Having a Partner Who Supports Your Goals, Even When You Don’t

As I live my life, I keep learning and growing. I continue to evolve my understanding even in those areas in which I consider myself an expert. My relationships are one such thing. Recently, I became consciously aware of a new dimension of my marriage that has always previously existed, but I never really noticed. I wanted to share it all with you and explain the value that it adds to your life.

Let’s start with how I came to this realization. Three weeks ago, I had a bit of a scare where I felt as if I was having a heart attack. And I don’t mean that I thought I might be having a heart attack. I was certain this was a cardiac event. Chest pain, numbness in my left arm, jaw pain, the whole deal. So I went to the ER, and they said I was totally fine, and my heart was completely healthy.

The other thing they told me is that severe acid reflux can cause heart attack – like symptoms. I’ve had acid reflux for a while, but I’ve never had a fake heart attack. Of course, one of the best ways to address this type of thing is to eat better and lose some weight. I’ve gained about 20 pounds in the past year, so I decided to get on a keto diet to lose some weight. I’ve lost 15 pounds so far, but I don’t know that I would have made this kind of progress without my wife. Let me explain.

Dieting, as any of you who may have tried it might know, is difficult. It requires a lot of willpower and discipline. Over the past three weeks that I’ve been doing this, I have had a number of different moments of weakness in which I’ve seriously wanted to break my diet. At those times, my wife has refused to allow me my indulgences. She does the grocery shopping for the house, so she makes sure we have a full stock of keto – friendly foods, and she constantly nags me about eating properly according to my diet. She has increased her frequency of cooking me breakfast while we’re both home as well.

Until just yesterday, I had attributed her nagging to just that…nagging. But, it’s actually so much more than that. You see, my wife knows and understands me. She knows my goals, and she understands what I want to accomplish. She decides, whether consciously or not, that she has to support these goals. The “so much more” part, though, happens when she decides to support my goals even when I don’t want to strive toward them myself. She recognizes that my goals don’t disappear just because I’m feeling lazy or indulgent. And that recognition is infinitely valuable.

It’s so much easier for us to be accountable to other people than it is to be accountable to ourselves. You can easily convince yourself to cheat or forego something you should do, but it’s far more difficult to do the same with someone else, especially a nagging wife. And while it’s really easy for her to simply say, “Well, if you’re not going to put in the effort, then I won’t support you,” she doesn’t do that. It is a comfort to know that when I run out of willpower, I have another reserve in my partner to draw upon. Although I just recently became aware of this through my dieting, I’ve realized that she does this in all aspects of our life. If I have tasks to complete for any of my side projects, she’ll nag me to finish them. If I tell her I need to be somewhere, she’ll make sure I’m up on time even if I want to sleep in.

I’ve also recognized that I do the same for her, and I’ve been doing it unconsciously. When my wife is feeling lazy, I nag her to get her stuff done. When she wants to sleep in, I get her up to do what she needs to do. In this way, we strive to become the other person. My success is her success, and vice versa. That type of partnership is a rare thing because it indicates a much deeper level of commitment than simply supporting the other person with words of encouragement. It is an unconscious recognition that we are one.

This is a light bulb moment. Find yourself a partner that you can share the same sort of connection with, and your life will become infinitely easier and richer.

I Never Sacrifice Anything Because Sacrifice Doesn’t Exist. It’s All In Your Head.

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I hear it all the time, people talking about all the things they have to sacrifice to accomplish what they want in life. You have to give up so much to have children, or you have to forego so many things to have a successful career. You sacrifice freedom and promiscuity to get married, or you give up your weekends if you want to do charitable work. So on and so forth. I find it difficult, neigh, impossible, to empathize with these people. I don’t get it. If you feel like you’re giving up so much, why do that thing in the first place? I’ve had trouble understanding why I don’t feel the same way. Why does my life never feel like I’ve lost anything when I take another step to accomplish something? Why do the endless hours not weigh on me? Why don’t I feel any less fulfilled by being monogamous? Well, I’ve found myself an answer to this dilemma, and I’d like to share it with you.

Here’s the deal: sacrifice is all in your head. It’s entirely about mindset. The reason people feel like they constantly have to give things up is because they have a misguided understanding of life. Life is not a bunch of separate moving pieces and parts that need to come together. There isn’t a finite amount of space that can only fit so much. Getting rid of the tremendously damaging notion of sacrifice from your life is all about perspective, not about managing an unmanageable reality. Don’t get it? Let me explain.

Let’s say you have to give up $20 to get $40. Technically speaking, you sacrificed $20 to get that $40, but would you ever think of it that way? Probably not. You’d say, “Hey, I made $20!” That is how you need to think about life. All the different parts of your life are not separate currencies traded in exchange for each other. They are one currency, and spending some to make more isn’t sacrifice; it’s making more money. This is how I view everything I do in my life.

If I’m not making more “money” as the result of an action or decision, then I simply don’t do it. Why have kids if you’re constantly going to fret about everything you’re giving up? You’re losing value, not gaining it. Why get married if you’d rather be with many different partners? Life isn’t about letting go of things to move forward, or giving up certain things to get others. No, it’s about having the self-awareness to know how much value you place on things. Everything needs to be counted using the same measurement, and you’ll never have to sacrifice anything.

I’ve dispensed with the notion of sacrifice in my life. In fact, I can’t remember a time when I ever felt like I was giving anything up to do or get something else. You should probably do the same.

Love and Hope – A Reflection on Our Wedding

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It has been two months since I got hitched, and I’ve tried several times since then to write this post, but I haven’t really had much to say that seemed to warrant a post, that is, until now.

Yes, our wedding was amazing. It was beautiful, there were lots of tears, and it was without exception the happiest day of my life. That is not, however, what I want to talk about.

I want to explain, more largely, what my wedding means to me, and what I would like it to mean to others.

Let me start by saying that my family decided to come to the wedding. After so much arguing and hate, my parents came, and they brought with them many members of my extended family as well. It turned out quite well, and it seemed they were genuinely trying to make an effort. I am cautiously optimistic for the future of our relationship. I’ve heard it all before, and while I’m tempted to really give it another go, I will do so with a degree of caution and distance.

With that, let me transition into the real point of this post. Our wedding, mine and Taylor’s, is more than just a celebration of us and our relationship. This wedding is a symbol. It represents hope, hope that people can overcome difficult pasts and move on to brighter futures. It represents forgiveness, the strength it takes to still love despite having been wronged so many times. Our wedding was, and I hope will forever remain, a beacon of love in a world that increasingly seems preoccupied with hate. Hate cannot win; it cannot take over and corrupt the hearts of all people, and our wedding is proof of that.

When their innocence is lost, and they walk into adulthood, too many people become obsessed, consciously or unconsciously, with the things that separate us. This person is that or that person is this. Rather than embracing our common humanity and awakening the capacity for love we all share, we focus on the differences and divide ourselves along arbitrary lines. Our wedding brought together two people, yes, but it also brought together two worlds. It is nothing short of a miracle that a girl born in New York, and a boy born in Karachi two years earlier came to find each other, fall in love, and build a life together. It is a testament to the wonder of the world we live in and the incredible capacity we all share to embrace our fellow human being despite how different they may be.

I hope that all those who attended our wedding, physically and in spirit, will look upon the day as a celebration of the bright future we all can share in a world that becomes less round and more flat each day.

 

I’m Pakistani. I’m Marrying a White Woman. My Parents Can’t Deal.

Racism, bigotry, and hatred are curious things. They cannot be reasoned with. They cannot be fought with weapons and violence. Somehow, despite all the destruction they cause, they still persist, like resistant viruses.

For those of you who know me, you know my life has been characterized, at least in part, by a constant struggle against the worst parts of my upbringing and the worst parts of the culture I belong to. One of these worst parts is the festering exclusionism and bigotry that typifies my family, and many Pakistani families alike.

I find people from all different parts of the world to be beautiful and remarkable. Every color and shape is another thread that comprises an ever expanding global tapestry. In an increasingly flat world, those threads are blending together. Multiracial couples, and children, are becoming more common. I am one half of such a couple. I am marrying the woman of my dreams, and she is white.

I decided, after much deliberation, to tell my parents, and I have spent the past 4 months arguing with them about it. I have heard every nonsense reason they can come up with for why I shouldn’t be marrying someone who isn’t Pakistani, someone who isn’t a part of “our” culture. After so much arguing, my parents will not be attending my wedding. They will not be offering their support to the decision I’ve made, and though I wouldn’t have thought it possible, our relationship has become even more damaged.

There is a desire that permeates the Pakistani ethos to separate from other peoples and associate only among ourselves. There is a blind adherence to the idea that Pakistani people are somehow better, and becoming too close with others is some sort of crime. I was raised with stereotypes about every other race. Black people are thugs. Spanish people are dirty. Chinese people are just weird (of course every Asian is either Chine or Japanese as well). And white people, white people are the worst. They are the devil. They corrupt innocent Muslim Pakistani boys like myself. Their women are immoral temptresses, and their men are idiots.

The remarkable thing about these stereotypes is not that they exist. After all, if  you’re taught nothing else your entire life, it makes sense that you will adopt these beliefs and find evidence in your life to support them. No, the remarkable thing is how unwavering these beliefs can be. My parents have traveled the world. They have met every kind of person and experienced the multicultural wonder the world has to offer. Few in the world are so fortunate to have experienced the wonder of the Great Wall of China, the Pyramids in Egypt, and the Eiffel Tower. Many would regard these experiences as transformative, and take them as opportunities to appreciate the beauty that is present in people all around the world.

Instead, they have become a catalog of experiences used to justify incorrect beliefs. That one woman in France who was wearing a crop top and shorts is enough to prove that all white women are whores. That one Chinese child pooping in the street proves that they’re out of control. Quite to the contrary, though, Pakistani people are regarded as infallible. No matter how bad of shape our country is in, there is a conspicuous lack of introspection and self improvement. The intelligent educated people leave the country because they can’t stand it there, while the others stay and continue to perpetuate a destructive culture.

I’m not writing this to explain what I’m going through, not really anyway. I’m writing this out of hope for something better. I’m writing this because I care about others in my situation, and because I care about my people and my country. There is a tremendous feeling of loneliness and abandonment that comes with your parents refusing to support anything you do, a feeling no child should have to experience. There are very concrete explainable reasons why Pakistan is in such terrible shape, and is not improving despite every impetus imaginable, and this is one of those reasons. It is my hope that, one day, we will live in a world in which everyone will have read Pakistani poetry, a world in which Pakistani food is just as popular around the world as Indian food. But I fear that we will never see such a world. I fear that these things will fade away, and become distant memories.

People who challenge the flow of the Pakistani tide are shunned. They are excluded and become black sheep forced to wander without a flock. This post is a plea for change, for evolution. It is an explanation of the experience I have gone through used to highlight a hidden adversity that many of my friends and loved ones are facing as well. I only hope that my generation learns from the mistakes of its ancestors, and treats its children differently.

Opening Wounds – What Father’s Day Means to Me

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It’s heartwarming to see all the posts of people sharing special moments with their fathers on this day, or remembering with fondness the moments they’ve shared in the past. I still struggle, though, to not feel a twinge of bitterness and to keep away the pull of sadness on days like this. As you know, I did not, and do not, have a father I can, in good conscience, celebrate. For me, father’s day is a reminder of the darkness of an abusive home. It is a reminder of tears shed at every hour of the day, and of the screams that still sometimes echo in my dreams.

I’ve worked hard to come to a place where things like this don’t affect me as much, but more than I’d like to admit, I’m not completely there yet. For me, father’s day opens many wounds that are still fighting to heal. Each year, I find myself combing through my memories is desperate search of some bright frame in the storyboard of my relationship with my parents. Each year, I return from my search empty handed. Instead, I find myself slipping back into the emotional and mental rhythms that I’ve worked to free myself from.

I do not intend to bring down anyone who is blessed with happiness on father’s day. You all have a wonderful thing that deserves to be celebrated. It is important, though, to remember those who are not so blessed. It’s important to remember those who struggle to deal with these days, for whatever reason.

While this post is a confession of what this day means to me, it is also a hopeful reminder to all those facing similar situations. It is a recognition that, somewhere, there is someone who shares your experience. There is someone who, without ever having met you, can love you, simply for what you’ve been through. This post is a recognition of undying hope. There is hope that I will be better to my children and my wife. There is hope that I know what mistakes not to make.

There is hope, that one day, I will celebrate father’s day too.

 

 

Mosques of the World #1 – Saudi Arabia

Welcome to a new series I’m doing. My recent posting in Dubai has afforded me the opportunity to travel around the world with a frequency I hadn’t been able to before. As a result, I’ve made it a point to visit at least one local mosque in every country I visit and comment on my feelings about that country. Let’s start off with Saudi Arabia.

Saudi MosqueThe mosque I visited was quite small, just the small room you see in the picture, enough for 25 – 30 people at most. The inside, however, was beautiful. Calligraphy carvings on the front wall, a clean and comfortable carpet, and a neatly tiled entry way gave the place a warmly welcoming and inviting feeling. The people were friendly, though they were Shia whose prayer rituals slightly differ from my own. It was a testament to what Islam should be, a faith which welcomes others, accepts differences, and provides acceptance.

Unfortunately, the rest of the country isn’t quite as inviting. To start, women are faced with many restrictions limiting what they are able to do. To start, women are not permitted to drive, and in some areas, cannot even own cars, let alone other property. Women must be completely covered with an hibaya, the traditional black veiled covering often worn by Muslim women. In the world of business, this leads to additional complications. The men on our team must secure rental cars and transportation. It’s risky to be seen riding in the same car as a woman I’m not related to. Additionally, business offices must construct a separate area for women to work, although no companies actually make their women work separately unless they’re being inspected.

This has always been interesting to me because Islam does not require, or condone, any of these restrictions. Women are not required to wear abayas in Islam. They are only forbidden from wearing tight clothes which reveal their figure, and even then, this requirement is only applicable to Muslim women. Islamic law does not extend Islamic rules to non-Muslims. The Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) first wife was one of, if not the most, successful and well known merchants in Arabia. Islam was the first religion in the area which allowed women to own property and gave them a place at the political table. The state of affairs in Saudi Arabia runs quite contrary to Islamic teachings.

The country also feels oppressive. Strict rules and punishments, like beheadings, still regularly occur in the country. I have to constantly be mindful of what I say or what I’m talking about for fear of persecution. It’s difficult to understand how valuable freedom of speech really is until you go to a place where it isn’t afforded. I must cover the tattoos on my arms because they might be found offensive as well.

These policies, among others, have resulted in the country being left in a poor state. There is little investment, and commerce struggles to thrive. There is a large reliance on oil money, much of which doesn’t go to the poor in the country. Agriculture is struggling, and the landscape of the country is barren and depressing.

It saddens me, as a Muslim, to see the nation which houses the centerpiece of my faith in a condition like this. It’s not as bad as is sometimes believed in the West, but it’s much worse than I wanted to believe it would be. Coincidentally, the people in the mosque, and those in the surrounding area, were very much against the royal family and the rules which have been imposed in the nation. Well, maybe that wasn’t so coincidental.

I can only hope that these things change in the years to come and the country experiences a rebirth.

5 Lessons Learned From a Month of Poetry

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It’s an interesting thing, a month long commitment to writing one poem each day. I think, like comedy, that poetry is a uniquely human exercise. It affords the opportunity to reflect on the parts of our thoughts that our conscious minds are reluctant, or perhaps unable, to face. It is a cathartic and revealing endeavor which teaches you a lot about yourself. I’ve learned more than I thought I would from writing a month of poetry, and I wanted to share some of that with all of you.

1. Being Accountable to Yourself is Difficult – It was a struggle to motivate myself to write a complete poem each day. I often wanted to just copy previously un-posted work or write something quick and easy. But, I didn’t. I often found that the motivation, though, wasn’t my own self. It was easier to be accountable when I posted the poems because the people reading them expected to see another one the next day. Incidentally, it seems to be easier to be accountable to others than to oneself. I suppose that why people hire personal trainers and the like. You can rationalize all manner of excuses to yourself, but those rationalizations fall on deaf ears when presented to somebody else. They just don’t work.

2. I Don’t Know Happiness – I tried, many times, to write poetry that was happy and optimistic, and it proved to be an incredibly difficult task. I know the feeling of being happy. I am a happy person, and I live a happy life, but truthfully, I don’t understand happiness on a fundamental emotional level like I understand sadness, pain, and uncertainty. The deepest parts of my heart and mind, I’ve found, cannot communicate happiness on its most basic level. I am consciously aware of the feeling, but I lack an unconscious understanding of it.

3. I Don’t Like Places – It’s difficult to write about places. Many of my poems lack defined settings and instead contain snapshots of a place which could really exist anywhere. The images in my mind lack context. They are scenes floating in the emptiness of space. The memories of my life exist much the same way. I remember my childhood through emotions which are attached to context-less images. Those emotions color the amorphous settings in my thoughts, transforming them into untethered pieces of a broken world.

4. I’m Fascinated by the Darkness – I’m fascinated by the darkest parts of humanity. I don’t much care for normalcy, for the monotony of the everyday. I don’t care for the faces people put on so they can show themselves in public. I care for our deepest and most sinister desires, for those feelings we are afraid to share with other people. I want to understand the feelings that can motivate a person to commit the worst acts. I want to know the grip of those emotions and find out where they come from.

5. I Can Accomplish a Lot – As challenging as this exercise was, I did meet the challenge. Granted, not every poem was a gem, but they seemed to turn out well for the most part. It felt good to commit to something and follow through. This could definitely translate to other parts of my life and future commitments I decide to make. I’m proud of myself for making it through without missing a day, and it has taught me that I’m capable of doing what I set my mind to, though I suppose some part of me already knew that.

Conversation With a Blind Man – Thirty Poems in Thirty Days #2

I’m doing a month of poetry, one new poem each day for thirty days. Here’s number two of thirty.

Want to check out more of my work? Grab a copy of my poetry book here on Amazon!

Conversation With a Blind Man

I cannot see, you see
Something I live with
You will understand
He said to me

Since you have not seen what
This world has to show
Let me tell you
About this world
That you may know

Each day hundreds
Starve and suffer
As genocide continues
To occur in Darfur

Governments suppress freedoms
Speech and thought of the world’s people

Streets are littered with cynicism
Poverty, disease, and ostracism

The masses remain preoccupied
With beheadings conducted by our enemies
But when it comes to our allies doing the same
There is not a word uttered
And not one objection is named

The planet is melting
Death and extinction
But read the headlines in the morning
And you won’t find a single mention

You’ve never seen a map
But most who look at one
Don’t even know what they’re looking at

Entire populations persist in their preoccupations
With celebrities, scandals, and politicians

Like a machine the media makes
Puppets and sheep of us all
Feeding fabricated facts
To a people numbed by ignorance

One after another
Child is subjected to tragedy
Yet despite all the evidence
People still scream
Don’t take away our guns, please

We give ourselves immunity
From the crimes we commit in fear
By shifting all the blame onto others
Because it’s our shame that we cannot bare

But let me dispense with this long rhyme
Since I am running out of time
Let me not be too suspenseful

The whole world seems blind to me
What the fuck makes you so special?

Moments – Thirty Poems in Thirty Days #1

I’m doing a month of poetry, one new poem each day for thirty days. Here’s the first one, enjoy!

Want to check out more of my work? Grab a copy of my poetry book here on Amazon!

Moments

They add up
One transforming into the next
They flow seamlessly
Torn apart only in memory
That rips them from their brothers and sisters
Crudely stitching together what we think
Are our lives

In these moments we find solace
That we have been somewhere
That we have been some-when

In these moments we find splintering remnants
Of what we have love and lost
Of what we have held and let go

In these moments we find ourselves
Lost in the ticking of the clock
As it rings and takes stock
Of what he have done
And of what we have not

Without care for place and time
The moments continue their chimes
As they ring through our minds
Giving us brief fleeting glimpses
Of the divine

I am in this moment
Trapped by myself
Unable to shake the torment
As I cry silently to myself

My hands tighten
My resolve strengthens
My eyes widen
The moment lengthens

As his breathing stops
And the rise and fall of his chest ceases
I collapse smiling into this moment

This moment that is now entirely mine
And I realize that he has never looked
As he does now
Quite so
Divine

What Would Make You Truly Happy?

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It’s a simple question, isn’t it? Yet, despite its simplicity, I don’t know many people who can answer it confidently. It is a question too often asked too late. This isn’t a long post. It isn’t one of my rants or commentaries, but rather just a short reflection.

There are times when life is difficult. Many things can go wrong, and there are always difficult challenges to overcome. The answer to the question, though, can lend the all too important perspective that will help you deal with those challenges and overcome those hardships.

Many people go through life directing their efforts toward things they think they should do. While this sometimes this can be great, most of the time it makes for a pretty terrible compass for one’s life. Instead, people should ask themselves what they want to do. If they achieve that next goal, or accomplish the task in front of them, will it make them truly happy? Will it, in the context of their greater lives, add any meaning or substance?

The real world is a constant force. Much like other forces, though, it needs something to act upon. If your compass directs you into the real world, into task associated with it, like finding a job, making money, having stability, doing what’s expected of you, etc…. you run head long into the force. But, if the needle of your compass points in a slightly different direction, you may be able to avoid that force, circumvent it and find some truly special reality.

Next time you’re frustrated or stressed, take a step back. Take a moment to think about what would make you really happy. And ask yourself if you’re building a life that distances you from the answer to that question.