Another Story

Don’t ask me if I’m ok because I always am. Don’t tell me things will get better because they always do. Don’t tell me time heals all wounds, because it never does. Don’t tell me I am stronger than my problems because, I know I am. I’m not the only one, so are you. Don’t ask me to dry my tears, because they are the only thing holding me together.

Don’t tell me what life holds for my tomorrow, because I want to stay in the dark a bit longer. Don’t ask me to come out and shine tonight, tonight is your night. Mine will be tomorrow, maybe it has long come and gone.

Tonight is all yours, until another tomorrow; another story.

Bedtime Stories

So apparently I’m not done talking about the family yet. I have been holding onto this one for a very long time. After a long bit, I had an opportunity to spend some time with my dad. Those who know me well, know that this is unusual. However, I did realize many things because of it. I got to see so much I had not in the years past. Whenever I get asked if I had a time machine would I visit the past or the future? My answer is always; the past. The future is coming. It’s right in front of me. I can shape it, I can predict it even to some extent. I’m interested in how I got here. I’m interested in ’seeing’ the stories I grew up on. I’m interested in knowing which conspiracy theories are real, and which ones are just that. There is so much in the details that we’ve missed from our past because the historians and storytellers are only human after all. I’m interested in history from my perspective. Strangely enough, historians don’t write books solely for me, go figure.

My father, and I have had a very turbulent relationship. He came around every few years and tried to be a dad. I really wasn’t ready to be a daughter. In his defense though; he had a bunch of other kids who were bending to his every will so he really didn’t understand what was going on with me. What was happening is that I don’t do things because I’m “told”. I do things because…well… they need to get done. How and when really isn’t anyone else’s business.

Nevertheless, he is where my history lies, he is where my story begins whether I like it or not. Don’t like it very much right now as that puts me in a position where I have to admit so many things I don’t really want to, egos are big around here.

So now that we’re all caught up I’m going to let you in on a secret. I’m realizing that my parents are probably my only living connection to my past.

I’ve heard all my mom’s stories. Many times over. Honestly, now they’re starting to change to her mood and the situation.

My dad and I haven’t shared much so when he mentions his life, and his parents it’s all new. So many pieces of my life, of my legacy that should have been passed down to me, are completely foreign. I don’t know anything about him. When he passes I feel his name in all its glory will pass with him because he didn’t share.

I didn’t mean to sound as brutal as I just did. Isn’t it the truth though? People die. Fade into nothingness from this world, the only thing that is left is the stories, and memories they leave behind. Those stories turn into legends and become history. That becomes our history. This can only happen if people are willing to tell their story out loud on every turn.

My dad: Close to 90 years old, not even thinking about retiring. Loves talking about work but will not discuss ’life’

When I talk about my past I’m extremely candid. Not because I like talking about myself, which I most certainly do, but I want people to know where I came from, and after I’m gone when they deal with my children, and my future generations, they know who they are. So my children know who they are.

Anyways, this time around he had some little details here and there that he mentioned. He talked about the important historical events that he was able to witness as a young man. I had no idea he had seen so much. He has lived in a time before electricity was widely provided. He’s seen how people cooked on stoves without gas, using wood and other materials. There are many traditional things exclusive to our side of the world that even living here we don’t see anymore. Those who lived through that time are slowly vanishing. I’m afraid with them those traditions and customs will vanish too.

I know, you’re probably thinking since when do you care about tradition and customs? I thought I didn’t. Talking to the elders of my family and my father made me realize that I do care. I want to stay connected. I want my children to know what they are a part of.

I’m a great believer in making new traditions and values that mesh with the time we’re living in. I’m not, however, in favor of losing who we are as a collective. Whatever we make of ourselves now comes from, and is attached to what we have been for thousands of years. All of this has a HUGE part in the construction of our reality. I believe we will be incomplete people raising incomplete generations without a strong connection to our past.

Maybe that’s what happened to me. My disconnect from my culture also me feeling alien in it most times perhaps came from the same place. My legacy wasn’t passed down. I wasn’t taught our ways and then told to decide how I wanted to modify them for my time and generation. I had no direction for any customs or a system. I followed what felt right (and I still stand by those ideas BTW) many times it was not what my people and my legacy would have demanded. As time went by that became my culture, my custom.

Here we are today with a new world trying to learn everything all over again while we teach it to our kids. While I want them to explore the world. I want them to know there is so much out there they can choose from. They are not in any way limited to the life I have lived or experiences I have had. I truly feel I was blessed because I got to experience more than what was right in front of me. I wiggled my way around and looked beyond to see what’s waiting out in the world because the world in front of me didn’t seem important enough.

The only thing that I would want my kids to do differently is to recognize that what is in front of them is not unimportant. I would want them to ground themselves in what’s right in front of them because they will not find that love and respect anywhere in the world only because we worked hard to grow it here for them. After that I want them to go out explore, find a lifestyle that works for them. It would be silly to assume that their lifestyle would be similar to ours because we are generations apart. Also, I pray we are not in the same place for too long for everyone’s sanity.

To wrap this up, home is home. We have to improve on it by adding to it. Flares of change are important, along with always remembering and keeping our own essence.

We do that by sharing our lives with our family. Sharing our history. Sharing our legends. Sharing who we are. Who we have been. We all have great histories to pass on. Great adventures that can turn into awesome bedtime stories, I personally think that’s a wonderful place to start.

Sit Next To Me

I have a very strict rule about my kids not watching “grown-up TV”. Stuff that might seem harmless to others I seem to tear apart and analyze to a point of exhaustion even for me. That’s what writer, communication major type people tend to do I guess. As a general rule, the TV is never on in our house when the kids are around. We only watch it when the kids are sleeping or gone. Even if it seems like the most harmless little show. Sometimes I think it’s just words. Then I remember myself as a kid. There were so many times “just words” stuck with me. I want to wait until they are older and those words can be explained and understood. They are 5 and 6 so it might be a while before that happens. I know I’m one of the strict ones in this particular matter. I tend to do the opposite of what my parent(s) did. Always. Of course.

A bit ago I saw a news story about this white guy who didn’t want to sit next to a black old lady on the plane. He called her all sorts of names. Names we are not allowed to use these days. He said things we refuse to acknowledge even exist as a society amongst us. Oh, but how they do so exist.

That tiny video reminded me of a tiny little incident on a bus somewhere in a tiny town far away from us, and now. And here we are today. “What do I do?” I thought. This world. I live in it. I’m raising my children in it. Pretty soon they will not be little boys. Someone will not want to sit next to them because they look like those “terrorists” they keep mentioning everywhere. I want to turn back time. Nope. Move it forward? Isn’t that what Martine Luther King thought when he gave his “I have a dream” speech? I don’t want to stay in this time either. So how do I take control? My kid inched over to watch the video as he always does. This is the moment I usually turn off my phone. It was a split second decision to let him see the world, and let learn. This is how I take on the world. This is how I take control.

-“What are they fighting about?”

-“This man doesn’t want to sit next to this lady.”

-“Why?”

-“Because she looks different.”

-“That’s doesn’t make any sense.”

-“I know, that’s why it’s on the news.”

-“So he wants to be all alone?”

-“Wouldn’t life be boring if we didn’t have people who were different in our lives? His life must be so boring. It’s fun when you get to know different kinds of people from different places, who look different and act differently. Sometimes people from the exact same place can look different too. It makes the world colorful and fun, like art.”

-“Like me and Adam? And you and Daddy?”

My kids are fully aware that their dad and I are very different skin tones, and so are they. While all over the world it’s always been a difficult conversation in our house it’s always been pretty simple. Adam is very proud of his brown skin because that means he looks like his dad, and Dawud is very proud of his lighter color because that means he looks like his mom. There’s no denying what they look like. We have found pride in who they are just as we do in others people we meet and know.

Then we talked about all the interesting and fun things we have in our lives because we have visited all these places and met amazing people; everything that we would have never found out if we had never met those people. It was a casual conversation that made a 5-year-old realize that being mean to people just because they’re different “doesn’t make any sense”. The smart thing is to learn from them; to bring the good stuff forward so we can make the world a stronger place.

I can’t still guarantee that tomorrow when he’s all grown up someone will not refuse to sit next to him because of who he is or how he looks. I can guarantee you though, that I’m working as hard as I can to turn my boys into the kind of men who will recognize you for your culture, heritage, religion, color, and whatever else is important to you and then make a conscious choice to sit next to you.

Country Orphan

I just recently declared to my husband that I need to be myself. I need a haircut, color to get back to who I am. I need to feel like me again. Recent moving, taking care of the house, kids have me feeling like a robot. I look ahead and I see more of the same. A state of not being me. A robot wife/mother/caretaker who takes care of anyone or anything that’s broken. I have switches in my brain; kid throwing a tantrum take a deep breath, handle that crap move on. Guests coming over; wake up early even though I ’m tired, down two extra cups of coffee, handle that shit, move on. Husband panicking over something; un-panick him, handled, move on. I seriously wanted to be out of Saudia Arabia for reasons no one is a stranger to I’m sure. If you are, I can explain, just ask. However, I didn’t realize what I was getting myself into by moving here even though I have lived here before.

Pakistan is a place I know and love, but the problem is she doesn’t love me back with the same force. How I choose to dress and how I choose to carry myself is a bit too ”strange” for her. Sounds interesting coming from someone who lived on the ”strange” side of the tracks all her life in the US as well. Over there I was strange because I was too conservative. ”Those poor Muslim women. We need to free them from their religious and cultural prison”. Over here in Pakistan, I get looks that say, ”OMG, what is she wearing? ” It’s always inappropriate. I still have a scarf on my head and as far as I’m concerned everything on me is more conservative than it would have been if I was anywhere else in the world (excluding Saudi).

When I moved to Pakistan for the first time I was excited. I thought, man this is so cool, the days of being looked at as different and not good enough to fit in are over. As much as I knew I was going to miss home at least I could try and make a home here with people who were just like me. sounds awesome right? My perfect little world? Nope.

I got here and I was asked the same question I was asked in America, ”where are you from?” I gave the same answer I gave over there, ”I’m from RIGHT FREAKING HERE”. And I got the same response, ”no but really”.

Then we moved back for unrelated reasons and I was a bit relieved because it’s never easy for people like me, at least it was familiar and it was home. This time though, I thought I was older, wiser, so maybe I’ll handle it better. I’ll be less confused if nothing else. Turns out I’m neither. I’m not even confused. I’m something completely different from all of those things. I’m a Pakistani-American who has very strong opinions about her countries. I know where I want to be in my future. I know I don’t belong in one place. If someone asked me to pick just one country, or city for the rest of my life I would not be able to do that. My loyalties are many and I am very proud of that.

What makes me is all of those things combined. What is not me is being a robot. I’m not going to wear certain clothes because everyone is wearing them.

That is exactly why others opinion on my scarf doesn’t matter when I’m in the US. People who genuinely want to know can ask me or research. The rest can assume what they want. I am too busy being me usually.

Although, I’m not going to deny that it does hurt to know that the two places that I’ve called home have not truly embraced me. That everything I’ve ever known and loved and forgiven about these places just because I wanted to be accepted are sometimes the exact issues and dilemmas that stand between us. Generally, it is not my fault. It is not my fault that I have the wrong skin color for most people. It’s not my fault that my parents speak a different language.

Well, it is kind of my fault that I’m choosing my religion, but religious freedom, no? Why don’t I get that if I’m not infringing on anyone else’s rights?

It surely can’t be considered a fault that my fashion sense is unique. You can look twice, I’m okay with that but gosh don’t judge me for it.

It cannot be a flaw in my innate personality that because of my family background, religion and upbringing I act different and have different opinions. Just a different way of looking at the world. I’m not demanding you agree with me.

This whole list goes for every home I’ve had. I’ve experienced these on different levels everywhere. ”Too Americanized” or ”not American enough”, “too Pakistani”, “not Pakistani enough”. Those switches in my brain just keep turning off and on. All the while I’m trying not to get lost myself. I’m neither since neither place has claimed me.

So where do I feel at home? With myself. There’s no judgment here. I change my look often to keep it fresh, to keep reminding myself that I belong everywhere. No one can tell me to change: citizen of the world and all.

OR a country orphan. I’ll go with that it’s more dramatic. So, I’m off to change it up again, this country orphan feeling is strong right now.

The Ever Changing Me

Last couple of years plenty has changed. That’s what life does, it changes. We grow, and change. This was my kid’s assignment for school over the last few weeks. About how he has grown and changed over time. How he started from being a baby; not being able to talk, walk, feed himself to today where he’s fairly independent, and has emotions that he can express. He can express them better than most kids his age, I would say. I would say that because I’m his mom and most of his emotions are directed towards me. I would also say this because I’m his mom, and my child is smarter than yours. Always.

The purpose of telling you about Dawud’s homework was that the line about “growing and changing” was straight up plagiarism from a very competent kindergarten teacher. Sorry Sir! Next time I will give you full credit with name, and credentials.

Growing and changing has so so many different meanings to different people. To a 5 year old it simply means being able to grab things with one hand. Sounds simple and innocent. To me change and growth means being a 100 pounds lighter than 3 years ago. That kind of change is not just physical, it comes from the inside before it starts showing on the outside. I don’t much care about what people get to look at on the outside. I know everyone cares a little, I’m sure I do too but I’m not worried about people’s opinions. When people’s opinion counted I didn’t care about the weight. Of course, they wanted me to be prettier, who wants to look at something that’s not aesthetically pleasing? I started losing the weight when I decided it was the right thing for me. My health. I wanted to take charge before it was too late. I am my best friend, my best ally, gotta watch my back, right?

We weigh people’s worth by the pound. Every time I meet someone I haven’t seen in a while I realize how “different” I look. I’m forced to admit that I “feel” different too. Because, of course, weight loss comes with so many positive changes in one’s life. Haven’t you heard, you become famous. People love you more. Also when you talk, people stop and listen. Although, if you’re a woman it still might happen less often, however, it will happen. Life will change ”for the better”.

I don’t know how many times I’ve heard, “so and so is getting fat”. “You need to talk to them”. This is especially true for women. We’re told It gets much harder to lose the weight later on. “Once you have kids it’s downhill from there. You lose your body completely”. I mean yeah, everyone loses a little bit of themselves as they get older and gain so much more. No one can say ten years later that they are the same person that they were ten years ago. Same goes for our bodies. Is that really a bad thing? The change is inevitable. It’s been 14 years I’ve been crying over my c-section scars. Guess what happened to them? Still there. In fact, more have been added. My weight has been up, it has been down. I have been pretty and I have been just okay. You know what? I’m still here. I’m not here because of my scarred or non scarred body or fat or non-fat body. No, I’m here because I decided to ignore all the chatter and stay. The ever-changing mind and body. The Me. The world can complain about thin people and fat people. I’m staying in my shape, however, it may get better over time.

I realize I wrote something like this just a while ago but this is different because this is about weight. This topic comes from a very different place. It doesn’t come from “sticking it to people” place. This comes from accepting the reality that the world is going to change around us and we are going to have to keep our feet on the ground solid. People are not going to approve of so many things we do, including the way we look. I’ve lost the weight now but now I’m too thin. I look ill. Yep, that’s a thing. My hair is too short and funky colors. That’s also a thing. There’s no pleasing the world.

I have also said this before, there’s only one change that matters: MAKING THOSE C-SECTION SCARS GO AWAY. That’s my inner monologue, ignore it.

There’s only one change that matters: that’s constant, inside you. You will learn, grow and change. The cycle is constant. When people say to me, “you would have never done that before, you have changed”, I say, “yes, yes I have”.

All We’ve got is…you know? Love

I don’t write much about relationships, or love. Even though, EVEN THOUGH you could say I’m somewhat of an expert on the subject. Actually, let’s not say that. There’s no rating on this and my kids might come across this some day. What I want to say is that I know enough. You could say that I could teach a class on this sort of stuff. Not because I have had so many, rather, the few meaningful relationships that I have had, have lasted so long and have been pretty trying. Anyone who has been in a long-term relationship of any kind will agree. It’s not a sign of a good or bad relationship. It just is what it is.

These days there’s a lot of talk of new relationships, marriage around me. Vacations, holidays, everyone’s showing off their new Love by signing those papers. Of course, when two people tie the knot, as they say, those are the things next in line. Although, I do wonder why they say that, families become entangled and knotted for life as well. And those are also relationships that need managing. Keep ups, maintenance, frequent checks, that sort of thing., It’s like a big rope all tangled and no one can find the ends.

I realize that what I just said may make you think that I’m not a romantic person. Not true. I’m a romantic realist (that’s not a real thing). I like romance as long it’s with a real person who is genuinely right in front of me. People can make claims that they love someone, whether it’s their mother, father, sibling, a lover, but actually loving someone and actually making real sacrifices to let yourself be loved, that’s a challenge that most people are not strong enough to handle.

Confused yet? I know, I have that effect on people.

Any guesses as to why I have decided to talk about love? I love being in love. But I hate talking about it because I don’t think anyone gets my thought process on this issue (pretty much like most issue).

Love is not about finding a soul mate. Love is not about finding people who you cannot live without. Every person is self-sufficient.

When you love someone your priorities change. You, YOURSELF don’t change but what you prefer to do when, and who with changes drastically. You might like the same food but the aroma might have a different significance, it might carry a special meaning.

Love is having deep care and respect for another. Did ya catch that? RESPECT! there’s no love without respect.

Love is when my sons put my shoes in front of me before I even step off the bed without being told because they know I don’t like to be without shoes.

Love is both my boys always going over to my desk and fixing the LionKing mug because they know it’s important to me. They know it has to be in a certain spot.

Love is also anticipating what your wife to be might enjoy on a random day and sending her a useless emoji pillow just to make her day a little bit brighter.

Love is these two. Cousins that grew up like sisters. They don’t even know what they mean to each other. You know what they say about twins? You pinch one and the other feels the pain? They have some freaky connection like that.

Love is a big brother taking a leap almost to his death to save his little brother. We say to our loved ones, “I’d give my life for you”. How many of us actually mean it? I don’t know if I know many people who would actually do something like this. However, that is what you do when love is at stake, jump in with open arms.

Love is my Doctor Who mug.

There are many examples of different kinds of relationships that I’m not mentioning. Some are actually really good: real solid.

I’m not putting them down here because those are the ones we expect when we talk about love. I want to have those marriages and friendships when I grow up but that’s what all people look at and say, ”yep that’s it”. While that’s true, we need to open up the box and start looking outside to see how much we’re spreading it around to others who matter. How much we are giving it to those who are here every day and we would like to keep them here. Because guess what people do? They leave. They don’t just get dead or get sick. No. They just walk out because we tell them with our actions that we are not around or that we are too busy to pay attention.

I’ve seen people walk out of my life for many reasons. It’s been death, its been because someone understood what they were worth more than me. What all of that has taught me is that I deserve to be loved and to be taken care of too. Yeah, not where you thought this was going. No…I was just checking if you were still paying attention.

In actuality, it is a two-way street. Do better get better. I’m out of cliches. I hope you’re feeling loved and respected.

Oh, I didn’t tell you why I’m writing about love and relationships. Well, you know sometimes you just gotta tell people that you love them. I feel that we have become a culture who relies too much on fake expressions. It’s not verbal and it is not action. It’s some third thing that’s somewhere in the atmosphere that we are all supposed to just understand. I write it down somewhere, and you see it along with thousands of people and now you know that I love you because I said it in front of so many people. That’s valid I’m sure. However, let’s start getting personal. Let’s start making it about those people only that we are claiming to love. Yeah?

Confusing crazy lady thanks you for your time and attention.

You Dont Have To Love Me Because I Do

I want to talk about myself today. But isn’t that what you do every day? you wonder. Yeah, I do. But this time I don’t want to hide behind my children or some other seemingly salient topic. “Me” I am important. Don’t you think? Well, I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t think so, but if you knew me you might kind of agree, or not. A solid NO is a real possibility also. I don’t think I’m a terrible human being though. I was just sitting here not feeling so great about myself, and then I started contemplating…why? Why do I feel the way I do right now? What have I done that is so terrible? My kids hate me. They don’t always. But their words have started to sting. My strategy with it is to go the opposite direction to what my parents and other elders did when I broke, and said something mean to them as a child and young adult. It was lecture time for me, I got grounded a lot. A lot of weird punishments were given out that I don’t want to get into right now because I feel bad enough about myself as it is. I just smile, give them a hug, and say well I love you more than the sun, the stars, the moon, and everything in between. I’m, they’re going to be a unique kind of messed up.

I feel something is broken, and bleeding inside you, when you’re being mean to someone else. I want to teach them to love people when they are hurting. To know the difference between pain and anger inside them. I want them to know that it’s okay to hurt but it’s not okay to hurt others. But enough about them. As a tween or teen, however, lectures fell on deaf ears. I do remember them now. It’s like they got stored for later use.

Here I am decades later reminded of how unhinged, and purposeless adults in my life thought I was. I think and always thought I’m an awesome person. Somehow, somewhere that little prick in my heart stops my awesomeness from spilling out completely. My confidence, and that spring in my step is a tiny bit less springy because I remember someone always saying: ”you’re too old to get this excited about this trivial thing”. Somehow my laugh is a little quieter every time I find something funny because I remember being told again and again that I need to grow up. But hey the story is not all gloom and doom because grow up I did not, I still think Disney World is the best place on earth. I believe all the Marvel superheroes will come back to life, or my son is already working on ’another earth’ I bet everyone is alive in it, I’ll just move there.

Every time I hear I’m not responsible enough, I look at these two human beings that I have carried inside me that I am a 100 % responsible for educating, feeding, training into being functioning people all the while running a household, and working. I just moved countries, I am in the middle of setting up another household while keeping the children alive, well fed. I’m also in the middle of helping them through their emotional, and physical transition. They are about to start a new school, and I am fully aware that this is just the tip of the iceberg. To be fair I should say WE are moving because my husband is obviously a BIG part of this process. I’m definitely not alone in this. However, sometimes I am alone. He goes out of town for weeks, even months. That’s cool though. We have a system. It works.

Me and one of my many beautiful nieces.

What’s that system? I’m freakin’ responsible!

Do you want to know something even more interesting? When people want something done on time and correctly, they come to me. When people want the truth, they come to me. No games, it’s tried and tested.

Then why am I told again and again that I’m not responsible? Or that I need to grow up? And why I think twice about being proud of who I am? And who I have made of myself?

Because I don’t apologize for my weaknesses. Because I don’t shy away from that child inside me who wants to come out to play every now and again.

Because I’m not afraid to make mistakes.

Because I’m not afraid to speak my truth.

I am not perfect and that’s okay.

Because of the tasks I’m supposed to accomplish will not be perfect or up to other’s standards and that’s okay too.

This can be scary, but that’s okay too.

Everybody doesn’t have to like me, as long as I like me that’s good enough.

Basically: I am not perfect by any means. I am enough.

Also, can I tell you something that you may have not thought about in a while because not everyone is as self-absorbed as I am: you are enough too.