Do you feel at home?

This post is the #week1 #oprahblogchallenge from Jammie’s blog.

I have tried to let this title inspire me many times to write a post that I wouldn’t have to completely sensor and that would make sense. No wonder that when the answer to this question is no, there is not much more to say.

I want to shout that I don’t feel at home, that I don’t belong here, and that I hide myself, letting out the real me in small doses, like a wounded animal checking to see if it’s safe. I struggle – I struggle so badly when I don’t fit in and that is all I feel sometimes, that I don’t fit in. There are few moments of peace, of connection, when I forget about being an outsider, but no over-riding feeling of security.

The truth is I don’t know how to make a home. I feel at home when I am with my parents and when I am in Geneva. I let others define home for me and make me feel at home. Even my real home, I left it and went far away. I left for adventure, to be free to be myself, and to be more at home, but really I don’t know how to do that with myself. I know how to leave places that don’t feel like home. I know how to do it over and over again thinking that I will be better off where I am going but I am not. I know how to turn around and not look back and then cry when it’s all gone. I leave pieces of myself all over the place. I wind up lonely and disconnected wherever I go. When I return, I am again lonely and disconnected because what I left behind has moved on.

This is hard but I guess I need to make a home here. I am doubtful, I really don’t know if this is the right place. It doesn’t look right, it doesn’t smell right, and it doesn’t talk right, but I am learning to embrace imperfection.  I don’t have anyone like me to show how it’s done here. I don’t have a community, a group.

I have a few friends who I try to stitch together into a patchwork network, hoping they will catch me and not let me fall through the cracks. I also have HD and a cat and some plants. I have a mostly well-functioning body despite its serious limitations. There’s a lot I can do before I run out of steam. I have a kind face, a nice personality, and most people like talking to me. I have lived and loved expansively all over the world and I can try to live and love expansively and fully right here. I can build from the ground up.


The Happiest in the World


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.

On birthdays and such

People in their 30s say that they feel the same as they did when they were 27-28. I have also heard people say that they feel younger in their head than their actual age. Before my 30th birthday (and admittedly still), I read those annoying procrastination articles titled along the lines of ’30 things to know before you’re 30’. Through this process, I have actually come across some good lists that I will share with you here.

As for me, I feel like I have crossed a river and there’s no going back. A door has very firmly closed. I do not feel 27-28, I feel like I’m just a very confused ‘old’. If I were 27 I would feel like I have all the time in the world. Those end-20s felt like a great desperate race, one that I knew I had sort of lost. I was nowhere near where I wanted to be professionally, financially or hell physically. Now that I look back I feel like the months surrounding my birthday felt like I had been thrown across a wide canyon. I am on the other side but I lost many things along the way. I think I have landed though. The changes and opportunities are coming fast and thick and really that’s what I wanted. So I didn’t make it there before 30, I hope it doesn’t hurt me later on.

Here are the best three articles I read. The last 2 are not necessarily the quickest read and actually have more depth to them.

10 Life Lessons to Excel in Your 30s

10 Life Lessons I Learned from Surviving My 20s

Things have changed, that is to say the least. I am writing to procrastinate which means that I really must not want to work. I am sitting in so hipster a café in Brooklyn that I had trouble finding it initially because it didn’t have a sign in front of it. Also, I just ordered in French and two of the four walls have exposed brick and bookshelves in them. All this ‘ natural style’ feels so pretentious that I feel embarrassed. But I should back up and take you back to that late summer day.

One day late in the summer, HD confirmed that he got the NY job.  After that, I swear everything hung in the most perfect happy balance for a few days. It was warm but not humid, the sky bright and the breeze cool. I remember the work tour that we took and then we sat outside in a local café eating burgers with locally sourced ingredients. That’s when we told our friends, we’re moving to New York! Blog readers know that I have wanted to move to a bigger city for a while and the excitement of NY and the change in the air was just too much. It was like a heady dream.

And then the change happened. I walked in to my office building to find a trail of leaves taking me from the entrance right to my office door. When did the leaves start falling? I wondered surprised. At lunchtime I found more evidence of autumn when I walked back outside to see the ground littered with tiny yellow leaves. The trees that lined the sidewalks were shedding.

Since then in a few months, autumn has come and almost gone. The trees turned all different shades to show their fiery magnificence, a soothing sight as we did some stressful trips back and forth from Connecticut to New York. I said goodbye to my boss and spent an emotional day confused and trying to get over it. I drove from my previous home to the new one in Brooklyn for the first time and felt proud. And it doesn’t end here. Getting used to city life and my handicap here is still an issue. What I wouldn’t give to let loose here. To walk out one day without having to think about the pain and factor it in to my day. I also missed my big apartment from before and imagined myself in the comfort of my old bedroom sometimes. I don’t do that anymore though, I move on quickly. Even when the sounds from the crazy neighbor go particularly crazy, I calmly consider making plans to drive to New Jersey to stay with family while we wait to get our new apartment yet again. Ah more change. Finally, this is what I’d been waiting for all along.

Songs dedicated to somebody else

I don’t have the tools and language to explain what this music is and how it is. I just know how to feel it. A song dedicated to somebody else and I knew it would be good. It was okay but it led me to something better.

I love my life right now. I know I know it’s still so precarious. It’s on the tip. Of falling over. Who knows winter may come and my delusions will be blown away. But right now it’s summer, it’s humid and the AC is cold and the so are the cupcakes in the fridge. And I can come home too tired to shower and wash my scruffy hair even though tomorrow I have to be presentable again. I have to crank out one more day, one after another, to get towards that change. But it feels so close and as long as the tip doesn’t plateau it’s okay.

I can just lie here and listen to this.

A little change would do you good

While I was aimlessly browsing, I landed on some blogs that I stopped reading awhile ago. There’s nothing wrong with them really, I had just stopped reading because I felt like moving on from their narrative. It’s hard to explain in any other way but I guess I got a bit bored and because I felt they were stuck in a particular tone or maybe even at a point in life, and ended up writing only that way. This is a funny thing to say because it is true that we all write in certain tones and it’s not easy to change the tone of a personal blog (especially if it works for you and you have lots of readers).

Anyway, the blogs I reread after practically 2 years still do sound just the same and it is as if I’ve missed nothing at all. This got me thinking about my own blog and my own tone which I feel I have tried to change for my own sake. I think the tone of this blog is mainly sad and nostalgic and a part of me is definitely that and also a part of me likes to write about that. Bringing out other sides of myself in blog writing is not as easy I find. My writing is brought on by the physical equivalent of staring down a dark tunnel and wondering if I’ll ever come out. This is another reason why I wish I were a better photographer. I feel that my pictures are far happier than my writing is and I wish I could express myself better through them.

For now though, I’m going to write about another morose topic: death. Mourning in this way is entirely new to me. As a child I don’t know if I had felt this gaping absence when my grand-parents died. This time around, I haven’t really had the space or the opportunity to grieve my aunts and my grand-mother who died within the past year and a half. Sure it was snatched here and there, with my mom or over the phone with my cousins. But, I couldn’t attend any funerals or quran khanis, or any collective mourning rituals. While I was visiting Geneva, a couple of times I caught my mom crying and waves of sadness would wash over me. But really, how am I supposed to give in to that in the middle of a perfectly normal day in the kitchen? How am I supposed to express that?

It has caught me at strange times this, whilst swimming at the gym I saw a girl who looked like my aunt and I cried a little whilst doing my laps. Or yesterday when I woke up with the realization that I will never touch them again, and no matter where I go on this planet I will never find them again. Just the thought made me want to start running down the streets to find them. How could emptiness feel so oppressing? Time has passed but I guess you never get over these things.

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.