love

My Letter to a Younger Me

I turned 46 this year. If I could send a letter back in time to a younger me, this is what I’d write:

 

Nadia, 

You’re about to turn 30. Strap yourself up in your seat belt because it’s about to get really tough.

You’ve already started to see glimpses of how difficult things are going to get.

The unhappiness. The general feeling of discontent. The loneliness. Feeling lost about almost everything.

All that gets worse. Much much worse.

Prepare yourself for a long period of darkness. You will feel like you are drowning. Every now and then you’ll find a straw, you will grab onto it thinking it will pull you back to the surface only to discover it’s a thorn. You will be pricked, you will have to let go of the thorn, and you will sink ever deeper.

Things will get so bad at one point that, for the first and only time in your life, you will briefly consider ending it. Breathe. Let the moment pass. It will.

You will call out for help. You will explain, using all the words you can find, what ails you. You will be clear that you need professional help. The people who matter, who can help, will hear you. But they will not be listening.

You will look around you and not know whom to trust. You will have many people around you, but you will feel as if you are alone in a stark, empty desert. (more…)

Lost and Then Found: My Breakthrough

I had a major breakthrough over the past couple of days.

Despite all my complaining, despite all my anxiety and worrying, despite the restlessness that hits me every couple of months like a locomotive train, despite a desire – sometimes – for more, I am content.

I am not even going down the road of comparing my life to that of others’ to say how fortunate mine is in comparison to all those suffering from poverty, natural disasters, major health issues, abuse, wars, etc. Doing that is not fair to me and it is not fair to them.

My life is good given the circumstances I was dealt and the choices I have had to make.

I am happy with my choices. Every single one of them. Even the bad ones. I am happy with them because I am the one who made them. I am happy with them because I have grown as a result of them.

I am happy with my choices because I have (almost) always managed to get my priorities straight.

I have struggled through issues of faith only to realize how important my faith actually is to me. (more…)

Should You Be My Valentine?

I grew up in a conservative Muslim family in the United States. Except for my early years as a child, we did not celebrate

It is a positive thing, in my view, to have an annual reminder that your spouse, parent, or child deserves that extra bit of special attention.

It is a positive thing, in my view, to have an annual reminder that your spouse, parent, or child deserves that extra bit of special attention.

birthdays. We never celebrated Christmas. We didn’t do anything special for Thanksgiving. New Year’s Eve was never a proper big deal. But we always went all out on Eid. Eid was our special day as Muslims, my father taught us. The house was decorated and we received loads of presents. My mother made special foods and desserts. We had lots of people visiting and the Muslims in our town all gathered for a special Eid celebration.

As I grew older, and later as I became a mother myself, I had no issue with continuing my own family life this way. It was the lifestyle I knew. What one knows is one’s norm. My birthday, for example, would pass and I wouldn’t even remember it. That has always been perfectly fine with me. I feel uncomfortable when too much attention is placed on me. Age, to me, has always been nothing more than a number. It is how I feel about myself inside that counts.

But also, as the years moved on, I began to recognize that I had a need to be acknowledged every now and then by the people I love.

Is it religious or cultural?

Several times a year, the Muslim community worldwide rises in an uproar about the un-Islamic nature of the many special days the mainly Western cultures of the world celebrate: New Year’s Eve, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, birthdays, and the list goes on. Bid`ah (innovation)! many shout. A long rant may follow about the pagan origins of this holiday or the Christian origins of that.

Read the rest of my article where it was originally published on OnIslam.

I am in love…you deserve to be too

I am a 44-year-old woman and I am in love.

I am telling you this even though I am a strict believer in the existence of the evil eye. I have made a conscious decision to brave your evil eyes because I believe you deserve to know that you should have this too. I have, of course, made all the necessary incantations against your evil eyes and have placed a preventative curse on anyone who so much as thinks of sending evil eye vibes my way.

I am a 44-year-old woman and I am in love. And it feels great. The love I feel for my husband isn’t the warm, wishy-washy, cuddly sort of love we think we feel for another person when we are teenagers. It feels so much more mature than any love I have felt before. It is a love that is aware, from experience, of the risks involved and the compromises that must be made. It is a love that knows the hard work that is involved in keeping it alive. It is a love that is willing to take those risks and to make those compromises and to do all the hard work because I know that it is worth it.

You deserve to have this too. Know that. Feel it in your core. If you do not feel it, go to the nearest mirror and repeat these words, “I deserve to love and to be loved.” Continue to say this until you believe it. Force yourself to believe it and then go act on it. Stop this crap of waiting for love to come and knock at your door. It doesn’t happen that way. You need to actively seek it out. Think of love the way you think of other things you are passionate about. When I am passionate about something I find a way to go get it. You need to feel that way about love. Get your butt out there in the world, meet people, socialize, and continue to do this until you see something you like and then go get it! When you believe in yourself, when you believe you are worthy, when you believe you are super-awesome, others will see that in you too.

Do not let age get in your way. Do not let circumstances get in your way. Start thinking positively and make things happen.

Stop being afraid of taking risks. Stop being afraid of rejection. Consider risks and rejection part of the learning process of finding love.

If you are a single woman, do not wait for the men to take the initiative. You do not live in the 19th Century.

If you are married, work at falling back in love with your spouse.

Stop making check lists of the characteristics the love of your life must have. It doesn’t work that way. Love is often found where it is least expected. If you do not open yourself up to that thought, you may let it pass by unnoticed. Do not let that happen.

I am a 44-year-old woman in love. And it feels great. You deserve to have this too. Do something about it.

 

 

26 Things I Learned in 2012 (and Thereabouts)

  1. Your family and your personal wellbeing always trump work.
  2. Your personal integrity is more important than a good salary.
  3. Love can be found on the tops of mountains.
  4. Never give up on the idea of finding your prince charming. He’s out there somewhere if you look hard enough.
  5. The very very hard times WILL be followed by good times so just hang in there a little bit longer. It will get better.
  6. Don’t worry too much about the details. Focus on the big picture.
  7. Sometimes your psyche and your body are yelling, “Give us a break!” Listen to them. Every now and then we need to give ourselves time to heal and to rejuvenate.
  8. Earth is such a beautiful planet. Make a point to see as much of it as you can manage.
  9. Earth is such a beautiful planet. It’s your responsibility to take care of it.
  10. Great friends are few and priceless. Hold onto them for dear life.
  11. Children are God’s greatest blessing. Treat them with respect and sensitivity.
  12. Be true to yourself. To do that you must know who you are. To do that, look within. Do not be confused by other people’s perceptions of who they think you are or who they want you to be.
  13. Value relationships with loved ones by keeping them strong. This requires lots of hard work. It’s worth it.
  14. To keep fit and healthy one must work hard and feel the pain.
  15. Don’t let the fitness of others demotivate you. If you continue to exercise, you can be as fit as they are one day.
  16. 70-year-olds who are consistent in their workout routines can be more fit than many 30-year-olds. These people deserve respect.
  17. Nothing bad will happen to you if you run in the rain or in sub-zero temperatures so just toughen up and get your jogging routine done.
  18. Live life. You only have one chance to do it.
  19. Don’t live your life through others. Decide what it is you would rather be doing and put together a plan to do it.
  20. There is nothing wrong with being 44-years-old and still not knowing what you want to be when you grow up (or wanting to be lots of different things).
  21. As you get older, your skin will droop and your hair will grow grey. Deal with it.
  22. When your country and your countrymen seem to be drowning in a sea of negativity, do what you can to be a drop of positivity in that sea.
  23. Democracy doesn’t come in 18 days. Hope and dignity do.
  24. Faith is a very personal matter. Do not let others tell you how your faith should be.
  25. Never dispose of common sense…especially when it comes to matters of faith.
  26. Do not allow others to dictate to you how your life should be lived, what you should believe, or how you should behave. They are doing what they want to do. You do what you want to do.

Nadia: The Love Guru

Today I’ve decided that I can dish out the love advice and wisdom just as good as – nope…even better than – all those writers who have written books on love and romance without necessarily having an academic background to support their advice.

I might even end up writing a book summarizing my endless wisdom on love and romance. I’ll put together Nadia’s ten rules of romance. And her ten don’ts in love. I’ll tell you how to find the perfect partner. And then I’ll tell you that there’s no such thing as perfect and that you’re delusional if you think there’s such a thing. I’ll tell you how to keep the fire alive in your relationship. And I’ll tell you how to handle break ups. I’ll tell you all this and much much more because I’m the expert. I know it all. I have this stuff down, dudes!

And to show you, consider this your lucky day. I’ve designated today: Speak to Nadia the Love Guru Day. I’ve already handed out some of my love and romance advice to family, friends, and complete strangers on Facebook and Twitter.  It’s going so well and I’ve already changed so many lives that I felt it was my duty to extend my offer to my blog audience. So I’m dedicating this post for the next 48 hours to giving out my endless wisdom on love and romance issues. Tell me your problems. Dish it all out. And I will help you solve them. Don’t post your name if you don’t want to. Stay anonymous. But tell me your story. And I’ll tell you what to do.

This is a limited offer, so order now!

Book Review: Little Bee

I’ve never written a book review before, nor do I know how one should properly be written. But if there’s ever been a book that deserves my time to be reviewed, it’s Little Bee.

I bought Little Bee at San Diego Airport while I was waiting for my plane on my way home to Cairo. I do this frequently, but I rarely end up actually reading the book and if I do, I rarely make it past the first few pages. Air travel exhausts me and serious reading takes a lot of energy out of me.

I read Little Bee throughout the three flights I took to Cairo when I was not sleeping. And I read the remaining few chapters when I got home. I could hardly put it down.

Little Bee is a story about humanity. It is a fictitious story told by two women who are worlds apart. A dramatic event brings the two women together in the midst of a Nigerian oil war. We then watch as they are separated and their stories unfold only to bring them back together more than two years later.

We meet Little Bee as a 16-year-old Nigerian refugee in the United Kingdom. Through her very personal story we get a very human feel for the life of refugees; both before they arrive in their chosen country of refuge and after.

Sarah O’Rourke is the editor of a fashion magazine in London. Sarah yearns for the days when she felt she could save the world.

Little Bee speaks to us in a language she has taught herself so we can understand. She tells us stories about her village in Nigeria in a way that makes it easier to relate. At once, we learn how different life in her village is from ours in our globalized cities and towns, yet how similar the human spirit is no matter where it resides. This concept is magnified by delving into Sarah’s spirit as she navigates through one life-changing event after another.

Little Bee is a story that shows how love, acceptance of one another, and understanding can not only change lives but save them.

The book is written by Chris Cleave, a columnist for The Guardian. Cleave brilliantly embodies the spirits and personalities of many women in this book. He writes as if he was a woman or has delved into their souls. The women in Little Bee come from many countries and backgrounds. He uses their words, their languages, their motions, and their thought-processes in a way one can only do after years of close observation and understanding.

Little Bee was published in 2008 by Simon & Simon Paperbacks, New York, NY. It was originally published in Great Britain by Sceptre, an imprint of Hodder & Stoughton.