Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Not for Muslims

As salaam alaikum,

I was walking with my friend, talking about my recent woes, and I said this, and I think this was the theme of the day:

"It's not because of Muslims that I am Muslim. I'm Muslim because of Islam. If it were just for Muslims, I wouldn't be Muslim."

If I seek the pleasure of anyone, it is the pleasure of Allah (swt), because different from everyone, even my parents, He wants the absolute best for me and knows the absolute best for me, through my entire existence, this one and the next.

The truth is, I'm tired of explaining myself to Muslims...why I don't have a Muslim name, why I'm Igbo and Muslim, why I'm black and Muslim and not a revert, and still not being accepted sometimes. Don't get me wrong, I love my brothers and sisters. I have found a community in my medical school where I have been accepted as I was, like, straight up, as I am, and I love them for it. But this experience has not been universal. So I'll stop griping about it. People are people, and I will continue to be amazed with the amazing people in my life, those who call themselves Muslim and those who do not, cherish these people in my life and not complain in want of others who are not in my life.

I have a wonderful, interfaith family and wonderful friends of all faiths who accept me as I am, more than maybe I've accepted myself for a while. I will not waste my time lamenting the want of a community or the want of a companion in life because I have great family and friends who fill most of the gaps in my life.

I mean, I do have an ideal reality that I'd like to live as a Muslimah. As a Muslimah at this point in my life, I once wanted to have a community. I desired to wear khimar, and I hoped that I could soon be married. Community and marriage didn't happen, so for years now I've been struggling to find that ideal. Not saying that these two things never will happen...just not right now.

And I actually am going back to being a medical student today, so I don't have a ton of time to write about my alternative ideal existence as a Muslimah, what I'm going to be striving for over the next few days, few months, few years...and I actually started writing this thing days ago and haven't gotten a chance to finish it. And there is now a roach in my room and I'm just like aaaaahhhhh...so I'll finish later.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

May May May

As salaam alaikum,

The month of May has been so frickin' long! Oh my gosh!

I mean, alhamdulillah, for me it's been full of blessings...seeing so many of my wonderful friends get married and celebrating the marriage anniversary of another, graduating from public health school (today - not walking, though, watching HMS graduate instead), visiting my parents, my family, grandparents, babies, preggers included...and everyone is alive and moderately well, whole, with all of their possessions in tact. I'm taking control of my future family life and getting out there and looking for a mate, hah...and my ex saw me earlier this month and realized he was a fool for letting me go (I don't know that for sure, but I think that's what went down).

So it's been a crazy productive month that doesn't seem to ever end! And at the end of the month, I'll be going back to medical school, starting with an Emergency Department rotation. I'm not as aprehensive of getting back to clinical stuff as I had been previously--I think I'll be able to do it.

Graduation ceremony for HMS is at 2pm, Nigerian graduation party at 5:30pm, friend's graduation party at his girlfriend's house at 7:30pm...and I went shopping for food for the first time in my new place!

Tomorrow is my friend's marriage reception celebration...thing. Then, on Saturday, one of my friends from undergrad is performing in Cambridge, so I'll have to make sure I go. Then, another friend is getting married on Sunday in Maryland...

And much of May has been like this.

July promises to be similarly busy. I'll have my sub-internship, and then that last week, I may try to swing by home to take family pictures with my fam, go to the family medicine conference, and attend my cousin's wedding (my first full-out nikah!). One or two of those things may not happen, but I'm definitely going to my cousin's nikah! I just don't know where I'm flying from yet...Boston, Kansas City or Detroit...whoo!

This year, I'm never going to stop! Because I'll start applying to residencies in September, start interviewing in November, may try to go abroad in October and November, if not then next year...essentially, May is just a foreshadowing of things to come...my life is not going to stop from here on out.

This is all insha'Allah, of course...

Then, I'll continue interviewing in December and January...I'll start planning going to Reveillon (New Years) in Brazil now, see if anyone wants to go (that's a trip on my wish list!), then I submit my Match list in February, then I match in March (and may alternatively be going abroad March-April), then I finish medical school by May next year. Insha'Allah, I graduate May 24, 2012!

And then in June and July, I start preparing for residency! I'll move to a new state or new residence (if I'm still in Massachusetts or if I decide to go to Michigan), I'll make new friends, I'll begin my career in earnest!

And internship is an undertaking in itself...

And who knows what else I'll be doing, whose weddings I'll be going to (insha'Allah, somewhere in there will be my own to some unknown character who is somewhere, wasting time!).

And all of this craziness began when moving out of my place coincided with deadlines for my practicum project and my friend's wedding. I just have a feeling that I'll be pretty busy for the rest of my life...

...but I wouldn't have it any other way.


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

I Cannot be a Muslim and Not Think

As salaam alaikum,

So, I don't think I really talked about this at all, but as you know, the followers of the ministry Family Radio were expecting to experience "rapture" this weekend--and it didn't happen. The head of Family Radio, Harold Camping, told a San Francisco newspaper that he was "flabbergasted." In the meantime, hundreds of his followers prepared to ascend to Heaven, selling their worldly belongings, including their homes, removing their children from school, spending their life's savings on billboards and subway posters warning non-believers of Judgment Day--May 21, 2011.

By May 22, 2011, no one was raptured. Some Family Radio congregants say that it's a test from God, and that the world will still end on October 21 this year. Others are very disillusioned because they didn't have a schema for this not being real. My mother listens to "Coast to Coast" radio that broadcasts from LA, and I heard this heartbreaking story about a young man who had been Atheist and started reading the Bible, converted to Christianity and later became a follower of Harold Camping. On the show, he was perfect in his loyalty to Camping and believed in his prophecy without question.

When the host asked this young man what he would do if he weren't raptured the next day, the man said he had no answer, because it didn't fit with his beliefs.

It was heartbreaking only as a believer in God to see someone actively seeking God and yet still falling astray, bound to be disillusioned.

I didn't joke about Judgment Day just because I don't think Judgment Day, death or either side of the Afterlife is anything to joke about. I could be joking about Judgment Day, choke on a pretzel, then die and then it's my Judgment Day...

...okay, so I don't joke about it, but a little bit of sarcasm and dark humor may manifest itself.

But in all seriousness, the last day for any of us can come really at any time. I'm aware of this every day. I sit in a house (I'm at my parents house right now) that uses gas for heating and cooking. There could be a sudden gas leak and I could explode as I'm writing this, along with all of my family's earthly possessions, and that could be it. Of course, I pray not! I pray for God to deliver me through each day and if I ever forget to pray, Allah (swt) has a plan greater than my own and He has preserved me, alhamdulillah!

So May 21 could have been my last day, so I didn't joke about it. Especially if...if we humans were to know God's plan and know the time and the hour as this Family Radio dude claimed to, even if we had time to prepare, how many of us would be ready?

I used to, even more than I do now, live every day of my life like it were my last. I strived toward Allah (swt) and His straight path so hard, with all of my might, with as much speed and haste as I could just so I could be ready, because I felt so far from ready. Every day, I wasn't good enough. Every day, I lamented not memorizing more suwar in the Qur'an, not speaking Arabic, not doing more supraregulatory prayers, not praying more in jamaah...

But I was doing it all alone, so it didn't work. And now I'm here, as I am now, not quite like I was before I became a practicing Muslimah, but not like I was at the height of my fervor.

And thinking back to those times when I strived toward Allah (swt) like every day was my last and as if, if I decelerated, I would surely go to Hell...I see how the followers of Harold Camping could believe as much as they did in the May 21 Judgment Day, and I really feel for their disillusion.

I'm not saying that I was wrong in trying to live my life the way that I did. No. It was a very pure time in my life, and I was probably better for it. I just think that--a lot of us (human beings) want so hard to find the straight way, to find the truth of things, and we can put our faith in a lot of places, some misguided, some prudent, some wise, and we can just run and run toward that place and lose foresight and peripheral vision and end up in a place we don't want to be, that is actually not helping us serve or approach God the way we envisioned, and then we end up lost in disillusion for a while.

Who knows what's going on with the young man who used to be Atheist who is now disillusioned because he was not raptured?

My mother stopped listening to one stream of her radio show because an Atheist had gotten on and was talking about his book about why people believe in everything from ghosts to God. She doesn't listen to anything that goes counter to her faith in God and Islam. And I just thought about it, and to some people, I'm as crazy as the Family Radio followers, the Heaven's Gate congregants, the people who preach on the streets. To them, I'm a fool to follow a text that is more than 1400 years old, to follow a god that I can't see, when really life is a cosmic accident. Life is a bitch and then you die, and I call myself an educated person, in medical school, going to be someone's doctor, and I believe in ancient, Middle Eastern fairy tales, fables and legends.

Or, as my mother has summed up the sentiment, this life is an accident, "and by the way, you came from a monkey."

I love a lot from the Qur'an. A lot of what I love from the Qur'an I learned from my mother, who has read the Qur'an (albeit in English) more times than anyone I know. When I was a kid, she used to be able to quote suwar for each situation, and she used to read things to my brother and I. My brother still remembers the song she made up for disbelievers--singing and dancing in a conga line, singing, "Ain't no fire," or rather, "Ain't no fi-YAH!" Man, that stuck in my head so much that to this day, I was just at a party with friends and we formed a spontaneous conga line and my heart stopped a little, because I likened dancing in a conga line to being a disbeliever.

Anyway, as an adolescent and adult, one of the suwar my mother reminded me of was one about Satan. After Satan was cast down by Allah (swt) and He gave Satan a respite, Satan, upset, resolved the following:

"He said: 'Because thou hast thrown me out of the way, lo! I will lie in wait for them on thy stright way: Then I will assault them from before them and behind them, from their right and their left: Nor wilt though find, in most of them, gratitude (for they mercies)." (7:16-17).
Satan comes from all directions. I think I've cited this before, but I like it a lot. Some of us err on the sides of extremes. Those of us who believe in God sometimes err on the side of religious conservatism in an effort to make sure that we are doing the right thing, pleasing to God, whatever constructs our theologies outline. Others of us err on the side of religious liberalism or atheism, rejecting what seems rigorous, nonsensical or unjust, believing deep down that life has to be about more than ritual and banking on a merciful God or cosmic grace.

I believe both approaches approach belief and God in too simplistic a manner and we miss out on meaningful nuance and, more importantly, place ourselves in a precarious position with regards to Satan. He's there on the left, and he's there on the right. The sins of a fundamentalist are no better or worse than the sins of a non-believer. One who kills someone in the name of God is no better than the gangster who kills someone in the name of all mighty dollar.

The middle path is not easy, because I don't believe there to be a single middle path, just the same as I don't believe there to be a singular right way to approach God. Of course, I wouldn't be Muslim if I didn't believe that Islam were the right way, but I argue that I wouldn't be a good Muslim if I didn't recognize that not all of those who call themselves Muslims are actually following Islam, the form above human interpretation, as it is intended to be followed, and there are some non-Muslims who are closer to Islam than some of them will ever know.

Why wouldn't I be a good Muslim if I didn't know this to be true? Because then I wouldn't be thinking, and in this life, we are told by God, there are messages for people who think. I can't be a Muslim and not think.

I cannot be a Muslim and not think. This phrase goes so far. Throughout the Qur'an, God talks about messages for those who think. And beyond the specific examples given in the Qur'an, life deals us so many messages such that if we just thought, we'd arrive at the answer.

I cannot be a Muslim in the United States and not think. I have to be on my toes, sorting out the halal and haram and improvising in a society where even native Muslims seem immigrant and Islam is alien. I have to think and challenge for myself the challenge to my faith that I encounter almost on a daily basis, from people throwing ahadith in my face to atheists smearing my religion to Muslim being made synonymous with terrorist in the media. If I did not think, surely I would have been led away from Islam to the vapid nature of the secular masses.

I cannot be a Muslim woman and not think. Women are subjugated in my society and women are subjugated in some Muslim societies. On either extreme encouraged to be skin tight, all bearing ornaments and or we're covered and hidden as if our existence is shameful. Neither extreme is right, and Satan is before and behind us. I have to think hard about what I wear every single day, and what it means in my society, as a Muslim woman, as God's creation: am I respecting myself, am I honoring the woman that God made me? Or am I answering to men, mankind, other women included, and what they expect of me? If I didn't think, I would surely dress differently depending on who was around me, every day.

I cannot be an black Muslim and not think. I read the last sermon of the Prophet (saw), I read those suwar of the Qur'an that talk about how we were made different people so we could learn from each other, and that is why I came into Islam. I was a child, but this was a sign for me because I thought, and I though, wow, a religion that speaks to troubles of our times, even though these things were spoken so long ago, it resonates now. Language of black and white, like now. This was a message for us, in the United States with our racial fixation. This is a religion that transcends race. And if I didn't think when I was a child, and if I didn't think now, I would have abandoned Islam long ago because of the way that some Muslims practice it, or rather the way that they exclude based on race and ethnicity, the way that they discriminate based on race and ethnicity, because I would be discouraged that this beautiful religion that my mother raised me in didn't really exist.

But I think, therefore I am. Muslim. I cannot be an Igbo Nigerian Muslim and not think because if I did not think, I would convert to Christianity because my people are Christians and the Muslims of the north had once been our enemy. I cannot be a Muslim scientist and not think because no one teaches science in the name of God, so there are a lot of truths and theories that I reconcile with my faith whenever I face them. I cannot be a Muslim physician and not think or else I would not be humbled by my practice and I'd fall into a fatal god complex that would do neither me or my patients any good.

I cannot be a Muslim and not think, or else I would start disbelieving a little bit every day until there was nothing left.

Islam is being demonized, and though it's painful to see non-Muslims and Muslims alike crapping on my faith, it is only meant to fortify us. For those of us who think, who reason and this is how we arrived at Islam as our way of life, the naysaying voices and forces that come from all directions, bombard us every day are small challenges that get us to the other side of the day with our faith strengthened for the next blow, and the next, until insha'Allah we'll approach God with a faith so strong that when the distraction of this world is removed, we'll be closer to Him than we imagined we could attain!

No, I don't know the day or the hour, and any of ours could be at any time. But though we should defend Islam and believers, in this spiritually turbulent time that we're living, instead of predicting the end of times because things seem so bad and because Islam is demonized or anything, let's focus on how we respond to blows to faith. Maybe that blow knocks us back on a more moderate path, back onto the straight way...maybe that blow knocks us back to the ground, humility. Maybe that blow knocks us away from Satan. Maybe they're not blows but little pinches, reminders, so we can answer with our heads high not with pride, but in reverence of the Creator...
This is our time, no less meaningful because we may not be at the end of times. Challenges abound, but if our way is true, facing these challenges to our faith is purposeful, meant to make us stronger.

So I don't disagree with the Family Radio followers who think their faith is being tested by God. You're probably right, dudes. Search long and deep, and maybe you'll find the answer, and live every day approaching God, seeking refuge in his grace and mercy like it's the last instead of banking on knowing the day.

I pray that God leads me the straight way, and that I do not misrepresent my faith. After all, I cannot be a Muslim and not pray, either.

Friday, May 20, 2011

For the Want of Sex

As salaam alaikum,

Where is the moderate path for this Muslimah? It may not be where I am right now...

As I distance myself from my ex, I begin to wonder the way to go about things for now, for the future. Having been with a non-Muslim now, I remember again why I did not trust non-Muslim men.

Well, maybe I don't trust men.

I feel like most attention that I ever get from any man is more for the want of sex than anything else. For the want of sex, in anticipation of the sex that all non-Muslim men seem to assume I'll give them for free, or too much about sex (or green cards) and not enough about the realness of marriage for Muslim men. It's like, okay, I get it, they're being men, and if they aren't following a greater moral calling or a religion or anything, they think they can get sex for free like they can get from so many other women.

And I'm just like, aaahhhhhh leave me alone!

Before my ex, people would try to set me up and I wriggled out of many a relationship. The Muslim men were usually immigrants and there was no compatibility beyond the fact that we were both Muslim. The non-Muslim men were usually not particularly religious...because the religious ones did not want to be with a Muslimah. Since they were not religious, I could read immediately from body language their intentions, and I would slip my way out after a couple of meetings...

People with secular values would say that I was afraid of sex. And I don't feel like needing to prove to anyone anymore that no, I'm not afraid of sex. I am also not one who idealizes it as much as some people I know who waited did...I've heard discussions of disappointment on the wedding night. I've never been that innocent.

But as my mother reminded me that I said in my more spiritually introspective days, submitting my life to Allah (swt) means doing everything in the name of Allah (swt)...and I do not want to do anything that I cannot do in the name of God. And having sex outside of the marriage contract is one of those things.

I mean, that being said, that's my living ideal that I strive for. We've all done things that we would not be comfortable pronouncing the name of God over, and I am for sure not an exception to that. But I need to keep that in mind, embody it, fortify myself with that...whenever it is that I relate to a man again.

Because they are tenacious! And I'm not saying that they are the only ones who want sex...because that is a lie. But compared to me, who is perhaps more content waiting than I have been all the other years I've been waiting...even the good ones will take the opportunity if it is given to them! My friend had to bat away her now husband months before their wedding...haha, she has more discipline than I think I'd have in the same situation...

So, all of this is to say...people have always wondered why I was single until I was 25. It's not even as much to do with my Muslimah identity (which, as a woman, I didn't assume until I was 18, really) as much as it is to do with my principles, my values, which go along, yes, with my Muslimah identity. I steer clear of precarious situations, and being around men who seem to mainly be interested in sex with me is one of those situations.

Because in the end, he may say he's all about me, whatever, but he can easily get sex from someone else who looks a bit like me. I'm not worried about these men.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

How Many?

As salaam alaikum,

As a brief interlude to substantive entries...

Trying to find a prospect via online websites makes me feel very much like this MIA video:

Although this video has always amused me. It makes me want to start a flash dance in the middle of the mall or somewhere...with just men.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

[uncensored]: God Bless the Mothers

As salaam alaikum,

Alhamdulillah, I'm all done with public health school! I'm at home right now, enjoying some time with the family, and avoiding these men from the online dating sites. Yes, avoiding...I've got some live ones who want to talk to me all the time. I don't know what they think this is!


Yesterday, my best friend here who got married a couple of weeks ago came to visit me on Friday! It was great to see her...she said I was the first of her friends that she saw since the wedding. So that was sweet.

She's hilarious...she is so traditionally a newlywed. Unlike these newfangled folks, she actually really really waited until marriage. She's Christian and very personally conservative, and she and her then fiance didn't go very far at all, saving everything for wedding night...which was...not quite what she expected, haha! She's told me that it requires a lot of communication, not beating yourself up if you're not good, and willingness to know that it'll get better with time.

I guess she never thought about it before...hehe. She said it was great waking up next to somebody, but that she was not anticipating morning breath.

She must watch the wrong kind of television shows...a lot of people make fun of morning breath!

Anyway, she's excited now that she has some advice to give another one of our friends who is getting married in May. And I'm like, "What advice? You've been married, what, less than two weeks?"

And then she said proudly, "Twelve days, but the time [friend's] wedding comes, it will almost be a month!"

Haha, she's so innocent, it's funny! And such a newlywed...and so serious about it.

She's like, "I'm really excited for [friend's] wedding. I love marriage--I recommend it to everyone."

Tsk tsk, man! Typical coming from someone who is blessed enough to get married, a newlywed and temporarily blinded to the fact that not everyone is so blessed with a happy marriage or marriage at all. No, I do not recommend marriage to everyone...some people aren't ready, some people will never be ready. I don't recommend that people rush into marriage or marry because, through this venue, you'll be able to have sex.

And I hope that when I'm a newlywed, I don't utter such things!

Anyway, she's also tired, felt a bit nauseated and was peeing frequently. I teased her, like, "Uh-oh!" She was going home to take a pregnancy test, and I haven't heard from her since, so really, it could be anything. I let her borrow my contraceptives book. She really doesn't want to take birth control (and I'm like, okay, well, be prepared to either use condoms or just not have sex, two things that I think may not happen...or, be prepared to be pregnant all the time!), but she's using a method now...

And I woke up the next day and thought, wait a minute...and did some math.

I speculate that she wasn't using her current method for long enough to be protected. Man!

For those who don't know, I am Queen Contraceptive! The type of consult I like the most, no joke, is counseling women and girls on their birth control options. I first did it in the pediatrics clinic with my teenagers...they usually just got Depo Provera. My women usually got the Mirena IUDs...which, after placing a few of those (it's one of my favorite procedures...very satisfying), I know that I'll only get one of those after having my last child, post-partum, while my cervix is more patent...seriously, I placed some in some nulliparas, and that mess seemed painful...

Sorry for the jargon...I'm excited to be back to medical school!

Anyway, so, as Queen Contraceptive, I know a lot about the various contraceptive methods. Right-to-life or pro-choice? I'm pro-women using appropriate family planning methods so they never, ever have to make such a hard decision. I'm also pro-improvements to child welfare services for orphans and maltreated and neglected children, because we're giving children the right-to-what kind of life? Too many right-to-life people no longer care about the baby after it's no longer a fetus, apparently, because those same people endorse a party that jokes about Welfare Queens and wants to cut social programs that support those babies in the name of avoiding socialist policies, so I don't label myself, because it's all bullshit.

I don't usually get political, but I feel like contraception is a very politicized topic...

So as Queen Contraceptive (I keep derailing from the story), that's why I figured if she hadn't had a withdrawal period from her method yet, she didn't start using it in time enough before first intercourse, and so if she's fertile enough, yeah, she really could be pregnant...well, at least it's her year off!

So we'll see.

But I don't know what happened to me yesterday. I wrote this thing on the plane (really smooth plane ride...I was able to write!) that I'll pretty much paraphrase here, but it was from the heart. It happened in two parts. The first part happened when I watched the Surgeon General, Dr. Benjamin, speak last week, realizing that she was a strong, powerful woman doing great work, but she wasn't married, was never married and had no children. I realized that women who have big aspirations like that sometimes forgo marriage and childrearing to get the things they need to done, because men and children zap a lot of your potential energy...

That being said, I indicated that's not what I desired for myself.

The second moment happened in the airport. I was watching this woman, probably in her thirties, wrangling with a toddler who was able to sense when his mother was distracted to take the opportunity to sprint away from the gate. The woman, who was on the phone with a relative about some pressing issue, would cradle the phone on her shoulder, run after the toddler and bring him back, kicking and screaming. She had an older daughter, maybe about 4, who seemed oblivious to this maternal stress and was constantly trying to show her mother stuff that she was doing, commenting on seeing the plane land, things like that. In order to go change her son's diaper, she had to strap him into his little stroller, put on a backpack, wheel luggage, and make sure her daughter was in tow.

At one point, I heard her say, "Maddy, you've already dropped your hippopotamus. I think I'm going to keep it so I don't loose it."

And then the child screeched, "Nooo!"

As all of this transpired, I laughed and shook my head. I imagined a woman like myself, a professional woman who diagnoses patients, who delivers babies, who cares from everyone from infants to the elderly as insha'Allah I will as a family medicine physician...coming home to a willful little tyke who does not understand that he can't simply do what he wants and a little darling who wants to carry her stuffed hippo around with her always, even at the great risk of losing it and against my advice.

And that's when I realized...children are their own little people, just like I'm a big person, with their little desires and their little agendas. A lot of the time, they don't know that they're children, or at the very least, they don't know what their being a child means...that they don't have freedoms yet and why it's important to be told what to do, to be controlled, to be raised. They don't know so much yet but they, like big people, want to do what they want to do.

And though they are small, at some point they learn to run fast and from a young age they can scream loudly.

I looked at that mother and I admired her no differently than I've admired nearly each mother I've seen around, especially those with more than one little one. That is a shitload of work.

I just watched this video my mother made when she was pregnant with me, so pre-mom days, back when she was a social worker at the University of Michigan, talking about what it is like to be a professional woman of color. We then looked at a video from 1990, which would be one year after my brother's diagnosis and right before my mother left her job. The professional woman who was talking about submitting a proposal and considering her own promotion was now dressing her daughter in Halloween costumes, engaging five-year-old banter and most importantly, wrestling with my 3-year-old, willful, hyperactive brother with autism.

One part of the video captures it all. My parents were putting up our little artificial Christmas tree, and I'm walking around with my pudgy self (at five) trying to help. It was me who instituted the practice of Christmas in my house three years prior when I offered to move out of the house to have my own apartment so I could have a Christmas tree. Anyway, I was trying to help, and asking my parents if I was doing things right...I was asking a lot of questions and looking for affirmation, and I was being ignored.

Meanwhile, my brother loudly comes in, flapping and doing his characteristic sound effect, here approximated as "IIIIIIEEEEEEEEEEEE," and my parents turn their attention to him, asking him what he's doing, trying to get him to do something he didn't want to do, trying to redirect him. Meanwhile, I continue trying to help and ask questions. Eventually, I decorate myself in the tinsel and ask my mother, "Do I look pretty or what?" And my mother gave a half-hearted response, to which I replied, "Thank YOU!" I was a smart kid...even then I perceived that I was being ignored and tried hard to get that attention. After the tree was set up, my brother (who would not be fully potty trained until 8 years old) needed his diaper changed. It was apparently a big load, as my mother counted herself having used 6 baby wipes, as my brother tried to escape the changing station on the floor. He was all cleaned up, but before my mother could get the pull-up on him (because he was already too big for diapers, and my mother would struggle to find pull-ups the correct size for years), he stood up, naked, and started playing with the tree again. My mother protested, and he ignored. She finally got the pull up on him, pulled up his pants, and he resumed playing like nothing had happened.

At the end of that, my mother gathered the two of us, telling us it was time for salat...

Hahahahahahaha! Welcome to my childhood!

But from a professional woman talking about her joy of social work, a woman who never wanted to have kids, to a woman who is changing the diaper of a three-year-old, who will change diapers for five more years. I mean, to this day, my brother, at 24, still calls his feces "good jobs" sometimes because we called them that for years because...can you imagine what a relief it is to not have to change diapers or clean soiled underwear after 8 years? Subhan'Allah!

So Heaven is at the foot of mothers, huh? Heaven is at my mother's feet, then, insha'Allah.

So yesterday, I had a revelation...an epiphany, if you will. I was just sitting there in the terminal, and I suddenly thought, "Nothing means anything [in this world]." And for the first time in my life, I began feeling like the thing that I had always wanted, the thing that I thought would be the biggest part of me, marriage and childrearing, was maybe not something I wanted anymore. Not because it was a lot of work (because it is, and I've always recognized it), but because people fool themselves about love.

Yes, love exists, but falling in love, someone finding you, laughing across a crowded room, dropping out of the sky and into your lap...it's all smoke and mirrors, trickery. I think people count too much on romanticism and this imagery, and when the regular day-to-day realities of union kick in, people want to bail because it can't mean anything if that love as before isn't there...

So I guess, in that respect, I recognized that I'm not going to force myself to relate to a man that I don't feel like relating to. This online business has shown me, once again, lest for the upteenth time I don't realize it, that I'm not unattractive. As a matter of fact, at any given time, several men of different races and ethnicities will be very interested in me because, as one said, "I am a spectacular person." And I'm like, why thankee.

But I'm flattered and then annoyed/overwhelmed with the attention. People wanting to call me all the time. I'm like, aaahhh! I don't have time for this, clearly...I told you I have exams and papers!

But I'm not going to settle for someone who is not on the same spiritual plane as me, or settle for someone who I am not attracted to just because they are attracted to me. And I know what I'm attracted to now...I can't usually put it into words. I have a type, but it's not a physical type, save for the fact that I like men who are taller than me. But it's more of a Renaissance Man type thing (not the movie, if there is one...I don't pay attention to these things)...but a man that is good at a lot of things. I also like boisterous social butterflies or quiet non-brooders.

So, for example, one of the guys is multilingual, has lived in tons of places in the continent, and has this awesome, generic West African-British accent with Igbo overtones. And he introduced me to music! And he knows Elis Regina and Djavan! AWESOME!

But wow, I've digressed.

Anyway, if someone like that guy doesn't come along, I'm not forcing myself into a relationship like one-size-fits-all when it doesn't. In the end, I need someone who is going into it for the sake of and with the constant guidance of God, no matter what religion he calls himself, because it was my Muslim uncle who precipitously divorced his wife for no real reason...the religious label in the end means little these days, I'm finding.

As I said, nothing means anything in this world.

These guys trying to call me, calling me spectacular, wanting to get to know me...that doesn't mean shit. They're just words. The proof is in the pudding, and actions speak louder than words, if I may use two hackneyed terms that I found especially true in my last relationship.

So it may be that I continue to reject every man that crosses my path. Oh well. I trust my judgment. But I no longer want marriage or burst. I would love to have children, but not at the cost of bringing them up in any sort of instability. So, alhamdulillah, that's where I have arrived!

But seriously, God bless the mothers! My age-mates talk about childbearing like you get to play with a cute baby and that's it. I realize that I don't realize, even with what I saw my mother doing, how much work it will be and is...

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Big Beautiful


I've wanted to post for a long time, but I've been really busy. Leave it to public health school to sock it to me in the last couple of days. I have two exams and two papers left to go...those will be all done in the next few days. I'm not stressing anymore, though...the toughest has passed. The exam that I'm studying for Friday is annoying, though, since it'll be a total cram-fest to study for, but thankfully that will be the LAST EXAM I TAKE UNTIL STEP 3!!!!!!!!!!!! LAST EXAM PRE-MD! ALHAMDULILLAH!

Yes, that's how excited I am. Do you realize that not a year has gone without me taking some sort of test or exam since I was in the first grade (six years old)? I have been taking tests for the last 20 years of my life. To have more than a year where I don't have some sort of exam...excellent. Projects? I will have projects for the rest of my life. Exams? I'll have exams for the rest of my life, too, but they'll all be standardized and few and far between...like, every 10 year licensing exams. This is what I signed up for. I want my patients to thrive. No big deal.

So I've been doing that and I haven't had time to write what I wanted to write about...one entry that I plan to write at some point when I'm not totally fried is called "Christian Women." But that will have to wait for the following epiphanies...

I think it happened before and right after I talked to my mother this afternoon. She told me that she had talked to my aunt, who my uncle suddenly dealt divorce papers without explanation or discussion. I was livid when I heard the details of this. Livid to the extend that I said something along the lines of, "And he calls himself Muslim." Astaghfirullah! God is Judge, so it wasn't my place to say that, but I was angry because of all that my aunt means to me and all she's done for the family.

The first thing I realized from this whole story is that what B did to me was so minuscule as compared to throwing away 25 years of marriage with three children (now adults) as my uncle did. I was in a relationship for five months. I am so happy that he did what he did exactly when he did it, actually, no sooner and no later. It taught me a lot of lessons that I wouldn't have gotten otherwise. And it saved me from getting any more involved and then being dumped. Like, if B had started with that weight stuff in the midst of wedding plans, after I was pregnant with his child, while our children were in school, any other time would be horrible timing...

So while I still think he was a fool, my uncle is the real fool...doesn't know what a good woman is!

And I guess that's the main epiphany...I am really a good woman, just the way I am. I may want to lose at least 10 pounds, okay. But besides that...I was looking at myself in the reflection of my dead laptop in class on Monday (man, I hate these crappy laptop batteries!) and I looked prettier than I thought I would. I had just washed my hair and still have not twisted it, so it's up in braids and in a scarf as I usually do while my hair is drying. I threw on a shirt that kind of bore my stomach (it's been a bloaty month), threw on some jeans, my jean jacket and ran to class because I decided to go at the last minute.

Let me tell you, it's so different walking to class everyday instead of taking the shuttle. I kind of like it, and it's inspired me to map out my own running route.


I've been noticing for the past couple of days that I'm always prettier in the mirror than I expect myself to be. And I watched myself walking past windows today and I thought to myself, huh, I'm actually kind of cute...

And I just decided today, you know what, I'm gorgeous!

And I say this all very tentatively now, because I've always tried to be wary of being vain and I always thought humility is the best practice...but not when it comes at the cost of your well-being! Not when your self-esteem falters as a result!

So I have to put humility aside for a second until I find a less dysfunctional way to conceive of it. So humility aside, Lady-MacBeth-unsex-me style, but in the name of God instead! (So maybe not at all like Lady MacBeth...oh well, I just find her particularly gangsta.)

I am beautiful! I am big, beautiful me. I am beautiful, intelligent, accomplished, all of those things people have told me in the past and I always dismissed for what? The sake of humility. I used to look in the mirror and be ashamed of looking at myself in the mirror, thinking it was vain, for what, humility. It's only natural to look in the mirror and thank Allah (swt) for the gifts he has granted you, but maybe I didn't, in the name of humility.

And maybe I agreed to be with someone who was clearly beneath me, and I should have tried for better but I didn't because of what?

Well, really, beggars can't be choosers mentality, but I wasn't actually a beggar. I'm waiting around for someone to my level, someone who deserves me.

I'm beautiful just the way I am, and someone out there will see it and realize it, recognize it, whether I am 10 pounds heavier or 10 pounds lighter, or 40 pounds heavier or 40 pounds lighter...whatever I do with my hair. I'm me. I wake up every day and God blesses me with my face, my body, all intact...and I pray that it continues. And I have all of my faculties about me. I'm good.

I'm fine.

So that was my epiphany. It does not do me any good to be down on myself, because I'll accept any sort of BS and end up with someone who will leave me on any sort of BS because he's a fool. I don't have time for that at my age. On to the next one!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

My Worth as a Woman

As salaam alaikum,

One of my best friends at medical school got married last weekend, and while I'm very happy for her, I'm can't help but feel a little bit empty.

I've been trying and failing to find a different way to look at myself and my aspirations, to aspire to something that is not marriage and motherhood, and while I place my career now in such a place that no man I meet in the next few months will convince me to stay on this coast for the sake of the residency programs that I ultimately want in California...I cannot deny that my major goal in life is to be a family woman...a good wife and mother.

It's what I've always wanted, it's the thing I've prayed about the most, and I was made for it, I know. My brief stint with my ex shows me that I am a nurturer by nature. I thrive when I'm in that role. It is what is meant to be for me, and I can't convince myself otherwise. I don't know what else to do.

Pray for me, because I've run out of ways to pray about this.

I feel like screaming, too, because I get conflicting messages about my worth as a woman. I can't lie...I derive a lot of my own self-worth from who I am potentially more than who I am now. And I can't lie if I don't say that I feel like only half of a woman if I am not in a loving, nurturing relationship with a husband or a to-be husband with the promise insha'Allah of childbearing or childrearing. Admittedly, if someone were to tell me right now that I had a choice of either being a physician or happily married with a family of my own, I would chose the later right now.

But at the same time, I recognize the potential of ending up with someone who is beneath me, not worth what I have to offer, not a worthy father of my children. If I knew that I would end up with someone unworthy of being my husband and the father of my children or remain single the rest of my life, I would choose the latter, clearly.

But I wish I could know that, so I could go on, building my life as a single woman instead of constantly wondering...but that's not the way life is, I guess.

I look at my friend who got married. They were so right for each other, and I pray that they continue to find happiness in their marriage. Everyone tells me that someone is out there like that for me, and they're so sure of it. I don't know how they can be so sure...but so many of my friends are getting married this month, it just depresses me, reminds me of how incapable I seem of attracting a suitable mate, someone who can see in me something beyond potential sex or an abstract sense of duty...someone who can see in me the wife that I know I can be...

It makes me doubt a lot of who I am...because I struggle with the question...what is my worth if I cannot even get a worthy man to want to marry me? What is my worth as a woman if I'm only attractive for sex and nothing else? What is my worth as a person if I never succeed at attaining that which I most want in life? It doesn't matter how many people say I'm pretty or I'm intelligent, nor does my wit matter, my singing voice or anything.

This woman in my office asked why there isn't a ring on my finger, and my thought was, why would there be? No one has ever loved me for who I was without wanting to change me or thinking I was something else, and I'm starting to believe that no one ever will...

Thursday, May 5, 2011