Dear Ruqaiyah, this moment you’re in right now, this is the moment to do something. To start something. Stop waiting for tomorrow, next week, or next month. Start now.
Dear Ruqaiyah, happiness is here. Right here, where you are now. It’s not a destination you need to reach ‘someday’. It’s not some place you need to travel to, or arrive at. You simply have to be here, now; you simply need to breathe in, breathe out, and remember your Lord. Here, now. Be happy.
Dear Ruqaiyah, it’s been done before, it’s been said before, all the stories have already been written before. But don’t let that stop you. Do it, say it, write it. Find new ways, or do it the good ol’ fashion way. Just do something. Because if we stop, what is the point anymore?
Dear Ruqaiyah, we are all good and bad and beautiful and ugly and everything in between. Each one of us. At any given moment, we can be our best selves or our worst selves. See it all, and embrace it. Don’t judge it. But always try to be your best self.
Dear Ruqaiyah, keep on trying. Keep on fighting, loving, searching, hurting. Keep on feeling, keep on laughing. Keep on messing up. But be sure you keep on learning from it and growing. Keep on.
Dear Ruqaiyah, find your people. Find the people who will take the time to know you, those who will pay attention. Remember to pay attention to them too. Find the people who will pray for you even when you don’t ask them to or when you don’t see them for a while. Pray for them too (and for everyone else, but more for them — because, well, they’re your people). Find the people who will understand your laughter, those who will join in. Find the people who will listen closely. Be that person too.
Part of my identity has always been that I am a reader. I cannot remember a time in my childhood — from my earliest memories — that I did not love books or count myself among those who love reading; whether it was thick, cardboard-paged books about a spotty dog, The Famous Five, Sweet Dreams (cringe!), Sweet Valley, then finally the more mature books about life, love and such… books formed a huge part of my identity.
But, increasingly, in my young adult years through to my current adult years (old adult?), I’ve found less and less time for reading. And I know that’s just because I’ve made less time for it. I’ve found more distractions, more stress, more work, more world news, more to fret about, and more Facebook and YouTube to numb my brain with.
I often found myself joking that I probably could no longer call myself a reader if I don’t actually read…
And I’d joke that I’m an English teacher who hardly ever reads (for leisure)…
These are extremely unfunny jokes, I know.
SIDE NOTE: To be fair though, I’m not completely hypocritical as The English Teacher Who Doesn’t Read. Firstly, my hundreds and hundreds of books in my youth must make up for some of the lack of it in these recent years, no? Come on, there were a super many books that I read in my youth — you know, sitting at my desk in my bedroom, with school books spread out in front of me, so that I may quickly shove my novel under when Mom walks in. And I had one of those round push/touch lamps that I would use at night, under the duvet, when it was time for lights out.
And… My mom used to take my stacks of books from me and hide them away because I read while I was supposed to do homework and study. I always found the hiding places though.
ANOTHER SIDE NOTE: I haven’t not read anything at all in these recent years — I’ve read some good stuff here and there; I quite enjoyed John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars. And I’ve read the setwork novels for my teaching prep: Animal Farm by George Orwell, Lord of the Flies by William Golding, and lots of Shakespeare drama. (I have grown to love and appreciate Shakespeare much more than I did in my teens!) And there have also been other random novels in between. I read some poorly-written ‘chick lit’. I’m not proud of that. And several non-fiction, historical reads. A few novels by Muslim authors also made their way into my repertoire. So yeah, I’ve been reading… stuff. As long as we understand all the side notes before we proceed and stop judging the English Teacher…
The thing is, those moments of getting utterly and completely lost in a book, where I can’t wait to turn reality off and climb back inside my new world of characters and places and faces, have been too few and far between. People talk about the latest books they’ve read with giddy excitement, exchanging notes and little anecdotes, and I can only take my old reading memories off the shelves of my mind and blow off the dust, and contribute my measly 5 cents. Or just remove myself from the conversation altogether.
My identity was no longer Reader. My answer to ‘interests’ could no longer be reading. This perplexed me for a while, but I shoved it away and, much like I didn’t have time for reading, also didn’t have time to think about this new identity, or absence of identity.
But… you can run but you can’t hide. It started catching up with me. Reading was my escape: from stress, from pressure, from boredom, from the mundane, from idleness. It was also my destination. Then I found I had no escape. And I had no destination. I was just going through the humdrum. I missed the visits with the characters between the pages of good books; I missed the intensity of their stories and I missed travelling through new lands.
The intensity of my own story, my own stress of work and life, were my everyday visitors. I didn’t realise I needed books. I thought it was just a nice old pastime. I had forgotten that reading wasn’t just my childhood hobby — it was my identity. It is fundamental to every aspect of who I am — I’ve just forgotten how to enjoy it.
On a conscious level I knew the benefits of reading. I knew that it alleviates stress, stimulates creativity, increases concentration, etc., etc. But who really listens to their own inner-psychologist?
So while I ignored my inner-psychologist, I listened to my real-life doctor. She prescribed that I do something to unwind from time to time. And of course I chose Old Faithful: Reading.
I feel a peculiar sense of giddiness and strange emotional soppiness at this resolve to read again, consistently. Like returning to a beloved, dear old friend. I feel happy.
So to just return to reading again is boring — and what if I fall off the wagon? I thus decided to make it more interesting and at the same time hold myself more accountable, and so I will endeavour to read 300 books before I turn 30! Eeeek! Lol. Exciting and mildly scary. My 30 arrives in roughly 87 weeks. That means I have to read, on average, 3.45 books a week. Hahaha!
The poetry prompt for day 2 is to write a poem that tells a lie. Yikes. This was a difficult one. Really difficult. I ended up staring at a blank screen for hours. Really. It was horrible. So this is the result of that horrible-ness. Not my best work–and that’s not a lie.
I’ve got it all figured out.
No questions about where I’m going.
No doubts about what I’m doing.
I know what I want.
And I know how to get there.
That’s a lie.
I have so many questions!
Sometimes I just want to ask, ‘Why?‘
I have doubts and fears–
Life is not as easy as it appears.
And writing this poem while to the prompt trying to adhere
Has resulted in a work which is more than a little queer,
Hate it. Love it. Share your thoughts with me below.
Aaah, it feels so good to be sitting here again. So good to be surrounded by words, thoughts, ideas and to actually have time to pen (or the modern-day version of ‘penning’: type) those words down, think the thoughts out, entertain the ideas that flitter in and out. I also have this strange habit of making up stories in my head at random times during a day when I’m tired or stressed and choose to escape inside my head. It’s nice to be able enjoy these mental stories now, and to add more to those stories than just character descriptions for a change–there is still a long way to go before they end up on paper, though, or my laptop screen. For now they will just stay in my head. But I enjoy them up there.
So, yes, here I sit. In my bedroom. On my bed. The same place I’ve sat for most of this year. (And I do not exaggerate when I say that. I SAT here for so much of this year, planning lessons, marking tests and assignments, doing research, NOT going out with friends and family because I had so much work to do, NOT updating my blog because I had so much work to do, NOT sleeping, even though I was on my bed… my butt eventually hurt from the sitting. No jokes. None.) But this place is different now. The French doors leading from my bedroom to our very cluttered and un-scenic back yard are open; air and sunlight is streaming in; there are no papers, notes and books sprawled on all surfaces in my bedroom–save for the fictional ones that happily whisk me away to another time, another land, for which I had longed all year, but been deprived of. And my laptop has once again transformed into a dear, old friend; she is no longer the menace that burned my eyes in the wee hours of the night, draining me of all coherent thought. She is again my friend whom I write to about funny, old things that I think about, I tell her the poems of my heart, and she once again allows me to guiltlessly ramble on about random things on my blog. She is back. I am back. And it feels so darn good.
I am not sure how wide the readership of my blog is–or was–but to those who do read it, those who had taken time to visit in the hope of reading something that will make the minutes pass by less glumly, but found nothing new to read here for days, and weeks, and months… I apologise. I sincerely do. This blog was never meant to be a by-the-way thing for me. From the start, it meant something, and I wanted to continue in that way. I wanted it to always be a place of truth for me, a place where I would write and I wouldn’t hide. Because I often do that. I write when it is convenient for me, and then I shove it to the back when it’s not. And for most of this year, it wasn’t. But a mentor recently told me: ‘You will be a writer by writing–not by planning to do it in the distant future.‘ And she is right, painfully right. So I’m getting back on the proverbial horse, and I’m trying again. I am going to write. Because I want to be a writer. I am a writer. But thinking about writing, planning to write, wishing I had the time to write doesn’t make me a writer. So I am going back to my roots and I’m using words like I’ve always loved to use them. I’m using them to live my life, because they are part of my life. And here they will stay.
Today, rather than sharing with you my own thoughts at length, I have decided to share with you the thoughts of another blogger, and just add in some of my own commentary. Her name is Rian; quite an awesome blogger she is. The title of her blog post is You’re Not Doing It Right(follow the link to read more). The reasons for sharing her post with you are two-fold:
1. I am honestly too lazy and uninspired to type my own post right now, but I feel compelled to stick to my self-assigned deadline for my blog posts. Also, a weekend of awesomeness tends to drain one of any residual energy one might have had to indulge in the luxury of typing meaningful and readable words. So, forgive me if any of what is to come is unreadable.
2. I like what she’s saying, and how she says it. I can relate to a lot of it. Many of us have a preconceived notion of what life is supposed to be like, and when our lives don’t quite match that fickle idea we have in our heads, we feel saddened, as though something has gone wrong, something in our lives must be awry. Further than that, some of us apply this thinking to our religion as well: We have to be the best Muslim we can be, we have to do things absolutely perfectly, and if we don’t, we’re just not doing it right. This ultimately causes us to feel despondent in our worship. But, the thing is, firstly, Islam is not difficult, it is only us, Muslims, who sometimes make it difficult upon ourselves. And, secondly, there is no single right way of being a Muslim. Sure, we have the Qur’an and Sunnah (Prophetic way) as our guides, and the madhaahib (Islamic schools of law) we follow, and we have certain faraa’id (things which are compulsory upon Muslims) that we need to abide by, but if we don’t do these things according to our idea of ‘right’, it doesn’t mean we’re not being Muslim right. It only means that we’re getting more reward when we keep trying (the key here is to not be complacent), and we need to remember that, rather than stressing about it and grinding our teeth about it, we should turn to Allah and ask for His Help. No matter how many times we fall short of who we want to be, as Rian says so aptly in her blog: “It doesn’t matter. You’re alive.” And as long as we are alive, the little mistakes we make do not matter in the bigger picture, because we can keep trying. And if we believe in Allah, and are trying to live our lives in His Pleasure, we are doing it right.
What is it that you sometimes feel you’re not doing right? How do you deal with these feelings and thoughts? Share your thoughts with me in the comments below.
Most of the time, I’m a bundle of thoughts and emotions. I have all these things running through my head; thoughts I want to say out loud, but there’s a voice inside my head that keeps saying, Be cool. And then there are my emotions. Don’t care too much. Okay, you can’t help it if you care that much, but, for goodness sake, don’t let them know how much you care. Okay, cool it with hugs already! Don’t show that you’re upset. Don’t let them know you’re hurting. Don’t hug that hard. Don’t laugh that hard. Don’t love that hard… Just – play – it – cool.
But, like I said, I’m not cool. So, I go ahead and I care a lot about things and people who matter to me, and I try to let them know it, because what’s the point in caring about someone if they never know they’re cared about? And I get upset, I get hurt; I hug hard and I laugh hard (though, still trying to maintain my lady-like, hijabi composure while doing it… uhem…). And… I love hard. Sometimes it ends up leading all the way back to getting hurt, but how do you stop yourself from loving without losing out on all the fun and most amazing parts of loving? And we can’t control how much we love someone–believe me, I have tried (when I was still naïve enough to believe that I could ‘play it cool’).
Sometimes, I still have that little voice in my head telling me to ‘play it cool’ in certain situations, but I shove it away, because, why would I want to play? This is not a game. Life does not have a scorecard keeping track of how hard I hug you in contrast to how hard you hug me back. If I love you, and if I missed you, I’m gonna hug you–and I mean really hug you! And you just better deal with it. And, in addition to giving suffocating hugs, I often say (really) silly things, and ask (really) silly questions. No, I mean, like, really silly. And, back when I was in high school, I used to keep them all in my head, wonder all these weird things only to myself, never letting my thoughts see the light of day. But, now, I’m a little more grown up and I understand a bit more about how the world works, and, with that, I’ve been blessed enough to have friends along the way who laugh at the silly things I say and the silly questions I ask, but love me anyway. And they’re kind of silly, too, so I laugh right back at them.
So, ultimately, I’ve come to learn that life is not about playing it cool. Life (or maybe just one small part of life) is about opening yourself up to being hurt and being laughed at, because that’s the only way you learn to feel, and the only way you learn to laugh at yourself. And I sure do enjoy a good, hard laugh at myself.
And, in conclusion, after all this talk about not playing it cool, I’m not going to play it cool and pretend that I don’t care how many people read this blog, and how many people comment on it. I WANT COMMENTS!! If I didn’t want people’s feedback on what I write, I’d open up a document in MS Word, type all this stuff in there, and save it in a folder on my laptop where I save all my other writings and poetry that I don’t particularly want to share with the world, because I don’t want people’s commentary and feedback on those pieces of myself. This blog, however, is designed for the purpose of people reading what I’ve written, and commenting on it.