Hopeful ever after

I read something beautiful. Actually re-read an old shared post by a dear big-hearted writer. About happily ever after. It spurred up all kinds of thoughts about how we exploit the big, crazy, wonderful, enigma that is hope. And how we overestimate the poor critter that is happy.

When I think of the first half of my life. I think about my doting parents who never wanted to see their daughter get hurt. Like most parents I suppose. I lead a protected life. And not the regular kind. But the triple layered bubble-wrapped-kind of a life. Where I read fairy tales, watched magical cartoons, and made up big castles in my head… because I had no reason to do otherwise. I think I really had it good…that good. And that happy too.

And then it was time for me to grow up. Somewhere along heartbreaks and heartmends…friends lost.. friends gained.. messed up exams… Misfit jobs…mistakes.. lessons…tears.. laughter…marriage. And then wait some more… kids. These wondrous beings make you grow up like there’s no tomorrow.

But there are a lot of tomorrows if you’re fortunate enough. Tomorrows when you see life like the real explosion it is. Where the mundane drives you nuts and though you dream of the ‘rare’ like a gorgeous black stallion riding off into the sunset… in reality it scares the pants off of you. Where you rummage through your childhood memories holding on to bits and pieces you accumulated for your happily ever after. But all you feel is sand slipping away through your fingers.

For some of us life truly happens after the intermission. Like those predictable movies where you know the first half will just drag on inconsequentially. The second half is what matters. Where emotions, choices, decisions, pressures, rights, wrongs,,… everything sucks you into a numbing vortex. And then bam! Epiphany! ‘Happily ever after’ becomes a fallacy. You realize that you don’t always want to run after it. Because you can’t. This constant tug and pull of adrenaline when you’re happy vs. when you’re not… is excruciating. You want to feel the fullness. And taste the ripeness of everything your life offers. You want to get pricked by thorns and remind yourself to not go there again. You want to sink your bones into the meaty flesh of pain, of confusion, of difficulty, of struggle. You want to smell sweet little successes and sing tunes of strength. You don’t want to whine and complain when you’re not happy. You want to keep looking forward with twinkling eyes. Because running after happy weakens the daylights out of us. Just like running after the end of the rainbow would. It’s temporary… relative….and sometimes irrelevant too.

In the good, bad, and the in-betweens of life it’s easier to look for hope than happy. God’s Glorious Quran is brimming with hope. There is hope for those who err. For those who repent. For those who make the wrong choices. For those who have a sick heart. For those who are lost. For the hopeless. There is hope times infinity.

Now I am a parent. And seeing my children happy when I take them to the park, or make their favourite meal, or goof around with them does give me a fleeting sense of mom-awesomeness. But deep inside I wish to see them hopeful more than happy. When they stumble and fall I want them to know that they can get up.. they will get back up. When no one has their back but God and hope that HE instilled in their hearts. I want them to run after it as selfishly as they would happiness. I want them to cling on to the idea of being better, brighter, every single day. Even if some days are dark, damp, wet…hopeless.

I want my children to be hopeful in a world that sells happy.

People being humans… at their best

Hospitals. They are intimidating. Places of anxiousness and fear. But they are also homes of exceptional strength and patience. And raw human kindness.

My beautiful, strongest nano is at the hospital these days. There’s a LOT you need to know about her. That’s the kind of person she is. A book in herself. A wealth of learning, and not in a preachy sort of way.

Nano is never stingy with praise. When she likes someone she will make sure they know it. Really well. She loves her attending nurse these days and calls her Beauty Queen, cute baby. Her limited English vocabulary never stands in the way.

I witnessed a small exchange between them the other day. The nurse was doubling up with laughter. Nano who was in tremendous pain herself, was telling the nurse to rest, eat something and take a nap. At work. That was her way of expressing her love for the lady. I translated a little bit but I don’t think it mattered. The two would have understood each other just fine.

In this mix of Urdu, English, sign language exchange, I realized the power of honest human interaction. Where love, empathy and kindness outshine all emotions. Where there’s no pretence. Skin, faith, language, tradition, philosophy, background…. nothing matters. It’s just two people giving each other their rights. It’s just two people being humans, at their best. The Nurse was doing her job really well. And she wasn’t expecting anything in return. But Nano had to let her know that her work was exceptional. And that she, was exceptional.

So as the nurse was about to leave she asked me if my Nano was always like this, so lively?!

I said the only thing I could, “Yes!!”.

“What a blessing!” said the Nurse.

I have a feeling she will have a hard time forgetting my nano!

Lonely time…Me-Time.

One thing’s for sure. If one masters the art of loneliness, life becomes rideable.

I have felt lonely within crowds. I have felt lonely when there’s no reasonable reason to. It’s human nature. To feel overwhelmed by all that’s happening. To lose control when you’re hurt or just uncertain.To withdraw inwards into that tiny, cramped nook of the brain. For me, sometimes that nook becomes a fiery devilish being threatening to break me beyond repair.

But sometimes….that nook magically transforms. It has a fireplace, a comforting crackling sound and warmth that equates to an uncanny sense of calm.

That is why I say again. One should master the art of loneliness.

Because in that moment… you can have one of the most important conversations ever…a heart-to-heart with Allah, Your Creator. You can whine, complain, cry, all whilst sitting in that nook, with your knees held tightly across the chest. And warming your toes in the surreal warmth of silence. In that moment you can easily block external noise. And open The Quran to see what HE wants you to know. What HE was trying to tell you all along in HIS BOOk. While you just sobbed and questioned, ‘Why Me?!’, and looked for invisible signs and answers.

It’s Me-time. Simple. Why I choose loneliness instead of alone, is because for me loneliness has a tinge of heart ache not found in the latter. That ache is important. That ache makes you question your life. That ache makes you question your path. It makes you question your decisions. It makes you seek answers. That ache sets things into perspective.

This time can either break you into a million pieces. Or it can help rebuild yourself. It can help you rely on inner strength. To wipe off your tears, get up, dust off the grime, clean the bruises on the knees, and go on walking.

Because it’s just you. And HIM. That’s how it was since you were once strung in the world of souls. That’s how it will be when you stand in front of Allah when life as we know it crumbles. Only HE watches your every move. Only HE witnesses you in every thought and word you utter. Only HE truly Cares.

Holy Quran: Surah Younas 10: Verse 61

And you are not (engaged) in any affair, nor do you recite concerning it any portion of the Quran, nor do you do any work but We are witnesses over you when you enter into it, and there does not lie concealed from your Lord the weight of an atom in the earth or in the heaven, nor any thing less than that nor greater, but it is in a clear book.

Next time you’re lonely. And Alone. Standing in a wide green field under the endless sky, and feeling morbidly trapped.

Don’t. Just Don’t.

Remember that you may be lonely in terms of worldly life and relations. But in the relation that matters more than anything ever will… you’re never lonely. Or alone.

Allah is watching. Allah is listening. Allah is waiting. For you to return.

Beauty and the Cliche’

“You is Kind. You is Smart. You is Important,” said Aibileen Clark as she wiped the little girl’s tears; a girl she looked after as a black maid in Mississippi, United States in the 1920’s. I gulped back tears every time she said those words in the movie, ‘The Help’ (originally a book).

I remember when I finished watching the movie I wanted to tell my daughter the exact same words. My kindergartner is indeed kind, smart and important. And so are all the daughters of every man and woman who ever lived, or will live.

My thoughts take me back to Pakistan in the mid-nineties. I was the pretzel-skinned twelve-year old with hair-in-perpetual-tornado and oversized shirts. Yes, a sight for sore eyes indeed. I wasn’t perturbed at my appearance then. That included my close friends who are still inseparable entities in my life. The cool, disheveled group of kids who felt invincible. Now when I look at my old pictures I try not to have a silent heart attack. But then almost immediately, I feel a spurt of joy and gratitude. For the childhood I had. The lifelong friends I made. And most importantly, for my parents who worked on my heart foremost. Everything came second. My skin. My hands. My hair.

When I had my daughter, I knew she was the most beautiful baby I had ever seen. Because she was ours. Our flesh and blood. Because she was God’s greatest blessings. People came to congratulate us. They all commented on her looks. The intricacies of her miniature features that even I hadn’t noticed yet. Some were ecstatic that she was fair-skinned and made sure I realized the importance of that detail.

It makes me wonder. The comments never end do they? Not for boys either, but especially not for girls. And most opinions revolving around girls tend to focus on appearance. The outward flesh almost always overpowers the flesh of the heart, the blood of the soul. So yes, looks do matter. It will be a naive denial if I said otherwise. But to what extent?

With each passing year, I see an explosion of vanity. The sickening cliche’s on materialism don’t end. In fact they develop minds of their own and come back to haunt us, ever-more powerful. At almost 35 years of age, I still try to wrestle with these cliche’s. I try to burn them. Forever wary that the ashes don’t smear my children. I have my demons. Little or more. The old times of feeling insecure in my pimple infested skin and trying to please people are gone…mostly. But some morphed heads do appear time and again. I see my children already beginning to care about their clothes. Their hair. Their shoes. They are only 8 and 5. I don’t remember even bothering to look in the mirror at that age. But maybe it’s all the same as when I was a child. Maybe now, everything just started earlier.

This foreboding list is bound to increase. Body issues. Self-esteem issues. Blending in VS standing out. In a world that systematically works to make our children feel ‘not-good-enough’, instilling the core concept of self-preservation is going to be tricky to pull off. But not impossible.

I don’t have a plan. I don’t have any parenting articles mastered. But I do have a hopeful yet frightened heart that calls out to its Creator for help.

Allah says in the Quran (95:4)

“Surely We created man in the best mould.”

Who else has the right to determine our beauty but HIM? Who else tells us we are worthy but HIM? The reason of our existence reaches to horizons that are way beyond the skin.

That’s really it. That’s how I start. By always reminding my children how their hearts will always be most important. And that its purification is the epitome of beaty. That is beauty to aim for. Old cliche’ right?

A cliche’ I’ll happily pass down to my children.