Thursday, March 29, 2012

[uncensored]: Love in the Time of Autism

As salaam alaikum,

This was the runner-up for the post I contributed this week. As such, it has not been edited as well as that piece, but I still find it worth sharing:

I was sitting in an observation room in the developmental medicine center in the children’s hospital, watching a psychologist administer the ADOS to a young child who would most certainly be diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder when I came to the conclusion that my ex-boyfriend had Asperger’s syndrome.

That would explain a lot. That would explain why sometimes, when we went out, he preferred not to talk to me and we ate in silence. It would explain why he told me he felt like he wasn’t from this world, like he was an alien that no one could relate to, and he couldn’t relate to them. He couldn’t relate to me, either. Maybe it’s why he saw older pictures of me and didn’t recognize me because my hair was different. This is why he laughed when everyone else laughed but didn’t understand what was funny. Why he thought it was appropriate to break up with me and tell me that it was because of my weight, and everything else that went wrong in the dissolution of even our hopes of being friends after he eventually apologized for the weight comment. Why he was able to disconnect so cleanly from me, in spite of all that we had shared, just like unplugging himself from a socket.

That would explain a lot, but I can’t count on that. I have to stop coming up with excuses for him. He was mean to me and for whatever reason he didn’t want to be with me, he isn't. I am better than him, end of story.

But maybe he is on the spectrum…

Before learning the DSM-IV criteria for autism spectrum disorders in medical school, like my mother, I suspected different people in my life of being on the spectrum. There was the friend in high school who was very socially awkward and whose conversations seemed to be based in scripting, taking phrases and dialogue from movies and shows to supplement language.

Then, of course, there is the broader autism phenotype theory within my own immediate family. My grandfather is suspect, with his decades-long love of reading the dictionary and highlighting everything with his red, ballpoint pen, one of the many fixtures at his table of things that is arranged just so. I’ve briefly wondered about myself and my odd fixations on things, like, most recently, the history of the T, the subway, in Boston, and my fascination with discontinued lines and hidden tracks…

I don’t think I’m on the spectrum, but I wonder what loving someone on the spectrum, my brother, has done to the way I love men.

I loved that my ex was quirky. I loved that when he thought, he thought in moving objects. Like thinking about sports then imagining a spinning football and how that would translate into a mechanics problem for his students. It was okay that he went days without speaking to me, that he sometimes wanted to be left to brood while with me, that he sometimes seemed distant. When he was present, he more than made up for it with surprise moments of intuitiveness and concrete ways of sorting through my torturous stream-of-consciousness conversations with him. But that did not a relationship make. I didn’t realize this until I started getting over his breaking up with me, though.

I went to a conference for parents with children with special needs, and attended a session on supporting the siblings of these children. They mentioned something that gave me pause. That sometimes, siblings of children with special needs have problems establishing healthy romantic relationships because they don’t understand that someone who loves you shouldn’t hurt you. Was that me?

I mean, siblings of children with special needs were more likely to go into service fields. I’m in medicine. That’s me.

But Emeka never treated me badly. When we were growing up, yes, sometimes he seemed to completely ignore me, to be content with my not existing. He was non-verbal in the beginning, so he didn’t talk to me for years. My mother tells of the time that I reported to her, frustrated, that “Emeka won’t play with me.” And he didn’t. My mother described it as him having “his own agenda.” Professionals in the field refer to it as self-directedness.

There’s something about the way the brains of people on the spectrum work that they process human faces as they process objects. Parents and siblings are often used as objects to obtain other objects. Little eye contact is made and the individual seems very independent simply because they are living in a world all their own, with no other people, more excited by objects than human contact. So Emeka preferred to line things up and to scan the order of things than to look me in the face and engage in play.

But I always loved my brother for who he was. He embarrassed me with his tantrums in grocery stores, but that was his greatest offense. I protected him at school but I still smacked him upside the head with pillows and paper plates at home when he got on my nerves, just as I imagine I would as a big sister to a neurotypical brother. I loved him though, for years, I got nothing back.

Was this why I let my ex be so distant while we were together? Is this why I wanted him back so much and felt like he was the best thing that ever happened to me, and ever would? Because he was verbal and had moments of relatedness?

My mother disagrees with this analysis. From her vantage point, she says that my relationship with my brother has given me high expectations for my relationships with men. She says that my relationship with Emeka has made me empathetic, patient, generous and kind. I am very careful with my relationships because relating to a brother with autism over the years has required special care. So I expect the men I am in relationships with to take the amount of care with relationships that I do, and they don’t.

And I don’t understand why!

Yeah, I kind of like that explanation of things. It’s more empowering. I struggled with the way my relationship with my ex ended because it was so abrupt and messy. “I’m no longer satisfied with this relationship,” while he was really the one not satisfying me because I saw him so seldom though he lived less than a mile away. And somehow, he dumped me. Meanwhile, I was ready to say, if you don’t want to see me once a week, we can see each other once every other week. No longer satisfying? And he was shocked when I broke out crying. He had been thinking about that for two weeks, came forward, and was shocked that I was upset for months afterwards. What is wrong with you? And you told me I was fat? How could you be so cruel? You apologized and then gave the same lame-o excuse, “I’m not ready for a relationship,” and then almost immediately you’re in another one with a young, skinny chick. And you want to be friends? How is that okay?

His gross mishandling of our relationship, which was always more bumbling than malicious…makes me wonder if he is, indeed, on the spectrum. Maybe I want to believe that because in addition to all the things that my relating to my brother has made me, it’s also made me forgiving.

I forgave my brother for embarrassing me and ignoring me all those years. I forgave him for cramping my style at school. He made up for it as a teenager, when his language began blossoming. One day in particular, I remember playing a VHS tape of a show we used to watch as kids. In a way that would later become characteristic, he told me that he remembered that we used to watch the show together. He told me, “It’s from the years! It’s from the years we did.”

My baby brother remembered something we did together. Even though he was running around, spinning, not making eye contact, not sitting for the duration of the show, he remembers that it as something we shared. And I cried the first time he told me this. I cried in spite of myself, because I thought I was stoic to the fact that my brother just couldn’t share with me, but I wasn’t. It still meant a great deal to me to know that he was there all along.

My little brother who I once called “Fuzzy Joystick Head,” in spite, by God’s grace, developed language and social skills that were sufficient for us to share in experiences. And I rejoiced in that, and I don’t even remember what it felt like to be embarrassed by him these days…how can I when…he’s come so far, and teaches me so much every day as I watch him continue to develop and make milestones we didn’t think he ever would…

I forgive my brother, and in wanting my ex to be on the spectrum, I guess I want to forgive him, too. But unlike my brother, my ex has done nothing to deserve a pardon.

It hurt, because I loved him, but I should move on. Before I met him, I had decided to give up on relationships and dedicate my life to becoming the physician that I want to so I’ll be able to support my brother when my parents are no longer able. I think I’ll just go back to that.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Reframing "Lonely"

As salaam alaikum,

A little surprised that I have a post a day after so long of...not. This is a rare time for me, my nearly 3 months of not having academic responsibilities while not yet being a resident. So I have plenty of time to sit, think, ruminate, reflect, introspect...while running errands for residency and preparing for my move out west, insha'Allah.

I use these free times also to try to get my stress coping mechanisms in order, because I'm in for the grandest ride of my life, my professional life, at least, that will transform me into the physician I need to be for my patients, whoever they may be. More than just stress coping, I try to get my spirituality in order to help buffer what's tough about the dunya, this world, and to support me on my path to Allah (swt).

I have these feelings that come from within that I call "God feelings." I don't usually think in words spoken aloud that come from outside of my body, but sometimes...words come to me, as if spoken inside of my body, from outside of my body. They usually come in phrases. Like with my ex, "You're going to end up with him," with the understanding that I wouldn't know the duration, but that this was fact.

So, a couple of days back, I got, "You need to reframe your 'lonely.'" And I got exactly what that meant.

I've been lonely for a long time. It harkens back to me being a kid and not being able to form long-term friendships with my classmates and others because of my parents' relative social isolation. I've been lonely since I was the only girl not wearing shorts and flirting with boys at my first middle school, since being the new kid at my second middle school, since my own social misfit days in high school, since becoming Muslim without community in college. Since being very single for much of medical school.

I call it lonely, and people are always like, "How can you be lonely, with your friends all around you and your family here?"

And I beat myself up for it, wondered about it, attributed to the lack of a man in my life...but, as I alluded to in Losing a False Heaven, I want those days to be over and done. No more counting on the false god of the future husband to deliver me from loneliness.

I think the call to reframe my loneliness came after I finally rejected this amalgamated phantom that was my future husband. who can help you?

And the answer is, as it was always, God. No one else can help or hurt you. Only God. Only.

So what is actually this lonely?

It's my maturity, my spiritual coming-of-age. It's me recognizing the blessing that is the human experience. It's quiet time, time when you can hear nothing and it's just you and God. You and God.

My loneliness is God's protection of me from things I don't need. Things that I want or may covet and shouldn't have. Things that I shouldn't be. God's protection, because I prayed for it and because I was so blessed when I don't know to even ask for protection.

My loneliness is the realization of God's purpose for me. Him guiding me along the way, leading me as sometimes I kick and scream and want to run away like a wayward toddler who doesn't understand the way of things and who wants to assert her own agency.

A gente quer ter voz ativa, no nosso destino mandar...

My loneliness is time to pray, time to thank God and ask for forgiveness, that I have not been correctly using. It is my time to learn and grow.

It is my love growing in wait of all of the beloveds that will come into my life that I have not yet met and who I could never fashion in a dream.

My loneliness is, in fact, a blessing, an artifact of who I am, who I've grown to become by God's grace. It doesn't have to be lava que cobre tudo. Lava that covers everything and hardens and darkens after it burns on impact. Nor am I using this reframing as an excuse to retreat into myself.

We are one but God creates us distinctly, with distinct though similar and intersecting paths...I am lonely because of this distinction, and because I am not quite at an intersection, and those who will insha'Allah fill my life are in parallel with me right now. Whoever veers whichever way, our paths will intersect, and maybe combine as one or maybe we'll continue in parallel. Allah (swt) knows what we don't. And this is life. And this is life.

And even if it were that one's road is always in parallel to another, God is at the end, by His grace, and we all meet at the destination.

Which makes my lonely, though purposeful, less lonely.

I'm Still Broke

As salaam alaikum,

Wow. Reality check in my face right now...

I'm making up a projected budget for my living in Seattle in June, iA, based on my income, my estimated income after taxes, and projected amounts I'll pay for car notes and the like.

I made up my little budget in Excel, made a bunch of projections for things I have no idea about, like car notes, car insurance, gas mileage, put them all together and discovered...

...I will not be able to afford my current budget, haha!

And it's not like take away things like the monthly gym membership or cancel Netflix. It's like, spend about $200 less on an apartment and be content with a shoebox kitchen with a rinkidink stove, which I don't think is something I'm willing to sacrifice.

Well, dang!

It's not like I'm living outside of my means now. I pay $850/mo for my share of a two bedroom. I don't own a car...I take the bus and the T (the subway) everywhere.

These facts alone subtract about $1400 from my current monthly budget as it stands...if I were able to pay less than $1000 for a decent place and if I didn't own a car that I'd be paying a car note on...

Then, the other big thing is the $757 I'd be having to pay monthly as part of my income-based repayment for educational loans. Yes. I know, ooooh, ribaaaa, ooooohh. You know what, though? God commanded us against riba and all other sins for our own good, here and in there Hereafter. Here and in the Hereafter, got it? If someone is drowning in loans accruing interest, start to drinking from the financial stress, end up on the streets, and overdose on drugs and die...or even if they struggle additional stresses from debt in life and struggle with their faith because of's not good here, it won't be good to your soul cumulatively as you go along. That's how I see it. I don't see my taking out educational loans as a tick mark next to my name or an automatic ticket to spend time in "thermal rehabilitation," as my mother calls it. Islam is much more organic than that. Pretty much all sins, you can rationalize the detriment to your soul without them. In this country, you can't avoid some at some point, even though you don't noise about it. What do you do?

Remain prayerful and seek forgiveness every day like we're supposed to, and guidance to the path that is more right...

However, feeling the pain of loan repayments even after some loan forgiveness by my school gives me insight into why riba is haram.

Digression. So, I had planned to start paying back my loans as soon as possible so more interest won't capitalize on, increasing my riba and overall just becoming a hassle in my life. But now my budget in Seattle is now nearly $2200/mo greater than my budget here. Add to that my attempt to save and invest money (halal Roth IRAs and savings accounts through the sharia-compliant branch of University Bank in Ann Arbor, anyone?). That's at least $200/mo more...$2400/mo, it turns out, above my current living standards.

There are other things to take into account, to, like the fact that I've never had to pay for heat in my utilities...I will not be freezing in Seattle. My place must be at least 68F while I'm there...

Twenty-four hundred dollars a month is a lot more money than I'm used to spending or being responsible for paying bills. That translates to $28,800/yr, which is more than half of my income after taxes as a resident...

Ay ay!


So, after playing with my budget, I determined that either I will not be able to begin paying off student loans in residency, or I will not be able to afford a car. Simple as that. It's either loans or car.

...this is why riba is the devil!

So, after all of the rejoicing about actually having an income, once you factor in the fact that I will have a car and have educational loans to mind, at the end of the month...

I'm still broke!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

[uncensored]: Interfaith Marriage on a String

As salaam alaikum,


“All is change with time / the future none can see / the road you leave behind / ahead lies mystery!” – Stevie Wonder, “All in Love is Fair.”

My mother told me the other day, “You know, I think your brother’s autism saved our marriage.”
Being single in a time of intense want—for a fulfilling relationship, my own marriage, my own family—has made me hyperaware of other people’s marriages. Over the years, I’ve noticed that many marriages, at one point or another, hang by a string. Sometimes the couple recognizes this fragility and this motivates them to make it work. Sometimes couples don’t even know that they’re there, and it comes and goes without their knowing.

I feel like my parents are there right now.

My mother is Muslim, my father is Christian. They met as part of a blind date, became friends who discovered they loved each other. My father’s visa expiration and a youth service obligation led him back to Nigeria, leaving my mother in the United States to pine over him and wait with bated breath for his letters for the next three years. And they married upon his return to the United States. They were Muslim, several years converted from the Nation of Islam, and Christian, the son of Nigeria’s head of the Faith Tabernacle Church, but love conquered all and brought them together.

My mother later told me that their shared values and their conviction against the need to attend a “religious sanctuary” were some of the key practical elements that made the interfaith aspect of their marriage work early on. This was less romantic to me, but it seemed to work out.

Growing up, my parents never argued, at least not to our hearing. My mother sometimes lamented not going out as much as they used to, and my father sometimes complained when his food wasn’t ready when he came home from a long day of work, but that was it. My mother prayed and read her Qur’an daily and my father watched his favorite televangelist, and everything was fine.

They maintained this balance in our home until the summer in 2005. I was 20 when I came home from college and decided, in the worst of ways, to tell my father that I was Muslim. I told him, between tears and snot, that “I will never be Christian.”

And things were never the same in my parents’ house.

During the worst of times, when I was home for New Years’ that same year, my father blamed my mother for my brother’s autism. “If the family had been united in faith and prayer, he could have been healed.” It was surreal to watch my mother run up to their room, weeping. My father seemed unrepentant.  He returned to his office in the basement without a word to me. My parents never argued like this. My father had never said such mean things. I had never seen my mother cry. What was happening?

What did I do?

I initiated the stringing of my parents’ relationship. My being Muslim is unacceptable to my father. He’s embarrassed by it. When he goes to church these days and they ask where his family is, he gives an elaborate excuse and tells them that I am Christian when they ask.

I’m sorry he feels that way. I find God best in Islam. This is how he allowed my mother to raise me. This was the way my extended family practiced. I wish my father would accept me.

He loves and accepts my mother. He reflects with sadness that there were some churches he couldn’t attend because some would not consider him Christian because he had a Muslim wife. And I told him that there are Muslims who would most certainly question my mother’s Islam in the same way. But my father loves my mother, and my mother loves my father, and they are dedicated to each other and to their family, both my brother and me.

He loves me, but he does not love my Islam.

My father was so upset to tell his elder brother, my uncle in Nigeria, that I was “leaning toward Islam.” He told him two weeks ago. He can’t bring himself to ever call me Muslim.

“This is huge!” my father told me. “You don’t understand…Nigeria is a big country but mine is a small community. What would people think? They would think this isn’t me. They would think that this can’t have come from the son raised by his father, the son who sat at his feet for every sermon.  After the way that I was raised…”

It’s also that I’m Muslim, as were the people who killed my people just prior to the civil war in my country.  My father doesn’t understand how I can be Muslim when “The Igbo and the Hausa do not see eye to eye.”

I try to fix it sometimes. Maybe I shouldn’t be so loud about being Muslim. I told my father, “I’m sorry. If I had known it was such a big deal…”

“It’s not a big deal.”

But Daddy, it is a big deal. All you described to me are big deal things….

It’s my fault. Sometimes I feel like my brother really is the unifying factor. My parents may argue sometimes, but if my brother misses his medication and has a seizure, my parents will run to the scene, catch him as he falls and pray over him for the duration of his tonic-clonic convulsions and post-ictal state as he struggles through slurred speech to tell them that he’s okay.

My Islam reminds them of their difference, the very real theological difference between Jesus as personal savior and Prophet Jesus, between God in three persons and God, the one, the only.

“You know, I think your brother’s autism saved our marriage.” my mother told me last week. She then explained that the social isolation from the Nigerian network in our state probably kept her from having uncomfortable run-ins with Christians who would disapprove of her Islam. It probably saved her from arguments with them that may have jeopardized her relationship with Daddy. But she can’t know that…

…and I actually don’t believe that to be true. Their love has always been more than shared aversion of religious sanctuaries held together by my brother’s autism and epilepsy. They are each other’s best friend. They don’t pray the same but they do pray together. They have similar dreams and goals for their children and they love us more than they are able to express. They came together in strength following a diagnosis that was all the more devastating in the 1980s when professionals knew so much less about autism. They’ve stayed together in a marriage unmarred by infidelity and separations, physical or emotional violence or any real discord. They did it! They are achieving interfaith marriage!

It wasn’t just autism. I realize my mother just said that because their marriage is hanging by a string right now, and they don’t know it. It’ll pass. I don’t know how or when, but inshAllah it will. Both love and are dedicated to this family too much, to my brother too much. Maybe one day inshAllah I’ll get married and leave my father’s figurative house and my father won’t feel so responsible for my being Muslim anymore. He can concentrate on loving his Muslim wife instead of trying to convert his Muslim daughter.

Marriage is hard, and interfaith marriage is just one type of hard that a couple can face, that I may face one day, whoever my husband may be. There is no one way to do things, so there is no how-to. This is just one way. It may hurt to tell it sometimes, but this is actually a story of success. Success…on a string.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Woman and Islam

As salaam alaikum,

(If you haven't, read the entry that comes right before this was important to me! Thank you...)

You've heard of Pablo Neruda's "Ritual de mis piernas," or, in English, "Liturgy of my Legs?" Well, this is going to be the ritual de mis uñas.

I never really was into painting my fingernails. I think before now, the only other time I did my fingernails was when I went to prom. I never developed those pictures because I disliked all of the attention, getting fussed over, people remarking about how gorgeous I was all of a sudden after a roller set, some extra spritz, full makeup, nails done, jewelry...everything. Wasn't I gorgeous everyday? What was this about?

Then, as I started practicing Islam again, I came across some sort of source, I don't know, on the internet or something, that indicated that a woman painting her nails was at least discouraged, if not haram, for the purposes of purity during salat. I never knew the exact  reason, but in those days, that's all I needed to hear, and it was easy. I did not do my nails. I was all into my natural beauty, anyway.

I've never been one of those women to dress to the nines. I do like looking nice, but within reason. But in terms of attracting the opposite sex, my stance was, I can look however I want to look, and there will be someone out there for me.

...that remains true, but I have discovered that male attention tends to be ever more distracted by the more heavily made-up, the form-fitting, the revealing. The second look may be against them, but, what the hey, we're all sinners, anyway...

But still, I remembered what I heard, and while I've gone through various modes of dress as a practicing Muslimah, I have not done my nails...until recently.

It started after I took the boards and one of my classmates beckoned me to get my nails done. Not knowing how to back down when my foray into medical school had led me down a road of doing a host of other things that I didn't previously, being around people who were drinking alcohol...I went ahead and did my toe nails. I eventually let that color grow out. Two summers later, in retaliation to my ex dumping me, I think, I did my toenails again and wore socks for salat, figuring that was okay. Then, sometime a few weeks ago, I read somewhere while browsing a random fatwa bank about a hadith that some cite to say that a woman coloring her nails is actually sunnah.

And I think I just threw up my hands at that point. Like, seriously? That's a big difference between haram and sunnah. After years of confirming that it was in fact haram by examining the finger- and toenails of Muslim women in my community and on the street and seeing that none of the most conservative had their nails done...some people actually opine that it's sunnah? Or is it if it's only done with henna?

So, in retaliation, I painted my nails. I painted them dark purple, darker than that, so they were almost black. And I liked them.

And I seriously felt like a teenage girl who snuck out an made out with a boy for the first time in my defiance. Seriously.

...then I realized, this whole thing, the debate, my searching, my purposeful "defiance" dumb!

Dumb dumb dumb!

...but, I like painting my nails. It may be because all of the women in my recent novela had really cool nail polish, know. I'm such a consumer, except it's not benefiting Brazil any, so...yeah.

In the meantime, this morning, I forwarded my last entry to one of my best friends to share with her my current spiritual state. She said that it was inspiring and it helped her, even though she's happily (happily happily, hah!) married. That's awesome, I thought.

Then, she asked me a question that gave me pause.

"Have you ever considered becoming an imam?"

Yeah, it gave me pause, haha.

I explained to her that, in Islam, most understand that imams are only men, in that only men lead congregational prayers. I didn't get into the various layers of controversy over female imams. I explained to her that, even if it were possible for me to be an imam, like, assume I'm a dude (Invisible Muslim, anyone?)...I would feel like I needed to pursue a lot more Islamic scholarship, like, actually be able to speak Arabic beyond just reading the Qur'an with tajweed...Invisible Muslim would not feel equipped, haha, in other words.

But her question made me think about something I reaching my potential as a Muslimah in my community, with other Muslims? The answer is easy. No!

I'm not, and I've known this for sometime. I'm always in search of a community to participate in, and I can only imagine what that participation would look like. There are other ways that Muslimahs can assume leadership roles in the community... Could I find a way to help my brothers and sisters in Islam in a meaningful way?

It also struck me because...her idea, as a Christian, of what a religious leader so different from what my idea of an imam is. That she would see my quality of, I guess, providing inspirational advice and see me as a potential religious leader... Wow. That was a lot to think about...

It made the issue of whether I paint my nails or not seem like small potatoes. And it made me far I can take my Islam, how far we all can...if we don't get stuck on these small things?

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Losing a False Heaven

As salaam alaikum,

I remember, of my relating to MTQ, I thought this song, which I've recently started to listen to again, was very appropriate.

"Oh, If I ever lose this heaven / If I ever, ever ever lose this heaven / Oh, I'll never be the same..."

It's The Average White Band, "If I Ever Lose this Heaven." I thought that if he was gone from my life, I'd never be the same, I wouldn't know what to do with myself, that I'd never know another happiness so great.

Over time, I got over that, and it actually wasn't the worst thing ever.

The week that my ex was breaking up with me, I told one of my best friends that I didn't think I wanted to live if he weren't in my life. And while I still feel some of the burn of the breakup, I certainly know how to live without him and look forward to living far away from him.

These relationships, in fact, were not Heaven. Not Jannah that we learn about in the Qur'an and Sunnah. Not any Heaven any of our major theologies have doctrine about. It was a false heaven, a heaven the likes of that created by the Average White Band, covered by Quincy Jones and sung by Minnie Ripperton. It's an earthly heaven, not the one that insha'Allah I'm destined to know as long as I submit myself to God, and all that this entails...

And really, there's one more false heaven that I need to let go of. It's the prototype. It's my future husband himself.

This letting go will be free of tantrums, free of of emotional upheavals, free of tears. It's caused me nothing but pain and anxiety, and I'm letting him go.

And it's not a sad ending at all. It's a new beginning.

I dissected this all when I was talking to my friend, another one of my best friends, and she was in need. We got to switch places. She expressed some of the fears I've had about this new phase of my life...residency and all that comes with it. She was worrying about being single in a place where everyone was family-oriented, and wondered if she would make any friends. As I calmed her down, she reflected about how her anxiety must be how I feel about relationships. Like time was moving slowly, and that it as excruciating. I told her it was. And somehow, God had mercy on me in that moment, and I was in a state of grace, a state of clarity, and I said something that's made more sense to me than anything ever has...

"I'm not sure if there is anyone who completely trusts God when there are big changes in their lives. And when they are fine, maybe they are putting their trust in the other person, and not God. We are all afraid to varying degrees. We want to stay where we are or go one place when God is taking us somewhere else.
"I know that's my problem right now. I'm placing my [faith] in a future husband that doesn't exist instead of God. Frankly. That way, I don't think it'll ever work out for me. That's inviting myself to get hurt. Other people may place their faith in their spouses or future spouses, but I think what I'm supposed to be learning here is...I shouldn't. Not me. By sumbitting myself to God, and taking those steps, and practicing my religion, I've made a bond with God that I'm never going to break. Even at my lowest points of faith this year, I still pray. That connection is there... God isn't going to let me mess up now.
"When you walk to God, He runs to you. He's running to me...he's not going to let me place faith in a man. Once I get to the point of trusting in Him completely on all matters of my life, including whether and to whom I get married... It will happen. I know this...but it's a struggle getting there. 
"I know this. There's no other way that this is something I most wanted and I'm not getting it. In a sense, I'll never get it. I won't get a husband who, for much of my life, was replacing a key part of my belief in God. God has something else, better for me. God has something else, better for you."
And this is the truth.
I always say that having that good marriage is something I've always wanted. That is not true. Before that, when I was a child, I wanted to have a strong faith. I wanted to be one of the few who had strong faith in God at a relatively young age and carry that through my lifetime. Somehow along the way, I got sidetracked, and placed a portion of that faith that was only supposed to be for God into a non-existent human being. That's worse than idolatry!
No more of that. The love between spouses is indeed a mercy from God. We were created to love one another and fulfill both earthly as well as some spiritual needs. But I will no longer sacrifice my good faith in God, the strength in my religion for a man who does not exist.
Because he doesn't. My future husband as one to have faith in, to hope for, to hope to carry me through life does not exist, and God has been merciful and protected me from men who would want to be that for me at an age when I was not old enough to discern the difference.
So no, this is no longer the thing I most want in life. Because it doesn't exist. If God wills for me, He will provide me with a husband who in spirit is fit to be my mate in Heaven, the real one. If it is God's will. But if I don't place my trust in God once and for all in this's going to be like praying to a thing that cannot help or hurt me. Nothing's going to happen.
I've been wondering if there is something wrong with me. There isn't. I've been wondering if I've been doing anything wrong, and I haven't. I needed, instead, to wonder what can I do more right, and this is it. I have to let go of this false heaven, with this false god, the false god of my future husband that I looked upon meeting with more anticipation than meeting God Himself.
No more. I will work, pray, build my faith, and who God intends for me will be right there, and that's how it will be.
In other news, I finally watched the end of "Big Love." I cried like a baby! That totally made up for the bootleg ending of "Fina Estampa." No spoilers, but I loved the ending. I loved their message about faith. One of the last things Bill said was, "Our families, our wives...that's where our faith comes from. Not the other way around." Such a masterful series...especially once they got over writing sex scenes.
That may seem to contradict my entry, but I don't think it does. No more cult of the future husband for me. No more cult of the false heaven that is love without God's blessing. What God allows is what He blesses for me. No more future husband.

I can now concentrate on submitting myself to God's will...

Saturday, March 24, 2012

A Letra da Minha Vida

As salaam alaikum,

With my novela, Fina Estampa, ending in such an unsatisfying way, I'm left a bit desolate. They let the villain live! So anticlimactic...after all of that, Tereza Cristina sigue vivindo! Que merda!


Sometimes, I feel like I live lyrics that have already been written. This is my lyric for the day.

"I walk in shadows, searching for light. Cold and alone, no comfort in sight. Hoping and praying for someone to care. Always moving and going nowhere."

I feel like I'm always moving, and going nowhere. This may seem ridiculous from the outside. I'm very purposefully moving. I purposefully moved from my parents home to college down the street to complete my premedical education at a top notch school that offered me a full scholarship. I purposefully and prayerfully moved to Boston to go to medical school at what was touted as the best medical school in the country. I am purposefully, prayerfully and gratefully moving to Seattle, where I plan to attend an excellent residency program that will help prepare me to be the family physician that I can't even dream of becoming...

But in the background of all of this movement has been the constant search for love, hoping and praying to find it, hoping and praying for it to find me. I keep getting thwarted, and I keep hurting myself, and people keep hurting me.

I make every decision in this life with love and with love in mind. From my decision to become a practicing Muslim instead of the nominal Muslim I'd fallen into becoming as a teenager, it was always with love in mind. If I practice as I saw fit, most certainly this would facilitate me ending up with a mate who shared my values and a little bit of my vision, my worldview, my aspirations.

But facile it has not been. Maybe it's been harder.

With love, I decided on medicine, with love for my fellow human being, for the gifts God has given me, for myself. For hopes of sharing someone's dream and being capable of supporting my children and instilling the values that brought me to medicine in my children.

But my profession finds me busy so often, and love hasn't had a chance to find me. The dream of marriage, motherhood, continues to elude me.

With love I chose my specialty, and chose the program in which I wanted to train, and prayed for these much less heavy than I've prayed for this love, this love I want and feel I need for the rest of my life...

I have everything I wanted a little bit, and everything I never knew was so good to want and then have. I do not have what I have wanted most for most of my life.

I'm moving and with every move, every change in my life, every new phase, I hope and pray and beg that I'll be rightfully this life with a worthy partner, a worthy lover, husband, father...everything that I deserve and apparently don't know. I don't want to be told I'm fat anymore. I don't want to be bitten to be trained anymore. I don't want to be dumped like trash, ignored, disregarded like I have no feelings...anymore.

Sometimes I feel like God has contempt for me. Sometimes I feel like I'm being mocked, like it's something I've done or something I've failed to be. Why can't I have this?

Why can't I have this?

Everyone says it's coming, but that's empty talk. They don't know. They've had their husbands for years, their children for years. They don't know what it's like to want this since you were too young to want it, to wait patiently then impatiently and maybe patiently once more for it, and not understand...when it's what you want the most in life, more than anything you had and never asked for, but do appreciate...they don't understand...

My next move is purposefully and prayerfully to Seattle, a place where, for another three years, I may be perfectly alone. The solterona that I've always been. I flounder to find my way and I get my God to lead me there, but I feel just as lost as always, and just as desolate as always, and just devoid of guidance as always.

So "I walk in shadows, searching for light. Cold and alone, no comfort in sight. Hoping and praying for someone to care. Always moving, and going nowhere."

I'm always moving, and going nowhere.

Always moving, and going nowhere.

Always moving, and going nowhere.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Why, You Know What, I Dislike Social Networking

As salaam alaikum,

Yesterday, after a glorious day spent frolicking around after getting myself excused from clinic early in the 84 degree weather, having to pull a wrinkled skirt and my favorite orange shirt out of the still-untouched spring pile of casual clothing in my closet...I waited for my friend to come home from her dinner with another friend so we could hang out.

These days, with another of my close friends married, with my disastrous foray into the world of dating with an ex that hurt my feelings more than any living human being has managed to do, perpetual singleness with no hoped-and-prayed-for marriage in friend is all I've got sometimes.

I could call my parents, but my father has a mania of talking about Christianity these days, and the hope that I will "gain my senses" and convert, but ahhh...that's too tiring for this late at night. And I already talked to my mother for two hours today, and they're no doubt eating right that's out.

So, anyway, I find myself alone. I don't do well with no one to talk to. I don't need to go out, I don't need to watch movies or eat food or anything. I don't need the person to live there...I just need someone in my life during down times to talk to. And it doesn't have to be one person, it can alternate. I just want someone there in my life when I need to talk to someone. And when there's no one there in my time of need...yes...I get lonely.

As Paulo Viola said, "Solidão é lava que cobre tudo." Loneliness is lava that covers everything...

Thick, hot and tarry, it covers the memory of my beautiful day, it covers the brown of my skin after hours walking in the sun, it covers the fun conversation I had with my mother, the happiness I get when I listen to music, the excitement of watching the last days of my novela, the quiet of the night...

It's lava that covers everything.

So I feel lonely. God forbid I actually write that as a status on my gchat, no less my facebook.

There are always those people who criticize you for posting negative moods in such a public place. "People ask about you," my friend told me of a few of my gchat statuses. "They ask me, is Chinyere okay?"

That is an affront to me. You worried about me, why don't you ask me, you reading my gchat statuses that closely? Does it cost you to type a few words into a little chat bubble. Or do you not know me well enough to comment? Then don't comment!

So, I stopped posting mood negative statuses, and I always tend to try to avoid those on facebook, because similar criticism has been there forever. "I don't know how people could post such things in such a public space."

But this doesn't make sense to me. People are only supposed to post when they're happy, so people can like their status? And of negative posts, it's okay to be indignant, disappointed within bounds...but not lonely, sad or depressed. Then, your mental health is questioned for posting such sentiments. You're just looking for attention. Something.

Why? Why can I only post statuses that are happy, are mood neutral or are, at worst, indignant? Loneliness and despair aren't parts of the human experience? In order to not upset the delicate farce of a persona on a social networking site or with a social networking tool, I'm supposed to only express a certain range of acceptable emotions?

You know what? I actually don't like social networking, then! How artificial. How BS!

Don't get me wrong. I know that net etiquette means only as much as you want it to mean, so I'm actually free to be as lonely and depressed as I want on the internet. I know what I have at stake. I have friends on facebook that aren't my confidants, and they could take that information and twist it against me. It's too much out there to put my vulnerabilities up for anyone I see. And more people could have access to my gchat statuses than I know, a friend told me.

So no, I don't plan to go and post, "I'm lonely :(" as would be an accurate assessment of my "status," my "what's on your mind."

But why am I so comfortable posting the happy? The smiles? The laughs. The positive things.

Both are indications of you being incredibly permissive with who you let into your life and emotions.

So on these sites and with these tools, I present for generic people and friends alike to see, a two-dimensional version of myself with a small range of emotions, random YouTube clips and mix-matched politics du jour. It masquerades as a representation of me, but it's barely a representation of anything meaningful in my life.

So why do I keep it up? Why is it there?

That's a good question.

I use social networking mainly to keep up with people who I don't need to read their profiles to know anything about. My family. In fact, I've rarely read a family member's profile. Not that I haven't done the occasional facebook stalk of old friends from phases in my life past...and even people I did not know who were connected to said friends...but the thing that keeps me there is, yes, networking with new friends and people who I'd otherwise not chance to meet and maintaining contact with family. Gchat is really for me to talk to the few people I speak with consistently there and to communicate briefly with project mates and other brief academic interactions.

So maybe I should say goodbye to statuses?

But it's so darn hard once you have a place where you can get affirmation or just discuss any little thing that comes to your mind, perhaps make a connection with someone who you wouldn't even think would appreciate that YouTube clip of "Why Can't We Be Friends."


And that's why I have a blog. The audience is more limited, and though it demands a little bit more literary prowess for me to churn out the paragraphs here, I can say whatever I want without loved ones and randoms thinking I'm suicidal. The sentiments are fleshed out, and while they're still strong, they're buffered by a lot more information and protected from the masses. I can be more my full self here.

So there you have it. I am lonely. I've exhausted my social resources for the day and I am not asleep and I want to talk to someone, anyone, about almost anything, just as long as I'm sharing that with someone, and I've got no one right now with no promise of anyone to return. Lonely. I feel like a child who has just developed object permanence and freaks out whenever her mother leaves the room, with the uncertainty of "will she return?" Every day I pray for a man in my life, with the hope that he will fill that space so I'll not have to be lonely so much anymore. Every day I pray that I'm not deluding myself into thinking that a man in my life will be more than he can ever be, more than he can most likely be. More than I will get.

"Loneliness is lava that covers everything. Bitterness in my mouth. I smiled it's leaden teeth..."

My loneliness is more than just being lonely. It's the fear that this may just be my baseline for life. And I don't like that. Who would? Who would like that, and who would want that?

But social networking sites and tools have no place for such sentiments, such feelings that are so much a part of me that I networking has no space for the likes of me...

...and yet, I'll be on facebook and gchat for a while longer, to stay connected with family and chat with my closest friends.

I just kind of don't like it.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

There Will Never Be Another...Michigan!

As salaam alaikum,

Once I left the Midwest for medical school, I realized that there are people on either coast that would never be able to transplant themselves to the middle of the country. I grew up in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Michigan is one of the flattest states this side of the Mississippi. I mean, we are pretty unique in that are a state in two parts, and both parts are peninsulas between four of the five Great Lakes. I remember learning all about Michigan geography in the first grade during our social studies segment, and feeling like such a big kid for learning something that wasn't phonics or basic math.

Anyway...yes, Michigan, the feelings forever. Man, I remember that commercial.

I may not have wanted to go back to Michigan right now, and I may not make it back there super soon, but after visiting Wisconsin and thinking, good Lord, this is real midwest...too many cows and beer and cheese and cornfields! Yes, my county, Superior, had plenty of cornfields when I was growing up...but there was definitely a saudade factor as I was back in my home state, flying into Detroit Wayne Metro airport, driving down 94 and 23, Michigan Ave...

This was my childhood home. I lived there for the first 22 years of my life. I've still lived nowhere else as long as I have Michigan, and I won't for another 22 years, if I never return. My drivers' license is still a Michigan license. My parents' home is still my permanent address. I still measure distances in minutes and I still call pop pop and I still like Vernors better than any other ginger ale you put in front of me. I miss Meijer and it would make my experience in any other city near perfect. I still remember the cable lineup, but that may be helped by the fact that I haven't had cable since I left. I still follow Detroit sports teams (as much as I did when I left, haha) and I bleed Blue!

But I bought a ticket to the world, and I can get over Ann Arbor, though I'll always have much love for Ypsi and much pain for Flint and Detroit.

People may see my home state as Nowheresville, USA, but I think most of us live there...most of us live a little bit in the middle of nowhere, where we have to drive to get everywhere, in small communities with generations in one failing school district until it closes. I may be Ms. Fancy Pants right now (or Dr. Fancy Pants, soon, insha'Allah) but I was born and raised in a flat state in a little town whose sightseeing potential didn't waver far from a brown, brick, phallic water tower.

I love you, Michigan, and there'll never be another you!

I close with this song, an ode to a struggling city, Detroit. "Hello, Detroit," by Sammy Davis Jr., used to be the opening to a morning show that I would occasionally listen to on the way to high school my junior and senior year. I drove along in the early morning, around 7:10am, in my car, my family's 1985 Toyota Camry named Vergil...probably listening along on Resident, my resident boom box since my car radio was unplugged due to then yet unidentified alternator problems. So I'll leave you with this rat-pack-style tribute to Detroit, the most populous city in my state!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Truth in "The Message"

As salaam alaikum,

I hadn't listened to this song the whole way through in a while...that was some hard-hitting stuff! Please note that I do not endorse of the use of the homophobic slurs, including the other F bomb, but it's kind of telling of where the society was in 1982.

Otherwise, brilliance. The ghetto is the same. It hasn't changed in 30 years, and it hadn't changed in 30 years from then, either...or 50 years for that matter. Let the story of the likes of Detroit Red tell it...very similar thing.

Between the case of Trayvon Martin and hearing about the FBI infiltrating Orange County Muslim communities with the call to seduce and have sex with Muslim women, like Grandmaster Flash, I'm trying not to loose my head. Haha ha ha ha.

And like ODB said in, "Baby I Got Your Money," "FBI don't you be watching me." From COINTELPRO to now...I don't know who would disagree.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Nigerian Privilege?

As salaam alaikum,

This was one of the mornings I just stayed up after fajr. I'm so excited about moving to Seattle now and starting residency! In three short years, insha'Allah, I'll be a trained family physician, ready to save the world in my own little way. I'm so excited to (finally) have a strong panel of black patients while still getting to have my Latino patients, though yo viajo del caribe para México with my new patient population (I miss speaking Spanish!). And maybe I'll pick up a little Amharic along the way...

And then, one of my friends posted this article on his facebook page: Data show Nigerians most educated in the US. This was from a Houston periodical.

I posted this on my facebook page, to be met with three posts from one of my facebook friends, one of which was this article: Hidden Discrimination Against African Americans and Asians In Ivy League Admissions.

My friend posted two comments, one from a friend of hers and her own take, but she concluded something that was very troubling to me: that "non-slave descended success" was different from "slave descended success."

That comment tried to rip my identities asunder, man!

So, what is my success? I have a Nigerian father and an African-American mother? Was my 3.985 GPA in high school with 7 AP classes, graduating top 5% of my class and getting into all of the colleges I applied to more because of my slave or non-slave heritage? Was my graduating top 10% from my college and getting into Harvard for medical school slave or non-slave? My success at HMS? Slave? Non-slave? Was it more slave because I grew up around my mother's side of the family, and we are all slave-descended? Or was it more non-slave because I grew up with a Nigerian immigrant head of household, carry a Nigerian first and last name, ate Nigerian food but had nothing but phone contact with my non-slave descended family?

You see how ugly that sounds? I mean, I know what she's saying, but damn, can we find another way to say it? And seriously, where does that place me? With the Nigerian name, am I the product of Nigerian privilege? Did I come this far because I'm half Nigerian?

Okay, enough with the rhetorical. I don't think so, that's the answer!

Let's look at the African-American side of the family. My mother is one of 10 in a family that was part of the great migration. Her mother went as far as the 8th grade and her father got his GED and her father's education was interrupted by WWII. He served in Germany as an engineer and always aspired to higher education. They were sharecroppers in Arkansas. My Grandmother's side can trace their origins back to Harris Farm in Mississippi, the plantation where my ancestors came from. They moved from the village of Hensley, Arkansas to Detroit than Flint, MI, where Grandfather worked in the plant while Grandmother cared for their family. They were very poor, living in a two-bedroom house that was later demolished to make room for a highway in Flint. The boys slept in the living room. My mother and her siblings all attended some college, and several of them graduated with bachelors and a few with masters degrees in education, social work and administration. My mother was one who graduated with her Masters of Social Work. They were simultaneously the first generation to complete high school, college and graduate school education. If there was arriving to be had, my mother and her siblings arrived and then some. Because of their experiences with the Jim Crow south and racism, my grandparents would come to adhere to the Nation of Islam form of black nationalism, and took in with them all 10 of their children. In the late 1970s, the family converted to Islam, making possible the birth in 1985 of this Invisible Muslimah.

Let's look at the Nigerian side of my family. My grandfather was born in 1896 and remembers when "the white man" first came to his village. His mother ran away with him in her arms to try to escape. After a bout of smallpox in 1918 in which he felt himself healed by prayer alone, he converted from Anglican to Faith Tabernacle, a denomination that did not believe in medicine. He raised his family in the church, and their home was connected to the church. My father, the youngest, was born to him when he was in his 50s. They were not poor in Nigeria. They had a car, which was a sign of wealth, because as the head of the Faith Tabernacle church in Nigeria, my grandfather had to travel. The family later fled their home with only a few pictures after the war started. My father left his boarding school for a while and had to continue his education later. In the interim, he lost his mother to cancer. Biafra, made up of my father's ethnic group, which tried to secede from Nigeria, lost the war. He arrived to the United States in 1975 on a scholarship from the Nigerian government to pursue his university education here, after attending some university there in Nigeria. Excited to go to a school dedicated to technology, he stopped first at Michigan Tech in the UP before his cousin, a professor at the University of Michigan- Flint convinced him to matriculate at the Ann Arbor campus, for less snow. He got his masters degree in Chemical Engineering and met my mother, a fellow graduate student in the School of Social Work, and the rest is history.

My success is neither slave or non-slave descended. My success, of course, is first by the grace of God. My parents were some of his agents. I grew up in a loving household with strong, opinionated and strict parents. When my father learned what we were doing in math, when he came home from work and on the weekends, he would teach me ahead in math from the time I was in first grade onward. My mother would read with me at home when she discovered that some of my reading skills were weak and encouraged me to write and expand my vocabulary. My parents made sure that my education was enriched with their own strengths as I went through a small, community, majority-black school. And when they sensed that the school no longer challenged me and would not suit my brother's special education needs, we moved to another school district. My parents taught me to work hard. My mother taught me as a black person, I would have to perform above and beyond in order to get what I deserved at base. My father taught me that there was no difference between me and my Asian classmates, that none of had two heads, and pushed me harder, to not accept the A- on tests even when it was an accelerated class and the grade was scaled up.

My success is neither slave nor non-slave. My mother's success is not slave. How limiting of ourselves it is to ever think of it that way! Yes, she and her siblings succeeded, overcoming her personal family history of discrimination on several levels, from the failures of Reconstruction for the black community to Jim Crow, from segregation to redlining. And non-slave is a grossly oversimplified way to express my father's success as a black African in this country, with the complex history of Nigeria that he lived in his lifetime, from independence to civil war, from dictatorship to corruption and ethnic strife.

Yes, there are ugly truths about the country and this very ugly social construct of race, but whether or not black people are getting into Ivy League schools where they do not receive adequate academic and career support anyway should not be the primary area of focus. Nor should black college admissions in general be the only area of focus. College admission is a shallow victory and, in my opinion, an inadequate measure of success. Successful college attendance and graduation is a better measure of success. We get to these schools and I can say first hand, no, you are not especially supported. I went to college and advised myself until my last year when I had a premedical adviser help me know that my MCAT scores were competitive and helped me with my personal statement, but that was it. If you are taking someone from a poor public school and placing them in a competitive college environment without intense guidance and mentorship, whatever Affirmative Action you have in place will most likely fail to achieve any intended outcomes.

So, in the spirit of my public health school education, what are solutions? I didn't even tough on the Asian-American discrimination piece...that is a problem that I know many of my Asian friends have felt when trying to get into prestigious schools...I must say, however, the issue with them is very different than the issue with African Americans. Most of my Asian and Asian-American friends got into great schools, even if they weren't Ivies. Few of my black friends went to these schools. Some did not go to college at all.

For Asians and Asian-Americans, I think California's race-free admissions policy is best extended everywhere, even if it means, yes, Asians will be grossly over-represented in higher education. They work hard, they deserve it. I don't think African immigrants will be hurt by this policy, because many of us also do well with grades, extra-curriculars and standardized testing.

For African Americans...what needs to happen is that Affirmative Action as it used to stand (as it is being largely abolished) cannot stand alone. Short of revamping the entire public educational system in the United States, intense mentorship and enrichment programs need to be put in place at the primary school level for black students in bad school districts. We need to cut the prison pipeline and get everyone in between the drop out to college continuum as well. The key is quality of education and whether our kids will be equipped to handle competitive college campuses, even if admissions relaxes grade and test score requirements to take into account the poor quality schools our kids are coming from.

For example, because of the rigorous education at my public school, I felt like college was easy. I also got a tuition scholarship because of my academic achievement, so I didn't have to worry about finding a job since my parent's income didn't qualify me for work-study so I could take 16-18 out of the max 18 credits per semester. I had supportive parents who enriched me and mentored me in elementary school and went to secondary school in a rigorous environment and pushed through even after guidance counselors told me that I probably had a low IQ but got good grades because I worked hard.

I celebrate the success of Nigerians as I celebrate the success of any African-descendant peoples in this country or around the world. I'm so proud of us showing that we can succeed in spite of the curse that this society placed on us because of our skin color, in spite of our bad reputation worldwide. To bicker about whether this success is worthy or not as if my lauding that success is functioning like, "See, black people, we're better than you," is short-sighted and a little bit insular. Nobody even said anything about that in the article! So it's like, what? One group can't acknowledge their success without us talking about failures in our community?

We need to get less sensitive and instead of basically taking away what I believe to be deserved merit from a group that has their own independent set of circumstances, we can see what we can learn from that group. The greatest thing having a Nigerian father did for me was something that an African American father in the same circumstance as my mother could have given to me. I will say, though, having the Nigerian name of my father and the religion of the mother often gave me a difference that gave me courage to break from the crowd and be the nerd I needed to be to get where I am today...

Anyway...those are my thoughts.

Friday, March 16, 2012

[uncensored]: Match Day!

As salaam alaikum,

Okay, this time, I'm headed out west! Seattle, here I come, iA!

I matched at Swedish Cherry Hill Family Medicine! I'm going to be at Carolyn Downs community health center, which is an awesome FQHC that was founded by the Panthers in 1970. How exciting!

Unlike most other med students who matched today, I am going to sleep like a grandma shortly after I write this. So much to plan in the coming months for the move to get there in time for orientation in mid-June!


Thursday, March 8, 2012

I Will Not Always Love You

As salaam alaikum,

Sisters! If you ever get caught up in a relationship that didn't work out towards marriage or in fact never was any sort of relationship at all, and you feel like you'll always love the's not necessarily true! Allah (swt) can act through His agent, life, and you may come to see things very differently in time. Life circumstance may change, or you may just mature. I wrote this about MTQ almost 7 years ago to the day. I had no idea that I'd barely think of this man, 7 years later, except if talking about the anthology. I had no idea I'd rename him Sadiq and publish this story for the whole world to see. I had no idea.

If I can get over a man once loved, so can you! If I got over one once, I can do it again. And you'll come out better women on the other end, I tell you.

Same for you, too, brothers who have loved!

I found this because I suddenly remembered MQ awkwardly asking me, as we hung out at his friend's house after our first not-date, if autoimmune disease ran in my family, because it seemed to run in his. What was probably an innocent question from a premed student who wondered if autoimmune diseases ran in families turned into me wondering if he was asking as if looking at me as a potential spouse. His friend, who he probably just wanted me to get to know, turned into a chaperone so that we wouldn't spend time outside of a public place alone, and at 19 and having not really ever dated before, yeah, that was confusing.

I just remembered that...I hadn't thought about that interchange in years. Here is an entry during my sophomore year, and I believed I still loved him. This is from my personal journal:

Saturday, March 12, 2005 • I Still Love Him

            I still love him.  I know I do, because I still get that silly little feeling in my gut when I think about warm weather and my looking forward to seeing him, and my hanging on his every word, my counting on our awkward, one minute conversations.
            I know I still love him, because I saw him this Tuesday, going to his class, and he said hello.  And I said hello, and we talked as we used to.  And it left me with the same glowing feeling, and I hoped my face didn’t show it, but that maybe I transferred vibrations so that he could feel the same way too…again.
            And sometimes I just go through my journal, and look for the mention of the little moments we shared.  And I look for the place where I first liked him, back when I didn’t know I liked him, but I did.  And then when I realized that he was Muslim, and I freaked out.  And that one day in SSG that he was kind of flirty, I think…I don’t know, but I had a good time, we had a good time, just me and him…and Jessica remembers that I should remember him…
            And I just feel light…and this is probably why I am warm right now, just thinking about him, and what I thought I had with him, and what I want to share with him…everything about me, and the rest of my life…and how I want to be everything that he wants out of me, and I want to give everything he wants to need from me, and more that he would have wanted if he knew it could exist.
            And he saw me, and spoke, and it was like…old times.  I realize now that I had my hood on, so he couldn’t see my hair, as my theory was that he estranged himself after my hair changed, but no.  He first spoke to me when I didn’t have that much hair…so that must not have been it.  I don’t know what is up or down anymore, I just know that he spoke, and I knew he hadn’t written me off.  He’s studying for the MCATs, and he said he was going to kill himself, and I told him not to…and I wanted to add, “Just for me,” but I wasn’t so swift.  And I had to turn my back and grin widely.
            I still remember all of the things that he said to me.  From asking about the history of autoimmune disease in my family to saying that they didn’t teach what to say after a kiss in Organic Chemistry while watching Office.   And saying that he laughed the hardest he ever had in his life when he heard my mole day story, to telling me “Tu es mi amiga, Chinyere.”  Even though the Spanish was off.  And telling me all of the jokes…to cheer me up and make me feel better.  And knowing what I was doing, because he had read my away message…and reading my journal…
            And of course my favorite, “I’m gonna miss you, Chinyere.”  Even though he butchered my name, I wonder if he knew I was giggling because I liked him so much.
            I still love him.  I know I always will, but somehow I’m okay with that.  I think I’m fine with that because I realize that he will always be a beautiful human being to me, and I’ll always feel like I could have been something great to him, as long as he accepts…because I would.  I will love him and everything is fine, and remembering that feeling is much greater than waiting for it to return…

And the most telling part of this all is...I didn't remember most of this, I didn't remember how this felt. I take my own word for it, but I'm as moved on as they come. I'm grateful for having lived this experience for so many reasons...mostly that it helped me gain my first publication and was the muse for my first completed novel as an adult, whether I publish or not. It also taught me about characteristics I actually do want in a mate, even though they weren't really in this poor brother.

It reminded me when my ex hurt me that I had once known a greater love. It was an invigorating love that I can remember faintly and even still know, through pain, that my life is not over.

So no, I did not always love him. I do not love him. And for all other hims that will come and go within my life, without staying, except for those who pass on to the Hereafter by God's leave...I will not always love him.

And so can you!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

[uncensored]: Breaking the Fourth Wall

As salaam alaikum,

So, I started up this blog, and it's predecessor, (the xanga version), with the intention of living Islam in every aspect of my life, including my blog. If I intend to submit my entire self to God, I figured, and if I wanted to be able to do nearly everything in my life in the name of God, then what I blog about should be no exception. I wanted a place where I was comfortable reviewing what I was learning as a Muslimah (the original, xanga version) and just reflecting on my life through my Muslim lens (this blog).

Sometimes, I have these entries called [uncensored]. I never really explained them, but I will now. I usually label entries as [uncensored] when I feel it's important to express myself in a raw way without employing my usual purity, my Muslimah censor. That includes using curse words on occasion if my spirit so moves me. That includes talking about things I wouldn't usually talk about, or revealing details about my life that I usual don't. I hadn't done one in a while because I didn't feel so inclined. I was happy about life and possibilities seemed to abound.

How fickle that feeling is.

So, in this entry, I need to vent. I'm breaking the fourth wall. What does this mean? You can wikipedia it, but I learned about it in the context of television shows. Will Smith on Fresh Prince broke the fourth wall a few times, notably when the actress for Aunt Vivian changed or when baby Nicky grew up form an infant to a preschool age child in one season. Perhaps one of the most famous instances in television history of breaking the fourth wall (and also in the literal sense) was when Bill Cosby and Phylicia Rashad danced off the set of The Cosby Show on the last episode, revealing to the television audience for the first time what the set looked like.

I still get emotional when I see that! That show brought so many happy memories for me, though surprisingly, has little (consciously) to do with me wanting to practice obstetrics.

So that's breaking the fourth wall. So now I'm going to break the fourth wall, if just for one entry. Because there are just some things that happen in my life as a Muslimah that I either censor or omit, and I just have to be real for a little bit.

Before I decided to become a better Muslim, I was known as the sweetheart. The good girl, don't ever change type of deal. I still am, I guess, but it's brought me mostly pain and isolation.

Being a good Muslimah in the way I see most fit has brought me mostly pain and isolation. I pray to God for solace, and maybe it is that I'm getting it, and things would have been much worse if not.


Like my story in the anthology, most of the time, I feel like I'm an unfortunate, hybrid bird doing his mating dance alone in a field, and any mates that would have otherwise been interested are passing me by. The one thing I struggle with in my faith is believing, and actually believing, that someone, one day, will love me for who I am, for all of who I am. I struggle believing that. I so struggle believing that. I always have.

I have faith in God when it comes to my career, residency, all of these things. I have faith in God when it comes to the future of my family, my parents and my brother. My faith is weak when it comes to my future, wanting to have a family of my own, my own children. And it causes me a lot of despair, because I know how much I want it and I feel like God may not want it for me, and I don't understand why, but I feel trapped. I feel like I'm trapped in a world where I may really want something and God, in His infinite wisdom, doesn't want it, and I'll not know why until I return to him.

And it's so painful, and I'm so lonely.

I've hoped and prayed for so many things. I've hoped and prayed for my husband to fall out of the sky. I've searched for my husband in some of the men I've known. I've been rejected in a way that was really painful for me. I've been passed over. I've been ignored. All the while I've been lonely, hoping for the companion that I could share my Islam with, hoping for a companion that I could share my life with.

And I guess I'm only 27. This is a wait that really has no bounds. This is a wait that has no limit. And that's maddening to me. Absolutely maddening. It's one of those things I wonder why and I despair because the only answer I have is that God "knows what [I] know not."

I have to repeat to myself, over and over, "Consider the bright morning hours, and the night as it grows still and dark. Thy Sustainer has not foresaken thee, nor does he scorn thee. For, indeed, the life to comee will be better for thee than this earlier part [of thy life]! And, indeed, in time will thy Susatainer grant thee [what thy heart desires], and thou shalt bee well-pleased." (93:1-5)

The truth is, I'm despairing because I finally just cut B out of my life. I just had an elaborate dream about all of the possible women his new girlfriend could be. The reality is, I was talking to a Muslim man, Y, who I thought was interested in getting to know me for possible marriage. He called me last night, and I didn't pick up, because he informed me that he's talking to another woman and his ex is back and wants to learn about Islam. I talked to his ex about Islam. What else is there for us to say to each other?

The truth is, I struggle in a world where Muslim men will perhaps disapprove of me for the way that I practice, the way I comfortably do not don the hijab and would not do so for a future husband, the way that I do not really believe in the obligatory-recommended-discouraged-forbidden scheme of things when it comes to my religion and depend on saying salat "because I want to because God knows what's best for me." I struggle in a world where my pool is small. I struggle in a world where I am open to non-Muslim men, but where they are basically looking for free sex and are disappointed when they find they won't find it in me.

There's no place that I can look to find a future husband. I'm afraid that no one will accept me as I am. I am a 27-year-old Muslimah. I've never had sex but, God have mercy, I have known some intimacy with men. I was in a short relationship with a non-Muslim man who randomly was no longer attracted to me, and I suffered from that rejection. My Islam is simple and organic, more spirituality than law. I don't like living strictly by dos and don'ts and I live in a way that makes sense for my well-being, with the spiritual wisdom of revelation. I have no doubt that people who don't call themselves Muslim who believe in God and are good people and do good deeds overall will have a place with my Sustainer in the Hereafter along with me, insha'Allah, so that one says it's obligatory for me to do X, Y and Z as a Muslimah doesn't make sense to me if I know believers of other faiths who do not do this will also have their place with my Sustainer. It is obligatory, or what? It is a sin if I don't do it? Obligatory or hellfire? Is it that they don't know better, but I do? It could be. But the God I grew up with, the God that my mother taught me about...isn't like that.

Allahu a'alam.

We all try to do our best, anyway. I've tried to do my best as I've come into Islam and formed my own opinions of things. I've tried to do my best to understand why God wants me to be single right now and why I stumbled in a past relationship instead of finding a man who fit in my life. I don't understand. I struggle to understand. I struggle.

It was something I needed to live, that relationship. Something I needed to get out of my system. I had a pent up notion of sexuality and a pent up sexuality that I thought I needed to validate that I needed to get out of my system before I could begin healthy abstinence, meaningful abstinence and a healthy relationship with someone else.

I know that.

I wondered why, when I looked at him, I had this feeling, "You're going to end up with him." I was surprised, because he wasn't my type, and distressed, because I didn't get a sense of timeline. I just knew we were going to be in a relationship, but I didn't know how long it would last. I just heard it like a voice, like I've heard other things that will perhaps materialize, surprisingly, in my life. You're going to end up with him, the voice said, and I recorded it in my old journal back in April 2010, and I tried to ignore it, deny it.

And there it was. It happened. Now what?

So I'm breaking the fourth wall. I struggle with my beliefs. I'm an invisible Muslimah because I don't wear the scarf and there's not a lot of other ways that you could recognize that I'm Muslim, besides the times I may disappear for salat, but I usually pray when no one is around. Besides the content of my character and the goodness of my heart, masha'Allah. Besides my sense of justice and charity. But you can't see those things on the outside. So maybe I'm still invisible.

I struggle with trying to find what I feel is the purest sense of my religion and the purest way for me to live in this society. I believe in ways people will disagree with because of my trepidation with the law. I struggle to believe that God wants for me what I want, even though it's half of my religion, simply because it's not come yet and I have no signs of it. And I've touched men before.

This is me, breaking my fourth wall. This is me, no longer just reflecting on the more halal parts of my life. This is me being rough around the edges as I always was, and always will be. This is me taking a break to be human.

This is me imploring God for guidance, as always, and hoping that, every day a little bit, and cumulatively to the end of my life, that He is pleased with me.

This is me.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

My Love

As salaam alaikum,

For a brief interlude...this song is awesome. I really thought it was from one of Stevie's 80s albums, like In Square Circle or something, from the way it sounds. It's more than the fact that he's using a's also the way the music is written to make it sound really 80s, one of my favorite decades for music despite its gaudiness.

Anyway, this song is from 2007, with Julio Iglesias. If you go to the YouTube page, all of the comments are in Portuguese because of the novela. Little things like this make me love life that much more. Globalization is awesome, and so is the internet!

My love is greater than to limit it for a future partner in life. I had a moment of fraqueza. I will move on, and I will be fine, and I will be all the beautiful I've ever been.