my family and the art of distance

“How do people do it,” I asked H,  trying to reason out this sense of hollowness I  felt right around the heart/abdomen area when kay jetted off to NY last Monday. “How do they say goodbye to sisters, siblings, family so easily, so grown-uppily? I feel like I am making such a big deal about something that seems to come super naturally to everyone. How does family manage to live apart and be ok with it?”  H, being H, gave me an answer that perhaps, was the best one given my current state of mind, “But jam, what I dont get is  how you guys have managed to live so close together for so long without killing each other!”

They say distance and absence make the heart grow fonder…but no one ever really tells you how much distance. I love being around my family yes, and they are the biggest source of overbearing love and forced support I have in my life but there are so many times when I just want to run far away to be on my own. The me space where I can do my own things, where I can bring up Nadi the way I want to, mistakes and all, where I can think feel and act in isolation without needing to take into account and consideration all the myriad other feelings that inevitably get mixed up in the equation.

The last week of May was evidence to this turmoily fact. To support kays publishers and her own book launch in Dubai, my whole family decided to make a trip of it, especially since it also preceded kay going away to NY. The last time the 5 of us actually travelled together was in 1991. 18 years ago. So, to say that I had my apprehension about being in a confined country with everyone is an understatement. With 4 women of extreme opinions, my dad who still thinks we are 10, 7 and 4 (therefore he gets to decide our day) and Nadi who has totally his own agenda regarding his comings and goings, it didn’t look like it would be very…peaceful.

It wasn’t. It was a clash of agendas from the word go. Shopping wise, food wise, people to hang out wise, when to go where wise. Everyone had something to say. And it usually didn’t match what the others said, which eventually led to one person being sulky on some level. The first two days and a pattern was set and as I began to despair of this family holiday thing ever really working out, suddenly on the third day, there was a shift. Suddenly everyone seemed to be working in tandem again. The plans were flowing smoother, everyone was laughing more and caring about the silly details less, plans falling through were being met with giggles and other plans being made. Suddenly, it was lieke we relearned how to be together, giving each other space while still in close proximity.

One thing I learned out of the trip was that we need to learn the art of growing tolerant, even and especially with our special-loved ones. We need to learn when to let go of the bigger things and when to hold onto the smaller things. I won’t say the flareups ended with this. I won’t even say that we have learned our lesson and this won’t happen again. But I will say that there is simply nothing like family when it comes to truly having fun and the closer they are in heart, the better it is in combating the distance. Bon Voyage toots. May the force be with you.

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jammie

people who know me...know me.

5 thoughts on “my family and the art of distance”

  1. aaw jam, u had my heartstrings pulled soo tautly around that my chest felt like it would explode by the time i finished reading this one! I’ve been on my own for the past five years and I still have the hardest time saying goodbye, even on the phone. My mom says I’m lucky, back in her day, phonecalls were so expensive, much less visiting the parents so often. She wouldnt talk to her mom for a whole month!! *faints*

    the only thing that keeps me carrying on is the fact that i KNOW they love me sooo much. the years that we did spend together are soooo special, they give me this weird sense of support… like a hand lifting out of my past that guides me in my everyday judgements. And i’m sure Kay is banking on those memories, values and upbringing to get her through her blue days too!

  2. i really like this post! can relate to it on many levels.. and makes so much sense too. a
    nd it’s reassuring to know that to have a memorable time, things dont have to always be perfect.
    i think its got more to do with what we make of the situation.

  3. ah sara… space, distance, family, its all so complicated…

    pls let me know if khaula needs any help at all adjusting, i have friends living in ny and will be visiting family there next month

    kissies to pantless baby nadooo!

  4. I love the bond you have with your sisters. Its beautiful. MASHALLAH.
    Distance is complicated. We fear the unknown but then again life is about unpredicitabilities and some changes have to be accepted even if we hate them.

    My mother has three sisters and I have none, I can completely understand how life is with or without them 😦

  5. Jammie, love the blog as always. This is an old one which showed up in the randomly generated posts section. Since I’m ineptly playing catch-up in the blog surfing resolution circa 2009, I try to browse through all related links whenever I land on one of my regular haunts of yore.
    Here’s my take on your bittersweet family trip. You guys went on a trip after 18 years. Trust me, as someone who used to go on wild impromptu cross-country drives with my entire albeit tiny family, the clashes are inevitable and one tends to ease into a state of (relatively) comfortable acceptance after a few trips when everyone knows each others limits and reactions in certain situations. There’s a bit of trepidation at the onset and a collective whoosh when things fall into place. We still bicker and argue over everything and we try to go for road-trips as often as we can even if it entails driving from an army cantonment to the nearest city to get groceries. The flareups will NEVER end but they will definitely become more playful and less of a powerplay. There’s something to look forward to 🙂
    I know what you’re going (went) through when kay took off. Though we’re used to my G.I. Joe brother being away, goodbyes are horribly hard every time for the two remaining stooges (Ammar & I). I left home before Ammar did, I can only imagine how difficult it must have been for him. He set up my flat when I moved to Karachi and I remember the first night in my sparsely furnished tiny bedroom with two floor mattresses. We were up all night talking, trying to hold on to all the memories – good old goofy fun moments and the vicious ones when we were each other’s sworn enemies and a fight always resulted in broken furniture, bloody noses and more 🙂 Funnily enough, we’ve clocked more time at the airport seeing Ammar off since then. He left us more times than I would want for studies and work and each goodbye is harder than the last.
    I guess the trick is to let go and hold on at the same time. I’m still trying to master the art. 🙂

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