Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The Tyranny of Now

As salaam alaikum,

I almost have no words for this time. I'm so happy that I got to marry before the storm, in a time of relative tranquility, in the time of the first President I voted for that I was proud to call mine, flawed and polemic as some of his policies were. I was a black woman marrying a white man in the era of our first black president, born of black and white. We wed in the waning time of hope and progress. We spend our first married weeks in a time of turmoil.

My husband, bless his heart, doesn't want me to worry. My husband, accordingly, is used to compartmentalizing himself away from fear when certain things do not directly affect him. We are both citizens. We will be provided good insurance from our employers. If I want long-acting birth control, I can afford to pay $800 for it out-of-pocket, and we have no pre-existing conditions. He is not from a country on the current travel ban. If public schools go to hell, insha'Allah we'll be able to afford to get our kids into private school. We live on a literal hill, above it all, protected from flood and tsunami, protected in a way that we can be at all times blissfully unaware, if we so chose, to what is happening below.

I am not used to ignoring those things that do not apply to me. Everything applies to us all, as long as we are all human. More than any one group of people in my life, the executive actions of this administration so far has and will affect the people I trained to serve--my patients. My patients are low-income, immigrant and refugee. They are documented and undocumented. Thirty percent of them are insured by my state's Medicaid expansion under the ACA.

When I heard the election results, I curled up in a ball and cried for these people who I've dedicated this big part of my life to, for all of the rights and necessities that would be stripped away from them. In that sorrowful way, I have not been disappointed.

I hurt for my patients. I am trying to find the best ways to be active, but recognize at the same time that I am newly married and have this relationship to nurture. When my colleagues were protesting at SeaTac airport the recent Muslim ban, I was present for a business meeting my husband had at our home. I balance the desire to start a family right away with the reality that I will bring children into. Are we headed for a coup? Will the US see its first dictator? Do I want to wait (even longer than we've already waited) for things to become more stable?

I don't know.

He doesn't want me to worry. This is a man who lived in a communist country, protested as a child, lived as an undocumented immigrant in another country, immigrated legally to North America and forged a gradual road to citizenship. He has seen a lot, probably a lot worse. I respect his perspective.

But I will not sit idly by just because I, personally, will be alright. Because those who I serve will not, and to the extent that I empathize with every patient that enters my exam rooms, I will not be alright.

And this is not to speak of the friends and family members who are more directly impacted.

And this is not to speak of how, with any given tomorrow, this could be any one of us. My new Muslim surname, my old Muslim self, the daughter of an immigrant, the wife of an immigrant...anything.

It's reached the point where most happiness is hollow.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Married, Alhamdulillah

As salaam alaikum,

Alhamdulillah, my husband (!!) and I were married this weekend, on January 14, four years and a half from the date we made our relationship official. For very many reasons, I did not noise about my relationship too much on this blog. One reason was from my husband's express request, but the bigger reason was my respect for myself and my privacy. Relationships are delicate, and while it was fine to share so many thoughts and whims as a single woman musing about the future of my life, relationship musings quickly took things to a much more personal space than I imagined.

Then, of course, there are the politics of dating as a Muslim woman, and maybe it could have been helpful for some, but I didn't want to put myself in the position of being judged. And insha'Allah I saved people from being judgmental and backbiting in the process.

Suffice it to say, over the last four-and-a-half years, we've faced challenges that, sorry to be hackneyed, did make us stronger. We will have more challenges ahead. I fret not, because that is what God promises, but I will be prayerful throughout.

Insha'Allah, I plan to write more this year, but it may not be here. I first began the Xanga version of this blog in 2005 or so, began this blog with describing the love I found in family medicine in 2010, and I have been a practicing physician now for four-and-a-half years, practicing post residency for a year and a half. In over 10 years, the way I understand Islam and practice it personally has morphed and changed. I am in a much healthier place now, alhamdulillah, and I don't feel like I need a space like this anymore to be a healthy Muslimah.

And this isn't just because I am married, but it has a lot to do with the relationship even before marriage. It has a lot to do with me finding my people in my career and training for what I actually wanted to do. It had a lot to do with me being honest with myself about where I actually was in my practice and practicing authenticity. A lot of those relatively silent blog years I spent quietly questioning, praying, contemplating.

I am not done growing, and practice is not a static thing. But I feel like this blog space was a space for my long-lasting Identity vs Role Confusion phase, stage 5 for Erikson, which for me lasted for yeaarrrrrsss and, in all honesty, preventing me from successfully entering the Intimacy vs Isolation stage. It was only when I resolved my major identity conflicts and became, again, more authentic, that I was able to finally move forward with a partner.

More importantly, it was only after I began practicing authenticity that I began to do more to care for myself and nurture myself and my spirit. I am not done, but my spirit vessel is much healthier. In the last year, I lost 40 pounds and became physically fit. I began running, working out intensely and now engage in a much healthier diet. I'm training for my first 15K and plan to do a long run today to make up for my rest days due to wedding festivities.

My spirit, as expected, is much more a work in progress. I have struggled with living my submission organically for years, as I am not one to fake it until I make it. I am comforted by God's infinite mercy as I continue to strive. Mindfulness was a part of my journey, and part of mindfulness is accepting, without angst, wherever you are. I had never done that before. I thought I wouldn't be a good Muslim without constantly striving and for me, constantly striving meant never being good enough and embodying that at all times.

But no more!

Instead of forever imagining myself as not where I need to be, I will be prayerful that my life is long and full enough for me to nourish my soul with exactly what it needs to attain Jannah when my vessel has expired. And if life is not long, may it be even fuller that I nourish my soul. Nothing in life is a destination, I've found. Just like my graduation wasn't a stop-point, but rather a bursting forth of so many other possibilities, so, too, has been marriage. So, too, will be having children, insha'Allah.

On second thought, maybe I won't retire this journal just yet. I may continue to be sparse, but through mindfulness, Ayurveda and non-violent communication, in addition to many other modalities, I've found a way to be a much healthier Muslimah. Maybe I'll focus on that instead. I have so much more to say about that.

I am now married. The thing that I had so much angst about for so long has come to pass. It was a long time in coming. I learned so much along the way and put so much prayer into this union, and will put much more, no doubt, after the fact.

At the same time, I don't hope to come down as preechy or to issue a series of "how-tos." How I arrived here was perilous and messy, as real life is. If I have any advice to give to anyone who is searching, it is to be you always. Be honest to yourself first, and then you will be honest with those who you are dating/talking to. Never, ever purport yourself to be someone who you are not, even if that is someone you aspire to be. Be genuine. Practice authenticity. You want a partner for who you actually are, and not who you want to become and may not attain.

Meet them on earth. Your soul may strive for Jannah, but for now, our souls are here, in grounded vessels, and our partners are before us, also here.

So anyway, here I am, where I've wanted to be for so long, and it is different than I anticipated. I could be hackneyed and say that it is better than I anticipated, but I won't be.

It is more expansive than I anticipated.