Tag Archives: health

My friend Fear and 2013

Bismillah ir Rahman ir Raheem

Assalam alaikum wr wb!

Man, it’s been a wild year huh?

Early January this year, I went to a cousin’s engagement. On our way back to Colombo, my family’s car got hit by two buses. That’s right. Not one. TWO.

Isn’t that wild?

Alhamdulillah, everyone walked away from that accident.

I got a good knock on the head, though, which resulted in a dramatic swelling of my face as the blood from my head injury fell down into my eye sockets.

The effect my face had on people was hilarious. I scared children and made women cry.

I look back on that incident and I have to say, not only am I grateful, I am terrifically happy.

As odd as it sounds, we couldn’t have chosen better timing and a better location to have a disaster. Our entire family was on that same road home.  From wherever they were, they all turned around and came back to aid my mom and dad.  I can say with utmost certainty; there are far worse places to have a mild concussion.

I can’t remember much of the 12 hours or so after the accident and even in the weeks after, as my brain recuperated, my short term memory was a bit wonky. My big brother (who specializes in emergency medicine) said there’s nothing to worry about; I probably felt drowsy.  Thinking back, waking up in the middle of conversations just adds to that hilarity of the situation.

But my parents were not that amused. They were fully conscious, terrified and anxious.

The capital-F Fear has lasted a bit too long. It’s been almost a year now. My father is still frightened to drive, thinking he fell asleep at the wheel that day. He tells me, “I’m too old to drive. I am too tired. I am too distracted. ” The Fear cripples him.

Why was I capital-H Happy? Why was he Afraid? Was it because I was unconscious? Was it because I was naive? Was it because I simply didn’t care?

Recently I have been quite fearful myself. A recent social engagement left me crabby and shaking.

I have been watching my ‘I am’ statements recently and found there is a shocking prevalence of a kind of self-smack talk. “I don’t like new people. I am not good with new people. I am not good with unfamiliar situations. I am a nervous person. I am a shy person.”

I thought of something else I’d learned recently.

Watch your thoughts, for they become words. Watch your words, for they become actions. Watch your actions, for they become habits. Watch your habits, for they become your character. And watch your character, for it becomes your destiny. What we think, we become. My father always said that. And I think I am fine.

I’ve heard this many times, but honestly it’s only made sense now.

These fearful thoughts have probably become my character. A photographer once told me she was surprised that I am a comedian because I was so timid.

“Like a mouse?” I thought at the time. I wasn’t angry; I was just sad that my Fear was so evident. Still I managed to have a kick-butt photo shoot.

On the morning of that social gathering, I sat very still and quiet and listened to my thoughts.

I was frightened of other people. I thought they would hurt me. I thought they would prey on my vulnerability. I thought they would bully me.

Good Lord, where did these horrid thoughts come from?

I’m not going to blame anyone else. I’m not going to blame some monolithic culture for branding a tiny South East Asian woman with stereotypical qualities.

Wherever they came from, they must be stopped. Because I don’t want to ‘become’ frightened. I don’t want my destiny to be shrinking away in the corners of rooms, waiting for someone to notice me and being scared when they do.  Allah Subhaana Wa Ta’aala is my Protector and His world is too big and too beautiful Mashallah.

I’ve learned that my friend Fear doesn’t leave when asked. He doesn’t leave when yelled at. And he doesn’t budge, even if you tell him to go back where he came from.

I have started changing my thoughts consciously. I’ve started to turn “I am shy” to “I am hopeful”, “I am thoughtful”, “I am observant”, “I am peaceful”. Nothing wrong with not talking. When you listen you learn so much about so many new things. When you consciously listen, it takes a bit of hard work. You have to shelve your ego and give the other person the space to express themselves. I’m still trying but Alhamdulillah it’s a richly rewarding experience.

The day of the accident, I was happy because I wasn’t alone. That day and all the days after that, every time I woke up someone I loved was there. It was like the world’s best Facebook picture slideshow.

And the only person who was hurt was me and I knew it wasn’t that bad. You know when something inside you is changed forever and Alhamdulillah that didn’t happen that day.

That particular week, I was just grateful for every single silly little thing, from my parents to TV, from boiled eggs to pain medication, from hugs to the wind, to beautiful confusing Sri Lanka to lovely and infuriating Dubai.

Hopefully insha Allah in changing my thoughts, I will change my character. Hopefully insha Allah I will nurture peace, whether my friend Fear is with me or not.

That, more than anything, is my intention for 2013 insha Allah.

Have a blessed year. Have a blessed life insha Allah!

Wassalam and Fee Amanillah.

The Happy (and fully healed) Muslimah.

Alhamdulillah. Thank God.

Bismillah ir Rahman ir Raheem

Assalam alaikum warahmatullahi wa barakatahu, lovely readers.

It’s been a hard week. Where others might take to chocolate, bad TV and alcohol, I took to…Bollywood films and poetry. (My mama and I saw Lagaan last night. Man, that movie is about 2 hours too long.)

And prayer and remembrance of Allah (SWT).

Still my weakness overtook me and I put it on paper.

I have to admit, posting something this vulnerable is a funny feeling. All writing is vulnerability, so I am used to the bottom-dropping-out-of-my-stomach feeling Alhamdulillah. But there is another feeling, a more hopeful one. That maybe someone will read this and understand what I’m going through.

Ultimately, perhaps my writing – and maybe all writing? – is about connection.

Comments welcome on the below.

Tell me you love it. Tell me you hate it. Tell me I’m giving into despair. Tell me something, in any event. It’ll be nice to hear your voice(s).


Her frailty is criminal

Her strength subliminal

Nothing seems to work

Yet everything is normal

What newfangled cruelty is this?

My mother dressed to kill in a hospital gown

Laughing and eyes closed

Wheeling her chariot through narrow corridors

A forest of strong limbs.

I bless and curse in her wake.

What did you do to deserve those carefree fingers?

Nicotine-stained, hooked around bottles

Mocking the God that feeds you.

What did my mother do to deserve hooked limbs and baby steps?

Why are you here now healthy?

After a while, there are no more questions,

Only deep merciful silence

We learned to bless what we saw and what we didn’t.

The wonder and its opposite

The anger and the forgiveness

The tears of joy and of despair

God’s Mercy flows like a river.

There’s nothing left to give





There is now only a silent pleading

Begging the question, if not the answer

Asking why, if not how.

Anger rumbles in the entrails of our investigation.

Bleeding virtue from our fingertips

As touches become harsh

And tongues become understanding.

There’s no need to be a jerk

But there’s no need to be an angel either.

We are comfortable with the broken.

We have tuned our radio to our body’s natural rhythm

Of destruction and healing

Of life and death.

I am comfortable with the pieces that fall through the cracks

The essence that escapes into space.

And I love what comes after.

The glow of true love

And the absence of fear.

Wassalam and Fee Amanillah.

The Happy Muslimah.

7 ways to still be a writer – no matter what your life is like

Bismillah ir Rahman ir Raheem.

May the peace and blessings of God Almighty be with you, dear owner of eyeballs.

I am writing from a rather swish hospital room in Tamil Nadu, India. Don’t worry – it’s for my mother, not me.

That doesn’t make it better, though.

My mother’s illness has locked an icy hand over my life for the past couple of months as the weakness in her left hand spread to her right hand and now to her left leg. Subhanallah, it is one of Allah (SWT)’s most stringent tests to stay patient in the face of debilitating sickness. I am going to wager that it is far worse being the one that watches – especially if you are in the dark and helpless – rather than the one that wastes away.

But I’ve still been trying to write as I believe it is one of the most potent ways I can do Ibadah insha Allah.

Some days have been better than others. I’ve decided that this day Insha Allah will be a good day.

My mother needs our help a fair amount. She’s not entirely incapacitated Alhamdulillah but still my time is not completely my own. I need to be present for her physically and emotionally.

It struck me some while ago that my situation is much like that of a new mother. And it follows that if I apply some of the lessons that writers who are also mothers have learned in their full-to-the-brim lives, I will feel less like a loser because I’m not writing regularly.

This is what I’ve learned from my own experiences and that of others.

1. Accept my situation.

When I didn’t accept the hand that Allah (SWT) has dealt me, I was caught in a funk of anger and gloom. I was no use to anyone, leave alone my dear mama.

But when I began to accept my life and even began to see the blessings in it, I began to see the wiggle room. I began to see the abundance and the possibility. My mind opened to re-ordering my life to best take advantage of my new circumstances.

2. Pay attention to the present moment.

By the Mercy of Allah, there is beauty and blessings here. Right now. Right in this moment. The sound of my fingers on the keyboard and my mother in the next room watching bad Hindi soap operas. Most of all, the thrilling relief that because of the superb care we’ve gotten here at the hospital by God’s grace, we are very close to a diagnosis, to closure. These are all moments I will never get back again.

More importantly, I find that when I pay attention, my brain becomes better at calibrating my actions to maximize the information I’m receiving. If I project myself into the future and try to guess the best course of action based on information I haven’t even received yet, I am liable to give myself a headache.

Does that make sense?

Simply put – have you ever carried a pile of books up a flight of stairs? With a mug balanced on top? I did once recently. My mother kept telling me that it was a bad idea, but I knew that I could do it. My brain became razor sharp. My body somehow set my spine and my arms in the perfect position to balance the load correctly and move simultaneously, all the while watching the load for imbalances. I watched out for obstacles in my path. It worked. I’d like to bring that kind of concentration into every part of my waking life.

3. Ask for help.

The women in my family have a huge problem admitting that they need help. They believe it smacks of weakness and will draw a pack of predators to feast on us alive.

I just read an excellent article by Martha Beck about how to ask for help and not feel pitiful and helpless. The solution is to ask, “How do I do this?” rather than “Can you help me?” This frames the asker as a problem-solver rather than a damsel (or gentleman) in distress.

But sometimes, I just need help. I mean good ole-fashioned “lift me up when I fall” help. I couldn’t handle it alone. With rehearsal for our improv troupe, I couldn’t be with my mother all the time. Possibly a good 85% of the time, but not all the time.

But sometimes when I asked for help, I became the butt end of judgement instead. Other times, it was resentment.

I learned to be choosy about the people I can trust. I learned the obvious choices are not always the best choices. And after I made my choice, I trusted completely.

4. Talk to people about how they’ve dealt with similar situations.

As I said before, I drew parallels between my situation and that of a mother of a newborn. So I asked a few writer-mothers how they dealt with raising young children and being a writer – two full-time jobs.

They shared with me the lessons they’ve learned, many of which have informed this post.

5. Work in ten- and twenty-minute bursts.

My brain will focus naturally on the task at hand if I know a child is going to cry, a timer is going to go off or my mama is going to holler.

6. Make lists that direct you towards a great goal.

I am working on the fourth rewrite of a mystery screenplay.

Thinking of research alone makes my heart stop. I have to research police procedures in Sri Lanka, money-laundering in the UAE and the Muslim community in general in Sri Lanka.

But if I divide my elephantine task up into small cat- or even mouse-sized chunks and work on one section at a time, rewarding myself as I go, that mountain does look a lot less overwhelming.

Lists also help to bring all your resources into focus so that you can achieve the goal at hand. But be sure to write down an inspiring goal, not simply a to-do list. To-do lists are for robots, not human beings. An inspiring goal however puts fire in my spiritual furnace and heats me up enough to take that next step, however daunting it may.

For example, for my goal of research, I could write down something like “Insha Allah I want to know the world of my characters inside out and experience it as they experience – not as I think they experience it.” That works for me. Nothing rings more hollow than a poorly researched story.

7. Connect to something bigger.

I am a Muslim, though I’m not keen to shove belief down anyone’s throats. Your throat is not the primary organ of belief anyway.

When things seem difficult, confusing or just plain hard, it always helps me to trust in the decree of Allah (SWT) and trust that He will be Merciful.

If I believe in a plan, that means that things are happening for a reason and difficult – and good times – are both here to teach me a lesson. Perhaps that the physical body can fade, but the soul can only be destroyed by Allah (SWT). That no situation is all bad – only Hell is all bad. And no situation is all good – only Heaven is perfect. That if I listen and watch hard enough, Allah (SWT) will show me the path. Insha Allah.

I hope this very long post has made a modicum of difference.

Love you guys for the sake of Allah.

Wassalam and Fee Amanillah,

The Happy (and peaceful) Muslimah.

The value of illness

Bismillah ir Rahman ir Raheem

Assalam alaikum wr wb, peeps!

So my mother recently began experiencing nerve problems in her hand. They started with silly things – dropping plates, slipping and cutting herself when cooking.But now it is almost completely non-functional. It just hangs there, waiting for relief.

And it hurts her too.

Now her daily activities are no longer as simple as they used to be – very often, she needs assistance dressing, cooking, cleaning. We have been helping her as much as we can, but obviously we have also been looking desperately for a cure.

We have been now around the block (literally – there are four clinics in a few blocks’ radius here in Dubai) looking for a diagnosis. They got nothin’.

We went to Sri Lanka. After a flurry of painful, embarrassing and sometimes excruciating tests – for the wallet and the heart- nothing there either. After this trying ordeal, I flew back in to Dubai last weekend to get back to work. But my father says that my mother needs me now as he is preparing to come back to our businesses.

So out I go to Sri Lanka again.

Illness is a funny thing. It’s like an unwanted visitor, taking residence not in your house, your room, your closet or your bathroom, but somewhere else, somewhere more sacred – your body.

But illness is also an incredible teacher. Illness has taught me that I cannot be truly compassionate unless I break down the barrier between my mother and I. ‘Tough love’ never worked during my illness and it won’t work during hers. ‘Tough love’ usually happens when you can’t accept that the other person is in pain and is infringing on your life; I think it’s an ultimately selfish form of compassion.

Yes, we have had our moments – in fact, we continue to have those moments even as I help her on with her shalwar kameez. But now I understand. I understand the worry and the pain and the suffering, the “What will happen if I die? Who will take care of you now?” Because when I left her to come back to Dubai (a much tinier change than DEATH), I was thinking, “What will Mama do without me now?” It’s the same thing, just different hearts.

Illness takes no prisoners. It sits and it stays till you take action. But you can never be sure if it’ll work or not. As in all things in life, you are never sure. The end result is with Allah (SWT). Tawakkul and Yaqeen are such precious resources at a time like this. It’s the difference between spiritual death and the energy to take the next step.

People always say that you don’t know what you can do until you do it. And it’s usually those big things they are talking about – writing a novel, building a house, lifting a truck with your bare hands.

But illness makes you super-human. It’s a paradox, but those finest of human qualities – patience, strength, faith – finds their deepest and truest expression when the firm vessel they are housed in slowly begins to fade.

I can’t think how many times I have looked my mother in the eyes and told her, “Just a little while longer. It’s all going to be over soon.”

And she has said to me, “Okay.” Probably the first time in years we have agreed on anything.

You think you’ve scratched the bottom of the barrel, but suddenly there’s just a little more left. You can go on just one more day. And maybe today, you’ll figure this out.

I think the best thing that has come out of this illness is that my mother and I are renegotiating the terms of our relationship – at least Insha Allah I hope so. We’ve kind of turned the mother-child relationship on its head a little, and insha Allah, that’s exactly what we need to move over the impasse in communications we’ve hit recently.

It’s a delicate process. I’ll let you know how that goes.

Another rather obvious lesson illness has taught me – jolly well exercise and eat right or bad things will happen. I’m serious.

May Allah (SWT) keep all of us healthy Ameen!

Wassalam and Fee Amanillah,

The Happy Muslimah