The day without a cell phone

This post could also be titled, “How technology ruined me” or “Technology dumbed me down to nearly helpless. What should I do?!” Do you know what happens when you leave your cell phone charging at home and leave for the day? I do. It isn’t pretty.

On Thursday, I went through my normal hectic morning routine getting myself and Zahara fed, dressed, and in the car with coffee in hand (me) and empty bladder (the kid) and ON TIME! I was feeling mighty impressed with myself, pointing out Mr. Sun to my baby and driving us to her Gymboree class. (Yes, I am a Gymboree mom. But don’t judge me. You know me. I’m not evil. I’m not uptight or uppity. I’m just one of the many normal ones who week after week, for the sake of our kids, must face the evil, $125 velour tracksuit-wearing, thin as a rail because their kids have nannies and they have trainers, nose permanently stuck in the air, your kid’s wearing THAT?!, stereotypical Gymboree mothers. And honestly, there are more of US than THEM so I think we can take ’em!)

Anyway, so I get to Gymboree, go through the songs and slides and activities, get us back to the car with empty coffee cup (me) and empty bladder again (Zahara, of course. Potty training is sooo much fun!) and reach into the diaper bag where I usually keep my IPhone, still feeling pretty good about myself. Nothing, nada, oh no, picture of my phone connected to its charger and nestled in the covers of my unmade bed pops into my mind (priorities, people. It was either make the bed or be ON TIME. On time is a big draw for always semi-late me.)

Now, the past six weeks had seen me chugging coffee while performing awe-worthy mom feats of skill getting Zahara from Gymboree to swimming class 20 minutes away within a half hour time span. If you’re a parent, you know that this deserves at least a standing ovation. Preparing two different bags of baby stuff, one for each activity, switching swimsuit for onesie and swim diapers for Pull-ups, AND having enough time for toddler to pee in toilet AND get Gymbo the clown stamped on her hand AND getting coats, shoes, and outer layers of clothing off and on at Gymboree and off again at swimming AND driving within the speed limit to get 20 minutes away within 20 minutes……hell, just stand up and cheer for me already. :~)

I was doing all this because my baby girl went through two terrible individual swimming classes in which she screamed and cried for me the whole time. So I freaked out, had a moment of intense mommy guilt and then came up with a solution: Mommy and me swimming lessons. Only, those classes were only available right after Zahara’s Gymboree so off we went for six exhausting weeks.

But this past Thursday, thank God, was the first of a new schedule for swimming so I could finally relax. I even planned to go to a showing of Hunger Games at a local mall that offers bring-your-own-baby viewing experiences every few weeks. That may be why I was so proud of myself. Until I reached in that diaper bag…

The drive from Gymboree to the movie went something like this:

I could go home and get the phone, but then I’ll miss the movie. Or I’ll get a speeding ticket if I try to get home, up the stairs to my phone, back to the car and to the movies on time.

Somebody’s probably trying to call me…or text me…or panicking because I’m not answering. They’re sending out a search party and I’m just la-de-da on my way to a movie!

Oh, God what time is it?! I sometimes wear a watch but it’s just for show. None of my watches even work because I didn’t bother to change the batteries because I always check my IPhone, but now I don’t have it and how am I supposed to tell ti- oh, okay, wait there’s a CLOCK in the car. Was that always there?

But wait, oh, God, what is the date?! It doesn’t say that in the car. Isn’t this car supposed to have an internal computer thingie? My IPhone gives me a whole calendar! How the hell am I going to go through my day not knowing what DATE it is?!!

Somebody is definitely calling me. My sister, probably. Or my mom. They’re going to worry and then they’re going to start crying and then they’ll start driving around back and forth from Gymboree because I didn’t tell anybody I was taking Zahara to a movie afterwards because I was going to call them after her class but I can’t because I DON’T HAVE A CELL PHONE!!!

Okay, okay I NEED a pay phone. Where the heck did all the pay phones go? No one uses a pay phone anymore, dammit because everyone’s got their own phone…but oh, I know, there are some pay phones right by the entrance to the movie theater. Okay! Yes, I am brilliant. I have a plan! I will get there fast, call my sister who can text or call everyone who needs to know that I am the loser who forgot my cell phone at home and I’m alive, I’m okay, I’m just going to go catch a movie- yeah, if I have enough time to get there, make the call, buy tickets, buy snacks, and get to my seat- whatever, I am amazing. I can do this!

I can’t do this. I don’t have change! I HATE change. The coins are so noisy and they get stuck in my wallet pocket and I can never find the amount I want at the time I need it and so I always take it out- oh oh, wait, I do have change! Thank God Zahara wanted to go on that whirring, beeping, going nowhere fast kiddie ride that annoys the hell out of me!

Okay, wait. Question: The Baby Pictures program IS actually today at noon, right? I’m not heading to a showtime with old couples who are going to get royally pissed because I dared to bring a baby, no even worse, a TODDLER to a movie, am I?! I don’t have my schedule. It would tell me if today is the right day. I write everything in that handy reminders app, but-

Dammit I need my phone. Maybe I can get another driver’s attention and ask to please, pretty please, borrow their smart phone for just a second while I check the date- and time, because did I actually “spring forward” on the car clock when I didn’t even know the car had a clock?- and if they let me have another second with their technological lifeline I could text my sister and Google the movie and- hell, who’s going to give me their cell phone? They need it as much as I do.

Speaking of driving, am I going the right way? I have a navigation app on my IPhone that works really well, better than this damn car’s navigation, and I could’ve checked it at the next red light if I’d remembered to grab my phone from my bed this morning.

Why, why, why didn’t I charge it overnight? I could’ve slept two minutes less and gotten up to plug it into the wall, but I was lazy! I HAD to wait until morning and now look at me!

Okay, yes this is the right way. Look at me, I can actually navigate by myself! Who knew?

Thank God, the theater. Let me get there quick and count my change and- what do you mean it now costs 50 cents for a local call? Last time I used a pay phone it was 25 cents!

Okay, a quarter, a dime, some nickels…come out of that tiny, zippered pocket coins and serve your purpose.

Come to think of it, the last time I used a pay phone it DID cost less so maybe I’m not interpreting this sign correctly? I could put the coins in after I dial, right? That used to work, didn’t it? Then the little automated lady will tell me how much it cos- what do you mean I have to deposit coins FIRST? Just tell me how many?!

Okay, no time. 50 cents it is.

Damn coins, why do you keep coming back?!

Okay, hurry, second of only two pay phones anywhere near me. This better wor- oh, you have got to be kidding me.

Collect call or no collect call? My sister will accept the call, right? And she won’t hate me, she can’t hate me, for the cost to her because this is an emergency! I forgot my cell phone!!

She didn’t pick up. Voicemail. Talk over the automated voice lady asking her if she accepts the call, and hope little sister can hear me and listens to this message soon and people aren’t worrying and out searching and talk louder, dammit, that automated lady is so annoying- beeeeeep.

Did the message go through? What time is it? Forget it, I’m going to the movie and hopefully that voicemail is audible and maybe they didn’t notice I’m not home yet and did the movie already begin?

Movie. Breathe. Relax. I don’t need to know who’s tweeting what and if there’s email or what my Words with Friends move is going to be. Just Enjoy The Movie.

OH MY GOD! How am I going to enjoy the movie? In addition to everything I’m trying NOT to think about, what in God’s name is going to do the job of the YouTube favorites kiddie videos that were going to entertain Zahara so I could feed her lunch and get her to sit still and so I could actually watch the movie?!!

Zahara fell asleep on the car ride home. I got to my IPhone and I held it to my chest and I swore I would never let it out of my sight again and I was so, so sorry for having forgotten it and would it ever forgive me. And as I rolled it over and over in my hand, feeling every angle and button with my fingertips and caressing the touch screen longingly, an odd feeling came over me and my skin withered and I hunched over and I rasped out in a scary, high-pitched voice “My precioussssss!”

Okay, no, that didn’t really happen. But it could have. The day I had without my cell phone? Oh, it certainly could have.

Facets and facades

“Each of us is something of a schizophrenic personality, tragically divided against ourselves.” -Martin Luther King, Jr., Strength to Love

Remember when I said in my first post that I’ve always had these two sides to my personality, the “American” and the “Pakistani” and that they are very often at war? Well, it’s a misleading statement, because I no longer feel like I’m at war with myself. I’m not two separate people inhabiting one space. I am, instead, a prism. I look transparent, but I am solid and multi-faceted. I am a sparkling soul, bending and reflecting what seems to be one simple beam into a fascinating spectrum of colored light.

And I do fascinate myself.

I have met many women since that first post. Women who are single by choice or circumstance. Women who take the shnizzle thrown at them and turn it into fertilizer and then the best Goddamn flowers you’ll ever see or smell. Women working, laughing, mothering, writing, pretty-fying, cursing, being honest with themselves and being honest with the world about who they really are and, most of all, boldly unafraid to be happy about it. Women who are winning and showing others it can be done.

I fascinate me because I am one of those women.

It may sound trite, but the last two years helped me meet myself. I didn’t know I had this much strength in me. I didn’t know I had this much love. I didn’t know I could be so positive and so outgoing and so carefree. And I didn’t know I could be an inspiration.

An old friend contacted me recently after she saw some of the media coverage of the past month. She is a kind, intelligent, beautiful woman I used to have sleepovers with until our early teen years. We would whisper about love songs and romance in the confessional air of nightfall and dream of an idyllic marriage and perfect life. It turned out we were looking through glasses so rosy, we got thorns in our eyes that are still being meticulously picked out.

She has been divorced for years now, but I never reached out to her about it because I was so unsure of what to say or how to react. Like I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, divorce in the Muslim community was almost unheard of a generation ago, and my generation is just starting to see a spike in “failed” marriages. People are uncomfortable and embarrassed discussing it. Divorcees, especially the women, tend to go into hiding for a while, not attending community or family functions where the questions and stares and pity would be too much to handle. Some go back to school. Some work. Some go on dating sites or turn to the traditional and ask their parents to look for potential mates. But few, if any, feel like talking about it. Few, if any, are ready to put their past out there and not care what others think.

I am one of those few. I never bent my head with shame or let myself get too discouraged. I hurt, I hate, I regretted and recovered. And I kept going, confident that if I chose what was right for me, that I would be okay. I was depressed that first year, but I had the baby and the job of keeping a smile on my face for her sake. But I never gave up on myself no matter how hard it got. And I never stopped living my life, because unlike others in our society, I don’t think these are “failed” marriages. There is no failure in finding your strength and satisfaction in the single life. There is no failure in getting out of something that threatens to destroy you.

My friend told me about other Muslim women she’s met who have or are getting divorced. She described their guilt and confusion, their feelings of suddenly becoming an outcast. And she told me how strong she thought I have been. She read this blog and was awed, because she knew me back when I was a Disney-Hollywood-Bollywood inspired lovesick in love with the idea of love little girl. Apparently, my transformation from that into a self-assured, single yet un-bitter woman makes me an enigma in this divorced desi world.

It is unimaginable to people that I can be so calm and secure. I question things and I over-analyze at times, I complain and I get overwhelmed. But I am happy. I’m okay. I do not shy away from the topic, and I am honest with myself and I’m boldly unafraid to be happy. This, for some crazy reason, is a new phenomenon in my culture.

Somewhere along the way, the many sides of myself stopped fighting and resolved to become one solid body. I stopped feeling like a bumbling, circus sideshow among the non-desis. I also stopped feeling like I was the only one playing the part of the old-fashioned saintly sufferer among the conniving, controlling geniuses in the soap opera dynamics of my changing community. I learned there are others like me, desi and not, and we can be our own, unique blend of spices, ground into a bold, unforgettable new masala paste.

I have more to learn about myself. I have much more I want to see and do and be. But I am turning shnizzle into fertilizer and the tragic, schizophrenic nature of my personality into a unified, sassy model for those who think it can’t be done. I want to do something to help those other women who are still divided. I’m not unsure of what to say like I was when my friend got divorced, because I’ve been there, I am there, and I am coming out on the other side in control. I want to be a voice for those desi women and I want to tell their stories. I want them to find their voices and their real selves and that feeling that they are winning. I want them to kick off the facade of failure and self-loathing, and join me in what I have become.

I am a prism. And Goddamn it, I love this rainbow.

Pic of the day project 3/4/12-3/17/12

WEEKS 5 AND 6

Now that I’ve been at this particular daily happiness-preserving mission for a while, I’ve decided to do bi-monthly “pic of the day project” posts instead of weekly, while continuing to write at least 4 regular posts a month. I’ve also had some exciting job offers this week, some of which relate to my blog, so stay tuned for something different if it happens. Cross your fingers for me! Good things come not just to those who wait, but to those who truly deserve them! Woohoooo!!

In your face!

I don’t respond well to threats. I’m not good with bullies. When I see someone being pushed around, made fun of, threatened or hurt, I can’t help but step in and try to stop it. When faced with bullies myself, though, I used to get quiet, ending up sad and defeated. But even then, there was always a fire in me, smoldering somewhere deep in my belly, putting pressure on my lungs and making it hard to breathe. I could never really accept being mistreated, it just took me a while to realize that I have to protect and defend myself the same way I would anyone else. And it’s taken until these last few years for me to realize I CAN.

When I was around ten years old, a neighborhood boy made my little sister cry. We were playing outside and he was angry for some reason or other. This was right after the first Gulf War, and the boy started taunting my sister, telling her to go back where she came from and spouting random hate speech and Saddam-related insults. I began arguing with him and tried to explain that we aren’t actually from Iraq, duhhh and it wasn’t nice to say things like that and didn’t he care that he made a little girl cry? Things escalated, and I felt that heat rise up in me. I took off my giant red-rimmed eyeglasses and handed them to my sobbing sister. I held up my wiry arms and formed weak little fists. I and this kid circled each other with our eyes locked in a death-stare and my sister ran to tell on us and then I was on my back on the grass staring up at a summer sky, the air knocked out of me by a well-placed punch. Knocked down, gasping for air, yet I had somehow won the battle of the wills and that particular bully never bothered us again.

When I was in high school, I was walking with a friend through the hallway after a newspaper meeting. Most of the school was empty already, but a group of boys were hanging out, sitting on a ledge along a line of windows across from the cafeteria. As my friend and I approached them, the lead guy (the short, popular, good-looking type) stepped away from the windows and started calling my friend a fag, coming up right next to his quickly reddening, freckled face and getting louder and nastier with each laugh from his groupies. I couldn’t take it. I whirled around, angry, burning from the inside out, and I got in his face. I was taller than him, but thinner, physically weaker and I didn’t care. His friends oohed like high school boys do, and his eyes narrowed, his ego clearly bruised. He told me, “You better not cross the line or you’ll get hurt.” What the hell is that even supposed to mean?! I felt a very dangerous peace come over me, a slow smile stretch across my face, an odd mix of shaking and calm working its way through my muscles and skin and suddenly I was stepping forward, getting to an inch in front of him and whispering in the calmest, sweetest, deadliest voice, “Oh, did I just step over some kind of a line?” The ooooohs and laughs and high-fives and embarrassed sideways glances that followed were distant and satisfying, but nothing can compare to the pleasure I felt as the bully, the tough guy, stepped back away from me and actually, visibly paled. I felt like a goddess. I felt strong.

I am not a violent or mean person, but I am also not able to tolerate injustice. I don’t know where this intense need to keep things fair comes from, but I know I expect people to be kind to others or else. But when I was pushed beyond measure by Naveed and his family, I didn’t know what to do with that fire that grew inside me. The more I tried to suppress it, the more it burned through me, searing me, damaging me until I had no choice but to either speak up or allow myself to become nothing but ash. I found my voice and I found my strength and I spoke up for myself, telling the truth, letting myself finally free. I have never felt better, stronger, happier. So now, when this same bully Naveed threatens to tell lies about me to anyone who will listen, trying to defame and humiliate me into submission, I refuse to give in and I refuse to let my resilience and my newly found self to be weakened by him again. I won this particular battle when I filed for divorce a year ago. And like I’ve said before, it makes no difference to me what lies Zahara’s father or his family spread or what gossip the media reports or what nonsense people believe about me. I’ll still be the same person and I’ll still do what’s right for me and my daughter.

I will never stop telling the truth or fighting for my rights or living the life I was meant to live. You want to lie about me? You want to spread rumors about me and threaten me to try and control me? Go ahead, I won’t change. Those who know me know exactly who I am, and more importantly, I know who I am and what I’m capable of and what I deserve. Your threats just prove how weak and desperate and insecure a boy you truly are. And I never let foolish little boys like you get away with that. I always stood my ground, whether I seemed to get knocked down or not, and I always came out strong, because good, honest, happy people can and will overcome against bullies. My confidence and my fire have never let me down so I’ll rely on them now, as well. Let’s see who backs down. Let’s see who’s really a coward. I promise you, it won’t be me.