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Entries in personal growth (11)

Saturday
Mar162013

Helping

My music is a time machine.

Put the earbuds in.

Turn up the volume.

The world of this moment disintegrates into the infiniteness of the universe. Time goes faster. I’m thrust into the future. I’m me, but maybe more… maybe less. It paints reality with a subjective brush — dark colors or light… it depends on the fuel in the machine today. The notes. The rhythm. The words.

Today, the time machine is set to high speed and forward. Time machines are especially convenient in this way. Propelling you past the moments you couldn't care less for… towards being “done” and past the wisdoms that imply journeys are esteemed over destinations. Case in point, I’m scrubbing the children’s bathroom.

The agenda today was to clean my own bathroom. Uno. One bathroom. Not two.

I was scrubbing the shower and the children were impressed by my fervent commitment to clean. A moment of inspiration hit them and they announced their intentions to clean their bathroom, too, because they wanted to “help.” I smiled to let them know that they are sweet and good and kind to think of their mother. Then, I went back to scrubbing as the music that is now a little older than I feel comfortable with did the task of making time move faster.

And then there was screaming. “My AIIII-YZZZ!!”

I paused my time machine and turned around to find my dear daughter grabbing a hand towel to wipe her eyes down. “MAIIII AIIIYYYYYZZZZZ!!!”

People who are good in emergencies know one thing that people who are not good in emergencies do not know. 

You must keep calm. 

No matter how much despair promises to crash upon you, for God’s sake, keep calm. I’m good at emergencies. My daughter is not. And before we discuss the thirty year age difference, know that I have always been good at emergencies. Even when I was seven. My theory is that every human being needs to express a certain amount of drama in a lifetime. I express mine in little doses all day and my daughter who is an extremely calm person in her every day life expresses them when she gets soap in her eyes.  

 “Am I going to go bliiiind? OWWWW!!”

“Of course not, it’s just soap. Hold still.”

“Do I have to go to the hospital?!!”

“No. Hold still, I have to rinse your eye.”

“BE CAREFUL.”

“I haven’t raised you so far without being careful… now… hold… still… and STOP touching your eyes.”

“I think I need a doctor!!”

“You do not need a doctor. You need to hold still and stop touching your eye.”

And through all this, the three year old is yelling in the background like some sort of narcissist, “Mama, you have to come see the baffroom, I cleaned it so well, we’re helpers.”

So, we take care of the soap in her eyes and when she is moderately calm, I ask her exactly what kind of soap caused her to eyes to burn. Between you and me, I’m worried about the fact that she used the crazy scrub free bathroom cleaner spray that probably has some chemical in it that would, in fact, cause blindness or, even worse, result in a trip to the emergency room that would require me to change out of my bleach stained yoga pants that are reserved for bathroom cleanings. To my surprise, she takes me to the kitchen and hands me dish soap.

My first thought is to pat myself on the back for getting that free and clear brand that doesn’t have anything but plain old soap in it. 

My second thought is, “Oh, shit.”

As a dishwashing expert I know this: dish soap means a lot of bubbles. Mounds of bubbles. Dish soap is made for washing dishes as the name cleverly implies. It is not particularly suited to cleaning bathrooms. Speaking of small doses of daily drama, I feel the drama queen within me practicing vocal exercises like an opera diva in a green room. Then, I remember. 

“We’re going to help.” 

They are good, sweet and kind to help their mama. 

I park the girl on the couch with a washcloth over her eye because she insists that her eye still hurts which I know is absolutely untrue. The boy takes me to the bathroom which, my friends, is not clean. Like, at all. It's a mess of dirt and bubbles and reminds me of this party I went to in Cancun back in 1993 where they sprayed foam from the ceilings or something crazy like that. It’s a beautiful shower stall streaked with soapy residue. It’s a floor smattered with water, dust, toilet paper and bubbles. It’s a rug with… is that…what the hell… toothpaste?

A mass of light brown curls fall over his eyes, and he looks up glowing, “See?! Clean! Just like you do.”

I want to tell them both that this isn’t clean. I want to say, "Never, ever do this ever again!"

I feel the strong urge to let them know that they didn’t help me, but instead have created work for me. No, more importantly, they stole the hour I planned on using to finish a book before they’re dad got home. I want to. So very bad.

I don’t.

Because I’ve been here.

I’ve wanted to help someone and made a mess of things. I’ve been all good intentions with toothpaste on the rug and dirt and soap and toilet paper smushed on the floor. I'm not sure what that metaphor is about, but the answer may well still be in Cancun. Today, my children get a pass. One day, I will prepare them better. One day, I’ll teach them how to clean a bathroom. I’ll explain that intention isn’t enough.

Not today. Because while it isn’t enough, intention is necessary. The hope of us all lies in good intentions and in this damned bathroom with dish soap streaked on its stalls and toothpaste smeared on the ceramic tiles, and this mess isn’t just a symbol of all of my children’s love and good intentions — it’s a symbol of all of our good intentions. Yours. Mine. Today, my inner drama queen will have to wait for the moment she steps on a lego or a matchbox car (because that’s clearly evil). Today,  she will bask in intention and process.

No matter how terribly wrong the result.

Wednesday
Jan092013

37!

I am nothing, if not transparent. That's a metaphor. I didn't wake up today invisble or something.

Though that would be a neat super power to get ON YOUR BIRTHDAY!! 

Yes, yes, today is my birthday. As you can see from the title, I have more than a few of those under the proverbial belt now. Each year, the day passes without much internal ado. Today, for some reason, as I got ready, I felt different. Today, I thought about all of the other birthdays and how I felt on those mornings, and I realized something. Today, I am probably more thankful than I have ever been. 

There's hesitation that precedes the pronouncement that I have everything right now that I've ever wanted. One doesn't want to jinx themselves, I guess. If I think about it, though, I don't buy the whole concept of "jinxing" as it applies to me. God has been good to me. Always. It's okay to be thankful. It's okay to acknowledge that in all the years that I have been alive, I look around today and see a great spouse, extraordinary children, a rewarding job, a nice place to live, and a life that unfolds free of any real or dire worries. 

What did I get for my birthday? Perfume, slippers, a bathrobe and lots of other things. But nothing I received filled emptiness, if that makes sense. Because I feel fulfilled today. It hasn't been easy to get to this feeling. If I trace back the moments to right now and try to define a point of origin, I would guess that it started with a celebration. Once upon a time, a few years ago, I decided to do more than just accept myself. I decided to celebrate myself. I thought about who I was and decided that everything should be as it should be. There would be no more struggling or self effacement. There would only be love for myself.

 I tried to explain to someone the other day that in desi culture, it is the person who is having a birthday that gives some kind of token of appreciation to their friends. A party, a dinner, a small treat of some sort. In the spirit of that, I would like to give you a gift today. 

In the comments section of this blog, I'd like you to type four things that you unequivocally celebrate about yourself in the comment section of this post. Tomorrow morning, at this time, I'll randomly pick a commenter and send them a $30 gift card to Amazon. Make sure you fill in your e-mail, so I can contact you.

Winner will be posted on the Native Born Facebook page.

Tuesday
Jan172012

The Dr. King & I: Intentions and Realities. # HappyMLKDay

MLK Day History: You cannot know where you are going unless you know where you have been.

I woke with the intention of making today meaningful.

When we first decided to move to Memphis, the first thought that came to me was "That's where they shot Dr. King." Yes, I called him Dr. King because in my family, you always put Dr. in front of someone's name if they're a doctor. And, yes, I thought the words exactly like that ... "they shot him." Like an army of people fired shots at the Lorraine. Aside from proving that I'm careless when I'm thinking to myself, this is illustrative of how many view race, if not life itself.

The National Civil Rights Museum rests quietly beneath a vintage green sign with red letters proclaiming the words "Lorraine Motel" on it.   It happens to be two trolley stops away from our apartment. To give you an idea of how much I wanted today to mean something, Tariq commuted 45 minutes to join us for our very own Family Civil Rights Remembrance Lunch today.

Because this is Memphis.

This is where Dr. King died, you know.

In the morning, I explained slavery to my daughter.

She was horrified, as she should be.

Then I explained segregation.

That seemed to confuse her, as it should.

I repeated the "content of his character" line like you do when you're trying to be inspirational about race. I explained non-violent resistance. I'm not sure what stuck, but it felt significant at the time.

We stepped off the trolley towards the museum, and there were so many people. I realized going into the actual museum was a bust.  I've been there once already, so that wasn't too big of a deal. There was music playing, food cooking, laughter... people, there were funnel cakes!

National Civil Rights Museum, Memphis Memphians come out to celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday



Funnel cakes!

At the place where "they" shot Dr. King!

This was not a place for martyrs.

This was a party. The smell of funnel cakes summarily decimated my romantic notions surrounding today and drove home an obvious reality.

Today is the birthday celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Of course, there are funnel cakes.

I know the readership of this blog enough to know that most of the people reading right now are not exactly like me.  I write for people who want to learn about difference or diversity, so it follows that most people reading here are not "like me".  The funny thing about being "brown like me" is that you're not "black" or "white".

Bask in the brilliance of that little gem.

When you're "brown" (I'm totally doing air quotes), you don't carry a lot of American baggage.  Hold your envy, my friends, I have baggage of a different type. Slavery, separate water fountains, back of the bus and such, though?  Not so much. I own this history, but I do not live it the way someone who is "black" or "white" would.  (Again, with the air quotes).

From my position, I see shame, guilt, anger, finger pointing and even justification when it comes to these topics. Some decry this nation's racial past as shameful , others justify it as natural, many are somewhere in between. Some rant about how nothing has changed and others talk of how there's nothing left to do. Some people get angry if race is brought up at all while still others seem to make everything about race.

What I seldom see is what I saw today: celebrating.

I was not here when you were here, but I know we have come a long way. Today, my brown kid sat in a sub shop just around the corner from the Lorraine with black kids and white kids and all the kids ate the same food and nobody told them they couldn't sit wherever they wanted, and God love 'em every one, they all drank from the same soda fountain. As we walked home, we passed the site of the first schoolhouse for "colored" children and I had no idea how to even begin defining "colored" to my daughter.

That is something.

We can remember and we can be vigilant and we can be happy.  These things aren't mutually exclusive.

I woke with the intent to make today mean something by going to the place where Dr. King died.  I intended to honor his memory and legacy.  I realize now that it's not how or why he died that should be the focus, but what he did while he was alive that is most significant.

We live his dream.

Today, I woke with the intent of making this day meaningful.

So, it was.
Monday
Jan092012

Lyrical Life: Happy Birthday to Me

I know I just did one of these on Friday, but, hey it's my birthday!

Your gift can be to indulge me in another Lyrical Life post.

Oh, really, darlings?! You shouldn't have.

I don't feel much older than last year.

Youth means different things to people. It may be a matter of convenience that I've redefined my own idea of "youth" as I've aged, but the word means something different to me now that I'm older.

It means being open to ideas and to holding on to your hope.  It's retaining a little bit of idealism despite having seen some jacked up stuff go down in this thing we call life. It's also holding on to happiness, passion, and laughter.

It's that place where fear still lives, but it's in the trunk of the car pressed underneath a 50 pack of diapers and pillow pets.  Young is that feeling you get as you sit with your best friend on the hood of your car at a rest stop somewhere on the way from Memphis to New Orleans, eating Doritos, drinking a Diet Coke and making jokes about potentially being the inspiration for Mississippi Burning II.

It's about being unafraid to... well, to just be you no matter what.

We all start off that way: being okay with being us and not knowing how to be any different. Getting "old" takes that away from us.

In this sense, we don't have to get old.  We can stay young forever.

For my birthday, as a gift from you, I would like you to be able to draw upon on the love and beauty in your surroundings and find the energy you need to fight the idea that you should be something other than what you are.




Do you think if I squeeze her hard enough, she'll just STAY this age?

Too tough to take photos with mom. It's a phase. Right?

Tariq and Nuha catching snowflakes in Niagra Falls (Canada). He's totally going to kill me for posting this. It was nice knowing you.




Fear not when, fear not why,
Fear not much while we're alive,
Life is for living, not living uptight,
See ya somewhere up in the sky,
Fear not die, I’ll be alive for a million years, bye bye,
So not for legends, I’m forever young
My name shall survive
Through the darkest blocks, over kitchen stoves
...
With a little ambition just what we can become here,
And as the father passed his story down to his son's ears,
Younger kid, younger every year, yeah
So if you love me baby this is how you let me know.
Don’t ever let me go, that's how you let me know, baby


(Forever young, I want to be forever young, do you really want to live forever, forever)

-- "Young Forever," Jay Z featuring Mr. Hudson
Monday
Nov212011

How Many Questions Did You Ask?

Despite the fact that I'm some sort of savant when it comes to eliminating discrepancy, I've realized it's impossible to do so in normal, daily living. So, instead of viewing discrepancies between behavior and values as problems, I view them as opportunities for growth.

This is a much healthier approach, by the way, than the one I utilized in my 20s that went something like, "I AM A HORRIBLE PERSON, WHY ISN'T ANYTHING I DO EVER, EVER GOOD ENOUGH?!"

Several weeks ago, I wrote a post called "Edit Your Life and Keep Your Shoes" inspired by a TED talk by Graham Hill called, "Less Stuff, More Hapiness." Arguing that the greatest skill in the 21st century is the ability to edit one's life, Hill suggests that we focus on trying to minimize the amount of things we have in order to better live our values.

That's why we downsized our living space (and consequently personal possessions) by about 70% when we moved to Memphis. A few weeks ago, I realized that there's only one other family in this building besides us, and I assume this is because people believe that a family needs lots of space. I can understand that, but I think that actually depends more on the the people in charge of that family than the number of people in it.

I realized this year that too much space and too many things in this family ultimately creates situations that are in direct contradiction with our family mission statement. Our family mission statement?  Why, I'm glad you asked:

We are compassionate, positive social contributors who value cooperation, coexistence and conscientious living.

It is possible for a family to be all that and live in large home full of things.

It is simply not possible for Tariq and I to sustain a family like that in a large home full of things. Yet.  If there were live in maids and handymen, it would be a completely different story.

I am horrible at multitasking and a total neat freak.

Tariq is mentally incapable of sitting down unless eating or going to the bathroom or downloading a movie on his iPad.

Mathematically speaking...

Big House + Lots of Stuff + (My perfectionism * Tariq's Hyperactivity) =

(WEEKEND OF A MILLION ERRANDS * PICKING THINGS UP OFF THE FLOOR)^INFINITY AND BEYOND.

Every family's values and limitations are different.  Those are ours.

I do often wonder, though, how many people in the world question the major life decisions they make that are seemingly the result of a predetermined natural progression?

In other words, how many people even bother to challenge the whole "grow up, get a job, get married, have kids, buy house, send kids to college, cry sweet tears of joy while singing, 'Free at last, free at last,' retire in Bora Bora, get too senile to care for yourself and move into your son's spare bedroom" thing?

Relaaax, I don't prefer my son or anything, it's just that I can already tell which one of these kids is going to have a sense of humor about our impending senility.

Taking that a step forward, I also wonder how much of our politics, faith and identity are a result of conscientious choices?

For me, somewhere in my late teens, I started emptying out all of the political, social, religious and cultural identities that had been placed in my head.  (Read: fought with my parents and partied A LOT). In subsequent years, I formulated an idea of who I would like to be and slowly reintroduced objective and reconfigured versions of these identities (and whole new ones) back into my life based upon values I'd conscientiously identified.

I can honestly say that who I am today is a reflection of that process.

Okay, like ninety-five percent of the time, I just can't quit you, Jersey Shore, disposable diapers, Diet Coke and David Tutero.

It occurred to me this morning, that I may be taking for granted that everyone does that.

Do they?