Category Archives: Uncategorized

6 symptoms of perfectionism

Bismillah ir Rahman ir Raheem 

Lately I’ve had occasion to observe a perfectionist quite closely. I say observe because I’d like to be this person’s friend, but their perfectionism is so scathing I don’t want to get that close. 

I notice this quality in myself too. 

It has some common traits.

  1. It’s too painful to admit a mistake, so never take responsibility. If possible, deflect blame. See next point. 
  2. If anything is less than ideal, someone has to burn and it better not be you. Find someone lower than you on the totem pole.
  3. Never really love anyone unconditionally. Perfection is too important. Hold them to an impossible standard and in so doing, be continuously unhappy with them. 
  4. If you don’t have a perfect day, you have no right to be happy.
  5. Shame the people you love. How else will they attain perfection? And if they are frightened to speak to you because of that, well…they’re going to die miserable and imperfect. Unless of course, they make some changes to protect themselves from you. They can stop being perfect when they leave your sight.
  6. Sweat the small stuff. The roses can smell themselves.

I’ve worked for a company with these ideals. A miserable time was had by all. And unsurprisingly, the company couldn’t move quickly enough to avoid the recession. So for all of its high standards, it still went belly up.

Love is the only thing that will move us forward, folks.

It’s Ramadan.

Bismillah ir Rahman ir Raheem

It’s Ramadan.

I’m not sure what to say or think as I am more unmoored than ever. Quite literally this time.

We went on holiday back to Sri Lanka mid-April, hoping to return to the US mid-May. In time to prepare for an American Ramadan. But instead, due to visa issues I won’t go into here (because it’s boring and perhaps sensitive), we’re here in Colombo still.

Why do I feel like I’m on a desert island?

I have a nanny for Isa. And since we’re living at my in-laws’ place, they have a maid to help with cooking too. So essentially, I am duty-free.

What a privilege, what an honor, what a blessing. Man. I pray every day for these beautiful women for giving me a rest.

See? Unmoored. No longer full-time mom, only mom when I feel like it. LOL. No longer stay-at-home because we’re not at home. In fact, we’ve broken the lease on our beautiful apartment in Denver and it’s being cleared out as we speak.

No, all I have to do this Ramadan is be as Muslim as I can. Harder than I thought it would be.

You see, Ramadan has often been about facing our physical demons. Tiredness for me, hunger for my husband. Even before I was a mom, I was more tired than anything else. Now I’m face-to-face with the real demons. Anger. Judgement. Self-hate. Laziness. Fear. Lack of trust in God. Guilt for shirking what I consider my ‘duty’ – cooking and taking care of Isa. And plain old meanness.

With all other things quietened down to a large extent, I’m free to hear the voices in my head. And oh, they are some real cows. I can’t believe how unkind I can be to myself. And consequently to others. Or just plain oblivious to the suffering of others, including my son.

I’m trying to be kinder. And more loving. And more trusting of God. But it isn’t easy.

The point of Ramadan for me, I’ve found (please don’t quote me on this, just a writer, not a scholar), is to figure out who I am in the face of adversity. I’ve figured out that I want to love people as much as I can. And be kind as much as I can. But that however starts with me. If I can’t be kind to myself and acknowledge my pain, how can I be kind to others?

The first week of Ramadan was the first time I had no nanny for Isa since we came here. Child started shirking bedtime, going to bed sometimes at 10:00 pm or later. He’s also a toddler now, so keeping up with him is challenging. And he’s gotten a little clingy as well. So that means carrying his 20-pound little body a whole lot. A little difficult on a fasting body.

Very difficult.

I found myself getting grumpy and unloving with my little monkey. I would ask my husband my husband for help and would often get it. But anger and anxiety killed any gratitude and real rest I got.

Poor little bug.

Before things got really bad, another nanny appeared, due to stay till the end of Ramadan. I don’t know how things would have turned out if I hadn’t gotten a nanny. Chances are, he and I would have found some sort of rhythm. But I wonder if the damage to both of us would have been too far gone before that.

I wonder if I would have gotten resentful and morose and despairing and anxious. And hopeless and depressed and suicidal. I’m very ashamed to say, it wouldn’t have been the first time.

I’m going to try to be kind. To learn about God and to trust him. To read and to love His word. To forgive myself and forgive others. To do the best I can and work my very hardest at being kind, generous and loving with whatever resources I have that day. Be it a lot or a little. That’s who I want to be in the face of adversity. That’s even why I write.

It’s the best I can do. And then some probably.

Ramadan Kareem!






A battle plan for grief

Bismillah ir Rahman ir Raheem
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking. I have a feeling this isn’t the first time and it won’t be the last time I’ll have to deal with grief (duh, right?(. Perhaps I should come up with a battle plan.
Do I really want to give up screenwriting? Every five minutes while staring at my screen, I wonder why I’m still doing this. At times, it’s just because I’m as stubborn as my son when he’s after my phone.
But habit is bad. Intention is good. “Live on purpose” as someone once said.
Part of it is prosaic. I tried to stay away from screenwriting but I got blasted bored. I still might write a short story now and again. And I’ve written more than a few poems over the years. But nothing gets my blood going like a movie.
Part of it is because I think it’s worthwhile. I have to do something that I think will rock the world. Even, especially because, it really might not. And that’s always been movies for me. Movies have taught me things I didn’t know I wanted to know and have introduced me to people I didn’t know I wanted to meet. But best of all, movies have made me feel less lonely. There’s magic in that. And I’m trying to chase it. One way or another, I think we all are.
Perhaps there’s a tiny chance that someone somewhere might feel less lonely watching something I’ve written. That’s a huge blessing.
So how do I survive? How do I go on?
Forgiveness, forgiveness, forgiveness. Myself and others. People act according to an internal logic. I might not understand, but what they’re doing makes sense to them. Most people don’t intend to hurt me, they’re usually just too focused on themselves. As I am as well.
Remember who I was. I’m not all that different. Just have a few extra responsibilities. Remembering means doing some of the things that gave me joy before I had my son and before I lost my mother. In my case, it might be revisiting some of the things, people and places that I loved before I became a mother. God forbid, talking to my husband once in a while (more). And absolutely screenwriting. And believe it or not, aerobics. Which my son finds hilarious. And there’s nothing cuter than baby laughs.
Forget who I was and live in the moment. That means giving myself up to the present with all its overpowering sensations. Exhaustion mingles with delight. The most beautiful smells mingle with the not-so-beautiful. It’s all about the dichotomy. I’ve learned living in one state is impossible and even painful.
Have fun. Children might not know much but they know something that we adults seem to have forgotten. How to contort their bodies into pretzels, yes. But also how to play. How to have fun with no expectation of outcome.
Don’t fight the feeling. Last week, I was walking through the fabric section at Wal-Mart and I was fighting back tears (my mother was an excellent seamstress). The weirdest things trigger memories of my mother – food, disappointment, laughter. I can’t pretend that everything is fine when it isn’t. I have to ask for help and trust that someone will answer.
Do what I can when I can. I shouldn’t focus on what I’ve lost. But what I have. It’s hard but it’s necessary.
Beauty, love, joy, rapture in ritual. The last thing I want my son to think is that I regret having him. It’s just that I don’t always feel up to the challenge of being a mother. The things I miss most about my mother are the routine things. The walks around the neighbourhood, dropping her at work, the afternoon tea, the spirited discussions around movies and TV. Maybe I can create an appreciation of the everyday in my little boy before it’s too late.
When the next wave hits, remember, Sabina. You can swim, even though you might think you don’t know how.
I’ll stop talking to myself now.

Isa. Mama. Aylan Kurdi

Bismillah ir Rahman ir Raheem.

I’ve been trying to gather my thoughts for some time now. 7 months seems about right.

It’s been one heckuva year thus far. Not always in a good way.

About a week after my last post in February, I had a baby boy.

I wish I could tell you it was the happiest day of my life, but it was more like the climax to a horror movie. That resulted in something beautiful. But something I really couldn’t relate to as mine.

That feeling lasted a very long time. I’d never been around something as tiny and vulnerable as my son. Yet here I was supposed to bathe him, feed him, dress him and love him.

Meanwhile, my family decided to abandon me to my distress and leave me to work it out on my own. My body was beyond recognition. My life was beyond recognition.

Oh and my son refused to breastfeed. So I figured that he hated me, though he’d only been alive a matter of days. I wish I could say I don’t believe that anymore. But sleep deprivation and physical exhaustion of every kind prevents me from thinking clearly.

Yes, I have post-partum depression. I’m on the drugs. But the best anti-depressant is life, I’ve found. Can’t buy that for the highest price.

If anyone shoves infertility in my face and tells me I should be ‘grateful’, please go find another blog. I can acknowledge my own feelings while honoring other women’s sadness. It’s called dichotomy and I’ve learned in the past few months that it’s the cornerstone of the human experience.

The hits kept coming, of course.

A couple of weeks ago now, my mother died. ALS took her the way it usually does, stopping her breath. My heart is broken.

In all of this, I’ve learned a few things, by God’s Grace.

I’ve learned that every moment is precious because we never know what the next moment may bring.

I’ve learned that people can be indifferent, insensitive, even cruel. But there is no point in being angry with them. It’s just a waste of energy. Staying away from them is a better tactic. And directing my energy towards the people and things I do love.

And what of screenwriting? I spent a long time wondering what the eff I’m doing still screenwriting. Is anyone going to care what a Muslim Sri Lankan woman has to say? People don’t even care what Effie Brown has to say. And Matt Damon and Ben Affleck are actually trying to give directors a leg up. But apparently not diversity.

White straight dudes FTW!

It’s an ugly world out there. ‘Satirical’ magazines mock a dead toddler. Who looks a lot like my son, incidentally.

Children have been killed by guns, intentionally and unintentionally. And yet the government does nothing to protect them, at least from the crazy ones. If we don’t think it’s our responsibility to protect and care for children, however much it hurts us, who are we going to protect?

My stories all contain women of color. Muslims. Sometimes only women. Sometimes only Muslims. Will anyone ever care to make one of my films? I’m wondering now whether I should continue to spend my life beating my head against the wall of privilege. Because I’m tired and I have a headache. For realz.

I have a son. I have a husband. I told stories because I enjoy them. But my heart is too broken for the holes to be plugged by narrative anymore. Maybe I should spend my life loving my family instead. Maybe I should try and find fulfillment somewhere else. Being a teacher like all the women in my family before me.

Maybe. Maybe it just isn’t worth it. Maybe I should leave the good fight to stronger warriors than me.

But there are many lessons I have yet to learn and I can’t, except from my mother.

Mama, how do you learn to die? How do you learn to say goodbye to things and people and dreams and lives that are forever gone? How do you wake from that and still know who you are? Mama, come back. We have so much more to talk about. I have so much more to learn.

But you’re not coming back. Are you? Lots of things are never coming back. And it would appear that once again, I have to figure things out myself.