All the little pieces of the puzzle

I swore I’d never be the kind of mom who sobs every time her child has a “first”. First step, first word, first friend, first anything so far and I’ve been really good with it. Genuinely happy and proud with a smile so big and satisfaction so deep it feels as if my heart grows comfortably bigger and stronger with the size of my joy.

But today, as much as there is that joy and pride in me, my heart also feels as if it’s being pulled so wide that it actually hurts. Today, my daughter started preschool. And I am two seconds away from tears.

The only other person on this earth who has known Zahara as long as me and as intimately as me is nowhere to be found. He has nothing to do with this or any other first my daughter has had for the past three years. But he was a part of so many firsts before that:

The moment she was created to the first time we saw her on the ultrasound screen, a tiny speck that was too small to even confirm as a pregnancy because even though I KNEW already that this baby existed, the OB couldn’t be sure at only a few weeks into it.

The first time we heard her heartbeat and every time afterwards that we heard that strange cyclic whooshing noise that meant our child was strong. Our child was alive. This child’s heart was, thank God, pumping steadily as the previous child’s had not, and we waited nervously to hear it every month and breathed easier once we had.

The first time we saw her whole form, her head, her arms and legs, the length of her curved up little body on that black and white and grainy ultrasound tv. And the first time we saw her yawn and turn over and cross her legs, so real and close even though she wasn’t even born yet.

The first breath she took in this world, the first moment she awoke to this life, HE saw those firsts. He saw her before I did. He watched and experienced her first second of living with her and I, her second.

And now…

The heart is so strange. It can be pulled and twisted and grown and broken and repaired and reformed and always, always, that muscle is working harder and harder and keeping survival as its only goal.

My daughter’s heart must be a product of my own heart’s efforts. A piece of my heart became hers. That’s the only way I can explain this feeling, like I was being pulled into that preschool with her, a little scared, a lot excited, anxious, expectant, hopeful, confused.

It’s the only way I can explain how she and I continuously give each other strength and hope and love and our hearts keep growing and beating together. How she became stronger than me and I thank God every single day for it.

It’s also the only way I can explain how the only other person on this earth who knew her since her first firsts doesn’t feel what I feel. I’m not angry about it, though. I just feel sad for him, because he doesn’t have the relationship he could have had with her. He doesn’t know the beautiful pain, the horrible joy of moments like these.

Because that’s a piece of MY heart in there, pumping madly for survival and joy and all her many many firsts to come, God willing.

That’s why it hurts like this. Because that’s a piece of my heart that has gone so far away today- being cared for and fed and watched and changed and hugged by someone other than me or my family for a whole day for the first time…stretching the muscle beating in me more than ever before.

Stretching, not tearing. Expanding to create even more of itself to give us both, my daughter and me, the courage and the capability to face every new first, every adventure, every loss, every moment together…with tears and toughness and tenderness and all that we can possibly need of each other.

So yeah, I want to sob, but it’s a good kind of sob. It’s a mom kind of sob. And I’m okay with that.

Waxing philosophical or, what happens when I have time to think

“Let everything happen to you
Beauty and terror
Just keep going
No feeling is final”― Rainer Maria Rilke

Maybe it’s because I just got out of a 10-year relationship, but I’m feeling awfully sympathetic to the movement of existentialism: the idea that we are all free agents, responsible for our own choices, and that the results of those choices and our personal experiences govern who we are.

I’m also determined that our unique choices shouldn’t be criticized, least of all by ourselves. (And aren’t we often the harshest judges of our lives?)

Obviously there are exceptions here. Violence, abuse, etc. Those aren’t the kinds of choices I’m talking about and I’m sure some reader hellbent on arguing with me will go in that direction.

No, what I’m talking about is the kind of individual choice that brings you to the very cliché concept of the simple things in life. It’s cliché because we all know that there are such things, different as they may be for each of us, that just touch us and fulfill us down to the very core of us.

And this comes to mind because I’ve spent so much of my life trying.

Trying is something we all do, all the time-

trying to succeed, trying to excel, trying to be something or someone more.

But what if we just stop trying?

I’m not talking about giving up or giving in, but just letting some things BE without pushing it or forcing it or expecting something to change. Trying is so good for so many reasons, but sometimes, some situations require that we just let go and stand still and silent and simply experience it, good, bad, all of the above.

Like the choice to be single, and then parenting and choosing to work.

I wanted to provide for my daughter. I wanted to be proud of myself. I made the choice, now I can let this just be whatever it is.

For me, it’s singing and music and dance and the sensation of freedom that comes with all that…even if it’s just how I pass the time as I clean up the counters after the last passenger has checked in.

It’s my daughter’s toddler-thick arms squeezing tight around my neck when I take her from my parents’ room after a late shift at work, and it’s the grateful smile on her face as she groggily confirms that mommy is indeed home and promptly falls back into a deep sleep.

It’s the way the sunlight suddenly bursts through the windows at JFK Terminal 1 right before sunset, filling every corner and my pores and my eyes and making me feel like bursting out myself to run through it, arms outstretched like a young, unburdened child.

It’s the heart flutter that comes with being assigned certain gates where I can watch airplanes taxi and rev up and cut into the air on takeoff, reminding me of my promise to myself to travel and explore, and the very near eventuality of that.

It’s laughter that stretches out my lungs and makes room for soul-cleansing, mood-lifting Oxygen, whether in response to the chaos and randomness of the airport or to the chaos and randomness of my friends and family and coworkers. 🙂

It’s a peace that comes with making choices based on what I really want, what I really need, and being unashamed and unapologetic about it.

Maybe I’m not your version of Pakistani, or his version of Muslim, or her version of American, or someone else’s version of mother or daughter or sister or friend. But stop pigeonholing me into what you think I must be, because I AM my version of me, a combination of all of those things and more.

It isn’t always easy knowing what really matters to me, but if I’m honest with myself, it is easy to know what feels absolutely wrong, and what my instinct tells me is right.

I know that I care about people, deeply, quickly, and that I’d rather do for others than ignore their needs. I know that I also tend to put that ahead of myself and I don’t want to do that anymore. I don’t.

So I allow myself to say so, to stand up for those things that do truly matter, for those moments that I used to stifle my own voice for the sake of someone else’s. No more.

And instead of trying to do that, I just do it. It’s easy, it’s neat, it feels right.

Maybe I’m just finally at that magical age when I’ve found comfort within myself.

Maybe existentialism is just the natural progression of thought that comes with truly growing up.

Or maybe I’m just happy, because even through the struggles and sacrifices and worries of a single working mom, I don’t feel helpless or powerless or afraid. I feel quiet and calm and strong inside, aware of the obstacles ahead and even a bit excited to see just what ends up happening, the beauty and the terror and everything in between.

Yeah, I’m freeee, free-fallin’

I

am

divorced.

Officially, finally, unbelievably UNmarried!

If you’re thinking of what to say, I suggest CONGRATULATIONS and balloons and high-fives and happy dances.

😀

I filed for divorce almost two years ago. I considered myself single. I got back in shape to feeling good about my reflection.

I laughed and I wrote and I moved forward.

I got a job. I made friends. I got my daughter and myself insured (another happy dance!)

I told myself having the paperwork signed, sealed, and delivered was just a formality.

That my heart was already unbound seemed to be enough…..

yet,

knowing I’m DONE with that whole miserable mistake is like the moment your body goes slightly airborne on a roller coaster and you know the bar across your lap is holding you in, keeping you from harm, and all you feel is your heart and your stomach rising up inside of you and the seat beneath you falling away and the air around you filling and expanding your lungs, to and beyond capacity…

or the way your body starts to spin and shimmy and the hips shake and the feet move and the heat builds and suddenly you’re being spun and spun and spun around a dance floor with the beat of Latin music pounding through you and nothing but music inside you and an arm holding you and catching you and releasing you and steadying spinning steadying…

yeah, it feels something like that.

Free-falling, weightless, breathless,

a little terrified,

a LOT electrified,

completely FREE.

I can’t even really explain how it feels. But just know this, World, it’s time for some major celebrations! So get on your party hats and dresses and clear out your calenders because there’s one more single sexy mama spinning through New York tonight.

And I am so ready to fly!

xoxox