Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me…

“Above all, don’t lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love.” ― Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

“If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.” ― Mark Twain

I didn’t write a post last week, mainly because I felt overwhelmed by the sudden overexposure of my blog on Pakistani television and online. That’s right. My blog went sort of viral in Pakistan for a few days. Well, viral for a blog that typically gets around 20 views a day and was now around, oh, 165. If I had known earlier that it was going to happen, I would have figured out how to get ads and whatnot on my blog to make me some money, at least, since Zahara and I are completely dependent on my parents to support us financially right now. But no, all that happened was a slideshow of pictures of me and Naveed and our wedding, and of me and Zahara, and of Zahara and Naveed that played on every Pakistani station again and again. And oh yeah, a dramatic reading of excerpts from my first post, a reading that I found pretty funny actually, since it made me out to be some sort of an anguished, desperate victim.

I am not a victim. I’m not miserable and I’m not tortured. Naveed Parveez married me and kept promising to be someone he could never really be, while he and his family greedily took advantage of my kindness, generosity, and naivety. The cheating I discovered was only the last part of all of that. There were good times, but I also endured a lot of suffering. I gave the marriage and that family and that man every chance I could, but eventually I had to decide how much I was willing to take, what message I was sending my daughter about how a woman should be treated, and ultimately, how much power I was going to give others over my life, happiness, and dignity. I spent the first year of my baby girl’s life trying to give her father the benefit of the doubt, trying to believe him and give him every opportunity to stop lying, stop cheating, and make this marriage work. I felt horrible about it, but I was also a mother and tried to be happy for Zahara. At that point, I was a victim, because I allowed myself to be.

That family of frauds, who lie to and manipulate everyone around them in order to gain something, was not worthy of me and my daughter. Over the years of my marriage I had put up with insults and emotional abuse. Money and jewelry went missing from our home repeatedly when only my in-laws were there. I gave those people everything, including that home my in-laws lived in with me, but they treated me like I was inferior, someone to be mocked and used and thrown away. By the time Naveed’s family encouraged and facilitated his affair with the Pakistani Lollywood scandal queen Meera, I was already trying too hard for his and his family’s caring and approval. I refused to stop trying, lying to myself that if I just gave a little bit more, I would finally win over their hearts and they would be as compassionate towards me as I was towards them. But eventually even my limits were reached. Being stranded in a foreign country by a man who claims to love you will do that.

I filed for divorce early in 2011 after returning from that last chance for romance trip. The media reporting on Zahara’s baba’s engagement with his girlfriend last week discovered that we were married, but they falsely concluded that this marriage was legally over. In fact, that media coverage told the public that that man had divorced me and when they questioned him about it, he claimed not to ever have been married at all! Of course, a couple of weeks before this engagement Naveed made sure to contact me to say that there were some rumors about him and Meera getting married and I shouldn’t believe them. I laughed at the fact that he thought I still cared what he did. Meanwhile some reports lied and said I had contacted them and was trying to stop the marriage or engagement between Meera and Naveed. -_-

Now you see why I couldn’t write last week? God, I was angry that there were all these lies being spread about me and I wanted to tell the world the truth but I held my tongue. I didn’t speak to any reporters or answer their calls or make any statements at all. I was very careful to just watch and see what happens. As I have always done, I took the high road of restraint, and thought ahead to my daughter growing up and finding all of these things online one day. I have always put her first, and I did it again by remaining calm. Now that my blog has gone back to its normal limited audience and the Pakistani media and tabloids are on to some other gossip, I can write.

I don’t need to explain or prove the truth. People want the sensational story, not the facts. I know I made the right decision a year ago when I filed for divorce, and even though Zahara’s baba never signed the papers and continues to pretend he wants to fix things between us (whenever he bothers to contact us at all), the recent events prove just how worthless and selfish a man he truly is. His girlfriend doesn’t want to believe he’s lying to her, too, but she knew we were married and had just had our first child when she met us over 2 years ago and she chose to be with him anyway.

Whatever lies they tell each other and however much they choose to use each other doesn’t matter to me at all. I made the right choice for myself. I protected myself and my daughter from a dangerously callous man and his equally destructive family. I am not a victim. And although I held my tongue, I am not suffocating in silence like I had in the past. I am powerful, happy and at ease with my choices, and proud of myself for saving myself and my baby from a lifetime of misery and for doing my best to give us the life we deserve. I have nothing to hide, but I also have nothing to prove. I’m still a nice girl, but I’m strong now. People like Naveed and Meera and their families will continue to deceive and abuse the people around them, but I am no longer one of those people. So go ahead, believe what you want. I’m honest with myself and others. I know the truth about my life and I’m happy with it. And that’s all that really matters.

 

Best. Valentine’s Day. EVER.

I LOVE NEW YORK CITY. I already knew that, of course, but every single time I cross one of the bridges, emerge from the tunnel, or step off a train into the heart of New York I am hit once again by the excitement of it all. The city quickens my blood and heartbeat, making me come alive as my body synchronizes itself to the pulsating rhythm of NYC. My first love did not disappoint last night when I experienced the best Valentine’s date of my life! And it’s all thanks to the new love of my life, Mely.

Mely, if you don’t already know- and seriously, where do you live that you don’t know??- is the accomplished, hysterical, larger than life personality behind the Sex, Lies & Bacon blog. I have to admit I was nervous to meet her in real life. I mean, I’m pretty much exactly the same person on Twitter and in my blog as I really am, but what if I didn’t have anything interesting to say? What if the thought I put into my writing takes too long and I don’t think of the right thing to say or do until I’m driving home? What if I find out that I am indeed a total dork and not cool enough for the fabulous Melysa S. I’ve come to love online???

All that forgotten within about 5 minutes of arriving at LIPS NYC, the destination for my first Valentine’s date since separating 2 years ago and the first date since I finally woke up and filed for divorce. Hell, yes that was a big deal and put extra pressure on me to make this night amazing! Right after I sat down and introduced myself to the sexy, single mom faces all beaming back at me, one beautiful drag queen came up to our table and asked if we wanted some “special” balloon creations…and then proceeded to fill the balloons with air from the pump that looked like a nipple on her breast. I ended up with a balloon wrapped around my neck, hanging down like a chain, and with a loop on the other end for someone to lead me around and….. if you don’t know what I’m talking about you are a very decent, innocent, sweet person but you really should get out more! 😉

Cue giggles and laughter and an evening full of drag queen cabaret, comedy, dinner, drinks, and music. And I had nothing to worry about. I was chair dancing and cheering for my favorite performances, yelling singing along to tunes of “love and lust”, and filling my heart with happy memories. I’ve never had such a stress-free, expectation-free, disappointment-free Valentine’s experience. And Mely? She and the other women in our group were all smart, witty, sharp-tounged, successful supermamas who happen to be nice, normal, down-to-earth and fun-loving people, too. They were inspirational.

I felt empowered, so happy I turned to Melysa after one especially good performance and grabbed her hand impetuously, repeating “I love this, I love this, THANK YOU!” And my date looked right into my eyes and smiled and squeezed my hand back and actually understood everything I wasn’t saying. NO man and no date has ever done that for me. I was saying thanks for giving me the chance to show myself that I am not a shrinking violet. I’m no wallflower and I sure as shnizzle am not an adornment on a certain loser pilot’s arm, there to make him look and feel better and nothing else. I’m just as sexy and fun and carefree as I thought I was. And I felt higher and more relaxed than I have ever felt before.

Obviously.

The conversation veered from raunchy to anti-exes to our jobs and kids and back again, from introductions to fast friends in minutes. The music was good, the food was good, the drinks were excellent :~) and it was all just a spectacular way to celebrate loving myself and my city on the day made for love and lovers. We met people who actually came up and joined us because, and this is an actual quote, we looked like “fun people.” We were high-fiving and clinking glasses and talking about ourselves and being naughty and it was the most incredible night and I was on a cloud.

Leaving my new friends, my Valentines, I was again struck by the power and passion of Manhattan. I met strangers as I walked through the city and we joked about my leash, and connected for a few minutes on the sidewalk discussing teaching (my old job) and my baby and San Francisco and cigarettes and birthdays and Valentine’s Day. Don’t ask me how this happened because that is the allure of New York. That’s the secret magical ingredient that makes me smile with confidence. There’s always this random meeting, this sudden closeness and honesty that can happen here. I can be most truly myself amid people I just met and we can stand on the pavement and really see each other and have a great time. It may only be 15 minutes, but it is the essence of the city that “never sleeps” and where something is always happening somewhere and someone is always around for whatever kind of night you want to make it.

This is my love. This energy and this side of myself that has become more important and stronger than anything bad that I went through. This randomness and complete self-assured ease and enjoyment. And I reveled in it!

Happy Valentine’s Day New York. Happy Valentine’s Day Melysa S. and LIPS NYC and the beautiful men and women I met there. Happy Valentine’s Day strangers who thought our side of the room looked more fun and those whom I laughed with before the end of my night.

And a special shout-out to my loser ex who called to say he was “worried” that I’d “get too wild in New York City” which translates to he was worried I’d have the time of my life without him and recognize my own fabulosity and maybe even meet someone. Well, Happy Valentine’s Day sucker, I did all three and I AM IN LOVE! Like I said, Best. Valentine’s Day. EVER!

Picture of perfection

“A photograph can take you back in time to places and embraces that you thought you’d left behind.” – The Tigger Movie

“Life is too deep for words, so don’t try to describe it, just live it.” – C.S. Lewis

Pictures. Pictures to capture a moment; pictures to freeze time. Pictures that define us and pictures that reveal some truth we may have hidden even from ourselves. Pictures are worth a thousand words, according to the saying. And for someone like me who cannot for the life of me use less words, a picture could very well be the solution to my feelings that sometimes, even thousands of words are not enough to adequately express what’s inside me.

Pictures and videos of my daughter are what got me through the final blind curve of the end of my marriage and got me off my butt and out into the world, finally accepting what was and letting it go so I could be FREE.

So this past week I’ve been thinking. There are days when I just want to crawl into bed and shut my eyes and sleep, no dreams, no baby cries in the middle of the night, no thoughts of sadness or solitude or just plain desperation creeping up on me randomly every once in a while even when things are going well. Because that’s the thing. Everything can be great but still there is doubt in my mind that keeps me awake for a couple of nights at a time every few weeks. Life can be good but still, I’ll lay in my bed frustrated, lonely, wondering if this is all there is to my life. And it takes so much to find it inside myself to get through those moments and push on, to sift through the pain or the exhaustion and see the moments worth getting back up for in the morning.

Some days I feel like all I do is fight, from the moment I wake up until sleep finally overtakes me. I fight for pee and poop in the toilet and brushing teeth. I fight to get every single bite of breakfast in a surprisingly vice-like closed mouth that tests my aim and patience as it is shaken in a defiant no from side to side to side, and then I do it again at lunch and dinner. I fight for no dropping socks or shoes or hair clips or iPhones in the toilet and I fight to keep toilet paper from being ripped into little unusable scraps. I fight to keep tiny but strong hands from pinching or scratching cousins, playmates, and myself and I fight to keep tantrums to a minimum. I fight against throwing food and toys and books and utensils and I fight for sharing and and holding mommy’s hand as we walk.

I fight to keep my room as clean as possible, giving up once it’s a cluttered, but organized mess. And I fight to wash and fold laundry when all my bras are dirty and I have to wear one from college when my chest was still pre-breastfeeding firm and small. I fight against emotional eating and I fight to stick to a running routine. I fight against my insecurities and some days I fight to get out of bed. Because I want to be a good mother and I want to be good to myself, too.

Saying “everything’s okay, I’m fine” all the time is a lie. I am honest about my emotions and I say what I need to say. But somehow I do go on. I do feel happy. I laugh. I relax and I breathe. I make plans and I let my daughter pick her own outfits and I push the toys into a corner and I just let it be. I used to wonder where that strength came from, but now I know that it’s in me. I choose to see the good moments and just live them for however long they last. And that is what gets me through.

When those nights come around when my brain won’t stop and I’m anxious or restless or afraid or depressed, I need something to help me remember the moments worth all that damn fighting. I look back on my first year as a mom and there are so many holes in my memory. I remember, but it’s like I’m trying to remember a dream. I can’t quite access all of it. And that’s because I was so grief-stricken and so shocked that my system went into survival mode and I simply existed. I smiled and played for my daughter’s sake but I was cut off from my life in a way that left me hollow.

I’ve already written about the real turning point in my grief and how I found myself again. Now, more than a year after that event, I’ve got something new planned. I’ve been knocking an idea around my head for the past week. It’s inspired by things like Wordless Wednesday posts and the whole “febphotoaday” thing I’ve been seeing on Twitter. What if I use the iPhone I’ve got to capture moments in my day that inspire me, make me laugh, move me? Beauty is in the smallest details sometimes. Happiness can be found in a mere second in an otherwise hectic day. I fight all day every day sometimes, but there are moments. There is good.

So what I came up with is this. I am going to click away with my cellphone camera whenever the moment is good, whether it’s something I’m doing or my daughter or a pretty sky or whatever. And just that act, remembering to take a picture when I feel happy, will help me appreciate the feeling. Then at the end of the day when I drag myself to bed and feel the tension and tiredness threatening to make it a sleepless night, I can look through those pics and choose the one that makes me happiest and tweet it as my pic of the day. In fact, I want to make that my nightly routine. Instead of catching up on social media sites I’ll catch up on my own life. It’s hard to focus on the good when you’re fighting parenting, so this will be a way to force myself to see what was right with my day.

So now, instead of one wordy post a week I’m going to post twice. One full of my talk too much self, and one where I simply put up the pics of the day from the whole week, no words, no explanations. If I keep at it, at the end of the year I’ll even have a photo diary of my best memories to look at when my will is not enough to keep me going. We all need help to feel strong and present and excited about our lives. This is my way of helping myself achieve a happier, more peaceful state of being. It’ll make me a better mother, knowing that there are reasons to smile. And it’ll be something to look back on to fill in the holes in my memory as my fights go from eat this, poop there to don’t you dare wear that, smoke that, drink that, or go there. From toddler to teenager, it’ll pass so quickly, but at least now I’ll have a way to help myself get through it…and a way to help myself fight for the smiles and through the tears.

I have an O positive personality

When I got pregnant with Zahara I developed gestational anemia, which is a scientific way of saying I was knocked flat, sleeping about 20 hours a day, and getting up only to use the bathroom or grab something portable and relatively not messy to bring to my bed and devour. I was dizzy and weak and pale and I thought pregnancy is wayyyy too misrepresented as this glowing, flowing, fresh and happy, shiny phase of life. Then of course, my doctor did bloodwork and came up with this innocent sounding diagnosis and an easy fix: one iron pill a day to balance me out and get some color back in my cheeks!

 

All this was well and good, until I noticed that my copy of the lab’s results listed my blood type as O positive.

 
“Um, excuse me Doctor, just one question. Does this say I’m O positive?” I asked with a slight shake of my head and a small, somewhat condescending smile. Oh, you silly doctor people, you.

 
“Let me just take a look. Yes, O positive, says so right here.”

 
Confusion, bigger shake of the head. “Uh, no, that’s a mistake. I’m B positive, have been my whole life.”

 
“Who told you that?”

 
“My mother. They told her when she was pregnant with me. She’s rH negative so they did extra tests on me as a fetus and said she had to get special shots because I was B positive,” I explained calmly, so sure of myself, so smug.

 
“Well, we’ll check it again, but there’s really very little chance of this being wrong,” the Doctor said, a bit bemusedly. I’m sure he was wondering how long he’d have to put up with this hormonal, crazy pregnant lady mountain out of a molehill stuff before I’d leave his office.

 
“Yes, please check it again. I mean, I’ve been B positive my whole life and your blood type doesn’t just change, does it?” Mothers can’t be wrong about their kids’ blood types, can they? I mean, come on, that’s like the most basic thing to know about your own child, right? Wait, I don’t even have a clue about Zahara’s blood type…

 

You’re asking yourself right now why this matters. What’s the big deal, you say, she thought she was a B but she’s an O, who gives a shnizzle? Ha, never used the word shnizzle before, but I like it!

Well, here’s the thing. My mother was wrong, I was wrong, and my doctor and his lab in Puerto Rico were right. I am O positive and since blood doesn’t transform spontaneously from one group into another (unless you’re a character from Twilight) that means that I’d been wrong about that basic building block of my life for my whole life. And when I think about it, that is a really huge thing to not know about yourself. I was out there living the B positive life, taking any shnizzle thrown at me (ha!) and letting it smear all over my face, get in my wide, opened permanently into a fake grin mouth, and letting it choke me on its way down inside where it festered into a putrid pile of, well, redigested shnizzle.

And all this time, I’d been O positive. O, the universal donor, the universal giver. O, the illusive, mysterious, stand-alone type who will only accept something like itself, but who can, and will, give to anyone and everyone else as much as possible. I was trying to B positive and feeling like the octagonal puzzle piece shoved into a circular space. I could sort of fit, I could make it work, but it just didn’t feel right. But to find out I am an O, well, that’s something else entirely, isn’t it?

O gives happily, easily, without having to be anything other than itself. In fact, O is perfect for everyone just as it is and actually, it was born ready to help, to empathetically serve the greater good. (Is empathetically even a word?) But O does not do it unwillingly or by force like the unfollowable mantra of the B positives. No, O cares for all while demanding care for itself by those just like it. O needs O, like attracts like in this case, and O is open to receiving from those who were also born to sacrifice of themselves more than metaphorically, literally doling out pints of itself for strangers and renewing itself with ease to give again another day.

O is rare and O is valued. O is called by blood registries to schedule donations to help with national and local shortages. And O responds. O replenishes itself and is strong, and brave, and adaptable enough to emerge often to aid in saving 5 lives with every pint, as the old saying goes. O is a unique and powerful gem of blood groups, like a superpower in a cartoon, well-hidden and yet so incredibly important.

I was wrong and my mother was wrong and an OB-GYN in Puerto Rico let me in on the biggest secret of my life. I am O positive, not B positive. I am quietly strong, distinct and important. I am all this and more from my blood through my core to every inch of me and I don’t need to force a thing.

I am who I am and when I was trying to be something else I didn’t fit. But now, I’m the goddess of blood types, the All-Powerful and All-Giving and All-Loving of blood types. I’m O positive and I am sure of it.

And if you need me I’ll be there in a heartbeat and a needle-stick, but if I need anything or anyone I will be selective. I will confirm that at your core you are like me so I don’t die from receiving an ill-matched transfusion of feelings and blood and time and love and instead, I will see to it that the only one who gets past my skin is someone who’s going to fit right in. So my mother was wrong about me and that began a lifelong journey mistakenly believing myself to be something I’m not. I know now that I’m an O positive. I’m living it and I’m loving it.

And I have to thank my daughter for saving my life. Because without her poking around in there and existing and forcing me to take a look at myself, I never would have known who I truly am. I would never have learned how special and valuable I am and I would never have embraced my beautiful, quirky, and generous O positive self. My mother and I messed up, but Zahara showed me reality. And so what if I don’t know her blood type yet? When the time comes we’ll find out together, but I’ll never make the mistake of convincing her she’s something she’s not.

And if you’re still reading and you’re wondering, my ammi is also an O and I love her rarified self more than I can say. She’s even rarer than me, an O negative, with qualities and strengths for me to admire and mirror, just not identically. And that’s okay, because she is who she is and I am who I am and us laid-back Os are all about live and let live, man. We’re both Os, anyway, so there’s more of my mother in me than meets the eye. And there’s more of me in her, too. We’ll just let time tell us what runs through Zahara’s veins, and take it from there.