Read it and weep

Sometimes the right words resonate so deeply within our souls that their echoes keep tugging at our mind’s eye, like a child unrelentingly grabbing onto and pulling us by a hand towards something, until we, frustrated and distracted, must give in and see what all the fuss is about. I found a quote months ago that did exactly that for me, and today I found myself looking for the source, yearning really for more of those instances of absolute identification with words written by a total stranger. What I discovered is a book I MUST must read, now, at this time in my life… because sometimes, the exactly right thing is brought to you presented in the form of a coincidence or a chance moment or a distracting childlike thought you can’t ignore, and so you have to accept it…and THAT turns out to be a truly defining moment in your life.

The following are quotes I found from The Asylum for Wayward Girls by Emilie Autumn.

1) “You,” he said, “are a terribly real thing in a terribly false world, and that, I believe, is why you are in so much pain.”

2) “Perfume was first created to mask the stench of foul and offensive odors…
Spices and bold flavorings were created to mask the taste of putrid and rotting meat…
What then was music created for?
Was it to drown out the voices of others, or the voices within ourselves?
I think I know.”

3) “It gives me strength to have somebody to fight for; I can never fight for myself, but, for others, I can kill.”

4) “And, what’s more, this ‘precious’ body, the very same that is hooted and honked at, demeaned both in daily life as well as in every existing form of media, harrassed, molested, raped, and, if all that wasn’t enough, is forever poked and prodded and weighed and constantly wrong for eating too much, eating too little, a million details which all point to the solitary girl, to EVERY solitary girl, and say: Destroy yourself.”

5) “I’m not stupid. I know exactly what’s going on, and I’m not fighting it. If I have to go through this, I will glean from it any small benefit I can receive. I will not fight this. Bring it on. Bring on the cure. Bring on the fucking happy. I’m committed.”

Once again, with feeling!

It’s been so long since I wrote a post, I’ve almost forgotten how. I barely even visit my site anymore. Hardly ever check my comments or update the site in any way. And if I have any loyal readers still waiting out there for the next words to flow out of my fingertips, well, God bless you for your patience but really, I don’t blame anyone who’s moved on to a better blog. You know, the kind that actually gives you something new to read once in a while.

I can blame all kinds of things for my absence from the blogosphere or my almost complete disappearance from the interwebs as a whole. The mundane and usual excuses, work and my schedule taking up too much time. Exhaustion. Laziness. Lack of inspiration. But I think my main reason for letting go of my passion for writing this past year has been the recurrence of a demon from my past, the great big monster that silently encroaches on your sanity and overtakes you before you even know it’s there. Depression. That enigma of a mental illness that still confounds those who’ve experienced it and those who haven’t, mental health professionals and us common folk alike.

Now before everyone starts in with but you have a job (read, money) and an amazing daughter and your health and friends and family supporting you and you can do so much, just suck it up and try…yeah, we know. We as in the millions and millions of people affected by depression, fighting each day to not give in to its overwhelming siren song of defeat, fighting also the feeling that we’re ungrateful for all that we DO have. I know how lucky I am. I thank God for all of the blessings in my life. That doesn’t mean doubt and negativity don’t have a place to rule my heart. Quite the opposite actually. That all of those wonderful things exist and I’m still not satisfied, that I still feel a measure of failure, that makes me angry at myself. And anger at yourself is a major trigger for those of us who will always be fighting the darker, heavier burden of depression.

So what do I feel I’ve failed at? I’ve failed at some very basic promises to myself. Promises like not allowing my voice to be silenced, by anyone. Promises like challenging myself instead of allowing myself to ever reach a plateau and just stop. Promises like knowing my own strength, accepting my weaknesses, and being kinder to myself than I am to others. It sounds very vague and even a bit silly. But here’s why this matters. Two and a half years ago I told myself it was time to look for a job and truly start over. And I did. And I was happy, proud of myself, enthusiastic. But the other part of that was a timeline in my head. Where I’d be 2 years later, and 10 years later, and all of the ways I’d improve the quality of my life, and by extension, my little girl’s life. And now it’s 2 years in August and somehow I find myself struggling to remember what the next step was supposed to be. I look around and feel like there are no opportunities, like working until I’m too tired to think is the status quo, and like there will never be anything else. That just isn’t true. But I feel it. And it sucks.

ReachSo I’ve chosen to shake myself out of it. To remind myself of the person I am. To keep reaching and hoping. Because the alternative is letting myself give up, give in, to lay down my single mom sword and wave a white flag and then slowly suffocate myself with it. I refuse that alternative. Remember, I’ve got that steel strength in me, that core that has gotten me through all kinds of tough times before. And I’ve got my writing. My release. My respite from the fight. I won’t let my doubts and disappointments drag me back into the endless spiral staircase of depression. I will find my way back up before it’s too late. For me. For Zahara. For all those people whose love and support has been with me for so long. For all the dreams I have yet to see realized. This isn’t an empty promise. It’s a rousing call to arms, a renewal of spirit. And I don’t know how many cliches I can throw in there. ūüôā But it is. It’s my stubborn unwillingness to let my life be just okay. I want more than okay. I want monumental, passionate, deep experiences that will be a legacy of happiness I can share with and ultimately leave for my daughter. I want my life back. And hell yeah I’m going to get it. Stick around and watch. It’s going to be worth it.

I promise.

 

 

Controversies and kindergarten

Some of you might have heard of some recent videos and news stories about Zahara’s biological father that are circulating online and in the Pakistani and Indian media.

Maybe you’re wondering if you should reach out to me or my family, out of sympathy or curiosity or a combination of the two.

Let me set the record straight.

The most important piece of news in my life and Zahara’s is that she has been registered for kindergarten this week M’A and will begin there in the fall.

The videos that I’m watching are of Zahara singing a song from “Frozen”, doing a magic trick, watching fireworks and dancing with me on the Disney cruise we took last week, and “what does the fox say” because that song makes us both giggle and dance around like crazy people.

I survived the blizzard and polar vortexing at work and a cancellation of a 500+ passenger plane and returned to work to find people had “heard stories” of my 15-hour shift and thought me a hero.

I don’t pretend my life is perfect or I’m perfect, but my daughter and I are perfectly content pursuing our dreams and living our own lives.

Any other news you’ve heard or will hear is inconsequential.

We are surrounded by our friends and family and most importantly the love and laughter and strength we provide each other.

If you’d like any other exciting updates on our lives, I’ve got tons of stories for you, regarding the kinds of things every normal 4-year-old and parent go through together…because despite the most recent controversy in her father’s life, Zahara and I are quite normal, silly, human people with all of the challenges and triumphs and dysfunctions of every family out there.

This is all I’m going to say on this subject. Thank you for respecting my stance on this matter.

Haves and have-nots: the art of appreciation

"In my darkest night,
when the moon was covered
and I roamed through wreckage,
a nimbus-clouded voice
directed me:
'Live in the layers,
not on the litter.'
Though I lack the art
to decipher it,
no doubt the next chapter
in my book of transformations
is already written.
I am not done with my changes."
- excerpt from "The Layers" by Stanley Kunitz

When I think about my life now it’s in terms of what is necessary.

I have to get up in the morning.

I have to go to work even if I’m ill or exhausted or if I need or want or feel I deserve a day off.

I have to eat. I have to sleep.

I have to pay bills and I have to fill out paperwork for preschool and I have to keep reminding my daughter that big girls run to the bathroom instead of leaking when they’re too busy having fun.

These and the many other things I have to do preoccupy my mind so much sometimes that I forget to appreciate what I can do… what I am doing.

I have the opportunity most people fantasize about: to change the course of my life when I’m still young enough to reap the rewards. And luckily, the things I’ve been through have taught me exactly what I don’t want my life to be.

Just a few years ago I was in the midst of a marriage that failed to give me the peace of mind and the stability a sound partnership is supposed to provide. Yes I was in love, but it was a love that yielded only feelings of yearning… yearning for a reliability and solace that would actually never come.

I never knew where our money was going or how long we’d be living somewhere before we had to move again or even what personality of husband I was going to get that day.

That was the most depressing part, not being able to predict or rely on my life-partner’s character in the tumultuous times. Feeling like his mood swings were all my fault anyway.

I began to look inside myself for the balance I sought from him, trying not to blame myself for the undercurrent of disappointment that permeated our life together.

Looking back, I know that I felt lonelier in that marriage than I ever have since as a single mom- and that speaks volumes about how flawed my relationship with my ex-husband truly was.

Now, even though I’m pretty much always tired and my schedule is, shall we say, hectic, I’m at last in charge of my own existence.

I work hard because I want to…

I have goals which mean more to me than being well rested. I know how much money I have and I know where every penny goes. I budget and I save and I splurge and it’s all in my hands.

I provide for my daughter. It’s a little bit I can do right now but I’m doing it.

And the nervous stomach, slight edge of panic that came with blindly depending on someone else to make the right financial choices? That’s gone.

My stomach is nice and settled, thank you.

ūüôā

I had a choice to make when I became a single mother: give up or keep going. And like I’ve said before, I kept going.

Although my parents would gladly work themselves into exhaustion to provide the life my daughter and I deserve, I chose to keep going until I finally got my foot in the door of a company I could grow in. And once in there, I continue to work overtime and late shifts and sign up for trainings and vie for promotions.

Because to me, doing something is better than sitting around waiting for something to happen FOR me or someone else to shoulder the responsibility for giving me the life I want.

I did feel stuck that first year of separation, but after filing for divorce I unstuck myself and took my first steps forward. I wanted to be more than someone’s ex-wife and now, years later, I’m a hardworking mom, fiercely protective of the dreams I’m on my way to achieving.

Dreams of financial independence and at least a mid-level management position by the time Zahara’s 5 or 6.

Dreams of owning and organizing and running my own home again.

Dreams of coming home in the evenings and enjoying the routine of homework and dinner and bedtime snuggles with Zahara sometime in the not so distant future.

These dreams may seem mundane or clich√© to some people, but to someone who’s been in a state of flux, trapped by another person’s selfishness and disillusioned by a one-sided love, these are the details that I treasure.

The fact that I can dream means that I’ve done so much more than survive.

I’ve moved past the pain of that marriage and divorce to a place of promise and perseverance. I’ve found out how strong I am and I’ve used that strength to earn a living and regain a sense of pride.

And when most days come and go thinking about only what I have to do, I step back and think about the moments that make all of it worth it.

Reading a great book.

Hearing a song that’s perfect from its lyrics to its music to the voice that gives it life.

Breathing in my daughter’s essence from that tiny warm place in the folds of her neck. Watching as her smile grows into a contagious belly-laugh, holding her in my arms, experiencing this world with her by my side to show me what to be awed by and how to feel joyous wonder in the simplest of things.

A 3-day weekend vacation upstate with my little girl... priceless

A 3-day weekend vacation upstate with my little girl… priceless

 

And then all the have-tos slip away for just a minute and I feel the peace I yearned for not so long ago.

I want to be here, on this journey with her. I am on my way to another type of existence but I’m already her mother, already my own and her greatest ally.

It’s remembering this, that I already am so much more than I thought I could be, that makes the long difficult hours not just necessary, but a blessing.

I’m grateful to have the chance to start over and to create the life I want to lead.

It’s hard being away from my daughter for so many hours a day, so many days and so many giggles missed. But I work this hard now so I can get to the part of our lives when we’ll both come home from our daily routines to our very own dinner table and share our day’s struggles and our future dreams with one another.

The fact that I know that moment is in the making, that I took the necessary risks and am making the necessary sacrifices to allow that moment to one day occur… that’s the feeling that drives me. That’s what turns my thoughts from a life of have-tos and losses to a lifetime of cans and want-tos and wills. Because the thing most necessary in life is the really living of it. And I intend to continue to do just that.

When it’s more than just a bad day: the Truth about Depression

I’m cycling lately. Not like exercise on a two-wheeled, manpowered vehicle, but emotional cycling. There’s something people don’t tell you about being strong in the face of struggles- it’s full of periods of great weakness, moments when you just want to fall into your bed, pull the covers tight, close your eyes and find some way to get rid of the exhaustion. And apparently my generation is prone to a new phenomenon dubbed the Quarter-life Crisis that hits somewhere around the late 20s and early 30s. Gee, thanks world. ¬†-_-

(See the following: The quarterlife crisis: young, insecure and depressed, The Quarter-life crisis, and How to Survive a Quarter-Life Crisis.)

It’s another taboo subject among Desis: depression and the big black hole that it truly is. Oh, everyone and his brother will say that they’re depressed or have high blood pressure or migraines, and it’s some kind of a fashionable thing in the Desi culture nowadays to faint out of some extreme emotional intensity. It’s like, oh my God, this is too much, I’m going to fall down unconscious all soap opera-style until I get my way.

But real depression, the drag you down, I can’t see any sign of hope, my whole body and brain and heart physically ache kind of depression? That’s not discussed with anyone. The maybe I should just give into this severe exhaustion because giving up is easier than trying harder suicidal thoughts? Never ever should a Desi mention that, not to friends, not to family, not to a therapist or a psychiatrist or anyone qualified to help you. That’s not socially acceptable or culturally comprehensible.

So if I say to you, yes, I’ve been depressed in the past and I’ve been close to the edge of it recently, I would once again be voicing something that Desis typically keep silent.

But it’s necessary. Speaking up, honestly saying I’m not okay, that’s the only true weapon against this almost supernatural monster of an illness. Because it IS an illness. It has symptoms and causes and a specific set of recommended approaches to recover from it. And like some illnesses, there’s no cure. The disease is always in you, able at any moment to take over and incapacitate you.

The trick is to expose the enemy, bring the hidden into the daylight and fight it head-on. Say to yourself and to the world around you that you can’t always be all smiles and confidence. That some days, some moments, some events are enough to have you withdrawing within yourself, tired, lonely, scared, and confused. That nights can become sleepless and the repetition of your daily existence becomes less a refuge from drama and more often the cause of it in your inner self.

For all my friends and family reading this who are about to start calling and texting and visiting to make sure I’m “okay”, please relax. Understand that my best form of defense against these feelings is to admit them and write it through. I know people like to tell me how strong I am…and I know when I look back on my life and what I’ve been through and how I got through it so far that I’m surprised, too by my own will to survive. I also know that I’ve done more than just survive. I’ve learned to be excited, to challenge myself, to enjoy and laugh and breathe deeply.

But like I said, depression is always in you. Our minds like to overthink and overreact and suddenly it feels as if nothing is how it should be. Like being divorced, working full time and being a single mom, and then trying to see where this path is going to end up. A certain amount of planning and intelligence is necessary to be successful, but for me, too much analysis of what might happen or what my life currently lacks leads to an emotional crash.

My therapy is sort of simple: first,¬†what¬†I’m doing right now and telling you. Second, retraining my brain to stop going over and over what I sacrificed or using the word NEVER for what may be in my future, and instead, repeating that I don’t need to have it all figured out. Third, going back to basics and remembering to make the small changes in my day so I can fulfill my¬†responsibility¬†to myself amid the things I do for everyone else as a grownup in this world. Fourth, and this is key if I want to truly stop cycling, I have to do something new to help me get and feel unstuck. I have some ideas on this and I’ll keep you updated on the results. But for right now let’s just leave it at this:

I’ve been depressed in the past and I’ve felt myself nearing that precipice lately. But I’m not going to just close my eyes and hope I can get around it. I’m going to walk a bit more carefully, pick out my path in the looming darkness, and find my way safely to the other side. And meanwhile, I’m going to continue to be the kind of girl who doesn’t care if it’s taboo to talk about it and who refuses to shy away from the topic. This is me, people. Wordy, honest, emotional, and real. That’s the side of myself I won’t ever change.

Happy birthday to me.

20130303-114737.jpg

31 years older.

31 years BOLDER.

31 years smarter and 31 years sexier.

31 years and I’m still just getting started…and that’s more than okay.

After this past decade that was as much about defeat as it was self-discovery, I’m proud to say I’ve begun again. Proud, but not delusional. This shiz takes its toll.

So yeah, people, I have a line a third of an inch below each eye that I spend a good chunk of my morning routine attempting to hide with cover-up and powder, only to have it fill with smudged eyeliner by about midway through my day, accentuating the puffy little pockets of fluid that gather there to say, yes I am tired, world.

And I am tired. I AM sad, and I am frustrated, and I am impatient… sometimes. Mostly though I’m smiling, because not only have I found strength in me to survive, but I’m so much stronger than I ever thought I was. Strong enough to have fun, to dream, to find ways to make those dreams come true, slowly and one by one.

I could have taken the whole my husband’s cheating on me thing and just cried or screamed or lay in bed all day every day until I either died or he changed (and we all know which would’ve happened first.) Instead, I held and nursed and stared at and laughed with and slept with and came back to life with my new baby.

I could’ve used my emergency surgery five days after I delivered that baby as an excuse. Blood clots pressing on nerves causing both excruciating referred pain and a diminishing ability to walk or change positions or even get off a sofa…that isn’t an excuse, believe me. But the almost impossibly even greater pain post-surgery, the physical AND the mental where I felt like my body had betrayed me and I’d failed as a mom less than a week into it… I definitely could have given up then. I could’ve literally and figuratively numbed my pain with the Percocet they gave me, floated through a dreamworld where my past and present never existed, forgotten even the new life God had entrusted to me.

I could have. But I didn’t.

I went through emotional hell, humiliated by my husband’s infidelity, humiliated by my body’s obvious need to shut parts of itself down to recover.

The catheter for a week straight…

The stool softener I needed to take every single day just to be able to release my bowels without bursting into tears…

The pictures and messages and news footage of the man I loved and lived with and some other woman, while I was trying not to believe I might actually die.

This wasn’t an easy time, obviously. But it wasn’t a time I’ll ever be ashamed of. I went through all that and I came out of it. I ran a 5K after all that pain for God’s sake! I divorced a man who never really deserved me. I couldn’t stay the course I’d been on previously so I found (and sometimes forged) a new one. I kept going.

There are moments when I hate that about myself, that I’m a person who somehow just keeps going. But I got this way through realizing that while the drama and the destruction made death seem like a viable option at times, it WASN’T. Not for me. I refused to go out like that. It wasn’t dying to get away from this life but a different kind of life that I wanted. And then there was that beautiful NEW life to think of…

So I kept going. And now I’m 31 and I have a job and it’s only enough to pay for my daughter’s preschool and Gymboree and the gas to get me to and from work and gets me standby travel the rare times I’m actually off, but that’s okay. It’s more than okay.¬†I’m making money and paying for her education MYSELF. That’s not even something I’d have imagined at 21.¬†It makes me tearfully, ferociously, heart-tuggingly proud because I kept going and I’m building my and my daughter’s dreams. Like going to Puerto Rico and showing my baby the place that made her so full of light and music and love in the first place! I finally did that!!

MOM heart necklace from my heartbeat

MOM heart necklace from my heartbeat

So yes, 31 is here and my life is hard and sagging drooping undereye bags are something I now have to contend with daily. But I’m okay. I’m moving forward. After the physical and emotional immobility of those first few months due both to my separation AND my surgery, I’d say moving is the biggest accomplishment there is.

Happy birthday to me. And many many more.

The Power Trip: meeting author Jackie Collins and finding myself

When I was in high school and college and I imagined myself at almost 31, I could never have envisioned what would be. I didn’t think I’d end up a single mom, working in the travel industry and searching for myself and my confidence again and again. I had no clue my love of books and my need to write my way through my feelings would someday give me the title of blogger, or especially, a blogger who gets invited to book launches and author meet and greets with some of New York’s press and PR and blogging elite.

Pause for a moment and think about that: events, parties, press, ME. Cyber-pinch me, people.

But that’s exactly what life is like for me these days.

Last Monday I took a train into New York City and after a slight navigational error (oops), I found my way to Yotel New York, an uberhip-looking hotel right near Times Square.

When I say uberhip, think neon purple lighting at the entrance and a futuristic interior, filled with both modern furniture and people. Somewhere in there was Jackie Collins, top-selling and well known novelist and my current interviewee, with a new book called quite aptly The Power Trip.

I was already late, feeling a little embarrassed for my knack at getting lost even when I’m sure I know exactly where I’m going. So I felt like the nerd trying to fit in with the cool kids, the loser about to enter a world I didn’t belong in, the powerless outsider joining some of the influential writers and journalists and blog-Gods of the literary circle…

power trips indeed.

Cue the woman I’ve become, the one who takes a deep breath and steps forward even when it’s the hardest thing to do.

I stepped through glass doors into a room filled with people all mesmerized by a quiet British accent in the corner, a voice that resonated with strength and self-awareness and a bit of raunchy humor.

And then it was all sushi and laughter, old friends and new, and you know, playing a trivia game and posing for pictures with Jackie Collins

Jackie Collins and I are so empowered we emit a white glow... which no amount of photoshop could completely hide. We're that awesome :-)

Jackie Collins and I are so empowered we emit a white glow… which no amount of photoshop could completely hide. We’re that awesome ūüôā

the usual New York night.

ūüėÄ

It was a reminder that I AM part of this world. I AM meant for hors d’oeuvres and open-minded conversation.

I AM A POWERFUL PERSON.

And so it was that I learned that the author of¬†The Power Trip is invested in strong characters with major flaws and just as major desires and dreams. That she believes in women using their own intelligence and power instead of their sexuality in professional relationships, but also that a woman’s sexuality isn’t something to be afraid of or kept hidden away because of outdated social mores and considerations. That an early experience as the wife to an addict left her broken in some ways and even more capable in others.

Hmmm, it seemed like Jackie Collins was someone I could actually get along with very well!

The novelist was captivating and sexy in person, and her writing is even more so.

Full of the escapades and private lives of the rich and famous, this new book gives you a glimpse into how the other half lives-

money, sex, manipulation, self-doubts, addictions, and the art of preserving a perfectly crafted public image.

In addition to the¬†salaciousness of the characters’ bedroom scenes, the novel also becomes a bit of a thriller and a cautionary tale to those who think their celebrity status gives them any real power.

Jackie Collins warns them all about how little they truly have control over, and how quickly they, too can feel powerless.

If all this isn’t to your liking, think about it this way: this book is your very own Spring Break, an escape from your reality that Jackie calls “a sexy, sun-drenched thriller.”

So even if you’re stuck working and waiting for winter to go away, The Power Trip will give you an escape route to a luxury yacht off the coast of Cabo San Lucas.

And if you’re like me and you have moments of insecurity or wondering if you really can identify with the uberhip lifestyle, this book reveals the simple truth that even the ultracool and ultra-famous are just people inside, damaged and seductive, powerful but nowhere near perfect.

And we can join them you guys. We can start by taking a deep breath and stepping into their world, because once we do it’s absolutely clear:

we belong here. This is our world, too. We are full of power, and we’re just getting started.

Disclosure:¬†This post was sponsored by Get Red PR, as in, they invited me to an event to meet and interview the author and stuffed me full of tasty appetizers and fancy drinks while I did it. No request to share any particular point of view was made. All opinions expressed here are strictly my own and that includes thinking I’m one of the uberhip…and that I’ll always be a nerd at heart.

Wanderlust

So I’m a little scared.

I’ve been waiting to reclaim adventure in my life, to get back the freedom to travel that I once had.

One thing the pilot ex-husband made sure of when he began his elaborate deception was that I would no longer be able to access the travel benefits I was entitled to as his wife. He took my name off of the website where we would list ourselves on flights and he never added our daughter to that site even though I let myself believe he eventually would. Why would he break our child’s wings before she ever had a chance to fly, right?

Because that’s what it felt like to me, like my wings were broken and I would never experience that adventure again. I’d never pick a place and just go, pick a flight and just soar…

Maybe he thought I’d run back to him if he made it so I couldn’t fly, but instead, I waited until the day I could say I had gotten that right back on my own terms, for me and my daughter. The right to explore this world, to be the kind of person whose play was worth the work it took to get there. Play that made for amazing stories and memories and the feeling that my life was truly special. Play like let’s spend the weekend wherever we can reach and what’s a place you’ve always wanted to see and a hotel room is just for resting your body in between long days of new experiences.

And that day is here. And I’m a little scared.

It’s terrifying getting what you want. It’s overwhelming when what you’ve always waited for and asked for finally happens.

What ifs and such crowd my mind. Doubts, questions, even the simplest of decisions becoming a complex puzzle of choices and consequences.

Pay for a room that includes breakfast and a car rental and costs a thousand dollars more than paying for a basic room and a car separately…and hoping the morning meal won’t cost too much? Should I even question it? If I want adventure and spontaneity should I even worry about the price difference or go all out??

It’s a lot of pressure, being the mom, the one in charge of the vacations…the one in charge of the money to pay the bills as well.

My daughter deserves a perfect first vacation, and so do I. But is it perfect if I come home broke?

God, and the bigger question is can I really do this alone? The beach and the boats and the meals and the whole of a vacation with only a three-year-old to talk to and reason with and convince to please, pretty please, eat the fish and use a toilet and sleep at night and not run into the ocean when mommy wants to fall asleep to the sound of the waves and the heat on us like a heavy blanket?

It’s exhausting just thinking about it. It didn’t used to be this way.

But I didn’t used to be a mom. I didn’t expect to be a single mom at all, but I’ve done the best I can with that. And some days I rock this role I was thrown into and I know that.

So maybe I don’t have to plan as hard. Maybe I don’t need to think as much. Maybe I just enjoy the moment when my own hard work reveals healed and fully capable wings. Maybe I let those wings unfurl and I try them out before I overanalyze the results. Maybe the act of flying again will be enough to remind me how it’s done…besides, the answer to at least one of my questions is in my own rant. That a hotel room only needs to be good enough to rest in. See self? I can do this. I already know how.

And just like I have the strength and the knowledge within me, the word adventure has within it a guide to how to achieve it: venture.

I must venture out and only then can I live my adventurous, special life once again.

And this time, no one can take that freedom from me. I don’t have to depend on someone else for the passion of exploration. My daughter doesn’t have to be denied her birthright…my made in Puerto Rico, born in Boston, moved to New York little ball of adventure can continue to venture forth throughout her life because I am doing what it takes to give her that right now.

Scary’s got nothing on the satisfaction that comes with that.

So I’m a little scared. I’m also a lot proud of myself, and a whole lot excited for the literal WORLD that’s now open to me again.

Here we go, ready to fly…nothing so far has felt like this.

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‚ÄĚ‚Äē¬†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¬†clich√©¬†concept of the simple things in life. It’s clich√© 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. ūüôā

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.