Thursday, June 20, 2013

Words and Boundaries

Things we already know sometimes when realized in a moment of clarity can be so shocking. You may know many things, but  you may not realize them all.

Words once spoken cannot be taken back. You can try and wish them undone, but still your mouth cannot take them back in in nor can they be unheard from your ears. Some words are much better left unsaid and only felt. Other times, words are the only thing lacking and with them everything is complete.

After Wajih left, whenever we spoke to him on the phone I had Ali say " I love you, I miss you!" and being my little perfect parrot he would repeat those words methodically, not really grasping the meaning. A few days later, we attended a family BBQ where Ali got to spend time with his cousins. The kids were in the pool to cool off on an insanely hot day and  per usual, the Dads were in charge to supervise them. Upon seeing everyone with their Daddies, I saw the wheels turn in Ali's adorable 2 year old brain as he turned to me with that look of sadness and concern in his eyes asking "Where's MY Baba? Ammi, where's Ali's Baba?" Ugh. broke my heart. 'Baba is coming back soon baby.' And inshallah he is. (He will be with us for 4th of July weekend and we are beyond excited!) Up until that moment Ali hadn't actually voiced how he missed his father, how he sensed the lack of his presence. Of course it was obvious to me as I  could see the change in his behavior. He knew something was missing from his life, but being a toddler who is still learning his way around words and how to express his emotions he never actually talked about how the lack of his father made him feel. In that moment, I felt his emotions. It was how in his limited toddler capacity, my child was expressing what it is to miss someone you love.

I'm trying hard to teach him how to use words to voice his feelings because it's important to learn how to cope with life experiences the right way. Many people never talk about how they feel because it makes them uncomfortable to break that barrier. It's the mentality of
'if I don't talk about it, it won't be real'. I see many people struggling with their life situations using this method, because while it may help you get by it won't help you get beyond. There's a difference in getting by and getting beyond. Once you do talk about it you are forced to cope with that reality, to accept it and move on. Without ever expression of feelings, you still cope but not always the best way possible, such as with tantrums or displacing the feelings into frustration/anger/depression. I'm still working as best I can to show my young child that its okay to be sad or to miss someone but it's not okay to display that feeling with rage or outside the boundaries of social etiquette.

On a different note, words were recently spoken, ones I wish weren't said. Because now I cannot be unknown to them anymore. I had thought it true all along in my head; but words, they turned that thought to reality. Before they were spoken there was a boundary that now penetrated, changed many things. Overall, it actually changed nothing because the words reflected events occurred in the past, and that past cannot be undone. So these words do nothing but create discomfort now. I'm realizing more with age that while expression is important, not necessarily every emotion or every thought we have need be expressed. If the lack of words is creating misunderstanding then of course they are crucial to bring clarity. Or in Ali's case, if used as a means to express feelings that will be solidified if spoken, then I agree they are necessary. Words spoken or written carry very real power. I am learning the importance of how to handle that power so it is used to strengthen, not weaken.

For someone like me, the hardest is to know when not to use them. It's pretty much a fact that I over speak/write,  and I often worry if this extra chatter leads others to not take me seriously. I wonder if the over speak causes some important words to be left unheard. I'm trying to scale back, it isn't easy for a Chatty Cathy like me. But I do realize we need to know when to allow gestures and actions to display what need not be spoken. Mastering that skill is one I may take my entire life doing. Mostly, I hope to be wise enough to teach Ali this important lesson. Use your words, use them tactfully. many times, the right words can make a world of difference. But many other times, its what you do not say that means everything.

Friday, June 07, 2013

The strange thing about habits

It’s so strange how a habit forms. You start out not being familiar with something at all, it feels awkward and foreign the first time around. Then slowly, without realizing it, you are able to adjust it into your routine. The habit of going to school/work/ waking up next to someone/holding your newborn baby in your arms all bring about the same feeling the first time around. The initial moment of change is an indescribable feeling. Whether it is something good or bad; the only word that comes to mind is ‘Strangeness’. Yet, by the second experience you already can detect the feeling of unfamiliarity/uncertainty leaving you. That's what I'm going through right now.

When we first talked of moving, about Wajih leaving first while I stayed back here with Ali I knew it would be a huge change. I understood that it would not be easy, but a big part of me was just not ready to let go of my life as of that moment, especially not the habit of my routine. So I was entirely on board with the idea of living apart for 3 months heck maybe even 6, while Wajih settled into his new job and became oriented with the new location. In my mind nothing for me was changing in those few months, aside from the difficulty of being distant from my love. But I shrugged it off, thinking all relationships can use some healthy time apart. I could finally enjoy time out with my girlfriends or do some activities alone that I would put off before due to spending all my time with him.

The first two days were just plain strange! I was with my own family, my sisters and parents, yet I felt something was completely a miss. I clung to Ali as taking care of him was the only source of familiarity of life prior to. (Ali on the other hand was loving the little vacay we were having at Nani’s house; he didn’t asked for his father until day 3 or 4). At first I didn't even want to be in my apartment, because it reminded me too much of life before all this. Of weekends where and I got to sleep in, while Ali watched Superman cartoons with his Dad. Of weeknights "you watch him while I cook dinner, then I'll bath him while you clean up' routines which ended in us collapsing on the couch, me falling asleep on his shoulder as we attempted to catch up on TV sitcoms. Sigh, such a boring life we led. Yet, for all those same reasons, my apartment was also the only place I wanted to be; clinging to those moments. Crazy, I know.

Changing habits is hard, but the funny part of human nature is how quickly we adapt. When I first sold off our bookshelf and kitchen table, seeing our place with them missing was so weird. Now it’s as if my eyes have become accustomed to seeing piles of cardboard boxes and the toaster on the kitchen floor is no longer out of place. My only initial concern about this arrangement was how I’d deal with 'single mom life’. However, just two weeks in and Ali and I are bonding amazingly! The meal/bed/bath time routines are somehow seamless. I am even able to quench the “I don’t wanna leave the park” tantrum fairly quickly. ALL BY MYSELF. (Dear God please let me not be speaking too soon). I like to believe it’s the Big guy throwing me a bone while I still figure all this out. But I’m pretty sure it’s my attitude too.

I'm throwing myself in head first with this transition. I am resolved to not let this feeling of strangeness turn me unpleasant or exasperated. I have cleaned, organized, and made more progress on my 'To Do' lists these two weeks than I have in the past many years! I've set goals to do some healthy eating, hardcore exercising, and soul purifying during this phase of my life's new chapter. I realized that if I try to cling to ways of my routine before, it wasn’t long before I'd fall into a severe rut of unhappiness, is so easy to fall into that place when you are faced with a new experience outside of your comfort level. Lucky for me, I keep reminding myself that this is short-term. I am refocusing my emotions toward setting small weekly goals and spending as much time as I can with my parents before I will be a 3 hour plane ride (instead of 3 mins) away :( .

Some great advice I was given: “It is not easy for anyone to adjust to a big move, to become accustomed with a new place takes time. It will be awhile until you are familiar with roads and a different lifestyle but the truth is soon enough that will be your life and everything before it will be just a memory. So enjoy this transition for what it is; the time in between the old and the new.”
That advice held so much truth in it.  It reminded me how I got out of 'pre-married life' or 'pre-baby' habits. I had the engagement period before my wedding to transition into that new chapter just the same way 9 months of pregnancy is a transition into motherhood. Its like experiencing the future and the now at the same time. Sort of. The hard truth is,  life as it was isn't coming back. But that doesn't mean what's to come won't be even better. Accept change, accept the initial awkwardness. Set small goals. Take the time to tie up loose ends and say proper goodbyes. Most of all be thankful.

In this short time I realized that one mode I don't want to adjust to.. is life without my best friend. The bathroom is too clean and the fridge is missing a few 100 packs of assorted chocolates.Without you around I waste too much time on Facebook I sleep too late I yell less and eat less (shocker, so it is possible!). And it turns out I can actually throw out the garbage and even killed a bug all by myself. Sigh. I realize I can live without you, but truth be told, I would never ever want to.  

May I never have to live without my best friend unwillingly. And may change always be for the better. Ameen.