most importantly they communicate different. Just because he didn’t text me every second of the day didn’t mean he didn’t care. Just because my mother is more abrasive than other mothers, doesn’t mean she doesn’t love me the same. My father is a man of very little words, but his actions leave an impact on me daily. So I’ve learned over the years, not to ask for much. I never intended to be the “cool girl.” My disposition always remains the same. So I continued to be patient, because I’d want the same in return.

But by labeling myself I did myself a disservice. Why can’t we be a little bit of everything? Matters don’t have to be so black and white. We attempt to fit ourselves into a box, when we want to. And others do the same  when we act in a negative way, i.e if we do something “crazy” are we crazy? No.

I felt myself closing in, the wall I had built to protect myself was starting to cave in on me.

We often mimic the love we receive. He was so extremely chill, that I let my inner cool girl shine as well. I don’t think I was necessarily accommodating him as much as I was accommodating my own feelings. I could obviously never refrain from being passionate as he would say, so it wasn’t like I was changing or molding myself FOR HIM, but there was an element to my actions that tried to be collected at all times, to be in control of them. I guess it was never about him.

We build facades with the intent that when a person doesn’t give us what we want, we tell ourselves, “that’s alright, because I prepared myself for this” and if they do, then we hoped for it.(I wanted to be the strong girl.) But that’s the thing about building facades.. no one wins. My friend Candice literally ALWAYS tells me what she wants – a phone call from me, and because she matters to me, I give her that. That is how ALL relationships works. We actively make a choice EVERYDAY to nurture relationships we want. But remember, you can NOT ask for things you, yourself have difficulty providing.

Whether we keep our emotions bottled up or we scream the things we want, we’re not really treading properly. He never spoke up about what he wanted, and neither did I (for awhile) and we both lost.. and the kicker is – none of us were playing the game.

I wanted words of affirmation, and he wanted.. actually I’m still not sure what he wanted, but its a learning process right? I also recognize no matter how much I wanted words from him, until he was ready to give them, I would never get the conversation I so deeply longed for. So I walked away knowing for the first time, I didn’t have to be the cool girl.. or any girl for that matter. I could just be me, and I am composed of many elements. Collected, cool, crazy, but above all – loving.

pass[ion] aggression.

Recently, I had a professor tell me that my other professors and him included, thought I was too passionate. My reaction was subtle (surprisingly) but I was trying not to be dramatic, for obvious reasons. He said that often while having discussions, they felt others were scared to chime in, because my thoughts and ideas overwhelmed them… because I was too passionate when I spoke. My first instinct was to defend my self, but I remembered this isn’t always the best tactic when someone is giving you constructive criticism. He proceeded to tell me, people find me intimidating and I should remember that while sharing my views. I smiled and said I would be aware. I kept telling all my friends and classmates that day, and of course they laughed- because most of them agreed. I kept reiterating the fact- how can someone be TOO passionate? Is that even a thing? Apparently it is.

Passion scares people. Passion starts new hobbies. Passion starts wars. Passion starts protests. Passion strikes that crazy love, poets speak of. I can see how passion can be slightly dangerous to others.

As it may be, I am too passionate. I just don’t understand how someone can live their life without it. I would rather be a distressed soul than pretend everything is okay. Who wants to be cornered under a disguise of complete normalcy? Finding your way through the uproar of your life, can only bring you peace through the reality, which you live.

Passion absolutely drives me. It could be the simplest of task, but my desire to do anything, to be anything, comes from the mere fact that I feel so deeply for it. Frequently, my friends and family say I do too much, I give too much. I still haven’t figured out if this is my biggest flaw or a strength. I do know though, I value the relationships or the ideals in my life, whatever they may be, whatever they might signify.Love who you love while you have them. That’s all you can do. Let them go when you must, if you know how to love, you’ll never run out. Losing people is a part of life and I don’t know if its the older I get, or if its just my tolerance level, but I have no room for those who don’t love freely, or give freely in return… naturally, it all comes back to passion. Some folks just don’t have it in them, to love as you, to give as you. To put your all into the things that construct your happiness takes courage.

I give away everything within my table of contents, perhaps leaving the world no interest in the remainder of the book, but the thing is, I don’t know how to love in chapters.

the real sacrifice.

Eid is such an exciting time for me. It consists of my favorite things all in one day, family, food, and getting to dress up. I aways feel different on Eid ul Adha though. There’s consistently something deeper pulling on me, perhaps for what this Eid stands for. Undoubtedly, Eid in it’s glory is amazing, but it is essential to actually reflect on what it all means.

Eid ul Adha or the festival of sacrifice is celebrated in the honor of prophet Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice his son, Ismail, at God’s command. As prophet Ibrahim struggled with this, when he told his son, Ismail didn’t even hesitate. His answer was simple, if that is what Allah wills. As the day approached, God of course, intervened and provided prophet Ibrahim with a lamb to sacrifice instead, hence the importance of all Muslims to slaughter a lamb.

Allah never intended for Ibrahim to slaughter his son. The idea behind the command, was to slaughter his attachment and to trust what God intends. Sacrifice. It means different things to different people. How many of us really understand the concept of sacrifice? How many of us sacrifice daily?

I see my father sacrifice everyday. His precious time, his precious health, to provide for my siblings and me. My mother, despite being ill, makes sure we are fed before she eats. I see the way my sister is raising her children, without her husband physically being there with them. Sacrifice. We see sacrifice, in its purest form, everyday, in our parents.

Hug them, thank them, and hug them again. For they have sacrificed the most. And for who? For us, to have a comfortable life. For those who are parents, having children really teaches you unconditional love. To love someone, and not want anything in return, is exactly how we should love. Think about what we sacrifice. For God, for your husband/wife, for your children, for those you love… for anyone. To sacrifice means to love.

You can be anything you want in this world, just don’t be ungrateful.

reflections.

My birthday is approaching and I can’t help but reflect on this past year. Birthdays are funny; I feel as sometimes it’s like New Years or is that just me? They’re exactly that though, the “new” year in your life. Nothing really is different – just like new years, except you’re one year older and hopefully wiser. As I’m reflecting, I wonder if I am wiser, if we truly learn from all our past mistakes? I’ve often heard that people can’t change, but I believe they can. They just chose not to, because it’s easier to stay the same. Whether you feel the need to change or not, it’s happening. Change is constant – probably the only constant thing in our lives.

Change can be good. We’re often forced to face our demons, even if we’re not ready. Perhaps we’re never ready. Heartbreaks, circumstances, new beginnings, abrupt endings, they push us; push us to our breaking points. But that’s the thing, we don’t break, we’re able to endure much more than we realize. And even when we do break, it changes us… for better or for worse? You decide that.

This year has been full of revelations. That the people you thought would be by your side, end up leaving. Whoever said, it is better to be alone than in bad company was correct. How I could ACTUALLY like children. That being stagnant or complacent in your life isn’t good enough. You should want change, you should want more, and you should constantly strive to do better.

Sure, people make you happy, but they aren’t the only source. I stress this because I see it all too much, people running after people. Expecting them to “change” their lives. You should make yourself happy, you should change your own life. You get to a point where you start defining happiness on your own terms. Let that day be now. Erase what you thought and let today be your new year.

Happy birthday.

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