Thursday, September 27, 2012


"So which of the favors of your Lord would you deny?" (55: Repeated Verse)

Nothing really out of the ordinary has happened... but over all, I've been feeling so blessed and content with life I just couldn't help recall some verses from the Quran that discuss recognizing blessings/favors.


“[...] and if you should count the blessings of God, you could not enumerate them,” (14:34).

There is something about attempting to count your blessings. It is true... it is absolutely impossible to count them all. Sure, we can be like "Thank God for my sight, my hearing, my ability to move, my ability to communicate....ect" but will we be able to list them all? I don't think so. I think about the incidents that may seem horrible on the spot, but turn out to be a huge blessing later on.

For example, one time my friends and I (yes, you know who you are) went on a road trip... we drove for about 30-45 minutes in the wrong direction... when we finally realized, we started heading the right direction and found a massive accident. One, that without a doubt, would have killed at least one of us (god forbid). But at the time, not of us were bothered by the delay, we kind of just laughed it off, like "silly girls," but it was a serious blessing, because it really protected us from a harm that we could not account for.

Now, I think about all those times where something didn't quite go the way that I wanted it to, could those have been blessings in disguise? Maybe, I don't know.

This post is not about religion or blessings in a scriptural sense, although I do cite some religious scripture. It is about contentment.

Contentment is not about being passive about what one has. Rather, it is recognizing what you have in life and making progress based on those things. Rather than desperately wanting something that you realistically cannot have (maybe at that moment in time), which allows resentment, discontent and anger to fester within you.

The thing about "counting your blessings" is that you are forced to have a paradigm shift, one that makes you think optimistically, positively, and realistically. You do not have to be blinded from reality to be happy or content with life. You just need to understand how "things work for you".

We all have things that please or displease us. Do we focus on the displeasure of life, constant fixation on the negative? I have witnessed so many people figuratively screw themselves over, when they stress on the negative. They set themselves up for failure, psyche themselves out, and create this cycle of discontent.

I have been told that I am annoying, bubbly, too optimistic, too perky, too happy, but honestly, I am not. I have challenges, difficulties, stresses and so forth, just like anyone else. However, I was taught by my father, as the saying go "honey catches more flies than vinegar". My dad used to always tell me, "You are, for the most part, what people perceive of you". He also used to tell me to "turn every challenge/difficulty into an advantage/opportunity" even when they are flaws in myself or character. For example, I have a sucky memory, REALLY BAD, but that forced me to look at that aspect of my life and become very organized in terms of time. I rarely am late anywhere or unprepared for work. That is because I forced myself to organize my schedule, my tasks, and my life in a way that forces me to confront my forgetfulness, not use it as a hinderance. I use stickies, reminders, to-do lists, I engage all of my senses in this process of remembrance. I even tell stories to myself, in order to remember facts and details.

So, if you think I'm too optimistic... then I'm sorry, I don't give a snap, crackle or pop. Not my problem, it is yours. You find a way to turn your pessimism into an opportunity. My emotional outlet is writing... poetry, blogs, short stories, and the like. Find yours. It may be, as one of my friends recently discovered, through the guitar and music.

One simple tactic that was recommended about a year or two ago was starting a gratitude journal. Every night, at the end of the day (and trust me, you won't be consistent every night... sometimes you'll just fall asleep for 2 weeks), write something you are grateful for. Sometimes, you'll be feeling the typical, "I love my friends and family," sometimes it'll be a particular incident, others you may appreciate something you discovered about yourself or someone close to you.

To finish, I'll end with something that I didn't expect... I woke up at 2am... and it took me a while to fall back asleep... then by the time I woke up again at 4am... I had a series of nightmares, one bleeding into the next. The details will not be provided, because in my religious tradition we are not supposed to divulge about our nightmares. So, basically, I woke up at 4am. I recited some supplications for the morning, I prayed a few cycles of prayer, I did tons of yoga stretches, and then I sat down to do some work...

Close to 2 hours later, I got all the work I needed to get done ---- Done. Now, I can start to tackle other items that were straggling along on my old to-do lists that I haven't had the opportunity to attack with fervor. It is only 5:45am, this is why reality is always better than dreams.

Good Morning.

Monday, September 17, 2012

10 things you suffer from

I will just be jumping right in... No introduction, just this post...

10 Things You Will Suffer From Having Fallen In Love:

1) You get no work done... trust me... None, none what so ever. You start something, stare at it for like an hour, blush at something your loved one said... and then try and get back to work, realizing that 2 hours had passed since you first sat down to work.

2) You will be relentlessly teased. Not only by your loved one, if he/she is the teasing type.... but by your friends and family. Soon, you will walk around in a constant state of embarrassment... If one more person says something teasing towards you, you may or may not be responsible for throwing them in a lake...

3) You do not have enough clothes. At least if you are me. Suddenly, you realize, OH SNAP, I am a SCRUB. And you desperately try to look good for this one person in your life... when before, it didn't matter how much you loved your friends or family, you could persist to be a walking mismatch with them.

4) You may constantly start gasping for air. Yes, they were right... that stereotype, of being unable to breath. Its true. When Maroon 5 sang "Its getting Harder and Harder to breath" --> It does. Why, I don't know. All you know is that you have a flood of emotions wash over you, and you're drowning in it blissfully.

5) You can no longer turn to certain friends for advice. Yes, this may sound harsh. But it is without connotation, neither positive nor negative. It is a matter of fact. You suddenly realize that there are friends you can ask certain questions and others you cannot. Some who will sympathize with your worries, and some who will completely disregard your concerns. Some who will give you what you want to hear, and others who will give you what you need to hear. And there is no one person who can give you all those answers.

6) You do indeed... lose your appetite. My friends and I have discussed the scientific implications of this concept... But in short... expect, at least in the beginning stages to drop quite a bit of weight. For someone like me who has, quite frankly, a hefty appetite, well apparently with certain emotions I lose all ability to eat. In the last few weeks... I have dropped a total of 15 pounds... unhealthy, right? At least, I still hit the gym. Thats the good news... I don't want to be reduced to an empty sack of bones.... o.O

7) Your time is no longer your own. This is particular for serious relationships, at least, I am assuming so. A friend of mine told me this a couple of years ago, that the biggest change when she got married was that her time was no longer hers, alone. And I feel that 100%. No one has to tell you I want to see you at a certain time or be home at..., maybe it is just among women, maybe its both men and women... but when you are out and about without your loved one, you want to come back to them at the end of the day. You feel worried if you stay out too late without seeing them. I mean, really, 3 weeks ago, I would have come home at midnight and thought, well I hope mama and baba don't mind that I came home so late, enh its all good. But now its more of a, I need to be home! I need to be home! I need to be home! Just so I can make that one phone call!

8)Jealousy, in a good way, takes a hold of you. I can come off as not the most expressive person. Actually, people have told me "You are cold!" but that is because I am OVERLY expressive. I have learned from a young age to really really really control my emotions in public. So, you can pretty much say anything to me, and you may or may not see any change in my body language. So, when it comes to jealousy, I don't know what to think... since, well, I am discovering that it hurts. I am jealous of a cell phone, a water bottle, a car... not people, but things. God save us all. I pray my sanity is maintained. X_x

9) Internal dialogue. Okay, honestly though, I did this before. But now, its 10 times more frequent. I will undergo debates in my head, full on conversations involving said loved one. Throwing around emotions, hesitations, excitement, love, frustration, wants, needs, concerns, all of the above. Am I starting to sound crazy...? Now, I think I know why people say that love makes you crazy.

10) You discover something new every moment of interaction. You learn more about yourself than you do of your loved one.... So, then you start to feel jealous towards yourself, since you aren't learning enough about your loved one in comparison! Okay, that was a joke... maybe ;). Anyway, every moment is a new discovery. It could be tentative or full-blown epiphany. It could be a minute detail or a paradigm shift. My friends and family members who have been married for quite a while have repeatedly assured me that this continues to happen, up until the day you die. Not in as much frequency, per se. But you will continuously discover something new about you, your loved one, and the world we live in. I can't wait for 50 years from now (inshaAllah!/God Willing!) when I discover something I didn't know, despite knowing the person for half a century. That would be mind-blowing. At least for me. ^___^


Okay, that is my list of 10.... I could go on forever and ever. But I will control myself. A few people have asked me, When are you going to write a 'love poem'? Expecting that I would have, as a poet, pulled out a paper and a pen to record these emotions. I don't know when that poem will emerge, it may one day, it may never. So, all I have to offer to the world is this.

Enjoy it.


Thursday, September 6, 2012

Just for Niqabs and Giggles

This is a few days late. But I have been thinking about how I wanted to share this story, without feeling weird about it. It is not a bad story, good story, or neutral story. It is, for the most part, just a daily part of my existence.

So, I'll jump right in.

I was at the library checking out this giant stack of books for research. Until I turned around a saw a friend. She (if happens to be reading this) will remain unnamed, because I prefer a level of discretion in my online life.

This friend happens to be a niqabi (she wears the face veil, but her eyes are exposed). I happen to be a hijabi (I wear a head covering, but my whole face is exposed). She called my name, I turned around and we greeted each other. Simple, right? I mean, one would assume so.

Anyway, I turned back to the librarian to say thank you and walk away. But she said "How do you guys even recognize each other?". My friend's facial expression was "did she just ask that?" But it wasn't a loaded with anger or frustration, but patient complacency. It was an inquisitive look, asking me silently, "reem, do you answer or do i?". Now, you may be wondering, How in the heck are these two girls communicating through facial expressions, when one of their faces is covered. And the answer is simple, its all in the body language. And that is exactly the answer I gave the librarian.

I said, with one of my GIANT grins, "Oh, its the body language. and of course our sense of clothing, we're friends so you get used to seeing how the other moves or carries themselves." Now, this isn't an exact quote, but overall, what was being said.

That was it. Encounter over. My friend left, I left, the librarian stayed to work.

So, why blog about this? I will have to use on of my infamous lists....

1) The librarian had no clue. I respect her question, she was curious. And Curiosity is a good feeling. I think that this woman probably thought this before, but never really said anything. I mean, there are tons of niqabis who roam campus, who check out books, who have conversations. I would like to think, it is because my friend's eyes were welcoming.

2) Niqabis have it even worse in America than hijabis. I always talk about how hijabis are completely misunderstood. Well Niqabis are 10x more. I remember once I gave this random monologue at an event regarding muslim women 4-5 years ago, about how Niqabis should be more vocal and in the public sphere. I know some of the brightest minds behind those niqabs, and I hate to think that they are written off because of a measly stereotype. This particular friend is one of the smartest, hard working, people I know. And people always remember her from classes, not because of the way she looks, but because of her voice, that holds conviction. I've talked to people who have taken classes with her, and they'll ask me, "Reem, do you know so and so" (because, yes every muslim knows every other muslim), and in this instance I do! They'll describe her words and voice and I know, right away that it is my friend, because she speaks her mind unapologetically.

3)Its all in the body language. You don't need to hear people say something, to understand them. Maybe, I could have made a mistake and thought she was someone else. Maybe, our non-verbal communication was wrong, and I projected onto her emotions that she may not necessarily have had. But, what I am trying to say is, body language makes a difference. We live in a day and age when our faces are glued to our laptops and phones. We read conversations a lot more than verbally express them. In fact, we watch people online at insane amounts of frequency. But there is something to said about non-verbal communication. It can tell you years and years of information by just one glance. A person's tone (and yes, now I am lumping tone with the non-verbal because it is not the actual words but the sound of the words) can completely give away a person's thought processes, principles in life, and general outlook on the world. I think we need to study cues of non-verbal communication of our loved ones.

4) Remember that you may be TOTALLY WRONG! Say, what?!?!! I'm wrong?!?! huh?! Yes, wrong. This is about #3, which I kind of alluded to, but didn't really unpack. So, now I am unpacking. Everyone has a unique body language that is completely different based on their individual personalities, their family norms, their culture and society, and contemporary world trends. Yes, all four of these things. For the most part, we pick up on the latter two, because they are easier to figure out. If someone frowns, usually in means they are displeased with something. If someone laughs, they find something funny, ect. But different people, do different things. I'll give you two scenarios from my personal life.

A) One time, I was being interviewed for something and the interviewer was sitting directly across from me. He asked me questions, he jotted down answers. But he also, because I could read his notepad from my position, in which he noted, does not make eye contact. I'll have to say that as an American, not making eye contact is the biggest faux pas a person could entertain in social life. But in Arab culture, it is totally normal to look away. So, for me based on cultural cues (of my culture within a culture), I tend to make 100% eye contact when someone is speaking to me. When I speak, I make limited eye contact, lets say an average percentage of 20. So, for him as an interviewer he barely spoke, which would mean that I made very little eye contact.

B) Another time, I was being interviewed by a classmate for our oral history class. We were sitting in my office, which is comfortable. I was sitting on my chair, with my knees folded to my chest, talking freely. For him, I was nervous. For me, I was comfortable. Actually, I noticed all my maternal aunts sit like this, and a few of my cousins as well. But anyway, at that moment, when I realized --- wow, he thinks I am nervous, I explained to him that this is just how I sit. Then, he realized later on... its true. She sits in class, this same way, everyday. HEY!!! DON'T JUDGE ME!! I LIKE TO BE COMFORTABLE IN CLASS!

--- what are these stories saying? That sometimes the dominant cultural and social trends don't apply for individuals. They may do something different, you need to be able to recognize those nuances.


So let me wrap up, because this post is getting quite lengthy. Embrace life, be curious, ask questions, read people, but don't make assumptions. Plus, she some verbal love, or at least a smile with the niqabis in your area. They are truly misunderstood in American society.