It’s that time of year again..the season in which everyone wonders about me. Everyone wonders if I’m selfish, a flake or just plain lazy. It doesn’t really occur to most people that when I say I’m sick I’m actually really sick…umm..DUH. Well no, that’s kind of harsh. I’m sure there’s a few people out there who believe me. The problem with this scenario is though that those people who believe, quickly “unbelieve” me when they see me out and about the next day at some other event. Yeah, it is a real *B* this invisible chronic illness. It doesn’t even let you be sick properly. Just makes a damn liar out of ya.
How this Rheumatoid Arthritis gig works is that one day your swollen like a melon. It could be anywhere: my ankle, knee, wrist. Although wrists and elbow don’t usually keep me out of commission. I show up to events
and gatherings because at least I can walk.
Otherwise below the waist means I’ll be limping and the questions alone are just brutal. Because when those start people come out with all sorts of, “oh have you tried?” Or, “my cousins’ uncle’s daughter had pain in her back and she took this magic potion that healed her right up. You should try it too.”
“Yes, yes I have tried. This has been with me for over 20 years you bet I have tried that and the next thing that’s about to come out of your mouth, and a million and one other things.”
The other wonderful thing about this disease is that the pain and swelling can last for days yet it can disappear just as easily as it shows up. So, if I’m not able to walk one day, the next day you might not even be able to tell that I needed help walking to the bathroom yesterday, and was hold up in bed all day with a heating pad on my knee (or a cold patch. Pick a healing, soothing pack of your liking for that week). When people see me they think…”ah what a flake”.
I know, it’s not their fault. I can’t blame them for all of it. They don’t understand how it works. And it is very hard to understand. These invisible kinds of illnesses are mean and heartless like that. They take so much from you and then they whisper to your friends, “hey she doesn’t like you that very much. She ditched you yesterday and here she is today at some other event just ready and eager as ever.”
We had a get together the other day. I was able to make it to that one. But I was up all night with pain so the fatigue was unbearable. Combine that with leftover pain and you actually want to be a flake and just say, “sorry something came up last minute I can’t make it.”
I could barely walk or keep my eyes open for that matter. People think I’m being rude. “Was it something I said?” They think. “You are on a diet, that’s why you’re not eating.” No, dude I’m full of so many drugs I have forgotten how to hold a spoon for the time being.” Sorry for not being a better meal companion but right now I’m not sure if its ketchup from my kid’s fries or the band aid came off my finger from when I cut myself earlier trying to clip my fingernails. #Justgonnaquietlywipeitnodiscussionneeded.
Along with all of this comes the guilt. Guilt of being a terrible friend. Guilt of being THAT friend who keeps canceling on everyone and can’t give a decent reason. “I’m not feeling well” is not really a decent reason to people unless you yourself suffer with a chronic illness that can’t be seen. The guilt of being a terrible parent. Keeping your kids locked up with you. The guilt when your husband casually mentions, “our kids aren’t social enough.” Double guilt when plan is being rethought and you say, “ya know my shoulder just wont move, I feel I’ll sit this one out.” And you hear, “well you didn’t go last time either, you sure you wanna skip again?” It’s not about being “sure” it’s really not a choice. No one wants to do this to hurt you or make you feel bad and some part of people think that some of it is in our control. If we just tough it out. It’s really not that bad. How can the shoulder be really “stuck”? A body part can’t just not move one day and start moving the next.
Deep down inside you know it’s your fault because, well, lets count how many events you had to cancel because you just couldn’t go. How do you change that? You can’t. Great, so add helpless to the list.
There is a lot underneath the surface. I know no one means to hurt or offend but it happens. I talk like it’s me against the world but I know it’s not. You stop explaining and just shut down. It becomes easier to just shut down and stay inside. I mean inside your own self rather than explain yourself to people because it’s JUST. SO. EXHAUSTING.
It’s probably not the healthiest attitude and doesn’t help the whole process but…again…exhausting.
So I guess this is my declaration to the world, I’m not a flake, or a hermit. I’m just suffering from a chronic illness or two. Let my flare up pass I’ll be back in the world. Or maybe come over and have a cup of coffee with me. But you’ll have to sit on my purple chair next to me while I lay there in my bed drugged up wrapped in ice packs and heating pads. Our kids can run a mock in the house I won’t care because I’ll be too high to give a hoot. Hey! Here’s another idea: Come while kids are in school, that way you won’t hear the kids running around either.
I wonder who I am? I’m a woman. I get told I can be anything I want. I can achieve anything I want. However, who am I if I’m not in control of my body? Who am I if I’m not in control of the prying eyes and lurking hands? I look up and everywhere I see is those dirty looks, and intentions that go with it. It leaves me wondering what would be my fait if only few of them found me alone somewhere where I couldn’t call for help.
Don’t think I have not been in that situation once or twice before. I knew how to get out of it. Even their smiling faces scare me now. Smile back really quick and move on. That’s how it works right? You don’t want to get noticed by not smiling. Or by “being rude”. You don’t want to be THAT gutsy girl or woman who knows or thinks too much. That one is sure to get comments or more looks.
I want to apologize to the good ones out there in advance because it seems like an attack on all men, but it’s not. As women, we would not survive in the world without your help. It’s high time we admit that. We are too quick to judge and point a finger. It’s also important to acknowledge, and thank them because those are the ones who make the world go round for us whether we want to admit it or not. There are places in some parts of the world I don’t want to go without the men of my family. I walk right behind them. If you know me even a tiny little bit you know I’m not the type to walk behind anyone. And they are kind enough to let me walk behind them because they know that this is just for my comfort not to fulfill some need they have, no matter how it might look.
I’ve been told not to write about this topic because the blame would probably fall on me. I am a woman after all? Was I alone when these men were ogling me? What was I wearing when I got offered the bottle of water that I didn’t ask for? Some of the people tell me this “for my own good”. We have heard it all before. What I’m trying to say here is not the same thing what we’ve all said over and over again. What I’m trying to say is that I’m not JUST a woman, I’m a MUSLIM WOMAN. I’m the one you see with a headscarf. You assume men don’t mess with me. People see this scarf on our heads or a long dress and think that we are a different species. That we don’t have the same problems. No one would harras us. No guy would dare look in our direction. As I sit here alone and write this, my friends, you have no idea how many eyes are on me. Am I the most beautiful thing in the room? Uh, I could show you a lamp or two that are more attractive and are not wearing a head covering. Jokes aside, we’re all facing this. We get asked the same questions. Those of us who don’t wear an abaya are told, “well, maybe if you wore your clothes differently”. Those of us who work are told, “Maybe if you stayed home”.
What about that man? That guy whose eyes lingered too long in the wrong place? What about that guy who kept telling me “I was too pretty to be out by myself.” No, nothing on him. It was all me. I should have known better. I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. I should have done things differently. As I write this my fingers shake because there are so many examples I’m afraid to write down that get too personal. What’s more I know that I’m about to be told “but why would you compare these examples to people who have actually been assaulted? This is not real assault?” And these words will come from folks near and dear to me.
I shake because no one will say good on you for speaking out for Muslim women, for talking about the “everyday ness” of this crazy thing.
You don’t have to be touched and caressed to feel assaulted, not always. Sometimes just a look, just a word or a phrase can do the job just fine. It can break you. And people who are supposed to support you and stand by you break you even more by looking you up and down and asking “what are you wearing?” Or “Men will be men, you need to be just a little more careful.”
“No More Ideas.”
That’s what one of them screams at the other. I see him building a tower. “Give me my tower back.” “No I’m trying to fix it.” “I’m just doing one idea and then I’ll give it back.” “No” “no more idea” just give it back.” “Mom, Dawud is having too many ideas.” “What’s wrong with having too many ideas?” I ask. “Because if two ideas are in the same room they clash. And then I have to keep fixing his idea and he has to keep fixing mine. Just stop him from having his ideas in this room. Send him out”.
“NO. Mine are always the bestest ideas”, Dawud responds, calm as a clam. “You know that.” Adam reaches over and puts an Elephant smack in the middle of Dawud’s structure. That took all the patience, all the calm right out of Dawud. “NOBODY EVER STOP ME! THIS IS MY ZOO, AND IT DOESN’T HAVE ANY ELEPHANTS.” He pushes Adam.
That’s my cue to put my coffee down and get up. After all Adam did start the zoo. It was initially his idea to start making one. Actually no. I gave them the idea so I could have my coffee in peace. No more ideas!
Hero. I hear this word so much. Heroism! Sounds so big and un-doable for a mortal being. My own children play super hero and bad guy games. In those games it is absolutely necessary for someone to be poked or banged or kicked. Be it the good guys or the bad guys. They are still young so they have not yet discovered the more extreme ways of hurting a “bad guy”. They are my off spring so, they will learn all of it fast and soon whether I want them to or not.
If you asked them the definition of a superhero or even just a hero they will tell you that it’s a person that”saves” you or “protects” you. They’re correct about that.
I’ve met heroes in my life. Heroes to me are people who make you smile, people who give you a reason to get up in the morning. Although by this definition even they are heroes just because they exist.
That sun. The sun shining: That is certainly another hero wouldn’t you say? Or it’s a bad guy, depending on the kind of minute you are having.
We were talking about people though. I have come across so many unsung heroes lately. The definition of heroism has changed for me. Maybe it hasn’t changed. I’ve just realized it’s important to honor those who are worth honoring before they’re gone from our presence.
Also, sort of hint people…get to it, why don’t you?
We had a great tragedy in the family recently. Anyone and everyone who knows us even a little bit knows all about it. We lost our very beloved son, nephew, brother, cousin and everything else. In his wake we found courage, never-ending bonds and heroes. Oh so many strong and such beautiful heroes.
People talk at length about him and what a beautiful soul he was. He surely was. He is. He is that. He is our wonderful, beautiful Zayd and he will always be that.
But this is not a tribute to him. This is a tribute to his beautiful companions who grew up with him. Who watched him and played with him. Had their lives tied with his. They spent their days and nights with him. They were hoping to grow old with him. They had mapped it all out. They had already imagined their kids playing in the backyard together. They were planning on living together as friends, siblings, and colleagues.
They were planning his wedding. Excited about meeting his new bride, their sister-in-law. His death turned everything upside down not just us but for them too. We focus on the parents but the burden they bear is probably greater if not the same.
Those young adults saw themselves through their parents’ eyes probably for the first time as young boys and girls.
For the first time they probably realized what it’s like to be so fragile and mortal yet they stood strong for everyone else. They stood like mountains in the face of waves crashing on them. They stayed. They cried, mourned, screamed, yet they stayed because they knew that this is what all of us needed.
The strength they showed gave their elders (that’s us) strength, and believe it or not, a certain peace. We knew that they could do it. If they can handle today, if they can cry, and smile, and hold our hand, and hug us today while standing tall for each other as well?
Then, well I think that is it. I think they have made it in this world. Because that strength is the key to making it in the other world and this world comes and it goes, real fast. But you already knew that.
We tell stories of Bilal Mustafa and his wife Anam Qadri. What they did when they lost their little brother. However, the stories of heroism started when he was born and they will go on until he lives. He has been strong-willed and gotten his way in a world that did not make it easy for him. He has turned into a kind young man who does not turn away from a challenge and he does not leave his family behind. When I think of that boy I think of strength, courage and loyalty.
We all wondered about the person he was marrying and we worried because, “oh gosh, the boy is bringing a girl home, am I right?” No. This woman in her own right has taught us all what it means to love and support an entire broken down family. I don’t know if I would have been capable of doing it.
Hafsa Mustafa, she hates the spotlight. Yeah she’s hiding behind the couch right now reading this. She hates it but I also know how hard it is to give it up. Yet, she gives it up every time we have to welcome a new member of the family. Every time we have to let a young one grow up and make room for them to be an adult and her space is taken over a bit. She welcomes everyone with a smile, and an open heart. She’s the quiet guide, and caretaker who never get’s noticed. Like the background music that calms and soothes, however you can never put your finger on what’s really putting you in such a pleasant mood. It’s not the drugs she’s putting in your drink. I promise!
When Hasan Mustafa got married that was the biggest example of her being a welcoming host and a wonderful sister-in-law to Hasan’s new bride.
Although Hasan doesn’t really need the spotlight: He’s happy lurking in the shadows, mostly because he’s pretending to be Batman. Bilal would like to claim that status and would be annoyed if his name doesn’t get mentioned somewhere where Batman is mentioned, so there you go buddy. Back to topic…Hasan is NOT Batman. He likes to be there for people and do things for people solely for the sake of God. We comprehend life through our experiences. Through what we have seen and understood about it. He has understood that people need to be love and taken care of. He is a better man than I is all I have to say about that.
Oh and Ayesha Belal that exceptional young woman he’s married to, is beyond words. First of all; because she has to live with my nephew obviously; second and more importantly because she came into our family and that was it, she stayed there. It was not a, “hi nice to meet you, now we have to go home.” She came and rested in our hearts. She is not just a part of him she is a part of this family. She laughs with us and she grieves with us. She holds us together like any family member would.
All and all those two crazy boys did well. Like heroes would. I don’t eve know if Batman has such good luck with women. Doubt it.
And then there was one. One, right? Yeah but she doesn’t impact like just one so I have to count. Is there only one Hamna Mustafa? She knows what people need and when they need it. She can read peoples hearts. It’s a quality only a few posses. And even fewer use like she does. She has ignored her needs many a times to tend to others. I am sure you have seen those scenes from super hero movies where the hero says, “I have to go my people need me” and then they fly away? Yeah that’s her. That’s Hamna, only, way less dramatic and without the flying, and coolness. Bottom line: she’s super girl.
This post happened only because Zayd Mustafa is always talked about and honored. I needed everyone to realize that we have heroes among us who are doing heroic things every day, and they are going to keep doing them whether they get the praise or not. I hope we get to tell each and every one of them how great they are. I hope we get to encourage them and help them achieve more. I know they are capable of so much more.
Some day when we are not with our loved ones we depart without any guilt that we didn’t tell them those superheroes have got nothing on you. Also, that we can be proud of ourselves for a bunch of badasses. I am not completely there yet; mine are still cooking. Nevertheless, I would still like to take some credit for these wild creatures too.
Fly Safe you guys and don’t smash too many buildings!
Dropped my phone today under a desk. Bumped my head while trying to pick up that phone. You’d think it’s a scene out of a movie: some nerd girl who bumps into everything and drops everything, everywhere, all the time. Later she would turn into a beautiful lady swan or something. Nope, it’s just a regular day at the doctor’s office. I kid you not, I did all these things and a few more which, I would like to not discuss. I am sure the doctor and his nurse were thinking, “How do you not see that the desk is right there when you bent down to pick up the phone?” Well, that’s just what I do. I don’t calculate, I just bump into things or walk into them.
Okay fine, Ill write down the rest. Within the span of 20 minutes I discovered a stain on my scarf, which I tried to scratch off with my nail. Didn’t work, ended up chipping off a part of my nail in the process. Then I tried to cross my legs like proper people do. BIG FAIL. Somehow, I didn’t realize a piece of cloth had gotten stuck in the handle of the chair and that kept my leg from crossing completely so I was in a leg-crossing limbo for a bit. Not a swanlike position at all. My doctor was acting like he was typing on the computer, but I suspect he was done by that time was just pretending to type to give me time to “gather” myself.
There is no chance of me turning into a beautiful non-nerdy coolness of something or the other. Also most of these fantastical movies don’t have a 40 something crazy lady as the central character.
ALSO…why don’t they? We need love too. I mean I could have met a handsome man with a reasonable amount of tattoos and a liking for exotic foods and coffee, in that dungy old doctor’s office where everything stunk. Okay that was oddly and dangerously specific, even for my thoughts I suppose.
If, I wasn’t already married of course, and wasn’t preoccupied with the thoughts of making it home in time for dinner to feed the kids.
However, if all of those factors were not there and I was just another 40 year old I would make a great heroin for a movie.
The possibilities are endless.
I am, however 40…ummm…something…married or not…children or not, possibilities it seems are kind of not endless. They tell us 40 is the new 30. Yeah, well, tell that to my aching back buddy. It screams like a lot like a 40 year old. This was not supposed to be a dud of a post for once. I was supposed to write an uplifting funny piece about being an awkward 40 something. It turns out there isn’t a whole lot funny about being an awkward 40 year old.
No, wait there is something really fun about me. My kids love rocking out with me to old music. They don’t know yet that their mom is absolutely uncool, and is making them dance to totally uncool stuff. So, they ask me to put on Uncle Kracker and some other stuff that shall remain unidentified. We dance (to our heart’s desires) to the beats of my sons’ drums, which are imaginary and absolutely mesmerizing. So, weather you would know it from seeing me today or not; a couple of kindergarteners know I can still rock it.
For now that’s all the handsome I need.
Have you peeked out of your window today? It's a nice day for a change where I am; not as hot as it usually is. You can even open your door and look your neighbors’ way if you can be so bold. Not in a creepy stalker way, because-no-don't do that. Just in "how's your day going?" Way. I'll admit I have not done that in God knows how long. I'm not known for my social skills. You have read the news today? We have neighbors across little windows and doors that are opening and shutting all the time. Have you looked through those?
Reaching out is hard. It's easier to stay where we are. Those scars, and bruises I keep talking about? The ones that are loud enough for the whole world to see, and hear? Ironically enough some of those are almost invisible. There are some that you can only see and hear if you get really close and sit in silence. Then there are some, they come across waves of oceans and break every seal and boundary there is.
Is it not clear what I'm talking about? This big old world filled with so much pain…so much screaming. Did you ever wake up in the middle of the night thinking it was your child that was bleeding? Did you ever just for a second wonder what it feels like to watch your loved one drift away at sea while you watch helpless? But then you look up and realize that it's just a casual Sunday at the beach and they are safe. They are just splashing in the water.
Everything is well, all the bruises and pain is hidden.
The moments pass away but that missed beat, that moment when you thought it was you who was losing something…*that* stays with you. Doesn't it? You will never get that heartbeat back. We will never get the loss back. How much more has to be lost? How many more heartbeats have to stop?