Last year we missed our chance to get pictures with Blue Lily because we had just had Nia a few months before and were preparing for our Dubai trip but this year I remembered to book! Since they were in town on Feraz’s birthday, I thought it would be a fun morning activity. Feraz noted that it was probably more a gift for me but I still think it was a great birthday morning! We got to spend time walking around Georgetown, grabbed some lunch and enjoyed some time by the waterfront. All before nap time! Here are some of my favorite shots. Love my little family, Alhumduhlillah!
Athletes train for years, waking up early, maintaining strict diets and painstaking physical regimes for the possibility of a moment of glory. Physicians, lawyers, artists all spend countless hours on their crafts for that moment where they save a life, break a big case or create a piece of work that will touch people for hundreds of years to come.
Marriage is something like all of that too. There is work, refining, learning and adjusting. But there are moments that are so profound and so incredible, that is makes all of the difficulties easily worth it. There are the great moments together, moving to a new country, traveling the world, reaching milestones or welcoming a new life. And there are the greater moments, talking about insecurities and fears in the dark at night, having breakfast we made together in the garden, picking out groceries, singing together in the car, talking about our past and our future. There is an easy feeling. Like sitting besides a creek in the middle of nowhere and a light breeze is in the air. And that moment is, for a little while, all that exists. The years have taught me that love can be as calm and still as that feeling and it is a lesson I am grateful for.
Happy anniversary, saathi. Let’s take a walk down memory lane.
The Financial Times recently published a piece on how fiction has ruined love and I wanted to take a moment to write about why I think the article is utter crap.
The author uses selective bias to highlight films and books that talk about just one stage of love and if you were to look at just those examples and not be a free-thinking person, then I guess literature could ‘ruin’ love for you. I think the quote that people would not have fallen in love had they not heard of such a thing is ridiculous. Love is such a primal thing, from the love a parent has for a child to the first flickering of love we feel as children and adolescents. And although our culture and environment helps to shape our conception of love, I would need to a read a stronger argument that it is art that primarily shapes how we love before subscribing to it.
One stage of love is certainly domesticity but to say that stage must lack passion, excitement, deep bonding and much more is ridiculous. If that were the case, wouldn’t everyone just be running around having affairs or just be terribly miserable? Certainly, both of those scenarios exist, but to think that must be the norm is terribly pessimistic.
The author uses Emma Bovary as an example of someone who has high expectations of love, and then feels burdened and disappointed by the mundaness of domestic life. But the things he describes are all really great things. To be able to cook with your spouse and eat delicious meals together. To talk about your day and reflect on the life you are building together, to experience the miracle of bringing children into the world and then see them grow up. These things can all evoke passion, excitement and deep bonding.
I don’t buy that romance does not exist inherently in modern domestic life. It is dangerous to buy into this line of thinking because then we settle for unhappiness in our lives. Maybe I am delusional but I am incredibly happy in my domestic life. I’m not saying this from a point of defensiveness or of bragging but because I’m sick of hearing the counter culture lie that as we get married or have families that life becomes this oppressive burden without hope or adventure.
To the extent that capitalism is at odds with romanticism, that is a result of our personal choices. There are many studies that show that people who make $75,000 an year reach a peak of happiness that comes from money and beyond that more money does not equate to more happiness. I think most of us can easily find jobs that we make that much money for a reasonable work/life balance. Getting 5-7 hours with your family every evening is plenty of time to enjoy leisurely meals, go on walks, have meaningful conversations and form a deep bond. Or even to sit by waterfalls, if that is your thing.
This presumption that to participate in a capitalist society means being destined to a fate of worrying about petty work issues and work dramas is offensive to our autonomy. We get to decide what careers we pursue, what jobs we take, the types of people we work with and so forth. To say we are destined to misery through our jobs is ridiculous. Sure, if you want to be the CEO of X company or big shot lawyer/doctor/businessmen, etc., you probably will have to make a lot of sacrifices and deal with a lot of crap. But the hope would be that if you value that thing so much, then you value it more than the things you are sacrificing for it. If you don’t value it more than meaningful social relationships, family life or free time, then you should probably pursue another life course. To the extent that you don’t pursue another life course, it is not because of what you read in a book, or what your community expects of you but because of a shortcoming in yourself that you have to own up to. You can’t have it both ways. You can’t say that you are destined to this life of misery when you are making all the choices that lead you down that road. I feel the great defect of people in my generation is that they are not willing to own up to the choices they make and the consequences they lead to. If you are too cowardly or too lazy to live the life and create the life you want, then you have to take accountability for your own unhappiness or dissatisfaction.
The author notes that when the relationship really begins, the film or novel ends. That is because he is just giving examples of films and novels that depict one stage of love or relationships. That beginning, lust filled stage, which I think is a wonderful stage and I hope everyone gets to experience it. But to want that indefinitely seems so immature and one dimensional. Don’t you want to evolve in a relationship so it is not all discovering but also knowing? Knowing a person’s history, likes and dislikes? Knowing that you have carved a path together?
The author talks about children being missing from stories and then goes on to describe having children as something that puts couples under “unbearable strain”. Although that is a whole different post, I take great offense to this narrative that having children is a great burden that makes people miserable. Certainly, I know many miserable parents, but many of them have no one to blame but themselves for this misery. Whether it was not stopping to have an honest discussion with themselves or their partners about whether they really wanted to take on the great responsibility of being parents or once having children, if they are raising them with awareness and intention.
The example in Before Sunrise is something many of us who have traveled have experienced. You meet someone briefly and the connection can be intense and meaningful and sometimes even goes back to your regular life. It is a wonderful thing and I have many lifelong friends from such interactions. At the same time, you couldn’t and wouldn’t want to live your life at that heightened level of connection all the time. Like with nature, with human interactions, we need an ebb an flow.
Ultimately, love and life are two precious things and to the extent that we want to point the finger of blame on them being ruined, we can only point it ourselves. We are the architects of our happiness… or unhappiness. To say otherwise is disingenuous and self-destructive.
I can’t believe we are about to enter the sixteenth year of 2000. Doesn’t it feel like just yesterday that we were partying like it was 1999?
2015, seemingly like every year, was full of so many changes, ups and downs and adventures.
In 2015, I lost two people I loved dearly. My aunt passed away from ALS and my Nani passed away from ongoing complications from a stroke she suffered several years back. It is a morbid thought but with every year that passes, I know that the following year when I go through this same exercise, there will be new names to add to the list. Some will be young and some will be old, some expected and others all that much more painful because they should not have been on such a list at such an age. Always a reminder to love those who you love fiercely and without reservation.
This past year was our first full year as parents. We observed so many firsts with Nouri and she keeps racking them up. The first year of a baby’s life is such a wonder to observe. We saw Nouri go on her first plane ride, eat her first foods, get her first passport, take her first steps and so much more. It has been so fun to settle into the rhythms of our slightly more domestic life.
We took some big trips to Iceland, the UK and Colombia and lots of little trips to Michigan, New York and all around the DMV area. We learned about the challenges of traveling with a baby and the challenges of traveling without one.
We also bought our first house! After so many years of being married and by what all means felt like after waiting too long, we took the plunge into owning a tiny part of the American dream. This is the fifth place we have lived in since moving to DC and I’m looking forward to staying put for a little bit.
And now we look forward to 2016. Tonight we will celebrate with neighbors and bring in another year together. The next months are going to be filled with lots of changes that I am excited to share with all of you soon. My hope for 2016 is to strive to be a better person, to nurture my family, to transform our house into a comfy home, to surround myself with people who inspire me and make me laugh, to consume less and to give more, to elect Bernie as our next president, to work for justice, to grow my hair long, to take more bike rides, to be a good role model for Nouri and to become more of the person I have hoped to be.
Hoping that you and your families all have a great evening and a Happy New Year!
Last week we returned from our trip to Colombia. I had booked this trip much earlier in the year thinking that by the time Nouri was one, we would be ready for a break and a little adults-only time. As the trip neared, we started to get worried that we wouldn’t enjoy it without having Nouri around. Although we ended up missing her a lot, I am so glad that we took some time to ourselves. It was reassuring that throughout the trip I was constantly thinking, “Definitely couldn’t do this with a baby!” From uneven sidewalks, to long travel days, to excursions down rivers and up forts, there were so many things that would have been downright impossible with a baby in tow.
As the trip was approaching, we became nervous that Nouri would take her first steps while we were away. She was showing all the signs of being ready to walk but wasn’t making that final push. Luckily, about five days before we were set to leave, she took a few steps. Two days later, she was full fledged walking all over the place. Her Aunties told us that she had spent all day in daycare just walking from one place to another. Once she figured out she could do it, she was a baby on a mission! I’m so glad that we are able to be there for that awesome milestone!
We had also worried a lot about how Nouri would cope without us. Would she cry at night when she realized that she wasn’t going to see us that day? Or maybe the next morning when she woke up and realized that we weren’t there to cuddle her? Or just all day long?
We got picture after picture of her laughing it up with her Khala (maternal sister). They had a ton of fun together going on outings, trying new foods and getting lots of cuddles in. I’m so happy that my sister was willing to take time off work so we could have out little adventure. (And I don’t think she minded toooo much since she got all that time soaking up Nouri.)
There is a certain narcism in being parents. I have seen parents who actually want their kids to cry when they leave, as if they will prove that the kid loves them. Not healthy! Of course I want my baby to be attached to me and think I’m awesome. But I also want her to feel safe and comfortable in different situations because we have helped show her that the world is a safe and loving place. That is a lot of weight for a 13 month old but I do think babies respond to the environment we create for them. So even though it was weird to us that she didn’t notice we were gone at all, I felt strangely proud of that little independent firecracker.
We got home really late on the night we got back so we had to wait until the next morning to see Nouri. When she woke up, I expected a big smile, maybe even a laugh. Or maybe tears of anger for leaving her?
Nouri just put up her arms like she always does, I picked her up and she snuggled into my shoulder. It was like we had never left. A friend of mine told me that babies don’t really have a grasp on time, so you could have been gone an hour or ten days but they won’t really know the difference. After this experience, I believe that.
It was harder than I expected to finally leave Nouri but I’m so glad we did. We learned that it is ok to be away from your kid. The world doesn’t stop, they don’t fall apart and it is such a healthy thing to do. We also learned that We. Love. Nouri. So. Much. So even though it was awesome to have the new experiences that we did, we realized that we really, really love our life as being parents to her. When I booked this trip almost a year ago, I had thought that I would be in desperate need of a break. That parenting would steam roll us and we would have to go on some sort of trip to rediscover ourselves. Thankfully, that hasn’t been the case and the trip reaffirmed for us how grateful we are to have Nouri and how much we value our everyday domestic life.
I hope this helps someone who may be thinking of taking a solo or kid-free trip. Over the next week I will share pictures and stories from the trip. See you then!