Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Love TKO

As salaam alaikum,

I don't want anymore of these! Love TKOs!

"Trying to hold on, my faith is gone, just another sad song..."

Saturday, January 28, 2012

My Music Babes

As salaam alaikum,

There are a few artists, some singers/songwriters, some vocalists, whose songs or renditions of standards have functioned like the soundtrack for my life at certain times. These are my Music Babes. The lyrical loves of my life, my vocal aspirations. These artists are (or were) prolific, soulful, genius, amazing. A unique, full, gorgeous expression of the human experience. I love them!

This is minha homenagem to them.

(1) Stevland Hardaway Morris - Mr. Stevie Wonder! He is my favorite artist of all time, and always will be. Where do I begin? Probably the first song I remember of his was my mother's favorite when I was about three years old, "Part Time Lover." Did not understand a word of it, but I can still see my mother dancing around the family room of my childhood house...especially since that moment was captured on VHS, now transferred to DVD. The next song that stands out in my memory was, "Another Star," which began with a cadence that reminded me of my brother's head. For my mother, my brother's song was "All I Do." I remember her saying how beautiful "As" was when I was in high school, but I wouldn't fully appreciate Stevie until college, when I fell in love for the first time. The theme song for that love will always and forever be "Overjoyed," a song that I faintly remembered from an 80s or R&B CD collection commercial from the 90s, such that when I hear one part of the song, I think of that blue screen that they would show at the end of the commercials. Where else do I go with Stevie Wonder? "I Believe When I Fall In Love It Will Be Forever?" "Pastime Paradise?" "For Once in My Life," to go a little older? "Moon Blue," to go a little bit more contemporary? The timeless "Isn't She Lovely?" Masha'Allah! What a beautiful man!

Favorite lyrics: "We all know sometimes life's hates and troubles/ can make you wish you were born in another time and space./ But you can bet your life times that and twice its double/ that God knew exactly where He wanted you to be placed./ So next time when you say you're in it but not of it/ you're not helping to make this a place sometimes called Hell./ Change your words into Truth and then change that Truth into Love/ and maybe our children's grandchildren and their great-grandchildren will tell." - "As" (see above)

(2) Djavan Caetano Viana - Djavan! When did I first discover this musical genius, my Brazilian, seeing Stevie Wonder? I think I met him while touring Pandora sometime after I took my Brazilian history course in college. In that course, I was exposed to the song, "Haiti" by Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil from Tropicália 2. I made a station out of that, and I think songs by Djavan came up from that. The first song I really remember from him has to be "Doidice" (my upload onto youtube, gente! It wasn't there before...). I just listened to it quietly while studying during my first year of medical school, until the last verses of the song, which I recognized were in Spanish. From then commenced my absolute obsession with this song. I looked up the lyrics, translated them the best I could with my Portuguese for Spanish Speakers knowledge, ordered Bird of Paradise on CD Universe so I could own the song (since it was not available for download), opened the cover, and found the lyrics that floored me: "After I discovered that there is you, I never existed again." Damn. That was me and MTQ! I thereafter discovered that I loved Djavan as an artist in general. My favorite songs of his to sing include "Meu Bem Querer," and "Pétala." My favorite song to samba and sing to will always be "Flor de Lis," as I did many a time in my samba course. And while "Doidice" will always be my favorite, "Oceano" is I think one of his most beautiful. I'm not done learning his standards, as there are others, but this man is brilliant...Stevie Wonder agrees. They did "Samurai" together! Beautiful man in his 60s with his beautiful son, Max Viana, by his side at both concerts I went to.

Favorite lyrics: "Me apaixonei?/ Talvez, pode ser./ Enloqueci?/ Não sei, nunca vi./ Preciso sair/ depois que eu descobri que há você,/ nunca mais existi." - "Doidice" (see above)
Translated: I fell in love? Maybe, it could be. I went crazy? Don't know, I've never seen it. I need to get out. After I discovered that there is you, I never existed again.)


"Assim que o dia amanheceu lá no mar alto da paixão/ dava pra ver o tempo ruir." - "Oceano" (see above)
Translated: Now that the day has dawned there in the high tides of passion, one is able to see time ruin. (So poetic!)

(3) Elis Regina Carvalho Costa - Elis Regina. Before I heard this woman's voice and knew who she was, all of my music babes had been mainly men. For this reason, my alto is the most developed, although I think I touch the range of a mezzo-soprano. Then, I hear the Portuguese version of "Corcovado" by my one of my standards, my original babes, Tom Jobim (to the point I'd consider naming one of my kids Antônio Carlos). I didn't know at the time who the female vocalist was of this song I'd heard the smokey voice of Astrud Gilberto sing in English, but I liked learning to sing along with it. She enunciated so clearly, so uniquely...it was gorgeous. I discovered later it was Elis. I wouldn't know about her until I traveled to Brazil, coming back from the public health center in São Paulo, turning on the small television in the pousada to the novela, "Ciranda da Pedra," and hearing Elis belt out "Redescobrir," which was the theme of the novela. I still get saudades when I see that opening...that was my first taste of Brazil, as I barely ate in those first few days, nervous as I was that I was in a country where I didn't really speak the language. And in a way, my finding Elis was really a rediscovery, because she died in 1982, before I was born and 26 years before I would know any of her music. But her vocal interpretations of Brazilian standards, which got her credited as creating Música Popular Brasileira, inspired me in ways that a female singer never had. I found myself aspiring to her range, her passion, her soul. I laughed with her in "Vou Deitar e Rolar," and "Canto de Ossanha." I danced gently over her enunciation in "Só Tinha de Ser Com Você," which I have vowed will be a lullaby for my children. I fell in love forever after uniquely with her interpretation of "Aguas de Março," my favorite song of all time, as well as Brazil's. And I will always be blown away and forever grateful for her rendition of a song I had known for years from Pandora, but never like this: "O Trem Azul." There are so much more of Elis I've yet to learn and hear, but with "O Trem Azul," I get a little taste of what it means for there to be life after death.

Favorite Vocals: "O Trem Azul," when she sings along with the electric guitar. Or, just listen to the song A Capella.

These are three artists whose music I have a lot of and never tire of, the songwriters and singers of the soundtracks of my life. I fell in love with MTQ over "Overjoyed," and it faded away with "Doidice." And B went away with "O Trem Azul." Just a few examples. Beautiful people with a most beautiful gift from God! Masha'Allah!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Too Much

As salaam alaikum,

In life, there is too much to do, too much to be, too much to start and too much to read. You should never be bored, ever.


I'm reading two books at once, each one changing my life as I read. I'm reading, Love, InshAllah (in order...I'm not reading my contribution yet!) and I'm reading Muhammad by Martin Lings. Wow. Our Prophet (saw) was gorgeous, masha'Allah, in a way that it's taken me all these years to know, because it's taken me all these years to get this book. I think it's a must read for all Muslims, especially those of us with no aspirations to be scholars. I feel like it's something we should know and it will challenge and deepen our faiths.

Next, I'm reading The Veil and the Male Elite, just to variar.

And after this, I'll need some good fiction to read. Any suggestions would be awesome! I especially need to read more stuff with multiple narrators. I may reread Delirio by Laura Restrepo (in Spanish), since it was the inspiration for the way I lay out RMD, but I need to see more examples of this to make it work.

I have two other story ideas brewing...one, of course, is The Misadventures of Nisa, which has accompanying music I'm composing, and another, which does not of yet have a working title. That's three projects! My first is always RMD, for now Nisa is just me working on the music (and then researching how to write a screenplay). The other one, I'll be plotting out as I go...it's just in the imagining stage, as RMD was after I wrote the paragraph for a crreative writing class this time in 2007 (five years ago!).

There is yet still much more for me to read about, learn about, become and pray for. There is too much of the world to begin! People like to cry out for the end of times, but instead of worrying about that, let's do more than just making due with what we have! Let's do what God set us here for, which is not to mope about the present and hasten, as if our will had anything to do with it, the Day of Judgment.

The Center of Awesomeness is in full bloom, and I pray that it never leaves me.

And while it feels like so much now...there's so much more. And I'll take it!

...and I'm sorry, I had this song in my head, too...

Friday, January 20, 2012

Have a Talk With God

As salaam alaikum,

(6:48) "And We send [Our] message-bearers only as heralds of glad tidings and as warners: hence, all who believe and live righteously -no fear need they have, and neither shall they grieve" (emphasis added)

I am also called to mind this song by Stevie Wonder, haha, my favorite musician ever:

Masha'Allah and Alhamdulillah!

There are worldly solutions to many of the problems we face in our daily lives. You can mediate, you can think in terms of statistics, like, really, what is the chance that this plane I'm in that's suffering this terrible turbulence over this mountain range is going to crash? This flight has never suffered a crash, people fly every day and most days there's no plane crash...it's said that the most dangerous parts of the flight are the takeoff and landing, and we're in neither, and how many crashes take place mid-flight, anyway?

Or, one could place their trust in God, in whose dominion there is no error, there is no weakness as therre is in our ability to meditate on the positive or be consoled by the statistics of life.

This is one example of an anxiety that we face, but not all of us. I was informed by a friend that she never thought of the precariousness of flight, or the wonder of a plane to propel itself into the atmosphere and remain adrift in the air, just because she "always" assumes that everything will work out. She found my anxieties unhealthy, and maybe it is. I wouldn't call it a disorder, though, because it's never paralyzed me in my daily life or kept me from aspiring and achieving my dreams.

But it just takes me to a different level of God consciousness.

I never assume things will work out. I know, alhamdulillah, that everything will work out, insha'Allah, the way it should. I just also know that the intermediate outcomes may not be to my liking, because as He tells us, "it may well be that you hate a thing the while it is good for you, and it may well be that you love a thing the while it is bad for you: and God knows, whereas you do not know" (2:216).

And while I knew, insha'Allah, that everything would work out, the God knows and you don't part was what caused me anxiety, and basically caused me to revert to doubt, anxiety...

That plane could crash, I may not be the great physician I aspire to be, I may never get married, and if I do, I may be infertile...and though I may hate these outcomes, God knows what I do not.

Alhamdulillah, I am no longer burdened by these thoughts and insha'Allah, this respite from these anxieties should continue. And it's not because I'm meditating or thinking of statistics, nor is it really because I'm thinking of what God in general wants for us, and why what He should want for me is the marriage and family I desire, at least...

Because the truth always remains, God knows what we do not, including the future, including His intent for us in this existence and the grander intent He may have for us as our eternal selves in the Hereafter. I will not know, and that is part of the beauty of the human experience. I will struggle in pain but I will also be pleasantly surprised, and the reward is with Him in the end, greater than any reward in this life and greater than the balance of the cumulative pain felt in this world.

It helped me some to meditate in this way: to recognize that sometimes I will feel pain, that sometimes I will be anxious or lonely, or sometimes a remembrance will bring me sadness, but this is okay. I have the tendency to get anxious when I'm sad and it ends with me downward spiraling into a self-pity fest, or, to be less hard on myself, desperation. I tend to be haunted by the thought that maybe I'm not strong enough, that I was made weak, and that this is manifested in my occasional depression. It helped me a few months back to meditate on the fact that this is how I feel now, and that it's permissible, if not justified, that I feel the way that I do.

But that didn't help always, and I found myself in a desperation at one point that I had little patience for and no longer wanted to be in.

This meditation did not work because God was absent in my considerations, and my methods were therefore weak.

So instead, I will "meditate" in prayer.

I began feeling anxious upon talking to a friend of mine who is also applying in family medicine. She's planning to go to a program in Chicago that sounds like an excellent program. I began to doubt my decision to not apply to any Chicago programs, began second-guessing my first choice program in favor of another that would be closer to her, began wondering if there were similarly other jewels of residency programs that would have been in places that would be better fits for me than my top choices, and I began wondering how I would ever make this choice.

And then, that ayah above (which comes up multiple times in the Qur'an) came into my mind, and I smiled, smacked myself on the forehead and said, "Duh!" I'll pray on it, I decided, like everything else. Why hadn't that occurred to me?

Well, let me be real on two fronts. One, of course praying about these things occurs to me, but I think often I pray on a macro level and do not recognize the opportunity to seek guidance (because that's really what prayer comes down to in this context) on a micro level. Like, here is an individual doubt that could possibly breed anxiety. If I let that anxiety blow up on a big scale, I'll find myself doubting my training, my community, my career. It's not about that. Alhamdulillah, I'll become an excellent family physician whichever program I match in out of my top three. The question is, which one should I go in order to realize the full extent of my blessings...

And that is why I have payed istikhara and have faith that I will be heard, as I always have been, masha'Allah.

And my life is as it should be, masha'Allah.

On the second front...I know this new security comes in part due to the fact that I am now talking to an interesting, admirable and intelligent brother in Islam. And while I let anxiety and insecurity overtake me shortly after hearing the news of this interested Muslim from a non-Muslim friend of mine, I calmed when I talked to him a few days back and got to hear his voice and know how easy it was to talk to him...for two hours.

It's easy to have this security in my faith now and trust in Allah (swt) once I see the possible synthesis of a prayer I've had over the years fall into place...or at the very least, understand some of the reasons why it could be a while in the making (or at the very least be inspired to another strong story idea)...but what if this were to go away? Will I be strong enough to talk with the conviction that I do now about the ease with which I can make decisions by simply having a talk with God, asking for guidance, praying salatul istikhara?

Insha'Allah. In the meantime, instead of letting these doubts degenerate into anxiety, I will also take this issue to prayer...as I did my burgeoning relationship with B, that I nearly through a tantrum about in the course of letting him go, but that I should have realized was the answer to the softest of my prayers while with him.

The answers are all with God. If I believe, and do righteous deeds, and strive as I am striving and aspire to strive...there's nothing I should be afraid of, and I will not grieve.

And I didn't need to have Stevie on repeat to tell me that. None of us do.

(2:62) "VERILY, those who have attained to faith [in this divine writ], as well as those who follow the Jewish faith, and the Christians, and the Sabians -all who believe in God and the Last Day and do righteous deeds-shall have their reward with their Sustainer; and no fear need they have, and neither shall they grieve" (emphasis added).

Thursday, January 19, 2012

In Love!

As salaam alaikum,

I'm in love with life right now! Such a delicate, intricate, complicated...yet interconnected entity, with explanations for some events that we can see in this life and others that we'll know at the end. Masha'Allah! Amazing!

I don't want to be me achando or preempt something that may not be...but there's something about the way I've been feeling about the events of the last few days, and it could just be the light of my anticipation and not any grander meaning than that...I don't want to get ahead of myself. Especially not here, since, after the anthology, I feel like I'm more searchable and identifiable and I don't want the parties involved in this story to be alarmed, but...

My life just got richer over the course of less than a week.

And it's funny, but...my first impulse with the situation was to write a story about it. Ahahahaha...I'm such a nerd.

Insha'Allah I'll get to live it without writing a story about it for a change.

Insha'Allah, it all comes together for good.

I know I'm not saying anything, but...suffice it to say, the Center of Awesomeness continues! New writing projects, spiffing up RMD, and exploring gender relations in Islam and why our communities adopt such dysfunctional ways of "averting our gazes." I see how people delve into Islamic scholarship...I could, just on that level, finding ways to enact and properly adapt Muslim gender relations to life here, en los EEUU.

Anyway, I'm out!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Why Impossible?

As salaam alaikum,

You know what? I'm tired of being a hypocrite!

That's right, a hypocrite, the likes that are decried in the Qur'an!

Am I being hard on myeslf? I think not. I think we've all got a little bit of hypocrite in us sometimes, having our guardian angels shake their heads from time to time at what we do. It's solace to know that God knows us more than we know ourselves by virtue of having created us, and that he is therefore merciful as we stumble in understanding Him and accepting and following the straight path.

Why am I being a hypocrite? I claim to be Muslim, and I say my salat, and after salat and in between salat and right before bed, I say my prayers, my dow'at. I've said variations of the same prayer since I was 12 years old and first prayed to know love, and since I passed my mid-20s and I started to doubt that it would ever come. And yet, I do all of this praying, but I undo it by disbelieving as soon as I raise my voice and open my lids from my prayer!

I don't do it as much here as I do in real life, but I have a mania for declaring that it will "never happen," this love I so desire. The marriage I want, the family I feel I need. I say that it's going to be "impossible," but really, when has anything ever been impossible for God? Astaghfirullah! Never!

He granted the mother of Maryam (as) the child of greatness that she desired, even as she was dismayed that Maryam was a girl. He saw Maryam (as) have a child, though no man had touched her, and saw Isa (as) speak in the cradle. He saw Abraham have two children, one with his wife far past the age of childbearing. Haha, not that I'm likening myself to the prophets and their wives, but God can make anything possible when it comes to family life, so I shouldn't fret...less should I say with my mouth and come to believe that God will not answer my prayer.

Because that is me, acting like a hypocrite. Saying with one side of my mouth that I believe God and with the other side of my mouth, doubting with the best of the doubters!

So no! I'm going to make a concerted effort not to doubt openly anymore. And if I find myself doubting, I'm going to take it to prayer, as I do other temptations and weaknesses in my iman.

So, no more saying it's impossible just because it seems to be taking longer than I had initially imagined, because potential suitors aren't measuring up, because I want it sooner rather than later but it's ending up being later...

Nothing is impossible with God. So let me stop trippin', hahaha.

Oh yeah, and an ode to my childhood...I heard this on the radio today as I was driving home from running some errands. This was my favorite song from 1997 (I was 12).

Man, this was my jam back in the day. I would be thinking, "Oh yes, Janet, I get lonely, too. C doesn't even know I exist..." Hahahaha, I was a cuter, masha'Allah, if I do say so myself.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

What if the President Were White?

As salaam alaikum,

My last interview was yesterday, alhamdulillah! Now on to the task of making the decision...which is one that I will make very carefully...but I think I already know how it will line up. Me aguarde!

I got this email from my uncle this morning that detailed what the author felt was the racist climate surrounding and somewhat impeding the progress of President Obama and maybe even tarnishing his legacy. It was one of these chain emails, so who knows who the original author is...I don't have a ton of respect for such things. I'd rather see such material in a good op-ed or at least in an established blog with a known author and a voice than forwarded in email chains, but let's face it...this is how a lot of people get their information.

I feel like an op-ed has a greater peer-review factor, but anyway...I also have not written an op-ed, so I guess I can't talk.

Anyway, the chain email brought up some good points about the climate of racism surrounding this administration, and how what's seen in the GOP goes without saying (but is said so many times over)...it's its appearance in mainstream media outlets in covert ways and also leftist media outlets that is disturbing to this author.

And, I mean, I'm not at all surprised at the events as they've gone down. Someone can call it playing the race card, but I fully expected overt racism from the right, for sure, and from other places. I expected President Obama to not accomplish all that much in the first four years in terms of making a dent in the economic downturn, in terms of debt, in terms of a lot of the hot-button topics. I must say he exceeded my expectations for health care and disappointed me on the side of civil liberties in terms of the indefinite detention legislation. But I have overall been pleased that I have a President who is, yes, far from perfect but I feel comfortable criticizing, because the criticism is constructive and intelligent after growing up under George W. Bush and a GOP that was growing more and more hateful.

But this author argued that covert racism is coming from the middle ground, and even for the left, for this President. Things like, people being more likely to call him Obama than President, lack of respect, people calling him and the first lady uppity, arrogant...

While I do agree that he could be more gutsy (I respect him enough to leave his gonads out of this discussion), I also recognize what happened to our gutsier young presidents who are no longer with us. I also recognize that GOP governors were foretelling of President Obama's assassination before he was even elected, and apparently still are (sorry, just can't get over that).

It's deep. His election was an exciting time and a scary time for me because I didn't know if he would survive to serve four terms...literally and figuratively. And, even though he's made mistakes on the way and hasn't been as strong as many of us hoped he would be in some of his stances, he did survive, and more than survive, I'd argue.

But what of this racism from the center and from the left? Racism everywhere? The only way that we can analyze it is if we thought for a second, wait a minute...what if the President were white?

What if everything were the same inasmuch as it could be, and he were white? What if his father was Barry O'Brien, a white Kenyan with a Muslim background (haha, okay, stretch, but bear with me!) who met and married his mother, left little Barry behind when the couple divorced. Barry O'Brien. What if he grew up in Hawaii, and all else was the same in terms of his family's multicultural heritage, his mother still on food stamps, he still lived abroad, still had the Muslim step-father, all remained true. Say he still went to Harvard Law... Say he was still a community organizer, still attended church spottily, still was charasmatic and full of ideas and still all the yes-we-can that we knew him to be as he was campaigning, but that instead of a handsome, young black man, he's a handsome young white man.

Say he won the primaries against Hilary Clinton.

Would he have been elected over John McCain? Would Sarah Palin still be chosen as McCain's running mate? Would we still have the surge of the tea party? In office, would he have faces as much opposition from the right? Would we be critical of him in the same ways? Would the GOP be so foretelling of his assassination? What would be different, what would be the same?

I know for one thing, I still would have voted for Barry O'Brien because of his platform. I wouldn't have been excited about the election as I was, no, because I was excited about the history-changing moment when Americans successfully elected a black man into office. Outside of that, I would probably expect less from Barry O'Brien than I do Barack Obama, just because I expect the world out of black people because of in-group affection. I would expect strong opposition from the right in the partisan climate of politics that has been developing over the last several years, but I wouldn't, of course, expect the racism from the GOP that we've seen...

Barry O'Brien, like Barack Obama, I would regard no Kennedy, and that's fine. Kennedy was also killed. I don't need my leaders to be sacrificial lambs for my own political convictions, I need them to be effective in the political climate we have to make some positive change that's realistic in the face of opposition. And I need them to be alive to do that...

So, I don't know. I'm definitely not of the black people who like the President no matter what he does, but I'm also not the pessimist who thinks he's done nothing. I admit, yes, some of my affection for him is precisely because he is black. But I am also more critical of him and have higher hopes for him because he's black.

I can't say that there is definite racism on the left in people's analyses of the President, because I haven't been attentive to that. I just think a worthwhile exercise is to imagine if the President were white, and would any of your feelings about him change...

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Young Hotsy Totsy

As salaam alaikum,

Yesterday was my cousins 39th birthday. Yay, Cousin! She was always one of the big kids to me, as I guess she's 12 years older than me...I'm turning dundunDUN 27 this year. I'm not fearing it too much any more...the last time I feared turning an age, the year ended up awesomely...the last time I was okay with turning a year, the year still was awesome, but with an unawesome twist. Womp womp womp.

Anyway, my cousin will be 40 before I'm 30. Wow. Whereas 27 felt ancient to me before (the only reason is because this is the first time I've ever been 27...and my 20s were the first time I allowed myself to get out of child-brain and recognize that, why yes, sir, I am actually an adult...and being almost 30 is old for a child-brain person, hehe...), 39 is even more up there. Alhamdulillah, I have 12 long years before that!

So, I've gotten into making ecards for people from someecards.com. I love them, they tem a minha cara. They have my face, haha. They're sarcastic and biting, dry humor. Anyway, I decided to give her a card to wish her a happy birthday...below...

someecards.com - Every year I wish you a happy birthday, I also take joy in the fact that I'm never as old as you have become.

Yes! I thought this was the best picture, of a young hotsy totsy (haha, if I may borrow an outdated term) making pouty face at the poor, almost-over-the-hill cousin. I no longer feel old turning 27 (I feel 27 before I'm actually turning 27...I'm still the dreaded 26, haha), because she's 39, masha'Allah!

And insha'Allah I'll be as rambunctious and gutsy and beautiful as she is at 39...or even more!

But looking at this picture got me to thinking...hrm. I want to be a young hotsy totsy! I bethought myself that when I was in my early 20s. I felt like my peak was 20 and early 21, right before I wore hijab...ehh, which for me was the antithesis of bethinking myself young and hot, haha. And inspired a 30 pound weight gain, but that's neither here nor there. The reason I decided to take up hijab at the time, actually, was because I got so much male attention! Every time I turned around on Michigan's campus, I was getting waved at by this one, called out by the other one. I mean...truck drivers would honk, police men would call, all ethnicities, but mostly my lovely brown (Latino brown) and black men. I was like, oh my gosh, I must be a fine piece!

I didn't know the half of it, apparently...

And by the time I was 23 and had shed the khimar for the various reasons that I mentioned in a previous entry, I was more serious-minded...and I felt no longer like the young hotsie totsie. At 23! Ridículo!

So now, four years later, I'm almost 27. My weight since medical school has fluctuated 40 pounds. That 30 pound weight gain with the advent of hijab kind of opened the door of weight fluctuation into my early adult life. I've gone from weighing my high school weight to weighing what I did once I was okay with going to a co-ed gym in college to start shedding my hijabi weight (while I was still a hijabi, I lost 15 of those pounds...what a difference the gym makes!).

So blah blah blah weight. This wasn't meant to be a weight loss diary.

There's no reason why I can't be the young hotsy totsy for the rest of my pre-elderly life! I'm going to take the Brazilian perspective, as I've learned from novelas. There's no talk about the youth of the 30-somethings in the novelas...that is a given. They are young and beautiful people. The almost 50-somethings are told by their parents, "Você é jovem ainda!" You're still young!

Elderly characters talk about how they have all this life left to live...

And I love that! We don't have that here. In fact, I was telling one of my friends that I was the happiest in life when I was in Brazil, and it wasn't because of male attention, because I got no cat calls like I did in the DR. It was because I felt beautiful at baseline. I felt lovely, loved, desired and beautiful at baseline, just as I was, without the presence of anyone or the promise of anyone. I felt like everyone around me knew it, and it could have been a romanticization of my experience but I do feel like that was the vibe that I got from everyone.

Not that I'm saying everyone wanted me, haha, no...I just feel like my beauty as an individual human being, whether regarded by the other as an accident or creation, was just assumed.

I don't know...I feel like the climate is very different in the US. You get more the indifferent vibe, or even sometimes the hostile vibe, but not the your-beauty-is-a-given vibe. I don't know. I just felt happier and healthier there...

Oh yeah, and these older women one place told me I had a great body, which was hilarious...they were cute, they giggled. I was like, oh really?

No one in the US would ever tell me that unless it was a dude trying to entice me...

Anyway...this is not about me about to go out and show some leg, no. It's about me embracing my inner hotsy totsy...my inner vibrant, boisterous, happy, dancing, singing personality celebrating my youth and beauty que Deus me deu. I'm not going to say that 27 is old anymore...and I'll try not to do that anymore for any of my subsequent ages. I'm not as bright-eyed innocent as I was at 20, for sure, but I'm maybe even more excited about life, and hopeful, and activist, and all those other things that I aspired to be.

Insha'Allah, I have so much more life to live...to be old at 27 or 39.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

My Vision

As salaam alaikum,

I woke up from a series of weird dreams with a vision in my head. As I've gone throughout the day, that vision has grown in my mind and it's almost exploding in my chest right now! I had to write it down, but I end up gchatting with a friend about residency and the infamous (at least to us) rank list, and I didn't get to spend as much time with Martin Lings' Muhammad as I wanted to (and as I've wanted to for years, but always forget to pick a copy up when I have free time to read). Instead, I ended up doing a lot of facebook posting about the anthology, looking up details about the residency programs, and also looking up random things, like family medicine in Brazil and information on adopting children in Nigeria...

But my vision for my life from this moment onward is now in place!

I mean, huge disclaimer...I realize that the best laid plans of mice and men gang aft a gley. I realize this. Yet, I'm the same 19-year-old girl who mapped out her entire four years at Michigan with about three different combinations of double majors and minors before deciding on my double major, and then stuck pretty closely to the schedule of courses I thought. I am not comfortable unless I plan out my life for a good chunk of time in the future, even knowing that plans are subject to change.

That's why the whole being single thing is so distressing to me. I'm like, what, I can't actually control that? I mean, of course I know I can't...but that really puts a monkey wrench in my emotional time and energy. It always comes when you least expect it, everyone says...thus throwing a monkey wrench into your other plans, too. But when you are looking to a relationship for half of your religion, let alone emotional fulfillment, companionship, partnership in life...and yet you have to keep on living with that being a grand question mark over your head, what do you do? You have to put the emotional energy you would normally put into stressing about that into something else!

Thus, my vision! Or visions, as they may be...

My career is going to be full, insha'Allah. I hope to become a family physician who has a maternal-child health practice and also participates in community health projects in my community, while having my foot occasionally abroad, later hoping to do some more work at the state or national level in terms of public health...but that later part is too far into the future. Like my said, if it were just for my career, my hands will be full, but my career is not enough to "belly-full" me, as my father would say...

I mean, alhamdulillah, it's quite a blessing to go into a career that I love so much and that I can use to serve others and will be part of my worship in the end, but I am more than medicine and public health.

I'm also writing, fiction and non-ficiton, evidenced by the fact that this exists! Alhamdulillah, the anthology is arrasando so far, even before it's available for purchase, but I also do eventually want to publish A Rose Much Desired as well as I want to work on a screenplay or two, one of course being "The Misadventures of Nisa," for which I'm writing music! I know residency will be busy, especially if I try to have community projects (required or not) alongside my work, but I want to keep writing part of my life and I always want to have at least one writing project going at any given time. Insha'Allah, I hope the anthology is just the first of more publications to come!

And of course, I wanted it all! My career, my greatest hobby (not to mention my other hobbies of singing Brazilian music, samba dancing and keeping in shape otherwise...), and a family! And yet, as I said before, while all things are blessings from Allah (swt), this is the thing that I can control the least. So I can't worry about that. So instead, if I feel like I have space still that I would prefer to fill with family life, I will fill with other things.

First of all, I do plan to eventually have a family, insha'Allah. If I am still single in six years (that's three years, insha'Allah, after I'm a practicing physician after residency), I do plan on becoming an adoptive mother. I've started looking up adoption options right now, because I understand it can take some time, just to know a little bit of background and what my future self will be getting into. I might adopt from the US as well as I may consider adopting from abroad. I'm also encouraged by seeing more writing by Muslims about adoption in Islam. God in the Qur'an mentions so often about caring for orphans...so insha'Allah, if I can't have children of my own, this is what I will do. This is my plan, and I pray that it will sustain me in the moments that I despair about being single!

But the main thing that I realized that I could do, through writing, through blogging, whatever, that I can help out other burgeoning Muslims or Muslims on the fringes. I realize that in MSAs, in a lot of the popular blogs that we read and other places, the Muslims we see are Super Muslims. At least that was my perception of it. At my MSA, the leaders were mainly people who were majoring in AAPTIS (Arabic, Armenian, Persian, Turkish and Islamic Studies) and were all planning to become scholars in their own right. Even if they weren't on the Islamic scholarship road, they were people who were well-read in scholarship and were taking advanced courses in Arabic, all things that I was miles away from doing as a Spanish and Cellular and Molecular Biology major. I didn't even have space in my schedule for introductory Arabic courses, something that I lamented.

But now, I'm finally okay with that.

I was surrounded by future Islamic scholars in college, yes, and people who were on their game in terms of their deen, but that didn't mean I had to be there, or that's what (or all) that I should aspire to.

No. I was an aspiring physician, and insha'Allah I'll be graduating from medical school this May. There are other worthy ways I can strive as a Muslim in this world without acquiring fluency in Arabic, without being able to read large sections of the Qur'an in Arabic, without becoming a scholar. And then some, but I don't think many of us who are striving in the beginning or reverting early on know that it's okay to strive for "less."

The fact is, we need people to be physicians, dentists, and lawyers...businesspeople, nurses, authors and actors...many other occupations that will not allow us to be mini-scholars and many worthy occupations that will require a lot of our time and energy during training. And these are worthy forms of worship as well. Yes, worship...ones career can be made an act of worship just like having sex with one's spouse can be an act of worship. Yes, sex. We pronounce bismillah before salat and bismillah before so much else in life, and especially if we have service careers and especially if we work in our career for the good of not only our ummah, but humankind in general...this is worship. This is greatness.

So, I'm going to continue to do what I'm doing now. I am going to blog. I am no scholar nor will I ever be, insha'Allah, but I am a regular, everyday Muslim who is striving in my own way, taking my own steps, realizing my own dreams, hopefully in accordance with what God wants from me. I believe I am realizing just one way to be Muslim that we have been blessed with the freedom (by God) to realize, and I want to be there with others who are along a similar path as me...I want to learn with others who are on a path similar as me.

For now, I'll do this through blogging. Insha'Allah, I could expand this...who knows better than God?

So, these are just some of my visions...things to keep myself busy in ways that I alhamdulillah have more in my control and insha'Allah will have more in my control for time to come. If I do end up marrying, then alhamdulillah, but I can't count on that or hope for that anymore without despairing too much for it to be helpful. It's time for me to move on...

New Center of Awesomeness continues!

Monday, January 9, 2012

I Wish

As salaam alaikum,

I wish eventually marrying weren't so important to me. Then I'd have less to worry about and would be more productive in life in general instead of intermittently being overtaken by anxiety...the thought that I may just be one of those women who will be single for the rest of her life...

Saturday, January 7, 2012

O meu amor conhece cada gesto seu...

As salaam alaikum,

I admit, I am a maior noveleira, and not really ashamed of it. Well...not really, haha, compared to like, actual Brazilians. I occasionally watch the novela das nove on globo through clandestine novela blogs...I don't really have time for anything else. I get wind of a lot of Brazilian music that way. I particularly like this one...has that eternal spring feeling that I love in a lot of genres of Brazilian music and throughout a lot of MPB...

The title translates to, "My love knows every one of your gestures." Fits perfectly with Paulo and Ester...I don't see how they're going to swing them getting back together! And, coitado de Guaracy...

I'm curious about how many other non-Brazilians in the US watch the novela das nove from Globo? I have a feeling more people are football fans...and as I saw one woman say of novelas, they are usually não vê-las (I don't see them)...hehehe.

I love Ana Carolina's voice, by the way! Shout out to the altos of the world, as much as I love to strain to be a mezzo-soprano, like Elis Regina.

Monday, January 2, 2012


As salaam alaikum,

Who knew? Who knew the oft-repeated phrase, a phrase some of us repeat more times than we do Fatiha in a day, would be one so difficult for so many of us to wrap our minds around.

I know I am one, and while by the nature of a journal I speak for myself, I know I am not alone. Insha'Allah. God-willing. Or, as my parents used to say in English, by God's grace. Some of us sprinkle our language with this phrase, some of us place it purposefully and thoughtfully, some of us omit it, incidentally or purposefully, but what does it mean?

I thought about this as I was riding home from my grandparents' place yesterday. My mother makes the weekly drive an hour north to visit my grandparents, who are aging and whose health is failing. My grandfather is malnourished and frail and my grandmother has very limited mobility and early stages of dementia. It's early because she has insight into everything as she begins to exhibit paranoia and short term memory loss. It's hard on the family, but especially on her children.

My mother and father were talking about how hard it was to pray so vigorously for her, daily, for years, and not see the fruits of this prayer. Why hasn't the dementia go away? I don't even want to believe, pronounce that this is God's will, my mother says.

But in her daily salat, and in her du'a, and in everything she does, I know because she raised me this way, she pronounces by God's grace, by the grace of God. That ever-present insha'Allah that we Muslims take care to observe, acknowledge, pronounce...so, why does she fear? It's in God's hands.

Because she struggles to fit into her mind why God wills her mother to fall into dementia that distresses my grandmother, my grandfather, their children and their spouses and the grandchildren and great-grandchildren who recognize what's happening.

But we were never promised understanding of all of the ways and wills of God in this existence.

It is sad to see my grandmother succumbing to dementia but at the same time I feel blessed that I have been able to exist a few more years with her, experience her all this time. She almost died in 2004, and this year marks 8 more years she's had with us that she's been able to live in the house. Times are hard and I have not yet experienced the pain of declining parents as my mother and aunts and uncles have, but from the first time I ever saw this strong woman cry (a few months ago) to hearing her talk about people who are not there that torment her, I cherish the fact that she is otherwise lucid and her long-term memory is in tact, and she can tell me stories from her life.

I'd hoped to help my grandmother write a story about my grandmother's life...insha'Allah...


There it goes again! So many of us struggle with this, Muslim and non-Muslim. When I went through my phase of deconstructing religion as I knew it and arriving back there again, I did contemplate, as many did, how God could exist in a world where so many terrible things happen to innocent people, from starvation, war, rape, natural disasters. I didn't ruminate on these long, however, because, like many, I selfishly oriented my belief in God around personal circumstance. While I credit my mother for raising me with a strong and organic belief in God early on, my faith in Him was something that was highly conditional...dependent on my own personal circumstance.

I had faith in God for everything but my own partnering. Marriage. Relationships. Whatever you want to call it, and I still struggle with that. Insha'Allah, I will be happily married...does that mean that maybe God will not will it?

While other women are praying that they will not have to be raped again, or lose their children again, or contract AIDS, or have to kill their female child, or have to sell their bodies again...insha'Allah.

Some of us are afraid to pronounce it lest we are disappointed. Some of us absolutely do not believe in it.

And I think it's human nature to always have some level of discomfort with it because, in the end, we cannot understand it. Even the angels ask (2:30).

Insha'Allah. God-willing. I say it all the time, but admittedly, I don't really know what it means.

It makes me feel a lot of things. It makes me feel hopeful and helpless, free and imprisoned, safe and precarious. It makes me excited and fearful, enlightened and lost.

It reminds me of B, a man who I loved and lost, who I miss relating to, who I miss sharing everything with, who I still struggle with tied hands to not contact, not email and tell him what's on my mind, what I've been going through, how I've been living, what I've been thinking. It reminds me of how it wasn't God's will for us to be together and how I felt that all along and ignored it and continued forward until things came to a head. It was never completely comfortable, my being with him, knowing he was not Muslim, knowing that the way he believed in God was very different from mine, but never imagining he would be so out of my life that I'd no longer have that person to share myself with, tell everything...because I was never that person to him. And I wish I could reflect and tell him that, but I can't. Insha'Allah, I'll be with one who fits better.

Insha'Allah. But I don't know.

And I cry sometimes over this silly thing because I don't know. Because I felt like I needed him, needed him so much, or needed someone like him so much, it just felt like such cruelty to be pulled away from it, but it's all God-willing.

And I can only imagine such trivial pain as compared to the pain of a mother who listens to the hungry cries of dying child. And it's all God-willing.

God-willing? "Verily, I know that which you do not know," He tells us (2:30).

For atheists, it's so hard to fit in their minds, they don't believe it. For Agnostics, they scrape the surface but prefer not to delve further than the possibility. For believers, it's still a struggle. It's an every day struggle, it's growth every day, it's reckoning every day, spending a little to buy a little piece of our fate every day as we live out this life, day by day, in absolute uncertainty but with faith in something, something that we'll awake the next day, that things will get better...

And as uncomfortable as insha'Allah is...I'm one of those people who prefer to believe in God by all 99 names, the only attributes that we can encarar, than in something out there, than in nothing but randomness. It's more comfortable for me.

So, insha'Allah I will be happily married to a man meant to be my life partner, insha'Allah my grandmother will find the peace we all pray she will find, and insha'Allah I will be alive to spend another day with my family together, and insha'Allah I'll wake for another day facing this life God has given me in the morning.

...as masha'Allah, God has willed, I woke up this morning, and masha'Allah I've lived 26 years and 4 months, and masha'Allah I have a loving family, and masha'Allah I lived a love for a brief time that showed me what was possible...

...and too many things to fit in this reflection of an ill-conceived fear of what has not yet come to pass.