Saturday, August 27, 2016

Learning to Love Myself by Loving Someone Else

Salaam,

The fiance is out of the country for two weeks, so for the first time in several months, I truly have all of my time to myself. Instead of commuting to see each other and dedicating slices of time that used to be dedicated to writing and music instead to our growing relationship, our daily interactions consist of 30 minutes total text breaks.

It was glorious this morning: waking up when my body felt ready, lounging around in my pajamas for the first half of the day, leisurely completing charts from clinic while simultaneously documenting ideas for future writing projects. This instead of my usual Friday fare of hurriedly completing any charting left so that I'll be ready to hang out with him when he gets off of work.

He works half days on Friday, and I have Friday off for that specific reason. It makes up for Wednesdays where we have lunch together but I work until 9 or 10pm and otherwise wouldn't see him that day.

I got to spend nearly 30 minutes on the chart of a complicated neonate I'm caring for. I carefully documented the birth history, and my plan, and I was about to finalize the document, I remembered something essential I wanted to add to my plan. I went back to the assessment and plan tab and saw that I had already documented that very thing.

I instantly felt that warm glow in my heart space I get whenever I'm proud of myself. Good job, you're pretty sharp! Look at you, way ahead of the game...

...and that gave me pause. How long have I been feeling that way? For a while now, I haven't been counting. I feel particularly accomplished after complete, well-rounded patient visits where our plan for their health worked, or a treatment helped more than either of us expected, or the patient felt listened to like they had by no other provider. That heart space swell happens there, too.

It wasn't always like that, though. And that's what gave me pause this morning. There was a time where I had to imagine someone else being impressed by me before I could be impressed with myself.

Rewind to ten to twelve years ago, and that was exactly the case. I was in love with a man I imagined to be different from who he actually was. Whenever we interacted, he was impressed by me. And I mistook that for interest. And I fell in love with this man, who was so outside my realm, who could enter my world and like me.

He was not that courageous, but I wouldn't come to terms with that for a few years.

When I met him, I was knee deep in depression. I had to have friends talk me down from self-destructive behaviors and plead with me to start medication, which I never did. I prayed and God didn't seem to listen. I had convinced myself that the reason was because I was actually one destined for hell, one whose heart God had hardened. I felt doomed. I was a high functioning severely depressed college woman who earned a 4.0 GPA her freshman year.

And then I met him, and I had a reason for living.

Not only living, but thriving. I had a reason to get better. I wanted to be worthy of his love. I didn't want to be depressed, damaged. So like a whining child who struggles to wipe away signs of crying with a parent's reprimanding, I quickly tried to become normal. I tried to become the full person my depression was keeping me from becoming. And it had to be convincing, so he wouldn't become disconcerted and take his interest elsewhere.

It was often emotional whiplash and I wasn't ready. Depression became neurosis. I used to walk around his dorm late nights, hoping I'd chance to run into him, sometime taking those walks past midnight alone on campus, absently singing "Love's Train" to myself.

"Now if by chance, you'll let me come over. Down on the street, I wanna see you, baby."

I just wanted to see him, to have one of our 2 minute awkward interactions and be on my way, fill myself with the hope that would keep me going.

Long after the time I realized that we would never be and he met the woman that would be his wife, my brain was still stuck in this circuit. I met him in a science class. So, whenever I solved a difficult problem in my science problem sets, years later, I imagined him being impressed with my prowess over the tough material, and I'd get that glow in my heart space, and it would inspire me to keep going.

It took me a while to realize what I was doing, and a while longer to break it.


Sitting here, doing charts, congratulating myself on making a clever plan for my complicated baby patient, I realized that I had to learn to love myself by loving someone else. And isn't that backwards? Isn't that exactly what all of the smarmy advice articles tell you not to do.

Oh well.

My life was close to losing all meaning for myself. And since I was a child, I lost myself in love for others. So it would just make sense that I'd have to lose my self-destroying persona in the love for someone else in order to start over. It may not have been ideal, but it was an emergency!

And through prayer and time, I've come to fully love myself without needing the love of someone else. There are things about me that no one else appreciates that I love. My love for myself is far beyond my fiance's love for me, so I don't have to imagine his pride to be proud of myself. I don't need his love to fill my heart space with warmth.

Although, I must say, having people who love you, including a partner, does wonders to validate your own great love for yourself. It's not everything, though.

All this being said, I don't recommend this way of learning to love oneself. I'm just so grateful that, after years of despair and desolation, I finally do.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Make Way for Compassion, Part 2

As salaam alaikum,

Lack of compassion and self-compassion can lead to hatred.

Some of the ways that I practiced Islam lacked self-compassion.

I can only speak for myself here, but I do predict that there are very many who will identify with me in their own practice and understanding of their faith, and not just among Muslims.

This entry is not meant to be a vendetta against Muslim scholarship or a commentary on ahadith. I am not on par with any authority to speak to that. I really just want to look at commonly held beliefs and rules at face value.

The moment I realized that my practice lacked self-compassion is when I wondered if my day's fast had been invalidated by a mistake.

Invalidated.

This is the language that was used, that was taught to me and has undoubtedly been taught to others in the rules of Muslim fasting. Without going through the list of actions and events that will invalidate your fast, I want to highlight vomiting. Vomiting invalidates one's fast.

I never thought of it that way. I thought of it as--if you vomit, you are sick and it is better for you that you don't fast. To say it is invalidated with vomiting makes harsh self-judgment implicit.

Oh, stupid me, I vomited. Now the whole day's fast doesn't count!

Instead of, oh no, I guess I'm sicker than I thought. I'd better take a break and take care of myself and get some fluids in me in preparation for the mud butt that is about to ensue.

Or something like that.

I pause on invalidated because that's such a strong word. Not counting is duly a strong concept, not to get stuck on vocabulary. I'd like to believe that intent would have something to do with it, so if someone put something in their mouth or ate it accidentally and were not, say, sneaking food while no one was watching, that a pure intention for fasting would supersede the accidental ingestion.

I don't know, but I don't care to look up fatawa on the subject because those things are often traumatizing for me.

My mentor in residency preached self-compassion for physicians as we trialed the very restrictive elimination diet. For three weeks, we eliminated major foods that are often the culprits of food sensitivities through leaky gut pathophysiology -- corn, gluten, dairy, eggs, peanuts, sugar, artificial sweeteners, red meat, oranges/grapefruits, vegetable oils -- effectively reducing us to a home-cooked diet. We had to be abstinent from these food groups for three weeks in order to reduce the inflammation in our guts enough to trial the possibly offending foods. For example, no seasoned salt, as it has both corn starch and sugar in it. Even with these restrictions necessary to make this health experiment work, she implored us to practice self-compassion if we slipped up in our diets midway.

I scoffed at that recommendation. I fasted Ramadan for over a decade and dietary restrictions were my way of life. It was easy for me to adhere to the strict diet.

In the end, I had no food sensitivities besides gluten making me really low energy, but I've approached every other diet I've had with a self-compassion script, and its made it even easier.

The Islam I learned is often devoid of a self-compassion script. Or, if there is a self-compassion script, there is often a caveat. It is human to err--but you erred, so you have to make up that whole day again. Sorry.



Of course, the fasting SNAFU was not everything. It was the turning point, the moment of recognition, the catalyst. It helped me to intellectualize what I has been evolving over the last 4 years, from the time I was still a fourth year medical student in Boston attending those conferences on woman and African American Muslims. This reminds me of my father, who, in his last attempts to convert me to Christianity 2 years ago, told me that Islam was a religion devoid of love. That Christianity taught love more than Islam did. I argued him down with Qur'anic citations of my own, but at the end of the day, while Islam is not devoid of love and compassion, the individual practice of Islam is many times lacking.

Again, I can only speak for my own, what I saw modeled, what I was exposed to. Others may identify, some may not. Feel free to counter me.

The Islam I learned was full of judgments, shaming and guilting from human beings. The Islam I learned was rigorous and sometimes unforgiving. A lot of my practice was based on God's obligation, not God's love.

And I know, God obliges us because God loves us, but obligation is heavy.

Obligation is heavy, invalidation is heavy. Both of those terms feel punitive.

Obligatory or what? Obligatory or you will be remote from God's mercy and excluded from Jannah? This does not breed self-compassion. It breeds self-critique and self-judgment.

To which someone may say, yes, self-critique is necessary. It's crucial to keep someone on the straight way. Whereas I feel like we kill our souls a little bit with that.

This is not my announcement of leaving the faith. As long as I believe in one God and submit to God, I will always be Muslim. That has not changed. I just find the level of self-compassion that I am currently living in my life at odds with my practice of Islam, and I've decided that the latter has to change.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Make Way for Compassion

As salaam alaikum,

It's been more than four months! It's about time for another entry!

This one was a long time in coming, and perhaps more is coming. The Orlando shooting generated a flurry of emotions that are hard to contain and hard to enunciate. The overarching feeling is hurt. Pain. Mourning, dread, anger. Frustration. Anger.

Fear.

As a human being, I mourn the loss of innocent life at the hands of Hatred armed with an assault rifle. As an ally and a person of color, I hurt for the attack on one of the few safe spaces for this very marginalized group of the community.

As a Muslimah, I am the most angry and the most afraid. I was of age post-9/11. I'm even more angry and so much more fearful than I was back then, and this is not because I've shed the ignorance of youth.

I remember going to a college football game with my high school band director, and I didn't know that I could not bring my purse into the stadium. I cried as they made me throw away my new purse, stuffing my belongings into my down coat pockets. I thought the whole exercise was ridiculous, because everything in my purse was in my coat pockets now and the leather posed no additional threat, and besides, who would want to attack a college stadium in the breadbasket of America? I thought terrorists had bigger fish to fry.

Flash forward 14 and 15 years, and this is precisely what these terrorists are doing. They are attacking stadiums and busy tourists squares, office Christmas parties and night clubs. Especially with these American sympathizers, their motives are random and no where is safe.

As an American Muslim, I am angry in some of the same ways that the non-Muslim population is angry, and then some. Terrorists are the foremost attackers of my faith. With each act of terror, with each vitriolic sermon, with each evil intent, in addition to their murders they are smearing the religion of millions of peaceful worshipers as well. Idle American Islamophobia have nothing on the years of heinous activity of these groups.

I am also afraid in some of the same ways as non-Muslims are, but I also fear retaliation. Two mosques in my community were threatened within days of each other after the Orlando shootings and one arrest was made. This is the first year I'm actually afraid for Eid.

Hatred abounds in so many ways, and fear is paralyzing. So I implore everyone reading this to counter with the best self defense: love. Love and compassion.

There are a lot of ways how, and I won't get to them all in this entry, but I'll share a bit of my personal journey.



It wasn't just because of residency and HIPPA that I strayed from this blog. A lot of things changed in 2012. The primary event was the beginning of the relationship with my now-fiance, who likes the term "culturally Muslim" for himself. This relationship transformed the way that I think of myself and the way I envision my religion, and for the sake of our privacy, I have not included details here.

It's mainly in positive ways that the relationship has changed my blogging. I am a lot happier and many of the writing topics born out of angst have no longer come to be.

But the ways in which I practice and believe have changed so rapidly at times, it's like whiplash. Sometimes, I couldn't put it into words.

Residency itself was still a major reason I have not been as prolific as earlier. I struggled my intern year, not only with the rapid changes in my faith but also in tussling with impostor syndrome and not feeling supported in my residency program. In spite of this, one of the gifts of my residency program was a curriculum in self care. "Heal the healer," I often remind myself, which not only reminds me that I need to take care of myself before I can fully take care of others, but that I am a healer. Or at least a healer in training. Not all physicians think of themselves as healers. I certainly didn't for much of residency and didn't intend to when I started.

With the curriculum came teachings on compassion, among many other things. I listened politely as my mentor presented data from randomized control studies showing the power of prayer. I was smug. I didn't need a study to tell me that. And as she taught us about the different types of meditation, I reflected on the aspects of salat that corresponded to each type of medication. God, indeed, knows best.

The study of compassion, particularly self-compassion, was more challenging for me. I learned to quiet the nay-saying voice that rejoiced in my perceived inadequacies and replaced my despondent negative self-talk with mindfulness and the RAIN technique. Until last week, I thought that I was primarily rid of negative self-talk.

Then, I accidentally put something into my mouth during Ramadan.

I have fasted consistently since I was 18, and that first Ramadan I accidentally put a piece of candy I was offered by a well-meaning friend into my mouth. Realizing one second later what I had done, I spit it out and drowned in guilt and shame the rest of the day, wondering if my day's fast had been invalidated.

That happened last week, as my clinic was celebrating Juneteenth and I had painstakingly avoided offers of food all day and reminded each person I was fasting, from the staff meeting breakfast in the morning to the barbecue, at which I was a scheduled speaker. I packed food that I would be eating 6 hours later when the sun set, and somehow, in the midst of that, I was offered an edible flower and I placed it into my mouth before realizing...

...and all those same feelings came back to me as that day 13 years ago.

And I realized why I had imperceptibly started to feel distant from my religion. I had cultivated a personal religion that was often devoid of self-compassion, and it was no longer nurturing me.

And it's lack of compassion and self-compassion that can breed hatred.

I realize this is a weighty claim. More on this later.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Love Vignette 1: The Strategic Valentine

Salaam,

I fully intended to be here more often, but I'm not. Alas, the real world and the realities of preparing to marry (namely the building the relationship part, not wedding plans in the least) have sucked me dry of late--of time, not of inspiration. There are so many thoughts I have and so many things that I want to write. So, at this hour, I am sacrificing sleep in favor of my favorite art form...

...yes, even more favorite than music, somehow...

But I can't bring myself to write anything of substance about the state of the world, about politics, about Black Lives Matter, about mass incarceration, about the Flint water crisis, about ISIS, about the refugee crisis...about the various topics that are important to me and swimming around my head right now.

So instead, I will ease myself back into blogging by posting these little Love Vignettes.

I've started easing my fiancé in by telling him stories about guys I've crushed on over the years--one, to assure him he's got no competition. But also to give him a sense of why and how I love. And in telling him these stories, it's reminded me of some of my favorite stories of childhood crushes. Some of the stories are cute. So, in honor of Valentine's Day approaching and my the impending 31st anniversary of my circling the sun (aA), I'm going to share with you some Love Vignettes.

In no particular order.

This one, for Valentine's Day - The Strategic Valentine.

Before I would fall in love for the first time, I had crushes pretty much every year of kindergarten and elementary school. I had my first crush when I was five years old in kindergarten. His name was Terry. I liked him simply because he was cute. With each year, I would fall in like with a boy for a slightly more nuanced reason. By first grade, though, I hadn't gotten that far.

By the first grade, Terry went to another school. Our kindergarten was district-wide, so all of the kindergarteners of the five elementary school district attended school in one building, Thurston Early Childhood Development Center (Thurston ECDC). Graduating from kindergarten meant going to a new school. So it was in Ms. Miller's first grade class that I would meet my next crush, Darryl.

My like for Darryl would begin a years-long preference for husky or chubby men--one that has not borne out in my present relationship, but that's a different story.

Darryl was a husky little boy. Looking back, he probably was prescribed a steroid inhaler for asthma. Or maybe he was just husky. He was in good company, because I was a chubby little girl. I liked him because he was bigger than the other boys. Bigger and a little bit brusk.

I don't think there was very much more to it than that.

Heaven for me was this one time when we were on a field trip to the Henry Ford Museum, which we lovingly called Greenfield Village, though we never spent time in the actual village, and I got to sit next to him on the bus. And we fell asleep on each other! When he woke me as we arrived to Greenfield Village, I tried to act like I was annoyed with him so he wouldn't guess that I reveled in every minute we lay on each other.

Yes, I was six.

Love as a child can be real and complex, but there is something about being a child that makes it forbidden to be out in the open. It would have mortified me for anyone, especially Darryl, to know. I kept it to myself. Most days it was easy. It wasn't like I swooned from afar. It was enough that I knew that I liked him, it was my own little secret, and I was satisfied with that. I didn't have to do anything with that, we didn't have to become an item, nothing like that. It was what it was.

That is, until Valentine's day.

As an almost 8 year old in the second grade, Darryl was still in my class. I realized that Valentine's Day may blow my cover. I don't know if a note went home with all of the kids, but all of our parents bought valentines enough for the whole class and addressed them to the whole class. The best valentines of elementary school were those that included a sucker or some other sizable piece of candy along with them. Or one of those boxes of chalky Valentine's candy. The message was dispensable.

I was advanced enough at that age to help my mother write out the valentines and assemble them. Or maybe I volunteered to help, because I had to do damage control. Darryl couldn't know that I liked him. Therefore, I had to make sure he didn't get a valentine from me that said something like, "I love you," or, "I like you," or something obvious. I didn't want it to be a thing.

So, I poured over the stack of valentines that my mother bought and found one that I thought was pretty generic and innocent such that no one would have any suspicion about my intent. I felt proud of myself and relieved that my secret was safe with me.

Then I got to school. I passed the valentine's out to my friends in class. I got to his desk and put his valentine down and said nothing. As I walked away, I heard him laugh.

"Hey, this is cool! I like this! Hey, look!" he beckoned to his friend sitting next to him. Shoot, shoot, shoot...it had backfired. What happened? Who would have thought he'd pay any attention to a valentine with a dolphin on it?

"Look at this. It says, 'I flip over you!' Isn't that cool? I flip over you."

I buried my head in the desk, mortified, wishing he'd stop reading it aloud.

My valentine to Darryl that I hand picked precisely so he'd have no idea that I liked him ended up being his favorite out of the 20-some kids in class. Probably because it was the only valentine so painstakingly chosen.

But, little did I know, he would never know that I liked him. He'd have no idea. A smart boy would begin to suspect it after he noticed a girl made effort to sit next to him on the bus so she could press her legs next to him and lie on him.

But no, he was an average boy, and average boys have no clue about those things.

I moved on to a boy named Michael in the third grade, who I liked not only for his looks, but because he was smart (I was getting there!). But not again until Kenneth in the fifth grade would I be so mortified at the possibility of someone knowing that I liked a boy.

...though I would continue to keep crushes secret until I was 25 years old.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

The Worst Kind of Terrorists

Salaam,

I vacillated about whether or not I should make this entry, as I try to keep this space as apolitical as possible for one thing, and for another, I don't like to write stream-of-consciousness pieces for something that I could research and on which I could write a proper dissertation.

And I feel that way for most political topics, current events, news, etc.

But I've been sitting back these last couple of days since the San Bernardino terrorist attack, watching people stew and seep, boil and burn, cry and fret about what this country is coming to, what it all means, whether this is terrorism or not, what terrorism is.

I've seen fellow Muslims hesitate to call this terrorism, wish (as we all do) that it's not terrorism--by which we mean, we wish it's not someone carrying out an attack in the name of our religion.

But those same people, just days before with the Colorado Springs shooting, hastened to call that shooter a terrorist--and he is. And that was a terrorist attack.

As of December 2, we had 355 mass shootings in this country, more than days we've had in this year so far. Many of them, if not all of them, I consider to be acts of terror. For me, terrorism is simple--acts of violence aimed at killing and maiming multiple people and to, in general, cause chaos within communities and societies.

For state purposes, terrorism is often defined as such violent acts that have a political, religious or ideological significance or, by some definitions, are carried out in affiliation with larger organizations.

And this is why, if I am as diplomatic as I can be, Muslim mass murderers are labeled as terrorists and lone-wolf white mass murderers are not.

The question of affiliation with larger organizations is one for another time. For example, how loosely does a white mass murderer have to be affiliated to, say, a white supremacist group before being considered a terrorist because of this affiliation?

Again, I consider all mass murders terrorists by my definition, so this is moot to me.

But, if what we have been told about the shooters in San Bernardino is true, then they are the worst kind of terrorists I have ever seen. It is absolutely horrifying. The flagrant disregard for human life, the indiscriminant killing of men and women of all ages, the mundane venue--a company holiday party at a rented space in a social services building.

How many of us have gone to our company's holiday parties, hackneyed Christmas classics playing softly in the background, people milling around, nibbling on dessert for too long and being embarrassed for someone who got uncharacteristically drunk and loud? Can you imagine going there and dying? Can you imagine the people around you dropping dead? How terrible!

Each story is heartbreaking. Understatement.

That, of course, makes me the most sad and the most angry.

What also makes me angry is that, because of these devils, the moderate Muslim defense doesn't exist anymore.

What do I mean by that? The perpetrators seemed like--and perhaps, for a good while, were--the "moderate Muslim" archetype. Professionals, integrated into their community, seemingly responsible citizens, married with a baby. And then, they spontaneously radicalized.

It's insidious. It reminds me of what family members and friends of the Paris assailants said, that six months prior to the attacks, they stopped drinking and started praying.

Prayer now seems a sinister act...

...though, I guess it always could be.

Muslims are being stopped in subways by passengers believing their laptops are bombs. People in town halls blurt out that "all Muslims are terrorists." A Sikh woman on a Delta flight is made to show her breast pump so a wary passenger is at ease that she is not carrying a bomb. People are being put off flights for speaking Arabic or being visibly Muslim.

Being Muslim right now is different than it was post 9/11. Post 9/11, there was an unspoken other. We were American Muslims. We had no ties to these radical groups in the East "jumping through flaming hoola-hoops," as my mother once put it. And their targets were big and symbolic. I remember, as the 16-year-old I was in 2001, scoffing at the security measures at local stadiums. I cried when I was made to throw away my purse at a game. "Why would terrorists want to attack a college football game?" Why would they target Nowheresville, USA? And for years, that remained true, and I felt justified at dismissing some of the lingering fears as Michael Moore did, as a white American culture of fear.

I think the fear is legitimate now. Conspiracy theorists, like they did post 9/11, are running rampant, but the fact of the matter remains--people really got shot and people really died at an everyday venue, horrendously at what should have been a time of casual celebration.

In the eyes of the public, every Muslim is suspect. There are no such thing as moderate Muslims. Any could radicalize at any time. Once again, "See something, say something" targets Muslims and apparent Muslims, brown people and people who cover their hair with scarves and turbans.

These terrorists are the worst kind because they took lives, shattered families, terrified a community, and made things worse for the peaceful majority of Muslim people in America, heightening their exposure to discrimination, hatred and possible violence.

I do wonder what's become of my country, that mass shootings are so commonplace and so many of us have become so flippant about death until, perhaps, it personally touches us. And just today I began to wonder, as staunchly as I am for gun control (to the point where I am like, yes, someone should take your guns!), if the problem is not other. If it lies in the fabric of who we are as Americans, who we purport to be, and who we actually are.



But besides that, I am at a loss. I don't know what to do, like none of us does, but I do know what not to do.

As a Muslim, I am mortified by every act of violence that is carried out by a Muslim, more than I cringe at ever instance of so-called "black-on-black violence." We can say that these people aren't really Muslim, we can say that what they're following isn't really Islam, we can point out every Muslim that was killed by them and every Muslim hero who saved those around them.

We can condemn every act carried out by people with "Muslim names" before terrorism is formally identified as a motive.

But this doesn't take away the fact that, for some reason and at this time, organizations and individuals are interpreting our texts and our message for the purpose of evil and mass slaughter.

They are certainly not the only ones using a faith to commit atrocities. There are terrorists who draw some sort of twisted inspiration from every religion. But the terrorists who use our faith are center stage now.

A vociferous and murderous minority is successfully defiling our religion in a public arena.

This is not time to sit back and state that this is a sign of the end times, because every day, we're still here. End times is clearly not right now.

So, now--what?

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

I Never Existed Again, the Prequel

Salaam,

I was just going through a journal of mine from when I was 19 years old and read a paragraph that really exemplified the whole "I never existed again" thing, 4 years before I would hear the Djavan song that would give meaning to the feeling I had. And this was only the beginning of me feeling this way. I had not known MQ for a year yet, and I was already falling into the obsession circuit in my brain.

Anything in brackets are edits I've made in retrospect. This was written in January, 2004. Emphasis, with the bold, was also added by me later.


I think it was last Thursday, so Thursday, January 6. It was the first time I had my Spanish class with Sra. Highfill (and wow, I just suddenly had déjà vu with her and her class…like I’d been there before or something).  Anyway, a girl came in named Sarwat.  I had seen her on thefacebook before, back when I was looking up stuff on Azmat…who didn’t end up pairing up with [MQ] at all.  It was just me being silly…again.


Anyway, Sarwat came in, and for whatever reason, I just thought of [MQ] whenever I looked at her.  Okay, it was obvious why I did…I was thinking about the whole culture thing, and if, for him to ever really consider me, that’s what I would have to be…Desi, Pakistani, whatever…and I never would be…well, obviously.  But yes, I thought about that, and then I started thinking back to him, and all the silly little conversations we had… And that progressed, until I thought about him all day.  And then that kid who’s in my Biochemistry discussion and apparently living in South Quad, Ajay…he reminded me of him, too.  And I would see back of heads [around me in class], and I would get startled when [those backs of heads] looked slightly like [his], and almost wanted to close my eyes and run away in case the head turned around and it was him…

It was something like that, not so eloquently.  And I realized at the end of the day that the whole thing was ridiculous.  I hadn’t seen him since November, and now it’s January, and I hadn’t really spoken to him since we did in the summer, and that was kind of shitty in itself, and I was still nervous to come anywhere close to him, even if it was second hand through his friend Sarwat, who never mentioned him...

[...] as she looked at me as I pronounced my name [for the professor in class], I’d wondered if perhaps she’d heard that name before…and for what reason she would have heard it. [Maybe she'd heard about this girl from him, this girl that was obsessed with him].  Or if it was from the back of random people’s heads that kind of looked like his…I just realized it was getting out of hand, and that I’d spent more time that day thinking of him than thinking of anything that had to do with me.

And I started to wonder how much of myself I had lost in the process of being in love with him.  Yes, I may not have ever gotten him, but I was in love with him, and I wanted him, and I thought that if we worked together, I could marry him…all of that foolishness.  But I wondered how much of myself I lost.  I thought I was losing my personality by being so stuck on him  But maybe that wasn’t the case at all.  Maybe, in the beginning of this whole ordeal, I didn’t have that much personality to begin with.  Not as much as I thought I had.


This was remarkable for me to read. In that last paragraph especially, it's like I couldn't even remember who I had been before there was him. I go on to write about how my first journal entry began with me musing about the my teenaged crush, Corey, and I wondered how many legitimate thoughts had I had that were not about some male.

Another (perhaps) remarkable thing is that my writing hasn't changed so very much in the last 11 years. I'd like to think I'm a slightly better writer now, and definitely the content is more mature now, but oh well.

I'm, in general, stunned by how naïve I was...11 years is a lot. I ended this entry thinking about taking out loans to take an MCAT class. That's how long ago that was. That was a more than 4 years of medical school, 1 year of public health school and 3 years of residency ago. Wow!

And it's also incredible how you can lose yourself in someone who in the end has nothing to do with you...

Saturday, October 24, 2015

"It Wasn't Meant to Be" Takes New Meaning

Salaam,

"It wasn't meant to be."

Intellectually, I could get with that, but emotionally, I could not. As a several-year sufferer of unrequited love for much of my young adult years, the phrase seemed cruel, a hackneyed trope offered by people who didn't have answers but were well-meaning nonetheless.

Years after getting over the love that never would be, I still couldn't really understand that. Yes, obviously it was not meant to be, because here I am and there he is, living two separate lives, probably never chancing to meet again and, because of Facebook, I know too much.

My last entry shows how I couldn't understand it.

And to be clear, part of me will still wonder. There were so many signs that I interpreted as meaning we would end up together after pointed and plaintive prayers. These signs from hearing a random string quartet practice the wedding march in my dorm to him being down the hall in my friend's dorm, hearing me as I cried. Why would God tease me with these signs if we were, in fact, never meant to be.

Because we weren't. We existed in each others' lives exactly as we should have.

Before I fell for him, I had prayed specifically that I would not do such a thing. I prayed to God not to allow me to fall for a man who was not meant for me. But I did.

Most other prayers I have prayed in my life have been answered, from small things like praying that the rain would let up so I could take pictures for a summer project in high school, to big things like medical school acceptances and residency matches. But my faith remained shaken after the man I prayed for so long would be my future husband ended up to be someone else's.

I used to wonder why, and then for a long time, I gave up. I just didn't think about it. I reasoned, there are probably people who pray for more important things, like being able to feed their child, or to save their dying spouse from the wrath of disease, or any other number of situations who are now sitting on the other side of things, wondering why their prayers weren't answered. For me, the only thing not answered for me is that some dude I had a crush on in college didn't like me back. Big deal.

But then, thinking about the turmoil my fiancé has had to go through because of his family's disapproval of me, I realize something...

...well, for one, it likely would have been several times worse with my college crush. My fiancé has a small family. My college crush had a large family that was apparently invested in him ending up with someone from their own community. And that he did, and their families get along well.

Whereas, my future in-laws will likely have little contact with me...thankfully, as the case were.

I would love to be part of a family that loved me as I feel I deserve to be loved as an excellent future-partner to their beloved son, but it looks like I'm not going to...just as I was prepared was a distinct possibility with my college crush.

I said I was ready for anything back then, now I get to eat my words. It is hard. It's harder to see your fiancé essentially disowned from his family.

But more than realizing that, rationally, it was not meant to be, I also recognize that...sometimes, even if certain traits line up, there is mutual attraction, interest, fascination...whatever...it wasn't meant to be.

Yes, so many other prayers in my life have been answered, and easily. Of course this prayer would be the hardest. Yes, I have a friend who claims she prayed to find a husband and then met her husband the next day, but a lot happened before he became her husband that did not seal that prayer as answered for her. She made it sound easy, but it wasn't.

It's easy when a prayer only involves you, or your personal protection, or something like that. It's easy when a prayer is about a career path, or a housing option, or safety on road or in the air while one travels. It's not easy when a prayer involves a whole other human being who is just as complex as you are, with their own desires, needs and prayers.

The man that you see who you decide must be the future husband of your prayer and desire may have congruent desires but perhaps incongruent needs, for example. People are not ready to order. I have yet to hear anyone say that someone came and was perfectly equipped to be their future spouse when they met them.

So as much as I may have loved my college crush, I could not pray him into being for me. As much as I felt I could "deal with everything going through [his] head," I was never in his head. We existed together in the same realm for just a little bit. His path was other, and I had to steer away. It wasn't meant to be.

Relationship prayers are the hardest to pray and the hardest with which to wait for the answer. The answer is sometimes quite unexpected. Whenever our desires and prayers are directed at a thing that necessarily involves another complete human being, so many things have to line up to make it work. And while certainly nothing is impossible with God, it will take a little bit more time than...driving under a bridge to see the rain stop instantly to allow you to do your high school summer project.

So for me, it wasn't meant to be takes on new meaning. It's no longer hackneyed and frustrating. It's a simple truth. It's not a term of resignation; it reminds me of my submission. Submission to the Truth.  For all I prayed, God knew that my college crush was not actually who I thought he was or what I wanted, and if he was, he knew that I was not what he needed. It was never a prayer unanswered. It was a prayer answered, but I didn't leave space or understanding of that being possibly the answer.

And with the tincture of time and experience and the prospect of assuming a family name of a family that will have nothing to do with me, I see...I come to understand. Love can conquer much but you have to decide if it's worth it.

In terms of the signs I got after pointed prayers...I still don't understand those. Maybe it's like the movie Mr. Nobody, and I could have lived a life where I ended up with my college crush if I took precise actions earlier on, actions I was not ready to take at 19. Maybe that piece has some meaning that I'll uncover later in my life. This little epiphany about the whole situation only took 11 years, after all.