We watch this amazing Atlantic sunrise this morning. The breeze is perfect. Florida has beautiful summers.
As we wash our feet at the beachside shower, I notice sand stuck on my feet; I do my best to rinse my feet. As I enter my Q5, the freshly shampooed carpets import a dusting of that sand.
I have a feeling, it will irk me when, the next day, that sand attaches itself so callously to my shoes, with some sort of a romantic vision of changing Italian leather.
Like a small blemish, on perfect skin.
It’s all in my twisted thinking.
My daughters openly protest my OCD habits of cleanliness and organization. When I unload the dishwasher, the glasses need to be lined up in a particular manner. And absolutely no transparent objects (like drinking water glasses) can be in the same area with translucent (ceramic coffee) cups or bowls!
For years, I have told myself that things “out of place”, give me anxiety and I don’t correct it. I try not to modulate this expectation and just surrender. In this constantly changing and chaotic world, I organize, whatever I can organize.
This morning though, after sharing that magnificent ocean sunrise with Shania, I look at that sand and encourage my mind to think a little differently; I ask myself how often, and how many people get to do what I do? How often do they soothe their souls with the lapping of waves on their feet. How often do they get to sip their favorite latte, while listening to their favorite tunes, with someone they love! Today is a special day in my life.
I need to let the sand linger on my feet, for as long as I can.
When tomorrow that hard pair of dress shoes pick up some of that sand, its actually a good thing! It’s a reminder of a softer time in my life, when there was a perfect moment of alignment.
I saw a quote this morning that made me think: “Look around you, and enjoy, be grateful; in a year, everything will be different.”
As I look back a year, with or without the help of social media, so many things have changed, for me. Especially, in the lives of my children. But also, in my own life.
Last Spring, I was a pensive from the roller-coaster feeling from my constantly changing role at work; I was also in pendulum motion, from my home that I love, in Florida, to the cold of Boston. I had a feeling that this Boston chapter of my life, has to come to a close soon. And, by Fall, my role ended; allowing me to seek what I have wanted all along.
This Spring, I am ready to move to Florida, permanently.
Some things have become more certain, and other, more dispensable things, people or feelings, have dissipated. There is no lingering nostalgia about losing these feelings, which didn’t serve me.
My children have made tremendous strides in a year.
After a re-defining 2018, Daiyaan graduated college in 2018 and found her professional footing, bought her “dream” Jeep (that she has named Natasha, after the singer Natasha Bedingfeld) and now wants to buy her first home this Summer/Fall. She is starting to put down her own roots, in a place she loves. She has chosen a healthy lifestyle of balance. She took her first ever solo trip, and conquered Puerto Rico; she has grown up.
Last Spring, Shania, competed to become her Middle School Vice President and won! She has switched from softball to golf and today, loves basketball as her main school sports; instead of acting in plays, now she is co-directing, for the second year, a school play! She was accepted to attend the prestigious Dana Hall school in Wellesley, MA, but instead, is heading to be with family and joining the pre-law program at her new choice school in Florida.
As their lives unfold, and I see these two beautiful women take their next steps, I enjoy listening to their musings, and life interactions. The new friends they make, and the relationships those fray over time. I tell them my stories, from that particular time in my life that maybe relevant to their experience.
Even though I was raised as a teenager in a different continent, in a completely different era, with no electronic gadgets, or Google, to help answer my questions, the struggles of all awkward teenagers, or young people defining their dreams, are still the same.
Whether you are 13, 23 or 52, Constantly, we search for belonging, love and certainty; it’s tough to accept that none of these feelings are constant, and just to maintain an equilibrium, is a lot of work!
This morning, five of my close friends (same age group), are in deep pain: one from a broken hip (from a fall), another from domestic abuse, and one more, with cancer. Two of my best childhood friends lost their mothers in the last weeks – I knew these loving moms – I have eaten meals with them at their dining tables; having lost my own mom a few years ago, I know that big hole in their hearts are not healing soon.
I pray that my friends have the courage and support to bear the pain they are feeling today. When you experience pain, the depth, the excruciating nature of it, numbs us. There is nothing anyone can say or do, to make you feel differently.
Like last year, I know with certainty, this year, there will be those moments of joy, and sadness. You know there will be a Spring of hope, and the still of Summer.
I know, that whatever incremental, or disruptive changes we are experiencing, pain or happiness, it too shall pass.
It fatigues me to think that, the pain and frustration of the political turmoil we experience today in the US (and resultantly, the world) will only sharpen in the next twelve months.
In my adult life, I have seen and experienced progress, and I don’t give up hope, but I choose to take a long view on history. While things are not perfect, I see progress in health, well-being and innumerable sources of joy.
This weekend, in my little microcosm, I am again, taking a good look at everything and everyone around me.
Acknowledging and accepting that change is continuous and constant – I will do my best to appreciate all those gifts that I have in my life today. I am grateful to the Universe for the love, beauty, health and contentment that I am experiencing today.
It’s nice to receive a simple holiday cheer in the mail: holiday cards, photographs, holiday letters, and postcards.
It’s one of those old-fashioned things in life, that I picked up from my parents; every year, around this time of the year, as children, we used to pick out UNICEF cards, and also took holiday photographs. In those pre-digital days, there was no way of converging holiday cards with photographs. We kept the photographs in the albums and sent out the cards all over the world.
Now, every year, right around end of October, we pick a day to get together as a family, and pose for photographs. Sometimes with the beautiful fall leaves of Boston Commons, sometimes on the beaches of Hillsboro Lighthouse, or as we build a new home for our selves, a place that we can call our own, and rest our souls. By routine, we create a memory, a mile marker in our lives.
As I look back at these card projects today, so many memories keep flooding back, glimpses of happiness, from a far away canvas.
We order the cards in Mid-November, create the labels, go through the list of people we truly love, or remember with love, new and old friends, born and chosen family.
Sometimes we write little post it notes, sometimes we just send them a reminder of our presence. Yes we are still here, and yes, we still remember you fondly. Maybe it’s a memory we share, or its in anticipation of some memories we want to create in the future.
Why bother to spend time and money, sending Holiday Cards? There’s so much going on, there is so much social-media and so many photographs on Instagram.
Every year, the number of physical cards keep dwindling. Some people claim environmental jurisprudence and then others just succumb to laziness and send a generic digital card. And then there are those, who don’t bother with all this fuss, or find this tradition just “outdated”.
There is something charming in a end of the year tradition to send a little hand-written cheer. There’s something about sealing that envelope, and looking at the names of people you know, remember and love.
This year, I saw the name of a friends’ widow, who is celebrating her first Christmas, without her beloved partner. That thought made me remember my friend fondly. Another friend I know, is possibly celebrating her last holidays – since terminal illness is yet to find a permanent cure.
We notice in the cards we receive, many friends have had new lives join their family; children, their loved ones, and grandchildren, dogs and cats.
It’s nice to know what you have created something special in your life. It’s nice to get a note relaying all the things that have changed in this year. In this high-pressure, digital world, it’s precious that you took the time to tell us about the new mountain you climbed, or the marathon you ran, or the new magic trick you picked up. One friend sent us a card as a fund raiser for a charity he has started. It’s warms your heart, when you see someone find their purpose on this earth.
It’s these little memories that connect us on an every day basis.
There will come a day, in not to distant future, when I will stop sending these cards to you. Maybe it will be illness, or some other reason why the cards must stop. No one really knows, right?
But today, as the sun shines, and we are grateful for completing another “calendar” year, in a manner we believe, is meaningful, it’s our turn to remind you that we are here, we are alive, and for this day, we are smiling and thinking about you.
There is always something special when you wake early on a sunny, yet chilly New England morning and head out for a double espresso and a hot bagel ‘n cheese sandwich, from the corner shop named Thistle and Shamrock.
As soon as you step out on the sidewalk, the cold air hits you like a thin sheet of ice… the sunlight is askew on the old brick walls… and the sidewalk is strewn with those leftover leaves that the street cleaners haven’t picked up yet.
These are remnants of a beautiful New England summer; we had a spectacular summer followed by a vivid and colorful fall. Bright reds, pinks, greens and yellows merged together like a colorful circus canopy.
After a beautiful summer, there are remnants; streets to clean up and bags full of leaves ready to compost. It’s that after-party feeling – dishes that linger in the sink – or that wine stained glass that needs hand washing. Memories of laughter, joy, companionship and that hint of complete contentment – even if it’s just for a few minutes.
We are on the cusp of finishing our 3 year “expatriate” life in Boston; one of my dreams of living in a big city, with continuous motion, a blue, blue city with art, culture, color, spontaneity, and the intellectual stimulation like no other, with a beautiful harbor front, amazing food, theatre, museums, and layers of history, every where you look.
Always dreamt of living in a city like this!
Also wanted to live in a renovated “loft” with a balcony, and walkability to a dozen crafty restaurants, surrounded by stores with curious, “un-retaily” things! Cambridge has given us all that and a bit more! We lived in this beautiful two-story renovated Hathaway Bakery Factory, with exposed architecture, high ceilings, a lovely balcony overlooking the commuter rail line; there was a constant reminder of a city, with the quiet of a sleepy neighborhood.
Access the to the T, getting to Harvard Square in 7 minutes on Bus 77 for a lovely brunch at Tatte’s, or a quick 4 stop-hop to Park station for a walk in dreamy Boston Commons, Steps of Beacon Hill, or the Trident Bookstore on Newbury Street. A drive around the Emerald Necklace, for a cocktail at crafty Jamaica Plain, followed by a visit to the Bonsai Garden at the Arnold Arboretum.
These 3 years have truly been a dream “expat life”. The relationships and conversations we had with people from all over the world, or from neighboring Natick or, Sandwich on the Cape , have all been fulfilling and entertaining. We have learned to say “Chowdah” or “Burgah” – learned to pronounce Wooster (Worcester) and Quinsey (Quincy). We have Watched the Patriots win again, and again; and also saw the Red Sox clench their ninth World Series Title.
Explored the Cape, spent some time in Ogunquit, ventured out to Newport and spent a lovely weekend in Providence. There’s just no end to the things you can do from Boston. A three hour train-ride takes you to the Big Apple.
As we plan our gradual exit over the next 6 months, and travel home to the eternal sunshine of Florida, we take back wonderful memories and friendships we will cherish for life. Most people get to visit a city like Boston a few times; we had the gratification of living here, with all of its magnificence for 3 awesome years.
We have taken in parts of Boston inside us. We have always known that this was meant to be a short stint. But somehow, the memories we have created in Boston, are things we will talk about, over and over.
It’s like that wonderful Summer and Fall we just experienced; with a few remnants of leaves around us. Memories of laughter, joy, companionship and that hint of complete contentment – even if it’s just for a few days!
Inspired by a movie she had seen, for her thirteenth birthday, Shania asked to go to Hawaii; we have been to there a couple of times ~ ten years ago but she was only a couple of years old, with no discernible memory. With frequent flier miles, I booked a late August trip to Maui. This would be our end of the summer 2018 father-daughter trip – as much of a gift for me – as to her!
I lost my father when I was eighteen; I have memories with him on our birthdays, and day-to-day life, him telling me about what I should my college major should be – more of the transactional stuff. One of my regrets is not having enough “happy memories” with him or, “care-free” time, where we experienced joy, together.
I decided, early on, I wouldn’t wait for these “happiness moments” to just show up! Instead, co-create, with my own children, amazing memories of joy. One day, they can look back to their childhood and adult times, and be able to say, we had some amazing times together!
We are fortunate to be born (or have migrated) to the only country in the world, where the Pursuit of Happiness is a constitutional right. Just like anything else, In addition to providing a loving and caring home, we have the responsibility to show our children that happiness is attainable by design. It may require hard work (funding), and some planning – but happiness doesn’t (have to) accidentally show up at our doorstep – we can go searching for it and attain it. By doing so, we leave our children experiences of joy – this way, later in life, they can go searching for, or designing their own happiness.
To do this, first, you need to know what makes you happy in the first place; a day kayaking on calm waters? Cooking an amazing meal together, a library full of books, hunting for food-trucks, or some dare-devil adventure somewhere! Each of us have different expectation and certain things fill us with joy (and others with anxiety)!
Once we understand and accept your own source of happines, you can be a lot more deliberate about creating opportunities to do more of that and and deliberately plan “memory making” in your life.
If we don’t plan for happiness, life, and especially work, consumes most of our time!
Hawaii, is an ideal place to go searching for and creating amazing memories! We planned eight days in the island of Maui; amazing tropical setting, sunsets, blue skies, sparkling clear seas, marine and botanical examples, amongst a super-kind, warm, easy-going and hospitable people.
Having traveled ~ 14 hours, we arrived at the hotel with fresh juice and a traditional welcome garland; within minutes, we were enjoying the infinity pool overlooking the blue ocean and ordering lunch/cocktails. Late afternoon, we took a nap and set out to enjoy Kihei and watching one of those magical Hawaiian sunsets.
Over the next 7 days, we went biking down from Haleakala volcano, experienced seven micro-climates in a matter of 3 hours, parasailed off Kahaina, snorkeled off the natural island of Mahana. On the way back from our snorkeling trip, we met a family of dophins and large sea turtles. We collected matching souvenir t-shirts, went searching for fresh coconut water, looking for island sushi, sashimi and poke bowls.
Shania marveled at Jeeps on the resout; so I surprised her with a jeep rental for a day, which she kept hugging; later, we took the treacherously winding northern track of the island which becomes a one-way road for about 20 miles – which means at times you have to back up for the incoming traffic to pass – while looking down at scary elevations at the same time! Shania said this was one of the scariest “roller coaster” rides she had ever taken. On this journey, we stopped and checked out waterfalls, bamboo forests, local artists galleries and amazingly spectacular vista, complete with ocean blow-outs, rocks, flowers the crashing waves.
Towards the end of this day, Shania told me that Maui would definitely be a choice for her honeymoon one day!
On the sixth day of our trip, as were ordering breakfast at the Kihei Café and someone mentioned a Category 5 hurricane with over 150 miles/hour wind barreling towards us and would arrive in two days. Anxiously, I called the airlines to see if we could change our tickets and get out of the island so that we don’t get stranded. Everything was booked solid and we had no practical way out.
Over the next two days the forecast for the storm fluctuated from “nothing” to “devastating.” Shania looked at me to see if I was worried or anxious. We discussed what are possible outcomes of the storm. What’s the worst that could happen – that we get stuck here for a couple of extra days – is it all the bad? We were in a safe hotel, with built-in power generators, ocean front views from our balcony, of a once in a 20 year event, on Paradise.
I guess it’s worth learning that happiness may have a darker side!
Over the next 48 hours, the storm did brace the neighboring Big Island with ferocious winds – however, left Maui – specially Wailea – untouched. We got some rain – but not even the monsoons of Florida – just a continuous drizzle for about an hour at time. We took long walks by the ocean every day, dined at the neighboring restaurants, spent quite a bit of time at the pool, watched Netflix and took long naps! Our original flight back home was canceled, and we spent an extra night at the resort and traveled back a different route. All along the way, the resort and the airline staff were impeccable and helpful in providing us information and helping calm our fears.
Today, as I look back at the pictures of those 9 amazing days, I believe, we have successfully created what we set out for, complete with a (unplanned) storm surge and canceled flights. We have experienced joy, anxiety, adventure, confusion, and a little bit of discomfort – the microcosmic cycle of life – all in one big gulp.
Upon seeing our social media posts, a friend sent a note saying that I am spoiling the girls and that no man will meet up to the standards that I am setting for them! My response: by setting out on vacations, I am just teaching them that happiness doesn’t come from anyone but from within yourself! We are creating memories of happiness that can be easily co-created, if you set a goal and put your energy behind it!
Since I have no confidence in after-life, the concept of Paradise is at best nebulous, in my psyche. Hence, an extra day of Paradise, complete with confusing weather patterns, strong coffee, a warm pool, Netflix, and gourmet Asian style is something I am accepting as a gift!
I just left Shania at Logan; it’s the drop-off point for her Summer Camp. Twenty one days of unadulterated fun in the serene wilderness of of New Hampshire; swimming or sailing on the beautiful lake, hikes, cookouts, camp fires, yoga on the beach – I wish I could go to a camp like this every year!
As I drive away from the airport, my heart bursts in that feeling of pain, anguish, sadness, worry – all crumpled together in a dirty rag – as if, I just cleaned a kitchen.
I remember, leaving Bangladesh to come to the US, every time, even as a forty-something, my mom used to say, আমারজানটাবাইরহয়েগেলো (My soul just went outside).
This separation anxiety is probably no different than that of all other parents.
Did she take her sinus medication? What about a sweatshirt for the evenings, when it gets chilly outside? Flip Flops?
This morning, as she packs her trunk with bedding, and t-shirts, I hear her humming away in her room – simultaneously video chatting with a friend as if, she is right here.
I hear a squeal, here or there, talking about what Charlie Puth did or Ed Sheehan didn’t do! This musical waterfall flowing through the house makes me smile; It’s that music that flows through your arteries and veins.
I ask her, “Honey, do you need any help?”; “No, I got it” is probably what most parents of “almost independent” teenagers hear. In some ways, I feel useless, and in another way, I feel content.
This summer, she has been taking the T to the Prudential Center, to meet up with friends, all by herself. She is thirteen now. She texts and sends me photos of every stop – or the stores she ventures into. I know, in a couple of years, this constant journaling to Dad, will stop. Today, I relish in these little texts.
Seven years ago, when I suddenly became a single parent, she was only six. Her world revolved around me. We did everything together; our intertwined existence was often suffocating and nourishing, at the same time. I wondered often, when will she grow up? Today, she makes dinner decisions for me, even before I am home. On a stressful day, she asks me, Do you need some time to decompress first?
Last weekend, Daiyaan, my twenty-three year old, visits me overnight, before a work training, some 100 miles away from where we live. She arrives late afternoon in Boston, we watch movies and eat comfort food, and the next morning, after breakfast, I drive her this first work trip.
Leaving her behind, at the door of a Sheraton, I have another set of anxiety; will here hotel check-in go ok, will she find her new (Vegan) diet here in this little town? Will she be treated ok by her older co-workers?
I realize that I cannot do everything for them, as I used to, one day. They have wings now. And they are learning to fly.
I just want to be here, whenever they return.
When I left home, many years ago, my mother used to go into this deep frown anxiety from three days prior to my departure; I used to console her by saying, I will be back soon, just a few months….she said, বুঝি , কিন্তু মনটা তো বোঝে না (I understand, still, my heart doesn’t)