Posted in Travel, Parenting, Lifestyle.

I know we have been hearing and reading the news.  All these killings, shootings, destroying lives. Hurt. People say where’s the heart? Why are the humans? Why are governments and our people heartless and lacking empathy? That may all be absolutely true. We can only speak from our hearts. Feels as though we only have our hearts left to give right now.

However, we’ve lost too much to not use our hearts. We’ve also lost too much to not be logical and calculated going ahead. We’ve just lost way too much. Every time something happens I surely some person with logic and a sane mind will see the tragedy and realize something needs to change. No one ever does.  We need understanding that taking away what people love does not make them complicit. Surely someone, somewhere understands this. Then boom! I realize people who should see it, don’t. I mean literally…boom.

I am not just writing about one place; I am writing about all of our homes. I don’t have to give you the exact location. How many people who look like you, think like you, believe like you are dead because of people who didn’t think they deserved to be where they were, because of people who still think you and I are not important enough.

I hear people say things like, “these governments, these tyrants are just like Hitler” They are using the same tactics and their end goal is the same. Genocide.” Don’t use his example so casually. We don’t know. I’m not saying it’s not true, I’m just saying we don’t know. I’ve known people amongst my people who were massacred for merely wanting to survive. Just like the Jews. We don’t quote history because we are angry, and it gives our anger some direction to make these comparisons. We learn from those awful parts of human existence and move in a completely different direction.  Everyone has a legacy; I want ours to be greater than just surviving.

Let me also say that when I say “my people” that definition is really wide. If there’s anything my friends and readers have learned about me, I hope it’s this. I am not just Muslim, Pakistani, American. I am also an immigrant (in more than one place), I also come from a long line of what people define as “terrorist” these days. I am brown. My descendants were forced to leave their homes, killed, burned and slaughtered for merely being all of that. I am all of us.   At times like these my identity, it seems to melt away into dust, and smoke. The one thing that has always been the most center-point of my core all of a sudden isn’t.

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I have been sitting on these thoughts for days. Haven’t uttered a word to anyone. Can you believe it?

I don’t like to have these discussions on my dinner table with acquaintances in a casual manner. I do however, like to avoid ignoring the issue as though it’s not my problem. It becomes my problem when the site of an armed guard at a mall has me instinctively pushing my kid behind me as though that would protect them from anything. My mental armor is always up as is for everyone around me, but the sad truth is that we all know we are exposed, we are already bleeding. We are gasping for every breath.

Our lives now are just about finding moments to escape the pain because we feel there’s nothing, we can do about the condition of the world we live in. All this hurts is so much that we want to imagine that it’s not happening if only for a moment. We can do that you see because no one is holding a gun to our head at this very moment. In this moment the nozzle is invisible, so we take advantage of it because the excruciating reality of what is to come is too unbearable. The helplessness is crippling.

I close my eyes and escape into whatever frivolous activity is nearest for that moment. Playing with my boys. Making forts under the blanket. Hiding under the covers with the kids and a sudden bang, and then a shake. I’m startle out of the state of comatose bliss. Was it just my kids dropping a toy? Was it something bigger? A bigger toy? A gun? A bomb? Nothing, absolutely nothing. Something definitely shook. I didn’t imagine that. There was a loud thud, I didn’t imagine that. I know I didn’t.

Whatever it is, it’s still invisible so I guess we’re safe. I hear it but I don’t see it. There has been so much that I have seen that’s pierced through me as has been the case for most of us on an individual level. I don’t think any of us is ready to accept it on a collective level for ourselves or for others. It’s here, right in front of me.

When I get out from under those covers will I be helpless? Will my kids be helpless to deal with whatever is waiting for them out there? Hopelessness is definitely crippling; however, I don’t think we are helpless. In fact, we are in the position to help. I know I have a responsibility to my children to not raise them to be blind to the truths of the world. Who am I if I don’t show them how to get out from in front of a bullet? What kind of a parent am I if I don’t teach them how to help a few people in the process?

There’s no revolution. No changing the world. There’s today, no one knows about tomorrow. Today, I don’t want to know  that people died, and I didn’t try. Today, I want my kids to be proud of themselves knowing that somewhere something good happened, no matter how small, because of them. They might not be ready to change the world today, who knows where tomorrow is taking us though.

Logic will prevail.

One day at a time.

All people at a time.

All kids at a time.

#myworldmyresponsibility #istandwithkashmir #stopgunviolence #bondedinbrotherhood #tomorrowbelongstothem

 

 

Posted in Travel, Parenting, Lifestyle.

#Metoo

Have you heard? The #metoo movement is over-done. At least according to some fancy female makeup artist here in Pakistan. She was asked this question out of the blue during questions about what is her favorite makeup product, and which actor she loves dolling up. The interviewer quickly went from “which celeb needs a better makeup artist” to “what do you think about the #metoo movement?” The switch was abrupt, and I’m pretty sure, not unintentional.

So, here I am completely damaged by my own thoughts right now. I’m not sure what is happening to our world that we have to stab each other in the back so brutally. There’s absolutely no room for doubt as to what happens at that moment. The decisions made during that interview, before that interview rather, we’re criminal. That being said I’m more concerned about the bigger questions that this raises in our country. How easy it is to dismiss a hurting soul. How easy it is to quiet a wave of pain, and suffering by calling the struggle overrated.

I grew up pretty independent, that was pretty much thanks to my big brother’s laziness. He was too spoiled to do anything so I just ended up taking care of stuff. I joke, but it’s true. It taught me a lot because he never treating me like I was not capable because of my gender. Anything he could do, it was just kind of understood that I could do it too. Love you, bro.

However, the world was not so easily accepting of a girl who liked to live life on her own terms. You’ve all heard the stories, mine isn’t unique or new. I’m sure you’ve also heard that when a female goes out in the world asking for her place there’s no way in hell she doesn’t experience a brush of a hand in places she doesn’t want. A touch here, a sentence there. An invitation shes not to keen on. I didn’t face anything more than that but how many did and didn’t say anything, I can’t even begin to imagine. My struggle began at a very young age. Every time someone touched me the wrong way I spoke up. I screamed, yelled and told anyone who would even look in my way because no one was really ready to listen. I always got in trouble for that.

I know I said I wasn’t going to go in detail but here we are. What I’m trying to say is that after nearly 30 years of, “just stop, that’s how things are. You screaming it all the time isn’t going to do any good.” Finally, someone made it okay to say something. It’s still not as okay as it should be but better than nothing. Here, where it’s hard. Women have to work hard. No. Harder. Women go through mansplaining of their own jobs by men who are a few levels below them because, what else? That’s the world right now and fighting it takes too much effort. Sometimes the only way to get my driver to actually follow my direction is to call my husband and tell him to call the driver and explain because he just doesn’t want to take directions from a woman, keeps telling me, “no ma’am, this is the way”, while we are completely lost. Moments like these I don’t have time to lecture him because I’m late. I just need to get where I need to go. So, we find ways. Oh, and if I did lecture him or get angry it would be me making a big deal about something tiny and “overreacting”. Again, most of us have been there.

Not all men but a lot of them are assholes. It turns out a lot of women are assholes too. Yes, I’m in that kind of mood right now.

In this extremely fragile country, where speaking the truth about sexual harassment for women is always met with doubt and blame the victim vibes, there are women who are sabotaging the cause.

My mind is blown. I can give you a rundown on why we do this to each other. I can try and understand the politics behind it and try to understand the psyche of these women. I can even present the case for how it benefits these big businesses and these women’s magazines are run by men so they gotta keep the status quo. But I don’t want to do any of that today.

I just want to say that if you are the kind of person who minimizes another person’s experience. If you’re the kind of person who chips away at someone’s truth for whatever reason; you’re a shit person.

I hope no one ever does that to you.

Posted in Travel, Parenting, Lifestyle.

Name

I got to talking about names the other day. I’m very particular about my name, spellings and all. I have my father’s last name. People are surprised to hear that. I had a chance to change it, but I didn’t. I know my husband thinks it’s some feminist agenda to prove something to the world. It really isn’t. The issue is much simpler and much more complicated than that.

Photo Credit: Jayson Hinrichsen

For the first 14 years of my life, I didn’t have a last name. Literally, none. Whenever I was asked to put down my last name, I would simply say I don’t have one. Questions like, “what’s your dad’s name?” or “what’s your mom’s name?” Would follow and I don’t know what they ended up writing most times because I really didn’t want to concern myself with it.

Why I didn’t have a last name? My mom didn’t want me to have my dad’s name. She didn’t give me hers either. I was just kind of left nameless in their struggle to gain control and power over each other.

Finally, at the age of 18, I added my paternal last name. Nobody understood why I would do that either. At that point, I had not seen my father in years, and it seemed like that’s how it was going to be for a long time to come. I couldn’t explain to people that having a name you probably are not completely comfortable with is better than not having one at all. It’s better than no one recognizing you or knowing where you come from. There are a lot of people on my father’s side I deeply care for and love. However, this was the most important reason. Everyone wants to belong, right? Where did I belong if not with my parents? My mom had a chance to share her name with me and she didn’t so obviously I only had one option. Maybe it’s not that deep, or just maybe for a child growing up without being able to proudly say I belong to one family or the other, it is that deep.

Back to today; my kids ask why they are all Mustafas but I’m not. You are our family too why isn’t your last name the same? I give them the simple answer, which is also true.

I tell them, even though they don’t share my last name there is no stronger bond.

The complicated answer? My Parents may not have been the one to give me the name, or maybe they were. I don’t know what my birth certificate says honestly. I understand though that this is where my identity and my legacy is found, and my kids will know that they have a family in my family.

So yeah, we are a family. We are the Mustafas, we’re also the Akhtars.

Photo Credit: Jake Thacker

My boys need to know that. They need to create relationships and loyalties to that family and that name too. It will not happen if one of their parents doesn’t say it all the time. So maybe, that’s why I kept the name? Or maybe I’m just lazy?

Posted in Uncategorized

A New Day

Hey guys, so I was going to just hit record and say all of this but I didn’t feel like washing my face this morning because its a Sunday, besides typing things without showing my face seems much easier for me. My face has so much that gets hidden behind the words that the camera just bares all to see. That precisely why I’m here typing/ talking right now to all of you. I’ve had a lot of asks to start writing about ”how to” kind of blog. People tell me to write about how to lose weight. Write about overcoming depression, and anxiety and living the life I do now.

They tell me to write about not being able to have kids for so long in a society where a woman primary function is to reproduce. I hear, ”give other people hope”. I really want to give people hope. In the process I also want to keep it real. I struggle with this every day of my life. The problem has always been that I don’t think hope is that simple, just like the struggle; it doesn’t just end one day. The fight doesn’t just stop. You don’t magically come out of your problems, and become this new person. If I say I tried this new wonderful exercise and lost weight and look how great I am now I give hope to many but it’s a false hope. I know the struggles, and fears I still have related to weight. It is far from over. Probably never will be. Worrying about weight, worrying about how people saw me, still see me, how their perception changes with each pound that goes up and down.

My Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is a roller coaster. I have not conquered it. I don’t hide from it. I don’t run from it. Talking about it makes me vulnerable, and it sucks to be this exposed. I am fighting every day. I have not ”overcome” anything. When I’m asked to write about what I’ve ”accomplished” it feels like the false hope that’s going around social media with those smiling faces, smoke screens, if you will. We have enough of those. I don’t want to add to that. Let’s not even get started on the mental health issues.

Let’s be clear. There are some people who have been a very positive message of health an positive change, without them maybe I would not be able to get out of bed in the morning. However, those are very few. As a mom we need real. We need a call, a hug, we need a person we trust telling us we are doing great today and its okay to not have a perfect day.

Despite all that you can be honestly, truly happy. Sometimes not being that, just taking it moment by moment, day by day, week by week is completely normal.

Sometimes my messages may come out a bit too cynical but this is the intention. I’m just trying to tell people its okay to be normal. We don’t have to be overachiever every day.

Some days achieving is overachieving. We don’t all have to move mountains. Little pebbles is just as great. My pebble is my mountain. Appreciate.

Here is what I want to do: I want to be that person who creates the safe space. I want to be that person who shows people that their ”before” and ”after” picture will vary every day.

I’ve lost 120 pounds and I look like so many health guru’s before pic. It is heartbreaking at times but then most days I LOVE that I got myself here.

You will be beautiful one day and ugly the next. That doesn’t diminish you. It’s okay to want to sleep all day and want to change the world at the same time. Be human. Be you. Forgive yourself every day.

Updates coming soon.

#skindeep #asfarasclichesgo #iseeyou #beseen #justme #justus #allofus #afterall #lifeinanutshell #loveyourself #loveforall #unconditional #momproblems #momsofinstagram #parentsofinstagram #instagrammom #letsworktogether #beauty #smokescreen #professionalscribbler

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Keep Smiling

Every occasion is special for a reason. We celebrate because there is something to celebrate. And then there are those who celebrate because there is nothing else to do. What of those? They are stuck between everyone else. Trying to find a reason to smile looking for a reason to smile because they are constantly being told they don’t have a reason to frown. This has been said, and this has been discussed so many times but has this been seen by those who need to see it? Observe it? Are you noticing when I tell you I don’t want you to tell me that, “everything is okay” because that’s how you feel? My loss is not the same as yours. My pain is not the same as yours. I can laugh with you, hell, I can even be happy for you when you celebrate, what I can’t do is KNOW that it will be okay. At least not today. I want you to understand that. Yes, you. I want you to know that. You claim to know me and love me, yet you chastise me for my pain. You chastise me for the lack of that smile on my face. You claim to understand what it’s like to have that darkness that eats away at your insides until it’s just a black hole but when I can’t muster up that song and dance in the moment, I need to work on my attitude?

I am selfish. I want to be selfish. Not because I don’t care, because I can’t care. Because that hole has eaten at that too. Trying to care is like spilling guts and blood I don’t have anymore.

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Photo Credit: Hipster Mum

Whew! That was fun.

Next time you ask someone to be happy and just take a minute away from their problems to live a little think about this.

There is so much more to say about this,  but this is no time for darkness. After all it is Eid, why be so Grimm, right?

 

After thought: There is so much that’s happening to us every moment. Our lives are being turned upside down. These things don’t disappear because it’s Eid or some other holiday we hold dear. In fact, these things are tenfold staring us in the face, and brighter because of these days. Please remember so many of us are going through this alone. So many of us are ”celebrating” without those that we have never been without. So many of us are trying to find our way in a new world with new beginnings taking on completely unchartered paths. It will take us a while to smile like we used to. We will all get there; we all need you to be patient and  remember.Remember and know. Be mindful.

Keep Smiling
Photo Credit: Vitaliy Lyubezhanin

Realize that months, years, celebrations, holidays all come and go but there are some things that cannot be altered, some things cannot be controlled. Human life, human emotions and  the fragility of human condition; be it emotional or physical is beyond us. Please give everyone, including yourself time to process and let it be. From those of us who face all of these every day, we are not trying to ruin your celebrations or holidays. We are trying our best to navigate our everyday life  that we feel is  slipping away.  Realize and remember.The emotions attached to traumas, life changing events, and mental conditions do not take a break for any day.

Happy Eid y’all!

Posted in Uncategorized

The Social Brain Drain

Our big beautiful brains are empty; rather we don’t know how to use them anymore. I wouldn’t recommend using at least MY brain all the time because it doesn’t come up with the most intelligent stuff. It has its shining moments though. I’ll some of the greats someday. That will make for a real fun read. I just mean in general, as a people we are never just with our thoughts much these days. We are not exploring the depths of the creativity and emotions that is buried there. We have started to refer that to as being “bored” or “idle”. Our bodies and specially hands need constant movement. If that is not happening our brain feels something is not right with our body and we feel emotionally unsettled. I am no Neurologist or Scientist of any kind, but I do understand what I see and how I feel. We do it without even realizing it, buy products that will allow us to stay connected with everything all the time. We call it safety but it’s actually the fear of the unknown. We want to predict the future rather than to be surprised by it. Where is the fun in that?

The bigger picture that is probably more troubling, if we let ourselves think about it, is that we avidly believe because everything seems to be more calculated, and on our fingertips therefore everything around us is safer, is it really? Is it really any of those things?

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Photo Credit: Jesse Orrico

The way we use our brain is changing. The way we think we should use it and the way we were meant to use it have become different. There is a lot of irony in this statement because the brain becomes whatever you think and that then becomes the right definition of its function. However, if we forego uses of it at certain periods of time, what do we call that? I mean I know technically its not possible but practically it happens all the time.

I was in the dentist’s office. The procedure was not going to be anything fun, and it was lengthy, so I had put all my belongings away. Including my phone. During the process the dentist decided that we should take a breather.

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Photo Credit: Hal Gatewood

I was sitting on that chair, with 3 other people in the room and absolutely nothing to do. The first thing my hands did was search in my lap for the phone. I knew it wasn’t there, but I went through the motions anyway. There wasn’t enough time to actually go and get it, so I decided to just relax and go to my “happy place”. I didn’t know what that meant anymore. It’s not a world of dreaming and wondering anymore. It’s not a world where I create what gives me comfort as it used to. Now those free spaces in our minds are nothing more than boredom  until we can have our thumbs moving and,disconnect from ourselves and the people around us to connect to the world. I am absolutely not against technology, that’s my livelihood. Im against losing myself in it. Im against not knowing where my brain stops and where a machine starts.

Im against being around 3 human beings and still looking for a device to occupy my time.

 

Posted in Uncategorized

The Endgame Thor is the mightiest Thor

SPOILERS ALERT

What happens when you’re grieving? You take a minute. You stop. Stress eat. Stress drink. Don’t really feel like going to the gym. Reality changes. Look back at everything he’s lost? He is real. He’s messy. He is absolutely fantastic.

After a long time the strength narrative was separated from the fit, and beautiful narrative. Actually not after a long time, but in after ever, really. Don’t get me wrong, I like my superheroes tall, muscle-y and iron-man, however, sometimes it does get tiresome for us, not-so-powerful beings to watch all that unfold. Most of their power is not coming out of their muscles. So, why do they need them to be so rock solid? Why does the Black-Widow’s teeny tiny waist always seem to be giving my buttered popcorn a look of disapproval?

Then there’s always the satisfaction of knowing that they are not people they are superheroes. Yet you know they are actors playing superheroes who are impossibly perfect looking in real life too.

Yep! I love myself. I love my body. I am a strong person.

Sigh.

I didn’t realize this was so much of the dilemma going on with me, and everyone else when we put these people up on that great pedestal. When Thor showed up on that screen with all his chub it suddenly made sense.

The separation of power and beauty; such a simple concept. Such a real concept. This is almost lost in our world. We don’t like to let people have any kind of power unless they pass our individual tests. Those tests are purely aesthetically motivated. Without any regard for human emotions and needs. This has nothing to do with actually having the ability to perform their jobs or having the right skills.

His entire time in the MCU Thor has been undermined by his muscles and abs. Wait, don’t come at me. Let me finish. He appeared. He was big and beautiful, therefore capable. Everything that he could actually do mattered much much later in any scene or movie entirely. His excellence was established upon arrival.

But this fat dude with a long beard, and messy hair without a care in the world. That guy who has been the hero, and is over it. He’s had everything, and lost everything. He’s all the buzz. He understands where power comes from. He knows its not coming from the places imagined because he has looked. I mean come on, he even got a haircut. He still ended up alone.

The Russo brothers did everyone a huge favor, on a global level, by showing us that one of the world’s mightiest hero’s powers has nothing to do with his body size. It has to do with his state of mind. The second he believes he is; he becomes.

Somewhere in the past my chubby self is very grateful.

Thank you.