Saturday, December 28, 2013



"Very well
I believe I know you
Very well
Wish that you knew me, too
Very well
And I think I can deal with everything going through your head."
--Stevie Wonder "Superwoman/Where Were you When I Needed You."

After the summer of 2004, before I started to lose my grip on reality and when I began to sense that a relationship between me and MQ was not to be, this song was my theme song. Or rather, my theme song for how I felt about him.

For whatever reason, I felt like I knew him well, if he'd just let me tell him about himself. He would see that I knew him well, and he would come to love me for it. And together, we could deal with everything going through his head.

But then there was this cumbersome part of the lyric to reconcile, and that was about Mary wanting to be a superwoman.

The woman that I was early college, I wasn't into that lyric. What's wrong with Mary wanting to be a superwoman, I asked myself...and probably seriously asked my mother. She didn't give me an answer. For those who have never enjoyed this wonderful Stevie song, here is a sampling of not just the chorus:

"Mary wants to be a superwoman
But is that really in her head?
'Cause I just wanna live each day
And love her for what she is

"Mary wants to be another movie star
But is that really in her mind?
And all the things she wants to be
She needs to leave behind."

Then it launches into the "very well" part.

As my brother is want to say, I took offense to this lyric. Why does Mary have to leave behind the things she wants to do? Her dreams, her aspirations, just for this man? And he claims to know her very well, well enough to know what is best for her as if she doesn't.

"My woman wants to be a superwoman
And I just had to say goodbye
Because I can't spend all my hours
Start to cry."

And like that, it's over.

The lyrics were based on Stevie's relationship with his first wife who had aspirations to be a singer herself. I think he helped produce her first album or something, but it was splitsville from there.

Towards the end of that marriage, Stevie wrote "You Are the Sunshine of My Life" for a woman not his wife. Burn.

Just a little music trivia there.

I took offense and I told myself I never wanted to be with a man who wouldn't let me be a superwoman. Because I've always imagined myself being somewhat of a superwoman. That image has metamorphosed over time...

From my 6-year-old imaginings of a thinner, browner-skinned version of myself sporting bantu knots, a tank top and capri jeans singing "Yes and yes indeed, nobody's just a-right for me," while passing by interested young black men on either side of me in an elaborate fantasy music video daydream to my 21-year-old image of myself in black hijab and jilbab with my activist husband to my left and my young son on my hip, overlooking the landscape of the human rights march we had organized, I always imagine myself a superwoman.

That has got to be the longest sentence I've ever written.

These days, superwoman me is a bit nebulous at best. I see her as some kind of leader in medicine, leader in her community, loving wife and mother, champion of the underserved. I don't see my hair texture or color or whether or not its covered. I don't see the color of my husband or my babies. I don't see my size and I don't hear my voice and the specific of my aspirations I don't know, but I do know I want to be great.

But is that beyond what I am?

Maybe I don't have within me to be a leader. Maybe I'm too soft spoken and accommodating. I've certainly had time in my life to be as activist as I want to be, and I haven't done nearly what I could have done.

Maybe I want to be a superwoman, but that's not really what's in my head. Maybe I should just be satisfied with who I am and go on from there.

...I still take issue with someone telling you, for the sake of your relationship, to forsake your ambitions. Although, at least he left without giving an ultimatum.

The truth of the matter is that I am not the superwoman I saw myself being when I was younger and even among the things I'm relatively good at, I'm mediocre at best at them in the grand scheme of things. I'm relatively poorly read, I'm not that good of a writer, I am not a model Muslimah, and my body has swung on the pendulum back to the fat side of things. My hair is broken at the crown in spite of its growth, and I'm an okay family medicine resident. I'm an occasionally disappointing daughter (to my father) and a distant sister. I'm a hesitant significant other. I'm not the best at anything that I do.

And you know what, that's okay.

Maybe now I can focus on making real goals in my life and not idealized ones, just as I will focus on making a life with a real man in my life, and not an idealized one.

One who I do not know very well. One who I'm not sure I can deal with everything inside his head. And I won't be able to. But that doesn't preclude me from becoming part of his life.

And now I've come full circle.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

We Do It, Too


When I was a younger Muslimah, starting college and finding my way, I once scoffed at a non-Muslim friend who asked about Muslim male dating habits.

"We don't date," I explained to him. Or, at least, I tried to, before he got angry at me for "pushing" my religion on him. Whatever.

He was taken aback that I could have liked a Pakistani man over a black man. Rather, he wouldn't admit it, but even though we were "just friends," he wanted me to be attracted to him as he was not so secretly attracted to me. Oh well.

He didn't want to hear the explanation because every time I explained how I was Muslim, that was less of a chance for him to make his way into my life. We didn't date, I would have explained to him, and I would have described some of the more halal methods of courtship, as I had only recently come to understand them. We didn't date and we didn't have sex before marriage. That way, we could use birth control sparingly, while married, and then we would bring forth what God willed. And what better way to bring forth what God wills than in a marriage approached prayerfully and for His sake?

So even though I liked this brother, I would never be truly heartbroken because I wouldn't have gotten unnecessarily physical with a man who I was not bound to marry, because I would not get physical with a man I had not married. My non-Muslim friend thought I was being a prude. Whatever on him.

And I thought that was the way it was with all Muslims.

Fast forward 9 years. In that time, I graduated from college, from medical school, from public health school and have been a resident physician for 1.5 years. I have lived my life and I have lived alongside many challenging and beautiful patients who have taught me valuable lessons as I learn along with them and attempt to be a healer. Here in the Pacific Northwest, I have been blessed to work with a large population of Muslim patients, more than I had the privilege of working with while a med student in Boston. And although it did not take this experience to make this realization, it did give me real stories and real faces to put with what had just developed as anecdotes.

We do it, too.

We do what? Whatever you may say, "Muslim(ah)s don't do." We do it, too.

We have sex before marriage. We get pregnant as teenagers. We have babies, still unmarried. We get abortions for unplanned pregnancies when we're unmarried. We get drunk and use drugs.

I think what some Muslims do, and I say this because I once did it, is consider these Muslims somehow other. They are either "so-called Muslims," they are "nominal Muslims," they are "not practicing Muslims," they are "actually disbelievers," or at best they are "not striving." Perhaps struggling, later to find their way. Maybe they were born to Muslim families and have not actually taken their shahadah or taken it seriously. But they are not considered properly Muslims.

Then one feels comfortable falling back on "Muslim(ah)s don't do."

While protecting the privacy of my patients, I will say that the majority of the families impacted by issues above are actively practicing the five pillars and are visibly practicing with hijab, jilbab and beard.

And I do all of this not to noise about "evil," because I don't believe in that. That's not my point.

I used to believe that "real Muslims" didn't do certain things, that because of our approximation of the perfect faith, we were immune to certain life mistakes, missteps and choices. And I believed that anyone who made those certain choices were no longer real Muslims and therefore not part of my imagining of the ummah. At best, those who participated in those activities had strayed and, God being merciful, they would probably find their way back, someday.

But imagining the ummah this way creates a lot of instances of "not my problem," that should be our problem. They should be taken into our consideration. They should be made part of causes that we champion in our communities. These are not things that simply happen to somebody else.

It reminds me of my father's church. As many of you know, my father is Christian. His pastor and his wife were unmarried when they got pregnant and they were quite young when they married as a result. Because of this, the pastor understood the importance of having a ministry for single mothers, recalling the challenges he and his own wife faced. The proposal was met with a lot of resistance from other Protestant pastors who felt like having a ministry for single mothers was enabling and encouraging premarital sex.

So I suppose they would sooner not support these women, part as punishment and part as "encouragement" for them to form an acceptable family unit soon.

Even if that were the primary goal of the ministry, how do you expect single woman to form "acceptable" family units if they are believing woman shunned from congregations?

I applaud the pastor for forming the ministry and recognize that this point of contention exists across conservative faiths.

Real Muslims, in my practice, face many of the same problems that all of my patients face, if at a smaller volume for some. We do all of these things, but ultimately (and most importantly), it is possible for us to do okay on the other side. We recover. I have seen married women who had terminations prior to marriage now happily married to men who respect their wives and are eager to start their families with her. Men who do not hold this over her head. Men who are not emasculated by his wife's prior sexual experience. I have seen loving parents standing by the side of their teenagers struggling with early addictions to find the best health care. Parents who do not cast these young people out. Parents who are just as frustrated and scared for their children as non-Muslim parents.

My practice in medicine has always been consistent, regardless of religion, orientation, gender, ethnicity, etc, but I believe what I've learned as a clinician has impacted my worldview. I think of us Muslims less monolithically now.

Friday, December 6, 2013

How Do I


How do I remember you, and how do I do more than pay lip service to your incredible legacy? What can I do to help fill the void of incredible leadership that's left while you no longer walk the earth with us?

For indeed, life shifted when I realized that you were no longer in this realm with us.

Nelson Mandela.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

My Aged Uterus


In January 1996, 17 years and 11 months ago, I was living with my grandparents for the second time in 6 months. My mother had a hysterectomy earlier that year because of pretty serious cramping and bleeding she had with endometriosis and large uterine fibroids.

When my mother told me, I was saddened by the finality of never having that little sister I wanted. Because my father continued working five days a week, my 8-year-old brother and I lived with my grandparents for the summer. It would be the last summer that my grandparents did not have air conditioning. It was installed in the days before we returned home. It was also the summer of the OJ Simpson trial, and we spent many of those sweaty Midwestern summer days lying on the floor in front of the television, low enough so our grandparents could see the trial. It was also the summer we introduced our grandparents to Rugrats.

I returned to the fifth grade just to end up going back to Flint that winter of 1994-95. They took her uterus and cervix but not her ovaries, and one of them had enlarged, concerning for cancer. When my mother told me, I was devastated, crying with the fear of losing her. My father continued working, so back to our grandparents it was. I completed weekly assignments from my public school down in Ypsilanti at my aunt's Islamic School in Flint. I wouldn't have to repeat the fifth grade for my missed days, my mother assured me.

I remember that winter. I called it the tundra winter because it was cold and barely snowed. Temperatures did not venture above 20 Fahrenheit for most of the summer. I remember the cold between my grandparents' house and Grandfather's conversion van, from the van to the school, from the school to the van, and back again. The pathology came back on my mother's ovary and it wasn't cancer. It was a chocolate cyst, a large focus of endometriosis that grew and caused her ovary to torse. My mother, who had opted to keep her ovaries in order to maintain her normal hormones, went into surgical menopause at the age of 41.

A week or so later, I was playing in the TV room of my grandparents' house when I felt a sudden trickle. I went to the bathroom and pulled down my panties to see little spots of brown in the bottom. I knew what a period was. My mother taught me about it when she pulled me out of maturation class in the fourth grade, wanting to present me sex "in the context of God" but still being too afraid to talk about intercourse with me. I knew what a period was because that's what happened to Mommy sometimes on family trips when she'd have to sit on a towel in the car and when she was writhing in pain and vomiting. It was the pads in the bathroom and the smell. This was a little bit of brown. I was confused.

I called Grandmother and asked her what it was. I can't remember her words, but she confirmed my suspicions with a groan, turning her eyes towards the ceiling with a look of "Lord help us, another one fertile!" It was my period!

She gave me a pad and clean panties, and I scurried off to play, excited that I was, like Clair Huxtable told Rudy, "a woman now."

...and then, the next day, I got my first cramps, and it was no longer fun.

My mother lost her ability to ovulate, and I gained mine. My mother lost her ability to bear children as I began my journey to be able to bear my own. I was 10 years old.

Now, 17 years and 11 months later, I am 28 years old. My ovaries have ovulated and my uterus has shed for over 200 cycles. It's coming up on 18 years of menstruation and I'm over halfway done with my reproductive years and the best ones have already passed me by. And I wonder...what was the use of starting to menstruate when I was 10 years old?

I thought about this after reflecting on the teenage girls whose babies I've delivered over times. These girls usually have short labors, breathing well through their contractions and tolerating them without epidurals and then proceed to push their babies out in less than an hour of pushing. And these are first babies, the babies it can take up to two hours to push out. I once had a patient come in at five centimeter dilated, get pushed back to labor and delivery, progress 10 minutes after my exam to complete, and pushed the baby out in one contraction, three pushes.

Sitting next to one of our interns, we reflected on this. "I hate to admit it, but there's something about the teenage body that is made for having babies. It's like, they're not mentally or emotionally ready, but their bodies are ready."

I said, "Maybe that's why we developed patriarchal societies. Because we best reproduce when we are teenage women and therefore need the extra support and protection from men."

She nodded. "You're probably right." After some thought, she said, "You know, I don't know why we haven't yet evolved so that our optimum reproductive years are after we, you know, get ourselves settled, get an education, figure out what we want in life..."

The fact of the matter remains that I am a female physician who completed medical and graduate school at 27, only now have begun to have reasonable marriage prospects, and I have had the ability to bear children for the last 18 years. My reproductive system is old and unused. It will not be as easy for me to get pregnant as it may have been for me 8-10 years ago, when I was in my reproductive prime. The tissue of my cervix is not as pliable and may not dilate as efficiently. My body has been so used to being in the non-pregnant conformation for so long, its no telling if my hips will open wide enough for a large baby head.

My mother had me at 30. My head was too big for her pelvis and she could not push me out. She went to c-section for cephalopelvic disproportion. My head was so big, the pediatrician had to measure it twice. I am going to have a large-headed baby, hehe.

When I was 13 years old, three years into menstruation and already in love with an age-mate of mine, I imagined us getting married. We would get married and have our first baby when I was 20. That baby would be a boy and he would be a junior. We were going to live in Detroit in a brick, one-story house. I was going to call 9-11 and deliver at home and he was going to be my miracle baby, just like this 13-year-old boy was a miracle in my life.

At the same time, I scoffed at the girls in my class who wanted to be teenage mothers, like their moms. At least my aspirations weren't so ridiculous.

I would move away from that boy, never letting him know how I felt, and I would not be having a child at 20. Or 25. And maybe not at 30.

In the end, I don't mourn my lost reproductive time. Instead, I celebrate my privilege, my ability to choose my partner, my ability to attain my education and ability to wait for a time of more security for whoever my baby beans will be. And although at times I feel like that business is atrophying...insha'Allah, it keeps working into your 40s, less efficiently, sometimes making mistakes, but it keeps working. Insha'Allah, I'll have time.

...but 18 years of being able to reproduce is a long time and makes me feel old. Makes my uterus and ovaries feel old. That's 18 years of nausea and vomit inducing cramps. That's 18 years of overdosing on ibuprofen to try not to stay in bed all day in fetal position. That's 18 years of trying not to ruin clothes.

Oh my aged uterus, why do you torment me so?

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Things that Make Me Happy #2: The Perfect Retro


Some time ago, I had a post where I did a gratefulness exercise inspired by a similar exercise that we did during Residents Only time during didactics, in which we usually do some type of meditation. The first one was called "Things that Make Me Happy." Self-explanatory. The second was "That Day He'll Love Me Back," which is my favorite part of unrequited love, the moment of anticipation when your beloved realizes that he or she loves you, too, and you begin your lives together.

That anticipation, which lasts for several moments over the span of an unrequited love, makes me very happy.

So this also makes me happy: the perfect retro.

Bruno Mars did it with "Treasure." Let me explain why.

Could have left out the "Baby squirrel, yous a sexy m***f***er" part, though, but whatevs.

I thought the song was cute months ago when I heard it, but I didn't see the video until recently. I don't generally watch videos but I saw a Bruno Mars video while getting bubble tea one day and I was like, huh, I wonder what this one looks like...

..and I fell in love.

Let me break it down for you.

First, the video. Bruno Mars is my age, born in 1985. The style of this video is clearly before either of our times. I would place this video pre-Thriller, probably late 70s to early 80s, more precicely 1979 to 1982.

Let me give you a few examples of what this video reminds me of.

Of course, the video reminds the most of one of Bruno Mars' greatest influences, Michael Jackson.

Michael Jackson, "Don't Stop Til You Get Enough," Off the Wall, 1979.
 This was the first video that came to mind when I saw "Treasure." Going to the end of that era of music video is the likes of Gap Band's "You Dropped a Bomb on Me."

The Gap Band, "You Dropped a Bomb on Me," The Gap Band III, 1982

And if it weren't for wikipedia, I would have never seen this video, but Bruno Mars and his producers must have seen this Earth, Wind and Fire video, because a lot of the elements are identical.
From the special effects, to the basic choreography, to the random chick dancing in it, everything...he nailed this era!

Earth, Wind and Fire, "Let's Groove," Raise!, 1981


Seeing the video made me appreciate the song a lot more. Honestly, when I first heard the song back in the summer, because I heard it at a wedding that was also playing older songs (I heard one of my faves referenced in the aforementioned entries, "Overjoyed."), I thought it was an old song that I perhaps hadn't heard before. Maybe somebody's B side or something. Thought maybe the artist was DeBarge or something, since I don't know a lot of their stuff. Then I started hearing it on the radio and I realized that it wasn't old, and that it was Bruno Mars.

There are definitely elements of the song itself that place it in that late 70s, early 80s era. First, lyrically, a song named on the simple premise of praising a woman, naming one of her attributes...that is a classic attribute of many songs of the era.

Coming to mind immediately are, "Outstanding" by Gap Band (Gap Band IV, 1982). Others include, "Special Lady" by Ray, Goodman and Brown (Ray, Goodman & Brown, 1979) and "You are My High" by The Gap Band (The Gap Band II, 1979). Lyrics only, because these songs have a different groove, obviously. Of course this concept extends outside of this era, but I feel like this era was one of the last times that R&B had songs like this that were chaste declarations of love without some muted or overt sexual reference.

For example, "Candy" by Cameo (1985). Obvious sexual reference.

Then there's the actual music. The beat/groove reminds me of a couple of songs of that disco/post-disco era. First to mind is Emotions, "Best of My Love" (1977). The vocals, once again, reminiscent of Michael Jackson, the dance moves, the same.

But with all of this, he put together a song that really could have come out in 1979. Every element of it (except for the woman in the video doing the Bankhead Bounce, popularized apparently by this song in 1995) is true to that time, including the instrumentation and vocal effects.

Why does this make me happy? Because, this is my dream!

I have a story idea called, "The Misadventures of Nisa," that is set in the early 80s, and it's either going to be a musical or it'll have a lot of music in it. I've got the basic concepts for 3 songs in it so far, one that is the theme, another that is just one of the side songs, and another that is an instrumental for the background. The story itself is really campy, but it's an outlet for me to write songs that I think could have existed in the era. For whatever reason, even though the music wasn't the greatest in terms of quality, I love 80s music for what it is, I think more than any other era. The 1960s had the best soul, the 1970s had the best funk, bass progressions and Stevie Wonder, the 1990s has my heart and is the first era where I have real nostalgia for the music, the 2000s lost my interest.

The 1980s were...awesome. It was flux, it was worldly, it was uncertainty, it was instability, it was change, it was disintegration. It was the era that gave birth to hip hop, which degenerated into gansta rap. It was the era of fame and change for Michael Jackson. It was the era of AIDS with no cure in sight, the war on drugs and the introduction of crack cocaine into the inner city. It was an era of big hair and harsh makeup and men in skinny jeans for the first time. It was the first era I look at documented in television where people look the most human to me, and not coiffed in clothing that is characteristic, universal and just-so to give us the semblance of civilization. It was more animal. It was dirtier, messier. You could almost smell the 80s.

Or maybe it's the first era that's really real to me because I was born in it. That could be it.

But someone who is able to pull of that perfect retro, harkening back in a piece of music or art or whatever to an era that actually existed such that my own mother, who existed in that era, thought that it was actually an old video of an artist she didn't know? That is genius right there.

Friday, November 29, 2013

[uncensored]: Part of That World


I've been following along with the recent posts at in response to the controversial contribution, "How I Met My Son's Mother." First of all, big ups to this guy who was so courageous to write a piece on this website and be subject to such scrutiny. There's not much left to say that hasn't already been said in several response posts on that website and the 140 and counting comments.

Reading all of these posts about the ideals of Muslim marriage and how we fall so far from that ideal did get me feeling, to use a phrase that I actively despise, "some kinda way..."

I'm probably just ovulating or something and my hormones have come out of a year and a half long hiding, because I almost started crying at a beautiful moment between a tiny newborn and her teenage mother when I was doing baby's exam yesterday. But reading these blogs about people seeking out marriage in the halal way reminded me of what I once wanted for myself, and frankly, what I gave up on a long time ago.

It all unraveled years ago when I was on an online site and this brother from Florida was serious about setting up communication. This was not the first one and nor was he the last. He was also not the first more than 1000 miles away who wanted to skype. In these settings, I usually gave an email that I used to forward my old University of Michigan mail that I used for the purpose of signing up for internet things that I didn't want to spam me...and for online dating. No phone numbers, no skype dates. Anyone who wanted to skype with me immediately I figured were too into my looks, anyway.

So brother from Florida was earnest. He was not at all my time and had a career trajectory that was not appetizing (the lyric comes to mind, "I'm a hustler, baby, I just want you to know..."). But otherwise, he was just fine on initial contacts from an Islamic standpoint. And for him, I was just fine...pre-med (at that time), with a promising career, "just throw a hijab on [me] and [I'd] be perfect."

I didn't take offense to this because I never said never again to hijab, and at this point in the game, approaching 25, I didn't know if I should be so picky as to not want to be with a man who felt hijab was fard.

Then he asked me if I had a wali. Ooohh...

"Because, you know, I talk to sisters on here and they act like they're serious, but then I find out they don't have a wali, which is absolutely required."

This was either about to be my perfect out for the Florida Hustler or it was going to be yet another cop-out for a brother who may have had promise.

I didn't have a wali. I hadn't sought a wali and at that point was unsure if I wanted to, even though I know that it would be required if I chose to go about marriage at this way. What was I thinking? I know exactly what I was thinking. I was thinking that I had to finesse this Muslim marriage thing. I have a Christian father who gets nervous anyone has a Muslim name or comes from a majority-Muslim country for "extremist ties," in spite of being married to a Muslim woman who practices five pillars. My "coming out" as Muslim in my early 20s imposed a deep rift in my family that my adult brother with autism cannot afford, nor can my parents' otherwise loving and functional relationship afford. It's a sucky place to be in as a daughter of an interfaith couple, but so it is. My parents, for this reason, were not fit to guide me through the marriage process.

Of course, my father would love to arrange my marriage with a man that he trusts. That man would be a Christian man. I bet he still would love to, but that's another story.

So, if I wanted to go forward with legit Muslim marriage, by the books, I probably would need a wali. But where would I find one? One of my formerly atheist now Muslim convert friends from medical school who converted to Islam prior to marrying her husband easily told me that I should talk to an imam, that he would help me.

Yes, thank you so much. Because it was so hard for you, dating your Muslim husband the regular way.

I hope this friend is okay. She had no wali and shut herself out from her friends in the time leading up to her marriage. I didn't even get to do my "there is no compulsion in religion" talk with her before she apparently converted and struggled through salat with Arabic words she didn't understand.

So here I was, trying to be more honest, on skype (still wasn't comfortable with it) with Florida Hustler Brother who was right. If I wanted to do this right, I needed a wali. But doing things right would mean ultimately alienating my father from this process, and maybe alienating him from my life as well. I realized that getting a wali was just a red herring. The process of attempting to get "Muslim married" by getting to know a man outside of the dating paradigm and essentially arranging my marriage was incompatible with maintaining a relationship with my father and having my parents at all involved in my decision to marry.

Because my mother is a wife that defers to her husband. My mother is also a woman who did not have patience for her pool of Muslim suitors, which for her as a black Muslim woman in the late 70s were black Muslim men, the new Muslim crew following WD Muhammad or at that point, stragglers from the Nation, who she had seen preferentially select "lost found girls" because "they put out." She is also a woman who does salat in English and does not shudder when people tell her that her prayers will therefore not be recognized. She slides easily from reading the Qur'an daily to living her Islam in the way she sees fit, and in that mode of Islam, she sees no conflict in having married my Christian father, whose morality is more excellent than any other Muslim man she's known, including her own father.

Therefore, she would not be my ally in seeking to get Muslim married at the expense of my relationship with my father.

There's always the slim possibility that I would go about this process, not alienate my father, he meets my suitor and sees past the religious difference to see that he was a genuinely God-fearing man who had the best intentions for his daughter. My mother would also be pleased with such a suitor.

But in order to get there, I would have to begin a serious search, and in order for it to be safe for me as a single woman searching without the aid of family or other elders of a spouse, I would need a wali, a legit one, a trusted guardian who really had my best interests at heart.

And I'd either have to keep it from my father or endure months of disapproval from him until the process yielded success, and the impact that would have on my mother and brother as my father took out his frustration on my mother, as he did when I first told him that I would "never be Christian."

I'm not being melodramatic. My father still tries at intervals to get me to realize my salvation through Jesus Christ and convert.

Some would argue that the decision should be easy, that I should aim to please God more than my parents. And what more example do I need than the father of both my and my father's religion, Abraham, and blah blah blah.

I mean, it is a valid argument. I should want to please God over everything else. But people who make these arguments typically were never in the position I was in. Without my parents, I have no one in this world. And at the very least, as a single woman, that is not safe.

So I closed the Skype conversation with Florida Brother and never spoke to him again. I would not be getting a wali. And from that point onward, it slowly degenerated to, "I will not be getting Muslim married."

To which I occasionally wonder, what will become of me? Marriage being half of my religion, I either will not get married at all or, if I marry, I will be less of a Muslim because of it. The ramifications are clear. I will become like my mother, who has not prayed with anyone else besides me, occasionally, when prayers are silent because I do salat in Arabic and she does salat in English. She fasts in isolation, she practices in isolation. She hasn't been in a mosque since before I was born. She's able to exist as a Muslim woman married to this Christian man praying in English because of her isolation. This was not what I wanted for myself.

It's not true that marrying a non-Muslim man means that you're children will be raised non-Muslim. I've seen more Muslim men married to non-Muslim women raise non-Muslim children than the other way around. Cultures are different, and in ours, often, the mother's faith rules. But it is true that a strong, believing father of another faith will continue to have an influence and somewhat control over especially his daughter's potential spouses, especially if that daughter loves and respects him.

I wore hijab for two years, successfully finding ways to hide it from my father until I couldn't anymore and for multiple other reasons, stopped. The same way goes my plans for marriage.

And I've come out the other side a shadow of the Muslimah that I initially sought to become. I strove to become part of a world that I could not have become a part of without disowning myself from my father and potentially permanently destroying our relationship. But my father is a good Christian man who believes in God with all of his heart who raised me to the best of his ability and wants the best for me and he does not deserve such cruelty.

My mother, a few years ago in my angst about my situation, apologized to me as I spelled this out for her. She should not have placed me in such a precarious position. What a thing to apologize for, to have married a solid husband, a great father and provider.

In the end, I have made a choice about how I will seek my partner. It is one that both of my parents approve of and because of that, feels a lot safer, although in reality, I realize that there is no safe way to do such a thing. Not only in terms of safety of emotions, but in terms of safety of person. I go forward prayerfully as with everything I do.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

And I Stop Breathing


It never fails. I find when I see pictures of MQ and his wife together, my breathing arrests. And I only realize it when they're out of my view and I've scrolled down the page. It's no longer about him, though. It's about the memory of how much I loved, seeing that other person who is in the position I desperately wanted to be for a few good years of my adulthood, and realizing that I will never love like that, again. It's over. That was my chance, and it was never going to be, anyway.

And I thought I no longer stopped breathing when I saw them. But I still do.

...maybe I should delete them from my Facebook.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Human Animal


I just thought about this the other day in the context of watching a National Geographic show about bears or something. How many things can you find wrong with this:

Besides the fact that a anthropomorphic cricket who can think, reason and read is singing these lyrics, and the fact that almost all Disney characters are equally humanoid animals that can do the same...

Humans are clearly not the only animals who can think. No, a chimpanzee will not produce a treatise on the challenges of his alpha male status, but just because a species functions more on instinct doesn't mean they don't think and calculate in their daily lives. They certainly do.

And actually, we human beings are never that far off from our mammal and primate counterparts.

We wear clothes and we make technologically complicated things that other animals cannot. However, some of our gender interactions (and transactions) harken back to the animal kingdom, more often than I think they should.

That's how I feel about any discourse about men not having control over their sexual desire and therefore being only marginally accountable for acts of sexual harassment or violence. How is that different from some of our mammal counterparts?

That's how I feel about these stories of men killing the children of their current female partner. It happens too much in the United States. It reminds me of the beasts of prey who will kill the cubs of a female and wait for her to be in heat again and procreate with her. They have the instinct. They want their genes to survive. What is the human man's excuse for drowning his own two babies in the tub, saying that his 15 month old son was "fat and dumb?"

We humans do have special capacity over our other animal earth cohabitants, and with this capacity, this ability comes great responsibility for us not to fall into the same patterns that reign in the animal kingdom.

It requires responsibility because with our special status comes the capacity for evil that no other animal has. We all have it within us, regardless of gender or our current status as oppressor or oppressed. We have no time to harken nostalgically to our more base tendencies when evil abounds. We also have little time to celebrate humanity when there is much to be ashamed about, much to counteract that is being perpetrated by our fellow humans every day.

I call upon you, human animal, to use the gifts God gave you for good, to resist those base instincts that are destructive and to fight against the propensity for evil around you and within you.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

"She said yes!" Really?


Wow, a lot of my friends have gotten engaged this weekend. Not even Michigan people with that absurd Sweetest Day. Maybe it was the nip in the air, pumpkin spice lattes and the crunch of dry leaves that gets people sentimental, thinking about spending the rest of their holidays with that one person. I don't know.

One of my friends, whose entire beginning of courtship I witnessed in medical school, proposed to his girlfriend of 4-5 years. Thank you, Facebook, for letting me know. He had a later post in which he said excitedly, "She said yes!" And thus my knee jerk response, "O RLY?"

You act like you're surprised. Or maybe that statement, like much of the engagement-marriage institutional tradition in the US, is just a matter of tradition with empty meaning. Because, seriously dude, you could have asked her to marry you 3-4 years ago and she would have said yes.

Hell, you could have asked her to marry you when she kept squeezing her petite body between us in the dance floor when I first realized she was interested in you, and she probably would have said yes.

Do I sound bitter? Hah! Let me explain.

I'm very happy for my friends. I was friends with the guy first. He was one of my guy friends who loved the ladies and dated around and "had fun" as much as he could before he settled down. He was one of my guy friends who had ridiculous notions about relationships and women, even after he was in a relationship. I think he was vociferous about these ideas to counteract the very obvious different persona he had with his girlfriend.

And I was very happy for them because I felt like he would be one of these guys content with a perpetual relationship with marriage not in sight. But really, she said yes? Hackneyed, unnecessary, and a no duh situation.

Now, there are, for sure, women who have said no, women who have hesitated, women who have said yes and get cold feet once wedding day comes, yes. That happens. I'm not talking about that.

I'm talking about men and women in relationships that I've accompanied for either part time where I feel like the guy needs to shit or get off the pot.


I'm tired of the standard male discourse, oh, marriage is just about a piece of paper, oh, the ball and chain, or as one guy told me, being "locked up in holy matrimony." Them's fightin' words! There's already enough gender struggle without the notion that one, marriage is something that only women want and two, men are just besides themselves in suffering once they are forced to marry. As the two genders who we're supposed to believe are here to be a comfort to one another, we have spent much of our history being the opposite, and really, that cycle needs to end.

But maybe, just maybe, my friend is surprised. Maybe he's recognized all the times when his actions weren't worthy of her devotion, the times they've been distant, the times he felt that she could do better, maybe still believes that she could do better, and she said yes anyway. I can't know. All I know is, he surmounted those ideas that he previously held, about relationships, about marriage, about women, to make permanent the life that he'd made with this woman in a way that is meaningful to both of them. And what's not to celebrate about that?

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Can I Choose You?


I posted this back June 27, 2012, and removed it for various reasons. I decided to repost it because here, a year and change later, having worked with G for several rotations, the while forming a relationship with someone else...I still feel this way when I'm around him.

I think it's just that he has a beautiful spirit...

Can I Choose You? (Repost)

As salaam alaikum,

This stage of my life is amazing and I don't have all of the words to describe it. There are so many things happening, and I'm learning so many things about myself. At the same time, I'm on the cusp of another challenging phase of my life, of many more challenging and rewarding phases to come. I'm drastically changing philosophies that I've held at one time in favor of more organic, realistic and practical ways of living my life, love and faith.

And man, it's not easy.

But in the midst of all of this, I want to say I've fallen in love. I actually haven't. I just have a crush. One like I've never had before, one that was immediate, some enchanted evening, love at first sight, across a crowded room type deals.

We'll call him G.

It's time for me to get ready for work so I don't have a ton to say, except...there's something different about this one, and I can't tell if it's destiny or desire to make it destiny, strong enough, that uncontrollable thing that people always talk about, you can't help who you like.

Because you want to make strong feelings destiny.

You want to believe that there is an eternal meaning for your emotions, that it's part of God's plan, that the strong pull you're feeling towards another human being is God guiding you down the straight path, the path He intends for you. Like, snap out of it, girl, this is it. This is the it you've always wanted.

And the first time I looked into G's eyes, that's what I felt. And I've never felt that way about any living human being before. It wasn't just the striking pale green of his eyes offset by the olive of his skin and his dark brown hair. Because I've seen attractive men before but never been so drawn before...

So, as I prepare for work for the day and other things, I'm deciding what I'm going to do with this. And praying on it, because really, what I want is him. It sounds silly and crazy for someone who lived through an MTQ, but I feel like we're meant to be, and yeah. I want to lock that, secure that in any way I can.

Is it okay if I choose you, G?

Monday, September 16, 2013

That Day He'll Love Me Back


So, in my last post, I talked about things that make me happy, how sometimes I don't exactly feel the word "love" for places, things, ideas and how I have to approach it from that glowing feel I get whenever such things are mentioned, when I experience them, when I travel to them...

Because happiness for me is a glow in my chest, a warm feeling, kind of like a tingling pressure that expands.

And it lasts for the duration that I experience these things, places, ideas, that I'm in the presence of these people, and lasts until I'm no longer thinking about them.

So one of the ideas that makes me happy is the realization of a love once requited. Not the actual realization, though. That feeling of anticipation of that realization of a currently unrequited probably one of the strongest emotions I've felt so far in life.

I think it will only be surpassed by holding my children for the first time.

The biggest crush I will probably ever have in my life was, for those who have been reading for a long time, MTQ. I was 19 years old. It was the first time in my adult life that I "fell in love." It may be the last time in my adult life that I fall in love. It wasn't "love at first sight." I recently had that (with not my SO, prior to him being my SO, but concurrently with that...long story). He was a kid (a 19 then 20-year-old kid) who I at first didn't like. But later, I did fall...

And what a fall it was.

Right now, as a 28 year old woman, nearing the 10th Anniversary of Falling (if I may), the 10th anniversary of the Unrequited Love Tale of My Life...I have to be reminded of what it felt like to be "in love" with him. I have to go to old journal entries, old stories, and read and smile and remember.

Sentiments like, "I can't believe you exist in a realm in which I also exist," still make me tingle on the inside. I have to be reminded, but once I am, I can feel that again...and I love that feeling.

Implicit in that statement is that anticipation. The anticipation of the realization of a love that is yet unrequited is amazing. It's such a burning, glowing, magical feeling. And until that day happens, and as long as you believe this to be are taken over by that anticipation. You eat, sleep, pray, breathe that anticipation. I've never realized and unrequited love so I don't know how that may be the grand anticlimax, I don't know.

But that draw of that anticipation is why so many people liked the Helga/Arnold thing on Hey Arnold!
And girls will all be like, "That way he looked at me, did it mean something?"

And I'd probably have a list of rom-coms that played a similar role...if I watched them! :D

There are a few songs that capture this adeptly...and thus are some of my favorite songs (you can find a song for any sentiment you want from a talented artist).

In English, of course, Stevie Wonder's "Overjoyed," not only lyrically, but musically, instrumentally, through its arrangement, captures that feeling perfectly. In fact, I can identify the exact moment that feels like my anticipation. See the clip below:

See 1:38-1:46 (not only the lyrics, but what the music is doing in the background...perfect. "And maybe, too, if you would believe you, too, might be..."). Almost what my anticipation feels like. My anticipation feels like some notes that don't exist, that may exist if I were genius enough to make my own arrangement of it.

Other such songs that are my favorites that I really feel when I sing along (or listen along, hehe) include Patti LaBelle's "If Only You Knew," "Natural High," by Bloodstone, and "Sweet Thing" by Chaka Khan (one of my favorite genres thus being apparent). (In linking these, I had to listen to them in their entirity). That moment of anticipation is captured with Patti LaBelle's "if" that she vocally embellishes in the chorus and then belts out repeatedly in the end. It's in Bloodstone's soaring chorus above the rest of the song, especially at the end of song. Chaka Khan's song is a little different...that song is the confession of love.

Chaka's is also the singing voice that I aspire to. Sigh.

Then, there are songs that capture the other side of that feeling...when that unrequited love is never realized, never will be realized, gone. Djavan's "Doidice" similarly masterfully written from the perspective of music, lyrics, emotion, captures the feeling when you recognize that your anticipation was for naught, that you were living in a fantasy existence.

(Incidentally, my only post on my YouTube Channel.)

There's a whole story about this song that I believe I posted before on my old blog that is now, I guess, off the web (but thankfully archived). But I was drawn to this song on my Pandora, got an imported CD from Brasil (because I couldn't find this song to download it), found the translation in the insert in the CD and realized that the lyrics described me for months, years after I realized that I would never be with MTQ. And the music enveloped me, and became that...and still feels like that when I listen to it.

Translation of the Chorus:
I fell in love?
Maybe, it could be
I went crazy?
I don't know, I've never seen it
I need to get out
After I discovered that there is you
I never existed again

I was this chorus, exactly. I don't know what it was I, insanity, obsession. But whatever it was, after I fell in love with him...I stopped existing for myself. So much was for him. I think I forced myself out of depression because I wanted to be well for him (topic of perhaps next entry). I wanted to be attractive for him, smart like he thought I was, all the awesome he thought I was when he told it to my face but he barely knew me, so how could he know?

For months, I lived in anticipation. It was a constant high and an evocative place to live. I was those few bars of "Overjoyed."

And then I was the chorus of "Doidice."

And the key word here is exist. "I can't believe that you exist in a realm in which I also exist." "I never existed again." Nunca mais existi. Living in anticipation sometimes mean you exist in an alternate reality so you can keep up that anticipation, though it may never come to pass.

Or maybe you need to just tell him, already. And if it didn't happen, it's because you waited until you graduated from college and sent it to him in email form when you knew he was long gone.

But the fact of the matter is...true love is not as sharp and prickly and exciting as that anticipation.

And that's why we never tell. Because we hold out as long as we can living in anticipation of that day he or she will love us back.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Things that Make Me Happy (In No Particular Order)


Today has been an emotionally trying day. It didn't have to be. I just decided to be family doctor for my family and attempt to coordinate the care for my hospitalized grandmother thousands of miles away (still in the continental United States, yes...this darn spacious land of ours!). Mentally and emotionally, she's in the throws of dementia but otherwise, alhamdulillah, she's doing okay. I need to sit on my hands and let her attending physician do her job, though I let my mother (who spent the day in the hospital with Grandmother today) know exactly what I consider standard of care to be...

I'm day float tomorrow so I should be heading to bed soon so I can be ready to go (as ready as I'll ever be) tomorrow. In the meantime, I was watching Hey Arnold! (yes, a carry over from the last entry) and realized how much it's pretty much my favorite cartoon from the 90s. (My favorite cartoon from the 80s was Muppet Babies, hehe). My favorite part of the HA! cartoon, like many of its other fans of all ages, was the Arnold and Helga storyline. Something about unrequited love really strikes a chord...we've all gone through that before!

I did this exercise once where we were to write down all of the things that we love. It was a little bit difficult for me because love is not a verb I use often for things...or people for that matter. It feels forced. I didn't grow up with it. So as I scanned through some old fanart, some from back in the day and apparently some still being generated (I can't believe it still has a fandom!), I thought, this makes me happy...

And I'm much more likely to recognize things that make me happy than to call them things that I love.

So, in no particular order (or, order of association)...things/people/places that make me happy.

--requited love (once unrequited)
--remembering a crush and feeling almost the exact same way as you remember it
--the anticipation of unrequited love becoming requited
--"Overjoyed" by Stevie Wonder
--the notes in two bars of "Overjoyed" that hold almost all of the emotion in the song
--Stevie Wonder
--singing (especially well)
--those old school CD commercials for 80s music from the 90s
--the blue screen at the end of those CD commercials with the number (no website!) to call
--nostalgia fests in general
--YouTubing old commercials that remind me of a better time
--the Tyrese Coca Cola commercial
--the 90s Coca Cola commercial with the red circle and the flashing designs
--the "Holidays are coming" Coke commercial with the Christmas semi
--the old McDonald's characters and their commercials
--remembering when all the network stations were blocked off for that drugs special including all the cartoon characters of the time
--the theme song to the old America's Funniest Home Videos
--remembering the thunderstorm while watching AFHV and running between couches and jumping on them in the living room of our old house
--our old house
--my family
--remembering how my family used to be
--my mother
--my brother
--how my brother calls me "Dr. Sister"
--how my brother remembers things from our childhood when he was not yet verbal and not yet engaged
--remembering my childhood
--thinking of my own (future) babies, and children, and adult people
--my SO
--my large, crazy, sometimes happy extended family
--our memories recorded on VHS and now DVD
--VCRs and VHS
--"O Trem Azul" by Elis Regina
--"Redescobrir" by Elis Regina
--"Aguas de Março" (especially by Elis Regina, but also by Tom Jobim and João Gilberto)
--remembering how it felt to learn about Tom Jobim
--"As" by Stevie Wonder
--"Sa Marina" by Wilson Simonal
--"Flor de Lis" by Djavan
--"Una mulata en la Habana" (if only because it was inspired by Aguas de Março)
--speaking Portuguese
--Confissoes de Adolescente
--A Favorita
--learning how to swim
--my father's ability to whistle in two tones
--my father, his history
--speaking Spanish fluently
--seeing a prayer realized in real time

I could go on for a long time. Right now, what's making me the most happy is knowing that I have more than 8 hours to sleep before work tomorrow, sitting comfortably in a quiet apartment with only the sound of my new window fan blowing in the background, finally having an apartment that is a reasonable temperature (71 degrees) and feeling deliciously sleepy.

Loud fans make me happy. Fan wind blowing in my face makes me happy. Cool summer breezes make me happy. Good sleep makes me happy.

And for all of these things listed that make me happy, I am grateful for them. I am grateful to God that they exist, that they make me happy, and I know what happiness is.

I've thought of instituting a gratitude practice of sorts. My prayers tend to be a little lighter on the gratitude and heavier on the request. I think doing gratitude exercises outside of prayer will help enhance my gratitude within prayer and help me take that gratitude with me everywhere.

I am grateful for all of these happy things in my life.

I could go on...

--writing great characters
--reading old stories I've written
--"Weak" by SWV
--great dialogue
--great dialogue I've written
--songs I've written
--singing songs I've written
--cute animals
--baby animals
--baby talk...

Wednesday, September 11, 2013



I haven't blogged in a while, not because I don't have anything to say, but because I have less of substance to say than usual. I'm kind of in a period of transition right now...spiritual transition, life transition, religious transition...and while I usually like to wax philosophical during those periods, I found that a time like this calls more for me putting my head down and barreling through.

I will say this, though...

Hey Arnold! was one of the best cartoons ever made, and one of the best shows of all time.

No, really.

I don't think there has been a show on television that felt more like it was made for me. Great writing, character development, music, complexity...I'm watching it today after not having seen it for over 10 years and it's still crazy entertaining.

I remember the moment when I first watched it as an 11 year old and Helga yelled at her fellow fourth grade girl classmates in one of the episodes, saying, "High heeled shoes? Why are we wearing these? We're already taller than all the boys."

And I was like, yeah, we are taller than boys! So cooooool!

Little did I know, at 11 years old and 5'5", I was actually only going to grow a half an inch more, and I wouldn't be taller than the boys for long.

But it was a show that got what it was like to be a kid, including the fact that you could never tell a boy or a girl if you liked them...though Helga took it to the extreme.

And seeing the non-stereotypical representation of a black family in a cartoon with Gerald and his family...

And cool jazz music...

And coocoo grandparents?

There was nothing more in this series that I wanted. It was great.

I remember waiting with bated breath for the first episode, I remember how I felt when I first heard the music, the first time I heard Gerald's voice in "Downtown as Fruits..."

Yeah, it's like that.

Definitely gives me saudades.

I miss being a kid.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Two AM Insomniac


I just got off of a pediatric emergency department rotation that ended with a week of night shifts ranging from 5am-2am, 2pm-2am and 7pm-7am. As a result, for the past few days, I have been very awake at 2am and 3am. Yesterday, I was only able to get back to sleep at 3am. This is also fueled by the expectation I have for a patient who is in early latent labor right now and could go into labor at any minute...or in several days. Also fueled by being very worried about a patient that I picked up and hoping she survives the night...for several reasons.

So now I'm awake. And I could have just sat in bed and reflected and tried to go back to sleep for hours, but I guess I've already slept four hours and I have until 8am to get up, so what better to do when having insomnia than to get up in front of a screen for a few minutes?

...actually, no, bad. Screen time is not the way to go back to sleep, and this doctor knows that. The fact that I do most of my major activities in this bed these days (including working, eating some meals, leisure time, practicing my clarinet and sleeping) also doesn't help.

The bed is very comfortable, though.

I had a fitful time getting to sleep, too, with all sorts of pre-sleep hallucinations about being awaken shortly after taking melatonin to go attend to a delivery. If it weren't for the whole continuity delivery thing, second year would be easier than first year. I'm going to have to find a way to deal with that.

That, and my plans for an elective are currently up in the air because I've just been so busy with inpatient rotations I haven't had time to adequately prepare and plan. That, and it is so hard to get to faculty to help me out in the matter.

The past few weeks have been filled with a mix of excitement, sadness and challenges. There have been bachelorette parties and weddings, conferences and night floats, a very isolated Ramadan again without being able to attend Eid prayer because of work, Trayvon Martin and The New Jim Crow. It has been an emotional roller coaster and the fact that I'm waking up afraid for my patient's life, unsure about this rotation and, indeed, unsure about my future, make the perfect recipe for my insomnia.

I just lay on my stomach and prayed desperately for a while. The place of prayer in my life has morphed over the last several months.

I also wonder about this relationship I'm in, with a man that I'm pretty sure no person whose ever known me would imagine for me or may not even want for me. I made the decision a while ago that this didn't matter. However, it does make certain aspects of life more isolating.

I think this is a road, no matter what the outcome, that I must travel, though. It is a lesson for me and it will inspire humility. After years of being disappointed that MTQ couldn't see past our racial and ethnic differences to try to make something out of our mutual attraction--I now see how hard that is when you face your loving family's disapproval.

I don't have the strength right now to deal with the "you could do better" and "what's wrong with black men?"

In all, life is really hard, it's an uphill battle and a slippery slope. The feeling of God wavers from familiar to distant and more things are subjective than I'm comfortable with. So boo.

Friday, August 2, 2013



Today, I am sad. I sat before an old friend of mine and I became sad. I feel like I've finally come to terms with so many things that I've given up on that maybe I shouldn't have, so many ways that I've lost faith in things that maybe I shouldn't have, at least not this early.

The world for me became a much more jagged, ugly place for me more rapidly than it ever has been before. The fact that I could read The New Jim Crow and not become enraged tells me that I am disaffected. It could be worse. I could want to do nothing about it.

But it's not as bad as it could be. It's more like the opposite. I want to do everything about it.

But I don't know where to begin.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

A Stick, A Stone / é pau, é pedra

As salaam alaikum,

I just listened to Obama's full speech reflecting on the Trayvon Martin case. As one of my friends said on facebook, "My President is Black." And honestly, this is one of the first times that I have felt that in a positive way in a while.

As in, I recognize my president is black and not because of hateful comparisons to monkeys or reference to as the antichrist or anything overtly racist like that. And not because of the many covertly racist ways that he is regarded.

He explained so eloquently why the case is so painful for us, black people, in a way that was appropriately delicate but detailed.

I'll say it this way. I'm called to mind of my grandfather, who in his youth was instructed to act like he had a developmental disability if a white woman tried to talk to him so he would not face violence from her white relations (i.e. lynching and the like). See the case of Emmett Till. Spoiler alert: those who killed him were acquitted. And I think, will I have to teach my sons to fall to the ground, face down, with their hands raised if confronted by a white man who appears to feel threatened by them? Is that really what's going on here?

It's bad enough that I may have to defend my sons against teachers who, by the age of five, believe my sons to be aggressive, out of control, and want to kick them out of the classroom, expel them, enroll them in special ed. It's bad enough that I'll have to fear for my sons' life at the hands of peers, depending on where they live.

This case sent a dangerous precedent that set race relations in this country back decades. Back to the time of the Emmett Till murder, back to the time when the last black body swung from a tree.

As I thought of this, however, the following words came to my mind: é pau, é pedra, é o fim do caminho...

It's a twig, it's a rock, it's the end of the road...

Or, as the English version goes, "A stick, a stone, it's the end of the road."

My favorite song of all time is "Aguas de Março" by Tom Jobim. My favorite version of it is Elis Regina's, though I like almost every version of the song, ever.

And I thought of the song, and it took on new meaning to me.

I love that I can shift and think in another language. I love that I'm fluent in Spanish and can hold my own in Portuguese. I love that I can slide fluidly into this world and meld with a people whose mindset is different about race (far from perfect, far from racial utopia, just different) and escape from the brand of ugly we have here.

I love that I can shift into a language with it's own music with unique lyrics and sentiments I haven't necessarily heard in English-language songs. And today, "Aguas de Março" expressed a sentiment that it hadn't for me before, that I don't think I could find in another English-language song.

It's a long version of my SO's "oh well" when something falls outside of his hands, though is regretable.

A stick, a stone, it's the end of the road, it's the rest of a stump, it's a little alone.

I learned all of the words in Portuguese, which took me months, but now I know it by heart. Categorically naming all of the objects in his surrounding, from a cut on his toe to the car stuck in the mud...and the mud, and the mud...then carefully translated into English, using no words that had Latin roots, Tom Jobim ingeniously crafted the Waters of March with an arrangement that sounds like a gentle but persistent rain.

Each of these little objects makes up a landscape, the psychological landscape of the Waters of March. The song tonight sounds to me like surrender...peaceful, wet, gradual surrender, piecemeal, to life, to reality, to beauty in pieces. Still existing in spite of the rain, in spite of the end of summer.

They're the waters of March, closing the summer. It's the promise of life in my heart.

I listened to the speech by Obama and it gave me hope. It made me feel less desperate. Seeing so many of my non-black friends applauding it on facebook made me feel less alone. Not that I needed their validation, but I'm glad to see black people weren't the only ones who cared. And seeing Obama, who I have personally felt has compromised many of what he said were his values in the name of maintaining his position, be real in front of the press and explain what it felt like to be black and hear that verdict--the world isn't quite as bleak as I thought it was for a while.

It's part of the human condition that we make life bleak for one another. But it is excellence of the human condition when we are able to do right by each other, bring each other up.

But Trayvon is dead, George Zimmerman is acquitted, several other unarmed black boys and young men died because they were suspicious, even more black boys and young men died because of senseless violence, and so many black boys and young men are in jail, out of jail or on the conveyor belt to jail. What I experienced tonight was beauty, but beauty is always bittersweet in the face of sorrow.

And that's what a lot of Brazilian music is for me. Bittersweet beauty in the face of sorrow. The beauty is always lovely sounding to those who don't understand the lyrics. In the lyrics is the pain.

So "Aguas" breaks it down for makes that beauty elemental. A stick, a stone, it's the end of the road, it's the rest of a stump, it's a little alone. It's a sliver of glass, it is life, it's the sun, it is night, it is death, it's a trap, it's a gun...

On a slightly related note, the video of the children expressing shock about that controversial Cheerios ad renewed my intense desire to have children of my own. So cute! Little people are amazing.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013



Justice doesn't exist on this earth. I wish it did, but no matter what side of the tracks you stand on, you know it not to be true. You know of cases, you know of unfair dealings.

I believe that Justice exists on the other side. Not my side of the tracks or your side, but transcending sides. I believe that Justice exists in the next life.

But I recognize that this, my belief, potentially brings no comfort. So I keep it to myself unless asked to share.

There is not fair and there is no jury of peers and there is no justice where people feel less empathy and sympathy because the other person has brown skin and coarse features and kinky hair. There is no justice when someone cannot relate to the pain of someone else because they look different than themselves.

And there is no potential for sanctuary when my brothers and cousins and eventually my sons can be shot because a bunch of frightened people who don't look like us feel threatened by our brown skin, our coarse features and every other stereotype that comes with it.

It actually disgusted me to think that people didn't care about this, snuggled up next to their honeys and their children and rested comfortably knowing this was not their problem. Similarly, as a black person, I've never felt so exposed and helpless as when this verdict came crashing down.

I felt like we could shout as long as we wanted, but we wouldn't be heard.

Because this was a long time in the making. From all of the ways that slavery was upheld for 80 years after The Emancipation in peonage, prisoner leasing and sharecropping, from the way that system was revived in the War Against Drugs--it's veritable eugenics.

I thank God that it's Ramadan and I will find my solace in Him. Because those who believe that justice was served have a disease so deep in their hearts, and I know I cannot protect myself from being exposed to such people, and for the first time in my life, I am afraid of such a thing.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

You Will Heal


I feel that healing is inevitable, even when we don't want it to be.

I can't speak for great loss, because I have not yet suffered the death of the closest of my relatives, but I feel like that healing is inevitable, too.

Certain states can delay that healing, just like certain states of the body can delay tissue healing, like diabetes.

And everyone heals differently and in different ways. And some wounds run deeper than others or are of a different nature, or are more disfiguring.

But healing happens. Tears evaporate, bruises are resorbed and cuts reapproximate, sometimes scar.

I can't speak for great loss but I can speak for love loss.

I can speak for times when I never thought I'd be the same, that I thought I'd never love again, and what would life be worth? Nothing would be like this love.

And in some ways, I was right. I was never the same, and nothing was like that love. And I don't want it to be. I want it to be mutual, reciprocated, lasting. I want it to be requited. I want it to be real and not illusional. I want it to be consummated, by God's grace.

I want my love to be all of the things that the past love was not. So I will love again, and it will be better and it will not be the same, and nothing ever will.

And this doesn't mean there won't be precious things that you'll not have in another. There will be, and you will cherish them with a fond memory. Someday.

And healing does not mean forgetting. There are various scars, big and small, from big things and small things, that I'll never forget. I remember the pain of some of them and only the events of the other. But I healed. And the pain is different, and depending on how I carry myself, it may not be that painful at all.

But sometimes I hold myself a certain way and it stings and I nurse the scar and I remember.

But I have healed.

We heal. We remember. We live to see another day, love another love as so many before us have. We hurt, we smart with shame, with regret, in memory. But I'd live it again if I had the chance.

Healing happens, especially for those of us who are young. As long as we're alive, we do.

I lost a love that was the sweetest and most innocent and most replete I'll ever know. I see his wife as one of the luckiest women I'll ever know. But I cherish that love, through remembrances of tears and pain, because of the sweetness and innocence of it that I would not live if we had, in fact, been together, and that I'll never live again with another man. It existed in the time that it should, and was beautiful because of it, and nestled in the warm summer breezes in an apartment without air conditioning, I'll close my eyes and think of those times when we were kids and I was so in love with him and he smiled at me and it will feel almost like it did the first time he told me he'd miss me.

And I'll go to sleep in remembrance of wistful musings and in anticipation of new loves and new sensations to come.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Depression is not Satan


Don't have much to say about this besides the title. There are certain things that religious people say these days that make me cringe, and this is one of them. And all of its variations. Depression is the work of Satan, depression is Satan trying to distract you, etc.

Not that one should underestimate the power of the various poorly understood evil forces in the world, but I'd rather spend time trying to rectify my underestimation of the mercy of God than the wrath of Satan.

As someone who suffered for depression for years and prayed about it and worked my way out of it for years, I'd say that thinking of depression as Satan, satanic forces, or Satan's work helped me nil. As a spiritual person, it made me feel worse. I felt helpless. I felt like my emotional state was the product of forces allowed to roam free in God's world to act as a temptation to lead me astray. The deeper I fell into depression, the deeper I felt that this was proof that I was not good enough for God. Other people did not fall victim to these depressive whispers of Iblis, but I did.

Taking Satan out of the picture for a second, two unhelpful things about this setup for a person with depression is placing the locus of control outside of oneself and giving one a reason to feel they are failing. Falling victim to Satan for a religious person feels like a failure.

So I ask, regardless of your beliefs on the subject, that you not tell a depressed, religious person that depression is "(just) Satan." It's your prerogative to believe that Satan or its forces are every and anything that could lead one off the straight path, if that works for you. For me, emotional states and life circumstances are not as easy as good and evil. Depression was to me what colic is like to newborn babies and their parents. Depression reflected a state of immaturity and incompleteness. As the theory goes, newborn babies are neurologically immature and some are so overwhelmed by their new environs that they keep up a constant fuss until their brain matures enough to deal with the world outside the womb. Depression came for me at a time of rapid growth and its respective pains, rapid understanding of the ways of the world, quiet disillusionment in the face of the disproving of the unspoken truths that I'd never asked about, all of the above.

It sounds benign but it wasn't. It was painful and it was scary. I feared that I wasn't enough for God and that I was chosen to be of those to go to hell, because I began thinking about the idea of predestination and it disturbed me.

Depression could also be chemical imbalance, but if it is chemical imbalance it is chemical imbalance in the midst of the incompleteness and void-making-and-filling of coming-to-age, which is even more turbulent.

I don't know what depression is, but for me it's a transient state that is not really Satanic. It was painful precariousness at the precipice of great growth. Precariousness to the point that I did contemplate leaving this world because the future seemed so greatly daunting and uncertain...

...if only I knew that moment to moment is so often dauntingly uncertain, I would have enjoyed the moment more than fearing the next.

No, it was not Satan. It was the amalgamation of several precipices of life that I had to scale to get me here, with valuable lessons learned, life valued more at the end, but I had to take it apart and handle it piece by piece. There was no easy fix, no single prayer or combination of prayers that got me to the other side.

And for the religious, inasmuch as we believe that God provides us with trials, this is one.

Depression is regrettable, not always avoidable and desolate. It is not a sign of religious or spiritual deficiency. It is life marching forward faster than I can process it. It's my trying to understand and feeling like the class dunce.

But oversimplifying it does no one any good. Life is not simple, as much as we would love it to be.

I wish hard things in life were evil things that I could rebuke and wash away, but so much good in life is hard, too. And it's all mixed up in there and trying to sort out the good from the bad and the ambiguous in-between is not unlike subjecting life to a centrifuge. It's jarring with unnatural products at the end.