September

This September, I am trying on my new authenticity shoes. The ‘look them in the eye and be honest’ shoes. It has made me realize that so many people (including me) are afraid to have a real conversation about stuff that hurts. Maybe these are the kind of relationships I have surrounded myself with because it keeps me from having to face too much hurt as well. I remember acutely the time when I was telling my flatmate about being racially verbally assaulted on a London tube and no comfort came from her. Nothing that acknowledged the gravity of the injustice I was feeling. I also deeply regret the time my parents told me about their racial discrimination experiences and I could not come up with words of comfort and acknowledgement, so lost was I in my own anger and hurt for them. It’s hard to face the people you love when they are hurting.

This September, I told an old ex-friend exactly how I felt about her actions and why I wasn’t her friend anymore. I had given her 2 years to explain herself and she never did, so I finally broke it off. She couldn’t face me. I didn’t have much too lose because we weren’t really friends anymore anyway. On the other hand, I shied away from telling another nest friend the excruciating detail of how I had spent the afternoon writhing in pain, hopelessness, and frustration. How I wished I could have a more normal and active social life. How I hated being disconnected from my Geneva life and how much it meant that she was coming to visit me. How her visit was what I had been holding on to to get through this very strange weekend of deep deep loneliness. Why it felt so wrong to be cut out of our plans together because of my disability. What it feels like to live a muted life, made dull by a lack of variety of the experiences I reveled in before, but sharpened by pain.

This September, I had a very close friend visit my home for the first time in the U.S. It was the best day ever. It was like my heart was full and bursting and overflowing all at once. I showed her my hood, had salad for lunch, went to town on my route, went to a museum, walked around a park, came back to eat my home-cooked dinner; then we sat down to watch a Bollywood rom-com. It was perfect. I would have liked to do more and maybe we came back home too soon but aside from the pain, it was perfect.

This September, I literally positive thinked my way out of the strangest pit of loneliness. This one took my back to London, to the rainy nights and cold winds, to the feeling of having no one and that nothing could make me happy. It was like I forgot what it was like to feel connection. And what did it take? Well the desperation to pull myself out of the pit because it would be too long to wait for HD to come back from the work trip, and some passages on feeling powerless and powerful from Amy Cuddy’s book Presence. She writes how a setback in one area of life can make us lose our identity and thus make us feel powerless in other areas of life. I didn’t really get to the solutions part of her book (if there is one) but the passage was enough to make me realize what was messing me up and how it was affecting other areas of my life. It was enough for me to stop seeing myself as ‘powerless’ but just ‘normal’ in that situation. My chances are the same as anyone’s really.

This September, I finally made it to the Renwick and a saw a bit of the Wonder exhibit.

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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.

Memories mar my mind, love is a fate resigned

This letter is long overdue. But I don’t write directly to you for a number of reasons. The main seems to your anger that is in a constant ebb and flow underneath the surface. The one that erupted when I mentioned that maybe you were irritated. The one that causes you to make snarky comments and think that they will be taken well. The one that fuels your jealousy and your insecurity. You never offerred me the same honesty in expression that you did yourself. You more than made up for the lack of emotion I showed. It’s easy to blame me but I say it’s all you.

You lied and you talked behind my back and then you made me feel like you didn’t want me around. When I left, you came back crying wondering why I’d left. I often felt insulted or slighted, unsure of what you wanted from me. Give it another try? Sure, let’s see. But your arms aren’t as open as they were before. I never relied on you for anything after that, never trusted you in anyway. You may flatter yourself that I used you but I only threw you scraps of my life to make you feel like you were still needed and included, lest you get upset again. I never needed what you gave and often real friends had to undo the harm your ‘kindness’ did. Like the time we met at Globus in Geneva so I could update you on wedding news and you told me I had seasonal depression.  When I doubted myself my friends reassured me that I really did not have those symptoms.

Mostly, I grinned and bore it. And you wonder why I feel uncomfortable around you? It’s because you have all the reliability of a snake and the melodrama of a coked up pop princess. Kind of like Amy Winehouse except she was awesome and had talent.

Maybe I don’t tell you this directly out of kindness because the truth hurts and you already seem so raw. Or maybe we are matching in our hurt except that you shout your pain from the rooftops and I lick my wounds in silence.

Whatever it was, it’s over. I cannot be treated like that anymore and you are no longer coming into my life. Don’t try anymore, not in a few years, not ever. I don’t want you to come back crying. Don’t look at me if we’re in the same gathering, don’t say hello. Don’t invite me to your wedding. Don’t look at my profile on linkedin, don’t google me. Don’t keep tabs on my family, my career, my pictures, my friends, my happiness or sadness.

Turning Tables

I know Adele is awesome. I know she has been on the radio a lot and some people get tired of that and I probably would too if I listened to the radio. But I don’t and I am still awed every time I hear her. If I’d heard her back in the day when I was still in school and used to borrow friends’ CDs to record them on my tapes, I’d have done that to her albums. I’d have listened obsessively and known the sequence of the songs and all of the lyrics. Now I am far too lazy and busy to obsess in this way over albums and artists but I feel like Adele should inspire me to hunt down all her albums, or at least buy them all on itunes. Here’s the song I want you to listen to before reading the rest of the post, and if you’ve already heard it, play it whilst reading the post.

It didn’t remind me of an old love or flame or whatever, it just reminded me of a once best friend who has remained a part of my life like a shoe full of pebbles that I just can’t take off. After yet another strange meeting with her where I got the feeling that she just didn’t like my very much, I got on the plane back home to wonder why I bothered. Should I stop seeing her and make some excuse every time she tries? Or just tell her she’s too much of a bitch for me and leave it at that? It’s not like I’ve haven’t tried before, but each time, some time passes and someone makes a move forward and somehow some stuff is forgotten and some more stuff is remembered. And we play our little game again making sure we are a part of each other’s lives that diverged 7 years ago.

Ever since that year of university when we both got our hearts broken (by two different guys of course) we’ve struggled with our relationship. Like a couple that no one else understands, we continue to be together on and off. This is my masochistic relationship, the one where I can’t let go even though I know I should. Just like those soap operas, our timings have always been off. When she was ready to be open, she came to my Camden apartment and cried and told me that I had disappeared. I just wasn’t ready. All I understood was that she did want me around but I didn’t know to tell her that I had left because I wasn’t being treated well and I wasn’t sure if I was still welcome. I didn’t tell her that I had felt so betrayed by those actions that she considered unimportant, I couldn’t bring myself to trust her again. I acted like it was all ok again but in my head I may well just have been singing, “I won’t let you close enough to hurt me“.

Yet I hold on to the image of a much nicer different girl, the one who cleaned my new apartment with me, who taught me to cook rice, who shared cigarettes in the park with me, whose little room I would walk into some evenings to drink tea and talk about that hugely important future, and all my ideas and feelings. The friend who gave such damn good advice when I was down, she could sort out me out in a jiffy, and I would leave with a neat little to do list. The one who wrote very important notes to me on pink paper that I still have stashed somewhere recounting all the things that we had done that meant so much. God I miss her.

The thing about married life though is there is no more this urgent need to show up at your friend’s house and demand they take you back. There is no pressing need to call urgently, no need or time to spend hours on the phone arguing or working out your issues. Instead here I am trying not to rock the boat as usual. Well rocking the boat be damned, I’m going in again. I really have nothing to lose.

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.

Annoying Friends

Yes this is that kind of post when I relate how I just don’t know how to express myself or relate to certain people. While a part of me keeps on thinking of their good qualities and looking for excuses for them, another part of me just starts to resent them. I am rather blunt and wish I could talk to people honestly about how I feel, but generally that is considered too mean so I don’t say anything. I am left wondering how to strike a balance.

I don’t think it helps that I am not a good reader of people. I have a friend who comes off as very secure, confident, loving and giving. Great qualities that I admire and I have stayed friends with her because of the trust I put in her, despite the fact that we can find it pretty hard to relate to each other and we have very different styles of communicating. It is only after all these years of knowing her, that I have faced up to the fact that she is incedibly insecure. She is most certainly capable of doing damage behing my back. But now I know to still love her for the good times and not expect perfection from her. I actually hold myself accountable for being so insecure at one point that I had to seek out a friend who seemed so absolutely trustworthy. She was trustworthy at the point in my life when i needed her to be and that’s what counts.

Then there was the friend who annoyed me so much that I had to break it off with her. Again my fault for sticking with her and making excuses for her, all the time I was getting so angry at her and so frustrated that she would never understand. Instead of pulling out early, I kept telling myself that she was a nice person at heart. So the lesson there (as another good friend pointed out) is that even if the person who keeps on hurting you is really nice at heart and doesn’t understad it, there is something wrong with the relationship and you don’t have to stand for it. She is someone I have never looked back on funnily enough, not even missed her a little bit.

Then there was the annoying colleague who, although not necessarily a good friend, certainly provided company in a lonely office. She had a lot to say and I ended up listening a lot. Again my fault for getting drawn into listening to office gossip, what good can possibly come of that? I got so tired of her criticising the people, their work ethics, their organisation and blaming it on their nationality, that I started resenting her for it. She was totally oblivious to her own role in the organisation that contributed to the same problems she would complain about. It’s funny how we don’t see ourselves as worthy of the same criticism and think we are above it all. And yes, if you are thinking that I am somebody’s annoying friend too then I probably am. Mainly though, I am the person who blames herself for not saying what was on my mind then. But I guess it was too hard to do that, possibly not appropriate and possibly it would have amounted to no good. Although, now I do try to remind myself to at least express what I take offense at. I didn’t have to criticize her but I could have said that I did not wish to hear about certain things because I find them offensive. I felt she didn’t understand where I came from or appreciated it, so I would rather not hear about it, even if it wasn’t directed at me.

Now I have the good friend who thinks she is there for me at this time when she is really not. She is excited about the wedding and talks about all the work she has to do when she isn’t in charge of anything special as she would probably not do it. She backed out of the dance she was supposed to do on her own claiming no time, when she knows how important that was to me. I know it’s not time, it’s effort. I know what she has been up to the last few weeks as she has told me herself. She decided to disappear into one of her ‘problems’ and cut off communication with me for awhile so I was left dealing with quite a few things alone. It was a double whammy because I felt her distance and was also hurt at why she chose to keep me out of the loop about her life. I was thinking of all the things we have gone through and how much we know about each other and just felt sad that I wasn’t being included anymore. Instead of talking to her about it, I decided to leave it alone, not wanting to put more pressure on her in addition to whatever else she was going through. I mean who wants to deal with demanding friends when you are going through ‘problems’, whatever they are? Since she hasn’t come through on the things she initially promised for the wedding, instead of calling her on it, I have just made contingency plans for the last thing she is in charge of. If she runs out of ‘time’ for that too, I know where to go. It’s not that though, I wanted my friend here with me just for the fun of it. She missed out on the whole run-up to the wedding. Let’s see what she does on the last week before the wedding. It’s sad but I have just given up on her and sometimes I wonder if I should be like that. Should I go ahead and make an effort for our friendship by asking what it is and trying to fix it? Or will it just make things worse at this sensitive point in our lives? One thing is for sure, I am the most easy-going bride ever.