Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Tired 2010 Retrospective

As salaam alaikum,

For the first time in years, I don't feel like doing a huge retrospective entry of the year. I started out going through my journals from January-May and realized that, besides deciding that I must deliver babies, that surgery is not for me, and that family medicine was my new love of life. In May, after book club one day, I had a premonition that I'd end up with B, and then, months later, it came to pass. I started public health school, and at present am slightly more confused about my career than I had been in the past. I had one of the best Ramadans ever, since I wasn't in the midst of a tiring rotation. I finished RMD and gave it to close friends and family to read...and that's in process right now.

And that was my 2010. My January through April were pretty deplorable because of surgery, May was cool because of family medicine, public health school has been an opportunity for me to center myself, and B...well, that's a work in progress.

It's so much of a work in progress that it doesn't feel right to do a retrospective of the year yet. What's before me is probably the biggest thing to happen yet in my life, and I'm trying to sort through it all. Your du'as are appreciated.

But I look forward to the new year...this new artificial demarcation in my life that, just now, feels more artificial than ever, to see what will come of it all.

Prayerfully, I move, life just got a little scary again!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Ready for Marraige?

As salaam alaikum,

I'm just browsing over Altmuslimah, and I found an article that was interesting to me that was brief, by far not a complete guide for Muslims finding more about future spouses, but it is important information that I definitely will use in my own personal endeavors...

Are We Ready for Marriage?

The two most important things that they mention are communicating about life goals and personal values. Yes please! Very important...

But this is a useful article, and very true. I'm going to use this for, you know, future reference...

Thursday, December 23, 2010

If Only You Knew

As salaam alaikum,

Unrequited a heavy thing. Maybe with years and more distance from that experience, I will forget how it felt, but with certain words and with certain music, certain memories...I can close my eyes and remember exactly how it felt. Like this song. If I close my eyes, I'm right back there...

And then I open my eyes, and it's all better. :)

But still, I hear this song, and I of the heaviest emotions I've ever felt is loving someone, hoping though knowing that they'll never feel the same about you.

It was a strong emotion, it inspired a lot in me, but I hope to never feel it, ever again.

Monday, December 20, 2010

O, Black Women!

As salaam alaikum,

One of my old Xanga friends posted this article on facebook, and I had to respond to it...and I did, but a comment box on facebook readable by others in their newsfeed means that I couldn't give the topic justice as I'd wanted to. So okay, I'm going to do that here.

It's been a while since I've been inspired to write anything at length, right? So here it goes.

O, Black Women! Long suffering, long misunderstood black women. Hello. I am one of you, and I love us. I wake up every day glad that Allah (swt) put me in this body. I am grateful, and since I was six years old and realized for the first time what it meant to be black in America, I have had unwavering pride in the beauty that Allah (swt) has bestowed unto His people, us, men and women. My hair was straightened before I could come to hate my hair, before I knew that I loved my hair, and now it's back, it's mine, and I love it. I love the brown of my skin, how it changes with the seasons from caramel to bronze.

My intended is dark chocolate, and I love the contrast.

I love everything about me, from the blunt of my nose, the kink of my hair, the brown of my eye and the high of my cheekbones. In my face, I see my mother, descendants of those who were taken from their homes, and all of the Nigerian women that I'll never meet but who I look to, in old pictures of pictures taken from home, looking into their eyes, straining to see a reflection of myself. I am African American and I'm Nigerian. I love my tough nails and thick skin. I love my wide feet and prominent arches. I get my body from that side of my family.

I love it, but let me tell you something that I don't love. I don't love imagining myself to be a victim.

Some of us are, but so many times we don't have to be. Victims.

I'm not a victim of anything. I came up in a house of plenty, with so many opportunities at my feet, a mobile family that had the power to move out of a neighborhood for a better one, with better schools. If my parents before me hadn't I certainly have arrived. I am not in want of anything.

But I could imagine myself the victim. I could imagine myself a victim of the country run by the rules of "forefathers" who were content enslaving my forebearers. I could imagine myself the victim of the legacy of Jim Crow, of the failings of the Civil Rights movement because it was not adopted by the next generation. I could imagine myself the victim of a culture of violence against black women, from within and from the outside.

My own mother told me that black women were the least desired women on the planet. In the world, she means. And for a little while I believed that.

But if I may quote Bruce Hornsby, "Don't you believe that."

So I no longer believe that.

Black women are actually not the least desired of women on the planet, and I don't need an article to tell me that my ethnic group, Igbo women, were the most desired women by slave masters, to tell me that. I don't need the fact that my white male classmates in high school liked to watch BET music videos to see the black women to tell me that. I don't need to hear black men and non-black men alike rave about the beauty of Beyonce to tell me that.

I don't need to be loved by someone in defiance of their family and their cultural mores and what their society in general believes about black tell me that.

We may be relegated to certain stereotypical roles in mainstream society, we may see the faces of lighter skinned women with straight hair and other features than our own on television, magazines, movies, lauded everywhere, and not us...but my mother taught me years ago how to navigate the entertainment industry and advertising before the term "media literacy" was coined.

And that, black women, is what we need to do for ourselves so that we're sure we can do that for our daughters.

The ideal woman in the eyes of Western mainstream culture may not look like me. I don't care! And as much as I love it, my intended didn't have to love me being a black woman for me to love me being a black woman.

As a Muslim, I can't be bothered with a lot of what Western mainstream culture thinks about women, because it relegates us to less than what Allah (swt) made us to be. And the West is not unique in this relegation, lest you get it twisted!

But sisters in ethnicity, sisters in Islam, sisters in belief in God, sisters in the struggle of life...we are beautiful, we are desirable, we are desired by so many who do not have the courage to step out of cultural confines to be with us. It shouldn't matter, but to many of us, it does.

But sisters, o dear sisters. Let's be good to ourselves first before we expect a man of any ethnicity to be good to us. This is not making ourselves good for them. No. It's making us good for ourselves. Not only physically, but emotionally.

If you knew that next month, you would meet the man of your dreams, how would you want to look? What would you want to fix and what would you want to have in order? And then think--you want to do all of this for a stranger that you've never met and may not know that he exists. Why can't you do that for yourself?

O, Black Women! Some of us are victims, yes, victims of circumstance, victims of poverty, victims of an unforgiving society, culture, relegating us to a place before we can even begin to understand our organic state and why we should love ourselves. Some of us know nothing different. But many of us who have voices because we have that agency...can also choose not to be victims.

And those of us who are no longer victims can then take the rest of our agency and do things to help our daughters, or if we're not that old, our little sisters...sisters in ethnicity, sisters in God-fearing, sisters in the struggle that is this life...

That, after all, is the meaning of life as I understand it: helping each other live and navigate this life, in health and security. Whether we believe in God or not we're here, whether we believe there's meaning or not, we're here. I see no better way to spend my time than actually helping others instead of just absently giving lip service to movements whose underlying meaning I'm not privy to.

So, insha'Allah, forward I go.

O, black women, sisters, let me know if there's anything I can do for you. If it's all right, for me, it starts with prayer.


Sunday, December 19, 2010

Samba de Orly

As salaam alaikum,

So, I haven't been posting nearly as much. It's not just B, but otherwise, life has been busy. I had finals this week which weren't difficult but did take up an appreciable amount of time. I have a few ideas for entries in the future, but for now, I'll leave you what has become the theme for the end of this semester of my public health program. It's Chico Buarque and Toquinho's "Samba de Orly."

I'm back at my grandparents house right now watching "I Am Legend."

Monday, December 13, 2010

One More Night

As salaam alaikum,

So, it's finals week. I don't have very much to say, other than I'll be glad when it's over and I'm back at home with my folks. Other than that, life is going, and I want to feel like it's going in the right direction. Insha'Allah...

I'll give you a late late excerpt from RMD, and edit out the parts that will give stuff away. I really wish my mother would start reading it so I could give it to other people...I'll give a copy to B after he's done entering grades.

So here we go. This is from the second to last chapter:

      “You’re here for your jacket, aren’t you?” Mo’s standing at the door to Nisreen’s apartment, and she hasn’t let him in yet. She must have expected him. Who else would come ringing her doorbell at one am, he figured. Mo had forgotten all about his missing jacket. He did just walk over here, and the night wasn’t quite as warm as the day had been, but he stuffed his hands into his pockets and it was okay. She’s peaking at him from her partially opened door. She’s gone back to locking it with the chain, so she can’t open it all the way.
      “I can come in, can’t I, Nisreen?” She sighs. She closes the door in his face, and he hears her as she undoes the chain. The door opens, and he can’t see her. She must be standing behind the door. It’s been a couple of weeks or something, but he expects to experience the familiar sights and smells of Nisreen’s place. But he doesn’t. As she closes the door behind him, he sees that the sofa, television and television stand are gone. The kitchen is empty and sterile-looking. The chairs are stacked on her dining room table, and there are boxes in the middle of the floor. He’d forgotten that she’s graduating next weekend, and she’s moving out of her apartment for the summer.
“The person who moved out of here before me let me keep the dining room table. If you want it, you can have it.” She walks into her bedroom and closes the door. Her posters are gone. Her Mickey Mouse lamp and the coffee table are gone. Instead, the overhead fluorescent lamp is on, making the room look stark and naked. This is no longer Nisreen’s apartment. She emerges from her bedroom after having turned down whatever music she had playing, something sentimental as always, and comes back with his spring jacket. She extends her arm to hand it to him, standing feet away from him. Mo understands. She wants him to take it and leave. He grabs the jacket, and puts it on. He won’t stay long, he convinces himself.

Friday, December 10, 2010


As salaam alaikum,

Since the advent of B, I haven't been writing as much on here. It's weird. Between being in a relationship (though oddly so) and being done with RMD, there's not a lot for me to talk about anymore. Admittedly, a whole lot of the reason why I felt like I needed to have a blog was because of the angst that I felt being a black American Muslimah, the realization of the near impossibility of marriage for me, and the difficulty in finding a place to identify.

None of these dilemmas have gone away. I'm still a black American Muslimah, the issue of marriage is a tough one, and I don't exactly fit anywhere because of how I identify.

It's just that I've gone angstless.

It's like going wireless, but no, I've gone agnstless.

I have what I've always wanted, essentially. I'm in a relationship with a man who believes in one God. A path for my future is opening up for me, slowly. I have challenges in front of me in terms of how this is all going to work out, but they're essentially the challenges that I've been waiting for, with bated breath, my entire adulthood. Yes, that's only 7 years worth of waiting, but 7 years is a long time when you're living them, a long time when you see people meet and marry in 5 of those years and less and you're still in the same place.

But here I am. A lot of what I write here is me reacting to being a Muslim at the fringes, a Muslimah at the margins, with no defined pathway. I felt like I was ambling through life. I moved to Boston for medical school on a whim, because I liked my classmates. My next plan was to move to the Bay Area to experience the Muslim community there as a resident, hopefully to find someone to marry.

That's still possible. I could find myself there in a year and a half's time. That's a long time. I still can't know for sure. But at least for now, I have another path to take, my own decisions to take, my own lines to draw and my own rules to script.

No, these aren't Mickey Mouse decisions. You know the straight way we pray to follow so much every day? I feel like that straight way is a three lane expressway, and I'm kicking up dust in the shoulder right now.

I've always been at the fringes, like, right-laning it, slowing around as people speed past me, but now I'm precariously at the edge, passing on the right, speeding toward the goal that I've always wanted, marriage. I'm on the shoulder, trying to keep on the straight path without taking too much of an detour or alternative path to get to the same ends so that Allah (swt) will still be pleased with me, recognizing that I could mess up and end up nose-first in the ditch.

I'm kicking up dirt, but I go prayerfully forward.

It could be that if I trust Allah (swt) more and patiently preserved and turned even B away, something even better could have been out there for me.

But I feel like I'm trusting God right now in what I'm doing...I can't explain it (though I've obviously tried to for the last few entries). I don't think I'm deluding myself...

It'd only be the third time.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Sitting on It

As salaam alaikum,

So, for something a little different from what I've been talking about for the past few entries, I guess...A Rose Much Desired is done with the editing phase and on to the peer/family edits and marketing phase. My friend knows a publisher and asked me to send him a synopsis. Thinking a synopsis should be on the order of 3-4 paragraphs, I looked it up online and planned to send it to him later that day. week later, I'm still trying to write a good synopsis. There's a way I could write a synopsis that's really boring. And what of my twist! I have to write that in there in a way that doesn't make it fall flat.

So, that and granted it's finals week this week and I need to work on a couple of projects and papers, I'm going to sit on RMD for a little bit longer.

And if it never gets published? I'm fine. I've written an entire novel. If it doesn't get published, I'll find a private publisher, do my own binding, and it'll sit on a shelf. Insha'Allah my kids will read it and understand a little bit about where I'm coming from in life because I put little bits of me all through that text.

I always give excerpts from before page 130, when the twist happens. Here's something after...shorter, so I don't give stuff away. Nisreen just excused herself from her friends, one of whom yelled at Mo pretty badly:

Mo looks back down to Nisreen, who seems to have been waiting for him to make eye contact just to look away. They’re standing close, but there’s no hand holding like he feels there should be. She has her arms crossed. “Sorry about that.”
“What did you tell them?” he blurts, not meaning to, though.
She narrows her eyes. “The truth,” she replies, flatly. “What do you want, Mahmud?”
Mahmud. That’s better. He smiles at her, and her face drops a little, like she’s confused. “Hi, Nisreen.”
Her eyes widen. “Hi,” she almost whispers, bringing her right hand up to her chest like she wanted to wave but thought against it. Mo feels like it’s right so he leans in, but she dodges him and walks a few paces beyond him on the sidewalk. Mo feels like she finds comfort in this dramatic distance so he lets it be for a while before he turns and walks so that he’s just behind her. “Is that all? ‘Cause I can go back to my friends now.”
“Of course that’s not all.” Mo turns so that they’re facing each other again, but she’s looking down at her feet. “Dude, I haven’t seen you in so long, and I haven’t been able to talk to you on the phone—”
“What’s a break, Mahmud?”
“—and I’m not supposed to think about you, but you know how hard that is,

Nisreen?” And it has been hard.

But why has it been hard? Taking a break from what? The suspense...not for me, because I've edited this so many times...

This is like, page 233/280. Muahahaha!


Friday, December 3, 2010

[uncensored]: For the Longest Time

As salaam alaikum,

{Currently listening: For the Longest Time - Billy Joel}

I've always heard this song, and wondered what it was. I knew it wasn't actually made in the 60s for some reason, but it's a pretty good reproduction of the sound...although I think some key musical elements that were prevalent during that time period are left out, which made it seem not as authentic. Billy Joel's phrasing also isn't the greatest, but hey, neither is mine, and I like my own singing.

So a while ago, because of my knew relationship, I had said that music didn't sound the same. It's interesting--it doesn't, and it's still morphing. I went through a period of apprehension where no music sounded good, a period of doubt and fear where I would not listen to music, and then, last night, I felt compelled to listen to Love's Train by ConFunkShun, one of my old favorites.

And then I remembered. Back sophomore year of college in the heyday of MQ, I heard this song and felt it was how I felt about him. "Warm night, can't sleep / too hurt, too weak / gotta call him up. Dial that number / no one answers 'til 2 o'clock. And if by chance, you'll let me come over / out on the street, I wanna see you, baby..." And there I'd be, wistfully before the dorm where I knew he lived, wishing I hadn't declined his invitation to visit him at his room for my propriety because, what, I was only just now becoming Muslim, anyway, it shouldn't have been that important for me...

...and then I heard it again last night, and I had to struggle for that memory. I now identified the song with how I felt now...well, heh, except for the fact that the song is, on the low, about a booty call and yeah, nobody's booty calling...

And I realize, oh my gosh...I didn't think I could feel this way about anyone else.

I listen to love songs now and it's different. It's not a wistfulness, it's not a distant admiration of the beauty of a form, it's...this is happening, this is how I imagined it would be, but now I feel it, and while brain and gut has foresight, heart has no foresight into sensation.

I hate to sound smarmy right now, but...I feel more human than I ever have.

This is not to say that not having had mutual love makes you less human, no. This is just me. For me, I've always felt left out a little bit in not having felt this what so many others have. I am coming to empathize with an entire realm of human experience that I've never had access to. It was like going to Brazil and loving the culture and being able to speak Portuguese but not being Brazilian. Entering into this is like...getting my Brazilian citizenship. It may not be the greatest place to be or the most morally right place to be, but a lot of people attest to it, love it, salute it, wave a flag to it...swear by it, curse it, write song after song about it...

This morning, I sent B an email with Deve Ser by Jorge Vercillo. I didn't send him the translation (which I actually posted here), because if I did, man, it's pretty much what I feel right now, and I've never been that frank with anyone.

I've never told anyone that I loved them. I think I whispered it to one of my cousins when they were a baby once...but my parents, no. Not because I'm a cold bitch or anything, but because...we just don't do that. Each of my parents have probably told me once mother maybe twice, maybe the second time she wrinkled her nose and made a gagging sound in disgust. Not that we don't love each other. I mean, no. My mother is my best friend. I love my family more than anyone on this earth, anything. But when I go home, I sit at my mother's feet as she eats. I call my father all sorts of alternate father pet names, from Daddy to Dadi, from papá to papai, and I want to be everything he wants me to be, even though I can't be, just to make him happy. My brother is my life when I'm really quiet and I realize myself.

I love them, but I've never said that to anyone, so I'm not sure when to do it...I'm Not in Love, but I realize that someday soon I'll be there, and'll be crazy to say it.

Muslims, my dear Muslim friends, don't think I'm abandoning the deen, that I'm disbelieving in God, because B isn't Muslim. Because of my background and my love for my father, I have to take an alternative road. I'm not saying that I won't marry Muslim, but I'm also not saying that I won't marry B, because insha'Allah (and yes, I feel okay invoking God's name), yes, that's where I'm going. That's all I'm saying. I'm going forth prayerfully.

But anyway, I'm curious if other music sounds different. Other songs that used to remind me of MQ, other songs that I used to listen to and wonder if I'd ever feel that way. The big one was Overjoyed by Stevie Wonder. It was my theme for unrequited love. Now, now...I don't know. It feels like the reprise. I think the song meant so much to me at the time, it's always going to be colored by that experience. To associate it with B would make it feel...recycled, unauthentic. That song is so 2004 for me.

I think there are a lot of songs in my repertoire that were unrequited love songs...the thing is, songs that aren't are sounding different to me...but very specifically to the stage I am right now.

Songs and poetry are very worldly things, yes, but I guess I always loved it because it helped me share in human experience, helped me love my fellow human being and love for him or her what I love for know, and actually feel it, and not just because I'm supposed to.

I love that I'm going through a series of feelings that so many others have felt before--culturally specific feelings, yes, mixed up in carnality? Certainly. Therefore haram. Depending on the context, yes, but no less human. We all self-regulate as we will, but there's something about realizing the humanity of what you're feeling, connecting with that common human experience...which gives you the agency to draw your own thresholds.

You feel this, this is beautiful, because you're human, and Allah (swt) created you. But as a human, He commands you, what you should and should not do, because of this, your nature, that He well knows, that He well created.

Like my mother said, lighting a fire outside of the hearth. Like Earth Wind and Fire sang, Reasons.

I'm just blabbing now and suddenly not feeling as sentimental. It might be PMS, actually. I'll leave it with this. A few weeks before B happened, I thought of this song, Nega Música by Itamar Assumpção, and I thought about how I was like, one day, this will be true for's written about a woman, so I'll change the gender. "When you least expect it, [he]'ll arrive doing with your heart what [he] does well. And [he]'ll come loving you without fear... When you least expect it, [he]'ll touch the depths of your heart, just as a [man] can. And [he]'ll come loving you without fear..."

Não, não, não, não, não...