Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Big Beautiful

As salaam alaikum,

Big beautiful, huh? Big beautiful life! Life is so vast and so gorgeous to me right now, I can't wrap my head around it! So amazing. So so amazing. I'm not even articulate now, it's so amazing.

How do I feel? Overjoyed. It's like, nothing in particular has happened, but this Ramadan has brought me happiness overflowing. Cusp of tears happiness like I described earlier. I'm not even using complete sentences anymore!

My happiness is best characterized by {True - Spandau Ballet}. No embed...probably for the better.

I thought of this song suddenly after not really having known it existed past those 80s CD commercials that played in the 90s. I randomly thought about it around the end of 2006, while I was watching this telenovela "La fea más bella" and it will always remind me of the romance of Fernando and Lety...before Lety finds out that Fernando had at first seduced her for the sake of the company. So, like, their romance before all hell breaks loose.


My happiness is characterized by this song because it reminds me of those happy times as a junior in college watching my goofy Mexican telenovela, and...because I always thinks it speaks to that inalienable truth that many of us have in our lives. That there is God, and all He encompasses...

I watched the sun set today. If you watch it long enough, you can see it inch downward on the horizon. It was gorgeous.

Everything is making me happy right now! I watched a clip from my favorite movie, got to that cusp of tears thing again. I'm just thinking about the expanse of life and human experience, and the fact that even with all of our differences we are one, and someday insha'Allah I'm going to find someone who believes that as I do and it's just going to be awesomeness...it's pretty amazing.

So here I am, big beautiful life, ready to live you every day that Allah (swt) intends for me. And the night is young, and I don't have class until noon tomorrow. Alhamdulillah!

...now, to pray that this Earl hurricane character stays at bay...keep us all in your du'as! We'll need them in the face of this category 4 deal headed toward this coast.

The Fourth/Que me alcance

As salaam alaikum,

Alhamdulillah for Ramadan, seriously. This Ramadan, I think, will be the best Ramadan since junior year of college in terms of many things I can't easily summarize right now. One thing that's very interesting, though...I suddenly have more motivation than I ever have to learn Arabic.

Unfortunately I didn't have that ambition earlier in life when learning languages would be perhaps easier, but hey, I did learn Portuguese on a whim. I've never seriously tried my hand at a non-Romance language before, so I'm not sure how I would fare with a different script and a language with no cognates, but okay!

The thing is, I've always felt guilty that I'm obviously a lingophile but my desire to learn Arabic has been lukewarm at best. It's always been a "should" type thing...like, I knew that I should be compelled, but this Ramadan, for some reason, the desire has become more acute.

I've missed the boat in terms of times when taking an Arabic class would have been easy, but where there's a will, there's a way. It may not be immediate, but I'll work something out.

I'm not looking to be fluent or especially conversational, actually. All of that would be cool, because I love communicating in other people's languages, but my interest is more for the sake of Qur'an reading. I'm not claiming a level because insha'Allah I don't know how much I'll study later. I'm still going to be a physician as my day job, writing as my side job, insha'Allah wife and mother as a full time job, so I'm not talking about a second career goal...I just fell even more in love with the Qur'an this Ramadan and consider it high time that I take it to the next level...

Because seriously! You see how much I enjoy translating songs in Portuguese, singing along, amazed at how good it felt to be able to sing with the correct accent and everything? Need I draw parallels?

Ironically or not so much so, these are all English approximations.

"As for poets, the erring follow them. Hast thou not seen that they stray in every valley, and how they say that which they do not?" (26:224-226)

At first I fasted music during Ramadan. I hardly need to make a concerted effort, because music and poetry will always pale in comparison to the Qur'an, and even if I do hear some of my favorite music, it doesn't sound the same. Not in a sad way, but the Qur'an is like poetry, music out of this world, and I'm suddenly aware of how of this world that music is, how of this world I am when I listen to it, reflecting on issues, feelings and problems we feel are momentous now...but are just that, of this world.

I still love music, poetry and prose, though, for what it is. It reflects the human spirit, and I'm not going to lie, I love us. I love us but even so, I long for God more.

...I have a lot of work ahead of me, but insha'Allah I have a lot of life ahead of me. Insha'Allah, I'll have time.

Le pido a Dios que me alcance la vida...

It feels good, it feels natural. It doesn't feel forced. What doesn't feel forced?

Me doesn't feel forced.


Sunday, August 29, 2010


As salaam alaikum,

Read my last entry. Yes, I'm jocking myself, but I liked it. I felt like it was an important thing for me to realize that was often a barrier for me being constant/sincere in prayer, and recognizing it has helped me to take a huge step in my practice that has always been a bit of a struggle. Insha'Allah I keep this always in mind.

Well, I've been enjoying this Ramadan! And although recently I've been having food dreams when I go to sleep after fajr, thus making me feel like I'm breaking my fast, I'm beginning to look at others around me differently. I used to look at the eating masses during the day and it made me acutely aware at how much Americans eat during the day, especially when they aren't actually hungry. I now look at people eating acknowledging that people eat around me all the time while I'm not eating, even if I'm not fasting, and I was no longer acutely aware of their feeding.

Inevitably, during Ramadan, not eating during the day is no longer a struggle and come Eid it feels criminal to eat during the day. However, this Ramadan, I've started to look at those eating their food and think, dude, if you could only get a whiff of the state of grace I feel during Ramadan and with fasting, and if only with that sense of grace could you appreciate the blessings above and beyond our perception, you'd be joining me in fast!

I just had a long talk with my roommate, and gol-ly! She doesn't "believe" in following career because you like it, nor does she believe in leisure. The first I can get with, but what is there to believe or not believe about leisure time? You can not like leisure time, but this is even strange to me because leisure time is my favorite time of the day.

And I realized it was a blessing that I am who I am. I love the way that I think and perceive the world...it doesn't frustrate me (ultimately), and I'm able to achieve harmony. I go to sleep smiling. Things of that nature.

And I realized, alhamdulillah, I'm able to be happy and thankful about everything that I am, who I am, and at peace with life at the moment. I reflected on other things about me I'm thankful for.

For one, I'm thankful that I can have vivid dreams. I explained to this same roommate an involved dream that I had that I was part of a team of scientist detectives that teleported ourselves to ancient Italy when things were written on tablets, except everything seemed very much like modern times, except for a different mode of dress and...menus for restaurants written on tablets. I had ice cream (probably gelato)...it was coconut flavored, and I actually ate it in the dream. That was exciting. Then I went back to the man's office, where I teleported to this rural town in present time. While with my partner, we warned a group of school kids and their teacher to stay out of the field. We couldn't tell her that it was because one of our space shuttles would land in the field. There was an old church adjacent to the field and another possible landing field on the other side where the kids didn't frequent to play. Though we feared the building collapse because it was old, we relocated that as the landing pad.

Later, I would wake up to heat and steam coming from below my door. I unintelligently opened the door, and glowing orange, hot steam flowed in accompanied by a deafening sound. I put blankets under the door, fearing fire, and ran to open my window. The steam subsided, and in the commotion I heard outside I realized that the space shuttle must have landed. President Obama was on the spaceship and landed. People were so amazed by what he did, they were no longer concerned about his birth certificate, about the Cordoba project, about any of the controversial issues right now. It was like, support your president. I went to tell my parents, but they were asleep in bed after a long day's trip the previous day. They did not respond to the landing of the space ship. My brother was downstairs, complaining about how the microwave had turned on and was "boiling" his food. He took out a plate of rice and stew that burned his hands, so he set it on the chopping board.

There were gas burners on that I turned off, assuming my parents had been careless the night before. I looked out of the window but people obscured Obama. I decided to go out of the front door (which by this time was the door to my old house) to see the commotion, but realized that I hadn't yet brush my teeth (which I hadn't yet in real life, either). I ran into the house and up the familiar stairs of my old house...and then I woke up.


But yeah, scientist detectives. I don't know what we were trying to figure out.

There were other things that I like about myself that I'm thankful for. Maybe I'll feature them when it's not minutes to suhoor and I still haven't gone to sleep yet!

Saturday, August 28, 2010


As salaam alaikum,

Desilusão, desilusão, danço eu, dança você na dança da solidão...

It's funny how portions of the Qur'an stick out to you more in your reading of them depending on your own personal situation. For me, it became manifestly apparent that I don't want to be of the ones who praise Allah (swt) when times are good and retreat, curling into fetal position, when times are bad. I tend to fall back on disillusion like a bad habit, especially on the topic of my solitude...singleness, loneliness, however you want to put it.

This Ramadan, though, I'm recognizing it, and putting an end to it. I retreat to easily, when the path gets a little bit bumpy, but the best is yet to come, insha'Allah. The best is yet to come and I'd get there sooner if I stopped running away and hiding.

As I prayed 'Asr today, I stopped in the middle of my du'as because I didn't even know what I was going to say anymore. My world is constantly growing with the more I learn and understand...and I learn that there's so much more world that I'll probably never understand, and understand that I've got infinity to learn.

Knowing how vast the world is and how singly powerful Allah (swt) to will anything to be possible...it makes me wonder sometimes if I'm even praying for things that I need, or if my ideal path in this life is still beyond the reach of my perception. Allah's plan is always greater.

So this Ramadan, insha'Allah, I'll combat disillusion. Loneliness is my portion for only a time, and it's okay that I don't understand why. It's like Musa (as) and the sage...there's meaning behind everything, and I may never know why, but it's better for me anyway, though I may not see it immediately. Allahu a'lam.

“And he who forsakes the domain of evil for the sake of God shall find on earth many a lonely road, as well as life abundant...” – An-Nisaa’, (4:100).

Friday, August 27, 2010

Suhoor Insomnia

As salaam alaikum,

These days when I'm not lazy and actually eat a full meal (more or less) for suhoor, I tend to have trouble falling back to sleep. Luckily for me, I don't have anything really to go to today in the way of orientation activities for the school of public health since it's mainly geared towards international students...and students that haven't been in the Harvard system before (I don't need to be told about financial aid...that is a depressing state of affairs!). I'm probably not going to go back to campus until iftar, insha'Allah. It should be good. It's going to be an Islamic Relief/Pakistan Flood fundraising iftar.

I hope to see some of my favorite medical school Muslims there...although no such luck seeing the sisters from my class. One is in Guatemala, and the other...I haven't really seen at an HMS iftar since first year.

HIS (Harvard Islamic Society) has daily iftars, but they didn't start until later this year because I guess they're just now starting school. I didn't make many of those anyway, as I didn't know many of the undergrads. I find HIS very South Asian (from a glance!), whereas Umich's MSA was more diverse...at least come time for mass meetings. I think we had most major Muslim countries represented at Michigan...except for sub-Saharan Africa. With 50% Muslim population but much of that population not reflected in our respective numbers in the US, Nigeria should have been repping strong...but we all know how that is.

Maybe not, but it takes too long to explain.

I can't even rep for Nigerian Muslims...I'm just a Nigerian American who happens to be Muslim. My tradition is always more with the black Muslim indigenous to the United States.

Anyway, blah blah blah.

Orientation is going well, alhamdulillah. I've met new people, perhaps made new friends...I'd make even more if my roommate and I would separate from ourselves sometimes. But it's cool. Today will be more of the same...planning out my classes, thinking about my career. Public health makes me more excited about going into medicine, actually. It makes me feel like I can have a greater impact and that if I see a health problem in my community, I can investigate it and fix it, insha'Allah.

Ramadan...is really a blessing. I can always tell where I need to focus judging on the passages of the Qur'an that stick out to me, and based on that...I think third year helped me to reach an all-time spiritual low, but insha'Allah I'm on the upswing once again. I'm feeling more at peace with myself and my way of being (current, not former) now, and I feel so differently about so many things. Clarity is here, and I embrace it.

Anyway, I'm also excited (more wordly matters ensue here) because Djavan is coming to Boston! Who is Djavan, you ask? Pssh! Only my favorite contemporary (or more so...you know I like old stuff) Brazilian artist ever! He came to Boston in June, 2008 before I went to Brazil and I forced a classmate of mine to come with me. This time...I may just have to buy tickets and go by myself, sit up front (worth the price!) and sing all of my favorite songs along with him. YES!

I know more of his songs than I did back when I went to his first concert...like Oceano. ...which I will post later. I always do a relative music fast (it used to be more strict in past years) while fasting Ramadan. I didn't intentionally do it this year, but because I have 5/6 previous Ramadans (I didn't last year because it drove me crazy to not be able to eat or listen to music while studying, so if I had to cave for one, it was music), even if I hear music this month, I don't pay much mind to it...it's not the same.

...but the music fast does not preclude my excitement for this concert. MPB at it's finest...Djavan, and hopefully he brings his son, Max...why, because I love the father/son double threat!

As I've said before, I like this singer purely because of his talent and his beautiful music...he's old enough to be my father...or my relatively young grandfather, haha.

Anyway, it's nearly 6am...I either need to nap a little bit before I actually get up this morning or do something a little bit more productive...

Oh yeah, and I'm considering one of two options for my winter public health project...insha'Allah either return to Brazil (possibly Bahia!), or...I could go to India for the first time! It would only be a three-week trip, but still...

I'll talk it over with people and see what I should do. Alhamdulillah for this life of opportunity!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


As salaam alaikum,

Tomorrow, I start at the school of public health for orientation. After reading for a couple of hours the summer reading that I skillfully left for the last minute, reminiscent of my undergraduate jeito, I began to reflect on what this new degree would mean for my career...

...or, who am I kidding? I've been thinking about that nonstop for the last 48 hours.

I would expand on it, but maybe I will later. I'm getting sleepy.

I haven't finished that article on emerging adulthood in the New York Times yet, but I think it perfectly describes the point of life I'm in right now. My life alhamdulillah is brimming with opportunity but with so much opportunity, the future seems daunting because of the number of choices we can make. I'm afraid that I may have already made a grand mistake somewhere in the course of this whole medical school selection thing...

I'm also trying to figure out how to be a better Muslimah, though I think I discovered yesterday that there is no comfortable way for me to be the Muslimah that I want to be. That may just be the reality of the life I live in right now, and where I am. I think the moderate path means that you're constantly having to reject extremes on every side of you, like seeking refuge from Satan, who will appear before and behind you, to the left and to the right of you.

Medical school has been complicated by the fact that I was not done, as I'd hoped I would be in undergrad, with finding my moderate path. I wasn't mature enough yet to make these decisions, apparently, and my judgment was clouded by my immature desire to end up with one particular brother who wasn't ever meant for me. I was always working against nature with that one. I could expand on that, but I have enough. Anyway, I had to continue in medical school, and I am now, on the eve of entering public health school. My moderate path right now is far from perfect, but I just pray that Allah (swt) is pleased with my efforts to improve upon this path.

In terms of my career...I feel far from medicine at the moment. I'll definitely have to keep my feet wet by visiting the wards or reading up in books or something, I don't know. I'll contact my preceptor for family medicine and admit to her how lost I feel at times in navigating my aspirations in family medicine and my desired career path and I feel like I'm essentially making a bunch of random decisions and hoping it all works out in the end insha'Allah.

...but maybe I'll say it in a way that sounds less desperate.

Life is so big, and to think it's like, nothing, compared to the real reality of things, and the Hereafter, and God's ultimate plan for me. I dream big, aspire big, bigger than can even fit in my own brain sometimes...oh well. I'm not especially worried, because I strive in this life to submit my entire being to Allah (swt), and the closer I get to that, the easier it will be for me to get to my destination.

Life right now is like...going up a staircase with a number of stairs you don't know and that you can't count, because you can see only so far up and the rest is obscured by fog. You can't go back. You can only see the next step right in front of you. I live imagining how many steps are above...if the staircase will fall apart, if there are detours, if the steps will be sturdy or unstable, if I'll trip, where I'll trip, if I'll fall, if I'll hurt myself...instead of focusing on these steps.

It's maddening. I'm done. I'll plan ahead and climb smart, but I'm only paying attention to these steps I can see right now.

And that's my career analogy for tonight. Sleepy time!


Monday, August 23, 2010

Height of...Happiness

As salaam alaikum,

(I wrote this actually a few days ago, but am posting it now...)

If there's something else I don't often blog about, it's about happiness. I mean, in general, I think I talk plenty about the meaning of life, what's fulfilling to me, what's amused me...well, okay, that's a lie, I think I do talk about what makes me happy. Family medicine makes me happy, for example.

But there are just some times when my happiness goes above even that. This last week with my parents here vacationing over the river in Cambridge, I've had a few of those moments...not necessarily with them or because of them, but just in general.

One of them happened while I was...

- sailing out on the Massachusetts Bay, at Long Warf, seeing families enjoying the sunny day outside
- watching a clip of Glee and seeing how cute the Glee kids were and their excitement about seeing posters of themselves in New York
- biting into a plum, discovering that it was one of those that's purple inside, therefore sweet, then eating it

These moments inspire a level of happiness in me that I'm not quite able to explain. It's like...happiness at the cusp. It's like, it makes me so happy, I almost want to cry, but I don't...not because I'm holding back, but because I don't cross that threshold yet. And because crying is kind of a release of emotion, not crying sustains that happiness in my chest, and it makes my chest feel really light. It's a feeling that I can't exactly recreate, but the remembrance of the specific event or image does make me smile and I experience a similar lightness in my chest. It's pretty amazing.

So sometimes I get these feelings out of the blue, with nothing in particular happening, and I feel like it's a premonition. I had that feeling yesterday evening as my father dropped me off in front of my apartment. There were a bunch of guys crossing the street who must have just left the hospital because they had cups of coffee in their hands from coffee central. There was nothing quite that interesting about the guys except that as we passed them, I got that light feeling in my chest, though I wasn't smiling. And then I got this sudden premonition...something happy is going to happen to me in a few days time.

I had this feeling earlier, except the premonition was that it was going to happen "soon," which could be in a few months time...which is sooner than soon has ever been for me.

But now, it's a few days.

I don't know what to make of all of this happiness. I'm going to revel in it and take it to prayer. What better time do I have than this, smack dab in the middle of Ramadan!

Keep me in your du'as!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

O Povo...Quer o Que Não Sabe


I tend to steer clear of politics/news stories in this blog...I guess since I'm most obviously talking about the other impolite thing to bring up during dinner, religion. Not really.

I guess it's because, for the last three years of medical school, I have been so ill-informed on current events and the latest issues, I have not felt the need to weigh in with my relatively unfounded opinions. I know everyone else does, the biggest culprit being the media, but I didn't want to add that as my contribution to the blogosphere.

But...I must comment on this "Ground Zero" mosque. And no, I haven't watched the Olbermann thing yet, mostly because I have a feeling what he's going to say and the issue is easy and straight forward for me.

It's straight forward for me because there should be no questions about it. This is freedom of religion vs. ignorance. People who are protesting the mosque near (because it's not actually on top of) Ground Zero are people who equate Islam with terrorism, full stop. They may say they don't, but they do. I feel sorry for these people, because they, then, actually fear Muslims. I feel sorry for them because more people are Muslim than they probably aware of, and if they were aware of all of us roaming among them, oh my gosh, they'd crap a brick!

Man, if all Muslims were terrorists or violent, this world would be in trouble, because there are at least 1.4 billion of us on this planet, and millions of us in the US. You would seriously need to hide your kids, hide your wife...

...and hide your husband. (Sorry, I couldn't resist it.)

Honestly, though, I'm not as concerned about a mosque going up near Ground Zero. Freedom of religion should reign, but seriously...when I first heard about it, I actually was among the ones who was like, "Is that necessary?" mainly because I thought it was actually planned to be in Ground Zero, like many people probably do right now. It may be because, like many Muslim Americans, 9/11 put me into the defensive, and I like to follow a path of least resistance, and maybe I'm a chicken but I'd sooner relinquish plans to build a mosque near Ground Zero than I'd defend my first amendment right if I were the developer...

But I think that's just my personality. I like to avoid conflict inasmuch as possible...not necessarily to be liked, but because I hate conflict and controversy.

But the simple fact of the matter is, people are protesting all over the country...not about the "Ground Zero Mosque," but the mosques coming up in their neighborhoods. Admittedly, Jon Stewart has been helping me keep up with all of these developments. If people knew what Islam was really about, I doubt they'd be protesting.

Similarly, if that one church that's burning the Qur'ans ever cracked opened a Qur'an and read it, I think they'd hesitate to burn it as they plan to do on 9/11. But then again, any time a group of Christians would burn copies of the bible that weren't King James, you'd bet there'd be a group to burn the Qur'an, so it doesn't surprise or hurt me at all.

None of this, as a matter of fact, surprises or hurts me. People who comment on this blog who leave expletives, insult me and my faith and try to show me pictures of Muhammad (saw), doesn't surprise or hurt me. I marvel at the height of ignorance such that people are protesting mosques, but it doesn't surprise me. As long as people are trying to argue that the 14th Amendment of the Constitution is unconstitutional (which is one of the single dumbest statements I heard on the news recently), I can see how they would want to deny one's first amendment rights.

For those people who are upset about the mosques going up in their community...awesome! They have the right to exercise their First Amendment Right just as those building the mosques have the right to exercise theirs...just as Dr. Laura had the right to exercise her First Amendment right while being totally inappropriate and unprofessional on her radio show. Yay!

Gilberto Gil sang, "O povo sabe o que quer, mas o povo também quer o que não sabe." The people know what they want, but the people also want what they don't know.

These people...want what they don't know.

But I'm not surprised, hurt, saddened or frightened. Because as a Muslim, I know what is oft repeated in my Qur'an, a Qur'an that people can burn all they want but with a message that none can destroy. God, the God of us all, is the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful. Can any of those of the Abrahamic religions deny these attributes? Does anyone who believes in God by any name deny these attributes?

These are the attributes, the names of God that is repeated the most in the Qur'an, that Muslims repeat the most during the day. It's on our lips, in our minds, in our hearts. With that grace and mercy, I have no need to be frightened of ignorance and hatred in my own backyard toward me.

So God have mercy on us all.

Monday, August 16, 2010

The 6th Juz

As salaam alaikum,

I love how, every time you read the Qur'an, you get something different from the experience. The first five ajiza' inspired me usually for the rest of the day, such that I hastened to sneak away from the fam to read it.

...then I read the sixth juz (the end of surah 4, the beginning of 5), and for some reason, I was a little bit depressed after reading it. I think it got me to thinking about my father and how I had to break it to him, once again, that I was not looking to convert to Christianity.

It was hard to read that juz knowing my father was Christian. I don't know why it's hitting me more this year than in past years. I think it's because...I've shed a great deal of my righteous indignation, and now I just wish him the best.

Well, he'll be in my du'as, because that unsettling feeling is something that only prayer can alleviate.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Back in Boston with New York on my Mind

As salaam alaikum,

So, yesterday my parents and I made the 700-something drive back to Boston. Which meant...I could bring my blender back (random, I know, but small joys)! I know we don't have to fast while traveling, but...I hate breaking my momentum by eating at random as I usually do.

But man, I was delirious when I got back. I bought a quesadilla from Ana's and ate it over 2 hours because I'm not used to eating quite that many calories for iftar. And, it was 10pm. I broke fast with dried fruits and water while at a rest stop somewhere between Framingham and Boston.

So my parents haven't called yet. I hadn't checked my computer in the morning, so I didn't know the temperature or anything as I plan my trek out to where my parents are staying. It's 66F now, which pales in comparison to the 70-something degrees it's got to be right now in Ypsi. It'll warm up to 82F here in Boston, supposedly. We'll see. We're starting out the day overcast. I can't complain...I'm going to have my parents walking around, so it's better that the weather is nice.

Speaking of, I haven't planned out a day for them at all. We may spend today exploring Cambridge, and maybe do something inside, like the Aquarium, tomorrow, since it's supposed to scattered thunderstorm it tomorrow.

But yes, I'm back in Boston, and although I'll miss the comfort of my Sealy Posturpedic mattress at home (it's about 13 years old or so, but it still sleeps like a dream...especially since I've lived away from home for the last 7 years of it's tenure), I did also miss my panoramic view of the Charles and the new familiarity of my own bathroom (which my lovely roommate cleaned).

There is no replacement for Meijer, though, the Michigan-based grocery store. The prices are awesome, and I'd almost move back to Michigan to be near Meijer.


Yesterday was unfortunately not a very charitable day for me, astaghfirullah. I wasn't very nice in my mind and in my mouth to certain people. As someone once taught me, during Ramadan, Allah (swt) removes Satan from our influence, so all the bad stuff we think and do is coming from us, things that we need to fix. My attitudes towards my roommates is one, but there are other things that I've discovered I need to fix. Thankfully for me, it's only Ramadan 5.

Editing my cousin's manuscript has been a great task, greater than I anticipated. We'll see if I'm able to finish it.

But for as much as I'm glad that I'm back in Boston...great decisions lay ahead of me. Although by choosing to pursue my MPH, I'm delaying this great decision by another year (alhamdulillah!)...I need to decide where I want to live/train for residency. It's only three years, and if medical school is any indication, those years (save for intern year) will go like *snap* that. And I won't be totally free to explore wherever I am. The big question I'm asking right now is Nowheresville USA vs. Big City Swag.

I'm trying to decide if I want to do rural underserved or urban underserved.

I heard a lot of things during the conference about which programs are better for obstetrics training, and rural programs that are unopposed (meaning that they are taught by only fam med faculty in your own department) claim to have the market cornered on the best training environment for those who are interested in learning procedures. They claim that opposed programs (those in which you serve on internal medicine, peds and OB services in their departments with residents or attendings in that specialty), especially those in academic centers, will relegate you to what they think is appropriate for fam med docs to do, and therefore you won't get your whole skill set and you'll feel like there's a sense of competition. ...whereas most people in urban settings deny that they feel competition and say that you'll have the opportunity to learn all you want to.

Right now, I'm leaning more urban underserved (my top choices right now are Columbia and UCSF...I like different things about each program), and I don't especially have any rural programs in mind. In fact, I didn't visit any programs in the midwest outside of University of Michigan's family medicine residency.

...I'm not sure I'm ready for that yet, though. I'd be likely doing my clinic time in Ypsilanti, the city of my raising. Although I know eventually I'll be coming home...I don't know if now is the time yet. Or ever, really. My education worked out for me, but since sometime in the next 10 years insha'Allah I'll be having children (why not just claim it! Pssh...I'm tired of speculating)...and say I have my first kid in 10 years, so 2020 (wow). They'd be going to school in 2025...that would be kindergarten. Subhan'Allah. What is a 2025 world going to look like?

Insha'Allah He grants me life to the age where I bear children and live to raise them to this day. Then I'll have many more Ramadans to pray for the state of this world and the children...not my own, but the ones that actually exist now. My little cousins, my little patients and the children I don't see who need it.

If it hasn't been apparent before now, I love children.

So urban underserved...this is the population I'm most in love with. It's the most ethnically diverse, the patients in the city that need help the most. I'm also looking into BU's program and may do an elective there in the upcoming year. Alhamdulillah, I'll have more time to plan for it.

Rural...I don't even know where to begin. Before I'd do a rural program, though, I'd need to have a husband or a fiance who was motivated about working in remote areas, becoming part of a community in Small Town, USA, and who would ultimately move with me to this area...because it's hard enough for me in Boston as a single Muslimah, no way I'm moving somewhere where I'd probably be the only single Muslimah for miles.

I also like the urban, university-based programs because...I love the city (yes, even New York, The Big Nasty, as my mother has called it after my stories of trips there), the residency programs are often more diverse (and I need not be the token minority...I don't mind being the only black person, but please, not the only non-white person. Been there, done that), and the patient population is often more ethnically (if not socioeconomically) diverse.

I'll take it!

So I'm back in Boston with a little bit of New York on my mind. These are decisions that I get to make over the next year. This will definitely be in my du'as.

Well, I probably should get dressed and meet up with the fam. But it's fun to think about the future and insha'Allah all that's in store for me.

{Currently Listening: Empire State of Mind - Jay Z feat. Alicia Keys}

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Of Mice and Men and Interfaith Marriages

As salaam alaikum,

First of all...

Ramadan Mubarak!

For my Muslim readers, may Allah (swt) bless us all during this month with good health, and...may all of our prayers come true!

Haha, I know that sounded bootleg, but over the years, I've run out of inspired things to say. I usually say something along the lines of, "May this Ramadan be a good one for you insha'Allah," but...you know, more eloquently than that. I feel like I need to say something like that with wishing folks a good Ramadan...I guess it's not implicit in that statement.

Anyway, that's clearly not what the entry is about...as evident from the title.

My mother and I were talking about marriage the yesterday, a subject that we broached after discussing my friend's wedding this weekend. That conversation and the wedding got me to thinking about the union in a different light.

When I first heard that my friend, a Muslimah, was dating a Jewish guy, I was intrigued by how such a relationship came to be and continued working out, if not a little amused at the irony of the situation. They were falling in love as the Middle East conflict raged on, as Muslims and Jews were portrayed as the quintessential enemy by the media, all of this. When they began living together, I concluded that her parents had become more liberal since their middle child came out as a lesbian.

When they were engaged, I began really thinking about the implications of their relationship.

To the outsider, they were a Muslim and a Jew getting married. As a Muslim, this was a Muslim woman marrying a non-Muslim, and therefore in and of itself momentous.

This was going to be the wedding of the year for me. For one, it's the only wedding that I was invited to this year (the people I'm closest to are either not getting married or are going international on me *tear*). And, I couldn't wait to see how they were going to pull the interfaith thing. I used to joke that they were going to have a nikkah and then break the glass, and that I'd shout both mabrook and mazel tov at the same time...

...and then I went to the wedding, and I heard the couple talk about what they loved about each other, and people, in their toasts, talked about what each party said about the other, and it was apparent--this was a match. This was a good match. This was compatibility at it's best, and their religious difference actually didn't feel like a caveat. It was a lavish ceremony, but those types of things don't impress me as much as the character of the two people marrying.

I'm always more excited about the marriages than the weddings themselves.

They said that they married each other's best friend and described their mutual love of human rights and their dedication to humanitarian efforts. They felt like they were each other's one; neither felt like they were settling. My friend did not feel like she was settling for a non-Muslim, though I'm not sure whether or not such a thought crossed her mind. In my estimation of her, I don't think it ever did.

Of course, we can't know what's really in people's hearts or what the future holds, which makes me shy away from frank envy, but I do pray that whoever I end up with is the best possible match for me as they seemed to be for each other. As I said to one of my friends during our infamous (to only ourselves) 25-and-single lament, "Things work [out] because they work." An outside Muslim may argue that the match would have been the best if both parties had been the same religion with all of the character traits that they loved about each other, but somehow I feel like...that's a moot point.

Maybe part of the reason they fell in love with each other was the respect, understanding and compassion that they had for each other's religion and culture, and that wouldn't be as much there if they were both of the same culture or religion. I mean, I know someone could argue "What's the value of that if you don't share the same religion?"

But really, how religion?

I know that sounds like a funny question, but bear with me.

How religion? You can have two Muslims who believe and practice very differently, who may not respect the way the other practices or believes. You can have two people of any given religion that practice and believe very differently. Just religion does not equate compatibility. Mutual respect, striving for understanding and compassion for this, the most delicate of differences in our lives, is the most important thing, I think, for a marriage, just as two people who are of the same religion must attain this about their individualized beliefs, not only within the realm of religion but also worldview.

I'm saying a lot of things and this is a bit on the defensive, just because I feel like most Muslims that read this will say, "But the Qur'an specifically tells us that a Muslim woman should not marry a non-Muslim man, astaghfirullah!" Like, this is nothing that any of us should strive to do, and going against what is fard is...why ever would I want to do that?

But I don't want to.

I don't want to because I see my parents and I don't want to be them. Their marriage is a great one, filled with mutual respect (to a degree that was not extended on my own choice of religion, but that's neither here nor there right now...well, actually, it is relevant, but I digress) and compassion, and the understanding bit is I think an ongoing process for them in their lives, kind of like Islam is for us Muslims. I want my marriage to be even greater than theres, insha'Allah, if I'm not brazen in saying such a thing. I want a husband who I can pray with, one who strives to submit his entire self to God, no matter what name he calls himself or what religion he understood himself to be from birth or at any time of life. Someone who is content with me as long as I also strive in the way of God, someone who doesn't try to convert me...

But you know...the best laid plans of mice and men gang aft a gley. Insha'Allah, I will have this marriage because this prayer of mine has been years in the making, as I have been years in the making, the maturing, the understanding of what this union means. Just as this friend, my friend, wouldn't have been able to guess when I was 14 and she was 15 that, in 11 years, she would be marrying her best friend--I won't be able to guess, to construct, to construe, to imagine...any of that...my own path.

I could go into this thing imagining myself with a "liberal" Muslim and end up with a man who has aspirations to be an Islamic scholar. I could imagine myself with a "born" Muslim and end up with a revert. I could see myself with only a Muslim and end up with someone who, for all intents and purposes, is Muslim but does not call himself by that name. I don't know. Allah (swt) knows best.

So Muslim is no longer the top of my list. True Muslim is more apt, but that's something that I can't tell from outward appearance or chance encounters. I want to end up with someone who loves me, yes, will come to love me more, respects me and my beliefs and worldview and who finds them engaging for conversation and the purposes of mutual learning. Someone who strives to understand the parts of me that he doesn't understand. Someone who fits with me in only a way that Allah (swt) can plan, in a way that I can't even begin to articulate, as no one knows me better than Him.

And I pray that I can be the same for him, insha'Allah.

I've been fasting for hours now and ironically, as Maghrib approaches, I feel less hungry. That will probably go away once I set foot in the market to buy my milk and dates and am tempted by isles of food. I'm only at home for two more days before my fam and I head to Boston for their week-long vacation.

But once again, Ramadan Mubarak! May we experience peace during this blessed month, may Allah (swt) have mercy on us and forgive us, both for what we know and what we don't know, and may we attain to a greater faith, greater sense of purpose and thereby greater closeness to Him as we fast this Holy month.


Monday, August 9, 2010

Weddings and Religion

As salaam alaikum,

So, I have jury duty tomorrow at 8:15am (a time where I'm usually sound asleep for another hour before I drag myself out of bed for the morning), which means I'm getting up at 7am, which means that I should be sleeping now, but these past few weeks at home have really gotten my sleep schedule off and yeah, I'm not sleepy yet. After lying in bed for 30 minutes, enough was enough and I grabbed the computer from downstairs (where our fan had turned on by itself...again!) and here I am.

A lot happened today, and my mind is racing so I don't think anything I say now will do it justice. Suffice it to say I experienced the three major Abrahamic faiths today, which is probably why my mind is swimming.

(1) My mother volunteered the entire family to go to church with my father yesterday. My father's been going to this church in Ann Arbor for the last several months and so this was our first visit as a family. My father did not tell us until the very end, though, that they make communion at the end of every service. Umm...yeah, my mother and I cannot take communion for obvious reasons. We explained that and he was shocked. He understood my mother not taking communion, but not me. He looked at me and asked me, "Don't you believe in the teachings of Christ?" I calmly began to answer about my position on Jesus (as) as a Muslim, but heh...that was not a conversation for the 20 minutes before the service was set to start, so I said I'd talk to him later. On the way to my friend's wedding, we started the conversation. It's like, the conversation that I've eluded to...oh, probably for the last five years. The whole explaining to my father how and why I'm Muslim thing. It's something that I'd dreaded, but he asked me earnestly if I was considering converting to Christianity, and I answered honestly...no.

He was disheartened, and I feel a little bit sorry because my mother thought today was worth it because she saw him excited "like a little boy" when we said we were coming to church with him...

...and if I may digress for just a little bit...after church, I couldn't say very much of anything. It wasn't because the sermon was offensive to my sensibilities (there were actually some things that were a little bit offensive to my sensibility as a Muslim, but...there are worst things people have done for the love of parents), it's just that...I feel like I'm playing monkey in the middle sometimes. With this whole going to church bit, I felt like a pawn in a game my parents are playing. Not that their game-playing...but going to church with my father did nothing but encourage him that perhaps I would accept Christianity, and open my heart to it...whereas my mother attending was simply a supportive role.

I...just didn't appreciate that, and as I rode back home in the backseat with my brother from church with my parents, I realized that...

(2) When I come home, I'm an overgrown child to my parents. My mother often makes jokes about not letting us sit out in the heat or someone will call the police on her, to which I say that's grotesque. But she's referred to us as the kids, and I realized...because of my brother's disability, my parents are probably in some ways stuck seeing me as their child in a way other parents of adults my age wouldn't. I think my relationship with my parents is stunted in a way. It's not just them--I assume that roll, too, in the extent to which I depend on my mother's emotional support for life events, and the way that I see myself in the family. I don't know--maybe having few close friends to confide certain things in and no significant other has driven this, but it's kind of a chicken-or-the-egg, Catch-22-type deal.

(3) My best friend's older sister got married today. I've known the family for the past 10-11 years, so it was exciting. It's funny...I was like, one of three black people there with hundreds of guests in attendance, and I was the only one not dating a South Asian person. Going stag to weddings is hard...I eventually found a group of Huron High grads to tag along with, and even then, they were the bride's friends and therefore a year older than me. But yeah, the Invisible Muslimah attended her first nikkah! Granted, it was an interfaith wedding...so the bride (Muslimah) and the groom (Jewish) got married twice, once in the Muslim tradition and once in the Jewish tradition (it was pretty frickin' awesome, if I may say so...), but yeah, now I know! So there was Arabic and Hebrew and mabrook and mazel tov all around... And it was really touching to see this very delicate ceremony take place, with at least the conservative Muslims representing on the brides side...no one on the groom's side looked particularly orthodox. It was touching to see the joy of the parents at their children marrying, even with the differences in culture and (more starkly) the differences in faiths. They really found each other, for sure...

(4) Summation: Duuuuuude. I just pray for guidance every day of my life, protection in every step that I make that I may stay alive long enough and tread long enough on the straight path so that I may know the truth of things one day, so that I may live in the presence of my Lord in time to discover the meaning of all of that which didn't make sense in this world. From starting to explain to my father why I'm Muslim to seeing my first nikkah with a happy couple, a happy couple like one that at times I feel like I'll never be...today was too much at once. Today had so many hours and it seemed like it'd never end, but an important thing happened today with respect to my father. The at first insurmountable is getting closer to being surmountable, and I think a lot of it has to do with the realization that I'm actually an adult and there's no reason to fear my father as I would have as a child. It's time to grow up and move on. Everyone else has. People have jobs and are getting married because they matured past the point where I am right now, or I was yesterday. Explaining this to my father is the first step to emotional independence...

Okay, now it's past midnight, and I'm still a little bit not sleepy. Oh well. I'll be cranky in the morning...

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Confessions of an Ex-Hijabi

As salaam alaikum,

Okay, so maybe it took me leaving my previous journaling community to really feel at liberty to talk about this, which has been a hard thing for me to put into words over the last three years. Here I go.

I wore hijab for less than 2 years, starting sometime during my junior year and shedding the scarf one week prior to my college graduation. However, effectively, my last two years of college were marked by my wearing the khimar. It became part of my identity, to the point that people who met me back then and haven't seen me since probably still close their eyes and see me as a hijabi. It must be weird for them to see me without the scarf.

Three years have passed now, and I've been scarf-less. It started slowly. I still dressed the same for a while, except without the scarf. That slowly changed and I went back to dressing as I had before I was a hijabi, which was never blatantly indecent, but...let's just say some days I can't just wrap a shayla about my head and call it a day.

Three years, and the whole ordeal still isn't easy. I mean, it's easy to wake up every day and blend in with your surroundings. I may not be wearing short pants and skirts like the women around me, but with my short sleeves, sometimes daring to be spaghetti string tops and my jeans, skirts and dresses, I'm pretty inconspicuous.

But this is not what I was going for when I shed the scarf. Not at all. When I see Muslim sisters on the street, in hijab and niqab and everything in between, I have the desire to greet them. I feel like there's nothing like a smile and a friendly as salaam alaikum when everyone's been staring at you, twisting their mouths in pity, curiosity or disgust, avoiding eye contact with you, looking the other way abruptly. I remember how good it felt, as a new hijabi, to smile at sisters on campus and exchange salaams with women I didn't even know because we had that sisterhood going. That was one of the parts I loved about being a hijabi.

But now, I feel like I'm just one of those people who's looking away abruptly. I look away out of guilt, because here I am, baring my arms and some of my legs, and here she is, with her pastel or black khimar, sometimes in jilbab, bearing the heat in favor of her modesty as I once did. Before I even had a lot of long-sleeved shirts appropriate for the weather, I used to even brave 80 degree weather my trusty jean jacket. I was once there, I was once one of them, ignoring stares and the averting eyes to go about my way.

I wonder how many other women passed me by, desired to greet me, to show solidarity, but shied away for the same guilt I feel every time I smile at a fellow Muslim sister. Maybe not a lot, but I wonder.

My mother starts a little every time I tell her that I think about wearing the hijab again every day. It's not a lie; I do think about it every day, but every day for three years I've come to the same conclusion: not today, and maybe not tomorrow. I figure I have six years to sort it out. Not that I'm limiting myself to that time period, but that's when my passport expires.

I'm wearing a beige khimar in my passport picture.

Admittedly, even though I thought long and hard about hijab long before I wore my sleeping scarf out to class one day, never looking back, that day I decided--it was clearly a rash decision. Just because a friend of mine (a non-Muslim friend of mine) thought I'd started wearing hijab when I actually hadn't, and was excited to see me start, I decided that the next day would be the day. That was my tomorrow. I lived alone at the time, in a single room in the dorm, and I decided to go for it.

Terrified at the implications and a little bit wary because of my mother's freak out reaction to my decision, I sought counsel with a sister that I knew and respected from the MSA who gave me some support. With her support, I traveled to the Dominican Republic a few months later, my first time traveling outside of the country, and traveling as a hijabi.

That experience blew my mind, and though I didn't feel like I could do it, I returned as a hijabi, but after feeling as if I had violated proper Muslimah etiquette on the regular in the DR. From dance parties held at my neighbor's home to constantly being surrounded by alcohol, being the only Muslimah on the island, seemingly, was less than ideal.

I struggled with hijab from then on out. I never got up the courage to tell my father I was wearing the scarf or what it meant, and this was ultimately the reason that I stopped wearing the scarf altogether. I felt that it was disrespectful to not let my father into this part of my life and even after letting him in on it, I felt like it was an affront to his sensibilities, his identity as an Igbo (and therefore, Christian) Nigerian man, and unnecessary. I felt like it was unnecessary to wear a symbol that would be a constant reminder for him of my choice, my religion, making him embarrassed to present me before friends, fellow Nigerians who would then ask why I hadn't embraced Christianity.

So I stopped a week before graduation so he wouldn't have to see me there, with my shayla beneath my cap, forever documented in pictures as the hijabi.

Believe it or not, I had somehow hid the fact that I wore hijab from my father for almost two years. Even today, we've never discussed it. Looking back now, I still could have pulled it off. I could have worn my hair in a modified headwrap like I'd done many times before, but in the end, it's all okay. I was done keeping things from my father, and I haven't really kept anything from him since.

We haven't discussed my religion, though, either, except for his discussions of Christianity with me.

And that's the long and the short of it. I mean, I can't front like my relationship with my father was the only reason I gave up hijab. There was also the fact that I didn't feel comfortable interacting with patients because of it. I used to volunteer at Mott Children's Hospital at UMich, and after I started wearing the scarf, I felt especially defensive around the patients' parents, feeling like maybe some of them were judging me or maybe didn't want to interact with me because I was now visibly Muslim. And while I was aware, as an obviously black woman, that some patients may have felt uncomfortable with my presence, I was not used to being judged because of being Muslim.

So many people assumed I was Arab, it was crazy! My race, and therefore a large part of how I identify and know my own self, disappeared to others when I put on the hijab, and I wasn't prepared for that, and I wasn't ready for that.

I stopped wearing hijab before medical school as well because I can smoothly operate dealing with patients and others who may or may not make assumptions about me because of race. I'm not that smooth when it comes to being a visible Muslimah.

For example, if my patients talk about God with me, they feel comfortable because they assume I'm Christian or "Christianoid," as most people in this country are. Little do they know, I'm actually Muslim, and little do they know, most all of what they say about God and prayer I can agree with, as being part of the same monotheistic tradition as they are. That connection is made right there. A patient may not open up to me on that level if I'm donning a khimar.

One of my classmates is a hijabi. She did coursework at a hospital where there were primarily older Jewish patients her second year, and though she expected to be met much resistance from patients there, I witnessed as several of the patients referred to her with pet names, hugged her (the women, of course) and it became apparent that she was able to make the connection.

She's been a hijabi since she was 13. She's used to being mistaken as Arab, this is part of her for a long time. I didn't get used to it in time for medical school. So I just stopped.

[Clarification: When I talk about being mistaken as Arab, it's not because "Oh my gosh, like, that's the worst race to be mistaken to be!" Those who read me know better than that. I'm talking about being used to being identified as one race and being mistaken as another. Race is a social construct anyway, but when you're used to people relegating you to one social box, it feels alien when suddenly you are relegated to a different box. It also makes it awkward when folks start speaking Arabic and you don't know anything outside of salat and those few surat you've memorized. Carry on.]

This has been a lot of confessions. A lot of talking, but no solutions. So what am I going to do? Allah (swt) knows that I have a long way to go before I'm close to being the type of Muslimah I want to be, and while the way I dress is definitely part of the package, right now it's not the most important thing. A lot of it depends on where I'm headed. Am I going to move somewhere where there's a tight-knit community of Muslims who will embrace me where I'll feel at ease being the Muslim I've always wanted to be, where I'll have support that I've never before had? Who will I marry? What is my family medicine practice going to be like? These are all determinants.

What's my dream? My dream is to move somewhere where I can be part of a small but active Muslim community that is accepted by the larger community. I want to be an active member of the small community and the community at large, serving as a physician for both, promoting the health of Muslims and non-Muslims alike. I would want to end up with a man who would support me whether I wore khimar or not and respected it as my personal choice. I would want to end up in a diverse community where I can treat patients of many different ethnic and religious backgrounds.

I'm not saying that I want to go to a place where prejudice doesn't exist. No. I can't say that all of my patients fully trusted me every time I walked into their room as a black female medical student. People are going to be prejudiced, racist, whatever. However, even those harboring such feelings could not deny my compassion toward them, my hard work, my respect for them, any of the other qualities that insha'Allah will make me a good physician. And I hope to build my practice off of that, my God-given talents and the good reputation that I'll build from my work.

...so maybe then it won't matter if patients see me first and think I'm a black woman or a Muslim woman or whatever else.

I have to be comfortable with it, though, and I think I'd need a supportive community wherever I go.

I guess I haven't ever said why it was that I started hijab in the first place, why it is that I want to go back. Obviously (or maybe not so obviously) it's not just because I want the chance to say salaam to other covering sisters. It's not even because it's obligatory, really. It's because...it made sense to me, and I liked myself the best, I think, when I wore it. I've never been a good Muslimah, in my estimation. Something's always lacking, from proper salat to proper modesty, like, very basic, big things. There were things lacking when I was a hijabi. I feel like hijab probably took energy out of other spiritual pursuits that I had. But--once I got the hang of hijab, that was the version of myself that I liked the best.

I had more sense of purpose, my actions and decisions I made were more deliberate--and my mode of dress made it easier for me to socialize with people I wanted to be around. It made sense for me especially in terms of the type of man I'd want to end up with--a serious Muslim man who wouldn't expect sex before marriage like many of the non-Muslim men I've encountered in...life.

My motives are tainted, I must admit. It's like, how else will a woman like me marry a Muslim man? I'm not visibly Muslim...how will he even know if I'm here with my arms bared, legs partially out, looking like a "regular" black female?

But maybe this isn't reason enough, or at least not the right reason...for such a big decision.

Will I ever wear hijab again? Not today, and maybe not tomorrow. That's all I can say. Insha'Allah is even better.


Monday, August 2, 2010

[uncensored]: A Rose Much Desired - Excerpt

As salaam alaikum,

I haven't done this for a while, but I'm going to share an excerpt from this story I'm writing, A Rose Much Desired. This is an excerpt from the "Agent" narration, in the first half of the story (around page 87 of what is now a 198-page manuscript).

The "Agent" narration tells the story of Mo, a 23-year-old college grad and medical school hopeful who is going through a bit of a crisis as he has not yet been accepted to medical school in March and he experiences pressure from family to become the man they want him to be. Despondent and alone, he still lives on the college campus and is left behind by many of his friends who are now on spring break. One day after work, he wanders over to a separate campus to visit an old college friend of his who is currently a senior. He hasn't spoken to this friend really since she became a more practicing Muslimah and too conservative for his taste. This friend is Nisreen, a 21-year-old premed student who has already been accepted to medical school. Though at first he regrets that he's visited this sister, he eventually confides in her and ends up spending a lot of time at her place, seeking her counsel and getting to know her, again...

This chapter is called, "The First."


     Nisreen sits across from Mo and he tries not to furrow his eyebrows but he feels like he is anyway. He wipes his eyes and instantly he’s disgusted with himself. He’s disgusted with himself but he feels as if his world is crashing down on him, as if he’s downward spiraling it, out of control. He stares around her living room. It’s one of those deceptively sunny days outside, deceptive because it must still be cold outside. It must, because Nisreen’s basement apartment always runs cold and today her heat’s struggling to keep the room above 65 degrees. But it’s deceptively sunny and he can see dust on top of her television, and the picture on the screen is washed out. It’s muted, and all the same, he feels like shit. Like shit because he was dealt another rejection from a school, this one online. Who knows if he had others waiting for him in his mailbox at his place. Who knows, no one knows, because no one was there, because he wasn’t there, he’s here. Shit.
     He’s felt this way before, and he knows what happened, but Nisreen is a sweet girl, and he doesn’t want the same thing to happen to her. But she’s here, and she’s listening, and she’s patient and her voice has this light cadence and he’s feeling so badly right now. He’ll see what happens, but he won’t push it.
     She’s started hugging him these days, but it still feels awkward to Mo. He can tell that she’s not used to hugging men, as may be expected from a non-married hijabi. But right now she’s sitting across from him, at her office chair, he’s on her sofa, sobbing quietly and she’s probably waiting for what he’ll say next.
     Mo shakes his head. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t be bothering you about this. I mean, you’re here, trying to write your paper, and here I am every day complaining and whining and crying to you. I should just do campus counseling or something.”
     Nisreen waves her hand at him. “Don’t worry about me. I’m glad to help in any way I can, really.” Okay, here she comes, Mo thinks. She walks forward, swings her legs around the coffee table and joins him on the sofa, clasping his hand in hers. That’s another thing she’s started doing, but without as much hesitance as the hugs. She’ll hold his hand, only briefly, though. She places his hand back on his thigh. “Besides, I’ve been to those counselors before, and they approach everything through a secular perspective. I mean, I talked to them about praying and not going to parties and having faith in God and all of this stuff and they treat it as a psychopathology or something.” Mo grins, because he knows this tone of voice by now. Nisreen is about to go into one of her rants, and he watches her as she purses her lips and her eyes open bright and wild. He’s ready.
     “I mean, if my dependence on God in my life and my submitting to a Being that’s outside of human perception makes me crazy, then so be it, right? As long as I’m not a danger to myself or anyone else, I can’t be committed.” She holds up her right hand, her eyes toward the ceiling. “Let my state be the pathology, let my belief in God be my therapy.” She’s bobbing her head now, “Let them try to diagnose people like us with all sorts of disorders, and if it weren’t for our belief in God we’d be totally buried in it, knee deep in it. They’re just waiting, huh? Waiting for that one day that undoubtedly, to them at least, our beliefs will falter and we’ll hit rock bottom and then they’ll be ready with all of these meds and then it’ll be like, don’t let the door hit you on the way out.”
      Mo’s laughing now, and she stops, eyes still blazing, and glares at him. He watches a slow smile creep up on her face, before she shakes her head and looks towards the television, still muted, before returning to face him. “Oh man, I went off again, didn’t I?”
     “That’s cool. I like it when you go off like that.” Mo says this on purpose, trying to get a rise out of her. He watches Nisreen’s face to see if she would react. Nothing.
     “But you know what I’m saying, Mahmud? Don’t worry about counselors. People like you and me, Muslims like you and me, we’re in a funny place. We can’t get advice from regular counselors because they’re too worldly, and we can’t get advice from imams or shaykhs or anything like that because we’re afraid they’ll tell us that our entire world is haram or something.” They’d discussed this once before, but Mo lives being surprised at how liberal Nisreen is sometimes. It almost seemed contradictory. She wears her hijab religiously but is noncommittal about whether or not she feels it’s obligatory. She prays all five times a day without fail but shies away from the masjid. A few days ago, had she tried to say that she and Mo were alike in any way, he would have emphatically disagreed. To him back then, they were only alike maybe in terms of their love of hip hop, and even then, she was more R&B. But in these hours, days, whatever, talking with her, Mo can see that they do line up in certain ways, kind of fit together. And he feels it, too, even without having to speak about it. He feels it now.
     Mo isn’t saying anything because he’s thinking. Muslims like you and me. Nisreen must be taking his silence for sadness or something, because she’s leaning forward to hug him now. This one feels more natural, and Mo accepts the embrace. He feels her fingers on his back, the fabric of her scarf is smooth against his cheek. Then he slips. He kisses her on the forehead. He let himself go he wanted it and he kissed her on the forehead. He expects a reaction. His shoulders tense, waiting to see what she does next because they’ve just crossed a new line. First the hand touching then the holding and now he just kissed her, smack, on her forehead. He feels it. He knows when she’s uncomfortable, he knows when females are uncomfortable and he knows when to stop, he knows his limits, but he doesn’t feel it now. He keeps holding her as if he expects to sense her discomfort eventually but he doesn’t. He relaxes, his shoulders slump. He just kissed Nisreen on the forehead. He’s waiting, wondering, not knowing at all what this girl’s going to say.
     She releases herself from the embrace and rubs him on the shoulder, smiling. “It’s going to be okay. It’s just one school. Insha’Allah, everything’s going to work out fine, I just know it. And you’ll be back, and you can get back, and…insha’Allah.” And that was it. And that was enough.
     [Italics signify when another narration intrudes...this one is "Desirée"] She likes that. He sings that he’s going to make a smile down inside her, and she wonders how. She’s in love with that one note in the progression, like a turning point with the bass that happens three times, and she doesn’t know what it’s called, and Mo wonders while he listens to her, who taught you, Desirée? Who taught you to be alluring, who taught you to love, who taught you to be? It’s so natural but unnatural at the same time. He wonders how she even exists. He feels like he’s only approximating her. How can I approach you? Can I call you Love, can I call you Beauty, can I call you something, because I feel like you’re so much more than your name can encompass.

Dun dun DUN!
Soon, I'll actually finish this thing so I can have people read it and tell me how predictable it is or not. I can't wait to see!
Nothing new going on otherwise. I need to get my tetanus booster so I can register for classes with the school of public health, but that's about it.
Let me know what you think!

Sunday, August 1, 2010


As salaam alaikum,

My dream world is such an interesting place. Right before I woke up, I had a couple of dreams. I remember this one that was a combination of Glee and Peter Pan, except Peter Pan was played by that guy from Napoleon Dynamite. In the dream, there was Puck, Santana, Quinn and Finn were mentioned...and Napoleon Pan, or something. This other kid was not normally cool, but he had a nice car that Puck tried to pretend was his.

Haha, I don't know why I had a Glee dream. It's not like I've looked at it in a while.

Then, immediately before I woke up, after I fell asleep hearing the garage door open and close, I had a dream that I went downstairs in the morning and my brother asked for breakfast, that he was hungry. I went in to make him pop tarts, but for some reason, I couldn't make them for him, some reason in the dream that didn't make sense. Then, later on in the day, I was sitting at the table after another dream had realized itself (don't remember that one) and my mother was in the kitchen, loading the dishwasher, and asked me to help. At first, I was disrespectful, saying I was tired. Then, I realized the audacity of my ways, and I got up to help her put on some vegetables for dinner. There was no more broccoli chopped, so I did that. I cleaned off the chopping board but it was stained with tomato stew and oil and hard to clean.

I woke up, brushed my teeth (this is real life now, by the way), and came down the stairs because it was past 9:30am and I knew my brother may be down here alone, something that is not preferred by my parents, even though he doesn't have a lot of seizures anymore. Sure enough, he was sitting at the computer, alone. I asked him where our mother was, and he told me that she'd gone to the store because there were no more pop tarts.

I hear the dishwasher going in the kitchen...

It's really funny that I just dreamed that I couldn't make him a pop tarts breakfast and that my mother was loading the dishwasher. It's almost like part of my awareness was downstairs at that moment.

No real significance, just thought it was kind of funny.


{Currently Listening: Dreamer - Bobby Bland}