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Entries in relationships (10)

Monday
Jun022014

The Boy Chases Monsters

Nuha’s friend’s mom texted me and asked  if Nuha could see Maleficient with them this past Saturday. I didn’t respond right away. I wasn’t worried about the appropriateness of the movie. It was because of Yusuf. He couldn’t go. First, because Maleficient is too scary. Second? Because sending someone to the movies with Yusuf would be the equivalent of placing a severed horse head in their bed in the middle of the night. 

I end up saying yes to the movie, so I soften the blow on Saturday morning by making an impromptu announcement that I will be taking Yusuf to Mud Island Park. It’s a scale model thing of the Mississippi River that the Army Corps of Engineers built in some year I can’t remember. Once we get there, we decide to walk from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico. I think that’s about a mile. Maybe two? 

This will be the most I have moved in several days. I’m battling things. Health things. My joints are messed up. My muscles are all spasming and being uncooperative in every way. The doctor doesn’t know what’s wrong with me. When I get home from work, it’s all I can do to help Tariq feed, bathe and put the children to bed. 

You have no idea how hard that last sentence was for me to type out. You might not have even noticed the part that was hard for me. 

I … help Tariq with the kids…” This feels wrong to me. He should help me with the kids. As in, I’m supposed to be in charge of taking care of the kids. That’s my job. Not because I'm a woman, but because I am Faiqa. But. I just can’t be in charge of it right now, and I’m ashamed of this. I don’t know why my body isn’t cooperating, the doctor doesn’t know why, my family doesn’t know why and I have been angry, sad and lonely because of it.

In fact, when I announced the Mud Island excursion, Tariq cocked his head to the left and telepathically sent a message, “Are you sure?” 

I think I said, “His sister got to go to a movie! He should get to go to Mud Island.” Which was weird because he didn’t actually ask the question and it made me look like I was talking to myself.

Once we’re there, though, we have fun! We make boats out of leaves, and every fifteen minutes or so, Yusuf places his leaf in a miniature lake. “Time to get another one,” he tells me, “that one is done.” As he walks away from the old leaf, he calls over his shoulder, “Thanks, Leaf, for letting us use you as a boat.” 

I mean…WHAAAT? I didn’t teach him that. Whoever taught him that is a beautiful person. Maybe nobody taught him that. Maybe that’s who we all really are when we’re allowed to be who we are. 

We’ve made it as far as the border of Louisiana on this scale model thing and a downpour of rain surprises us. We run to one of the many shade trees that line mini-Old Man River, and wait out the squall.  The tree mists us and I look at my sweet boy. I realize that I’m really looking at him, right now. Not as a job, not as something that I haven’t been very good at, but as a human. What I see and feel in that moment is indescribable. It is joy, hope, love, longing… all of those things that I’ve been trying to feel for a while, but I just couldn’t quite touch.

The storm is a short one, but it’s not the last rain of the day. We concede a bit past northern Louisiana. Not bad, we almost made it. On the way out, he says in a serious voice, “I had fun, Mama. Thank you.” I’m struck again by this child’s casual relationship with gratitude. I should be more like this boy who thanks leaves for being boats and Mama for taking him out. 

On the way out of the park, I hold up my phone and we take a selfie shot together. The rain has washed away my make up and frizzed my hair, and I look a hot mess in every photo. I look at them, though, and I have a revelation. I will always be beautiful to this boy the way my mother will always be beautiful to me.

There's also a good chance that, despite the fact that I don’t feel like I’m measuring up, he will count himself lucky to be loved by me. Maybe every flaw of ours is forgiven by the ones who truly love us when we decide to try being a good person. In this moment, I forgive myself for needing help, and, also, for being mad at myself about that in the first place.  

Even now, I don’t know why those words, “I had fun” inspired me to shake off the fog. Stated so simply, with such seriousness, they seem benign, but, it's unmistakably true, I was changed. My son changed my mind about me on that rainy Saturday afternoon. Deep in the pit of who I am, I know that everything is going to be fine now.

Several months ago, I started singing “Beautiful Boy” by John Lennon to Yusuf at his bedtime. There’s this one line, “The monster’s gone / He’s on the run / And your Daddy’s here…” John Lennon was a genius for many reasons, and one of them is that he wrote that perfect lullaby for his son. Funny thing about John Lennon, though, he may have chased his son’s monsters away, but I think my son chases mine.

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.

Thursday
May172012

When It Comes to Trolls, You Always Have the Upper Hand #Blogging

Were you anything like me when you started experimenting with the Internet?

I imagined that within a few short weeks of starting a blog, I'd maybe make some friends. Then, in a year or so, I'd achieve international super stardom when my blog was deemed the best blog ever. While the verdict on being the best blog ever is a matter of debate, I'm not an international super star. At least, I don't think I am. It's possible that the hope of being given expensive Italian shoes and French designer clothes for free is limiting my definition of success.

Along with dreams of super stardom, there was another naive assumption in that I thought everybody was going to behave online as they do in the real world. By this, I mean that I thought if someone didn't agree with you, there was a 99% chance they'd just move on to another forum where the people they did agree with congregated.

Confessions of Matured Blogger

Four years later, I'm having a very difficult time not laughing hysterically at my naive assumptions. While there's definitely beauty, laughter and friendship on the Internet, levels of cruelty exist in this space that are unsurpassed when compared with the non-virtual life.

The upside of the virtual life, though, is that it offers you the opportunity to face cruelty in a controlled environment. In real life, if someone says something cruel to you, you may react the way I do. I usually start off with doubt.

"Did they really just say that?"

Then, shock. "They really DID just say that."

Doubt again. "Did you just say what I think you said?"

Anger. "Are you KIDDING? What the hell is wrong with you?"

Regret. "I should have just let that go."

All of the above occurs in less than five minutes which, of course, makes me feel even more looney toons.

You Got This

The Internet gives you an opportunity to ... (is it possible?!) stop and think before you express and, importantly, before anyone even knows you're upset. It's a modern day miracle.

For the most part, Internet trolls, known in non-virtual terms as a-holes, jerks, or bigfatSTUPIDS, are mostly unaware of the disadvantages they have in the online space. The funny thing about new bloggers is that they, too, are unaware of some of the distinct advantages they have in the online space.

Emotional distance. When someone's in your face, there's a natural instinct to react immediately. Furthermore, your face can give away a myriad of emotions that you'd rather not have your "aggressor" see. In the online space, you have time to construct a response that is value based instead of "get the hell out of my face" based. Meaning, you can react in the classiest way possible.

Blocking. How nice would it be if, in the non-virtual world, you could physically block someone as soon as garbage comes out of their mouth? I envision a large box just falling from the sky and trapping them inside long enough for me to move away from them. Don't be afraid to block people from your blog, Twitter account or Facebook account if they're being obnoxious. And don't let anyone tell you how much obnoxious you have to tolerate before you do that.

Engagement. Sometimes, it's possible that a troll isn't really a troll. More than a few times, I've come across people who are simply unaware of online etiquette. If this is the case, I may politely point out that I understand their overall point, but I don't like the way they're saying it. If it's someone I know, I might e-mail them separately. Being online gives you the advantage of conscientious construction. As opposed to, "Just shut up already, you're a moron."

La, La, La, I Can't Hear You. My absolute favorite way of dealing with a troll is pretending they don't exist. I had a friend who was being harassed by a troll and her approach was to simply skip that comment while replying to others. It was terrific. I think the worst thing you can do to a troll is act like they don't exist.

Always Be You. The Best, Kindest, Most Awesome Version of You.

I'm sure there are more strategies and advantages that can be shared in the comments here, and I invite everyone to share how they deal with trolls - whether they appear on Facebook, Twitter, on blogs or under bridges. I do want to leave you with this, though: the manner in which you react in both virtual and non-virtual situations is always up to you. Your reaction is ultimately a statement of internal beliefs and values. Don't let some troll tell you who you are.

Unless who you are is someone who is getting free designer Italian shoes. Which would be awesome.


Photo Credit

Speaking of dialogue (wait, what?), we've resumed recording Hey! That's My Hummus!. This week, we discussed that six year old kid that got suspended for singing LMFAO and the concept of "brown" face. If you're not subscribed on iTunes, you can stream the audio directly from our site.

Wednesday
Apr252012

Somebody That I Used to Know

I feel like the universe it trying to tell me something. Something about transition. Letting go. That kind of stuff. Some people say the universe whispers to them. My universe is a screamer. In other or related news, I just can't decide if the Glee version of that Goyte song is better... you tell me.

Thursday
Mar292012

The Drift

Realization: I am, without a doubt, just a plain old human being.  I know.  Devastating, really.

Tonight, I’m thinking of “the drift.”

The drift occurs when the emotional space between two people expands at a seemingly infinitesimal, yet constant rate. It is what begins as forgetting to return a phone call and ends in a faint memory of someone you knew quite well a very long time ago. The drift is painful, hopeless and, 99% of the time, permanent. There is no "un-drifting" once you've drifted.

When you walked in, I felt a peaceful knowing in my heart that we were going to have great adventures together. You looked shy. I knew you had no idea how beautiful you were. I was going to show you that.

I mean, for me, my life is full. I have to make room for everything, anything.  If I want to breathe, I have to look at my to do list. I have a space between 11:45 and 11:50... I can breathe in those five minutes or I can make an awkward phone call. I barely have time for the people with whom I have relationships that are not awkward and forced, so who needs that?

As I convinced you that you were just as beautiful on the outside as you were on the inside, you taught me to believe that I was brave, wise and strong. With you by my side, I no longer had to pretend to be that. I was that... because you saw that when you saw me. Your eyes made me real.

People will say things.

"Make time to fix this thing."

"Friendship is important."

"Hold on."

"Don’t let go."

And other lyrics from ".38 Special."

Others understand. This is who I am.  My life is this way because I want it to be this way. I seriously don’t have time for this kind of thing.

Even when there were oceans between us, we were inseparable. Two thumps in one heartbeat... blood rushing in, blood rushing out. Absent from the day to day of each others’ lives, one phone call would cascade in a blanket of reassurance. You are loved, blood in, you are perfect, blood out.

We’re all grown ups here and while I realize that some people prefer their reality sugar coated, I'm more of the "hold the sugar, give it to me straight up" kind of woman. My heart is too full and my life is just too busy to harbor a silly, childish hope that we can just pick up right where we left off. There is now only time for picking up socks and groceries and kids from practices.

You loved, accepted and admired me without any reservation or envy and, most importantly, without any expectation. You are the only person I have never feared I’d disappoint. If I am honest with myself, no one had ever loved me like that, nobody has loved me like that since, and I suspect that nobody ever will.

When the drift happens, it happens because it’s what both of the people want. People will fight to protect something they need. People let things that are no longer relevant to them fade away. Either way, it’s important to note that everyone in the situation is making a choice.

Conscientiousness optional.

I looked up one day and you were simply not there anymore. I was hurt, alone and, yes, a little angry. Babies have been born, rings exchanged, people buried. Suddenly, I realized that I couldn’t even remember the last time I looked in your direction. I also realize that nobody seems to ask whose fault it is when a book ends. This isn't much different.

The drift itself, while painful, is not the excruciating thing. The real pain shows up when it hits you that there will probably be more drifts and that everyone is a potential drift candidate.

You will never be replaced. I cannot move on. There is no “letting go” of you. There is only an ache in my heart, a lump in my throat, and the horrible realization that there is nothing I can do. I don’t know you anymore and you don’t know me and we are past the point of pretending with any degree of credibility that this is not the reality of who we are to each other. I cannot pretend this is not happening anymore.

The drift is the best reason to hold the people still in your life a little tighter today. Because those moments after a drift, you’ll find the certainty that all this won’t last forever firmly, if not tragically, renewed. Sometimes, you've got to just take a deep breath somewhere between 11:45 and 11:50 and pay attention to right now. This minute. Here.

Goodbye.