The Happiest in the World

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As far as I’m concerned, Ramzan never started this year. Previous years I have tried to conjure up the routine, the rituals, the people even, to get a Ramzan feeling going. This year, with the NY heat, the crazy work and the guest at home, it seems impossible.

Appropriately, HD and I went to a 4th of July party last night. It was actually quite lovely even though I am not so much a fireworks person. Nonetheless, it was indeed quite nice being crammed on to a Manhattan rooftop with a view of Brooklyn Bridge and then to be crammed inside a smaller Manhattan apartment. But what can I say, it transformed unexpectedly to be a dancing hip hop party; the small space lent itself to an intimate vibe and it was perfect. The music, the friends, the cool summer breeze through the balcony, the old-time hip-hop to take us back to our uni days.

I have stopped resisting having to leave this place but as I spend this one last calm weekend here alone, I can’t help but feel that this was the best place ever. I don’t know why I think that because it is certainly wrong and I have had many other moments suspended in time that were wonderful in wonderful homes; but right now it’s this one and people are partying outside with loud music appropriate for a tropical island and it doesn’t bother me. It doesn’t bother me that I slept only 6 hours last night and got back late with the man that I love because I was telling him that I had such a good time with him.

I try to tell him to enjoy what he gets now because I don’t know what lies ahead and maybe the summer will whizz by and we’ll be apart and missing each other and I will swear to myself and God that I had never wanted it to be this way. Unless HD gets a job in DC sooner rather than later, we will learn to be apart. But nothing can change the fact that we will leave the best apartment that we have ever lived in. Looking at the pictures from last night, I can’t help but wonder if I will look back at our youthful and glowing happy faces and think that this was the most wonderful time. I won’t remember the angst and the struggle and the self-doubt and the ‘where am I goings?’. I will think these two people who go to rooftop parties are the happiest in the world and they don’t have a care in the world.

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Walk with me

Why is suffering a part of making decisions and which part of me suffers? I can feel it today, the pain and pleasure cutting through me viscerally. The sun and the spring waking me, I walked the two blocks to my favourite bagel store today. A walk I wasn’t sure I’d be able to do just two months ago and today I made it without a problem. When I walked out, the familiar feeling of being on my feet with somewhere nice to go was so raw and familiar, like an old friend. What is freedom if I can’t run away? What if I don’t live and risk my own dreams?

What of marriage and being one? One goal, one vision, two partners trying to convince each other of the paths to take. So painful to compromise, I had never been one for sacrifices and it turned out I was already making them as soon as I wed without even realizing it. How I had wanted to strike out on my own – I will accept my own selfishness. It has always been about me. It took me three years to fully feel committed to this boy who did the most and the toughest things for me. We proved ourselves to each other over and over again in our triumphs and failures, making our own story. Three years to believe that our lives always better be entwined this way and I will do my best to make that happen. Yet admittedly I duck out from time to time to yearn for myself. What did I want? Am I okay?

We can’t stay suspended here in this spring. Can I carry you with me?

King of anything

I haven’t posted in ages mainly because I was trying to make this blog a more positive place and each time I felt an urge to write, it was when I was totally down. Now I’ve decided to throw that positive blog idea out the window. I write when I am annoyed and it feels most true when I am being particularly masochistic. Incidentally, the word means that I derive pleasure out of self-infliction, which really isn’t true. If I could choose – I mean really choose – I would never ever give myself a bad day. I would literally never choose the more difficult path I think. That’s just me; all else being equal, I would choose the easier way. I mean what would you do? Which brings me nicely to the subject at hand – i.e. my reactions when I HAVE to take the difficult road. Coz life kinda does that to me. I feel like it’s done that a lot.

Firstly, my ideas on being a woman and my role, capabilities and what I want out of my life, differ a lot from those around me. And here I don’t mean to say the regular tra la la about women being great and having their rights etc and being educated and allowed to work bullshit. I mean those things are a given. I mean acknowledging that I am totally selfish and I have no desire to play second fiddle to anyone. I do not put my career second to my husband’s, I do not put my money-earnings capability second to anyone’s and I do not think my financial responsibilities are any less than his. I enjoyed single life too, just as much as he did. I liked living on my own and doing practically everything myself. It was liberating and empowering to figure out ways of doing things I hadn’t done before like painting my room and moving my own furniture. I really enjoy travelling alone especially in trains. The thoughts in my own head are best when alone and my brain works particularly well when it knows it has to fend for itself. I used to carry my own suitcase.

I have never been in such a long-term relationship before, and as an adult, I have never let someone else be responsible for so much of my life. It does go both ways of course and there’s nothing wrong with it, but sometimes I do wonder where the old me is. You see, I am really bad at moving on. The person I am right now I don’t recognize and I have a hard time accepting her. I don’t have the same friends, and I don’t have the same relationship with new friends. My daily activities are different and my social activities are different. My body has pretty much protested in any way possible. For almost a year now, I have lived like a somewhat disabled person who doesn’t look disabled. It’s embarrassing because people expect me to keep up with them and help them, and there I am making excuses. Taking a big breath and telling them what’s wrong with my feet. Going gluten-free has been another hassle, but what feels worse is that people just don’t understand.  The looks they give me, and saying things like, ‘have a little’ makes me feel like they think I’m making shit up.

I moved looking for fun and adventure but I didn’t really find it. The completely selfish me is thinking, why am I not having that great time? Where is the fun and glory in all of this? Why is job-hunting so hard? Why is making it on one person’s salary so hard? I love that HD pursues his passion and makes a living out of it rather than being a typical doctor-engineer type of guy. But the reality of it is that we live in the middle of nowhere and I feel like we’re going nowhere. Why is dealing with this reality rather than the romantic notions so hard? Why is moving so lonely? I thought the space away from family would be liberating but it’s lonely.

The worst part is that it’s coming up two years now and I feel like a giant failure because I haven’t done the one thing that would make all the difference. I haven’t accepted the changes. I haven’t accepted this place, I haven’t accepted my body and I haven’t accepted my life here. I know I have a tendency to do that and I know that I always want the easy way out. I want the quickest solution. It might just be time to buckle down and work hard. Suck it up selfish me because in the hedonistic pursuit of happiness, there will be some unhappiness. Sure sages say the rocky road has its benefits, character building and emotional growth and some other stuff that you really would never choose to happen to you. But it does. So deal with it.

I heard your heart sang love love love

Is this the only month I write a happy and optimistic post? Possibly. Not because the rest of the summer goes downhill after that but because I probably get far too busy and lazy enjoying it. So this post isn’t about anything in particular, just an amalgamation of things that I like. First of all, I just finished watching season 4 of Mad Men and it was so awesome. I love the show and I also just love the style of that era. The way things looked just perfect and of course the show makes everything look beautiful, the women’s hair, their clothes, their struggles and triumphs. I wish I remembered more of the 80s but I don’t remember the things like the style and the feel of the era. I remember the 90s really and I long for them even though I know childhood and adolescence weren’t particularly easy.

Anyway, back to Mad Men, I’m listening to a Man Men playlist and just checked out these black and white shots from the set of the show. So lovely. And here are a few lovely things I’ve been up to.

Trying to pick a nailpolish

A wedding in the park

Our bikes resting while we rest

Pumpkin pie and chocolate cake

4 days alone

Day 1: Freedom

HD left early this morning on a 4 day trip. I didn’t even have time to feel sad or bad, so exhausted was I from the day before. C was still sleeping and I had been tired out showing her around Hartford. I woke up again just in time to have some breakfast with her and drop her at the bus station. Back home in an empty apartment, I realised that it felt great to be alone especially after so much activity. I had all these wonderful ideas of the wonderful things I was going to do now that I had a stretch of time to myself. I also made a mental note to allow myself some days home alone post kids. I can’t imagine how badly I’d need it then. I happily proceeded to cooking and cleaning up.

Day 2: Utter dejection

I woke up early looking forward to a busy day. I had appointments all over the place and made it on time for a 7:30 one. I am not sure how I had time to have the saddest epiphanies ever in between my busy day but I realised that I wasn’t doing too well and that although my life was happy and I was generally happy, I had taken a hit and it was time to acknowledge it.

I had lost my job a few months ago and there seemed to be no end to unemployment in sight. I had made it the 1st couple of months by getting more part-time work but even that ended last month. I was all ready and excited to move and move on, ready to move to a better city (preferably NYC) where I wouldn’t feel so alone. Which brought me to another realisation: I am still lonely. It is still hard to live here even if I have stopped expressing it; denial doesn’t make it go away. I still yearn for a close friend in the same time zone and for a sense of belonging. Worse, I don’t make enough effort with the people I have met here to get to the point of close friendship.

I have read stories about women getting married and feeling lonely which surprised them as they thought it would fulfill every want. Mostly in these stories, they did married men who didn’t understand them as well as they should have. I thought I knew not to have huge expectations in this regard and to not expect one relationship to fulfill me. I should have realised that one relationship is all I would have to count on if I moved though. My disappointment came not from HD’s lack of understanding – although he did struggle to understand why I needed friends – but from my own skewed expectations of married life. I think I had imagined it to be full of parties and friends, not two people stuck in a town with no parties or friends.

I lost my favourite aunt to some inexplicable illness a few months ago. I didn’t even know she was my favourite until it happened. Suddenly, I don’t see a point of visiting Khi anymore. Who else is going to look as forward to meeting HD? Who else will laugh and entertain us and make inappropriate jokes? I can’t imagine the void and I don’t want to go back and see it. Meanwhile another aunt is dying of cancer. Nobody says it like that but I know that’s exactly how it is and I would rather not have false hope.

Other changes include breaking off with 2 of my oldest friends. One had stopped being understanding and friendly a long time ago and the other had changed beyond understanding awhile ago but I held on to the past. I missed the signs to let go and it came about the way it did and now it’s done.

I was hugely disappointed and hurt by my cousins living close by and couldn’t figure out the rejection. Turns out not everyone wants to be close friends with me.

Over the past year and a half, I have suddenly found myself managing daily pain, going in and out of doctors’ offices, getting needles stuck in me on a monthly basis, put under general anesthesia twice, and generally feeling like my body is letting me down and holding me back. My mobility has been limited for the past 6 months and at times I have felt like a handicaped person without the car sticker. I was unable to attend my best friend’s wedding due to finances and unable to attend her bachelorette party due to my health and then I was angry at myself for it.

All this isn’t to say that I am miserable. It is just to remind myself that I still go on and get happy but it’s okay to acknowledge that some parts of life are tougher than others and sometimes I struggle. Somewhere in the business of life, I actually forgot to be sad and it all hit me like a truck on Day 2 and I finally cried over everything.

Sadsies

For a loner I sure love company. When I was 6 or 7 I would get so excited about my family’s summer visits to Lahore where my favourite cousins were. Once there, my sisters and I would lose track of everything. My mom had to track us down to feed us and force us to use the toilet. Bodily functions didn’t occur to us otherwise. I remember waking up on the first morning in my grand-parents’ house. My parents were still sleeping and a little boy my age was standing in our room looking at us. He had jet black hair and round eyes and I didn’t recognize him immediately. Excited nonetheless, I got up to see who it was. He saw that he’d been spotted and slipped out and I followed. And that was the last I remember of my parents on that trip.

When we came back home to Karachi, I was a sad little girl. I would cry at school if anybody talked to me. I cried when I tried to talk to the teacher or the kids. My mother didn’t understand why such a big girl cried all the time and why I seemed so unconfident. I was embarassed by it all so I tried not to speak to anyone. I eventually got used to the new routine of being back at school and not on vacation and went back to being myself. I don’t remember if I told anyone what the problem was or whether I even knew myself. I had a hard time describing that sadness.

When another summer many years later ended and the hordes of guests at our house went home, I drew up a strict plan of daily activities to occupy myself. Those days a different set of cousins had been my best friends and our days all meshed together into a happy blur. We lived and breathed together and even at night, we all slept on mattresses in the living room. Sometimes we fought together. The day after they left, I started off with taking a run around the neighborhood in the morning followed by other very important activities. They were abandoned in time as I started enjoying life again and didn’t feel the need to regiment it. The only emotion I betrayed was when I was talking to my Dad who’d gone to Pakistan with them for a little while. I started crying for no apparent reason and couldn’t describe the loneliness I felt or even admit to it. Unable also to continue talking, I gave the phone back to my Mom and slipped away. No point in making a spectacle of myself.

Now I brace myself again for my life to slow down. The vacation back in Geneva is ending. I don’t have work to go back to at this point. My sister left for Zurich today, back to work and I know she was making to-do lists in her head. Back to a busy life for everyone but me. Here it felt full, going out for lunches, dinners, to see friends and movies, hang out with family, consulting work from home, clean up, work on decorating the house, cook, annoy my sisters, catch up w/ old friends…Back home in CT, I’ll have almost none of that. Barely any friends to see, no nice downtown to meet up in, no big house to sort out, no social calendar to look forward to. OK I exaggerate, I have people to see but no one as fun and familiar. No one I couldn’t live without. I’ll go to the gym alone, try to do my work alone and when it’s evening and HD is at work, I’ll have no one to call as my friends will all be asleep in another time zone. I’ll call HD every few hours when he’s at work and thank God for his patience with clingy me. It’ll just be me and HD, cooking for ourselves, running our endless errands and trying to work a way out of that town.

I remember when I was newly in uni and had a very bitchy older friend showing me the ropes. She used to remark on how the weirdest girls ended up having boyfriends and how she was still single. Snarkiness aside, I do remember sometimes thinking what in the world one person saw in the other, or how they could put up with certain traits that were the complete opposite of what they were. I guess it’s an animal called marriage or committed relationship. I am still surprised when HD bends over backwards when I am being a complete party-pooper, have a headache or don’t feel like I can do something or go somewhere. Instead of getting frustrated with me as anybody else as energetic as him would, he agrees to forgo the movie, that restaurant or that trip for me. I am still amazed at why he would want to hang out with the person with the no-fun attitude sometimes as opposed to going ahead with the other friends. I’m still surprised to find somebody on my side even when I’m being unreasonable. I guess there’s something about marriage that makes you throw your lot in with that person and stick through it even when it makes no sense. Which in this case works for me!

I have also discovered what it’s like to be less than impressed with friends’ partners. Their random flings and temporary partners was one thing. Now we’re talking marriage and some of these people just don’t seem good enough for a lifetime of hanging out with us. I just met one boyfriend who seems to be ridiculously immature and annoying and clearly I can’t tell her to dump his sorry ass. I guess we’re even since my friend can’t say anything about HD. We’ll go along this way, hoping to grow on one another eventually. Sigh.