shh.

Yesterday k got back home right after work instead of heading for his own steam blowing workout session, in no small measure thanks to a phone call in which I must have sounded at the end of my wits as I juggled a very hyper 16month old who wanted to go out to play, a 6 year old I throes of a craft phase (but we must make 10 glittery ice cream bars for my shop) and a 9 year with science and Urdu test revision in play. Might I mention here that no matter how much hired help you have, there are days when everyone just congregates to that one foot of space around you, constantly. Khair, back to my story. It was 6:30 which meant the days tolls had taken place on all of us and the monstrous avatars  we try to keep firmly chained during the day were biting at the bit.

He arrived took stock and took over one and half kids while I quickly propelled the day forward to our favourite point on such days- bedtime. (Can you hear, nay practically FEEL my sigh of bliss down to your toes?)

Once the kids were out, there was complete silence and after the cacophony of three varying agendas being demanded at once, let me tell you it sort of feel like suddenly being submerged into water, where there is an extreme sense of awareness but also a gratifying lull in the pace of time. K and I then went around the room putting stuff away, minimal words really. No chatter on how the day was, no hug, no interaction nothing. We had our dinner also in the same way, padded in the cottony silence and then finished our episode of Good Wife. There was the next day to plan, work emails to be sent and while usually chatty, talking about the day, yesterday I was depleted. All I wanted was quiet. To somehow redeem myself from the Jekyll like persona that had gripped me in that last hour, I needed to literally mute.

While the numbers were equal I never really realised the immense draw of “emotional crutching” that is required from the person who is (merely by the chance of being more available) a primary caregiver. We are the police, the doctors, the huggers, the fixers, the bad cops, the managers, chefs, waiters, the CEOs- basically several hundred worth of job titles rolled into that one mama. It’s a sensory overload of feelings and beings on some days- to the point that all you really crave is a cool dark cave, with good wifi of course.

I didn’t say anything to k last night, and while maybe it was the general vibe of heaving sighess around me that was the give away, he was smart enough to keep his distance and throw the coffee and cheesecake at me. Good man.

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Monster me 

I absolutely hate yelling at the kids. Or needing to talk to them in a tone where there is no room for discussion or leeway. Ideally we would have a relationship where I would require something and if they aren’t able to fulfil that they would negotiate other reasonable terms with me. Is that too much to ask? Don’t answer that.

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So of course I often find myself in that place where I have to be communicating my thoughts not only sternly but in a tone that’s several octaves higher than what makes me feel human. And sometimes in the middle of that yell-fest, I will teleport above my screamy self and watch hovering above the scene, how horrid and crazy I actually can look while trying to get something or the other across to these kids that I love with all my  all. It’s stunning the irony that these very people who I would literally jump in front of a moving bus for are the ones that manage to evoke this face contorting exasperation and fury.
One of my standing annual resolutions has always been to be a zen-ner parent. The one who will get the message across in modulated lyrical tones rather than angsty high pitched ones. For most part I think there has been tremendous improvement and then suddenly a day appears where my carefully constructed and managed Jenga tower of emotions and control will come crashing down and I am back at square one, painstakingly collecting blocks to start over.

Does it damage my kids forever? I sincerely hope not. I tend to be somehwat humourous when angry and my examples and comparisons always elicit some giggles along with the fear and sulk from them. I am hoping in the long run my crazy love otherwise for them will cancel it the negatives and they will walk on forth with just the positives. Fingers crossed. And oh yes, resolution renewed for the new academic year yet again.

when the cat stays at home

Six months ago yesterday, on November 30, after a series of some unfortunate events and people, K left his last job under not the most ideal of circumstances and not the way he would have liked.

It was literally on his birthday that the decision was expedited (yes timing was sucky), semi unexpected (you can always sense doom can’t you?) and then in equal parts both thrilling, a massive relief and scary. Thrilling because December was coming up, friends and family returning for the inter holidays and it meant he would be around (unless he got a new job immediately of course, but somehow at that point I wasn’t factoring that in). It was a massive relief because toxic environments are never any good, no matter how good you are at what you do. And scary because, well, three kids and only a part time working me and allll this upcoming time at home.

Now we aren’t the kind of couple who need their space too much and we are quite happy o toddle along with the kids doing our stuff together, and yes here I am talking about those brainless mall jaunts as well as the annoying grocery runs. He is fairly laid back and I am not so laid back but somehow we manage to make it all relatively painless for each other. Mostly. I hope. But here we were facing  yawning chasm of time- completely unplanned and also with no timeframe to the togetherness. It could be weeks or God forbid, years. What would we do with each other?

I could jazz it all up angsty wife style and talk in aggravated detail of the few days where we were literally on each other’s faces. Like wherever I turned he was there, and while when I am handing over the baby, it’s a great thing, when I want some alone time to work or spring clean (yes I spontaneously do that) or just lie and stare at the ceiling like a zombie, HE WAS THERE. Not really wanting anything, mind you but just around, standing or sitting or breathing. BEING THERE. Even being HELPFUL, sometimes. Most annoying and even more unrestful.

But mostly the last six months were quite fantastic and I wish it was part of adult and working life that you had to raise a baby together for the first year because it makes allll the difference to one’s sanity to have four hands. It isn’t only about the help (even though thats a huge part of it) it’s also about the time to have conversations when kids are in school, it’s about having him be a full time person in our lives, part of the muck of baths and lunch and lego emergencies and doll play and the chaos of that 4pm cabin fever, not one that is stuck at work and hearing about everything in past tense and coming home to clean and sleepy children.

I will not say that K didn’t worry. I think he would be inhuman to not, given we are all by products of a rather conventional culture where work is WORK. And mind you we got a lot of well meaning but mostly really daft advice on how he should take up ANYTHING that came his way. Even if it was a step down and even if it wasn’t anything he wanted to do. But I stood my ground. We were not going to settle. He would find and take up only what felt right. We were lucky. We had savings and freelance projects to see us through this “difficult” time. I use these beloved inverted commas here mainly because I feel like I am cheating when I focus on the apparent stress and tension being jobless has attached to it. Oh I admit very freely that panic can easily skirt at the edges of existence every day because if you let yourself go down the very steep path of what if, you can imagine alll sorts of scenarios. But I think I am a bit different that way. I know that things open up that we cannot even imagine if we are patient and right and kind and basically awesome. And I pretty much rail-roaded K into my way of thinking also. I believe and not just to say because I sound cool or calm, that what is our right, what we deserve is created by the kind of people we are, the kind of actions we perform on a daily basis.

Many things did come our way, some potential filled, others complete busts but on their own they would either fizzle out or fall through. We heard chatter on how he was over qualified, on how there are just no jobs for his position right now and all sorts of practical blah blah that people feel helps justify why something isn’t happening. My take was always it’s not happening because it isn’t meant to, yet. When it is, trust me, and I said this to him often enough to be labelled annoying, the opportunity will literally be created out of thin air and everything happen without us even trying. This has been the pattern I have most detected – to have faith in powers we cannot even begin to understand, and not give into the human induced panic that flutters into being when there is something we cannot control.

I really couldn’t bring myself to panic, given we were having a great time. The kids were thrilled after the initial shock of oh you’re still here and found it so easy to switch half their incessant need for chatter to him (oh yay). He was able to be a part of their lives in ways he had only heard of in fairytales before. I didn’t have a hard time thinking of it as a holiday sabbatical and yes, I know, it doesn’t happen to everyone.

So yes, it all played out at incredible speed in the last 10 days and he is back at work today, hopefully in a job he will love and thrive in, of course, but can we please have a moment of silence for all the times I was able to switch off in the last six months without worrying and another moment of silence for the extra 20 minutes of nap time I got very often. I will miss having them around. Err him, I mean of course.

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Do I feel my feelings?

#week5 #oprahblogchallenge

One of the questions that was part of this challenge was “Do I feel my feelings?” and my mind said what a stupid question and filed it away it for some unforeseeable future post. But then a friend’s husband had a heart attack (thank God he’s fine) and life moved into epiphanic state that Hussy and I had identified as “tragic clarity” some point during our college years, and this question poked its head around the corner and said hey you.

Feelings have to be felt, of course, in some measure pretty much all the time. But there is this sharp, startling, blindingly clear view you get of your life only post something-bad. It is as if all the cotton wool padding we tend to collect around us as we go from day to day suddenly foops away and you are left, shivering slightly, gasping gently for breath, as you see the vicious beauty of your truth.

Though I do not like the circumstances that may bring about these moments, these moments are quite stunning in how easy they make life, for at least a little bit afterwards. Choices can be made in seconds, priorities assembled in a blink and all things superficial unnecessary and toxic  shunned with effortless ease. You see, deep down we all know.
We all know the truth of what makes us, what breaks us, what we want and need and all that stuff we simply do do do, just because. And when life throws its curveball, you suddenly come to the decision that that which is not gold, not something that makes you happy or content, or slightly breathless and giddy, at least a majority of the time, is just not worth the beef.

A friend visiting from abroad recently would clutch her heart at the beggar kids who were cheerfully flinging fruit at each other and talk about the injustices of the world and how cold the people here have become. I laughed at how much fun they were having and she called me unfeeling. I live in Karachi in 2016 which means that feeling your feelings has to be managed well, otherwise you can end up in let’s say, not a good place. OF COURSE I feel for them and in my own way, I am revving for education of street children, contributing money/time/my skill set to create places where efforts are being made and opportunities created for more kids to study (may I plug in here that if anything, it is education that will change anything) but but BUT I cannot weep or hold my heart or go home and lie under a blanket FEELING all this every single day because well you know, my kids want food. Husband wants to know where his clean socks are and I, well I want to watch an episode of Greys in peace without feeling that iron load of guilt that all the feeling my feelings bring about.

Epiphanic moments of “tragic clarity” were put into life for a reason and they are brilliant, and someone like me needs them to be grateful, honest and better, but thank God they fade away, because really, life is too short to be spent in near shock of all that there is to feel for also. So yes, in words of the Queen, twisted for the sake of my art, keep calm but feel on.

Do I say yes enough?

#week3 #oprahblogchallenge

I know someone who says no first. To everything. If you initiate a plan her first reaction will be no. If you ask for help, she will hmm and haw and hedge around before saying yes. Every bit of her body language says no even as her words say yes. I mentioned it laughingly, because, well she is nice and still someone I like and she admitted that saying yes made her feel like people will take her for granted and think she has nothing better to do.

I used to be the kind of person who, if I was interested and you were someone who mattered, was pretty much game to go for most things. Do you want to go for a drive? Yes. Are you upto watching a movie? Let’s go have coffee. Sure. Sure. Let’s meet soon. Definitely. Let’s take a trip together. Let’s launch a magazine. Let’s start a shop.  There is such abandon and freedom in being able to throw a yes out into the wind. It’s as if you have now handed the responsibility of having your yes come real to the universe itself and it must conspire to make that happen for you. YES YES YES. Let’s do it all.

So when I came across this question today, it kind of slid things around in my head a bit, as I realized the multitude of times I have recently not said yes.  And it made me wonder. Am I not surrounded by people who make me want to say yes enough anymore? Or are the things that I am being asked to do not inspiring me enough to want to say yes anymore? Why have I turned into a non yessy? What is holding me back? Am I too tired? Am I too old? Why am I feeling like I don’t say yes anymore? I can feel a mini panic attack about to set in as I have detailed visions of my life slipping away as I sit and say no to everything that comes my way.

That dramatic vision aside, it is true that there comes a phase in life that can only be described an inward. Suddenly all your energy, your power becomes reserved for yourself.
Which is where the no’s come in. You become greedy and selfish, wanting to hoard whatever vibes there are for you and yours. You close the circle. You want to not share. So you dance around the yes. And say maybe a whole lot more.

Do you feel at home?

#week1 #oprahblogchallenge

Last week, K brought home lilies. Nadi invited 4 boys over after school and Lily drew all over her chair. I had been thinking a lot about home ever since I read this question- What does it mean to me and after the first lot of pseudo philosophical answers came that feeling. That feeling of things being exactly how you want them to be. Slightly messy, undeniably chaotic and all yours. At home.

Let’s be honest none of us ever really start our 20s imagining belonging mind and heart to little people. The world is our oyster and we have dreams of little apartments in big cities, chasing the dream. It’s a vision almost any well placed graduate is very much at home with, thanks to many TV shows and the internet. So to feel at home with what life throws your way can take getting used to.

While I would love to say that home for me constitutes those I love, I am not quite that sufic. As Madonna would claim ” I am living in a material world” I love things. Pretty things. Well designed things. I like surrounding myself with that which gives me happiness. A much of fonts, some colour, a particularly functional pointless piece. Some smells are home also, motia for one. Raat ki raani. The smell of cologne after k has left for work. Frying potatoes. The way the afternoon sunlight shafts in.

Our physical space has taken its time to grow and evolve but yes it all adds up- the flowers, the kids, the lived in slightly dishevelled comfort, people traipsing in and out, friends coming over, it’s all that mixed with that certain yet not completely defined aura of happiness that tells you that you are indeed at home with how it has all turned out.

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ode to those afternoons

Our weekday afternoons are usually such a flurry of activity. There is homework to be done and household tasks to be managed. My work happens in spurts in the middle as I take a call or send off an email. There is a kind of beat to that routine too. The action spurs us, makes us energetic. There is no scheduled napping during the week- there are lego projects and games, there is is going to the park or visiting Nanna or some sudden plan or errand run.

But today the blinds and curtains are drawn, plunging the room into a shady mellowness, the AC is whirring- a soft comforting sound- the kids are on that brink of being asleep and I am sitting in bed with them on my laptop,my book open next to me, the room a perfect chilled temperature to offset the shimmering heat outside, no longer a springy April but a starkly summery one. It is a hushed Friday afternoon post namaz. No jarring sounds. No sudden movements. Words like harmony and happiness come to mind. Reminds me of my childhood summertime-  the room on the far end at 35/S, Filza Apa’s room in Raziq mama’s house and Nanna’s room at Ayesha-Fatimas’s.

Growing up, this afternoon shaded hush was such a daily staple in our lives. I remember us all being asked to come into our respective rooms to play quietly while the grown ups napped or lay down before the “shaam ki chai” wthe point at which everyone emerged refreshed for the evening ahead. I don’t remember frenetic activity or other agendas. I don’t recall homework even or projects or anything other than plain simple effortless fun living. Maybe that is the magic of  being able to filter through and remember the feeling invoked as opposed to nitty gritty surrounding it. The magic of being young and surrounded by grown ups who believed in that magic too.