Appreciating Processes

The idea that nothing is in fact pure seamlessness from beginning to end fascinates me a lot these days. It has taken up most of my thinking space as I begun to contemplate on the working gears of the mundane everyday things. The fact that behind everything seemingly polished is some sort of a working system engineered to run it puts me at ease knowing that to achieve a kind of smoothness and ease, there must be something hard at work backstage. That in order for something to look that seamless, some dirty and difficult job had to be done to ensure its smooth-running. It tells me groundwork is important. It is the foundation that will determine something’s greatness.

Just like what you would observe on a construction site: the engineers, architects and construction workers are the main people that truly understand the importance of strong foundations. In fact I was just observing a construction site today. A crane was installing a beam 20 metres underground. The project is for a mall. Oh but of course. Anyway, once completed, the commercial building will look so polished, one would not have guessed about 200 days ago it was only just a muddy swamp.

I’ve been watching two things on Netflix- World’s Most Extraordinary Homes and Amazing Interiors. Do you sense a theme here or is it too early to guess it? If you asked 12-year old Yasmin what she wanted to be when she became older, she only had one answer and that was to be an architect. She was always so fascinated with the model buildings that were displayed at property showrooms and exhibited in malls. Of course at that time she didn’t know that this appreciation reflected some deeper meaning, all she thought was how amazing is this elaborate dollhouse! I could totally come up with something like this! Just some cut out cardboard for the building, cling wrap for the glass windows, aluminium foil for the shiny streetlights… a good year-end project.

I guess along the way I thought of just how beautiful intricate things are. I like the elaborate (not gaudy), the details (not the clutter) the signs of life (not of negligence or wear and tear). I find grey hair and smile lines beautiful, for God’s sake! I LOVE throws (those blankets you throw on couches, you know) and mismatched rugs of all shapes and sizes in homes. I like some clutter, some disorder in orderly things. This made me think, if I were to actually like polished, seamless and minimalist designs, it is only because somewhere in my mind I’ve already reconciled the two ideas of hating the masking of details, and appreciating processes. Because I like to see where work has been done. Ask my friends who have gotten new pairs of sneakers in their time with me, I was always asking them if I could be the first to ruin them! (Who else hates the look of new sneakers?! I can’t be the only one who likes seeing some wear in them, haha).

Anywho, back to the topic at hand. I’m surprised at how much introspection I’ve done on the processes of things lately because of the work I’m doing at work (out of the two, this one’s with a capital ‘W’- does that make sense?). I’m writing stories for children at the moment, and at one point I realized that although I thought I’ve always been good at it, it also takes some back-breaking effort to appear naturally good at something without showing some sort of hiccup somewhere along the journey. It hit me as I’m doing the usual edits and proofreading to my stories. They’re nowhere near perfect, but I mean I always expect too much of myself anyway.

Sometimes I’m not sure where my reflection(s) lead to, and I realize this is my problem: I’m not good at writing or coming to Resolutions for that matter. I always end my blogposts and poems abruptly, I’m not good at goodbyes and farewells. I’m that awkward turtle when it comes to concluding something because for me, it’s like “ok we’re done, kthanksbye, keep in touch. *awkward silence* Bye again.” Well if you look at the greater plot of Life, we’ve yet to reach the end- we’re always in some sort of conflict or rising action. Sometimes a number of them at a time! Is that perhaps why I’m bad at that component of the narrative flow? But that would mean that everyone else too has that same issue! Maybe that’s why we often disagree on movie or novel endings! Everyone has different preferences. But I’m sure there was something I was trying to get at, but for now I can say that realizing that I appreciate processes now makes me more merciful and sympathetic towards hiccups in our everyday encounters with systems. I am less upset, more understanding and *ooh I hate this word that I’m about to type, here goes nothing..* …positive. I also know for a fact that to achieve success, one has to get their hands in the dirt. And that is what keeps me going. My hands are still in the dirt, so I’m not about done yet.

Advertisements

Reflections of a 41-day old wife.

 

1

Bismillah. So… I don’t even know where to begin. I’ve been working for 5 months and married for 41 days. Talk about how adult life hits you hard! ..and it’s been eons since I last visited this old friend of mine. Oh how I’ve missed you. But not too terribly, I think, because I haven’t quite felt the need to ‘heal’ from anything. (Remember why I write?)

I still remember those days (and nights) when I wished I had someone to share with- a cup of coffee, a packet of takeout, a portion of my problems, or all 10-gallons of them. I remember praying for someone whom He loves and for Whose sake will love me (my actual dua, by the way!). And then I also remember feeling the need to embrace solitude as a friend, not a foe because I was so sure there would be no one left in the male species who would actually fit the bill. My bill. Don’t get me wrong, my expectations were not ridiculously high, they were just extremely specific. So I’ve kind of reached that point  where I put my two feet up and thought to myself, hmm, there couldn’t possibly be a man who is of this mindset, and of this character, and of this vision and of this height and of this looks, and this amount of knowledge and of this much gallantry.. could there?

And then I met him. And two months later we were married.

Here was a man whose background couldn’t be any more different yet similar to mine. And he fit the bill. Alhamdulillah.

Do not settle: a PSA.

I get so many questions from my sisters in deen about this department and all I can say is do. not. settle. Whatever you do, don’t settle for what is less than your expectations. Have a Vital vs. Important list of what you want in a spouse, and don’t compromise on any of the Vital ones. This is essential because you don’t want to be filled with regret later, or even an ounce of it. Because if someone does not meet your criteria, yet you choose to overlook that on the basis that he is everything else but that, there’s a huge possibility that you might bring it up sometime later in the marriage. And that would be very hurtful. Lay all your cards on the table and judge for yourself if you could or could not compromise on one or two of those things. Trust your instincts, and do not be pressured in any way. Remember that Allah has written down your fate for you some hundred thousand years before your soul was created. Trust that He knows you best, and will choose for you what is best.

Every day is different.

Having been married for a month and eleven days, I can safely say that marriage is worth it- beautifully challenging; a new adventure every day; a roller coaster you’d want to ride on even if you hate roller coasters. I know people will say that “ahh wait till they’re out of the honeymoon phase“. While I agree it is still to early on in my relationship, I can almost guarantee that I know what I’m talking about. A week after my wedding I was back at my 9-5 job which sometimes ends at 7 (it’s the nature of my work) and I sometimes work on weekends too. On top of that I had to adjust to wifely duties, which my husband generously helps me out with. (Hooray!) The adjustment period is something not many people talk about when it comes to marriage. They always talk about responsibilities, but they hardly tell you that you need to take it on gradually, otherwise you might risk a burnout. Ladies, please take it slow. Let your spouse know how you’re feeling every step of the way. Don’t try to be a superwife from the get go. No matter how cute it makes you look.

Communicate.

I know you’re tired of hearing this, but I cannot stress on how imperatively vital communication is. I guess I’m really lucky to have a husband who loves communicating. He initiates conversations and tells me both when things are going right and when things are going downhill and wrong. (I am colder, I’ll admit. It’s probably the Malay in me?) Your spouse isn’t really communicating with you when he/she is only talking to you when something is going wrong. It has to go both ways. When they talk to you about how things are looking up, that’s important too. It means effort. It means they want you to know how much they appreciate you. Someone’s got to be the warmer one. It’ll take some time for the other to catch up to the warmth, but both have to get on the same level eventually. That should be the goal. It’s not a world of fixed temperatures, people! Cold people can be warm. (and vice versa too, yikes!) They should be, if they want to remain in a happy and warm marriage. But it takes time and effort. Realize that.

How warm?

As warm as you would like your drink to be. You get what you give. It sounds logical, and an almost no-brainer, but really it’s much much harder in practice. This is because human beings don’t often practice justice when it comes to emotions. It takes a saint to be selfless. It takes effort to give so that you’ll receive the same amount or more. But you must give. Something. For those of us who don’t date (alhamdulillah), it might be a little awkward at first. Not knowing how mushy you’re allowed to be. To what extent is it acceptable. But let me be the one to break the news to you, because it took me my husband to tell me that I’m married now and it’s halal to be a bit more demanding for love and attention. He reminds me that regardless of a man’s financial standing, a wife can make her husband feel like a beggar or a king. I at first found it hard to get compliments past my heart. Yes, I felt in my heart that he was chivalrous and kind and thoughtful. But getting them out of my heart/mind and past my tongue were a task. I was never generous at compliments. Expressing my thoughts felt so much easier when I was single and had my head (/pen/typing fingers) up in cloud nine. I could be talking about a non-existent’s man’s sharp jaw and strong arms and beautiful Quran recitation with so much ease back then. But now in the real world, I am tongue-tied and my thoughts are either in a muddle or my head is actually, shamelessly, really blank at times. Because everyone’s a poet when they’re sad right? And for the first time in my life I wasn’t! I didn’t need to express any poetic sentences. I didn’t feel the need to. I was happy. I’m happy. And that means I haven’t felt the need to write. Hence I didn’t feel the need to express. Because receiving is so much fun. For a while. Until your spouse says you too have to be giving too. Hehe.

Just know that the more you give, the more you receive. And this reminder is definitely more important for those who are unused to being ‘warm’, like moi.

If you’re not ready to set aside your ego, you’re not ready for marriage.

In other words, if you’re not ready to say sorry for something you didn’t do, then you’re not ready to be a husband, haha! But for real though-

For those who are used to winning, be prepared to win…in another way. I’m not saying step down and admit defeat for no reason, but when you are clearly wrong, step down and don’t insist on winning like you’re used to. It doesn’t help anyone. Not your relationship, not yourself.

Don’t be overly critical. Your spouse is not your friend.

The way I used to argue things out with my friends; I used to take their arguments and rip them to shreds not only because I was more confident with the strength and validity of my arguments, but also because we all knew that it was nothing personal. Nothing ever effected the way we felt about each other because the next time we met, we were all cool. But spouses are a totally different ball game. In my list of expectations I gave my husband pre-marriage, I had specified that I was looking for a person with whom I could have mental sparring sessions with. I was tired of arguing with sexist men who liked getting out of debates with me with this infamous line: “okay okay you win“. No sir, I don’t want to win, I just want to know what you think and why you think that way and how I can make you understand my point, and see if we can come to a resolution or a reconciliation. Men who end things by telling you you win only wish to escape from dragging the issue further because of their own incompetence and lack of good arguments.

In marriage, you must neither expect these mental sparring sessions to be like those of you and your friends’, nor should you dismiss completely the fact that your spouse could potentially surrender and lay down his/her weapons just to agree with you. Albeit, this time it’s probably and hopefully not due to an underlying personal sexist belief that women (or men for that matter- we live in an age where they could be discriminated too, who knows) are the less intelligent of the two species, therefore cannot handle arguments.

You are going to interpret the same things differently. And that is OK.

Your spouse may not agree with your idea that doing the other person’s chores with them is a form of spending quality time with each other, and you might not agree that spending quiet time together is also part of quality time together, but that’s OK. Because if you look at it hard enough, you both actually have different ideas of the same thing. One person’s love language can be acts of service and words of assurance while the other can have all five. (Heard of Gary Chapman’s 5 Love Languages? Go read it!)  And they’re all essentially the same thing = You love, so you do. You do because you love. (My husband doesn’t believe in this separation of languages- he thinks they should all be equally 100% all the time if you truly love each other. You see, I agree with him whilst still holding down my belief in the possibility that a person might be stronger in one language than in the others simply due to their natural personality make-up. Why?  Because we both believe that each of these five reflect one’s love for the other. No one point is better than the other. Khalas, end of story. See what I mean? If you just look at things with a different eye and heart, you might see that you’re both actually on the same page.)

At the end of the day, you both want quality time together. You only differ in the how’s. The moment you two realize and acknowledge this, you’re making progress. One step at a time.

If you’re arguing about who loves the other more, you’re not really arguing.

Continuing from the point above, if you’re both arguing on what constitutes ‘quality time’, somewhere down the line, you’re bound to think you’re the only one loving in this relationship. Stop right there. Don’t think that your way of expressing love is the only correct one out there. Accept that there are a multitude of ways, and like my husband says, if you truly truly love your spouse, it’ll be natural for you to express your love in all five languages. For me I think being natural at it is kind of subjective- for some it requires some real effort. And effort is not a bad word, guys. It doesn’t mean that it’s not coming from the heart. A person who puts in effort can want it to come from the heart if they want to. Especially if they’re willingly and bi-kol-ra7a wants to do it. Yalla tafaddhal.

Also, look at every ‘argument’ as a learning curve. For the simple reason that it is. Find a one-liner that’ll assure the both of you that you’re good, and use it. It can be as simple as a “We good, babe?” Never ever go to bed angry or with remnants of frustration. I cannot stress on this enough. No matter how late it is, because it will be ‘a little too late’ if you’re keeping grudges.

I think this is all I have for now. I hope this serves some benefit to somebody out there, inshaAllah!

Please head over here to read my husband’s reflections on marriage. May Allah forgive us all and put mawaddah and rahmah in all our relationships. Ameen.

2

Shall I Not Live My Life Principled?

I frequently get asked

if I ever felt like toning down my Islam

or removing my hijab

or compromise in some-

or if I ever felt ashamed of my faith…

 

Sometimes I wonder if I am a walking contradiction.

An irony. A paradox. A being stuck in between themes.

Perhaps stuck in between where I’m at and where I wanna be.

But all I know for sure is that we were told this:

 

:That we are a people prophesized

to be strange

and glad tidings be to the strangers,

he said.

 

It is strange to refuse a handshake 

from a male that is not connected to me

but I carry on the conversation that we were having

because it means so much more to me than a mere grazing of palms

 

It is strange to keep covered

in a climate like this

but I still run errands just as normally as Sharon and Karen

because relax, it’s not made of steel

it billows in the wind and I have PJs underneath most of the time

 

It is strange to order iced tea 

on a table full of Hennessy’s

but my auntie still gets voted best costume every year

let’s just pretend she didn’t just use a niqab

as ninja gear

 

It is strange to excuse oneself five times a day

to bow down to my Maker

to express gratitude for the health, what little wealth 

and life I’m given

and to be able to even say these words

I’ve written.

 

I now take pride in being that weird stranger

with her feet in the sink before every prayer

because if it means being principled

in world void of principles

then I’d rather…be…a…stranger.

 

Shall I not live my life principled?

Keeping my guard up

and my gaze down

boost my grades up

and tone my ego down?

 

Shall I not live my life principled?

With my head covered like Mary

and say a prayer before every nap, exam paper

and fish curry?

 

Shall I not live my life principled?

Rising before dawn before the curtains are drawn

and facing East to release all my worries

unto the very Hands that fashioned me

to receive peace?

 

Shall I not live my life principled?

I ask you who mocked my frock

that you claim to be sweeping the streets

at least I’m doing some community service

no I kid, but I kinda dig this thing that secures my modesty

in this world filled with pornography and nudity

I fail to see how flaunting every part of me

will earn me respect of any degree

but if you believe this gives you dignity

then I can’t force you to see

what I see.

But just…do not mock me.

 

Shall I not live my life principled?

I ask you who ask me

“How are you not ashamed to be so vocal 

about being Muslim in this 21st century?”

I say I am not ashamed of living my entire life

guided by rules that tell me

that backbiting is the same as eating the flesh of your dead brother

that an Arab is no more superior than a black slave and a Chinese merchant

that one does not have complete faith until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself

that I should only speak good or stay silent and love thrice more my mother,

That I should put a good word in for my good brother

put only good food in my good body, 

that the strong person is the one that controls himself when he’s angry

that I should never turn away a beggar

or poke a nose into the business of a stranger.

 

and if die and find out that Hell and Heaven were both fiction

then at least I can look back and say 

I’ve lived a pretty good life

so..

 

Shall I not live my life principled?

 

Keeping my guard up

and my gaze down

boost my grades up

and tone my ego down?

With my head covered like Mary

and say a prayer before every nap, exam paper

and fish curry?

Rising before dawn before the curtains are drawn

and facing East to release all my worries

unto the very Hands that fashioned me

to receive peace…